AG Abbott Attempts To Lower GOP Expectations For 2008 - [UPDATED]

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Election 2008, Around The State at 2:37 pm by wcnews

Tip to Kuff, for this article in the Galveston Daily News, AG challenges GOP to pick up the slack. Keep pulling!!

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Thursday told Galveston Republicans that times were getting tougher in the state for the GOP — particularly in big cities like Houston and Dallas.


The 2008 election cycle could be tough for Texas Republicans for reasons other than dwindling numbers in the state’s biggest cities.

The state’s population is becoming increasingly Hispanic, a group that has traditionally voted Democratic. In addition, President Bush and the war in Iraq have become unpopular.

“We need to be prepared for a closer, tighter, tougher battle,” Abbott said of the coming election.

I agree with Kuff their problems have more to do with their incompetence, their inability to govern effectively, neglect of infrastructure, and their inability to do anything for the middle class down, than demographic shifts. Keep running on the fallacies of lower taxes, smaller government, and “social conservatism”. Please.

[UPDATE]: Somebody needs to tell Sen. Kim Brimer that denial and Craddicks Speaker reelection strategy is not a very good strategy. Via QR:

Those fires were stoked yesterday by a Lone Star Project sponsored Opinion Analyst poll suggesting that Brimer’s name ID was subterranean (49.7% had not heard of him), the kiss of death for a public official.

The release from the Lone Star Project was originally posted in yesterday’s Executive Summary and can be found here.The district is solidly Republican, especially with Hillary at the top of the ticket say Brimer team

According to their release, only 27.4% were ready to re-elect the incumbent with 25% approving of an as of yet un-named Democrat. The Lone Star Project also argues dismal Republican top of the ticket approval numbers (42.9% for Bush, 31.6% for Cornyn) likely means no coattails for Brimer.

Not so fast said Brimer’s consultants.

In a memo received this afternoon from the Eppstein Group, Brimer spokesman John Shults said, “based on 2006 election returns, State Senate District 10 is strongly a Republican District. US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison received 62%. The collective Republican Congressional vote vs Democrat opponents was 58%. The collective Republican vote for Republican state rep candidates vs Democrat state rep candidates was 55% and the average Republican Statewide candidate including Gov Perry’s 39% vs Democrat opponents was 55%.”

Denying reality and banking on people to turnout to vote against someone else in order to vote for you is a loser. Especially for a corrupt politician. Run on that and we’ll have at least one new Democratic Senator in Texas in 2009.

Join The Fun

Posted in Commissioners Court, Bad Government Republicans, Take Action, Williamson County at 1:49 pm by wcnews

There’s an interesting conversation going on in the comments of yesterday’s AusChron article on the County Commissioners and the Constable’s budgets. Of course one side has turned to name calling instead of focusing on the issues. Join in the fun.

TX-Sen: Noriega Already Picking Up Republican Support

Posted in US Senate Race, Election 2008, Congress, Commentary, Around The State at 9:19 am by wcnews

(Also Cornyn tries distancing himself from Al Gonzalez)

First the big story, Top Hispanic Republican backs Noriega for Senate.

One of the top Hispanic Republicans in the nation says he cannot support U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the next election because of the position Texas’ junior senator has taken on immigration reform.

Houston businessman Massey Villarreal told the Guardian he would instead back Democrat Rick Noriega, a state representative from Houston. Noriega is exploring a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

“I have decided to support Rick Noriega for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. I just don’t think John Cornyn hears my community,” Villarreal said.

That’s very good news. Here’s a couple more excerpts:

Asked to elaborate on the “mean-spiritedness” remark, Villarreal said he objected to the way Cornyn and other Republicans tossed the word ‘amnesty’ around.

“With the word amnesty, they paint the Latino community. It’s a nasty word. Every time I saw a picture of John Cornyn speaking with Lou Dobbs or any of those talking heads, they show a picture of Mexicans jumping over the fence,” Villarreal said.

“You know what? The only reason they have to jump the fence is because he (Cornyn) does not have the gall to have a program, or a process, or a legal system to have legal immigration.”

Villarreal said he had little time for politicians who were more concerned about their political base than the future of the country.


Villarreal said Noriega had great credentials to become a U.S. senator.

“He’s been elected five times to the Texas Legislature. Rick has a high ranking in the National Guard. He has actually served in Afghanistan. He’s still picking sand out of his bellybutton. He has the experience of being on the ground instead of a politician on this side who cannot even find Iraq on a map,” Villarreal said.

“He understands. He’s got a wife, he’s a public servant. He is very community (minded). He’s been more about the people than the party. He’s worked across the aisle. He has passed bills that have been family-oriented, business-oriented.”

Villarreal added that Noriega had made sure that Hispanic and minority-owned businesses “got a fair shake” at the Port of Houston, the City of Houston, and the state of Texas.

“He has leveled the playing fields for business. I can only support somebody who has got that kind of vision for a position like that,” Villarreal said.

Asked if he could see himself forming a ‘Republicans for Rick Noriega’ group, Villarreal replied: “Done. I’m doing it.” He said he had recruited a lot of people to the Noriega camp. “A lot of them, Republican Hispanic leaders, not just grassroots folks,” he said.


“He’s going to get all of South Texas. There are some mistakes to be learned from the Tony Sanchez campaign. That playbook has been read and scrutinized,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal supported Perry in the 2002 gubernatorial campaign against Sanchez, a Laredo banker.

“Tony never came to our community to ask the Hispanic leaders to do anything. He came as the patron, and said, I’m rich, you’re not. I’m going to be governor, you’re not,” Villarreal said.

“Rick is saying, look I’m one of you. He has come to me and said, Massey, tell me how I can earn your vote.”

This hopefully is a sign that the state is becoming less ideological right/Republican and that Texans will look more at the individual candidate and not just party ID. That could be real trouble for the Texas GOP, they’ve relied on straight ticket voting.

Next Sen. Cornyn tries to distance himself from Al Gonzalez, Cornyn questions Gonzales’ handling of attorneys probe, and does a pretty bad job of it.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Thursday criticized Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ response to congressional inquiries into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys.

“He’s a good person, but I look at his jobs he’s held, and I wonder what has prepared him for being the head of the Department of Justice and 110,000 employees in a highly partisan and difficult political environment,” Cornyn told the American-Statesman editorial board.


“The rest of it is really a matter of how (Gonzales) handled the inquiry, and I just think he has not handled that well,” Cornyn said.

Still, he did not say Gonzales should step down. He speculated that Bush and Gonzales have decided that the confirmation process for a successor could last until the end of Bush’s term, and he said he agrees with that assessment.

Let’s see if we can get this straight. Sen. Cornyn isn’t saying Gonzalez did anything wrong, he’s just saying he didn’t handle the “congressional inquires” well. Then he goes on to say that while Gonzalez is a good man NOW he can’t see what has prepared him for the job he currently holds. What could possibly have changed about his prior jobs between now and 2005? Last he doesn’t think Bush should fire the incompetent, unqualified AG because the confirmation process will drag on. Sen. Cornyn is in agreement with George Bush that Gonzalez should stay in office until 2009 because there would be a tough confirmation fight over his successor. Here’s what his Democratic rivals had to say.

Two Democrats who are exploring runs against Cornyn next year — San Antonio lawyer Michael Watts and state Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston — said Gonzales should resign. Noriega said Cornyn has sharpened his criticism of Gonzales because he’s got an eye on the 2008 election, and Watts said Cornyn “will never call for his resignation unless Karl Rove gives him permission.”

That’s right. Cornyn is getting a headline which is attempting to show he he’s split with Gonzalez when in actuality he’s done nothing of the sort. Sen. Cornyn, like our president, believes Gonzalez has done nothing wring, except not handling a congressional inquiry very well. Cornyn also says that even though he realizes now that Gonzalez isn’t qualified to be AG he should stay in the job for another 18 months because the confirmation of a new AG might drag on. That is just sad. Let’s hope Cornyn’s gone before Gonzalez.

Don’t forget to drop Rick Noriega a couple of bucks.


Constable Gary Griffin Says He’s Running in 2008

Posted in Election 2008, Williamson County at 10:45 pm by wcnews

Responding to today’s earlier post about whether or not Constable Griffin would be running again in 2008, he says he is. Below the fold is the an email he sent in response. It is printed with his permission. Thank you Constable Griffin for participating in the conversation at EOW.

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This Week’s Landfill Wrap-Up

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Take Action, Landfill, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 3:26 pm by wcnews

The Hutto Citizens Group (HCG) has weighed in with their latest newsletter [.PDF], regarding not only Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, but also the Hutto City Council Meeting that night. I appears that Judge Gattis has changed his tune a bit.

Following a suspense-filled meeting of commissioners court on Tuesday morning, in which commissioners decided to postpone any vote on the landfill contract until at least August 28, County Judge Dan Gattis told the Hutto City Council Tuesday night that he would have sought to “get out of the 2003 landfill contract” with Waste Management if WMI had not agreed to renegotiate that contract.

A major item of discussion in commissioners court in Georgetown on Tuesday morning and in Hutto on Tuesday night was the so-called “two-option limit” the county says it has regarding what to do with the 2003 landfill operation contract which has been repeatedly acknowledged
by county officials as a “terrible contract.”

According to both Gattis and Steve Ackley, the assistant county attorney who provided a sketchy synopsis of the revised contract draft in commissioners court, the county believes it only has two options regarding the bad 2003 contract: (1) leave it in place so it can continue, or (2) renegotiate it in order to get a better deal for the county.

Gattis’ statement to the Hutto City Council on Tuesday night was a major shift in that position.
Now Gattis is saying, in essense, that the county’s options were to renegotiate the contract if that is possible, but “get out” of the 2003 contract if that isn’t possible.

Essentially, Waste Management’s failure to agree to terms acceptable to the county is no different than refusing to renegotiate the contract at all, since both positions achieve the same result—no acceptable new contract.

This whole landfill issue and the disaster the county has turned it into comes down to two things the Judge and Commissioners have done wrong from the beginning: (1) the county has not negotiated effectively with WMI - allowed WMI to set the terms of the negotiation - and should have used their power to open up the bidding on the landfill to force WMI to agree to the most beneficial terms for the county, and (2) the commissioners and judge have ignored the citizens of the county, their constituents, and not involved them in the process.

Granted many of those on the court now were not around when the negotiations started, but they all promised to fix this Limmer lemon when they ran. I doubt any of them would have won if they’d have run on what they’re doing now. Everyone knows a project like this will turn out much better when those that live in that community are involved in the process of determining the course of action. Community buy-in is key to an issue like this and the county has done a poor job in that area. Jeff Maurice, the HCG Lanfill Committe Chairman, had this to say at the end of the newsletter that sums up pretty well what’s needed.

Maurice continued, “It should be abundantly clear that during these long and detailed discussions, we have sought to work with the county to cure the problems with the permit and the contract, and to end up with a project that is as beneficial as possible to county residents and the landfill neighbors. Unfortunately, the proposed permit and contract fall
far short of that goal, and we have worked long and hard to cure those situations, but we never have said that the entire landfill project should be shut down, and we want the judge, the commissioners, the public and the media to take notice of that fact.”

Duly noted. They don’t want the landfill stopped, but if they have to live next to a dump they deserve to have some input into how it will be administered. That’s not too much to ask and why these citizens are so upset. Williamson County residents understand that very well too, and ignoring their input is wrong and looks bad. This isn’t going away and the longer this goes on the worse the commissioners and judge look.

The Nation Does NAFTA Superhighway, TTC

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 1:25 pm by wcnews


Here’s the article, The NAFTA Superhighway. Of course go read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt from the part about the TTC:

Add up all the above ingredients-NASCO, SPP, Lázaro Cárdenas, the Kansas City SmartPort, the planned pilot program allowing Mexican truckers to drive on US roads-and you still don’t have a superhighway four football fields wide connecting the entire continent. Which is why understanding the persistence of the NAFTA highway legend requires spending some time in Texas, where Governor Rick Perry and his longtime consigliere, Texas Department of Transportation commissioner Ric Williamson, are proposing the $185 billion Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), 4,000 miles of highway, rail and freight corridors, the first of which would run up from the border through the heavily populated eastern part of the state. Plans for the TTC call for it to be up to four football fields wide at points, paving over as much as half a million acres of Texas countryside. The first section will be built and operated by a foreign enterprise, and when completed it would likely be the largest privatized toll road in the country.

And unlike the NAFTA highway, the Trans-Texas Corridor is very, very real.

In 2003, amid a dramatic drawn-out battle over a legally questionable GOP redistricting plan, the Texas state legislature passed House Bill 3588. At 311 pages, it’s unlikely that many of those who voted for the bill had actually read it (and many have come to regret their vote), but it received not a single opposing vote. The bill granted the Texas Transportation Commission wide latitude to pursue a long-term plan to build a series of corridors throughout the state that would carry passenger and commercial traffic and contain extra right-of-way for rail, pipelines and electric wires.

What first triggered opposition was that under the plan, the new TTC roads would have tolls, something relatively novel in Texas. The state’s Department of Transportation-known as TxDot-pointed out that the state’s gasoline tax, which pays for road construction and maintenance, hadn’t been raised since 1991, while population and commercial traffic were growing at a dizzying pace. Tolls, the governor and his allies argued, were the only solution. (Many TTC opponents propose raising the gasoline tax and indexing it to inflation.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Judge, Commissioners Still Going After Constables, Griffin

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Commissioners Court, Take Action, Election 2008, The Budget, 2008 Primary, Williamson County at 12:04 pm by wcnews

It’s A long story, goes all the way back to the Blogspot version of EOW, Why does Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley want to abolish the constable’ office? Mr. Griffin, not wanting to “play ball” with the commissioners, but mainly Lisa Birkman, back then decided to accept the inevitable defunding of his office.

Today the AusChron has an article, Constables: The Rodney Dangerfields of Police Work, about how sparse the funding for all commissioners was in the current budget process until they decided to speak up. They’ve since remedied the situation a bit, except for Precinct 1, Gary Griffin’s precinct.

At first blush, it seemed that all Williamson Co. constables would end up as empty-handed casualties in the annual county budget war. But as the meat-grinding process has played out over the past two weeks, only one constable, Precinct 1’s Gary Griffin — long a political thorn in the side of the Commissioners Court — was left with the emptiest pockets. The commissioners’ tightfisted fiscal strike against Griffin likely stems from his ongoing legal battle against the court for cutting his budget by 70% in mid-2005. The lawsuit is pending in Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals.

I guess that’s what the people of precinct 1 deserve for electing Griffin as their Constable. It continues:

For a while it looked as though all the constables would end up in the same boat as Griffin. County Judge Dan Gattis’ initial recommendations, discussed at a July 24 budget hearing, would have denied the constables any increases in personnel or operational funds.

The constables each told the court they desperately needed increases in resources because a “tsunami” in their workload, as Precinct 3 Constable Bobby Gutierrez put it, will hit once a monetary cap on lawsuits handled by justice courts doubles from $5,000 to $10,000, effective next month.

As in previous budget battles, each of the four constables again appeared before the court to define and defend their elected positions. “I’m proud to be a constable. If not for us … victims would go without justice,” Precinct 2 Constable Dale Vannoy told the court. (Commissioners might also wish to consult the Texas Constitution, the Texas Statutes Code of Criminal Procedure, and their own website, www.wilco.org/constables, for further understanding of the office.)

In justifying his proposed cuts in surveillance equipment, Gattis seemed to question the legal powers given constables, when sheriff’s deputies are equipped to handle law-enforcement matters. “The court needs to decide — do you want to equip the constables to do traffic?” But then he added, “I haven’t any argument you are a full-fledged police officer.”

Constable Gutierrez testified next, saying: “It’s unreasonable to assume Sheriff James Wilson can handle everything in the entire county. … If we can catch it, we need to be able to clean it.” Commissioner Lisa Birkman responded, “I’ve never, ever seen a constable write a ticket in my neighborhood.” But Griffin quickly corrected that assumption. “We do write tickets in Precinct 1,” he told Birkman. “In fact, I think your husband was stopped, Lisa, as was Judge [John] Doerfler, by a deputy constable.” Birkman brushed off his response, noting that the traffic stop was “only a warning.”

Griffin continued, “I don’t come to your office and talk about the landfill … or the dog pound,” he said of the county’s current trouble spots. “I don’t tell the judge how to judge. You’ve gotta give us some trust. The voters did,” Griffin said. “Why are constables perceived as second-class?”

Nice shot Constable. From what Judge Gattis says and by the actions of the previous court there’s little understanding of what constables do and that Constables are elected by the people and are a mandated by the Texas Constitution. From what I understand in Harris County the Constables Office is the main “law enforcement” agency, the Sheriff’s department only runs the jail.

For all we know this could just be some internal WCGOP political or personality struggle that’s being played in our county government. Ignorance, incompetence and pettiness is no way to run a government. If the current Bush administration has taught us anything it’s that. It’s not clear yet if Constable Griffin will run again, or if he’ll have a primary challenger. That should not dissuade anyone from joining this race on the Democratic side.

Republican Pro-Corporate Toll Congressman Says, “We’re Headed For A Meltdown”

Posted in Privatization, Road Issues, Around The Nation, Around The State at 10:40 am by wcnews

EOW has been posting about the neglect of our transportation infrastructure over the last 30 years for a some time. It’s always amusing when Republicans notice the destruction they’ve caused and try to hide the way they want to fix it. In this article, Trouble down the road for highway funding, we’re told this by U.S. Rep. John Mica of Florida:

“We’re headed for a meltdown,” said U.S. Rep. John Mica of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “It’s going to be much more than a bridge that collapses.”


“Sometimes, it takes a crisis to get Congress to do something,” he told an audience of about 600. “If we do nothing, I can tell you, from sea to shining sea we’ll have nothing but a big parking lot.”

Mica said he’s ready to act, announcing his goal to come up with a plan. He marveled at how recent presidents, including George W. Bush, and lawmakers have failed to do that, though a congressional commission is now working on it.

“Shame on Congress and past administrations,” said Mica, who’s served in the House since 1992.

Yes, shame!! What does the good Congressman propose?

Though he has no details, Mica said the plan should define what’s needed, what oversight the federal government should have and how people should pay.

He’s got a plan he just doesn’t want to talk about it in Texas right now, more than likely. Here’s a excerpt form a press release from him from May:

“Over the past two years the issue of public-private partnerships has been a hotly debated topic in transportation circles,” Mica said. “My home state of Florida has been on the cutting edge of using innovative financing techniques to fund transportation projects. We had originally hoped to have the new Florida Secretary of Transportation, Stephanie Kopelousos, testify at this hearing but she was unable to come to Washington today due to previous commitments.

“I believe that public-private partnerships, and specifically private sector financing, will play a key role in solving our impending transportation funding crisis. But I do not believe that public-private partnerships should be the only solution that we pursue. Central Florida uses a host of innovative financing techniques, including toll roads; however I believe that the interstate system should be largely free of tolls.

“To finance improvements, states are being forced to fill a void created by a lack of federal transportation policy. The Federal Government doesn’t know what our infrastructure system should look like in the future because we do not have a national strategic transportation plan.

“With that in mind, I am concerned about a letter that Chairman Oberstar and Chairman DeFazio sent to all the Governors, state DOTs, and state legislators on May 10th. They wrote to ‘strongly discourage’ states from entering into public-private partnership agreements that are not in the long-term interest of our national transportation plan.

Using pro-corporate toll phrases like “cutting edge” and “innovative financing techniques” that could have very well been Perry, Williamson or Krusee talking.

Mr. Mica shames himself, Congress and past administrations for defunding our transportation infrastructure and in order to fix it he wants to sell or lease our infrastructure to corporations that will charge exorbitant toll rates, that would be much, much more expensive than raising and indexing the gas tax. He’s got a plan, he just didn’t want to talk about it yesterday.


Sen. Hutchison Scuttles SH 121 Scuttling

Posted in US Senate Race, Progressive Radio, Road Issues, Commentary, Around The State at 11:49 pm by wcnews

DMN has the story, No penalty for state over 121 bidding.

The Federal Highway Administration responded by sending Texas officials a series of letters saying the late bid could violate the federal bidding rules and that the state could lose more than $200 million in federal funds if the contract was awarded to NTTA.

Yesterday, in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, FHWA spokesman Ian Grossman said the government had made no decision on whether to seek the return of the federal funds. He said officials were considering all options, including what has been seen as the most draconian possibility, the demand that Texas send a check back to Washington for the full amount of federal funds that had previously been spent on State Hwy. 121.

Today, Sen. Hutchison said Secretary Peters has expressly promised that the federal government will not penalize Texas in any way as a result of NTTA’s.

Regional Transportation Council chairman Oscar Trevino, who is also mayor of North Richland Hills, said he remains convinced NTTA will seal its deal with TxDOT and the RTC to build the road by its Aug. 27 deadline. The specter of lost highway funds, he said, had always appeared to him to be simply a bargaining chip used by state transportation officials who had favored Cintra’s bid.

It looks like KBH may be taking sides against “state transportation officials” in Texas. This could all be wrapped up in 2010 Texas GOP gubernatorial politics. If KBH decides to run for governor it will be interesting on the GOP side no doubt. Where transportation whether Perry runs or not. What would KBH running for governor mean for Perry and Dewhurst, who announces first, etc.. Not to mention the clout Rick Noriega will have being the Senior Senator from Texas once KBH steps down to run for governor.

Feds Could Cause Trouble With NTTA, SH 121 Toll Deal

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Privatization, Road Issues, Around The State at 10:54 am by wcnews

It’s a done deal except for one small thing. All that stands between the NTTA and sending it’s deal on SH 121 to closing is the Federal Highway Administration, NTTA’s 121 toll road win hits snag with federal funding.

State transportation officials are still awaiting word from Washington on whether letting the North Texas Tollway Authority build the State Highway 121 toll road will result in forfeiture of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds.

With an Aug. 27 deadline looming to sign the Highway 121 contract, the Federal Highway Administration’s seeming displeasure casts another shadow over the already-contentious process to get the toll road built and running.

The FHA’s problem centers on the Highway 121 bidding process. The Spanish company Cintra won preliminary approval to build and operate the road. But the Legislature pressured the Texas Department of Transportation to reopen the bidding.

NTTA stepped in and took the contract away from Cintra by convincing the Regional Transportation Council that its bid was better for North Texas.

As a result, the federal government told Texas it could be asked to return federal funds spent on already-completed portions of the road.

Really? This shouldn’t surprise anyone. What interest do the Feds have in this? That’s right, this administration will side with the corporation every time.

Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairs the state Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee and has been a strong proponent of awarding the deal to NTTA. He said Tuesday that he remains optimistic the deal will be signed with NTTA but that he is concerned over the slow response by the federal government.

“The only hoop left to clear, the only unresolved issue in this deal is the federal funds question,” Mr. Carona said. “No transportation deal is a done deal until Washington signs off on it, and so I am concerned about this. But if Washington does insert itself here, and goes against the local recommendation to go with NTTA, then all hell’s going to break loose.”

He said he expects to discuss the matter today with U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.


Mr. Carona said he remains optimistic that the deal will go to NTTA. But he said the U.S. transportation secretary’s support for private investment like that promised by Cintra is well-known.

“Mary Peters is probably the nation’s strongest advocate for public-private partnerships and private investment in transportation,” Mr. Carona said. “That said, I believe DOT will listen to what our local concerns are.”

You better not believe that Senator. They will do what they want when they want. This deal is still very shaky, obviously, and can still go either way. It would be a blow if Cintra winds up with this deal, there’s no doubt. But Sen. Carona, our state elected officials, and the local elected officials can’t have any trust or “belief” that the Feds will do what they want. Those who want NTTA to build this road better watch these pro-corporate tolling Feds like hawks because if this deal dies, then Cintra winds up building the toll road after all. And that’s just what the Feds, Perry and Williamson want. As Yogi said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

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