With the Western Australian State Election looming, candidates are playing it safe on various election issues, writes Tyson Adams.
ON 13 MARCH, Western Australians go to the polls. It promises to be an anti-climactic affair, with Mark McGowan’s Labor Government expected to be returned to power. Even Liberal Opposition Leader, Zak Kirkup, has already conceded defeat. At least there will still be democracy sausages.
This inevitability hasn’t stopped the leaflet drops filling mailboxes, nor the plethora of campaign posters along roadsides. But in amongst that pile of former majestic trees, there is a distinct lack of politicians standing for anything.
Take the electorate of Kalamunda as an example. Locals in this tranquil Perth Hills area will have to choose which of the nine candidates they’ll rank last. And this is a tougher choice than you may expect.
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First on the ballot paper is the Liberal Democrats candidate, Carolyn Trigwell, who wants to reduce crime. Indeed, it would be a bold move for a candidate to be pro-crime. The police’s dedicated Crime Prevention and Community Liaison Unit will probably be in favour of her ideas about introducing community policing.
The incumbent Labor candidate, Matthew Hughes, previously stood on a fracking-free platform. After losing on that issue to oil and gas political donations, Hughes’ campaign this time around appears more generic.
The WAxit party have taken a good hard look at the big issues facing Western Australia. They’ve decided all of these issues could be solved by giving the rest of Australia the flick.
No Mandatory Vaccination party have their policy in their name. On their webpage, they have highlighted combatting being asked to remove underwear during vaccinations. High priority stuff.
It should come as no surprise that The Greens’ Lee-Anne Miles wants to address climate change. In terms of issues worth standing for, this has to be near the top of the list. Trust the Greens to have candidates wanting to stand for something.
It will be interesting to see how the other parties manage to blame inaction on climate change on the Greens in the coming years.
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A gutful of widespread rorting of the public purse and sneaky backroom deals equals the unceremonious dumping of governments.
The Liberal candidate, Liam Staltari, is probably the worst example on this list. He wants to protect the environment. By addressing climate change? No. But he is in favour of trees. He supports seniors, which is obviously a refreshing change from the common policy of advocating their use as soylent green.
He wants to back jobs and local businesses, which is a startling break from what politicians traditionally stand for.
Formed before the last state election, the Western Australia Party is one of the newer players. Wanting to make an impact, their candidate, Stephen Phelan, thinks the pressing issue is rebuilding a railway that was converted to a road almost 70 years ago.
Despite having only nine policies listed, One Nation wants your vote. They are obviously relying on the history of the party to win over the reactionaries and racists.
Finally, the Australian Christians candidate, Brady Williams, tells voters about his passion for teaching religion. Obviously, the anti-education and burn schools to the ground candidates will have a hard time against him.
The Greens candidate aside, the other candidates aren’t standing on real issues. Generic statements about addressing jobs, education and policing are cowardly. These candidates could have genuine reforms on those issues, like limiting the number of police assaults annually. But they don’t.
Instead, their passion and visions of the future seem to be a train line to nowhere.
Is One Nation really a threat to the two-party system?
Unlike 1998, One Nation won’t threaten the two-party system again, says Patrick Keane.
The Liberal candidate exemplifies this issue. Staltari doesn’t seem to have any strong passions or ideas for the future; only the presumption that he could do a better job of running things. Staltari and the other candidates’ visions of Western Australia’s future clearly involve them getting a nice salary for being in charge.
How can we hope to address important issues in our society if the people standing for election aren’t interested in those issues? We can quibble on what the most important issues are (with removing underwear during vaccinations obviously being high on the list) but without some solid ideas of what needs to be done, the issues won’t be addressed.
We need candidates who actually stand for something. Candidates with ideas on how to address those issues. And fewer people thinking they should be in charge.
Tyson Adams is a scientist, writer and satirist, sometimes in that order.
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Western Australian artist Jarrod Taylor has won the $10,000 Western Australian Sculptor Scholarship to kick off the 2021 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe Beach.
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Perth Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson has backed his star players to continue playing through pain after they fought to a 95-92 loss against Brisbane today.
Bryce Cotton hobbled his way through the game with an ankle injury, and that followed a corked thigh from Wednesday. He also finished the match with his arm taped.
Vice-captain Mitch Norton struggled with a back injury and needed treatment on the sidelines which kept him out of the action at key moments.
The Wildcats are in the middle of three games in five days, but Gleeson said Norton and Cotton didn’t take injuries into the match.
Their next clash is against Illawarra on Sunday and Gleeson said his players had little option other than to soldier on.
“We’re not like football that rest guys. We play,” Gleeson said.
“Obviously Mitch wasn’t 100 per cent. Bryce and Mitch are both soldiers.
“If they’re hurt and can’t play they are really hurt. They want to play. Bryce proved that last week when he was laid up for three days and came out and played a game.
“I think he had some ankle issues during the game. We’ll go through that tomorrow.”
Cotton still scored 29 points, including 16 in the final quarter, as he dragged the scores back to level pegging.
But Nathan Sobey starred for Brisbane with 31 points and Vic Law was influential with 23 points.
Todd Blanchfield and John Mooney both finished with 20 points each for Perth and Mooney also managed nine rebounds, but the Bullets won the rebounding 42-35.
Perth looked flat early and trailed by 11 points after less than four minutes. Gleeson said lapses of concentration proved costly for his team.
“We started the game 4-15 so that’s not a world we want to live in. Then we were playing catch up,” he said.
“I thought the guys played their hearts out and gave the effort and everything we wanted to do there. There were a few concentration issues on the glass and some bad rotations for us and silly fouls that took them to the foul line.
“It was a combination of those things but it was only three points. We gave the effort. We just need to improve our concentration.
“You’ve got to be on-point. Guys coming off the bench weren’t ready to shoot the ball and play. It’s disappointing in that part.”
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In 2009, the ABC foreign correspondent Sally Sara walked into the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Air Base, in Afghanistan. Role 3 was one of the busiest combat hospitals in the world, treating a near constant stream of wounded soldiers, insurgents and women and children. A sign near the entrance read “The best care anywhere”, which was no idle boast: the hospital had a 97 per cent survival rate.
Sara, who had been covering the war for a year, believed she would be filming a quick news story, but before long a surge of casualties arrived. There were 16 injured, among them an 11-year-old boy named Abdul. Abdul had been with his brother when the brother trod on a landmine. The blast killed the boy instantly and left Abdul horribly injured. Shrapnel had blown his jaw off, and the tissue on the right side of his face was largely exposed. Sara filmed the boy from a distance as the doctors worked to save his life. The footage from that day shows Abdul gritting his teeth behind the oxygen mask, his feet spasmed in agony, his voice a desperate keening so loud it almost took the roof off.
A veteran foreign correspondent, Sara had reported on all manner of atrocities; rape, mass killings, murder, torture. But something about that day resonated more deeply than anything else in her career. “The boy could see me filming him,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘There is something very wrong with the world when this can happen to a child. It is a failure on so many levels.’ ”
The doctors scanned Abdul’s head, looking for shrapnel and bleeding. His brain seemed okay, and his outlook was promising. Sara left the hospital in the early hours of the morning, after Abdul had gone into surgery. The next day she returned. Abdul was in ICU: he was in a serious but stable condition and was breathing on his own. She filmed him lying on a bed, his head bandaged up, his little face swollen and purple. After a time, she left. An hour later, Abdul suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and died: hospital staff found his father just in time so he could hold his son’s hand.
When Sara found out, she was stricken with grief and guilt. “I should have stayed,” she tells me. “I wasn’t especially tired, and it was the end of an embed, so I had nowhere else to be. But I’d had enough. I couldn’t watch it anymore.” In war reporting, a central tenet is to honour the dead – to tell their story as well as you can. As far as Sara was concerned, she had failed to fulfil one of her primary responsibilities.
In 2012, she left Afghanistan and returned to Sydney, to take up a job as the ABC’s regional and rural reporter. But the events in Kandahar stayed with her, like a tear in the fabric of her psyche that, in the coming months, grew deeper and wider. “Emotionally speaking, you can’t deal with anything over there, so if something is going to rupture, it’ll be back here, where you have time to think.” In November, 2012, she suffered a breakdown. She is not willing to go into the details, saying only that it was “a shattering experience” and that she “initially felt so ashamed and so stunned that it happened”.
Sara, who is 50, has blonde shoulder-length hair, pale colouring and eyes the colour of a Nordic lake. She is taller than she appears on television, and more reserved. When I meet her early one evening for a drink near her home in Sydney, she gives off a certain reticence, as if she’s not entirely thrilled with being the subject of a story rather than the reporter. She still suffers from symptoms of trauma, most notably a condition known as moral injury, when people witness or fail to prevent events or behaviour that go against their moral code. “For me it was seeing kids getting hurt, kids going hungry when there is plenty in the world, and often just observing, not being able to stop it.”
“The play wasn’t so much therapy as a way of reclaiming the events, turning an awful experience into something positive.”
Coming to terms with her condition was a gradual process involving several years of psychotherapy. Then, in 2015, she hit on the idea of writing a play about her experiences, focusing on that day in Kandahar and her subsequent unravelling. “The play wasn’t so much therapy as a way of reclaiming the events, turning an awful experience into something positive,” she says.
Now, five years and more than a dozen drafts later, that play, Stop Girl, is premiering on March 20 at Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre. It’s been a long road: Sara approached nine theatre companies before being taken on by Belvoir. Yet it still feels “so new”, as she puts it. Sometimes at rehearsals Sara feels like saying, “It was only a joke! I didn’t mean for it to actually get made!”
”The whole experience is a mixture of doubt and belief,” she says. “It’s like imposter syndrome on 20 Red Bulls.”
Plenty of people say they have a book inside them: not so many claim to be lugging around a script. But before she was a journalist, Sara dreamt of being a playwright. “I always loved the theatre,” she tells me. Her grandmother, a talented singer, took part in school plays and district productions. Her mother also did amateur theatre. When Sara was growing up in the tiny town of Port Broughton, on South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, her father would go camping with her two brothers, while her mother and Sally drove the 350-kilometre round trip to Adelaide to see a play.
“At the time I thought it was so sexist, that I wasn’t allowed to go camping with the boys,” she says. “So I tried to pretend that I wasn’t enjoying the theatre, but I was. It was so special, a country kid coming to Adelaide, wearing your special clothes, being there when the lights come down.”
When she was eight, she saw the musical Annie at the Festival Theatre. “When the show started, I was fascinated by every aspect of it. The musicians, the actors, the crew. The girls on stage were all my age, and I wanted to be in it, too. I wanted to be part of all of it.”
Later, she did screenwriting as a component of her arts degree at the University of South Australia. (Future Labor senator Penny Wong was in Sara’s first-year drama class.) In 1991, when she was 20, she wrote to the producers of A Country Practice, the long-running TV series, and got a shot at writing a trial script for them.
“It was just a development thing,” she says. “I saved up my money and caught the bus from Adelaide to Sydney. I stayed in a youth hostel in Darlinghurst and only had a few bucks for food. I got to sit in on the writing room for a couple of days as they were brainstorming an episode.” After a few days, she caught the bus back to Adelaide. “I then wrote my own version of the script, and someone from the writing team provided feedback. It was a great experience, a total adventure.”
Sara was desperate to write, but she was also desperate to see the world. “I thought, ‘I don’t want to sit at a desk writing yet.’ I didn’t want that solitude. I wanted to see the world, to experience everything, go places, meet people, so I pursued journalism. And I wanted to go all the way, to become a foreign correspondent.”
It was the early 1990s and the country was in a deep recession. Sara applied for 22 jobs before landing a gig at community station Outback Radio 2WEB, in Bourke. She won a few awards in her first year, then got a job as a rural reporter with the ABC in 1992. She worked in Alice Springs, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra, where she met Jane Wilson, then an executive assistant for ABC management. “I remember Sally as a lanky, happy, friendly country girl who was fresh-faced, keen and ambitious,” says Wilson, who became a lifelong friend. “Like many people from the country, they always seem to have that independent, adventurous streak; that innate knowledge that there is something beyond the country gate.”
In 2000, after a three-month stint in Jakarta, Sara became the ABC’s Africa correspondent. She has since reported from 40 countries, including Iraq, Sierra Leone, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. If you are feeling down about your own professional achievements or lack thereof, it’s best not to read the “Awards” section of her CV. She is an eight-time Walkley Award finalist, as well as a winner, in 2017, for her reporting on the famine in Somaliland. She’s bagged four UN Media Awards, and at least a dozen international honours, including for TV and radio reporting. In 2011, she became a Member of the Order of Australia for service to journalism. Oh, and she speaks Zulu.
“Sally has a compulsion to tell the stories of people who the world often forgets about.”
Sara has a particular affinity for dangerous places. “Sally has a compulsion to tell the stories of people who the world often forgets about,” says friend and fellow journalist Leigh Sales. “I was having dinner with her two years ago and I said, ‘I don’t know how you can do the reporting you do,’ and she said, ‘I don’t know how you can not.’ ”
But such work comes at a cost, especially in a place such as Afghanistan. “Afghanistan was bigger and more dangerous than a lot of the other places she’s been,” says her younger brother, Tyson. “I think she had a greater fear for her life there than in other places.”
Tyson, who is a defence industry strategist, happened to be in Afghanistan in 2011, at the same time as his sister, advising NATO commanders in the south of the country. He and Sally caught up a few times, including in the NATO base at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, where they enjoyed a surprisingly good Thai dinner. “She was looking for her next story, and I was looking for how to help the NATO commander.” There is a high-octane allure to Afghanistan, “an air of energy about the place”, as Tyson puts it. “You are doing work you perceive as being exciting and important, and your senses are heightened all the time.”
“Sally tells complex stories through the eyes of individuals. She also wants to understand people’s motivations … [Writing a play] actually seemed almost natural.”
A hallmark of Sara’s reporting is that she “doesn’t talk about stories in a strategic sense”, says Tyson. “She tells complex stories through the eyes of individuals. She also wants to understand people’s motivations, which in itself is a creative thought.” He wasn’t entirely surprised, then, that she should write a play. “It actually seemed almost natural.”
Stop Girl begins in Kabul, with lead character Suzie Broughton, a war correspondent, sitting underneath a doona in her room recording a piece for radio. (The doona, she explains, muffles the ambient noise.) With her is Bec, a journalist and old friend of Suzie, who has been sent to write a publicity profile of her.
Bec is horrified by the pain and suffering she sees all around her; her shock is a foil to Suzie, who has become largely inured to it. At one stage, the two women visit the aftermath of a suicide bombing. When they return to their room, Bec is aghast to find human remains stuck to the sole of her shoe. “Always change your shoes after a bombing,” says Suzie. “I should have told you that.”
The play then moves to Sydney, where Suzie is dazzled by the rude bounty of First World life: the fresh food, the sunshine, the safety. Suzie has flashbacks, one of which has her standing in a maternity ward in Kabul, where nurses are beating the stomach of a pregnant woman with sticks, to make the baby come out faster, because there aren’t enough beds. The father is outside: when he is told that his child is a girl – girls are considered a burden in Afghanistan – he starts crying: “Bas bibi, bas bibi.” Stop girl, stop girl.
“When you come back, your compass is thrown out,” says Sara. “You realise what you’d taken to be normal over there isn’t in fact normal.” The apparent materialism and superficiality of Sydney was similarly disorienting. Sara remembers sitting in a cafe after her return when a man ran in and asked the person behind the bar if they had change for a $100 note because he had to pay for his dog’s haircut. “Life at home just didn’t make sense to me,” she says. “For a while, all I wanted to do was go back.”
Like her on-stage avatar, Sara worked largely by herself in Afghanistan. That self-reliance and independence made it harder for her to ask for help upon her return, but it has also aided her as a playwright. “Sally has a rich interior life,” says Leigh Sales, “and she is really observant and watchful, which is what makes her a good writer.”
Being a journalist also helps. “It’s given me a sense of story structure, the ability to re-write, restructure and meet deadlines,” says Sara. As part of her research for Stop Girl, Sara interviewed all the real-life people who inspired the characters in the play. “It added so much more depth to the characters. As a first-time playwright, it also helped me feel comfortable, because I was at least familiar with that part of the process.”
Now that it’s finished, Sara can see the play in a broader context. “It’s been an absolute lifeline. It’s given me a new focus, a big challenge. It was just something lovely to have in my mind and my life.”
She is still seeing a trauma psychologist, and says she has largely reconciled with her past. “I have since gone back through the events in Kandahar in detail with a psychologist,” she tells me. “I now have a different perspective. I did the best I could on a very difficult night, and that it was human to be overwhelmed. It was understandable to cry, understandable to want to leave the hospital. It was understandable to have hope for that boy. I did the best I could.”
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CANBERRA, March 3 (Xinhua) — Australia’s Attorney-General (AG) Christian Porter has identified himself as the government minister facing a historical rape allegation and fronted the media on Wednesday to deny the allegation.
The allegation came to light at the end of February in an anonymous letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and members of the Greens and Labor parties.
The letter included detailed allegations that Porter raped a 16-year-old girl in Sydney in 1988 – about 20 years before he entered politics in Western Australia and 25 years before he entered federal Parliament – at which time he was 17.
Porter said that it “simply did not happen.”
“Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened,” he said on Wednesday.
“Because what is being alleged did not happen, I must say so publicly.”
The alleged victim contacted New South Wales (NSW) Police in 2019 but took her own life in 2020.
On Tuesday NSW Police said there was “insufficient admissible evidence” to investigate the allegations and it was closed.
Porter said he would not stand down as AG but would take a “short period of leave” to improve his mental health.
Porter’s press conference on Wednesday came days after former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said he learned of the allegations in 2019, publicly urged the minister accused of rape to “front up” to the allegations.
The government is facing increasing pressure to establish an independent inquiry into the allegations.
Porter on Wednesday apologized to his ministerial colleagues who have been the target of “allegations and speculation.”
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The search for missing Sydney conwoman Melissa Caddick’s remains has been suspended as the extent of her fraud reportedly cost victims about $25 million.
Police divers have again been forced to postpone the search in waters off Dover Heights, a few hundred from the millionaire’s Sydney home, due to rough seas after hazardous conditions curtailed their efforts on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a report into the 49-year-old’s financial affairs revealed she misappropriated about $25 million of investors’ funds, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday.
The report was provided to investors by Bruce Gleeson and Daniel Soire, the partners of insolvency firm Jones Partners, the court-appointed provisional liquidators.
It found Ms Caddick used her company Maliver to launder investors’ money.
The financier disappeared from her multi-million dollar home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs last November, hours after corporate watchdog ASIC executed a search warrant at the house.
Liquidators say she “meticulously and systematically” deceived those who entrusted millions of investment dollars to her over seven years and used the money to fund her lavish lifestyle.
Investors say they are disappointed because they still have no idea where their funds went.
Police this week confirmed several sets of remains found at a number of south coast beaches do not belong to Ms Caddick.
So far police have only found Ms Caddick’s badly decomposed foot, which washed up in a sneaker south of Tathra on February 21.
The results of DNA analysis of other remains discovered is pending.
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“My office will take the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized.”
Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan on June 16, said in December 2019 that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.
The UN recognises the Occupied Palestinian Territories as the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip – disputed territory claimed by Israel.
She named both the Israeli Defence Forces and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas as possible perpetrators.
The next step will be to determine whether Israeli or Palestinian authorities have investigations themselves and to assess those efforts.
Israel’s government on Wednesday called the court “morally and legally bankrupt”.
“The decision to open an investigation against Israel is an exception to the mandate of the tribunal, and a waste of the international community’s resources by a biased institution that has lost all legitimacy,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.
There was no immediate comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When the court ruled on jurisdiction, he said: “When the ICC investigates Israel for fake war crimes, this is pure anti-semitism.”
The Palestinian Authority welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation.
It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Islamist militant group Hamas defended its own actions in the conflict.
“We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said.
Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said ICC member countries needed to stand by to fiercely protect the court’s work from political pressure.
The ICC is a court of last resort established to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide when a country is unable or unwilling to do so.
The prosecutor’s office was targeted by sanctions under former US President Donald Trump in response to its investigation in Afghanistan, which is examining the role of US forces.
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The winter storms that swept across the U.S., particularly Texas, upending the energy market and knocking out power for millions of people, have delivered a windfall for Macquarie Group, with the Australian bank lifting its profit outlook for 2021 by as much as 10 percent, just two weeks after warning that earnings would be “slightly down”.
“Extreme winter weather conditions in North America have significantly increased short-term client demand for Macquarie’s capabilities in maintaining critical physical supply across the commodity complex,” according to the company, which is the second-largest supplier of gas in North America after oil major BP, as quoted by Reuters.
Macquarie’s energy business unit typically trades large quantities of natural gas to meet last-minute consumer demand, moving gas from areas of low usage to areas where the demand is high.
According to analysts, the gains made by the energy business unit over nearly a week of frigid temperatures, which sent demand for gas and power soaring in the U.S., could single-handedly boost Macquarie’s overall profit by about $317 million.
The deadly winter storm sent power prices surging to $8,800 per megawatt-hour in some parts of Texas, from an average of $26 per MWh. Meanwhile, real-time natural gas prices shot up by more than 300 times in Texas’s deregulated market, as electricity generators competed for natural gas supplies.
Customers are now staring at massive electricity bills. This has led to US politicians promising to investigate how some companies have profited heavily from the winter storm.
“This week is like hitting the jackpot, with some of these incredible prices,” said Roland Burns, president at Comstock.
Following the revised profit outlook, Macquarie’s shares rose 3.5 percent to A$147.15 on Monday, the highest level in a year, outperforming the broader market.
“Macquarie appears to be capitalizing well on volatility and financial market dislocation,” Bank of America Securities analysts said in a note, as they revised their earnings forecast for the Sydney-headquartered company.
Macquarie’s Commodities and Global Markets division contributes close to 40 percent of its group earnings. Analysts had earlier expressed concerns that the pandemic could chip away at profits from the division if high energy-use industries closed down.
The company’s performance suffered last year as the pandemic subdued deal-making and compounded economic woes, leading to a rise in impairment charges.
But, a strong initial public offering of Nuix last year, its majority-owned data analytics software business, and the boom in the energy business, have helped raise the company’s share price to pre-pandemic levels.
The company, which also operates Australia’s largest asset manager and investment banking business, is also hoping for another boost from a recovery in local M&A activity this year.
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Australians have been told to still expect their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by October, with the federal government sticking by its time frame despite initial delays in the rollout.
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