August 2005 / Issue No. 13

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

1. Top Story of the month
2. Movie or Book Review of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month

There is something for everyone!

Tantalizing Clues to Alcoholism in Suicide Bombers

ImageThere’s probably addiction somewhere -- but it could be either the bombers -- or the mentors

"I became stronger. I climbed on top of the roof of the car. They gave me a weapon and put some marks on my face. I was no longer human. I could do anything."
--A child-soldier given amphetamines and tranquilizers that enabled him and certain other children to go on murderous binges for days during the Sierra Leone, Africa civil war.

Radical Islam "is not about religion but about domination and control."
--Salman Rushdie, interviewed by Shikha Dalmia in "Reason" magazine, August 2005

The recent string of London bombings brings terrorism close to home in areas we normally consider safe. Yet, if we think of terrorism in its broadest sense, we will find lesser instances in the “safest” areas. Only then can we detect a common thread among all forms of terrorism.

While definitions vary, most use the term to describe attacks on civilians by individuals or groups having political or religious motives. However, to understand its true nature, we need to expand the concept by temporarily ignoring the motive. An act of terrorism is always violent, the objective is intimidation, the perpetrator is non-governmental and the deed is unlawful. Although not mentioned in descriptions, capriciousness is a common denominator, because it serves to create anxiety among survivors. In a broad sense, we see instances of terrorism every day.

Most Christians, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Muslims and people of every denomination act non-destructively when dealing with others. However, a few act very badly, some of the time, regardless of faith, using unlawful and erratic violence to intimidate. Usually, these are alcohol or other drug addicts, who comprise at least 85% of those committing domestic violence and whom we could call “in-house” terrorists, 80-90% of convicts responsible for what we might term “home-grown” street terrorism and the vast majority of those engaging in road rage, or “road terrorism.” While the misbehaviors vary by circumstance and environment, the effect -- causing others harm and fear -- is the same. There’s no reason the addiction at the root of these “other” forms of terrorism couldn’t spark destructive behaviors unique to a particular sect. Perhaps, the motive is not what it seems.

The most horrific tyrants in history have almost all been addicts of one stripe or another. So have the vast majority of serial and mass murderers. According to former gang members, virtually all gang-bangers use drugs, which causes them to act badly, the behavioral hallmark of early addictive use. Although national defense officials seem to think there is no specific profile of an Islamic terrorist, why would they, as a group, be any different from others who use violence to intimidate and create fear? While Muslims are not supposed to imbibe, some terrorists have reportedly been seen drinking heavily. Furthermore, there is no prohibition on the use of other drugs. Officials seem blind to the possibility that the common thread is the addictive use of drugs, a key behavioral symptom of which makes the user act like he is God or claims he acts under God’s orders. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the true motive is a need to wield power, which is usually driven by alcohol and other-drug addiction.

In October 2001 I wrote a piece on Osama Bin Laden (available at; under “articles and interviews”) in which I proposed the idea that he could be a hashish-opium addict. After all, the root of “assassin” is “Hashishiyn,” or user of hashish; Muslim members of what was essentially a terrorist group founded in 1090 used hashish before killing Christians. I also mentioned that some, but not all of the hijackers in the atrocities of 9-11 were seen partying and drinking heavily before the attacks.

I’ve written elsewhere (particularly in my first book, Drunks, Drugs and Debits) that followers need not be addicts if their leaders are. Consider Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana, who talked 900 men, women and children into committing Kool-Aid suicide. While Jones was an alcohol and amphetamine addict, by no means was this true of all 900 followers. Hitler, an amphetamine addict and Stalin, an alcoholic, couldn’t have had some 50 million murdered without a lot of help. Addicts are truly the world’s greatest salesmen and, in a bid to wield power, often talk others into doing things they would never otherwise consider.

While we might surmise that the suicide mentors and bomb-makers are addicts just like Hitler and Stalin, it’s impossible to obtain direct evidence and, therefore, absolute proof of addiction in people who are far removed from the public spotlight. On the other hand, there are tantalizing clues to addictive use of drugs in at least some of the bombers. “The Economist” magazine, in discussing the fact that “for every one of these footsoldiers of terror, tens of thousands of similar young men choose to lead uneventful and peaceful lives,” sought out the “subtle patterns and tendencies” that cause a few to convert to jihad. They found that some may drift into a life of petty crime, “or an unIslamic taste for alcohol and women.” Although those seeking terrorism mentors may become more devout, “the reverse is more likely. He turns to drink, drugs and petty crime before seeing a ‘solution’ to his problems” in radical Islam. Others are “rescued” from prisons filled with addicts, like shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

These comments by “The Economist” suggest their journalists are privy to some details of the private lives of suicide bombers that should interest us. In itself, drinking by a Muslim affords a high probability of addiction. In general, the greater the proscriptions on use in a culture or religion, the higher the odds of addiction in those who violate the rules. However, while an addict “rescued” by Islam is unlikely to drink regularly if at all, true recovery, along with an improvement in behaviors requires not only abstinence, but also ego-deflation. It’s unlikely that such deflation is part of the program in teaching would-be terrorists the art of mass murder.

In addition, there are intriguing clues from, surprisingly, cockfighting and African wars. The best roosters bred for cockfighting are injected with testosterone and methamphetamine. Likewise, in Sierra Leone’s recent civil war, children as young as seven were given cocaine, amphetamines and other drugs, driving murderous binges, some of which lasted for days. These children became known and feared for their extraordinary energy, lack of control and brutality. While this may work only with some children -- probably, those with a genetic predisposition to addiction -- we can’t be sure. The probabilities of addiction in those giving drugs to seven-year-olds, however, can’t be much less than 100%. In the U.S., almost every instance of very early adolescent drug use can be linked to an alcoholic or other-drug addicted parent. Why would those in contact with children in Sierra Leone be any different?

The use of amphetamines before committing violence can be found throughout recent history. Kamikaze pilots in WW II were charged up with meth. Suicide bombers in the Middle East were given amphetamines in the 1980s; Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul in 1981, had amphetamines in his blood. Dr. Aziz Al-Abub, the psychiatrist behind the torture of hostages by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1980s, provided amphetamines for suicide-bombers. I have previously reported on Yasir Arafat’s dilated pupils and almost-certain amphetamine addiction (Thorburn Addiction Report, November 2004). Hitler was on a combination of amphetamines and barbiturates as early as 1936. When we consider the fact that no one figured out that Hitler was on drugs until almost 35 years after his death, or suggested that the best explanation for Arafat’s behaviors was addiction, we should not be surprised at a scarcity of reports on use of psychoactive drugs by terrorists. Because almost everyone thinks bad morals or upbringing cause misbehaviors resulting in addiction, reversing cause and effect, virtually no one comprehends the significance of the use and that the biochemical processing of the drug may be the cause of horrific behaviors.

Osama Bin Laden’s chief lieutenant, Dr. al-Zawahiri, is a psychiatrist. As such, he has access to and extensive knowledge of pharmaceutical drugs. In Afghanistan, the main drug problem is not addiction to opium or its derivatives, but rather to prescription tranquilizers. These include the benzodiazepines, the most commonly known being Valium and Xanax, and also the date-rape drug flunitrazepam, the trade name of which is Rohypnol. Ten times more potent than Valium, this is often used with heroin and opium. Paradoxically, although classified as a depressant (hence its use as a date-rape drug), it causes excitability, agitation and aggressive behaviors in some users, to the point at which extremely violent crimes may be committed without fear or regret. Like alcohol, also classified as a depressant and in what we might call the Heisenberg drug uncertainty principle, its correct classification is dependent upon the user. Bin Laden and the top brass in Al Qaeda could be using some combination of these drugs -- and, perhaps, giving some or all of them to suicide bombers.

If I am right, Islamic terrorism is motivated by an addiction-driven need for domination and control, which is no different from that of the street thug or in-home terrorist. And as is true for psychotropic drug addicts everywhere, it’s a model that predicts that the person on the drug is capable of anything. This should be at the forefront of our thinking in dealing with radical Islam as we approach an age where nuclear terrorism becomes increasingly possible.

Cockfight survivors, generally thought to be too violent to be saved, can be taught to co-exist peacefully with others of their kind. They are detoxed off the meth and taught that bad behavior will not be tolerated. A rehab center for gamecocks reports that “even the most ferocious fowl take at most several weeks to pacify.” The co-director of the Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary in Princess Anne, Md., Pattrice Jones, says that “roosters fight from fear of death, not from natural aggression” and “after they’re rehabbed, they end up being the sweetest roosters here.” Meth makes people -- and perhaps roosters -- paranoid, living in fear of death. It may be that addicts, regardless of species, are all the same -- monsters when using, kind and gentle when not.

Runners-up for top story of the month: Retired actor Robert Sorrells, 75, who appeared in Westerns and on TV in the 50s and 60s, sentenced to 32 years in prison after confessing to killing Arthur DeLong last year. After drinking at the Regency Lounge in Simi Valley, Ca., he was escorted out by DeLong for “unruly behavior” and, after “reflecting on his perceived mistreatment,” went home, retrieved his gun, returned to the bar and shot DeLong at point blank range. Sorrells admitted his judgment was impaired because of his “biochemical state.” Jimmy Lee Smith, 74, one of two men convicted in the 1963 “Onion Field” murder in which LAPD officer Ian Campbell was shot to death, sent back to prison for three years after admitting to heroin possession. With high blood pressure and other medical problems, he’s apparently looking forward to prison medical care; he put up no defense. Beyonce’s dad Mathew Knowles, fired as her manager and sent to rehab after harassing one of her back-up dancers and behaving inappropriately with other women. His behavior “finally made sense” to Beyonce and her family. (No doubt, we would have suspected a problem long before.)

Joseph Edward Duncan III, 43, released from prison and writing on his blog that his “demons” were stronger than he previously thought, charged with abducting Shasta Groene, 8, and suspected of murdering four others: Shasta’s mother Brenda Groene, 40, her brothers Slade, 13, and Dylan, 9, and Brenda Groene’s boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, 37. Duncan had a history of inflicting violence and sexual torture. He reportedly refused to comply with therapists and law enforcers trying to correct his behavior and was diagnosed in 1980 as antisocial and a sexual deviant. The only confirmation that alcoholism may have been at the root of his behaviors was a report that he stopped at a store in the western Montana logging community of St. Regis in late May for gas and a 12-pack of Bud Light. However, the adult victims were very likely addicts: Shasta Groene’s father Steve Groene, 48, revealed that Brenda, his ex-wife, and boyfriend, McKenzie, used marijuana and methamphetamine; the toxicology report showed unspecified illicit drugs in their systems. Court records also show that Brenda, after serving time in prison, was ordered to take “drug and alcohol counseling.”

Jose Raul Lemos, a.k.a. Jose Raul Pena, using his 19-month-old daughter Suzie Marie Pena as a shield against police trying to arrest him after being reported for making domestic threats against Suzie’s mother, Lorena Lopez and, in a separate report, for physical threats against Lopez’s 16-year-old daughter. Pena’s family in El Salvador described his relationship with Lopez as “troubled” and punctuated with fights. Pena, an illegal migrant, had been deported in 1995 after a conviction for cocaine possession, but later illegally returned. He pleaded guilty to burglary and other crimes in 1994, pled guilty of DUI in 1996, was arrested in 1997 and charged with gun possession by a felon in 2004. He had 18 aliases, nine birth dates, three fake drivers’ licenses and three fake Social Security cards. Police, who described Pena as despondent and crazed as he randomly shot at police officers, used psychologists in an attempt to get him to talk and gave Pena numerous opportunities to surrender. His family, who blamed police for the death of the little girl, initially denied charges that Pena was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. At least one local said, “In Bel-Air [police] would have tried to talk to the person more.” Toxicology reports later showed that Pena was under the influence of alcohol and unspecified other drugs. The problem isn’t that police failed in whatever attempt they made at reasoning with chemistry. Rather, it’s that there is little doubt that although relatives and other locals attempted to pin the blame for Suzie’s death on law enforcers, there were hundreds of incidents for which close persons could have intervened, but didn’t. There were also dozens of encounters for which law enforcers could have stepped in with a very heavy hand. Little Suzie died because some were unwilling, while others were unable, to coerce abstinence in her addicted father.

Gregory Haidl, claiming that Orange County, California’s most senior criminal judge, Francisco Briseno, presided over an unfair trial, in which Haidl and his two friends were convicted of raping a drugged-up 16-year-old high school girl. Haidl has challenged the outcome of the trial despite the fact that, according to journalist R. Scott Moxley, his father, former Orange County Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, spent “at least $6 million on 10 lawyers, three teams of private detectives, O.J. Simpson’s jury consultant, focus groups, public-relations consultants….” Assistant District Attorney Chuck Middleton, on the other hand, walked into court generally armed with a few notes on a pad and, as Moxley puts it, “the fact that, in California, it’s illegal to have sex with an unconscious person.”

Under watch: Acting San Diego Mayor Michael Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza, convicted of trading political favors for campaign contributions with a strip-club owner. The 35-year-old Democrats agreed to try and ease the prohibition on nude dancers from touching their customers in exchange for $23,000 in contributions. Deputy Mayor Zucchet had taken over Mayor Dick Murphy’s job the previous business day. Murphy had resigned over controversy relating to his handling of the city’s $2 billion pension deficit. Six former pension board members face criminal charges of conflict of interest. The question of the decade for the beleaguered city of San Diego, once considered one of the best governed in the country, is who are the addicts?

Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts -- which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of the misbehaviors and proactively intervene.

Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator

DVD Review: "Titus"

“My father never missed a drink, or a joint, or a party or a chance to get laid in his life. But he also never missed a day of work, or a house payment, or a car payment.”

This is Christopher Titus’s description of his father, Ken, played by Stacy Keach, at the start of Episode One on the new DVD release of the first two seasons of the Fox series that began in 2000 (the third and last season will be released in December). It perfectly sets the stage for an honest portrayal of a highly functional but verbally and psychologically abusive alcoholic, based on Christopher’s real-life upbringing. His biological mother, Juanita, identified as “insane,” is an even worse drunk, but takes second-stage.
Almost every episode delivers a message about alcoholism or codependency in laugh-out-loud and zany entertaining fashion. One describes Kenneth’s serial sexual harassment which, according to Christopher’s narration, dad “invented.” Another shows how dad loved to humiliate Christopher and his brother, Dave, played by Zack Ward. The result, as Christopher puts it, is that “screwed up people never say what they mean.”

He’s used to his father, who was married and divorced five times, ruining relationships. He does all he can to mess up his with a very forgiving girlfriend Erin, played by Cynthia Watros, explaining that he took a “30-year seminar on destroying relationships.”

The best of "Titus" has to be episode eight of the first season, “Intervention.” Aside from explaining the reason Christopher stopped drinking at age 17 (he fell into a bonfire), a series of “growing up” photographs show dad always holding a beer -- while water skiing, at a funeral, in intensive care. Suddenly, he decides he’s sick and tired of being sick and tired, and stops drinking. After being depressed and moping for a month while off the hooch, Christopher and his brother Dave orchestrate a reverse intervention to get him drinking again. “I was raised by a lusty, lustful man. When dad was drinking, he was so smooth he could pick up any woman, and did. I used to wake up with their names pinned to my pajamas, so I could greet the sluts with class. When dad stopped drinking, he started pissing off women before he slept with them.” No wonder we love alcoholics -- they’re exciting, fun-loving and never boring, despite the sarcasm, hatred, nastiness and volatile moods. The trade-off is deemed fair by many codependents, who often don’t know any better.

The highly functional alcoholic can be missed at work -- after all, they make great salesmen. While non-alcoholics can’t function when they’re drinking, “Dad not only functions; he was employee of the month.” His boss comes to the intervention, explaining that a sober Kenneth “is not the guy I hired.”

After the “intervention,” Ken quickly returns to his old tricks. He feigns a heart attack to avoid responsibility for an accident, taking it all the way to the hospital, where he becomes sexually involved with his nurse. After blaming Christopher for the heart attack that wasn’t, we learn the real cause -- which cannot be shared in a family report -- and the kids mastermind a brilliant plot to get back at him. With overtones of the insanity to which many children of alcoholics are subjected, "Titus" is a brilliant and often hysterically funny introduction to Alcoholism 101


Dear Doug: Self-centered brother-in-law

Dear Doug,

A few years ago, I married a wonderful guy. Unfortunately, in the bargain, I got his brother -- a rude, overbearing and self-centered man name Patrick. Recently, he asked that we watch his kids while he vacations. We’ve done this before, but not when we were taking care of his sister, who recently moved in with us when she became very sick with cancer and developed a need for constant care.

When I told him over the phone the timing was not right for baby-sitting, he complained that his sister is a whiner and she has the family wrapped around her finger. After trying to reason with him, he swore at me and hung up.

Doug, over the years we have helped Patrick out by working on his house with him, letting him spend time relaxing at our home while I cooked him meals, and even giving him large amounts of money because he has been so fiscally irresponsible. I am stunned by Patrick’s latest outburst, yet his brother, my husband, is coming to his defense. This is threatening our marriage. What should I do?



. . . . .

Dear Other-centered,

Other columnists might say you’re stuck with Patrick because he’s family. They might add that while you needn’t let him take advantage, you should allow your husband to continue his close relationship, limiting your time to those occasions when you must be around him.

Such advice ignores the likely crux of the problem. Given the combination of misbehaviors, including extraordinary self-centeredness, taking undue advantage of others, swearing at and hanging up on you for not doing as he pleases, along with repeated fiscal irresponsibility, the odds of alcoholism are very high. It would be surprising if beer, or something stronger, isn’t his beverage of choice when sitting on your sofa enjoying your home-cooked meals.

If alcoholism explains the problem behaviors, abstinence, in conjunction with a program of ego-deflation, is the solution. As long as active addiction continues, the behaviors and attitude problems will only worsen. You need to sit down with your husband and explain your concerns. Tell him that continuing to put up with Patrick’s rotten behaviors only increases the risk that tragedy will occur. Tell him that you hope he joins you in helping Patrick experience the consequences of his behaviors rather than always bailing him out of is problems, unless it’s to baby sit while he’s in rehab. It is crucial to arrest the disease at the earliest opportunity. By doing so, you can help save his life and, in the process, dramatically improve the lives of those with whom he comes into contact.

(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, June 7, 2005.)

Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month: She's too sweet.

“She couldn’t possibly be an addict -- she’s a councilperson, a successful mom, has a decent job and donates much of her time to charitable causes.”

So the thinking seems to have gone in the heads of countless friends and acquaintances of Burbank, California City Councilwoman Stacey Jo Murphy, 47, one of the town’s most popular politicians and a favorite of law enforcement, arrested on charges of cocaine possession and child endangerment. Detectives said an 18-month investigation of the Vineland Boyz street gang led them to Murphy’s long-time boyfriend, Scott Schaffer, 51, who was arrested on drug and weapons charges, after meth, cocaine, nine handguns and a large amount of ammunition were found at his home. Schaffer, who agreed to cooperate with authorities after a .45-caliber handgun found at the home of one of the gang members was traced to him, later admitted to selling firearms to gang members and purchasing cocaine from them. After allegedly implicating Murphy in the purchase of cocaine behind a bar, detectives searched her home and found cocaine, three loaded handguns and 900 rounds of ammunition.

Wherever there are inexplicably bizarre behaviors, we should be looking for addiction. The fact that this seemingly squeaky-clean former PTA mom would ask that her husband, with whom she bore three sons, move out after winning her first election to the city council in 1997 because “she needed some space,” might raise our antennae. Far more disturbing is her relationship with Schaffer, who is described by acquaintances as being “a little rough around the edges” for someone like Murphy. Schaffer has been convicted at least three times of driving without a valid license and, in October, 2004 was found guilty of DUI.

Friends are, of course, shell-shocked. However, one of the most common themes among law enforcers is how often perpetrators look and act just like you and me. Murphy may be a terrific lady, but if the charges are true, the odds are she has the disease of alcoholism. The surprise occurred because it may have been dormant for an extended period with a relapse possibly sometime around 1997. She probably attempted to control her use for several years, during which time close observers may have observed seemingly inexplicable mood swings. Meeting up with another addict, she slowly lost control.

Stacy Murphy replaced Councilwoman Susan Spanos, who was alleged to have had drug problems as well. Soon after taking office, in a three to two vote, a proposal requiring that the council and other city officials undergo alcohol and other drug testing was killed. Murphy voted against the proposal, calling the drug-testing requirement “a waste of time and money.” Yet, if she had been tested, any use might have been uncovered long before allegedly criminal behaviors occurred.

Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors™

Too many beers in the ice-cream truck

"DING-A-LING: Denell Heller was watching out her New Berlin, Wisc., window and commenting on the irritating tune spewing from an ice cream truck as it drove by: "Pop Goes the Weasel". When she saw the driver toss something on her lawn she called the police. "I told them I don't want him in my neighborhood if he's going to litter," she said. An officer stopped by and picked up the object -- an empty malt liquor can -- and tracked down the treat vendor nearby. David A. Blundell, 43, admitted tossing the can, but insisted he had only drunk one beer, for breakfast, two hours before. Police say Blundell, a registered sex offender, failed a field sobriety test and blew .23 percent on a Breathalyzer test. He was charged with drunk driving -- and littering -- and released on bail. When he didn't show up for court to face the charges, a warrant was issued for his arrest. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)... And when the police catch up with him, they'll pop the weasel."

This story is a classic in the annals of alcoholism for a number of reasons. First, Blundell was driving an ice cream truck. Someone had to hire him, numerous children -- often with parents in tow -- must have been in close contact with him, and countless other drivers, along with many law enforcers had probably spotted him committing a violation, driving recklessly or acting inconsiderately. It is incredible that SOMEONE didn’t report him before Heller did.

Second, he littered. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study of driving misbehaviors and likelihood of DUI cited in my book Get Out of the Way! failed to link a number of key behaviors that may be excellent indicators of DUI. Because it indicates a mindset of “I can do anything I damn well please, regardless of how it may affect others,” littering is at the top of the list.

Third, Blundell minimized, insisting he had only one beer. He just didn’t explain it was a 2 1/2-gallon beer (the amount needed by a 200-pound man over two hours for the BAL to reach .23 per cent). At least he admitted it was his breakfast beer (maybe he poured it over his cereal).

Fourth, Blundell is a registered sex offender. I’ve been hypothesizing for some time that most sex offenders are alcoholics. However, because reporters, biographers and historians have little or no understanding of the role alcohol and other drug addiction plays in causation of misbehaviors, including sexually based offences, my assertion cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, this little incident buttresses the idea.

Fifth, this could have ended far more tragically than it has thus far. The culprit is an alcoholic sexual offender driving an ice cream truck for God’s sake. How many more chances will society give him to wreak havoc in someone’s life? And yes, he is out on bail.

There is something seriously amiss both with Mr. Blundell and a criminal justice system that has so far been unable to properly deal with him. He was convicted of DUI in 2001. He has been fired from his job, but it’s not the first time. Just last April, he was fired from another job -- also driving an ice cream truck -- because, according to the office manager of the prior firm, “every day he came here with something wrong.” If employers were able to share information, we would increase the odds that the private sector might be able to do for Mr. Blundell what friends and law enforcers have so far been unable: administer enough pain to inspire him to try sobriety.

(Story from “This is True,” copyright 2005 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See for free subscriptions.)


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