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Born with a Bang: A rival arises in the bosom of Jesus’ own family

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER

Herod the Great was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman senate in 40 BC. But it was in 37 BC, when he captured Jerusalem which Antigonus the beleaguered Hasmonean ruler of Palestine had held on to, that he became undisputed King. That is why official history chronicles his reign as spanning the years 37 BC to 4 BC. In truth, however, his reign commenced in 40 BC.


Based on their reading of the apocryphal book of Enoch, the Herodians (and much of the Jewish establishment) naively reckoned that the world had been created in 3941 BC (Year 0) and that it was going to last for a total of 4900 years, or approximately 5000 years, before God came down to assume direct rule of Earth, a setup called a theocracy.

In line with this reckoning, therefore, the year  41 BC  marked exactly 3900 years since creation and the onset of the final, 1000-year epoch, a millennium. As such, the apocalyptic Last Judgement was expected to occur between 960 AD and 1000 AD. When Paul in his epistles stressed that “we are in the last days”, he essentially spoke in this context though mistakenly so of course.  


Now, in those days, a generation amounted to 40 years. Herod therefore called the first 40 years from 41 BC as Generation 1. Generation 1 was to be dedicated to an indoctrination of the world – disguised as evangelising – with the notion of the Kingdom of God.  Herod’s aim was for his descendents to rule not only Palestine but the whole wide world so that when God (not Jesus, please take note) descended to establish a theocracy, he would find a Herodian on the planet’s geopolitical throne.


Joseph, Theudas Barabbas, and their fellow Essenes took very strong exception to such a scenario. As far as they were concerned, God had to find a Davidic King on the world throne when he came circa 1000 AD. If this prospect was not to come to pass, it was only because Jesus, the next in the Davidic line of succession after his father Joseph, was a divisive figure: he was not universally recognised by the Jerusalem establishment owing to the questionable circumstances of his birth. In order to ensure the Davidic succession was not forever jeopardised, Joseph set about siring a son in a manner that perfectly conformed to the prescribed dynastic procreational parameters so that this son was acknowledged  by all and sundry as a fitting Davidic heir.  Of particular importance was that the son had to be born in the right  month – September, the holiest month in the Jewish calendar. Joseph did not intend to disinherit Jesus: he was simply hedging his bets.

JAMES, THE COMPROMISE MESSIAH
Jesus had been born on Sunday March  7 BC. According to Essene dynastic procreational rules, Joseph had to wait for six years before he sired a second-born (he would have waited for only three years had Jesus been a daughter). And so it was that in December 1 BC, Joseph resumed sexual relations with his wife Mary (since for dynastic families sex was purely for procreation and not for pleasure as per strict Essene chastity rules, the couple had not copulated in the intervening years). Nine months later, they were blessed with a baby boy as per their wish. Joseph gave him the name Cleopas, after one of his two younger brothers who were twins. He would, however, become best-known by the titular names Jacob and James in adulthood.


Since James was born at the prescribed time, he was straightaway hailed as the Jewish messiah by the High Priest of the Jerusalem temple Joazar, at the expense of his elder brother Jesus. The Essenes, however, still held  that Jesus was the rightful messiah irrespective of the scandalous nature of his birth. The controversy was to linger for a long time to come, both among the Jews and within Jesus’ own family, with Mary inclined, at least initially,  towards a recognition of  James and Joseph gravitating towards Jesus. More will be said on these family dialectics as the Jesus Papers progress.   


To the Essenes, it was the birth of James that marked the beginning of the countdown to 1000 AD and not the year 41 BC. Hence the year in which James was born was designated AD 1 (it was not called that before: it was called 754 AUC, that is, 754 years after the founding of the city of Rome). The years 41 BC to 1 BC were therefore unilaterally re-designated as Generation Zero by the Essenes. It was the first 40 years from AD 1 that became Generation 1. This revised outlook explains why this period was characterised by fevered evangelising and ministration by Jesus, John the Baptist, and the apostolate.      

ZECHARIAH IS KILLED
During the reign of Herod Archelaus, the dynamics radically changed at Qumran. First, the Diaspora Essenes became much more influential and increasingly assertive. The Diaspora Essenes, who included the Theraputae, were doctrinally more liberal than the rigid Palestinian Essenes, the latter of whom included Simeon and Joseph the father of Jesus. Because of their relaxed moral rules, the Diaspora Essenes were cynically branded as “seekers-after-smooth-things”. Second, schisms emerged, renting asunder the solidarity that held firm all along. There was a peace faction on the one hand and a belligerent faction on the other.


The belligerent faction was led by a fire-breathing nationalist known as Judas of Galilee, who had arrived at Qumran in AD 4 as commander of the Zealots, the private though ragtag guerilla army of the Essenes. Barabbas too was initially a member of the belligerent faction, as was Judas Iscariot, both of whom would in time become disciples of  Jesus.  

The  belligerent faction was privately sponsored by Herod Archelaus and supported by High Priest Joazar.  Its aim was to drive away the Romans  and therefore win independence for Palestine.  In order to effectively inculcate to his army  the art of war, Judas of  Galilee wrote up a war manual, now called the War Scroll and which was among the Dead Sea find. It was under Judas of Galilee that the Zealots became a household name.


The peace faction was led by Simeon, the Essene’s  second-ranking (Abiathar) priest who also went by the title Angel Gabriel. It included Joseph and Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist who sat at the apex of the  Essene priestly hierarchy. Its aim was to act as a check on the insurrectionist propensities of the belligerent faction though to no avail.


Now, Archelaus seemed to have a kind of split personality. Although he professed a predilection to free the Jews in the behind-the-scenes counsels with the Essene high command, he ruled his subjects with an iron fist. He was said to be even more callous than his deceased father.

The peace faction therefore had justification to suspect that he was actually working in cahoots with Rome as an  agent provocateur whilst pretending to be allied with the Essenes. As a result, the peace faction convinced Barabbas to defect from the pro-Archelaus belligerent faction and join forces with them in a plot to eliminate  Archelaus and  depose a supine Joazar from the priesthood.

This conspiracy was broached at a top-secret meeting where Zechariah, Simeon, and Joseph were  in attendance early in AD 6.  Also present was Annas, the “new kid on the block” who was tipped to replace Joazar as High Priest. Annas, who in future  would part-preside over the trial of Jesus,  had undertaken to recognise Jesus, now on the cusp of 12 years of age,  as the Davidic messiah, a position that had consistently been the stance of the Essenes.


The meeting was a stormy and fateful affair. For reasons that are not amply chronicled in the records of the day, sparks flew and violence ensued. In the process, Zechariah was killed by an agent of Judas of Galilee. Joseph’s younger brother  Ptolas, Cleopas’s twin, also died in this same scuffle. As the spiritual leader of the Essenes – and probably as a term simply of veneration – Zechariah was also known as the Teacher of Righteousness, a titular distinction that is regularly encountered in the pages of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Shortly thereafter, his only child, young John the Baptist, was named as his successor. In other words, Little John was the new Zadok Priest, Archangel Michael, Lord God, and  Teacher of Righteousness, all titles of which his father had carried. He was to be mentored and chaperoned by the patriarchal Simeon. Meanwhile, Annas was briefed to hold fort for Little John  till he was 30, the age of high priesthood.   

ARCHELAUS IS DEPOSED
Herod Archelaus was vindictive to a point of self-destruction. Josephus relates that he “used not the Jews only, but the Samaritans also, barbarously; and this out of his resentment of their old quarrels with him”. When he had 3000 protesting Jews slaughtered in the temple whilst his father was in his death throes in 4 BC, he was petitioned before Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. The Jews bemoaned to the emperor that they had had enough of Herodian tyranny and would rather they were directly ruled by a Roman authority than a dynasty of dubious Jews. They bid the emperor that Judea be overseen by the Roman governor in charge of Syria, one reason Archelaus was put on an open-ended probation.   It was apparent that this probation now seemed to have run its course.  


In AD 6, things came to a head. Once again, Archelaus was arraigned before Augustus. Josephus: “In the tenth year of Archelaus's government, both his brethren, and the principal men of Judea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him before Caesar.” As he sailed to Rome to answer to the charges preferred against him, Archelaus was almost certain this was a one-way voyage.  The Qumran sage Simeon had indicated to him that that might well be his fate. Archelaus had had a dream in which he saw “nine ears of corn, full and large, but devoured by oxen”. Seeking an explanation to this riddle, he consulted Simeon, who Josephus acknowledges as the greatest fortune teller of his day. Simeon spelt out to him that he would rule no more than 9 years, after which an eerily dark chapter would dawn in his life. Exactly five days later, Archelaus was summoned to Rome, distressed that AD 6 was his 9th year on the throne.  


The glory days were certainly over. At Rome, Augustus confirmed the inevitable. He had given Archelaus more than ample time – or was it ample rope? – to prove himself and he had been an absolute fiasco. He was dethroned and banished to Vienna in modern-day France, where he would die in obscurity. The Jews were now going to be given what they had requested of Caesar in 4 BC. Judea, along with Samaria and Idumea, was annexed to Syria. It was to be overseen by the governor of Syria and directly administered by a Roman procurator. The first such procurator was Lucius Coponius though the most famous is Pontius Pilate.


Now that Judea had come under direct Roman rule, Augustus commissioned Publius Sulpicius Quirinius, the governor of Syria, to conduct a census there for purposes of assessing potential tax income (LUKE 2:2). All Jews who owned property in Judea were required to return home for the census. This included Joseph, who although officially domiciled in Galilee (for strategic purposes) actually had property in Jerusalem bequeathed to him by his father Jacob-Heli.  At the time though, Joseph was already in Judea, at Qumran, with Mary and young Jesus, who was being prepared for his Bar-Mitzvah ceremony which had fallen due now that he was 12 years old.


The AD 6 census was the first one of its kind in Palestine. Judas of Galilee, the Zealot commander, vowed he would resist it to the death. To him, Rome was consolidating its rule over the Jews rather than relax it. Besides, he was indignant that his secret allies Archelaus and Joazar had been deposed. So having disposed of Zechariah, Judas of Galilee broke ranks with fellow Essenes and incited a full-scale revolt against the incoming Roman administration (ACTS 5:37). The upheaval was promptly put down by Coponius and Judas was captured and killed. The bulk of the insurrectionists, however, simply melted into the civilian population Al Qaeda-style.    


The failure of the Judas uprising meant the belligerent faction at Qumran had lost out in the bigger picture and the peace faction had triumphed. In the event, Annas, who was allied with the peace faction, replaced Joazar as High Priest, trusted by Coponius to foster harmonious relations between Jews and Rome.   That, however, did not mean that the Zealots were no more. They remained very much a cornerstone of the Essene institutional edifice as they were central to a future popular revolution that was always imminent. In fact, following the demise of Judas the Galilean, another Judas promptly took his place.   
     He was Judas Iscariot.
     
 
NEXT WEEK: JESUS COMES OF AGE

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Appendicitis: Recognising the Signs

29th March 2022

Many a times I get clients casually walking into my room and requesting to be checked for “appendix”.  Few questions down the line, it is clear they are unaware of where the appendix is or what to expect when one does have it (appendicitis). Jokingly (or maybe not) I would tell them they would possibly not be having appendicitis and laughing as hard as they are doing. On the other hand, I would be impressed that at least they know and acknowledge that appendicitis is a serious thing that they should be worried about.

So, what is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix; a thin, finger-like pouch attached to the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. Often the inflammation can be as a result of blockage either by the faecal matter, a foreign body, infection, trauma or a tumour. Appendicitis is generally acute, with symptoms coming on over the course of a day and becoming severe rapidly. Chronic appendicitis can also occur, though rarely. In chronic cases, symptoms are less severe and can last for days, weeks, or even months. 

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that almost always ends up in the operating theatre. Though the appendix is locally referred to as “lela la sukiri”, no one knows its exact role and it definitely does not have anything to do with sugar metabolism. Appendicitis can strike at any age, but it is mostly common from the teen years to the 30s.

Signs to look out for

If you have any of the following symptoms, go and see a Doctor immediately! Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in acute appendicitis;

Sudden pain that starts around the navel and shifts to the lower right abdomen within hours

The pain becomes constant and increases in severity (or comes back despite painkillers)

The pain worsens on coughing, sneezing, laughing, walking or deep breaths

Loss of appetite

Nausea and vomiting

Fever

Constipation or diarrhoea

Abdominal bloating/fullness

Diagnosis

The doctor often asks questions regarding the symptoms and the patient’s medical history. This will be followed up by a physical examination in which the Doctor presses on the abdomen to check for any tenderness, and the location of the pain. With acute appendicitis, pressing on and letting go of the right lower abdomen usually elicits an excruciatingly unbearable pain. Several tests may be ordered to determine especially the severity of the illness and to rule out other causes of abdominal pain. The tests may conditions include: blood tests, a pregnancy test, urinalysis, abdominal  “How do ultrasound scans work?” ultrasound (scan), CT scan or MRI Scan.

Treatment

The gold standard treatment of acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix known as appendectomy. Luckily, a person can live just fine without an appendix! Surgical options include laparoscopy or open surgery and the type will be decided on by the Surgeon after assessing the patient’s condition. Painkillers and antibiotics are also given intravenously usually before, during and after the surgery.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications such as;

Appendicular mass/abscessIf the appendix is inflamed or bursts, one may develop a pocket of pus around it known as an abscess. In most cases, the abscess will be treated with antibiotics and drained first by placing a tube through one’s abdominal wall into the abscess. The tube may be left in place for a few hours or days while the infection is clearing up but ultimately one would still have surgery to remove the appendix.

Peritonitis – without treatment, the appendix can rupture/burst. The risk of this rises 48–72 hours after symptoms start. A ruptured appendix spreads the infection throughout the abdomen (peritonitis). This is life threatening and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean the abdominal cavity.

Death – The complications of appendicitis (and appendectomy) can be life threatening, only if the diagnosis has been missed and no proper treatment has been given on time. This is rare though with the evolved medical care.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email  HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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A degree of common sense

7th February 2022

Here’s a news item from last month you may have missed. In December 2021 the University of Staffordshire announced it would be offered a degree course in pantomime! Yes, that’s right, a degree in popular festive entertainment, the Christmas panto.

We used to have one here, put on by the Capitol Players, though it seems to have fallen away in recent times, but the spectacle is still alive and well in the UK, both in local ad-dram (amateur dramatic ) societies and on the London stage and most of the major cities, these latter productions usually featuring at least one big-draw name from the world of show business with ticket prices commensurate with the star’s salary.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the pantomime format, it consists of a raucous mixture of songs and comedy all based around a well-known fairy or folk tale. Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk & Dick Whittington are perennial favourites but any well-known tall tale goes. There is no set script, unlike a play, and storyline is just a peg to hang a coat of contemporary, often bawdy, gags on, in what should be a rollicking production of cross dressing – there has to be at least one pantomime dame, played by a man and always a figure of fun, and a Principal Boy, ostensibly the male lead, yet played by an attractive young woman.

As an art form it can trace its roots back to 16th century Italy and the Commedia Del’Arte which used a mélange of music, dance, acrobatics along with a cast of comic stock characters so it has a long and proud theatrical tradition but you have to wonder, does that really qualify it as a suitable subject for a university? Further, what use might any degree be that can be acquired in a single year? And last but not least, how much standing does any degree have which comes from a jumped-up polytechnic, granted university status along with many of its ilk back in 1992, for reasons best known to the government of the time? Even more worrying are the stated aims of the course.

Staffordshire University claims it is a world first and the masters course is aimed at people working inside as well as outside the industry. Students on the course, due to start in September 2022, will get practical training in the art form as well as research the discipline.

“We want to see how far we can take this,” Associate Professor of Acting and Directing Robert Marsden said. The role of pantomime in the 21st Century was also going to be examined, he said, “particularly post Me Too and Black Lives Matter”. Questions including “how do we address the gender issues, how do we tell the story of Aladdin in 2021, how do we get that balance of male/female roles?” will be asked, Prof Marsden added.

Eek! Sounds like Prof. Marsden wants to rob it of both its history and its comedic aspects – well, good luck with that! Of course that isn’t the only bizarre, obscure and frankly time and money-wasting degree course available. Staying with the performing arts there’s Contemporary Circus and Physical Performance at Bath Spa University. Sounds like fun but why on earth would a circus performer need a university degree?

Or how about a Surf Science and Technology degree at Cornwall College (part of the University of Plymouth). Where the one thing you don’t learn is….how to surf!

Then there is a  degree in Floral Design at University Centre Myerscough. No, I hadn’t heard of it either – turns out it’s a college of further education in Preston, a town that in my experience fits the old joke of ‘I went there once…..It was closed’ to a ‘T’!

Another handy (pun intended) art is that of Hand Embroidery BA (Hons), offered at the University for the Creative Arts. Or you could waste away sorry, while away, your time on a course in Animal Behaviour and Psychology. This degree at the University of Chester teaches you about the way animals think and feel. Cockroaches have personalities according to the subject specs– you couldn’t make it up.

Happily all these educational institutes may have to look to their laurels and try to justify their very existence in the near future. In plans announced this week, universities could face fines of up to £500,000 (P750m), be stripped of their right to take student loans or effectively shut down if they cannot get 60 per cent of students into a professional job under a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses. Further, at least 80 per cent of students should not drop out after the first year, and 75 per cent should graduate.

The rules, published by the Office for Students (OfS), aim to eliminate ‘low-quality’ courses by setting new standards & requiring courses to improve their rating in the TEF, the official universities ratings system. Universities not meeting the new standards will not be able to charge full annual fees of £9,250. Unconventional courses that could fall victim to the new rules could include the University of Sunderland’s BA in Fashion Journalism, where students learn essential’ skills such as catwalk reporting and the history of Chanel.  They have only a 40 per cent chance of entering highly skilled work 15 months after leaving.

At University College Birmingham, BSC Bakery and Patisserie Technology students – who learn how to ‘make artisan bread’ – have a 15 per cent chance of a professional job within 15 months. Universities minister Michelle Donelan welcomed the move, saying ‘When students go to university, they do so in the pursuit of a life-changing education, one which helps pave their path towards a highly skilled career. Any university that fails to match this ambition must be held to account.’

OfS found that at 25 universities, fewer than half of students find professional work within 15 months.  Business and management courses at the University of Bedfordshire (14.8 per cent) were among the least likely to lead to graduate-level jobs.  Asked to comment, the University of Sunderland said it always looked ‘to find ways to improve outcomes’; University College Birmingham said data on graduates and definition of ‘professional work’ was limited. I’ll bet it is! As the saying goes, ’what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over’. What a pantomime!

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Why regular health checks are important!

7th February 2022

With the world still reeling from the negative impact of the Coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and the latest Omicron variant (which is responsible for the ongoing global forth wave) on everyone’s lips, we should not forget and neglect other aspects of our health.

While anyone can get infected with corona virus and become seriously ill or die at any age, studies continue to show that people aged 60 years and above, and those with underlying medical conditions like hypertension, heart and lung problems, diabetes, obesity, cancers, or mental illness are at a higher risk of developing serious illness or dying from covid-19.

It is a good habit to visit a doctor regularly, even if you feel healthy. Regular health checks can help identify any early signs of health issues or assess your risk of future illness hence prompting one to take charge and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and other non-communicable diseases (even communicable) can often be picked up in their early stages, when chances for effective treatment are high.

During a health check, your doctor will take a thorough history from you regarding your medical history, your family’s history of disease, your social life and habits, including your diet, physical activity, alcohol use, smoking and drug intake. S/he will examine you including measuring your weight, blood pressure, feeling your body organs and listening to your heart and lungs amongst the rest. Depending on the assessment, your doctor will notify you how often you need to have a health check. If you have a high risk of a particular health condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent health checks from an early age.

Diet – a healthy diet improves one’s general health and wellbeing. It is recommended that we have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily. Physical activity – regular physical activity has significant health benefits on one’s body, mind & soul. It contributes to preventing and managing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhances thinking, learning, and judgment skills and improves overall well-being. According to the world health organisation (WHO), people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. Aim for 30 minutes to an hour of moderate physical activity at least four days in a week. Examples of moderate physical activity include brisk walking, gentle swimming and social tennis.

Weight – maintaining a healthy weight range helps in preventing long-term complications like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also vital for one’s mental wellbeing and keeping up with normal activities of daily living. Ask your doctor to check your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference annually. If you are at a higher risk, you should have your weight checked more frequently and a stern management plan in place.

Alcohol – as per WHO reports, alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people. Healthy drinking entails taking no more than two standard drinks per drinking day with at least two alcohol-free days in a week.

Smoking –Nicotine contained in tobacco is highly addictive and tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, many different types of cancer, and many other debilitating health conditions. Every year, at least a whopping 8 million people succumb from tobacco use worldwide. Tobacco can also be deadly for non-smokers through second-hand smoke exposure. It is not ‘fashionable’ if it is going to cost you and your loved ones lives! If you are currently smoking, talk to your doctor and get help in quitting as soon as possible to reduce the harm.

Blood pressure: Hypertension is a serious medical condition and can increase the risk of heart, brain, kidney and other diseases. It is a major cause of premature death worldwide, with upwards of 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women – over a billion people – having the condition. Have your blood pressure checked annually if it is normal, you are aged under 40 and there is no family history of hypertension. You might need to have it checked more frequently if you are over 40, your blood pressure is on the high side, or you have a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack. Your doctor will be there to guide you.

Dental care – eating a low-sugar diet and cleaning and flossing the teeth regularly can reduce one’s risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss. Visit a dentist every six months for a dental examination and professional cleaning, or more frequently as per your dentist’s advice.
Blood tests – annual to five-yearly blood tests may be done to further assess or confirm risk of disease. These may include blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, kidney function, liver function, tumour markers, among other things. They may be done frequently if there is already an existing medical condition.

Cancer screening – various screening techniques can be done to detect different cancers in their early or pre-cancer stages. These include; skin inspections for any suspicious moles/spots, two-yearly mammograms for those at risk of developing breast cancer, Pap smear or the new Cervical Screening Test (CST) every five years, stool tests and colonoscopy (every five years) for those at most risk of bowel cancer, prostate cancer screening for those at risk (over 45 years of age, family history of cancers etc.). Discuss appropriate tests with your doctor.

Vaccinations – You should discuss with your doctor about the necessary routine immunisation, in particular; the Covid-19 vaccines, an annual flu shot, a five-yearly pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had one or you are immunocompromised and any other boosters that you might need.

If you need further advice or treatment please call 4924730, email HYPERLINK “mailto:info@themedicscentre.co.bw” info@themedicscentre.co.bw or visit www.themedisccentre.co.bw

Antoinette Boima, MBBS, BMedSci, PgDip HIV/AIDS, Cert Aesth Med is the Managing Director of The Medics Centre in Palapye.

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