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04.24.2012 DorobekINSIDER: How spies and cloud computing fit together, the future of Gov 2.0 and are you suffering from social media overload?

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On today’s program for Tuesday April 25, 2012: 

A lot of news coming out early this morning: 

  • The General Services Administration’s inspector general who has been investigating that lavish Public Building Service 2010 Western Region Conference has told federal prosecutors an outside event planner violated ethics laws while helping to organize a conference in Las Vegas hotel, government sources tell the Washington Post. Investigators also want to know whether Michael W. Jahn, managing partner of Location Solvers, violated bribery laws by giving gifts to several GSA employees in excess of the government’s $20 limit, according to government sources, e-mails and transcripts of interviews conducted by the inspector general’s office.
  • We continue to ask you what YOU would do in the GSA situation — you’re the boss. How would you handle it? If there are significant changes to be made — a wholesale restructuring of GSA — how would you reorganize?
  • The Senate is set to vote on dozens of plans to overhaul the Postal Service. Again, The Washington Post says the U.S. Postal Service is asking Congress to allow changes to the mail delivery schedule and other reforms to better control costs, but a set of proposals expected to come to a vote today could place even more restrictions on when, where and how Americans receive their mail. The Senate plans to vote on dozens of amendments designed to overhaul the Postal Service, by providing nearly $11 billion to fund the buyouts of hundreds of thousands of employees and, eventually, ending six-day-a-week mail delivery. And the Post notes that this debate does not divide along partisan lines. Instead it is a NIMBY argument. Central to the Postal Service’s cost-cutting measures are plans to close hundreds of processing facilities and more than 2,000 post offices, an issue that pits lawmakers from smaller, rural states against colleagues from larger, more urban areas, where the proposed closings would have less of an impact.
  • Last week we talked about budget transparency — both why one would do it… and how to do it… and we spoke to Matthew Hall of Open Plans get get his assessment. Atlantic Cities has just written a piece talking about budgets by — and for — the people. They say that in an effort to cut wasteful spending and generate political support, cash-strapped municipal officials are turning to a process called participatory budgeting, which allows residents to devise and vote on small-scale infrastructure projects. Pioneered in Brazil, it’s since been taken up by some 1,200 cities in just over two decades.
The SEVEN Gov’t Stories you NEED to know:

  1. The Pentagon is setting up a new spy service of its own. The Wall Street Journal says the Defense Department will use existing funds and personnel to increase to create the new department.  DoD has wanted to increase their role in the collection of sensitive intelligence about threats. The new spy service is part of a Pentagon-wide reorganization effort.
  2. Hacktivists pose the biggest threat to IT security. A new InformationWeek Federal IT survey says the top threat shouldn’t come as a big surprise since hacktivists have topped the list for the past two years. The survey found that despite governmentwide adoption of new FISMA policies cyber attacks were still up by 5 percent from last year.
  3. The GSA conference scandal has hit the agency hard…and now the investigation is widening to include potential contractor fraud. The Washington Post says GSA’s inspector general told federal prosecutors an outside event planner violated ethics laws. Michael Jahn, managing partner of Location Solvers, is accused of violating bribery laws by giving gifts to several GSA employees in excess of the government’s $20 limit.
  4. Two former students of the elite military and naval academies say in a new lawsuit that they were raped by fellow classmates and then either resigned or were forced to leave because administrators didn’t take their allegations seriously. The Wall Street Journal says the women claim they were raped by upperclassmen while under the influence of alcohol and later ostracized when they reported the allegations. The Defense Department has declined to comment.
  5. The Veterans Affairs Department is struggling to keep up with the number of veterans seeking mental health care. The agency’s inspector general said half of its mental health patients have to wait about 50 days for a full evaluation.Federal News Radio says the agency’s tracking system is flawed. Doctors and clinicians said they don’t have the manpower to handle all the cases. The VA last week began hiring 1,900 more mental health care workers.
  6. The Senate is back in session debating how to keep the Postal Service afloat. Now senators are considering a couple of amendments that would mean major changes to employees pay and benefits. Government Executive says the new bill would require retirement-eligible employees to retire, increase the amount workers contribute to their health benefits and life insurance,  limit executive pay and curtail the amount agencies can spend on government conferences.
  7. And on GovLoop, we’re talking about the future of Gov 2.0. It’s part of our newwebinar with HP where we look at where Gov 2.0 started, where it is now, and where it’s going. It’s going to be a really fascinating discussion and you can still register right now on our homepage for the Thursday webinar! The conversation kicks off at 2pm.

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

04.23.2012 DorobekINSIDER: How GSA’s getting data anywhere, at anytime, the TSP’s Roth Option and Untangling Big Data

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ImageOn the program today for April 23rd, 2012:

  • We’re going to talk about what GSA is actually getting it right. Last week, I moderated a discussion about mobile technologies and how it is changing work. Ahead, we’ll hear from GSA CIO Casey Coleman.
  • A new TSP option. We’ll talk to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board about the new Roth option.
  • We’ll talk about how to untangle the open data debate.

We start off this week in a similar place where we left last week. There is very little good news out there for public servants.

  • Over the weekend, Senator Joe Lieberman (I – CT) called for broader hearings into both the GSA and Secret Service situations. There was even word that one of the Secret Service agents connected with the alleged Secret Service prostitution scandal was staying at the Colombian hotel where President Barack Obama lodged a few days later. Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the 12th Secret Service employee implicated in the events was staying at the Hilton in Cartagena, not the Hotel Caribe, the hotel that has garnered most of the public attention. The agent is now on leave.
  • But the story that is going to have broader implications is the now infamous GSA conference. The Washington Post this morning has a story headlined,GSA under the microscope. And Jonathan O’Connell says that Congress may restructure GSA’s Public Building Service as a result of the conference scandal. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA.), said they may consider trying to do away with GSA altogether. District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) hasn’t gone that far, but she said the GSA’s dual missions of signing real estate deals and managing contracts are largely unrelated and might require separating.

Chris Dorobek has posted on GovLoop asking for your insights… Again, some of this is over the top and actually reminds me of the whole Get It Right mess — Get It Right is the 2004 program that was created to fix some contracting problems. And years later, there is now a consensus that Get It Right got it wrong.

GSA has been around for more than 50 years. It was created as a result of the Hoover Commission. We’d love to hear your thoughts:

  1. Does GSA need to be fundamentally changed? If so, why? If not, why not?
  2. How should the Obama administration and Congress handle the GSA situation?
  3. If you did decide to fundamentally change the was general services were administered across government, how should that be done?

The SEVEN stories that you need to know:

  1. We’re going to talk about the Thrift Savings Plan’s Roth option later, but… It turns out that TSP’s Roth option might not make its May 7th start date. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has said it will not be ready for the start-up next month. The Washington Post says the delay is partly due to the time will take payroll offices to be able to separate the traditional and roth investment options and make the necessary TSP’s traditional tax treatment. And we’ll talk about that later on here on the DorobekINSIDER.
  2. Lawmakers are broadening the investigation into the Secret Service activities in Colombia involving prostitutes. Federal News Radio says the Senate Homeland Security Committee wants to determine whether the incident was an exception, or part of a pattern of misconduct. The House Homeland Security Committee sent Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan a list of 50 questions. Members wanted a comprehensive, minute-by-minute timeline of the event.
  3. A group of non-profits are looking into federal whistleblowing protection in the wake of the GSA conference spending scandal. The Washington Post says the group Cause of Action has asked the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a governmentwide audit to make sure agencies were complying with federal ethics and whistleblower laws. The GSA inspector general who investigated the agency’s lavish Las Vegas conference spending said the regional administrator at the heart of the scandal did not tolerate dissent from employees. IG Brian Miller said Jeff Neely intimidated those who raised questions about the spending.
  4. The House is set to debate on as many as four cybersecurity bills this week.The National Journal reports, the bills would encourage businesses and government to share threat information; increase cyber research, development, and education; and update federal network security practices. Today kicks off federal cybersecurity week.
  5. Another pay cut could be on the way…but this time the cut would only affect Congressman. Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder has introduced a bill to cut the pay rates of lawmakers by 5 percent. Government Executive says the bill would also prevent Congressman from getting cost of living adjustments.
  6. House Republicans are moving back towards the debt deal’s spending levels.The Hill Newspaper says Republican leaders who are “Boxed in by their Senate colleagues on one side and House conservatives on the other are inching closer to the spending levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act.
  7. And on GovLoop, Bob Gourley is talking about this new product TwitChimp. The idea is harness the power of Twitter to niche markets. We will actually be talking to Gourley later this week. But you should head over to our homepage now to check it out. And we’ll be talking to Gourley about TwitChimp later this week here on the DorobekINSIDER.

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

04.20.2012 DorobekINSIDER Issue of the Week: GSA watcher assess the impact of the conference scandal, and your weekend reading list

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Welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week with Chris Dorobek… where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

It wasn’t a great week for public servants. There were congressional hearings into the General Services Administration Public Building Service 2010 Western Region conference — and plenty of lawmakers heaping aghast horror… then there were the stories of the Secret Service agents who were accused partying with prostitutes just before a Presidential visit to Latin America… and then there were the gruesome photos out of Afghanistan of soldiers posing – seemingly gleefully — with the body parts of Afghan rebels. Not a week highlighting the best and the brightest.

ImageWe can’t solve the problems here, but we’ll try see how the best and the brightest can rebuild in order to do their jobs better. Our issue of the week looks at GSA… that conferences… what happens now… and what it means for contractors…Larry Allen has been following GSA for decades. He is the President of Allen Federal Business Partners. He said told Chris Dorobek this is a difficult situation because it really knocks GSA on its heels — again…


WEEKEND READS:

  • It is sometimes remarkable how quickly we forget painful situations — and I sometimes feel that way about the 2008 economic crash. Sometimes it feels like we are looking to move on — and time does move so quickly — that we haven’t taken a step back and looked at what caused the near cataclismic crash… what we learned… and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. This week, BusinessWeek magazine has a story about the Securities and Exchange Commission that essentially talks about how the SEC got its groove back. The story chronicles the recent series of enforcement actions by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and it argues that there is a new era at the agency. They are working hard, even though they are outmanned and outgunned.
  • The Pulitzer Prize awards were handed out this week, but Atlantic Media also handed out its Michael Kelly award for a writer who went above and beyond. The story they selected is from The New Yorker — it’s headlined the “The Invisible Army.” Reporter Sarah Stillman tells the story of ten Fijian beauticians who were recruited for lucrative jobs in a posh Dubai salon, only to end up in Iraq giving manicures and massages to U.S. soldiers. It tells of their mistreatment, and talk about the scandal of thousands of foreign workers on U.S. military bases reduced to something like indentured servitude. It is a remarkable story that I missed at the time and was pleased to read this week.
  • Finally, how do you get agencies to be innovative, whether it be some gov 2.0 application — or some different kind of procurement process? Craig Thomler writes this week about convincing risk advisers management to yes to social media initiatives — but I think it applies to more than just social media. My take: focus on doing the job better… and keep pressing.

The producers of GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER are Emily Jarvis and Stephen Peteritas.

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 20, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Posted in Events, GSA, Uncategorized

04.19.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Checking in on the DoD Networks with Rob Carey, Hacking with a purpose at NASA and HUD makes training more effective

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On today’s program for Thursday April 19th, 2012: 

  • The DoD networks — Deputy CIO Rob Carey walks us through the power, technology, acquisition and budgeting of the DoD network.
  • NASA is trying to harness the world’s hacking power for good. It’s part of its International Space Apps Challenge. You’ll get a preview of the weekend event from NASA’s Nick Skytland.
  • Government trainings can be BORING and not-informative. But the Department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to change that. You’ll learn about their new interactive learning sessions.

The SEVEN stories that you NEED to know:

  1. Three Secret Service employees implicated in a prostitution scandal during President Obama’s trip to Colombia last week are being forced out of the agency, officials said Wednesday night. The head of the Secret Service has told other government officials that the agency plans to fire one person in connection with the investigation into the reported misconduct, according to a person briefed on the matter. The New York Times says, the director, Mark Sullivan, has also told others that one other employee implicated in the incident, which has drawn intense scrutiny, plans to retire and another will resign. Among the people leaving the agency are two supervisors. Mr. Sullivan has also said that the employee being fired has threatened to sue. “These guys have the clearest cases,” said the person briefed on the matter. Eight other agency employees are still being investigated, the person said, and will probably face some type of discipline or termination.
  2. For the second time this week, top military brass are condemning military personnel. This time after photographs surfaced of smiling soldiers posing with dead insurgents in Afghanistan. The Washington Post says the 18 photographs were taken in 2010 in Zabul province by soldiers from the 82nd Airborne’s 4th Brigade Combat Team. Although the pictures were dated, the fresh disclosure of misbehavior extends a string of recent incidents in which U.S. troops have disrespected the dead, allegedly killed Afghan civilians and desecrated the Koran.
  3. The man at the center of the GSA spending scandal — Jeffrey Neely — got help planning and executing his lavish events from his wife. The GSA IG report says that Deborah Neely accompanied her husband on dozens of trips and conferences all on the tax payer’s dime. The Washington Post says the Neelys also took a 17-day government-related trip to Hawaii, Guam and the Mariana Islands.  Jeffrey Neely invoked his fifth amendment right to remain silent during yesterday’s hearing at the House.
  4. And in the wake of the GSA scandal Democratic Senators have introduced a new bill that calls for greater scrutiny of agency spending on conferences and tighter controls on awarding pay bonuses to agency employees. The Washington Post says, under the bill, conferences that would cost more than $200,000 would need approval by the agency head or other top-level official, and agencies would have to give annual reports on the conferences to Congress.
  5. In a rare show of bipartisan cooperation the House has passed a new bill that will allow retirement-eligible employees to work part time and roll their unused annual leave into their Thrift Savings Plans.Government Executive says the bill would amend the current law to allow federal employees to continue working part time while partially retired. Congressman Darrell Issa says the bill could save taxpayers approximately $465 million dollars within 10 years, since agencies would not have to replace all retirees with part-time employees.
  6. Federal Senior Executives are fighting back against a provision in the Stop Trading on Our Knowledge Act (STOCK). The provision requires all federal senior executives to disclose their financial information online. Government Executive says Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, and Bill Bransford, SEA general counsel, told the chairmen and ranking members of the House Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees about their complaints. But few on Capitol Hill have responded to the request for repeal.
  7. On GovLoop, we have locked down all our Keynote speakers for our upcoming Next Generation of Young Government Leaders Conference. But we are still looking for session ideas and guest speakers. Send us your thoughts, what should we include, what do you want more training on? The conference kicks off July 26th and 27th.

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 19, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

04.18.2012: DorobekINSIDER: Engaging GSA’s distracted employees, Answering the WHY career question and DOE’s STEM Mentoring Program

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On today’s program for Wednesday April 18th, 2012

The SEVEN government stories you need to know:

  1. 21 — that’s the number of prostitutes federal investigators say the Secret Service brought back to their hotel room in Colombia. The Washington Post says 11 Secret Service and nine military personnel are suspected of the misconduct that took place in advance of President Obama’s trip to the country for an international economic summit. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey told reporters, “We are embarrassed and we let the boss down, because nobody is talking about what went down in Colombia other than this incident.” All 11 secret service agents have had their top-secret security clearances revoked.
  2. The GSA scandal could be heading to a courtroom. The Washington Business Journal says California Congressman Jeff Denham sternly warned Public Buildings Service event planner Lisa Daniels that she should retain legal counsel to defend her role in putting together the Public Buildings Service event. Daniels was set to testifying before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management…but was dismissed shortly after the hearing started. Daniels is currently administrative leave.
  3. The Republican ruled House has deemed the budget passed. The Hill Newspaper says the GOP used the “deeming resolution” so that they could set guidelines for the spending bills for the next fiscal year. The House Rules Committee says that the deeming resolution “provides that the House-passed budget resolution shall have force and effect until the adoption of a conference report on the budget resolution. Meaning basically the deemed budget is the model until the real fiscal 2013 budget can be passed. This is the sixth time in the last decade that the House has deemed a budget.
  4. The mail carriers have their own plan for fixing the Postal Service. “The nation’s largest mail-carriers union wants the U.S. Postal Service to raise stamp prices and expand mail delivery. The Wall Street Journal says the Union sharply criticises the agency’s rescue plan and argues the Postal Service will become profitable only if it restructures itself like a business. The Postal Service’s proposal would close thousands of post offices and cut back on the number of days that mail is delivered.
  5. The Federal Reserve says there is a limit to its transparency. They’ve released heavily redacted transcripts that don’t include any mention of economic policy. The Wall Street Journal says the Fed isn’t required under law to release details of its policy deliberations, but decided in 1993 to begin releasing nearly full transcripts of Federal Open Market Committee meetings after a five-year lag. That was in response to pressure from Congress on the central bank to be more open about its deliberations. Few major central banks release transcripts of their policy meetings.
  6. The House has made substantial changes to its cybersecurity bill in hopes of quieting privacy advocates. The House Intelligence Committee made changes to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). The Wall Street Journal says the new draft uses a different definition for a ‘cyber threat’ that leaves out any reference to intellectual property infringement. Critics had warned that the bill’s definition was so broad that it could include people illegally downloading music and movies.
  7. Over on GovLoop we asking you…why do projects fail? We’ve got some enlightening answers. Like GovLoop member Chris Hamm who says the number one reason projects fail is a  lack of effective project control & inclusion which allows participants to ride along without commitment.

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 18, 2012 at 11:47 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

04.16.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Why Morale Matters, Proving Gov’ts Innovative Abilities and One Gov’t Worker taking Nevada by storm

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On today’s program for Monday April 16th 2012: 

  • With all that is happening out there — GSA, now the Secret Service… we’re going to talk about how the moral in your organization. How is it these days? Clearly team building exercises involving bikes are now out of the question. So what can you do to improve moral in your organization.
  • We talk about innovation a lot, and despite all the innovation that has come out of the government, it is still challenging to be innovative within government. But we’re going to talk to an expert in innovation.
  • Talk about doing more with less… we’re going to talk to somebody who is at the epicenter of doing more with less — she has one of those every day government jobs that we often take for granted – she holds public records in Las Vegas, Nevada. When she came to that post there was a backlog — a three year back log of data… We’ll talk to her about how she got it done.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life in YOUR GOVERNMENT COUNTDOWN:

  1. 11 secret services agents were put on administrative leave on Saturday in Colombia after they allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms. The Defense Department says and additional five military service members were suspended for breaking curfew and unspecified “inappropriate conduct.” The Washington Post says the agents were assigned to the area, before President Obama went to Colombia for a diplomatic mission. The President has expressed outrage if this allegations are true and has already launched an inquiry into the matter.
  2. The GSA’s inspector General is asking the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation on the man who is being largely blamed for the 2010 Western Regions Conference — Jeffrey Neely. The Washington Post reports, Neely a career senior executive, took various electronic items for his personal use from a GSA storeroom. The inspector general also wants prosecutors to be on the lookout for possible contracting violations.
  3. A new email scam is targeting military personnel and Vets. The Washington Post says the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), which manages accounting and financial operations in the Defense Department, has issued a warning about scam e-mails seeking personal information. The bogus messages appear to come from a DFAS employee with a dot mil address. The email says anyone who are receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs can get more money from the IRS. DFAS is looking into who is behind the bogus emails.
  4. New York’s top technology officer has resigned. The New York Times says Carole Post  resigned after clashing repeatedly with a deputy mayor over the management of several costly and troubled technology projects — like the cities updated 911 emergency call system.
  5. You might remember last year’s failed online privacy bill SOPA. Tech groups are gearing up in opposition to another bill — this one about cyber-security. The Hill Newspaper says House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers has proposed a bill which encourages private companies and the federal government to share information related to cybersecurity threats. Rogers says the bill is different that SOPA — but there is already growing opposition, including civil liberty groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and some tech groups.
  6. With the political season ramping up Congress is considering changes to the Hatch Act. Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings is pushing his Oversight and Government Reform Committee to consider the Hatch Act Modernization Act this week. Federal News Radio says the bill would give the government new options for dealing with feds who break the rules about political activity.
  7. And right here on GovLoop — did you finish your taxes? Yes — tax day. And GovLoop has the story about the IRS going mobile – the IRS updated its mobile Web site. You can’t quite pay your taxes from your smart phone yet, but… really, it’s only a matter of time, right?

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 16, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

04.05.2012 DorobekINSIDER: Can technology create Democracy? 10 Leadership Commandments from a Four Star Admiral

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It’s Day Three of FOSE week and the DorobekINSIDER is there brining you the inside scoop at the annual government IT conference and trade show. Chris has been tweeting up a storm and you can follow him @cdorobek.

FOSE has been producing some great panels like the Former Senator Senator from Maine George Mitchell’s panel on technology and peace negotiations was particularly fascinating.

Senator Mitchell says with the way the world is structured today the US cannot win wars with simple military superiority.

You need four additional actors: 

  1. More effective and cooperative police work
  2. Diplomacy
  3. Financial and economic interdiction
  4. Better Intelligence gathering and analysis

But Senator Mitchell warns that even if the Arab Spring can can start and maintain a revolution it is still a long road to democracy.

Revolutions are unpredictable. You have to remember that it took the United State’s seven years after the Revolutionary War ended to set up a democratic constitution.”

In order to create a new government you will need a powerful and proven leader. Admiral Eric Olson is one of the best. The Admiral is the former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and retired Four-star Navy SEAL who has over 38 years in government.

All of that experience has made Admiral Olson a proven and successful leader.

He told the crowd at FOSE about his list of 10 commandments to build a high powered team.

  1. Know the purpose
  2. Select the right people — or get to know the people thrust on you
  3. Train and educate your team from the start but don’t stop training
  4. Present your team with adversity and see how they handle it — Character under stress cannot be faked
  5. Organize for success
  6. Learn fearlessly
  7. Show trust in your team
  8. Hold them to a high standard
  9. Be their advocate and champion
  10. Live the life of a leader — Leaders are never off duty

Over on GovLoop we’re asking you, “What other commandments should be added to Admiral Olson’s list?

– Emily Jarvis

Written by jarvisdorobek

April 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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