Time for #GreekLivesMatter

If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

The Troika’s willingness to turn Greece into a failed state first, as a side effect of its “rescue the French and German banks” operation, and now, as part of its German hegemony protection racket, is killing people and in the longer term will only accelerate the rise of extreme right wing elements in the Eurozone. As Ilagi wrote last week:

In what universe is it a good thing to have over half of the young people in entire countries without work, without prospects, without a future? And then when they stand up and complain, threaten them with worse? How can that possibly be the best we can do? And how much worse would you like to make it? If a flood of suicides and miscarriages, plummeting birth rates and doctors turning tricks is not bad enough yet, what would be?

If you live in Germany or Finland, and it were indeed true that maintaining your present lifestyle depends on squeezing the population of Greece into utter misery, what would your response be? F##k ‘em? You know what, even if that were so, your nations have entered into a union with Greece (and Spain, and Portugal et al), and that means you can’t only reap the riches on your side and leave them with the bitter fruit. That would make that union pointless, even toxic. You understand that, right?

Greece is still an utterly corrupt country. Brussels knows this, but it has kept supporting a government that supports the corrupt elite, tried to steer the Greeks away from voting SYRIZA. Why? How much does Brussels like corrupt elites, exactly? The EU, and its richer member nations, want Greece to cut even more, given the suicides, miscarriages, plummeting birth rates and doctors turning tricks. How blind is that? Again, how much worse does it have to get?

Does the EU have any moral values at all? And if not, why are you, if you live in the EU, part of it? Because you don’t have any, either? And if you do, where’s your voice? There are people suffering and dying who are part of a union that you are part of. That makes you an accomplice. You can’t hide from that just because your media choose to ignore your reality from you.

It is time to take action, both here and in Europe. I hope you’ll send this post, and our related posts on the the ECB and Greece (see here for the overview and here on why the Fed is complicit) to people who would be sympathetic to the plight of Greeks, as well as to members of the Greek community themselves. Even if our suggestion is not a fit, it will hopefully spur them to come up with social media and public events to raise the visibility of the damage being done to Greece and other periphery countries in the name of misguided, destructive austerity policies.

Readers in the US know that the #BlackLivesMatter campaign has succeeded in bringing people of all races together to protest police brutality against African Americans. The protest shown below was held at the American Embassy in London.

UK - Candle Light Vigil for Michael Brown at US Embassy in London

This effort has sufficiently rattled the New York Police Department, one of the targeted abusers, to start targeting peaceful protestors with an “anti terrorist” unit, leading public interest groups to lodge yet more objections.

One of its most successful means of raising public awareness has been to stage “die ins”:


Grand Central has been the site of many #BlackLivesMatter protests.

The idea would be to bring the protests to central banks themselves, to the ECB in Frankfurt, to the Eurozone central banks, and to the Board of Governors and the New York Fed. Central bankers have managed to hide from public scrutiny and accountability. It is time to put them on notice that the public realizes that their bank-supporting policies are not just destroying economies and futures of young people, but causing deaths. The British Medical Journal attributed a 35% rise in the level of suicides in Greece to austerity. And that’s before you get to the harder-to-calculate impact of the damage austerity has done to the medical system, with many prescription medications beyond the budgets of hospitals. Extracts from a report at OpenDemocracy:

I joined healthcare workers and the Greece Solidarity Campaign to visit hospitals, clinics and food markets. I spoke to healthcare staff, volunteers, politicians and local government officials.

What I witnessed appalled me – and brought tears to my eyes.

In Greece’s biggest hospital, the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, conditions were worse than those I have seen in developing countries.

The moment the hospital doors open on ‘emergency’ days, people flood in. The collapse in official primary and community health care services means everyone who needs healthcare comes to A+E – whether for a major accident, medication for a long term condition or to get their child immunized. Staff told me that serious trauma cases often have to wait hours for X-rays and treatment due to understaffing and that, if too many cases come in at the same time, people die before they can be treated…

Social solidarity health clinics have been set up all around Greece staffed by volunteers who try to provide basic care for those with no access to healthcare. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists volunteer in these clinics, but not nearly enough to meet the needs.

I visited the Social Solidarity Clinic in Peristeri, a district of Athens with a population of about 400,000 people. The volunteer staff, doctors and nurses who worked there told me that most local state run health clinics had been shut. The government had closed all the polyclinics then reopened some recently but with only 30% of the doctors that they need. Whereas previously there had been 150 doctors providing services to the district, there were now only 50. A polyclinic for a population of 400,000 people had no gynaecologists, no dermatologists, and only two cardiologists.

“We want our doctors back” – said one of the volunteers I spoke to. Thousands of doctors have left the country. Those that remain – including senior hospital doctors – earn about €12,000 a year….

Clinic volunteers said that people with long term conditions like diabetes or with cancer had particular problems getting the treatment they needed. Uninsured cancer patients can’t afford chemotherapy. The solidarity organisations appeal to people on chemotherapy to donate one day’s worth of medication for patients who can’t afford to the drugs themselves.

The Greek government passed a law in January allowing so that if people get into debt their property can be confiscated. Some people decline further treatment rather than accrue debt from healthcare costs that might lead to their family losing their home.

Greek mothers are now charged €600 to have a baby and €1200 for a Caesarian or complications. It’s twice that for foreign nationals living in Greece. The mother has to pay the fee on leaving the hospital. When the charges were first introduced, if the mother couldn’t pay, the hospital kept the baby until the payment was made. International condemnation led to that practice being discontinued and now the money is reclaimed through extra tax – but if the family can’t afford that then their home or property can be confiscated. And if she still can’t pay she can be imprisoned. An increasing number of newborn babies are abandoned in the hospital. One obstetrician I spoke to called it the “criminalization of childbirth.”

Contraception is unaffordable for many – health insurance does not even cover it. There are many more abortions – 300,000 a year –and for the first time the death rate in Greece is outstripping the birth rate. People can’t afford to have babies. It’s hard enough to feed and care for existing children.

Please circulate this post widely and tweet it, using #GreekLivesMatter. If you live in a city where a central bank is located, get this idea in front of organizers. They can no doubt adapt and improve upon it. And above all, send it to all the Greeks you know, even those in Greece who might send it on to friends and family in the diaspora.

If you are in the US, please contact your Congressman and express your dismay that the Fed is tacitly supporting the ECB in its reckless and destructive Eurozone policies and has the stature and the leverage to weigh in. Remember, many Republicans are as unhappy with the lack of transparency and undue concentration of power at the Fed. Even a small step supporting this effort is a step in the right direction.

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  1. Clive

    Have just pinged my MP a note saying I am expecting the UK government to support the kinds of initiatives mentioned above and to have the BoE put pressure on the ECB to do likewise. For UK readers, you can do the same here.

    1. Clive

      For those too time-stressed to come up with their own text, by all means cut and paste my wording from here:

      Subject: #GreekLivesMatter

      Dear Sir George

      No doubt you have been monitoring the unfolding situation in Greece and the recent actions by the European Central Bank (ECB). These have been documented widely in the UK press and a very good summary of the implications can be found here too.
      I would be most grateful if you could utilise any influence you have with both the UK government, the Bank of England and — through these agencies — the ECB to request an immediate change of strategy (if indeed it is a strategy which is at work here).

      It is in the UK’s self-interest to avoid further worsening an already bad outcome which has been inflicted on Greece.

      Yours sincerely,


  2. Fool

    I’m not a hashtag activist, and those who are are probably too busy getting over deflated footballs to have the slightest grasp of this situation.

    One of the most effective form of non-violent activism is shame; racism and sexism, for example, though still effectively in practice, are nonetheless publically shameful when exhibited explicitly (which gives activists of such causes much leverage when acting in public forums, i.e. social media). With that said, the most effective way to take a German down a notch is remind her of her shameful past. Tell a German she’s carrying out a policy of technocratic fascism and watch her stoic façade break down.

      1. Fool

        Now we’re talking…

        Germans by nature like to keep their hands clean so intuitively their weakness is having shit thrown at them. See also:
        -financial holocaust (austerity)
        -debt Nazis (Christian Democrats)
        -the debt gestapo (the IMF)

        Please share yours!

    1. Lambert Strether

      Er, #BlackLivesMatter was not invented by the deflated footballs crowd, nor were they (nor Yves, here) “hashtag activists.” In fact, BlackLivesMatter served as an effective rallying cry for activities on the ground, which is what Yves is suggesting here.

      Whether insulting the ordinary German is the best way to persuade them (assuming that to be your goal) I will leave for the readership to decide. Thanks for sharing your concern.

  3. dutch

    There is no moral dimension to neoliberal economics. Nor for that matter to any financial or other business activity. Haven’t the actions over the past decades of the CEOs of every major corporation demonstrated this fact conclusively? Destroying lives in the pursuit of profit is not only accepted it is expected behavior for really serious men (read: corporate managers). There is no place in the process of economic policy-making for moral judgements to be taken account of. For that matter there is no place for morality in any public policy-making arena. Narrow self-interest is the only metric against which large-scale decision making is measured. There is no accounting for morals.

    This being the case #GreekLivesDon’tMatter, #BlackLivesDon’tMatter, #Nobody’sLifeMatters.

    1. Jef

      dutch – You are so right!

      If people didn’t die without it their money would be worthless. Austerity is imposed to enforce the no money = you die paradigm. The only people worthy of being given free money, and in OBCENE amounts, are those who already have money.

      We accept this because we have been convinced that that is the way of nature, Darwinian even. There is nothing Darwinian or humanly natural about it. I for one am sick and tired of seeing half the population hurting, starving, and dying in order to give value to the money/lives of 10% of the population.

  4. Makaveli

    “what would your response be? F##k ‘em?”

    No, no, no!

    I’m from Finland and Stubb in FT was only election trick. Even he is ready to make some changes in Greeks loan program. Finns didnt want to give loans, because we knew, that it went straight for the banksters and Greece didnt have a change to pay it back, so we got these laughable assurances. Now we have elections coming, so Stubb and few other d¤%khead play tough guy. Finnish economy is going down the drain, because of Germany. Why wont we all just blame Germany from all of this, because its really their fault.

    You can find it out from these charts.

    They are using beggar thy neighbors policies and blaming everybody else. Dont go for it.

    Heiner Flassbeck

    “European Commission in Brussels. And the boss of that commission, Jean Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg former prime minister, is a very pragmatic person. And he’s not radical at all. And he’s not neoliberal in the proper sense of the word. So there is a chance to form something that can oppose Germany. But at the end what you have to do–and I think I said it in our interviews many times–what you have to do is you have to oppose the German mercantilist approach. That is what it’s all about. You have to oppose it, and then you need bold politicians in Europe to do exactly that, to say, no, mercantilism is old and dead and it’s the worst ideology of the world, and we have to stop it right now…
    …They need debtors. They need debtors. Germany needs debtors more than anybody in the world, because the whole economy is built on this surplus, on this idea that the rest of the world would be debtors and Germany’s always a creditor, which is a foolish idea, and we know it for a long time. Mr. Keynes was the first to raise it after the Second World War, that it’s a foolish idea. Every reasonable economist knows it’s a foolish idea. It’s mercantilism. That is what what I call mercantilism. It’s the old idea, if you pile up gold or something like that, precious metals, then you are a powerful nation, which is absolutely ridiculous now at times. So what they’re piling up is debt of other countries. And it’s absolutely clear that this debt can never be repaid. But they’re piling it up, piling up you like hell.”


    This kind emotional stuff is great, more pathos and maybe Syriza can make it. We need to turn people on their side and feel sympathy for them. Thanks from the article.

    Finns are not the bad guy in this. We have loaned 7 billion for Greece and our budget is only about 55 billion, so do the math. Finnish banks didnt have anything to loose in Greece. Why on earth are you guys making us coldhearted bitches.

    Watch this balance of trade chart and see how big surplus Germany have. Its all because of weaker eurozone countries.

    1. Carlos Fandango

      It’s no secret why Germany and Japan are industrial mercantilist states. They lost WW2 because the Allies had a more powerful and developed industrial base at the get go. They were thinking not to get caught out again when the next rumble comes around. They were also pretty much excluded from the financial cosh and carry games the UK and US (via the IMF and world bank) were playing with the developing world’s resources. A trade surplus comes in handy when the financial pirates come a knocking with calculators in hand. China was likewise excluded from all the financial system fun and shenanigans so prudently adopted a mercantilist position.

      If the US stopped sailing it’s nuclear gunboats around the world to blast any poor sucker who won’t bend over and take a proper shafting from McDonald and the gang, maybe they wouldn’t be so damned mercantilist.

      1. Makaveli

        Yeah, well that might be the reason. Germans must have some traumas from 1920s also, when they run out of gold and now they are trying to hoard all what they can.

        I would still like EU to be more like US, running huge deficits and just buying stuff. Wealth of Nations comes from things what you get, not from making those for others. Of course its a bit different in a war situation. I understand Japans position, because they have been in deflation so long, but Germany should really consider others also. Huge surplus aint working without distribution mechanism. Keynes tried to solve this problem couple decades ago.

        That was real good point of view anyway. I didnt watch this from war perspective.

      1. Carlos Fandango

        I suppose Germany has more than one reason for misrepresenting the situation the way it does. I guess I’m just trying to say folks (in general, not you) should not be beating up on mercantilist states without understanding why they got to be in that position in the first place…… Sometimes because of colonial powers (like the USA) hogging all the good resources.

    2. Carla

      Thanks so much for the link to the Heiner Flassbeck video. It really helped me to understand this whole mess better!

    3. /L

      US huge CB/trade deficit is much of the worlds export led growth surplus. USA prints money so Germany and others can have a surplus. Keep the world growth and trade afloat. A ridiculous system. And it’s not Germany that is on top of things, it’s US.
      Germans supply the world with, Mercedes, BMW and a array of very qualified industrial products, in exchange for what? Piles of “paper money”/debt ultimately created out of thin air. Go wonder, the country is run by red neck Ossie

  5. Synoia

    Every time there has been a unified Germany, it has dominated Europe.

    Every time Germany has dominated Europe there has been an European War, or worse, and Germany then is fragmented.

  6. Linda / Chicago

    Perhaps getting a group like MSF to run medical missions in Greece would be a way of shaming the Germans… But how can we get people to protest the horrific blockade on Gaza?

  7. Praedor

    This nonsense IS neoliberal economics, the “Washington Consensus” or the “Chicago School of Economics” in action. This is a feature, not a bug, of neoliberal economics. TPTB LIKE to see high mortality rates among the little people, as well as the attendant firesale on property and resources that the mortality or impovershment allows.

    The EU is a failure. It was designed by banks, for banks, and is actually doing precisely the opposite of what it was supposed to do: bring Europe together so there would be no more wars (among the EU members…but it drums up conflict OUTSIDE EU borders just fine). This literal rape of Greece (and Spain and Portugal) IS guaranteeing revolution and war. At this point I HOPE for violent revolt by Greece against the banksters of Europe. Syriza is a bandaid with no real intention to save Greece so that ultimately leaves only one ultimate “winner” that WILL serve the Greek people…and it ain’t pretty but EU: you reap what you sow.

    1. grayslady

      I agree. Greece has nothing that the EU wants, save some olive oil–and even there it competes with Spain. However, Greece has two natural attributes that are not valuable to a unified currency regime, but are valuable to individual nations: location, and warm, deep water ports. IMO, Greece should take a cue from Victoria Nuland and say “F**k the EU”. A long-term lease of port space to Russia, for example, would bring in cash and the economic activity associated with military bases. I know it sounds brutal, but so is having your people die of disease because there’s no money for health care and not enough doctors.

      1. hunkerdown

        I don’t think they can. NATO is a suicide pact that obliges an occupation if a member nation fails to maintain its sham (“managed”) democracy and capital privilege, and Greece is a member…

        1. grayslady

          I know nothing about NATO rules, but perhaps it’s time for Greece to reevaluate the “benefits” of being a NATO member with the risks of not being a NATO member. I just think Greece needs to start thinking outside of the box instead of being influenced by what all the “cool kids” in Europe are doing. It must be painfully obvious by now that Europe, generally, couldn’t care less about Greece.

        2. Ned Ludd

          This was discussed in 2012, as reported by The Economist, with no mention of NATO rules preventing such a deal:

          Where tourists and politicians lead, money may follow. Greece’s cash-strapped government is rushing to privatise various public utilities, including DEPA, the state gas group. Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed giant, has expressed an interest in adding DEPA to its growing portfolio of international interests. DEPA already buys much of its gas from Gazprom, and one of its subsidiaries has signed up to join South Stream, a Russian project to pipe gas to central Europe via the Black Sea. There is also talk about stationing Russian naval vessels in Piraeus, Athens’s main port.

  8. John Mc

    Quick question — Could someone help me understand Max Keiser and his schtick. I came across his most recent webcast on Greece —- honing in on the issue that the corporatists are not talking about Greece’s insolvency problem and that Varofakis left the barn door open talking about it so openly. Kaiser’s point is that this gives Greece more leverage (assuming, Varofakis understands this too).

    This Keiser fella seems a bit loud and his vendors are promoting commodity trades…. Help?

    1. Praedor

      Keiser is entertaining and I enjoy listening/watching him now and again but he is, as you say, loud. I tend to take him as seriously as goldbugs/those seeking to go back to the gold standard…in other words, mostly hot air.

  9. Rosario

    “…will only accelerate the rise of extreme right wing elements in the Eurozone.” [Implying a (more) rigid commitment to ideology]

    Oh the irony, and why did they want a union after WWII again? I think, instead, what they needed was a lesson in ideological flexibility. It mutilated Europe in the 20th century and it looks like ideology will be the cause yet again.

  10. norm de plume

    Brilliant move.

    I just joined Twitter to pass it on to all sorts here.

    Jesus, next I’ll be on Facebook.

  11. MichaelC

    NYC Event tomorrow

    After the Greek Elections:
    The Future of Austerity in Greece, Europe & Beyond

    FRIDAY, FEB. 6, 7:30 PM

    NYU Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life
    Lecture Hall 95
    238 Thompson St (off Washington Square South), Manhattan


    NANTINA VGONTZAS is a Greek-American sociology PhD student at NYU focusing on political economy and social movements. She is a member of the UAW Graduate Student Organizing Committee and involved in the nationwide Academic Workers for a Democratic Union reform movement.

    NATASSA ROMANOU is a Research Professor at Columbia University in Climate Studies, a member of SYRIZA and the ecosocialist group System Change Not Climate Change. She is a founding member, SYRIZA-NY and AKNY. Romanou was in Greece for the elections.

    IANNIS DELATOLAS is an art photographer, a founding member of AKNY, and a supporter of Antarsya-MARS and of the International Socialist Tendency. He has been involved in the antifascist solidarity movement with Greece and in struggles for LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, anti-war, and other social justice causes.

    AARON AMARAL is a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and a founding member of AKNY. The ISO sister organization in Greece, Internationalist Workers Left (DEA) participated in the formation of the SYRIZA coalition and is part of the Left Platform within SYRIZA.

    ALAN AKRIVOS is a founding member SYRIZA-NY, a member of Socialist Alternative/(CWI), and among the founders of AKNY. He has been active in the struggle to stop the neo-fascist Golden Dawn in NYC, and speaks frequently across the U.S. on issues of international politics, labor, and socialism.

    Co-Directors, Campaign for Peace and Democracy

    We hope to have the event livestreamed. Check http://www.ustream.tv/stopmotionsolo at the actual time of the meeting.

    NYU Radical Film and Lecture Series (RFLS)
    Campaign for Peace and Democracy, http://www.cpdweb.org cpd@igc.org

    CO-SPONSORS: AKNY-Greece Solidarity Movement, Syriza-NY, Antarsya-US, Jacobin, New Politics, Against the Current, Logos, International Socialist Organization (ISO)-NY, Socialist Alternative, Democratic Socialists of America-New York City

    Wheelchair Accessible
    Please bring photo ID for admission.


  12. hemeantwell

    A fine post, duly forwarded.
    Francis Coppola is inclined to take a Krugmanesque view.

    Varoufakis is gambling that the Eurozone, and more particularly Germany, will not dare to push him off the cliff because of the consequences for international political relations. If Germany was seen to force Greece out of the Euro by refusing to negotiate, it would become an international pariah. There are already voices reminding Germany of its own debt forgiveness in 1953, and anti-austerity movements in many other Eurozone countries would only be encouraged by Germany and/or the ECB looking like bullies. Forcing Greece out of the Euro could result in the disorderly unravelling of the whole thing.

    I may be completely wrong, but this looks far more plausible to me than a simple explanation that fails to take account of the signals given by both Varoufakis and Draghi. In which case, Schäuble should beware. His position is nowhere near as strong as he thinks. He is dangerously close to the cliff edge himself. If Germany pushes Greece over the edge, Greece may well take Germany down with it.

    Accurate or not, we need to do all we can to support Syriza and both the Greek and global 99%.

  13. Strategist

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. Good luck all. We can see some people power here.
    The only thing freaking me out a little is some of this anti-German stuff below the line. Schauble is no doubt a pig-headed old bastard, but he’s not actually a Nazi. The Germans aren’t nazis. German people will be a big, maybe the biggest, part of fixing this.
    Protestors hold a sign reading “We start from Greece, we change Europe” during a demonstration in front of the German Finance minstry ahead of a meeting of Greece’s new Finance Minister with his German counterpart in Berlin, on February 5, 2015.

  14. Jackrabbit

    I have the same problem with #GreekLivesMatter as I do with #BlackLivesMatter and ‘Empire of Chaos’. These slogans put the ‘matter’ into a box that many will ignore when we should ALL be united by the underlying problem.

    The west is plagued by oligarchs; who, like bureaucrats, are only interested in guarding and extending their power. They act in concert via “circle jerks” that grind on the rest of us. Greek oligarchs were supported by American and EU oligarchs.

    What keeps this system in place is the ‘white lies’ (and some black, ‘big lies’) repeated again and again by politicians and the media. In short, propaganda. A good example of this (from past NC links) is how most Americans have no clue as to how extreme inequality has become or how that harms our economy.

    #TheTruthMatters would be a better way to highlight the core problem and to support Syriza which has called for an end to “extend and pretend”.

    H O P

    1. Lambert Strether

      The problem with #AllLivesMatter — and this is generic, I’m not saying this applies to you — is that it started cropping up and was then adopted by people who had given little previous attention to the idea that #BlackLivesMatter; it was a form of concern trolling, rather like bursting into the funeral of someone who died from cancer and shouting “Others, too, have suffered!”

      I would rather take #AllLivesMatter as a truism, and put #BlackLivesMatter or #GreekLivesMatter into the “We’re solving this problem now box. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, necessarily. If ten years or two years from now, we’re still using the same hash tags, well, that’s a concern.

  15. Doug Terpstra

    Thank you, Yves. This brings stark moral clarity to a morally-bankrupt ideology, which, in Orwellian fashion, practices the polar opposite of everything it preaches: truth, transparency, democracy, freedom, peace, humanitarianism, family values, faith, justice, respect for law, patriotism , etc., and so on, ad nauseam. It is a horrifying that something so vile and deceitful has taken root in America and become so pervasive. We must end this evil; we will pass it on.

  16. Kurt Sperry

    Haha… Lamberts post to this thread that begins, “Lambert Strether on Time for #GreekLivesMatter
    Sheesh. Now we’re moving identity politics over into…” is caught in the moderation queue just like ours get caught! Somehow makes me feel better.

  17. bob

    “Greek mothers are now charged €600 to have a baby and €1200 for a Caesarian or complications. It’s twice that for foreign nationals living in Greece.”

    That’s a deal. I’m not saying that they’re getting “too much”, just suggesting, that at home, in the US, it’s over $4k, according to some such study. The true cost is probably much higher. Double that without ‘insurance’.

    An pregnant woman would probably do much better getting on a plane and flying to greece. Another market failure– we still have women giving birth in the US!

    2 birds with one stone- The us could outsource its entire obstetrics population to Greece. The patient and the family would presumably spend some time there, hotels, light shopping, lots of eating, maybe even use it as an excuse for a vacation (sorry, I know that’s a 4 letter word).

    We’d be saving money, and greece, even with the “mark-up”, would end up ahead, and holding lots of dollars.

    Problem solved, onto the next.

    1. Demeter

      Birth-ready pregnant women don’t fly…they can go into labor on the flight. Airlines won’t even let them board.

      1. bob

        That’s discriminatory!

        See “a modest proposal”, and don’t assume that when people are talking about babies that they are, automatically, speaking *Seriously*.

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