Retailers, health care gives Rick Scott committee big boost in August

The political committee backing Gov. Rick Scott has raised $135,000 in the second week of August, according to newly filed reports.

Since Aug. 6, “Let’s Get to Work” brought in $50,000 apiece from Sovereign Healthcare Disbursements and Wal-Mart, with an additional $25,000 coming from the Florida Retail Federation and $10,000 coming from Bradenton-based BI Services.

The income was offset by just $3,500 in expenditures between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12, including $1,882 in printing expenses to Gandy Printers and $1,565 for accounting services from Carroll and Company CPAs.

The haul shows a slight uptick from the last reporting period, covering July 30 through Aug. 5, when the committee brought in $112,500 and spent about $60,500.

The new numbers show “Let’s Get to Work” with about $1.67 million on hand Aug. 12.

Florida candidates and committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports for the period.

Scott cannot run for re-election due to term limits, though the two-term Republican may be eyeing a 2018 run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson.

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37% of likely Florida GOP primary voters back Mike Huckabee for governor in 2018

It’s never too early to think about the next election, and a new poll from St. Pete Polls has Floridians doing just that.

According to the survey, 54 percent of likely Republican primary voters said Gov. Rick Scott would make a good U.S. Senator. The survey found 16 percent of respondents said they were unsure, while 30 percent said he wouldn’t be a good senator.

Scott can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits. While he’s been mum on his future political plans, many Florida insiders believe he is gearing up to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Scott’s political committee — Let’s Get to Work — continues to raise money, raising nearly $1.9 million in the first seven months of 2016. He’s also become the chair of a pro-Donald Trump super PAC, giving a larger presence on the national stage.

With Scott vacating the Governor’s Mansion in a few years, speculation has already begun about who will replace the Naples Republican come 2018.

While Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is widely believed to be gearing up for a 2018 gubernatorial run, other possible contenders include CFO Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran, and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a Florida resident.

When it comes to the governor’s race, 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they would vote for Huckabee; while 26 percent stated that they would pick Bondi. Nearly 8 percent of voters said they would pick Putnam, while nearly 7 percent said they would vote for Atwater.

About 1 percent of voters said they would vote for Corcoran, 3 percent stated that they would pick former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and less 1 percent said they would vote for former House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Seven percent of voters polled said they would vote for someone else. And with more than two years until the election, 12 percent of respondents said they were unsure who they would vote for.

The survey was conducted Aug. 2 and polled 1,835 likely Republican primary voters through an automated calling system. Voters were chosen at random from the state’s registered voting lists. The margin of error is 2.3 percent.

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The company you keep: Sam Rashid turns up at Marco Rubio Tampa fundraiser

An old proverb goes: “You are the company you keep.” Another saying, not quite as old, is “stop saying dumb things on social media.”

That last one is a bit of wisdom Marco Rubio might have imparted on Republican activist Sam Rashid during Thursday’s $500-a-plate “Day One Marco” fundraiser in Tampa.

Florida’s junior Senator has been very busy this summer, crisscrossing the state in his re-election effort. That means pressing a lot of flesh. So it should come as no surprise to see Rubio meeting with a wide range of supporters coming out for the GOP front-runner.

Nevertheless, when Rubio made his way to Tampa this week, one name stood out above the rest in the high-profile host committee: Sam Rashid.

Rashid, for those not familiar, has had a long — and infamous — reputation on social media, and is also a well-known figure in Rubioworld.

To put it another way, Rashid and Rubio are more than just Facebook friends; and that might not be a good thing.

Listed among the hosts were such big names as lobbyist Michael Corcoran and his brother, incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, as well as former Speaker Will Weatherford and Ambassador Mel Sembler and his wife Betty.

However, no one on that list has a more colorful online profile as Rashid.

For example, Rubio appointed Rashid last year to a committee advising both Rubio and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on judicial appointees. It didn’t last long.

Rashid resigned in May 2015, after he was criticized for a Facebook post calling some local judges “dumbasses.”

Later, Rashid infamously resigned again in October, this time from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, after he called Tampa-based public relations consultant Beth Leytham a “taxpayer-subsidized slut.”

Apparently, Rashid doesn’t think people actually read the things he posts on Facebook.

Gov. Rick Scott had appointed Rashid to the Aviation Authority in June 2014 and was reportedly under immense pressure to fire him for the comment about Leytham.

Instead of showing remorse for his blatantly misogynistic remark, Rashid doubled down, stubbornly refusing to apologize for the slur that led to his resignation.

So when a notorious Facebooker like Rashid appears at the top of a Rubio host committee — $5,400 to be a “Day One Marco Supporter” — it makes one wonder.

Is this really the company Rubio wants to keep?

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Lauren Book challenges Florida Democratic delegation to remember why they came to Philadelphia

One of Florida’s newest state Senators, Lauren Book, addressed the Florida Delegation Breakfast Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“Why are each and every one of you here today?” she challenged delegates shortly after her introduction. The Broward County Democrat was following such notables as Howard Dean and Terry McAuliffe.

“Why have you traveled a thousand or more miles to participate over the last few days? What is your motivation to be among this group of super Democrats? It’s taken a lot to get here.”

She answered her own question by saying that it might be because of a passion for protecting a woman’s right to choose, to help Democrats to win back the Congress, or perhaps stop the epidemic of gun violence.

Or it was simply to help Hillary Clinton become the first woman to hold the highest office in the land.

Book won her first bid for public office last month in state Senate District 32 when no other candidate filed by the qualifying deadline.

Although she’ll be a freshman when the Legislature convenes in 2017, she’s already a well-known quantity both in Tallahassee and throughout the state, after making a name for herself as a vocal advocate on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse.

In 2007, Book founded Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit which aims to teach children and adults about sexual abuse prevention through education, awareness campaigns and speaking engagements around the world.

She’s also the daughter of the extremely wired-in Ron Book, considered one of Florida’s most influential lobbyists.

While some delegates chatted among themselves quietly as Book began to speak, halfway through her address, the entire room hushed as she told her own tale of sexual and emotional abuse, which began at the age of 11 at the hands of a nanny.

“I was scared. Embarrassed. And ashamed. I felt trapped. And very, very alone.”

Book noted that it took six years for her to tell others about the abuse. “I grew stronger!” she exclaimed to loud cheers from delegation members.

Ninety-five percent of sexual abuse is preventable, Book said, through education and awareness. Her annual treks across Florida — now totaling more than 9,000 miles walked — helped bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse. Book then mentioned those who had walked with her: Oscar Braynon, Arthenia Joyner, Bill Nelson, Bob Buckhorn and others.

As was the overall theme of the convention, Book gave some love to Hillary Clinton. She cited specifically the newly-nominated presidential candidate’s work with the Children’s Defense Fund, which lobbied Congress to pass the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975. The Act requires all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education, as well as one meal a day free for children with physical and mental disabilities.

Book added that while in office, she intends to continue advocating for policies protecting women’s health, expanded access to mental health services and strengthening Florida’s criminal justice system.

“As we stand at the convention tonight,” she concluded, “and watch Hillary Rodham Clinton become our nominee … I am going to ask each and every one of you to ‘remember your why.'”

“Remembering your why” — or finding the meaning of your life through impactful events — was the topic of a Ted Talk Book gave earlier this year in Oxford, England.

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Mark Kelly joins Patrick Murphy in attacking Marco Rubio voting record on gun issues

U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has received the endorsement of Americans for Responsible Solutions, the super PAC led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

“We really strongly believe that Congressman Murphy is the best person in this race to fight for the responsible steps that we need to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Kelly said in a conference call organized by the Murphy campaign on Wednesday.”He’s the guy we need to help prevent gun tragedies, and he is the candidate that will help make Florida comunities safer from gun violence.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions was created just months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013, and two years after Giffords was nearly killed after being shot at a town hall meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

Murphy said he was humbled by the endorsement.

“We know that the majority of Americans and the majority of Floridians favor reasonable measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands and prevent gun violence,” he said.”But we’re sorely lacking leadership in Congress to get commonsense proposals like closing background check loopholes and closing the terror gap across the finish line. In the U.S. Senate, I will always stand with Gabby and Mark in the fight to make Florida families and children safer from gun violence.”

Although Murphy is still very much locked in a competitive primary election against fellow Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, he wasn’t mentioned in the call. But GOP Senator Marco Rubio definitely was.

Referring to his visit to Orlando on Tuesday as part of a statewide campaign tour he’s on this week, Murphy blasted Rubio for failing to meet with the families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last month, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured.

“Senator Rubio held a closed door meeting,” Murphy said. “He refused to talk to the many Floridians who made their voices heard outside this private event. He went so far as to call these constituents ‘petty protestors.’ That to me is insulting, to admonish citizens who are expressing his record of consistently opposing gun prevention measures, and instead of listening to these cries of Floridians who have been deeply impacted by this gun violence, Senator Rubio played the blame game.”

According to an account in the Orlando Sentinel, Rubio was confronted by approximately 30 protestors at an appearance near the Pulse nightclub shooting scene.  He said he was trying to help coordinate aid for Pulse shooting victims and their families from various federal agencies, including the FBI’s victim fund.

Kelly criticized Rubio’s voting record on guns on the conference call.

“Marco Rubio has voted repeatedly to protect the loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers and even terror suspects get guns without a background check,” he said. “He did so after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook elementary school and he did it again after the tragedy Orlando.”

Last month, the U.S. Senate voted on and rejected four different gun control measures, two sponsored by Republicans, two sponsored by Democrats. Rubio and Senator Bill Nelson voted along party lines on those votes, and the Florida Republican called the Democrat proposals “politically-motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

“After lying about his own resume and getting caught delaying needed aid to Floridians for his own publicity, now he’s spreading even more lies,” responded Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign. “Marco has a strong record of fighting to keep Florida’s families safe.”

Left unclear at the conclusion of the conference call was whether Americans for Responsible Solutions will be supporting Murphy financially or by putting up a campaign advertisement backing candidacy. Kelly said that as a 501(c)(4) and a super PAC, there are certain rules about independent expenditures that must be adhered to.

“I can’t really tell you because I don’t know, and I wouldn’t be involved because we have legally have set up a firewall between the folks who have been coordinating with Congressman Murphy’s office, and an I.E. (independent expenditure) if we chose to do that,” Kelly said.

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State leaders, experts to discuss future of mobility at Better Transportation Summit

With the fatal crash of Tesla car on autopilot near Williston in May, Floridians already know the future of transportation is impacting the state’s highways.

Exploration of that future will be one of the themes when the 2016 Floridians for Better Transportation Summit meets Tuesday and Wednesday at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach.

“Transportation is transformative. It has the power to fuel the economy, stimulate job creation and change the way we live,” said Floridians for Better Transportation President Matthew D. Ubben. “If Florida can get transportation right, the rest will follow.”

The keynote speaker will be Lawrence Burns, a former University of Michigan engineering professor who has also served as a vice president for research and development at General Motors.

Burns, the author of “Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st century,” has long been a champion of the “reinvention of the automobile,” including driverless cars, vehicle electrification, fuel cells, advanced batteries and other innovative vehicle concepts.

Other summit speakers include Sen. Jack Latvala, the incoming state Senate budget chair, and state Rep. Lake Ray, who will talk about local and statewide transportation issues.

Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Brian Blanchard will discuss developments in Tampa Bay’s transportation system.

Janet Zink, assistant vice president at Tampa International Airport and Jim Kuzma, chief operating officer at Space Florida, will provide updates on aviation and aerospace developments.

Port Tampa Bay Vice President Ram Kancharla will discuss the impact of the newly expanded Panama Canal.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, by video, will give an update on transportation developments in Washington, D.C., impacting Florida.

Other confirmed speakers include: FDOT District Secretary Paul Steinman, All Aboard Florida Vice President Rusty Roberts, Kenworth of Jacksonville President Denny Ross, BB&T Capital Markets Managing Director Kevin Sterling and Jim Tymon, chief operating officer for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, will talk about Florida’s political outlook.

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Rick Scott urges congressional delegation to take ‘immediate action’ to address algae problem

It’s time to take action.

That was the message Gov. Rick Scott sent to Florida’s congressional delegation in a letter Tuesday. The letter outlines what Florida has done to address the algae-bloom in South Florida, and calls on the delegation to take immediate action to make sure Florida received a federal emergency declaration.

“Florida is without a doubt the most beautiful state in the country with some of the world’s most incredible natural treasures. We need your help in protecting these natural treasures and the millions of Florida families who are being impacted by potentially harmful algal blooms,” said Scott in the letter. “Please utilize your position in Congress to take immediate action by working to ensure Florida receives the federal emergency declaration and that the federal government fund the maintenance and repair to the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike. These repairs would safely hold water to prevent unnatural Lake Okeechobee discharges that are leading to the increased formation of algae.”

The Naples Republican on July 6 sent a letter to President Barack Obama and the regional FEMA administrator asking for an emergency declaration because of the “public health and safety threats associated with the unnatural discharges of nutrient-laden freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the canals that flow east into the Indian River Lagoon and west into the Caloosahatchee River.”

The blue-green algae has clogged the waterways along the Treasure Coast, at times closing beaches. Many believe that the ongoing discharges from Lake Okeechobee are to blame for the algae bloom, but the South Florida Water Management District has said the releases aren’t the sole cause.

Scott, who declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties, said he hopes the state’s congressional delegation will “help convey the emergency our state is facing to help get it approved.”

He already has two allies in the Senate.

Sen. Bill Nelson on July 7 wrote a letter to the president in support of the state’s request for an emergency declaration, saying it is “important all federal resources are available to help address the cause and consequence of these toxic blue-green algae bloom.”

That same day Sen. Marco Rubio also wrote a letter asking the president to grant the state’s request.

“I remain concerned for the health of residents and visitors, who have reported headaches, respiratory problems and rashes, among other ailments,” said Rubio in his letter. “Additionally, businesses that rely on these waters have also greatly suffered — not only from these harmful algal blooms but also what they have been experiencing all year as a result of the continued discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”

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Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier has rare chance to bust Florida workers’ comp cartel

Florida’s new insurance commissioner has a rare, meaningful and high-stakes opportunity to earn his chops and establish his credibility for years to come.

He can demonstrate he has the mettle to stand up to the insurance industry to the benefit of both consumers and the business community.

How often does that happen?

Just three months into his tenure in one of the most consequential jobs in Florida, state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier can flex his regulatory muscle and prove his determination to stand up for working Floridians and those who employ them.

The solution is simple, established by precedent and long-overdue: Altmaier can bust up the insurance cartel that is the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), ensuring real price competition within Florida’s workers’ compensation system.

NCCI, the organization that proposes workers’ comp rates for Florida, recently filed a request for a 17.1 percent rate increase — then hiked it to nearly 20 percent, its second-largest rate increase request since 1999.

To quote the late baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Back in 1997, then-Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson pushed unsuccessfully to end Florida’s half-century relationship with NCCI to force down premiums, suggesting other companies be permitted to compete for its functions. Nelson was visionary.

In recent years, several other states, including South Carolina and New York, have opened up their workers’ compensation insurance markets to actual rate competition, and doing so realized significant savings.

Meanwhile, Florida still tolerates an antiquated system in which an NCCI board stacked with insurance executives sets a rate to serve as a floor for workers’ compensation insurers — in other words, they can’t charge less.

Documentation to validate the filing is largely protected from public scrutiny, with NCCI citing “trade secrets” as an excuse to shield the data. How could an entity that has no competition claim trade secrets and, even more, how could regulators accept that claim?

When New York opened up its workers’ comp system in 2013 to true rate competition, the state’s business community saw rates drop 30 percent over two years, saving employers more than $45 million.

In contrast, the proposed rate hike here would make Florida one of the costliest states for employers to buy workers’ comp insurance. That’s money that could otherwise be used for job creation.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce warns that a nearly 20 percent rate hike would cause uncertainty among Florida job creators — the small businesses that create two out of every three jobs.

Altmaier should follow the example of the South Carolina Insurance Department, which challenged NCCI’s requested 23.7 percent rate hike in 2007 and ultimately settled on a much more reasonable 9.8 percent increase. That move saved South Carolina businesses approximately $130 million.

Here’s a no-brainer: What if Florida just says no?

How about taking NCCI out of the rate-making driver’s seat, opening up Florida to real rate competition as other states have done; calling NCCI’s bluff?

That would make Altmaier a hero to both injured workers who depend on a properly functioning workers’ compensation system and employers who need their labor force to get back to work.

It’s a rare moment when an insurance commissioner can satisfy both the lion and the lamb — all by getting the fox out of the henhouse.

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Bill Nelson urges Mitch McConnell to bring back Senate’s $1.1B Zika funding proposal

Sen. Bill Nelson is urging Senate leaders to bring back a $1.1 billion proposal that would help fight the spread of Zika.

The request comes just one day after the Florida Department of Health announced 11 new cases of Florida, bringing the total number of travel-related cases in the Sunshine State to 263.

In a letter Thursday, the Florida Democrat asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bipartisan $1.1 billion bill the Senate passed back to the floor for a vote as a standalone bill. Last week, the Senate voted down a $1.1 billion House proposal.

Democrats blocked the GOP-drafted measure by a 52-48, short of the 60 votes required to advance it. The party faulted Republicans for packing the bill with provisions designed to deny new funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico and ease rules on pesticide spraying.

Nelson told McConnell reminded that “both sides of the aisle came together on the Senate Floor” to pass its version of the $1.1 billion funding proposal.

“I strongly urge you to advance a bipartisan bill that provides emergency funding, and is free of misguided policy riders,” said Nelson in his letter. “Time is of the essence.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 930 cases of travel-related cases of Zika reported in the United States. So far none of the cases have been locally transmitted.

Last week, the Florida Department of Health announced it had confirmed its first case of microcephaly in an infant born in Florida whose mother had a travel-related case of Zika. The mother contracted Zika while in Haiti.

In his letter, Nelson said lawmakers need to stop using funding as a vehicle to advance politics and take a bipartisan approach to funding.

“Funding our nation’s Zika response is something that simply cannot wait any longer and it cannot be used as a vehicle to advance partisan, ideological positions,” he said. “Surely, this is something that members of both parties can agree to.”

___

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mitch Perry Report 7.6.16 — Clinton survives James Comey

Although many observers are noting that yesterday was not a good day for Hillary Clinton and her aspirations for president, who are we kidding here? She stood this close to being indicted, with Democrats probably wishing that Joe Biden had actually entered the race last year.

No doubt, Clinton’s reputation for being truthful took a severe hit on Tuesday morning, as FBI Director James Comey laid out all the things that she had done wrong with her private email during her tenure as Secretary of State in Barack Obama‘s first term in office.

Then again, most people don’t think she’s very truthful. As mentioned in a PBS NewsHour segment last week, an NBC/Wall Street Journal found that 69 percent of those polled said they’re concerned about criticism that Clinton has a — quote — “record of being dishonest.” Just 28 percent said that wasn’t a concern for them.

That was before Comey stated that at least 110 emails sent through her private server contained information classified at the time it was sent. That meant it should never have been sent or received on an unclassified computer network. It’s a direct rebuke of her statements over the past year that she never knowingly distributed classified information.

Per the NY Times: 

Among those was the fact that “a very small number” of emails sent on her server bore markings that indicated they were classified, contradicting not only previous statements of Mrs. Clinton’s but also claims by the State Department that none had.

While he did not identify any, he was evidently referring to two emails that one of Mrs. Clinton’s close aides, Monica R. Hanley, sent to prepare her for telephone calls with foreign leaders, according to a State Department official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

One email, dated Aug. 2, 2012, noted that Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, was stepping down as special envoy trying to mediate the war in Syria. A second one, sent in April 2012, discussed Mrs. Clinton’s call to the newly inaugurated president of Malawi.

Each was marked with a small notation, “(C),” indicating it contained information classified as “confidential.”

Clinton also said back in March of 2015 at the United Nations that she had given all of her emails that in any way connected to work” had been handed over to the State Department.

“It is highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails, and that we later found them, for example, in the mailboxes of other officials or in the slack space of a server,” Comey said Tuesday. “It is also likely that there are other work-related emails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.”

Comey also reported that while at the state Department, Clinton used more than one server and more than one mobile device. If you’ll recall, one of her arguments for doing what she did was she didn’t want the unnecessary inconvenience of having several devices.

Let’s jump to the political — I hear this all the time — it won’t affect the electorate, because those who love Hillary will still love her, and the haters will still loathe her.

What about that so-called “mushy middle,” though, the growing part of the electorate that registers as independent, or as we say here in Florida, non-party-affiliated?

Recent polls show third party candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, getting close to an average of 10 percentage points. While some folks will never vote for Donald Trump, they definitely now have choices that maybe they feel they don’t have to hold their noses to vote for Libertarian or Green Party nominees (Stein has yet to get her party’s nomination, by the way)

No, it wasn’t a great day for Mrs. Clinton, but come on — any day that you don’t get indicated is sort of a good day, right?

Tim Canova uses Democratic opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership to ask for more contributions to his campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It’s personal between Betty Reed and Ed Narain in the Senate District 19 race.

Alan Clendenin leads all of the candidates vying be elected to the Hillsborough County School Board this year in fundraising.

Democrat Bernie Fensterwald is sitting on a personal fortune as he vies to defeat Republican Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race in Pinellas County, but so far, he’s been conservative in how much he’s self-funding his campaign.

And in Tampa, activists call on Sen. Bill Nelson to oppose a bill on GMO’s this week.

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