MerckEngage offers eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY for help with navigating websites, typing and more

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Do you (or do you know someone) have difficulty navigating web sites, typing or reading mobile, tablet or laptop screens?

MerckEngage offers a free resource that can help! It’s called eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY and the link is at the bottom of every page on MerckEngage. eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY is a free assistive technology that helps people who have trouble typing, moving a mouse or reading a screen, navigate the web hands free and more. It can be used on almost any website after you download it. When you click on this icon:

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You will get all the information! This service is completely free from MerckEngage and Merck.

Here’s another helpful resource available from MerckEngage.

My Caregiver Notebook

Keep track of the person in your care’s health information. Choose just the pages you need, or download all of them to create a complete Caregiver Notebook.

The Day-to-Day
Use this form to jot down the details of the person in your care’s daily routines, limitations, and needs.

Medicines
Make a detailed list of all prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines plus vitamins, supplements, and herbals the person in your care takes.

Personal Health Information
Record the person in your care’s personal and family medical history, current health insurance information, and recent exam and test results.

Health Care Contacts
Create a list of names and phone numbers of health care providers.

Health Care Visits
Keep track of the person in your care’s medical appointments and costs. List questions and updates to share with health care providers.

Meet Amanda Gorman, who made history as youngest inaugural poet

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Amanda Gorman stands behind podium smiling with two fingers pointing up while reading her poem

By Tamar Lapin

Originally posted on the New York Post.

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old Harvard graduate from California, made US history on Wednesday as the youngest person ever chosen to write a poem for a presidential inauguration.

The Los Angeles native captivated viewers during President Biden’s swearing-in ceremony with her moving rendition of “The Hill We Climb,” a work about unity, healing and perseverance.

“When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” Gorman began her inaugural poem.

She continued: “And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

Mindful of the past, Gorman honored previous inaugural poet Maya Angelou by wearing a ring with a caged bird — a tribute to the writer’s classic memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — gifted to her by Oprah Winfrey.

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted Winfrey, a close friend of the late writer.

Gorman replied: “Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in.”

“Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”

So how did Gorman get here? At just 16, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and her first poetry book, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough,” was released a year later in 2015.

In 2017, she became the country’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

Gorman, who graduated in May from Harvard University with a degree in sociology, has read for official occasions before.

Having seen perform at the Library of Congress, First Lady Jill Biden asked Gorman late last month to write something to recite on Wednesday.

Gorman had completed a little more than half the work on Jan. 6, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in an effort to stop Biden’s win from being certified.

“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” Gorman told The Associated Press last week.

She referenced the deadly riot in her work, saying: “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.”

“And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

Gorman also found commonality with Joe Biden, as both her and the president battled speech impediments.

“Writing my poems on the page wasn’t enough for me,” she told “CBS This Morning.”

“I had to give them breath, and life, I had to perform them as I am. That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

Read the full article on the New York Post

Biden Plan Would End Subminimum Wage, Offer Stimulus Checks To More With Disabilities

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Joe Biden Giving a speech wearing Blue suit and tie

By Disability Scoop

In his first major undertaking, President-elect Joe Biden wants to do away with a decades-old option to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage while giving stimulus payments to more people in this population.

Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion proposal late last week to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout from it. The so-called American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 in direct payments to many Americans as well as funding to support vaccine distribution, reopen schools and support state and local governments while

(Photo Credit – Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

also extending unemployment benefits and expanding paid leave.

Notably, the plan would provide stimulus payments for adults with disabilities who are considered dependents for tax purposes. These individuals have been disqualified from the previous rounds of direct payments issued by the federal government since the start of the pandemic.

The proposal also calls for eliminating subminimum wage for people with disabilities.

Under a law dating back to 1938, employers are able to receive special 14(c) certificates from the U.S. Department of Labor allowing them to pay individuals with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

But many disability advocates have been pushing for years to end the practice, which they say is outdated and exploitative. Some states and cities have already banned employers from paying subminimum wage and, as a candidate, Biden pledged to support a phaseout of the program.

Read the full article at Disability Scoop. 

People with disabilities desperately need the vaccine. But states disagree on when they’ll get it.

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Verizon's collage of disability images

By The Washington Post

For weeks, Wendy Lincicome has been asking the same question. She asks it on the phone. She asks it in emails to state officials. She cares for an epileptic blind man with cerebral palsy 24 hours a day, and when he is asleep, she types her question into Google.

“When will people with disabilities get the coronavirus vaccine?” Tens of thousands of Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities — who are two to three times as likely to die of covid-19 — are waiting for an answer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said health-care personnel and residents of long-term-care facilities should be first in line, in phase “1a.” Disability advocates say guidance should be interpreted to include all people with disabilities who receive long-term care, whether in large institutions, smaller group homes or in settings like Lincicome’s, who is paid to live with a North Carolina man who has round-the-clock needs.

But as guidance from the federal government has been translated into vaccine distribution plans made by states, those with disabilities have been downgraded to lower priority status.

D.C. as well as MarylandAlabama and many other states are leaving people with disabilities who live in large institutions and group homes out of their Phase 1a plans, instead moving them to 1b or 1c. In Indiana and Rhode Island, group homes have been pushed to Phase 2, with the likelihood that vaccinations are months away.

Most states make no mention of disabilities in their vaccine plans, leaving people like Lincicome panicking and confused about how long they and those for whom they care will have to wait.

She is terrified that the man who relies on her, 33-year-old Sloan Meek, could end up as another case of a disabled person being allegedly discriminated against in a hospital after falling ill with covid-19. Without her help, or the help of a computer, Meek is extremely limited in what he can communicate to medical professionals.

“They don’t look at Sloan and see what I see,” Lincicome said. “They don’t see the guy who just recorded an album or has an annual Christmas carol concert. They see a wheelchair, and somebody who is laying in their bed all day.”

By North Carolina guidelines, Meek may not qualify for the vaccine until Phase 2, because he doesn’t live in a home with other individuals with disabilities. If Meek lived in Tennessee, according to its state plan, he’d be a part of the very first wave of vaccinations because of the level of care he receives. Though some state plans would count Lincicome — a caregiver known as a “direct support professional” — as a health-care provider to be provided for in Phase 1a, most have no public plans for caregivers in her role.

The lack of consistency is the result of a lack of guidance from the CDC. Other than acknowledging those with Down syndrome should be prioritized along with people with high-risk medical conditions, federal recommendations for vaccine rollout make no explicit mention of any other disabilities.

A CDC spokesman said states could request that intermediate-care facilities, the large, often government-run institutions for the disabled, receive vaccinations through the same pharmacy partnership program as nursing homes. Decades of reform efforts have closed many of those institutions, moving people with disabilities into small group homes or other living situations integrated into their communities.

But despite an estimated 70,000 people living in group homes, the CDC recommendations do not include them, leaving states to decide where inline those residents, and their caregivers, should fall.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration complicated those choices even more by instructing states to begin vaccinating people with high-risk medical conditions and adults 65 and older.

Read the full article at The Washington Post.

Why Disability Issues Should Be A Higher Priority, Even Now

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Disability, Graphic of a woman in a wheelchair reading

By Forbes

Disability issues in particular risk being sidelined even more than they usually are. Despite some notable recent success in bringing disability policy to the attention of politicians, disability is still widely regarded as a niche concern.

The phrase “Everything that’s going on” has rarely been so potent. Presidential Election results have been openly challenged in Congress. The Capitol building itself has been physically attacked by a wild but disturbingly directed mob. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be escalating everywhere.

So it may be tempting for elected officials and political strategists to set seemingly specialized concerns aside in 2021 and focus just on a few of the perceived “fundamentals” that are understood to affect “everyone,” rather than narrower “special interests.” Conventional wisdom might suggest that with American democracy literally teetering on the brink, matters like Social Security rules, disability rights laws, and even health care eligibility should be put not just on the back burner, but in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future.

This would be a mistake – morally, practically, and politically. Disability issues are far more important and relevant than most people realize. They also offer ground for some tentative returns to a semblance of political bipartisanship, and restoration of faith in society’s ability to do things better. Here are five reasons why disability issues shouldn’t be set aside right now.

The disability community is a large constituency, not a tiny special interest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61 million adults in the U.S. have some kind of disability – that’s 26% of the adult population, or 1 in 4 adults. 13.7% of adults have a mobility disability. 10.8% have cognitive or intellectual disabilities. 5.9% of adults have hearing impairments. And 4.6% have vision impairments. These are all minorities in the numerical sense, compared with the whole U.S. population. But they are all substantial minorities.

We should also count families and friends of disabled people too, as part of a more broadly-defined disability community or constituency. It’s a common mistake to assume that non-disabled spouses, siblings, adult children, and work and school buddies always have the same views and priorities as actual disabled people. But they are at least potential and often genuine allies on disability issues.

Read the full article at Forbes.

This COVID-19 vaccine distribution tracker lets you see where the doses are going

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map pf the us with a focus on a vaccine needle

Originally posted on Fast Company.

As you wait for a vaccine, you can check out the CDC’s database to see how well your state is progressing.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines has been frustratingly slow, so much so that some health professionals are now considering the potential benefits of delaying the second part of the two-dose vaccine in the interest giving more people the their first shot quicker.

Vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were both approved for emergency use in December, but as of last week, the number of doses administered had barely reached a tenth of its original goal.

If you’re still one of the millions of people waiting (and you probably are at this point), you can at least check to see how well things are progressing in your state. The COVID Data Tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes an interactive map and state-by-state tallies. The tracker includes data on the total number of vaccine doses distributed and the total number of people who have taken the first dose. It also includes a separate data panel for distribution in long-term care facilities, which have been prioritized in the rollout process.

The CDC’s map is color coded so you can see which states have received the most doses so far per capita. As of Monday, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, West Virginia, Montana, and the Dakotas had the highest rates of people taking their first dose, while Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, and states in the deep south had the lowest. All told, more than 13 million doses have been distributed, the CDC says.

Check out the tracker tool here.

Amazon Billionaire Gives ‘Transformational’ Gifts To Disability Nonprofits

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MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott said she gifted more than $4.1 billion to nonprofits in just four months.

Multiple nonprofits serving people with disabilities are receiving an unprecedented and unexpected influx of cash as part of a massive wave of donations from the billionaire ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Easterseals and 22 of its affiliates across the nation said it received $162 million from MacKenzie Scott. Meanwhile, Goodwill Industries International said it received $20 million and additional funds were given to 46 of its affiliates.

The contributions represent the largest either of the groups have ever received. Both of the nonprofits are over 100

(Image Credit – Disability Scoop)

years old.

The money is part of a blitz of donations from Scott who announced in December that she gave over $4.1 billion to 384 organizations across the nation in the preceding four months.

Scott signed the Giving Pledge in 2019, a commitment to give the majority of her wealth to charity.

In a posting on Medium, the philanthropist cited the pandemic, which she described as a “wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and said that she “asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis.”

Read the full article at Disability Scoop.

World Braille Day Is Monday – Check Out How Westchester Independent Living Center is Celebrating

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Two hands reading a book in braille

This Monday, January 4th is World Braille Day, an international day of recognition for the tactile alphabetic and numerical representation system that has changed the world in so many ways.

It was created in commemoration of Louis Braille’s birthday, the inventor of the system who became blind after a childhood accident in the 19th century. Decades later, this system still provides exponential value to those individuals that are blind and visually impaired.

On World Braille Day organizations like Westchester Independent Living Center (WILC) are working to bring awareness to the importance of accessibility and independence for people living with visual impairments. Since first opening their doors in 1981, WILC has maintained a steady presence in their surrounding community securing its place as one of the premiere living centers for people living with disabilities in Westchester County.

“Everyone deserves and is legally entitled to the same accommodations and services, regardless of their physical capabilities,” said Joe Bravo, Executive Director at WILC. “Join us as we celebrate World Braille Day on Monday continuing to do our part for the community by making living facilities more accessible for everyone.”

Drug Reverses Age-Related Mental Decline Within Days, Suggesting Lost Cognitive Ability is Not Permanent

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Creative digital brain. Artifical intelligence and ai concept. 3D Rendering

Just a few doses of an experimental drug that reboots protein production in cells can reverse age-related declines in memory and mental flexibility in mice, according to a new study by UC San Francisco scientists.

The drug, called ISRIB, has already been shown in laboratory studies to restore memory function months after traumatic brain injury (TBI), reverse cognitive impairments in Down Syndrome, prevent noise-related hearing loss, fight certain types of prostate cancer, and even enhance cognition in healthy animals.

In the new study, published Dec. 1 in the open-access journal eLife, researchers showed rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities in aged mice, accompanied by a rejuvenation of brain and immune cells that could help explain improvements in brain function—and with no side effects observed.

“ISRIB’s extremely rapid effects show for the first time that a significant component of age-related cognitive losses may be caused by a kind of reversible physiological “blockage” rather than more permanent degradation,” said Susanna Rosi, PhD, Lewis and Ruth Cozen Chair II and professor in the departments of Neurological Surgery and of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.

“The data suggest that the aged brain has not permanently lost essential cognitive capacities, as was commonly assumed, but rather that these cognitive resources are still there but have been somehow blocked, trapped by a vicious cycle of cellular stress,” added Peter Walter, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Our work with ISRIB demonstrates a way to break that cycle and restore cognitive abilities that had become walled off over time.”

Rebooting cellular protein production holds key to aging

Walter has won numerous scientific awards, including the Breakthrough, Lasker and Shaw prizes, for his decades-long studies of cellular stress responses. ISRIB, discovered in 2013 in Walter’s lab, works by rebooting cells’ protein production machinery after it gets throttled by one of these stress responses – a cellular quality control mechanism called the integrated stress response (ISR; ISRIB stands for ISR InhiBitor).

RELATED: Breakthrough For Spinal Cord Injuries and Dementia as Protein Builds ‘Striking’ Repairs

The ISR normally detects problems with protein production in a cell—a potential sign of viral infection or cancer-promoting gene mutations—and responds by putting the brakes on cell’s protein-synthesis machinery. This safety mechanism is critical for weeding out misbehaving cells, but if stuck in the ‘on’ position in a tissue like the brain, it can lead to serious problems, as cells lose the ability to perform their normal activities, according to Walter and colleagues.

In particular, their recent animal studies have implicated chronic ISR activation in the persistent cognitive and behavioral deficits seen in patients after TBI, by showing that, in mice, brief ISRIB treatment can reboot the ISR and restore normal brain function almost overnight.

The cognitive deficits in TBI patients are often likened to premature aging, which led Rosi and Walter to wonder if the ISR could also underlie purely age-related cognitive decline. Aging is well known to compromise cellular protein production across the body, as life’s many insults pile up and stressors like chronic inflammation wear away at cells, potentially leading to widespread activation of the ISR.

“We’ve seen how ISRIB restores cognition in animals with traumatic brain injury, which in many ways is like a sped-up version of age-related cognitive decline,” said Rosi, who is director of neurocognitive research in the UCSF Brain and Spinal Injury Center and a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “It may seem like a crazy idea, but asking whether the drug could reverse symptoms of aging itself was just a logical next step.”

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Signature effects of aging disappeared literally overnight

In the new study, researchers led by Rosi lab postdoc Karen Krukowski, PhD, trained aged animals to escape from a watery maze by finding a hidden platform, a task that is typically hard for older animals to learn. But animals who received small daily doses of ISRIB during the three-day training process were able to accomplish the task as well as youthful mice—and much better than animals of the same age who didn’t receive the drug.

Continue on to The Good News Network to read the complete article.

Autistic NASCAR Driver Armani Williams is Living his Dream

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NASCAR driver Armani Williams on the track shaking hands with male spectator

Armani Williams is a 20-year-old, Detroit-based professional NASCAR driver who is using his racing career as a platform to draw awareness to Autism, promote research-based solutions, and create better life outcomes for families impacted by the disorder.

Williams has competed coast to coast in the United States and throughout Canada. Williams is a two-time NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine Participant. He currently races in the NASCAR ARCA Menards Series. He has raced as a professional in the ARCA Truck Pro Series, the former NASCAR Canadian Tire Series—now branded as the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West.

The sky is the limit as Williams climbs the ladder to the biggest races in ARCA, the NASCAR Gander Mountain Truck Series, Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup Series. Williams was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of two, and he was considered nonverbal. He is the first openly diagnosed autistic NASCAR driver. Autism is a disorder that is characteristically marked by difficulty focusing on and processing different stimuli and tasks simultaneously, in addition to complications with communication. These are two key skills for any race car driver.

Initially, it seemed that Williams’s dream of becoming a professional NASCAR driver was impossible. However, Williams didn’t accept impossible. When he was eight-years-old, Williams began competing in go-kart racing, then bandolero styles vehicles, and quickly progressed to professional series. He raced in the ARCA Truck Pro Series in 2016, signing with SPEAR MotorSports. He broke records by becoming the highest finishing African American in a series race and the highest finishing African American in the series championship.

That same year, Williams was invited to compete in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine and returned to the competition for a second year in a row. In 2017, Williams moved up to a higher level of competition to hone his skills as a race car driver and gain confidence in the former NASCAR Canadian Tires Series—now known as the NASCA Pinty’s Series of Canada. He was coached by team general manager and driver Joey Mc-Colm, along with NASCAR Monster Energy Cup driver D.J. Kennington. To date, Williams has 18 wins and two championships.

In 2018, Williams made his United States debut at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in Memphis, Tennessee. On September 22nd of that year, Williams earned his first top 10 finish in his 8th start in a NASCAR Sanctioned race event, finishing 9th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Simone Autosport. His future plans are to compete in the Menards ARCA Series, NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, making his way to the highest level of the sport.

Williams’s future is both remarkable and bright. His personal diagnosis with autism and success on the track inspires his philanthropy off the track. In 2015, Williams and his family established the Armani Williams Race 4 Autism Foundation to raise awareness and promote research. He continues to speak to audiences and make appearances to local communities during race week to drive action and hope.

Williams believes that people on the autism spectrum can do anything, and he is proof of that. Team Williams Racing strives to inspire people living with autism to achieve their goals, and to empower friends and family to support best life outcomes.

The Armani Williams Race 4 Autism Foundation drives autism awareness, promotes research, and strives to provide life enrichment opportunities to people and families affected by autism spectrum disorder.

Armani Williams is rising in the NASCAR ranks and looking for sponsors and business partners that are passionate about Autism, and/or Diversity. If interested, please reach out to Team Armani Racing on LinkedIn-Armani Williams or at del@teamarmaniracing.com.

Source: teamarmaniracing.com

Disability Advocates Urge People To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

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Healthcare cure concept with a hand in blue medical gloves holding Coronavirus, Covid 19 virus, vaccine vial

As the first COVID-19 vaccines become available, advocates say that people with developmental disabilities should get vaccinated and they are pushing for this population to be eligible as soon as possible.

In a statement, 20 advocacy groups are calling on people in the disability community to be immunized.

“We encourage our stakeholders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” reads the statement spearheaded by the Autism Society of America and signed by Autism Speaks, Easterseals, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others.

As the first COVID-19 vaccines become available, advocates say that people with developmental disabilities should get vaccinated and they are pushing for this population to be eligible as soon as possible.

In a statement, 20 advocacy groups are calling on people in the disability community to be immunized.

“We encourage our stakeholders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” reads the statement spearheaded by the Autism Society of America and signed by Autism Speaks, Easterseals, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others.

The groups said that getting vaccinated will “make it significantly less likely you’ll get COVID-19” and it “may keep you from getting severely ill if you were to contract COVID-19.” In addition, doing so “will help protect vulnerable people around you.”

For those with disabilities, the advocates said that widespread vaccination could lead to an end to remote learning, resumption of regular therapy, support and respite care services, improved employment opportunities and it may allow individuals living in group homes and other congregate settings to see their families and friends again.

“Mass COVID-19 vaccination would allow our global community to recover and help stop the pandemic,” the statement says, while noting that like other medical decisions, people should discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with their physicians.

The benefits of vaccination could be greatest for those with more significant challenges, said Angela Geiger, president and CEO of Autism Speaks.

“For someone with autism and limited communication skills or behavior challenges common in autism, protection afforded by the vaccine can have an immeasurable impact. It can enable renewed participation in community life, access to vital services and supports and an opportunity to begin the recovery from the disruptions in care that have taken place this year,” she said. “This can also be a crucial step for family members and caregivers of people with autism who have more significant needs.”

The push from disability advocacy groups comes as the first COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech started to be administered in the U.S. this week. With limited supply, the initial shots are going to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Advocates have been speaking out for months about the need for people with developmental disabilities to be prioritized in the distribution of any COVID-19 vaccines given the high risks they face. Research shows that people within this population who contract the virus face a two to 10 times greater risk of dying as compared to others.

Continue on to Disability Scoop to read the complete article.

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