Friday, October 21, 2016

Eureka Costume Drive Aims to Help Local Kids

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 10:14 AM

The costume closet at the Adorni Center in Eureka. The city of Eureka is collecting new or lightly used Halloween costumes for children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford them. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • The costume closet at the Adorni Center in Eureka. The city of Eureka is collecting new or lightly used Halloween costumes for children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford them.
The city of Eureka is collecting costumes and accessories ranging from kooky to spooky to help ensure local children have a happy Halloween.

The drive was started last year for children living at the Serenity Inn but when other parents who heard about the giveaway showed up, Parks and Recreation staff saw the larger community need and expand the effort.

Recreation Activities Coordinator Brian Millett said the city sent out costume vouchers for distribution to a number of agencies and organizations that work with foster children and families in need, including homeless liaisons in schools and social services caseworkers.

So far, nearly 200 children have received costumes that their families might not otherwise have been able to afford, he said.

“Anything helps. These are families that are very appreciative,” Millett said, adding that it's "heartwarming" to watch the excited children pick out their Halloween attire.

The drive is collecting new or lightly used costumes for children and teenagers, with a special need for outfits to fit boys and girls between 8 and 12 years old. Millett said hats, crowns, gloves or other accessories are also welcome.

The city asks that nothing sexual or violent in nature be included in drop offs.

Costumes can be brought to the Adorni Community and Recreation Center at 1011 Waterfront Drive through the first week in November.

“What we're trying to do is get ahead of it for next year,” Millett said, adding there was a high need this year. “We’ll still be collecting costumes up to Nov. 7."

For questions or more information on how to donate, contact Ashley Taylor at 441-4374.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'Not the Norm': HSU Students, Faculty Speak out on Racism

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School.

The words that ignited anger and displeasure among students and staff at Humboldt State University came from their president. “Racism is not the norm on our campus,” Lisa Rossbacher wrote in an email two weeks ago concerning race issues on campus. But according to students, HSU is anything but the norm.

The University Senate held its bi-weekly meeting Tuesday and saw the usually sparse crowd replaced with an energetic group of students and staff ready to get their two cents in with Rossbacher.

The Goodwin Forum didn’t have an empty seat and floor space was filled with student backpacks as a tense audience crowded the room to capacity before the meeting could start. But from the moment it was announced Rossbacher wouldn’t be in attendance, it drew displeasure from the crowd.

Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday.

A student Facebook group #POCNormHSU, which has drawn more than 500 likes since it opened last week, organized the large turnout and has been a platform for students of color to share stories of racism they have faced attending HSU and living in Humboldt County.

The senate allowed an open space for students and staff to talk and each were given three minutes to say whatever they pleased. Ethnic studies professor Maria Corral-Ribordy read a letter directed to the President that discussed issues she has noticed as an instructor working in the Critical Race and Gender Studies (CRGS) Department.

“I want to acknowledge, Why is the university not doing more for students of color?” Corral-Ribordy said. “The president knows how students feel about the email and I want to see some changes made.”

Corral-Ribordy’s letter set the tone for the meeting as students followed by sharing their own experiences of racism on campus and in the community. With stories of prejudiced teachers and racist encounters in the university library, students let the majority white senate know what they perceive to be the norm on campus.

“I’m happy to say I’m leaving [Humboldt County] soon,” Graciela Chipres, a former student senate representative, said. “I have many stories of personal struggle mainly to do with the environment here.”

Chipres held back tears as she spoke about her encounters with racism at HSU. She stated that over the five years she has lived here she has encountered many forms of racism, even run-ins with neo-Nazis.

Yet according to Diego Morales, HSU isn’t the only place in Humboldt County where students don’t feel they belong. Morales is a tutor at Eureka High School and said some Latino students there feel marginalized compared to others.

“At times, I feel like I’m their only resource and ask myself if this can really be,” Morales said.

CRGS professor Ramona Bell talked about the disconnect between faculty and students of color.

“Where can students go for help, honestly?” Bell asked the senate. “It shouldn’t be this hard to find some resources on campus, but it's the sad truth.”

As the senate meeting dwindled down to its last speaker, attention turned to senate member Erik Eschker, who students claimed rolled his eyes and didn’t acknowledge the severity of the discussion at hand. The economics professor was derided as he tried to respond, saying something about having some personal problems he was dealing with. Students pointed out that such instances are why progress is hard at HSU when the problem can’t even be acknowledged.

Various senate members agreed with some of the audience’s opinions, including the need to address some changes within the university and support students of color.

Senate chair Julie Alderson said the meeting’s huge response will prompt another forum concerning racial dialogue on campus in the near future. Alderson added that the next meeting will hopefully have Rossbacher in attendance.
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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Arcata Neighborhood Concerns Focus of Meeting

Posted By on Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 10:00 AM

The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September.
Arcata residents expressed frustration at the changing character of their neighborhoods and what they perceive as an increased boldness in the crimes being committed on local streets during a Thursday night meeting with city officials that was spurred by a brazen attack last month on a young girl walking to school.

While the focus was on the Westwood neighborhood where the 12-year-old student was using a path from Cahill Park to Arcata Elementary School, the crowd of nearly 100 came from throughout the city.

“I’m really thankful,” Councilmember Mark Wheetley said during beginning remarks at the D Street Community Center meeting. “If we didn’t have this room packed, I’d be worried. I have a 12-year-old daughter also, so it really hit me hard.”

The suspect in the attack, Dylan Jackson Wilson, faces charges of assault on a child with the intent to commit a felony and committing a forcible lewd act on a child. A court hearing is scheduled Monday for the receipt of a medical report on his mental competency.

Attendees at Thursday's meeting were divided into three groups that focused on neighborhood watch, general policing and infrastructure needs, including clearing pathways that have become overgrown or known loitering areas.

Mayor Paul Pitino, councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Michael Winkler, City Manager Karen Diemer, Environmental Services Director Mark Andre, City Engineer Doby Class and Julie Neander, deputy director of the recreation division, also headed or sat in on discussions.

Many navigated to the law enforcement sessions — led by Police Chief Tom Chapman, Lt. Bart Silvers and Neighborhood Watch coordinator Ginger Campbell — to share their stories, ask for advice and look for solutions.

Residents spoke about problem houses with drug activity, car break-ins day and night, and a general decline in their feeling of safety, including one woman who said someone opened a gate in the middle of the day and stole her running shoes right off the porch.

Suggestions included forming parent patrols, joining or starting a neighborhood watch and using apps like SeeClickFix to share real-time information on problem hot spots by taking photographs.

“I’m not going to not go down that path on principle,” said Thia Bachemin, the mother of a fifth grader at Arcata Elementary, noting the community needs to come together to be an “agent of change.” “What’s going to happen is the problems are just going to move to a new place.”

The main message from law enforcement and other city officials was for residents to get to know their neighbors, keep a watch out for suspicious activity and to call the city — and to keep calling — as problems arise.

“The strength that we have is the neighbors being our eyes and ears,” Silvers said.

Class agreed, saying the same applied to abatement issues at properties.

Chapman told residents his department was aware of many of the city’s problem homes and that reporting incidents helps police create a record that can be used to build a case.

Parent Kate Hutchings, a member of Arcata Elementary’s parent teacher organization who suggested using the SeeClickFix app to spread the word about concerns and issue areas, said the city has done quite a bit of work cleaning up the path where the attack took place.

“I hope that momentum stays,” she said.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Aid Worker Kidnapped in Niger Reportedly from McKinleyville

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 12:30 PM

  • Redwood Coast School of Missions
  • Jeff Woodke.
In a statement sent to the Journal, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman indicated he’s working with the State Department to facilitate kidnaped missionary Jeff Woodke’s safe return home.

“My thoughts are with Jeff Woodke and his loved ones during this extremely trying time,” Huffman said of the 55-year-old McKinlyville man who was abducted in West Africa on Friday night. “It is devastating to see my constituent who has spent his life dedicated to humanitarian service be victimized in this way. I am working with State Department officials and will do everything in my power to ensure Jeff’s swift and safe return home.”

Reuters is reporting that Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum has confirmed the identity of the American kidnapped last night as 55-year-old Jeffery Woodke of McKinleyville.

Additionally, Bazoum issued a statement offering some additional detail about the attack, including that an armed man on a motorcycle arrived at Woodke's home in Abalak and opened fire on an armed guard before a Toyota truck returned to abduct Woodke.

"These criminals are now heading towards Mali. Our forces are on their trial," Bazoum says in the statement, according to Reuters.

Read the full report here.

The New York Times also now has a report up, which can be found here.

Multiple news reports are identifying the Christian American aid worker kidnapped by armed gunmen in Niger yesterday as a 55-year-old Mckinleyville man.

Britain’s Daily Mail and CBN News, a Christian online reporting outlet, have both identified the man as Jeff Woodke, a Humboldt State University alum who works for the Redwood Coast School of Missions run through Arcata First Baptist Church. According to the Redwood Coast School of Missions website, Woodke has “committed the past 25 years of his life to a ministry he founded in Niger amongst a number of unreached people groups.”

According to multiple accounts, gunmen stormed the home of a longtime American aid worker in the the West African city of Abalak, killed a bodyguard and a local police officer in a shootout and then fled with a kidnapped American toward Mali. CNN reported that witnesses say the worker was forced to strip down to his underwear before being put into a 4x4 vehicle, noting that “such measures are often taken by kidnappers to avoid hostages being tracked.”

CNN further reported that "authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak and the border with Mali, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly."

Radio France Internationale reported the victim had worked in the area since the 1990s with Youth with a Mission, which bills itself as a “global movement of Christians … dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.” The group reports that it works in more than 1,100 locations spread across 180 countries — including Abalak, Niger — with a staff of more than 18,000.

It’s unclear who is responsible for the kidnapping and the U.S. State Department has so far said publicly only that it is aware of reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Niger. Attempts to reach North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and Arcata First Baptist Church were not immediately successful this morning.

A short bio on Redwood Coast School of Missions indicates missionary work in Niger has been a huge part of his life’s work.

“Jeff’s passion in providing humanitarian aid to those who are amongst the poorest in the world, coupled with his desire to see God’s kingdom advanced in a largely Muslim world has played a large part in the life and ministry of (Arcata First Baptist Church),” the site says.

On her Facebook page, Christian author Cheryl Ford indicated she was a 15-year member of the same Humboldt County church as Woodke and that her family went to Niger under his leadership a couple of times.

“One had to marvel at the man,” she wrote. “My world kind of stopped yesterday over this news.”

Ford also quoted Tracy Rickstrew, who worked at Arcata First Baptist Church and whom Ford identifies as a “former Niger team missionary,” as follows: “Our friend and director when we worked in Niger, Africa was kidnapped yesterday. Please pray for him and his family. I know his heart would not be for his own life, but for God’s glory in all of this. He is tough and his faith is resolute and we know that there is nowhere on earth that he can go where the Spirit of God is not already with him.”

Back in June of 2014, Woodke was a guest speaker at the Arcata First Baptist Church. Watch the video below:

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

McKinleyville Man Killed in Morning Crash

Posted By on Sat, Oct 8, 2016 at 8:20 PM

The California Highway Patrol is investigating a single car crash that left a pedestrian dead in McKinleyville before dawn today.

According to the CHP, Kevin Leigh Patton, 48, of McKinleyville, was travelling about 30 miles per hour westbound on Airport Road at about 5:10 a.m. in his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado. For unknown reasons, a pedestrian, 61-year-old Rocklin Luke Gulley, also of McKinleyville, walking eastbound on the on the north shoulder of the road stepped into the westbound lane of traffic, right in front of the Silverado. Gulley was struck and killed.

Neither alcohol nor drugs is suspected to have been a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation.

See the full press release from the CHP copied below:

On October 8, 2016, at approximately 0510 hours, CHP Officers responded to a traffic collision on Airport Road west of Central Avenue in Mckinleyville.  A 2005 Chevrolet Silverado, driven by Kevin Leigh Patton, age 48, of Mckinleyville, was traveling westbound on Airport Road at approximately 30 mph.  Rocklin Luke Gulley, age 61, of Mckinleyville, was walking eastbound near the north shoulder of Airport Road.  For reasons still under investigation, Gulley walked into the westbound lane of traffic and collided with the Chevrolet.  As a result of this collision, Gulley sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical personnel.  Patton did not sustain any injuries as a result of the collision.  Alcohol and/or drugs are not suspected to have been a factor in this collision. 
The California Highway Patrol Humboldt Area is investigating this traffic collision. 

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Starting the Conversation: HSU forum focuses on race, police

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 11:47 AM

A packed house at the Kate Buchanan Room. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • A packed house at the Kate Buchanan Room.
Against the national backdrop of a recent spate of high profile shootings of unarmed black people by law enforcement, students, police and community members gathered on the Humboldt State University campus Thursday evening for a far-reaching conversation on race and policing.

Local law enforcement and members of the HSU black community sat side by side in the Kate Buchanan Room, discussing topics that ranged from police escalation to racism on campus.

A 13-person panel that included both Eureka and Arcata’s police chiefs, members of the African American Center for Academic Excellence and campus faculty answered questions from audience members throughout the two-hour forum titled “Black and Blue Dialogue.”

The audience filled the room to capacity, with speakers voicing concerns about police brutality and sharing first-hand accounts of racial bias. Among those was Gloria Brown, a child development major who spoke about the fears she faces just being around police.

The 13 person panel at the Black and Blue Dialogue takes questions from audience members. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • The 13 person panel at the Black and Blue Dialogue takes questions from audience members.
“I’m very cautious when I’m driving next to a police officer,” Brown said. “I just seem to get instantly nervous even if I’m at church, I just don’t feel comfortable if I see that badge.”

Brown wasn’t the only one who shared these concerns. Amy Salinas-Westmoreland, director for the HSU Multicultural Center, said a fear of police has become a basic instinct.

“It’s like something is constantly chasing you and, as an African-American, I fear for my students and staff of color on a daily basis,” Salinas-Westmoreland said. “It's really concerning to see students afraid for their own well being.”

Questions directed at law enforcement ranged from how they deal with racial sensitivity to training protocols. University Police Department Chief Donn Peterson said the department has recently put an emphasis on de-escalation tactics and the topic is something he is constantly looking at.

“Thirty years ago, it was something that we never got training on but things have changed,” Peterson said. “We do an okay job of it but we know we can do a whole lot better.”

Students criticized some of the responses law enforcement gave, citing assumptions and misunderstandings that the black community constantly faces with police. Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills spoke about how the department is trying to grow and overcome those assumptions.

“We’ve got to do a better job at cultural sensitivity,” he said. “It’s a systemic problem that starts at the court and can’t continue to disproportionately stop people of color. It’s embarrassingly stark, but we can’t continue like this.”

The audience also included several members of local police departments who were there to support, as well as gain insight from, the forum.

HSU student Cameron Rodriguez and Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Allen sit next to each other taking questions about police brutality and race relations at Humboldt State. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • HSU student Cameron Rodriguez and Humboldt County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Allen sit next to each other taking questions about police brutality and race relations at Humboldt State.
The biggest applause of the evening came in response to Salinas-Westmoreland, who called out HSU administration for its lack of presence at the forum. She also referenced University President Lisa Rossbacher’s email to students this week that stated “racism is not a norm on our campus,” which drew laughs from students in the audience. The MCC director said the email was a slap in the face to students of color.  

“How many people from administration are here?” she asked. “And how are they not being here helping these students? I’m fed up, quite honestly.”

The forum came to a close with a question to the panel asking what its members would take from the discussion going forward, and how they would apply it to their lives.

Corlis Bennett-Mcbride, director for the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence at HSU, summed up the forum by tackling an issue many people agreed upon.

“Stop assuming,” Bennett-Mcbride said in reference to the tactics law enforcement have sometimes used on people of color. “If we can just stop assuming every black person is up to no good, we can cut half of the problems.”

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

UPDATE: Eureka Approves Containerville Move, $75k in Funding

Posted By on Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 11:54 AM

The shipping container village at the corner of Commercial and Third streets may soon find itself on the move. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The shipping container village at the corner of Commercial and Third streets may soon find itself on the move.
The Eureka City Council voted unanimously yesterday to approve a new location and provide $75,000 in funding for the shipping container shelter project for the homeless.

After hours of discussion and public comment, the council voted to relocate the project that currently shelters about 40 people in a vacant lot on the corner of Third and Commercial streets to a city-owned lot at Koster and Washington streets. The new location will be in place for a year, pending the California Coastal Commission’s emergency approval and the city’s following through with a local coastal plan amendment in the coming months.

Continue reading »

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Local Veteran Rolls Through Humboldt to Raise Awareness for Suicide Prevention

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 12:28 PM

J.C. Cook on the road. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • J.C. Cook on the road.
Two veterans are riding 2,200 miles on specialized four-wheel drive mobility chairs, from the Canadian border to Mexico, then back to Fresno, to bring attention to the 22 veterans said t0 commit suicide in the United States every day. (The most recent analysis from the Dept. of Veteran's Affairs actually puts the number at 20.) John "J.C." Cook, a 2001 Fortuna High School graduate, and Sgt. Justin Bond, founder of Our Heroes' Dreams, will be rolling into Humboldt County this Friday, along with their helper dogs Ivy and Boomer.  Master Sergeant Ernest Serrato, president of the organization, is providing support to the team by driving alongside them in a truck with supplies.

"We're calling it Operation Battlefield," said Cook, who called us from Coos Bay. "I understand what a lot of the guys are going through."

Cook, who had his leg amputated below the knee after a routine ankle surgery led to a severe infection, struggled in the past with addiction and suicidal thoughts. Because he did not see active duty — he was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy — he had trouble reaching out for the help he thought other veterans "deserved" more. 

"I was a shell of a person," he said. "But then I found these other veterans."

The support of other veterans and the San Francisco Veteran's Administration, as well as his wife, led Cook to recovery. He has been clean for more than three years and now seeks to connect fellow veterans with resources. The "zoom chairs" he and Bond are using, for example, are available to veterans injured in the 
Cook and Long enroute to Humboldt County. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Cook and Long enroute to Humboldt County.
line of duty for free, thanks to a nonprofit called The Independence Fund. The model Cook uses can go up to 12 miles per hour. Although that makes for a slow and steady journey, Cook said he appreciates its offroad capabilities, which make it possible for him to go to the beach and appreciate nature.

Bond, who lost his legs after being shot through the knees in the Battle of Fallujah, has done a number of events to raise awareness and money for veterans, including once riding a segway from Monterey to Jacksonville, Florida. "Operation Battlefield" hopes to raise enough money to purchase 55 acres of land in Monterey for permanent use as a veteran's ranch. The group currently operates a "Healing Safari," where veterans in crisis can receive counseling and take part in family-oriented activities. Cook says it will be great to have a "safe place" to bring veterans who call Our Heroes' Dreams hotline.

In the meantime, Cook is looking forward to connecting with his Humboldt County roots and introducing Bond and the rest of the support team to some of his favorite places. He says he definitely plans to stop by No Brand Burger Stand and the Apple Harvest Festival. They will stay with Cook's family in Carlotta, to save money. 

Cook says the scenery has been great so far, but the best thing about the trip has been meeting people who donated time, money and support to Operation Battlefield. An American Legion group provided a motorcycle escort for the veterans from their starting point on Sept. 11. Other people honk and wave, pull over and hand the men money.

"I've met some really great Americans," Cook said. "It's really good to see. Especially with everything that’s going on in our country right now. There are good people in the world. We’re finding them."
Cook and his loyal service dog, Ivy. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Cook and his loyal service dog, Ivy.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

UPDATE: Judge Allows Budget Motel Evictions to Proceed

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 10:35 AM

  • Thadeus Greenson
In a ruling filed this afternoon, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge has given the city of Eureka the green light to condemn the Budget Motel.

The motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, had asked the court to intervene and stop the city’s forced eviction of his tenants, which was initially scheduled to happen this morning, due to substandard conditions and more than 340 code violations. Through his attorney, Kushwaha asked the court to give him 45 days to address the violations, which include bedbug and cockroach infestations, hazardous wiring, inadequate plumbing and heating fixtures and a host of other things.

But Judge Dale Reinholtsen found Kushwaha had little chance of ultimately winning the case and that the alleged violations are “hazardous and pose an imminent threat to occupants of the motel and the surrounding community.”

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Restraining Order Blocks Budget Motel Evictions

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:23 PM

  • Thadeus Greenson
The city of Eureka’s efforts to shutter the Budget Motel on Fourth Street have been put on hold.

This afternoon Bradford Floyd, a local attorney representing the Budget Motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, received a temporary restraining order to halt the city’s plans to clear the property tomorrow. On the heels of a recent code inspection that turned up 341 violations, the city served Kushwaha and his tenants on Monday with notice that it would enforce a notice to vacate the property at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Eureka Chief Building Official Brian Gerving, who’s also serving as acting city manager while Greg Sparks is on vacation, said the city feels the property poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of its residents, first responders and the general public. Specifically, Gerving said widespread bedbug and cockroach infestations, open and unpermitted electrical wiring, rot and mold render the place unfit for habitation. Additionally, Gerving said, inspectors noted missing plumbing fixtures — like toilets and sinks — in some rooms and unrepaired fire damage in others.

This afternoon, the Journal contacted Kushwaha in the office of the Budget Motel and he declined to comment, other than a brief statement: “We got a restraining order against the city. We are not going anywhere.”

The case is set for a hearing at 8:45 a.m., at which point a judge may determine whether the city can follow through with its plans to clear each of the hotel’s 44 rooms, board them up and fence off the property.

Continue reading »

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