The Charlotte News

Tuesday, March 2, 1954


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that in the House of Representatives, four Puerto Rican nationalists, three men and one woman, had suddenly opened fire the previous day from the spectators' gallery, wounding five Congressmen, one seriously. Three of them were quickly arrested and were charged with disrupting official business of the Congress, with the charge of assault with intent to kill to be added before the grand jury, charges carrying up to 75 years in prison for each defendant. Lolita Lebron and Rafael Cancel Miranda made it clear to reporters the previous night in an interview at police headquarters, just eight hours after the shooting, that while they expected to be punished for their conduct, they did not consider themselves criminals, but rather patriots to Puerto Rico, comparing their actions to George Washington and the American Revolution, suggesting that Puerto Rico was like the American colonies before the Revolution. The two had met in New York City on February 22, the birthday of the nation's first President, to perfect their plans. Believing themselves to be little people without a voice for their message that Puerto Rico had to be free, Mrs. Lebron, the oldest of the four assailants at 34, said that "when you liberate your country, your people, they fight and die." The other two men who were charged were not at the interview, and of the four, Mrs. Lebron was the most skilled at the English language. She and Mr. Miranda appeared to feel that they had accomplished their purpose through the interview. She said that March 1 had been selected as the date for the attack because it marked the opening of the Inter-American Conference in Caracas. She said that in Puerto Rico, a woman of 60 was in prison, that there were many women in prison, and that there were many political prisoners. She said that the elected legislature in Puerto Rico had pledged allegiance to the United States and was therefore of no use. When asked about the details of the shooting, Mr. Miranda said that they did not talk about "the little things", that he would only discuss his country and freedom. He said at one point: "I just look for Senate and shoot. The face, I don't look." Mrs. Lebron, when asked if she was sorry about the attack, stated that she was not, that she did what she had to do for her country. Mr. Miranda also expressed a lack of remorse. One of the four, who had escaped the immediate scene, was taken into custody by police at the bus station.

The U.S. Attorney in Washington said that the Government would begin presenting evidence against the four assailants to a Federal grand jury the following day.

Congress added 30 guards to the Capitol and resumed business as usual this date, though there was an air of grimness from the news that Representative Alvin Bentley of Michigan, the most seriously wounded of the five Congressmen, remained in critical condition. His physician gave him only a 50-50 chance of survival, despite emergency surgery and four blood transfusions, as he had been hit in the liver and a lung, and was in an oxygen tent. Eventually, Mr. Bentley would fully recover. The other four wounded Congressmen were all reported to be doing well. As the House convened at noon this date, the 200 members present stood with bowed heads as the chaplain prayed for the recovery of the victims, for strength and faith for their relatives, and for forgiveness for their assailants. The chaplain said that Mr. Bentley had asked him specifically to pray for the assailants as they did not know what they were doing.

The White House also strengthened its security in the wake of the attack and for key department buildings. Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay and Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson canceled a proposed stop in Puerto Rico, as both were scheduled to attend a meeting in the Virgin Islands of the Virgin Island Corp., for which Secretary McKay was head and Secretary Benson, a director.

HUAC chairman Harold Velde of Illinois said he wanted to send an investigator to San Juan to conduct an inquiry regarding the shooting.

Philip Young, chairman of the Civil Service Commission, this date told the Senate Civil Service Committee that 383 persons separated from the Government in 1953 under the loyalty provisions of the President's security program were not necessarily Communists or subversives, that the number was merely indicative that in 383 cases, there was "information of a definitely subversive nature in the files". Mr. Young, in response to a question, said he did not know whether the information had been sufficient cause for separation of the employees from government service. The previous day, he had indicated that 355 had been separated for reasons of subversive information in their files, but 28 more had been added as separations from the Army. The 383 persons were out of 1,782 security separations by the Administration between May 23 and December 31, 1953.

RNC chairman Leonard Hall said, following a conference with the President this date, that he could go along with Senator McCarthy when he attacked persons "fighting Communism just as conscientiously as he is". He said he had discussed with the President the controversy between Senator McCarthy and Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens which had developed the previous week, but did not provide to the press the President's reaction.

Retired Rear Admiral Adolphus Staton, 74, in testimony before a Senate Internal Security subcommittee, quoted Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee for the presidency in 1952, as having said during World War II, "I don't think we should be too hard on the Commies." Mr. Stevenson had been a special assistant during the war to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, the former 1936 Republican vice-presidential nominee from Illinois. Admiral Staton was testifying about a wartime program to rid the Merchant Marine of radio officers who were of doubtful loyalty. He said that he had been called out of retirement the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor to head a special board to screen such radio operators, pursuant to emergency legislation passed by Congress. He indicated that steps were taken to eliminate Japanese, Nazis and Fascists from the program, but that the board had run into protests when it attempted to take similar action toward suspected Communists. He said that it was in that context that Mr. Stevenson had made the remark, regarding a few cases of radio operators whom the board had unanimously discharged as disloyal. The Admiral said that he had responded that there was reasonable doubt about their loyalty and that the board was to resolve all doubts in favor of the Government, to which, he said, Mr. Stevenson had frowned and said he did not think they should go too hard on the Commies. The Admiral had said in 1950 that President Roosevelt had expressed the opinion that "membership in the Communist Party was not sufficient to deprive a radio operator of his job."

In Key West, six Navy men died this date in a crash of two helicopters a mile from the downtown area, colliding 100 feet off the ground seconds after takeoff for a training exercise. Navy officials said that the helicopters were flying in formation, and one had slid into the other as they turned to cross Fleming Key. Each helicopter carried a crew of three.

Lucien Agniel of The News tells of Senator Frank Carlson of Kansas set to be the keynote speaker for the Republican state convention the following Saturday at the Charlotte Armory-Auditorium, to be introduced by local Congressman Charles Jonas. A barbecue luncheon would be served on the convention floor and Republican business would follow at 2:00 p.m. So if you are attending, there is no need to bring your lunch. But you may wish to bring napkins.

In New York, the will of a Brooklyn man was filed in probate the previous day and showed a single specific bequest to his wife, two dollars "for a good rope to hang herself". The will had been written seven years earlier by the man, who stated as his reason for the bequest that it was "for all the misery she has caused me during my lifetime." He instructed his son, the executor, to make certain that his wife was not buried with him in the same grave. The estate, worth in excess of $5,000, was willed equally to his two sons and two daughters. We suppose that each general bequest would be docked 50 cents to satisfy the one specific bequest, as we seem to recall that is the generally recognized rule, specific bequests first, then general bequests, though we lack knowledge of New York probate law. The wife should be able to contest the bequest's stated purpose, however, on the basis that it was unconscionable for anyone to specify in a will that an object be purchased for the purpose of the devisee using it to commit suicide. So she should be at liberty to spend the two dollars as she pleases. Perhaps she could find a brass representation of a middle finger for two dollars and set it on her husband's grave as a memorial to his generosity of spirit. But again, we are not familiar with New York probate law. Perhaps, she will have to comply or forfeit the two dollars.

On the editorial page, "Fanaticism Reaps Harvest of Tragedy" comments on the front page story of the shooting in the House the previous day by the four Puerto Rican nationalists, firing on five Representatives from the gallery, though not killing anyone.

It indicates that there was a small, rabid group of persons in Puerto Rico and among Puerto Ricans in the states who had agitated for a long time for complete political and economic independence for Puerto Rico, led by Pedro Albizu Campos, involved in many brushes with the law, and had made violence their instrument for attracting attention to their cause. They were, however, only a small fraction of the total population of Puerto Rico. There were some Communists among them who used the cause of independence as a vehicle for promoting Communism, while there were others whose only objective was sincerely to win political freedom. The majority of Puerto Ricans, however, preferred their current dominion status, as part of the United States, with self-government while retaining favorable economic relations with the U.S. A substantial minority preferred statehood.

It posits that no thinking Puerto Rican wanted complete independence, as the island could not exist as an independent nation, since it was for the most part not arable, had few resources and was overpopulated. But the nationalists did not think, and their quest for freedom had led them to destructive violence which accomplished nothing for their cause and reflected unfavorably upon their homeland.

It concludes that the shooting of the five Congressmen had been an "insane and vicious act, doubly diabolical because it was designed to spread the impression throughout the world that the United States is still holding Puerto Rico in colonial bondage whereas, in truth, U.S. policy toward the island has been a model of friendly generosity and assistance."

Neither the front page nor the editorial page makes mention of the attack on November 1, 1950 by two Puerto Rican nationalists on Blair House, across the street from the White House, where the President and the First Family were residing at the time while the White House was under renovation, resulting in the death of one of the two assailants and the death of a White House police officer on duty outside Blair House, with the surviving assailant having been sentenced initially to death, his sentence subsequently commuted to life imprisonment by President Truman, and eventually commuted to time served by President Carter in 1979.

President Carter would also, at the same time in 1979, commute the sentences of three of the still imprisoned assailants in the attack on the House, including Mrs. Lebron and Mr. Miranda, sentenced respectively to 50 and 25 to 75 years, one of the four having been released by commutation of President Carter in 1977 because of terminal lung cancer. Mr. Miranda died exactly 66 years after this date, March 2, 2020. To the end, he maintained the fantasy that his act was justified by past perceived wrongs by the United States to Puerto Rico and that no remorse was therefore due for mindlessly opening fire on duly elected Representatives of the United States who had done neither him nor his family or friends any actual harm. Representative Bentley perhaps best expressed the matter when he said that the four had not known what they were doing. Perhaps that was the only worthwhile reason for commuting their sentences after 25 years—though the principal practical reason was to accommodate an agreement with Cuban Premier Fidel Castro who promised, in exchange for the release of the four Puerto Rican independistas, to free four Americans imprisoned in Havana, imprisoned since the early to mid-1960's for alleged espionage in three instances, including one for taking aerial photographs during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and, in the fourth instance, a Puerto Rican for aiding Cuban refugees to escape to the U.S.

Those who seek to rationalize and justify untoward conduct toward innocent victims for acts of perceived injustice from the past, whether yesterday or decades earlier, are fools, blinded by their own racism and hate while projecting it onto their perceived oppressors, denying thereby themselves the self-worth engendered by moving forward through the present into the future by the virtue of ideas, debate and defense of their point of view communicated through intelligent articulation, absent that ability, staying quiet and urging others with those skills to champion their cause if their cause be worth championing, if not, re-evaluating their premises and re-educating themselves to practical reality, leaving ultimate judgments to the afterlife.

Incidentally, having grown up in Carolina del Norte, it would be, obviously, completely appropriate, given that Johnny Verrazzano "discovered" that land some 60 years before the Raleigh colony came to the New World, that we speak only French and Italian, and not accede to the imperialist, colonialist British design of transforming our natural native language, born of the soil comprising the land on which we first crawled, to the globalist uniformity of the foreign, unduly complex tongue of English. But, in deference to blending in with the culture at hand, we were forced from earliest spoken verbiage to conform to the imperialist oppressors' insistence, right in our very own household, brainwashed as they were before we got here, and learn to speak only the English. Sorry, but that is the way of it, if you want to be accepted in school and out of school in los Estados Unidos. You know you need us...

"Back to a Two-Party System" indicates that the conversion of Jesse Page from an Eisenhower Democrat to a Republican should help clear the political atmosphere in North Carolina, as Mr. Page had been the state chairman of the Democrats-for-Eisenhower movement during the 1952 campaign, and his efforts appeared to have borne fruit, given the vote for the General in the state. It finds that Mr. Page's conversion would be much better for the building of a strong two-party system in the state, should other Eisenhower Democrats follow his example.

It indicates that there were likely a good many Eisenhower Democrats who wanted to return to the regular Democratic fold, but that serious debate on issues on which the Republicans and Democrats differed would be more productive of good government than a passing fancy for a particular personality.

"County Tax Office in Good Order" indicates that the report on the County tax department by two County commissioners had been reassuring, finding no serious personality conflicts which did not stem from misunderstandings or salary inequities, and discovering little evidence of political interference in the department, as well as finding only a few errors in property valuation, which were probably the result of the size and complexity of the job and not of favoritism. The piece also appreciates the description of the tax supervisor as a "very fine, competent executive" who probably knew more about tax listings and appraisal than anyone in the county, a view shared by the newspaper.

It indicates that perhaps the most important conclusion of the report had been its emphasis on the urgency of a good job classification program for the entire County Government, a need that was overdue.

"Alternative to 'Senility' System" indicates that the Congressional seniority system of determining chairmen of committees had been called the "senility" system, and frequently for good reason. During the 82nd Congress, controlled by the Democrats, old former Senator Kenneth McKellar had ruled the Appropriations Committee, via the seniority system, and Senator Pat McCarran had a tight grip on the Judiciary Committee. Representative John Rankin of Mississippi had chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee. They had often frustrated and confounded the majority of the Democratic leaders.

Now, since the Republicans had taken over control of Congress, Senator McCarthy had been elevated to the chairmanship of the Government Operations Committee, while Senator William Langer headed the Judiciary Committee, Senator William Jenner, the Rules and Administration Committee, and, in the House, Representatives John Taber headed the Appropriations Committee, Clare Hoffman, the Government Operations Committee, and Daniel Reed, the Ways & Means Committee. The result had been trouble for the President in getting his program passed.

The previous week, Senate Majority Leader William Knowland had expressed support for changing the seniority system, presumably because of Senator Langer's publication of unverified charges against Chief Justice Warren and the consequent delay to his confirmation during January and February. Senator Knowland suggested that committee chairmen could be chosen by the majority caucus from among the two or three majority members of a given committee with the most seniority.

It suggests that the change would be hard to effect because most of the present chairmen would oppose it, as well as some others who believed they would eventually serve long enough to chair a committee, but that the idea deserved consideration because of its soundness, and that it would restrain such rebels as Senators McCarthy, McCarran and Langer and encourage intra-party teamwork.

Drew Pearson indicates that the wife of Army Secretary Robert Stevens had been talking to a group of ladies recently at a social function, prior to the squabble with Senator McCarthy, and said that her husband had only agreed to stay in Washington for a short time, that he could not stay in Government too long. A columnist for the Washington Star, Betty Beale, said to Mrs. Stevens that Republicans appeared to believe in "government by interlude", that they appeared to believe that running the Government was something one could learn in a year and then leave and forget it, while the Democrats made Government a career, knowing it was a tough job and required staying at it. Mr. Pearson ventures that, given the problems which Secretary Stevens had endured with Senator McCarthy, it was likely that his desire to remain in Government only a short time had not changed and that, following a discrete lapse of time, he would quietly resign.

The squabble had uncovered two problems, getting good men to serve in the Government, in light of the Senator's attacks, as no important business executive wanted to give up a good job for the doubtful privilege of serving in the Government while getting clobbered by Senator McCarthy. Another, even more serious problem was the growing division in the nation, not dissimilar to that which had occurred prior to Pearl Harbor, the attack on which had awakened the nation to the need for unity. The division was manifested by a drift toward isolation, a tendency to raise high tariffs and drastically curtail the armed forces, while withdrawing in isolationism. Another drift was toward intolerance and dissension. Such individuals and groups as Col. Williams, Gerald L. K. Smith, the Liberty Belles, and the Minute Women were increasing division and dissension among the people. Senator McCarthy's investigations had focused on certain religious groups, increasing dissension, and his support the previous spring of a chief investigator for his Investigations subcommittee, who had claimed in the American Mercury that the Protestant clergy was riddled with Communist sympathizers, had set back previously increasing cooperation between Catholics and Protestants. Francis Cardinal Spellman's public statements endorsing the Senator had given the mistaken impression that the Senator was an instrument of the Catholic Church, while the public tended to forget that the Catholic clergy and lay Catholics were just as divided on Senator McCarthy as non-Catholics.

In Boston, the Senate juvenile delinquency committee had just written a report showing how religious prejudice had become so bitter that a rabbi, Jacob Zuber, had been murdered by boys of another religious faith. The report had indicated that part of Boston's juvenile crime problem had resulted from gangs of youths of different religions warring on each other.

At Fort Monmouth, N.J., religious tolerance had not been helped by the fact that Senator McCarthy had focused on Jewish workers for the Signal Corps, such that of the 19 people suspended, 17 had been Jews, though not one had been accused of espionage. One person was suspended only because he had read a book by Max Lerner, who had never been a Communist but was a liberal writer for the New York Post.

The Congressional Quarterly indicates that in most states, the previous year had brought a decline in construction of new homes and apartments and in Federal ownership of certain types of public housing projects, as shown by figures produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Public Housing Administration. BLS surveys showed that building of new homes and apartments in urban areas, those with more than 2,500 population, dropped from 617,000 in 1952 to 570,000 in 1953, though construction was up in some states.

Construction of new homes and apartments in urban areas of North Carolina had been 9,164, compared with 11,193 in 1952, with the value of those 1953 new units set at 65 million dollars, compared with 77.4 million the prior year.

According to FHA figures, Federal ownership of public housing fell from a national total of 718,547 dwelling units in 1952 to 658,475 units in 1953. In some states, Federal ownership of public housing had increased. The principal cause of the overall decrease had been disposal of public housing originally built for veterans to meet wartime needs. In North Carolina, Federal public housing totaled 12,529 new units in 1953, compared to 11,594 the preceding year. The piece goes on to divide the public housing into that for defense purposes and veterans "reuse" housing, war housing, and low-rent housing for low-income families, a table of which it presents for each of the prior two years.

The Administration housing program was before Congress in various bills, and both houses had scheduled hearings for early in the current month. A survey of spokesmen for lobbying groups showed that three major points of contention existed, the bill's lack of provision for a public housing program, its proposed FHA insurance program on low-cost housing for families displaced as a result of slum clearance, and its provisions relating to Federal secondary mortgage activities. There appeared to be closer agreement on other key features of the legislation, which it lists, and indicates that those features were designed, according to the proponents, to reduce direct Federal participation in housing and to encourage private industry to play a greater role in urban renewal.

Public housing advocates, led by the National Housing Conference, were preparing to do battle for inclusion of a specific public housing provision.

Joseph & Stewart Alsop indicate that the greatest political decisions of the Administration were being made behind the President's back, the final proof of which had been provided by the events of the previous week involving the dispute between Senator McCarthy and Secretary of the Army Robert Stevens, during which the President was not in command of the situation and usually did not even know what was going on.

As evidence, they cite that the Secretary had issued his defiance of Senator McCarthy without consulting the President or anyone else, that the President was also not told that the Secretary would attend the luncheon with Senators McCarthy, Karl Mundt, Everett Dirksen and Charles Potter, at which the agreement was made which caused the subsequent problem when it was perceived that Secretary Stevens had caved in to Senator McCarthy, that lack of awareness by the President having been despite the fact that his subordinates had arranged the meeting with the purpose of getting Secretary Stevens to relent, and the fact that the President had wanted to have a showdown with Senator McCarthy and was prepared to back up Secretary Stevens completely at the time the Secretary, unaware of the promise of support, was surrendering to the Senator. The President was very angry about the situation by the time he took charge.

The Alsops indicate that it was not the first time that the Administration had hit a reef while the captain was somewhere down below. When Attorney General Herbert Brownell had begun dredging up the case of the late Harry Dexter White by way of charging the Truman Administration with harboring Communists in the Government, the Attorney General had given the President no forewarning. They question what the cause of the pattern was and speculate that it was a product of the President's character and experience as a military officer, accustomed to delegating duties to lower officials. The President had not yet assumed the national political leadership, which they regard as the highest of the many functions of the President. Political problems were very foreign to President Eisenhower's prior experience, continuing to allow even the most important political decisions to be made by others, whom he regarded as experts in politics. That group included the Attorney General, and his Assistant, William Rogers, as well as Senator Everett Dirksen and Representative Richard Simpson, with the most active participant in the White House itself being Congressional liaison officer, General Wilton Persons. All of the people in that group believed that Senator McCarthy would win the 1954 midterm elections for the Republicans. Mr. Simpson had said that the Republicans had something the Democrats did not, Senator McCarthy. Thus, that group was always anxious to appease Senator McCarthy and had done so on the two aforementioned issues without the President's knowledge and against his wishes.

The President was beginning to realize that when his subordinates built up Senator McCarthy, they were building up the worst enemy of the Administration. The President, they venture, was perhaps too modest to see how foolish it was to rely on the type of appeal made by Senator McCarthy instead of on his own great strength in the country. They suggest that perhaps the President might take control himself and that if he did not, the troubles of the previous week would soon recur.

A letter writer commends the newspaper for its editorial of February 26, supporting the two community colleges in Mecklenburg County and urging the public to support them, as they were the only colleges, albeit each of them two-year colleges, between Asheville and Greensboro—though Wake Forest was set to move from the Raleigh suburb to Winston-Salem in the ensuing two years, the campus currently being built. He says that Mecklenburg County was contributing more to the state in taxes than it was receiving in return, a subject on which he had been harping for 30 years.

A letter from the Mecklenburg County chairman of the Crusade for Freedom thanks the newspaper for covering the Crusade, especially reporters Elizabeth Blair and John Borchert.

A letter writer from Pinehurst indicates that nothing in recent years had created such a storm of protest and criticism as the Stevens-McCarthy controversy, with even two of the newspapers published by Col. Bertie McCormick, devoted followers of Senator McCarthy, having parted company with him on the issue. He condemns the "disgraceful surrender of authority" to the Senator, finds him the strongest political power in the country at present, having taken over the reactionary wing of the Republican Party. He indicates that sooner or later, the President had to take a stand on the Senator versus the "decent elements" of the party. He suggests that President Truman had been vulnerable to criticism while in office, but had never been guilty of cowardice when it came to defending people under attack in the executive branch. He thinks that until the President was ready to fight Senator McCarthy in the same manner he had fought against the Bricker amendment, there would be repetition `1a of the current dispute in other forms.

The Big Show is getting ready to start in another month and a half, friend. Sit back, pop some popcorn, and enjoy it. We can tell you that it won't rival the one coming 19 years down the pike, with a prominent North Carolinian pounding the gavel, but, as a precursor to that one, it will suffice for the present.

Vice-President Nixon, the President's Wheeling "boy", serving as the White House liaison to mollify Senator McCarthy, apparently, as would come to light through time, was a secret admirer of him, hopeful of finding a way to follow in his footsteps to accepted gravitas with the majority of the people and consequent political power by way of a more tempered tone of attack on political enemies, using henchmen to carry out the dirty work behind the scenes, but eventually finding the divide-and-conquer political strategy at base of the McCarthy movement to be paradoxical, that leadership has to be measured by the ability to lead the country as a whole and lead vigorously in a positive direction, without two-faced backroom attempts at divisiveness and condemnation of the members of the press in the process who inevitably will seek to uncover any hint of hypocrisy in a political leader, not because they "hate Nixon" or Trump or whoever else the divider might be but because their Fourth Estate charge, as with any dedicated citizen, is to preserve the country and its Constitution by keeping the public informed of facts, not only stressing those out in the open but those which are increasingly apparent, though obscured from public view, to be gleaned from the behavioral pattern of an Administration and become relevant to color the ability of the chief executive to lead a diverse country which prides itself as the world's melting pot, championing the motto "e pluribus unum". The unum does not reference a Nixon or a Trump or any other individual, but rather implies unity from diversity accomplished through dedicated leadership of all.

A letter writer suggests that a ruling of the Supreme Court ordering desegregation of the public schools could produce one of the strangest political paradoxes in U.S. history. He suggests that after President Truman had split the Democratic Party open regarding his civil rights demands, the Republicans had elected three Congressmen in Virginia and one in North Carolina, the result, he suggests, of the antipathy toward President Truman on civil rights issues, producing, at long last, a two-party system in the South. Attorney General Herbert Brownell had argued in favor of abolishing segregation in the public schools and, suggests the writer, had thereby undone the good for the Republicans which President Truman had accomplished for them in the South, meanwhile reuniting Southern Democrats. He finds, therefore, Mr. Brownell to have been the top political mistake of the Eisenhower Administration.

When you start seeing those "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards around in a couple years, will your reaction be pride or shame? If not the latter, go duck your head in shame. You are not a true American, a believer in the actual words of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says nothing about "separate but equal", and was never intended to support such a preposterous notion, oxymoronic in its premises, even if we make room for the fact of incalculable ignorance within the South after the Civil War and the need, in consequence, for a good public education system to bring the populace into a state of understanding that human beings are human beings, with all kinds of variant behaviors, some admirable, some not so, within its population, and no race having a lock on purity or goodness or sense of justice, that depending entirely on the individual. After 58 years of education since 1896, it was time for the South to move forward out of its dark past.

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