Sunday, July 27, 2008

South America Biofuel, beef etc 2006/2007

 South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter

Edition #88.  Also attached is a calendar of up-coming ESTH events across
the Western Hemisphere.  The information contained was gathered from news
sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not
necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of
our constituent posts.  Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related
events of USG interest are welcome to do so.


World Bank Close To Approving Amazon Beef, Other Projects

JAN. 23, 2007 -The International Financial Corporation, the private lending
arm of the World Bank, is close to making a final decision on a US$90
million loan that would help one of Brazil's top beef exporters double beef
production capacity at its facilities in the Amazon region of Para
state.  For the IFC, this is a controversial and unprecedented investment,
according to the bank's own assessment.  However, according to the press
report, it would serve as a "certificate of confidence"that Bertin is a
good steward of the environment and abides by fair labor practices. That's
good news for Bertin because the view of Brazilian beef overseas is often
one of a sector living large off cheap labor as it wipes out swaths of
rainforest.  "No other lender is going to demand, monitor, and follow
through on social and environmental policies like the IFC. "

Source - <>

Record Biotech Plantings in 2006

JAN. 18, 2007 - A biotechnology advocacy group reported that a record
number of biotech crops were planted worldwide last year, but critics
complained the gains were more of the same: aimed at making corn, soy and
cotton crops resistant to weed killers and bugs.  None of the genetically
engineered crops for sale last year were nutritionally enhanced and much of
the output feeds livestock, which critics said undercuts industry claims
that biotechnology can help alleviate human hunger.  Still, the report
prepared by the industry-backed International Service for the Acquisition
of Agri-Biotech Applications touted the record as evidence that crops
engineered to cut pesticide use can ease poverty and financially benefit
small farmers around the world.  Some 10.3 million farmers in 22 countries
grew engineered crops on 252 million acres last year, a 13 percent increase
over 2005, according to the report. About 9.3 million of those people were
considered subsistence farmers.  The United States, Argentina and Brazil
were the top three countries that grew genetically engineered crops last
year, mostly soy.

Source - New York Times <>

Colombia: Irrigation District on Its Way

JAN. 6, 2007 - The Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) is
to undertake construction of the Triangulo de Tolima land development
project (in the central province of the same name), with an investment of
150 million dollars.  German Molina, INCODER coordinator in Tolima
province, told Tierramerica that this will be the biggest project of its
kind in the country, after the southern irrigation district of Rancheria
which is currently under construction. The project will benefit some 45,000
people who live on 24,000 hectares in the south of the province that will
be cultivable under irrigation. Eleven thousand of the beneficiaries are
indigenous people, Molina added.  The Environment ministry awarded the
environmental permit for the project to INCODER on Dec. 27. The Institute
will be in charge of providing infrastructure, operation, maintenance, land
preparation, sowing and irrigation.

Source - Tierramerica

Outbreak of Brucellosis in Southern Chile

JAN. 8, 2007 - An outbreak of bovine brucellosis has been confirmed in the
Chilean province of Osorno, according to the Minister of Agriculture Alvaro
Rojas.  Measures to isolate the outbreak in the rural area of Osorno have
been taken and "we're talking with farmers about the complications to rural
activities which this entails", Rojas is quoted by an Osorno daily adding
that since "we have an open alert system", the re-appearance of the
outbreak was rapidly detected".  Luis Paredes, from SAG's Livestock
department said that the outbreaks come as a "great surprise", since
"Osorno has been the region which has most advanced in the matter and no
outbreaks had been reported for a very long time".  "We believe we are
facing isolated cases but it's a call of attention to remind us we must be
alert at all times", added Paredes.

Source - MercoPress

Brazil Gambles on Monitoring of Amazon Loggers

JAN. 14, 2007 - A Brazilian government plan set to go into effect this year
will bring large-scale logging deep into the heart of the Amazon rain
forest for the first time, in a calculated gamble that new monitoring
efforts can offset any danger of increased devastation.  The government of
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in an attempt to create Brazil's first
coherent, effective forest policy, is to begin auctioning off timber rights
to large tracts of the rain forest. The winning bidders will not have title
to the land or the right to exploit resources other than timber, and the
government says they will be closely monitored and will pay a royalty on
their activities.  The architects of the plan say it will also help reduce
tensions over land ownership in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical
forest, which loses an area the size of New Jersey every year to
clear-cutting and timbering.  But the called-for monitoring of the loggers
allowed into the rain forest's largely untouched center will come from a
new, untested Forest Service with only 150 employees and from state and
municipal governments. That concerns environmental and civic groups because
local officials are more vulnerable to the pressures of powerful economic
interests and to corruption.

Source - New York Times <>

Amazon rainforest relies on African dust

JAN. 10, 2007 - A single spot in the Sahara desert is responsible for over
half the Amazon basin's annual supply of minerals, researchers say.  In a
study published in Environmental Research Letters, scientists show that
dust winds arising from the Bodele depression ­ northeast of Lake Chad ­
are the main mineral source fertilizing the Amazon rainforest in Latin
America.  Using recent advances in satellite instrumentation, researchers
produced the first quantitative estimate of the dust emission: 56 per cent
of the Amazon's total annual mineral supply.  It was known that West
African dust winds played an essential role in the Amazon mineral
supply.  But the rate of emission from the Bodele depression has not been
measured until now.  According to the study, the soil of the Amazon
rainforest is shallow, poor in nutrients and almost without soluble
minerals.  The health and productivity of the Amazon basin depends on
nearly 50 million tons of mineral-containing dust transported annually
across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara.

Source - SciDev

Chile Draws Up Endangered Species List

JAN. 13, 2007 - Chile is home to some 30,000 types of flora and fauna and,
as is increasingly the case throughout the planet, many of those plant and
wildlife species are seriously endangered.  In fact, two Chilean tree
species - the Juan Fernandez Sandalo and the Toromiro, of Easter Island -
are already extinct, according to the National Environmental Commission
(CONAMA).  If measures aren't taken to protect them, more Chilean species,
including the Huemul deer, the Taruca deer and the Andean cat, will
follow.  Last month, CONAMA published the results of study that sought, for
the first time ever, to classify native Chilean plants and animals
according to their endangerment. CONAMA's research focused on 35 species
and concluded that 20 face a real danger of extinction.  The government
entity now plans to expand the list by as many as 150 additional species.

Source - Santiago Times (no link)

Brazil: New Law against Biopiracy

Jan 13, 2007 - A new Brazilian regulation requires biotechnology patent
applicants to prove that they had legal access to the genetic resources
involved in the products and inventions they wish to register.  The
requirement, imposed by the Genetic Heritage Management Council and the
National Institute of Industrial Property from the beginning of this year,
also applies to traditional knowledge used in research.  "It's an important
step towards overcoming biopiracy and promoting the distribution of the
benefits of biodiversity, as required by the Convention on Biological
Diversity (1992)," Fernando Mathias, a lawyer with the non-governmental
Socioenvironmental Institute, told Tierramerica. However, this pioneering
law will need controls to be in place to ensure that patent royalties go to
the owners of the genetic resources and the traditional knowledge that
formed the basis of the developed product, Mathias added.

Source - Tierramerica

EU to Ban Imports of Wild Birds

JAN. 12, 2007 - The trade in wild birds is to be permanently banned across
the European Union starting in July, EU animal health officials have
decided.  The move will replace a temporary ban imposed by Brussels in 2005
as part of measures to prevent outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird
flu.  Animal welfare campaigners say the permanent ban will save millions
of birds, including many rare species.  Only captive-bred birds from
approved countries will be allowed into the EU.  Tighter controls on the
health and quarantine of imported birds are also to be imposed.

Source - BBC

Chile: Promoting Endangered Huemul Deer

JAN. 11, 2007 - Kris Mc Divitt, wife of controversial U.S. environmentalist
Doug Tompkins, has launched an ecotourism event aimed at raising awareness
of Chile's endangered huemul deer.  Organizers of the "Ruta del Huemul
(Huemul Deer Path)" event hope around 600 participants will take part in
weekend activities of walking and hiking through Region XI - home of the
threatened deer. The huemul deer population faces both natural and man-made
threats. The over-grazing of sheep and cattle, wind and water erosion, road
construction and fire and logging are just some of the factors contributing
to the deer's' gradual extinction.  As well as raising awareness about the
plight of the huemul deer - which suffered a population decline of 58
percent over the last two decades - Mc Divitt is promoting the creation of
a new national park. The Patagonia National Park (Parque Nacional de la
Patagonia) will cover 173,000 acres of southern Chile and be managed by Mc
Divitt's organization, Conservacion Patagonica.

Source - Santiago Times (no link)

Brazil: Plants with Economic Potential

JAN. 6, 2007 - In Brazil, the pupunha palm (Bactris gasipaes kunth)
produces 20 tons of oil per hectare, four times more than the African palm
(Elaeis guineensis), the source of the oil that is second in terms of world
consumption. Cultivation of pupunha palm, found in the Amazon region and
Central America, has been expanding to provide heart of palm, but not yet
for its vegetable oil, which will be in growing demand to make biodiesel.
It is one of 775 native species with great economic potential identified by
the Ministry, which will publish this information in five volumes, starting
this year, in a bid to encourage their sustainable use.

Source - Tierramerica

Fishing & Marine Conservation

Argentine hake biomass again down to critical levels

JAN. 20, 2007 - The southern stocks of Argentine hake (Mercluccius hubbsi)
are in fragile biological balance which will have a negative impact on
catches this year and even more in 2008.  According to the conclusions from
the preliminary assessment , Technical Report 92/06 from Mar del Plata's
National Institute for Fisheries Research and Development, INIDEP, a
considerable drop in the numbers of classes 1 and 2 of hake (between 18 and
30 centimeters) has been confirmed.  Based on this information and a
considerable reduction in hake's breeding biomass, scientists are
recommending a drastic cut in catches of juveniles, both directly and in
the by catches. Recruitment has dropped to the critical levels of
1998/2000.  The report highlights that as yet "there is no concrete
information as to the reasons for this drop, but something happened between
January 2005 and January 2006".

Source- MercoPress

Chile: Step Forward for Blue Whale Protection

JAN. 13, 2007 - The Los Lagos Regional Commission for the Use of the
Coastal Fringe in Chile has given definitive approval for a 46 square
kilometer protected zone in the gulf of Corcovado and the sea surrounding
Chiloe Island which is home to the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).
Promoted by the Blue Whale Centre (CBA), the declaration of the Protected
Multi-purpose Marine and Coastal Area was approved on Jan. 2. Maximiliano
Bello of CBA explained to Tierramerica that the next step is to obtain the
approval of the Aysen regional authorities. The entire process could be
completed by the end of June.  On Dec. 21, the government awarded the
Bicentennial Seal to the project to designate this protected area, for
contributing to development in Chile, in anticipation of the national
celebrations of 200 years of independence in 2010.

Source - Tierramerica

Brazil Hosts the First South American Fishers Forum

JAN. 12, 2007 - On December 12-14, an OES-sponsored workshop with the
slogan "Catch Fish Not Birds" brought together 50 experts from across the
world to take a look at the potential to reduce seabird bycatch throughout
the South American long-line fishery via the adoption of mitigation
measures in South America fishing fleets.  As a result of the event,
several solutions to reduce the incidental catch of sea birds were
identified between fishers, fishing entrepreneurs, researchers, NGO's and
governments.  In addition, the partners conducted a full discussion of the
economic and environmental benefits of reducing sea bird bycatch and
committed themselves to implementing some of these mitigation measures
throughout South America.
Source - BRASILIA   00000071

Argentine anchovy fishery may damage South Atlantic ecosystem

JAN. 09, 2007 - The indiscriminate Argentine anchovy (Engraulis anchoita)
fishing in the southern zone of Argentina could inflict serious damage to
Magallanic penguins, whales, seals and sea lions population numbers, warned
a study published in scientific magazine Science.  The study says that the
growing demand of fishmeal could encourage an unsustainable expansion of
the Argentinean anchovy commercial fishery along the Patagonian coast.
"Changes in the Argentine anchovy population could alter abundance of
predators and prey. A reduction in the population of one species could
spread along throughout the food chain and change the energy flow and the
abundance of species that are not directly linked to Argentine anchovy,"
scientists explain.

Source - MercoPress
See also

Climate Change
Crunch year for planet Earth

JAN. 18, 2007 - This will be a crunch year for action on the climate
crisis, according to a leading environmental lobbyist.  Never have the
opportunities been better and the danger from failure greater, Friends of
the Earth chief Tony Juniper said in an interview with Reuters.  "There is
an urgency that wasn't there before," Juniper said. "The science is there,
the economics is there and the politics is there ...If they don't take this
opportunity then we really should start to think about the future of life
on earth."  The scientists who mind the "Doomsday Clock" moved it forward
two minutes on Wednesday to five minutes until midnight, symbolizing the
growing risk of the annihilation of civilization, and for the first time
said global warming was a threat. Early next month the International Panel
on Climate Change will produce the first of four key reports this year
assessing the latest scientific knowledge on global warming.  This will be
followed by a report in April on adaptation, one in May on mitigation and a
final overview in November.  A European Union-United States summit in April
is expected to focus on energy security, and a Group of Eight summit in
early June will highlight energy and climate.

Source - CNN (no link)

Multimillion Dollar Effort to Study Polar Ice Thaw

JAN. 13, 2007 - More than 60 nations, from Chile to China, and 50,000
scientists and researchers will be involved in the International Polar Year
(IPY) 2007-2008, actually a two-year period that will last from Mar. 1,
2007 to the same date in 2009.  The IPY will study the Arctic and Antarctic
regions, focusing on the effects of global warming produced by greenhouse
gases. It has a budget of over 500 million dollars, to which Canada
contributed 160 million.  The last major international effort to study the
world's coldest regions took place 50 years ago and was called the
International Geophysical Year. It was a landmark scientific collaboration
involving 67 nations that produced data still used today.  The IPY is
organized by the International Science Council and the World Meteorological
Organization, and is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program.

Source - Tierramerica

Chile: Climate-Change Cyclist Travels 13,097 Miles to Santiago
JAN. 9, 2006 - David Kroodsma - a young environmentalist in the middle of a
15,000-mile journey from Palo Alto, California to Ushuia in Argentine
Patagonia - pedaled into Santiago on January 2nd, marking the 13,097th mile
of a 17-month trip.  Kroodsma has traveled through 15 countries between the
U.S. and Chile - including Belize, El Salvador and Columbia - since he set
off on his "Ride for Climate" in November 2005.  From Santiago he will
travel south through Chile and Argentina to South America's southern-most
town of Ushuia at the tip of Tierra del Fuego.  Despite ultimately aiming
to raise awareness for a U.S. audience - mainly through his personal
website, <> - Kroodsma
punctuates his journey with visits to local schools, where he talks to
children about his trip and the effects of climate change.

Source - Santiago Times (no link)

Firewood Source of Santiago, Chile Contamination

Jan. 20, 2007 - A recent study revealed an increase in air pollution caused
by wood-burning stoves in Santiago.  Although wood stoves emit almost as
much contamination as diesel combustion, their prohibition is
unlikely.  The government maintains that the increase in wood smoke is not
significant enough to warrant stove regulations in its anti-pollution plan.
Scientists, however, insist the increase is important because the three
major sources of air contamination in Chile are now industry, wood burning
and diesel combustion.  Former National Commission on the Environment
(Conama) director Pablo Badenier warned that stoves emit 200 tons of
material particles a year­more than the projected emissions of the
Transantiago transport system. There are an estimated 20,000 wood stoves in
the city, each emitting more than one pound of material particles per hour.

Source - Santiago Times (no link)
Cell Phones Getting Greener

JAN. 08, 2007 - Cellular telephones that contain toxic chemicals are still
being sold in Latin America and other developing regions. But thanks to
strict European regulations, there are progressively fewer phones being
made with cadmium, lead and other dangerous materials.
The new, stricter standards adopted by the European Union in 2006, forced
the world's five leading cell phone manufacturers to eliminate toxic metals
and other materials from their products.  In a year or two, the majority of
the more than one billion new mobiles sold annually will meet the EU
standards even if most countries don't have those restrictions, says Zeina
Alhajj, a toxics expert with the environmental watchdog Greenpeace

Source - Tierramerica

Brazil Infrastructure Plan Doesn't Include Nuclear Plant

JAN. 22, 2007 - An ambitious infrastructure investment plan announced on
January 22nd by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did not include
completion of Brazil's third nuclear plant.  The investment plan calls for
more than 503 billion reals (US$240 billion) through 2010 to be spent on
repairing and building highways, boosting electric power generation,
expanding ports and airports and providing housing, water and sewage
service for poor Brazilians.  Completion of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant
in Rio de Janeiro, which has been stuck in the planning stage for a number
of years, "is not part of the (investment) plan," Mines and Energy Minister
Silas Rondeau told reporters.  "Resumption of work on Angra 3 is part of
the resumption of Brazil's nuclear program, which involves much more than
generating electricity," Rondeau told reporters without going into
details.  He said the future of the nuclear program was still under

Source - IHT <>

Peru President Garcia Touts Maple Gas Ethanol Project
JAN. 11, 2007 - On January 5, U.S. oil firm Maple Gas signed a $650 million
contract with the Piura Regional Government for a sugar cane-based ethanol
plant.  President Garcia spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the biofuel
project the start of an "agrarian revolution" that showcased foreign
private investment.  Sited on the northern desert coast, the plant should
produce 30 million gallons/year by 2010.  Garcia announced other biofuel
projects in the works. The Maple project is a model for U.S investors on
how to coordinate land and water rights acquisition with the national and a
regional government.
Source - LIMA   00000087

Argentina: A Boost for Renewable Energies

Jan 6, 2007 - The government of Argentina published a law on Jan. 2 to
promote the use of renewable energy sources, which envisages increasing
their participation in the national electricity grid from one percent to
eight percent over 10 years.  The law declares that generating wind, solar
and geothermal power, among others, is "in the national interest", and
promotes investment and research by means of tax incentives and subsidies
for every kilowatt generated from alternatives to fossil fuels.  Juan
Casavelos, coordinator of Greenpeace's energy campaign, told Tierramerica
that this is a "very good sign" and that "any step that increases the share
of renewable sources in the grid is of great value." However, he said the
incentives should be larger.  According to Casavelos, a fund is needed to
plan investments and make renewable energy supply more competitive.

Source - Tierramerica

Vast Pipelines in Amazon Face Challenges over Protecting Rights and Rivers

JAN. 21, 2007 - In theory, the issue is a simple one: Brazil needs more
sources of energy to keep its economy humming, and huge reserves of gas and
oil are in the Amazon jungle. Problem solved.  Over the years, Petrobras,
Brazil's state-controlled oil company, has, in fact, invested more than $7
billion in Amazon exploration and development, and in 1986 it made a major
find here. But only now ­ after a seemingly endless sequence of geographic,
logistical, environmental and political challenges were overcome ­ is the
first in what is intended as a series of pipelines finally being
constructed, this one to carry gas the 400 miles from here to Manaus, a
port city of 1.5 million at the junction of the region's two biggest rivers
that is emerging as an important industrial center.  But oil pipeline leaks
and the collapse of an offshore drilling platform in other parts of the
country have damaged Petrobras's reputation, and there was initially strong
resistance to the pipeline from local people, environmental and indigenous
groups and archaeologists.  Rather than steamrolling the opponents and
skeptics, however, as often happens in Brazil, the company chose to woo
them. The two million residents of Amazonas State have been promised
economic benefits that have contributed to the project's $1.15 billion
price, and scientists and environmentalists were consulted about how to
minimize damage to the jungle that blankets the state.

Source - New York Times <>

Brazil: Indigenous Groups Surviving in the Amazon

JAN. 18, 2007 - Far more Indian groups than previously thought are
surviving in Brazil's Amazon rain forest isolated from the outside world
but they risk extermination at the hands of encroaching loggers and miners,
experts say.  A study by Funai, the government's National Indian
Foundation, and seen by Reuters estimates that around 67 Indian groups live
in complete isolation, up from previous estimates of around 40.  "With the
rate of destruction in the Amazon, it is amazing there are any isolated
people left at all," said Fiona Watson, campaigns coordinator with Survival
International, an advocacy group for tribal peoples.  Funai reviewed old
and new discoveries of footprints, abandoned huts, and other signs of human
life in the thicket of the world's largest rain forest.  "There are still
vast unexplored areas and new indications of [Indian groups]," Marcelo dos
Santos, head of Funai's department of isolated Indians, told
Reuters.  Brazil is likely to have the largest number of uncontacted tribes
in the world, Watson said.

Source - Reuters (no link)

Uruguay: Film Explodes "Myths" About Pulp Mill

JAN. 13, 2007 - A documentary film criticizing activists in the Argentine
city of Gualeguaychu, who fear a pulp mill to be installed on the eastern
bank of the border river between both countries will cause pollution, was
shown for the first time in Uruguay on Jan. 12.  "No a los papelones",
directed by Argentine Eduardo Montes Bradley, is being shown in cinemas in
Montevideo and Punta del Este.  "It's about ideological falsehood, about a
town afraid about something it knows nothing about. And it portrays those
in the front line of the demonstrations using emotional arguments, such as
that (the area's residents) will have three-headed babies," Pepi Goncalvez,
the film's press spokeswoman, told Tierramerica. "It's not against people
who do serious environmental work," she said.  The distributors are not
showing the film in Argentina for fear of reprisals.

Source - Tierramerica

Does the Environment Need a New Global Agency?

JAN. 08, 2007 - The creation of a new United Nations Environment
Organization (UNEO), proposed by French President Jacques Chirac, has
divided environmentalists. Some believe it will be useful for combating the
challenge posed by global environmental deterioration, but others see it as
a redundant proposal and a political maneuver by Chirac before the French
general elections due in April and May.   Chirac proposed creating the UNEO
on Dec.12 in Paris, after a meeting with the organizing committee for the
International Conference on Environmental Governance, which the French
government is hosting in February.  According to Chirac, this conference,
to be attended by representatives from about 60 countries, and from many
international and non-governmental organizations, should present "an
inventory of the situation of the global environment and its alarming
degradation, and present priority political proposals that are
internationally acceptable."

Source - Tierramerica

In Peru, a Move to Get Farmers to Trade in Fish Rather Than Coca

JAN. 04, 2007 - A new program aims to help coca growers raise paiche, a
huge, endangered fish known for its flaky meat.  The program has a few
thousand fish in each cage, with the goal of reaching a constant population
of 8,000 paiches per cage. This may not seem like much, but with each fish
reaching up to 25 pounds in a year, authorities believe that they will
harvest enough paiche meat annually to satisfy local demand and begin
exporting.  Edwin Vasquez, who left office as governor of Ucayali on Jan.
2, says marketing studies done by government agencies show that paiche
steaks can sell for around $20 a pound in European and US gourmet markets.
"This is an economic opportunity for communities that have few options," he
says.  Mr. Vasquez believes that if the Imiria project is successful,
similar efforts will pop up in the region. The US Agency for International
Development (USAID), through one of its partner organizations, has
contributed one-fifth of the $250,000 cost of the program as part of its
anti-drug work in Peru.

Source - CSM

Update on Avian Influenza
Bird Flu Will Challenge to U.S. Health System, Expert Predicts

JAN. 15, 2007 - A bird flu pandemic remains a threat that the U.S. health
care system must take seriously despite less frequent media coverage and
the absence so far of human cases in the United States, experts
warned.  John Bartlett, an infectious disease expert at John Hopkins
University, said the decentralized U.S. health system will make it more
difficult to get ready for a possible human pandemic of H5N1 avian virus --
or anything else.  He disagreed with the suggestion that the bird flu
threat has been overstated by the media.  "The number of cases in 2006 was
more than it was in 2005, which is more than it was in 2004 ... so it
continues to go up in people," he said in an interview.  "And it continues
to be just as lethal as it was in the beginning," Bartlett said at a
conference aimed at helping U.S. hospital administrators prepare for a
pandemic. Hospitals "have to plan that there'll be no vaccine," he said,
urging administrators to start "speaking collectively about the need for a
much more ambitious and aggressive vaccine strategy."  With no federal
guidance on who will receive pandemic vaccine once it is developed and
manufactured, Inglesby said, state and local health authorities will have
trouble making and enforcing decisions.  Bartlett and Inglesby said the
absence of clear guidelines on an avian flu pandemic would pose ethical
challenges when it came to choosing who would receive scarce treatments.

Source - CNN

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