In The Know: New Census data reports 1 in 6 Oklahomans in poverty in 2013

by | September 19th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Yesterday, new data released by the Census Bureau revealed that 1 in 6 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2013. The Tulsa World used the new data to examine poverty in Broken Arrow, Tulsa and Muskogee. Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton argued that the movement pushing to raise the minimum (and sub-minimum) wage is gathering steam. A federal judge has expressed concerns that the state Corrections Department will be unable to revise its executions protocol before a scheduled November execution.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is searching for more women who may have been attacked by a deputy who was recently arrested on on-duty sexual battery allegations. Fort Sill has been officially released from its mission to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied children. We’ve previously debunked myths about the children who were housed there this summer, and discussed what may happen to them next.

Following five patient overdose deaths, a Shawnee doctor has surrendered his medical license. The Rogers County Sheriff’s Office is holding a “mobile take-back event” tomorrow where task force officers in marked vehicles will drive to the homes of residents who have arranged a pick-up to collect unused prescription medications. We’ve written about Oklahoma’s prescription drug problem before. The Cherokee Nation has opened a career services center in Tulsa to help the long-term unemployed locate work.

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators are struggling with oversight of the state’s growing and contentious wind industry. Environment activists are planning a demonstration in Oklahoma City on Sunday to call for greater action to combat climate change. Owasso officials say that a Macy’s distribution center under construction could employ 5,000 people, twice as many as had been expected. Public Radio Tulsa attended a presentation Executive Director David Blatt gave on the state’s health issues and concluded that Oklahoma isn’t doing so well.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans in poverty in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses the growing movement to end lending discrimination against women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.

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In The Know: New A-F school grades released; ‘F’ grades skyrocket following testing changes

by | September 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

The number of schools deemed failing by the Oklahoma State Department of Education soared from 163 to 200 after the state Board of Education voted to certify the 2014 A-F school grade cards. The Peckham School District in northern Oklahoma has gone from an A district to an F in two years, which the superintendents attributes to the district enrolling many special needs transfers. A heavily-Hispanic Oklahoma City Elementary School has begun a new dual-language program, teaching simultaneously in English and Spanish. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why Oklahoma needs bilingual education in schools to close gaps for English Language Learners.

The full Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on October 14 in attorney Jerry Fent’s constitutional challenge to cutting income tax rates. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how Fent’s legal challenge could dramatically change the politics of tax cuts in Oklahoma. KJRH reported that Oklahoma is paying 75 percent of ad revenue from blue highway signs to a private contractor, a far higher percentage than other states contracting with the company. The economy in Oklahoma’s two largest metropolitan areas outpaced national growth in 2013. David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the story of a conservative businessman who has become a champion of increasing the minimum wage.

The Tahlequah Daily Press wrote that comments by state Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) are advancing unfounded hatred and suspicion against Muslims. State prison officials are seeking to dismiss a federal lawsuit that argues journalists should have an unobstructed view of Oklahoma’s executions. Oklahoma Watch reported that the witness brought in by state Rep. Mike Christian to make a case for executing prisoners using nitrogen gas is not a doctor, but he was involved with Rep. Christian’s 2010 campaign for state House. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel suggested in a public meeting Monday that the county might consider hanging people in the city square as a means of reducing crime.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma pregnant women who receive first trimester prenatal care. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress shows that the share of national income going to corporate after-tax profits has reached an all-time high.

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In The Know: Percentage of Oklahomans without health insurance falls for 3rd year

by and | September 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

New data from the U.S. Census shows the number and percentage of Oklahomans without health insurance has declined for the third year in a row. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained how to understand the new health insurance coverage estimates. The second annual open enrollment period begins Nov. 15 for the Affordable Care Act’s online health insurance marketplace. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak participated in a Q&A about the marketplace. A respiratory illness that has been causing some children in the region to go to intensive care has been confirmed in Oklahoma.

On the OK Policy Blog, we examined signs of weakening political participation and representation in Oklahoma. State election officials are encouraging Oklahomans to vote by mail to avoid lines at polling places in November. The Together Oklahoma coalition is launching a statewide “Together Tuesdays” tour with public discussion forums on how to get more engaged in Oklahoma’s political process. The first Together Tuesday forum will be September 23 in Enid. Tahlequah High School math teacher Jason Scott Proctor has been named Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Attorney Jerry Fent has filed a formal objection to a law to repair the state Capitol, likely triggering an Oklahoma Supreme Court review of the measure. Fent claims that since the law is specific to only one building, it is a “special law” that must be published in a newspaper for four consecutive weeks before the measure is considered. Officials from a group representing Oklahoma Muslims said they will “seek protection” following state Rep. John Bennett’s comments at a town meeting that the Islamic faith “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.” A mystery substance found in an Okmulgee County river has prompted an investigation by multiple agencies. NewsOK examined efforts being made by oil and gas drillers in Oklahoma to reduce their water usage

Specific allegations of sexual assault by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper were detailed for the first time in documents released by the Creek County District Attorney’s Office. A Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputy is in custody for sexual assault after he admitted to exposing himself and inappropriately touching a woman during a 911 call investigation, as well as engaging in sexual-type activity with about six women during traffic stops. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has cleared the way for an Owasso police officer who was fired in 2011 for excessive use-of-force to return to work. A private autopsy on a man who died following a confrontation with police in front of the Moore Warren Theatre found that he died from asphyxia, contradicting findings by the state medical examiner that he died of a heart condition.

The Number of the Day is the number of the Oklahoma children whose parents lacked secure employment in 2012, 30 percent of all kids in the state. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports on how a new approach to teaching history being promoted by Bill Gates is entering hundreds of high schools across the country.

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In The Know: Attorney withdraws lawsuit against oil and gas tax changes

by and | September 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Attorney Jerry Fent asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to dismiss his lawsuit challenging oil and gas production tax changes. Fent said he would have no comment on why he filed for dismissal. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how Fent’s lawsuits could dramatically change tax politics in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog discussed a new report from Governor Fallin’s office that lays out a path forward for criminal justice reform. State Sen. David Holt called for lawmakers to do something to address Oklahoma’s low voter turnout. OK Policy previously made the case for finding alternatives to very low turnout runoff elections.

The Tulsa World looked at what’s behind numbers ranking Oklahoma the third-highest in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men. Leaders of the Family Safety Center wrote a Tulsa World op-ed on what’s needed to stop the cycle of violence in domestic abuse. The arrest of NFL star Adrian Peterson has ignited debate in Oklahoma over when discipline becomes child abuse.

Recently released crime statistics show a large spike in the number of reported rapes in Oklahoma over the last two years. Law enforcement officials attributed the increase to a broadened definition of rape and efforts to reduce the stigma attached to reporting sexual assaults. An Oklahoma Highway Patrolman arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting women while on duty turned his dashboard camera and microphone off six times this year during traffic stops.

The Oklahoma City Council voted unanimously to deregulate fare-setting and require toughened background checks for drivers of both taxis and and new rideshare services Uber and Lyft. They are also considering whether a physical exam should be required before drivers get behind the wheel. The Tulsa school board worked on refining the superintendent’s job description Monday in preparation for opening the position to applicants in early October.

Volunteers working out of Goldsby are helping veterans to navigate the VA health care system. Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences is hoping to recruit more Native American high school and college students into the medicine and science fields. Oklahoma authorities say rainy weather and a cooler summer have been good for wildlife population growth, especially for skunks.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma women killed by men in 2012 whose killer was someone they knew. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why immigrants aren’t stealing American jobs.

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In The Know: State lawmakers to consider execution by gas

by and | September 15th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Oklahoma would become the first state to execute condemned inmates using nitrogen gas under a proposal that will be presented next week to a legislative committee. The Tulsa World reported that room where Oklahoma has conducted executions since 1992 is so dimly lit that executioners are provided a flashlight to see, and if something goes wrong, the executioners stick colored pencils through holes in the drug room wall to communicate with the doctor. Travelers holding an Oklahoma driver’s license may need a second form of identification to board a commercial airliner by 2016, because the state is refusing to comply with an act of Congress to make these licenses more secure.

On the latest OK PolicyCast, we discuss a new event series aimed at growing citizen involvement across Oklahoma. Though the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour for most Oklahomans, several tribal nations in the state are taking the lead to boost their minimum wage. A national report has given Oklahoma’s nursing homes a failing grade, ranking them third worst in the nation. You can read the full report here. A state constitutional amendment has protected tobacco settlement funds in Oklahoma, while other states signed away the funds to private investors for up front cash.

The president of the Oklahoma NAACP wants the U.S. attorney general to open a hate crimes and civil rights investigation into alleged sexual assaults on black women by an Oklahoma City police officer. Buzzfeed reported on how investigators finally caught the police officer, who is alleged to have targeted women who were unlikely to report the crime. Time Magazine shared an essay by an advocate working for marriage equality for same-sex couples in Oklahoma. New Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton wrote that Oklahoma’s Republican leaders need to better crack down on hate speech coming from elected officials in their party.

The parents of a woman killed in 2011 are proposing a new law to protect Oklahoma workers from termination or demotion if they attend court hearings in support of their loved ones. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is giving $3.5 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 16 Oklahoma health centers to expand primary care services. An NSU undergraduate and former foster student is advocating for a new foster recruitment model that ensures kids can stay in the same school. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission held a meeting to discuss how they will implement a new utility tariff for users of rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what the new small solar and wind energy tariff could mean. 

Representative Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, said Oklahoma does not have enough inspectors to ensure oil and gas wastewater disposal wells are not contaminating drinking water supplies. The Number of the Day is Canadian County’s ranking out of 3,135 U.S. counties in a New York Times analysis of the least and most difficult places to live in the country, the best ranking of any Oklahoma county. In today’s Policy Note, CityLab discusses a new push to improve road safety by turning four lanes into three.

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In The Know: Oklahoma schools receive “F” grade from US Chamber

by | September 12th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

The US Chamber of Commerce assigned gave Oklahoma schools an overall “F” grade in a report measuring educational effectiveness. Oklahoma schools received failing grades in the areas of academic achievement; academic achievement of low-income and minority students; and return on investment. The report is available here. Speaking at a community forum on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt discussed race, poverty, and segregation in Tulsa schools.

A new report commissioned by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board found that 1 in 5 Oklahoma jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry. Last year, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate reached a record low, although it remains above the national average and infant mortality remains much higher for racial and ethnic minorities than for white babies. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board called for the state to reconsider its rejection of Medicaid expansion and the infusion of federal funds that would come with it. We’ve noted before that rejecting the funds means a massive tax transfer to Washington.

The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board applauded the state’s move toward “performance-based budgeting,” which takes past performance into account when determining a budget item’s funding. Oklahoma State University and Stillwater have implemented employee wellness programs in an effort to reduce health care spending on preventable conditions, and say that the efforts are paying off. A planned “Cherokee Outlets” development is estimated to bring 1,000 permanent jobs to Catoosa.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is suing for access records from a intelligence networking website hosted by the Logan County sheriff’s office. The ACLU contends that the website, which allows law enforcement to share information about American motorists, is used to “track the activities of thousands of American citizens without their knowledge or consent.” You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Drought in southeast Oklahoma has the city of Duncan scrambling to locate new sources of water. Estimates say that the city’s primary water source, Lake Waurika, could be too depleted to use by 2016.

ABC News reported that a number of cities, including Tulsa, are quietly preparing for climate change in the name of “disaster preparedness” by limiting development in future flood zones and looking into infrastructure that can handle increased storm runoff. The Number of the Day is the median home price in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute assesses the impact of wage theft.

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In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

by | September 11th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Chesapeake Energy will face trial in Michigan on charges of felony racketeering and using false pretenses related to its land-leasing practices, a state judge has ruled. State Rep. Steve Vaughn (R-Ponca City) said he was considering new rules governing oil and gas wastewater disposal wells due to concerns about water pollution caused by the wells. A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a Texas insurance executive promised to pay former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher’s legal bills in exchange for Fisher’s “non-cooperation” with a state investigation into his business activities. The lawsuit also alleges that the executive spent ten of thousands to support current Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s election bid.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the latest evidence that Obamacare is working to expand health coverage and slow the growth of health care costs. Two Norman high schools ranked in the top 1 percent in a list by Newsweek of the best high schools in America. The Oklahoma School Security Institute and Homeland Security have launched an emergency tip line, hoping it will prevent school shootings before they happen. A Tulsa non-profit is launching an effort to connect foster families with children attending particular Tulsa schools. MSNBC reported on the growing trend of hiking court fees in Oklahoma and other states to make up for state budget cuts, resulting in those who can’t afford to pay being sent to jail. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shared stories from the numerous Oklahomans struggling with hunger.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke about race and inequality at a University of Tulsa event for students and faculty. Sotomayor also visited Booker T. Washington High School and will talk to law students at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Thursday and Friday. Several more religious and social justice groups denounced anti-Muslim comments made by a state legislator, but Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said he is standing by his statement that people should be wary of those who say they are “Muslim American.” 

The Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s OneVoice consortium, which includes about 60 chambers of commerce, local governments and public and private institutions, released its legislative priorities for 2014. Top priorities include preserving and expanding education funding and preserving and expanding Insure Oklahoma to cover the uninsured. You can see the full OneVoice agenda here. Oklahomans concerned about the placement of wind farms and how a new state law on rooftop solar panels will work can attend two meetings Thursday at the Corporation Commission in Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking for the well-being of girls in the state by a Girl Scouts of America report. In today’s Policy Note, CNN reports on how the campaign for paid sick leave for all workers is picking up steam in cities and states throughout the country. Oklahoma is one of a few states that have banned local governments from requiring paid sick leave.

continue reading In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

In The Know: Oklahoma ranks third in rate of women killed by men

by | September 10th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Oklahoma again ranked third for the rate at which men killed women, according to a new study released by the Violence Policy Center. The ACLU of Oklahoma asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to nullify a lower court’s decision that Gov. Fallin could use “deliberative process privilege” to withhold records from the public.

A Ponca City legislator hosted an interim study for constituents concerned that oil and gas drilling activities have contaminated water wells or caused wells to go dry. Representatives from the Oklahoma Geological Survey provided the Corporation Commission with an update on their study of the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn criticized the practice of making military equipment available to state and local law enforcement agencies. The Oklahoma City Council is considering new ridesharing regulations in response to services like Uber that compete with taxi cabs.

The OK Policy Blog reports on where the children previously held at Ft. Sill are now and what their futures look like. The Number of the Day is the average mortgage debt in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, Fivethirtyeight.com examined state variation in a new report on food insecurity across the country.

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In The Know: OKC legislator proposes to raise subminimum wage

by | September 9th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

State Rep. Mike Shelton (D-Oklahoma City) said he intends to introduce legislation next year that would raise the subminimum wage for service-sector employees whose meager salaries are supplemented with tips. The OK Policy Blog discussed how the Legislature picked winners and losers when deciding which state employees got a raise this year. The Oklahoma Transportation Commission adopted a $6.3 billion, eight-year work plan for Oklahoma’s highways and bridges, including replacing the bridge between Lexington and Purcell that was shut down for months after cracks were discovered.

Oklahoma’s Corrections Director said the agency plans to complete an overhaul of the state’s execution protocol and a “major reconstruction” of the death chamber before the state’s next scheduled execution in November. The State Supreme Court upheld a one-year suspension of an OU football player who had been accused of sexual assault. The student’s suspension had previously been thrown out by a Cleveland County judge. Grand River Dam Authority directors publicly endorsed Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan, despite a sexual harassment complaint against him that was settled for $223,000.

The Noble Public Schools superintendent was fired after she gained national attention for referring to some girls at the school as “skanks” and making them bend over to see if their skirts were too short. Overcrowding is a growing problem at south side Oklahoma City schools, and officials have added 52 portable classrooms at a cost of nearly $3 million. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to review a decades-old telephone case tainted by corruption at the Corporation Commission.

Oklahoma and 16 other states urged the U.S. Supreme Court to use cases from Oklahoma and Utah to resolve the issue of whether states can ban same-sex marriage. Oklahoma and nine other states have requested help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate a virus that has sent hundreds of children to hospitals in Missouri. The Number of the Day is the average cost of attendance for an Oklahoma resident, on campus, full-time student at the state’s research universities. In today’s Policy Note, the Moneybox blog discusses how a series of fast food walkouts around the country have been successful at spearheading a broader living wage movement.

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In The Know: Oklahoma law-enforcement agencies stock up on military-grade equipment

by | September 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Oklahoma law enforcement agencies received more than $33 million worth of military-grade equipment in a controversial program that allows local law enforcement agencies to acquire surplus military weapons and vehicles. Equipment going to Oklahoma agencies include an airplane, 11 helicopters, more than 30 mine-resistant vehicles, 1,027 rifles and 227 pistols. The Washington Post profiled the founder of a private firm that had been seizing property from drivers on Oklahoma highways for the district attorney’s office until a judge intervened. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed the controversy over allowing policing for profit by a private company.

Hospitals in Oklahoma are projected to lose more than $4 billion in reimbursements between 2013-22 because the state chose not to expand Medicaid, and Oklahoma hospital executives said they have had to institute layoffs to offset the lost revenue. Local school officials say the Oklahoma State Department of Education has violated state and federal laws protecting student privacy by releasing information to districts about students who no longer attend their schools. The state Regents have launched an online dashboard for students to find data comparing Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. You can view the online dashboard here.

The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast discusses a couple of lawsuits before the Oklahoma Supreme Court that could dramatically change tax politics in the state. The Tulsa World reported that the undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. has leveled off while children who are becoming adults seek ways to become U.S. citizens. YWCA Tulsa and Dream Act Oklahoma are sponsoring a screening of ‘Documented’, a film by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas who outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in the New York Times Magazine. You can purchase tickets here.

In 2012, unintentional prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of 534 Oklahomans, half of whom had taken drugs prescribed by their own doctors. The Oklahoma City Council delayed a final decision on regulations of new “rideshare” companies Uber and Lyft. In a series on the legacy of departing US Sen. Tom Coburn, NewsOK discussed his efforts to rein in tax breaks for wealthy. Steve Lackmeyer discussed OKC Mayor Mick Cornett’s recent appearance on Meet the Press. You can see the segment here.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of households in Oklahoma that were smoke free in 2010-2011. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times what’s behind sharply reduced estimates for the cost of Medicare, which will save the federal government more than the total cost of unemployment insurance, welfare and Amtrak combined.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma law-enforcement agencies stock up on military-grade equipment

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