<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - National & International News]]>Copyright 2017http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/national-internationalhttp://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.pngNBC Connecticuthttp://www.nbcconnecticut.comen-usSat, 21 Oct 2017 12:04:08 -0400Sat, 21 Oct 2017 12:04:08 -0400NBC Owned Television Stations<![CDATA[How Solar Could Transform Puerto Rico's Future ]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 03:13:35 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tesla_pic.jpg

While more than 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power a month after Hurricane Maria knocked out the island’s power grid, Hector Alejandro Santiago Rodriguez is at work on his nursery in Barranquitas because of the solar panels he installed six years ago.

Winds destroyed a third of his greenhouses and more than half of his plants and damaged a quarter of the solar panels, but Santiago’s Cali Nurseries never lost electricity after the storm. He has been able to pump water from his wells and operate his irrigation system for poinsettias, orchids and other plants he sells at Costco, Home Depot and other stores.

"It has been the best investment of my life," said Santiago, the largest grower of poinsettias and orchids in Puerto Rico. “In the past, people had problems with the high cost of electricity and now, with the distribution of fuel, for those who have generators.”

It cost Santiago $300,000 for 244 solar panels, an expense that might dissuade others, but he said, “Now time has sided with me that the 'expensive part' is not having electricity when you need it the most.”

The destruction of the island’s power grid has brought new focus on the bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and how the electricity system could be rebuilt in a more resilient way by taking advantage of renewable energy.

At a meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House on Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Puerto Rico had a chance to become a showcase for a sustainable energy grid with public-private partnerships. 

"We think there is an opportunity here to leverage growth in the energy sector and to be innovative, not only rebuild what we had in the past, but also with the aid of the federal government and with the private sector, rebuild a much modern, much stronger platform," he said. "And not only have Puerto Rico have energy but actually be a model of sustainable energy and growth toward the future."

Tesla, the manufacturer of solar panels, the Powerwall battery and the Powerpack commercial battery, and a German competitor, sonnen, are poised to become private partners in that switch to sustainable energy.

Tesla is snagging most of the attention. Rosselló has already talked with its founder Elon Musk, after Musk tweeted that the company could reconstruct the island's electricity with independent solar and battery systems.

"The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too," Musk wrote on Oct. 5.  "Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR."

"Let's talk," Rosselló responded. "Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project."

Rosselló told USA Today that he and Musk later spoke about running a pilot program on the island of Vieques. The governor and a team from Tesla have since met and Tesla has sent experienced installers to Puerto Rico to train a small Powerwall installation team there, Musk tweeted.

Tesla declined to comment further but it has already constructed microgrids on Hawaii's Kauai and American Samoa and has said it will work with energy providers around the world to overcome barriers to building sustainable, renewable grids.

Francis O'Sullivan, the director of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's MIT Energy Initiative, agreed that there was an opportunity now to integrate newer technologies into Puerto Rico’s power grid.

Companies like Telsa will be part of the effort, but they will not be able to rebuild Puerto Rico's electricity system in the next six months or even a year, he said. There is a tension between restoring electricity quickly and re-imagining the grid.

"That’s a really tremendously big job rewiring the entire island and not just a big job but a very expensive undertaking," he said. "And in terms of shorter term delivery or redelivery of electricity services, it is not the solution." 

For now, work is underway to restore hundreds of miles of transmission lines and thousands of miles of distribution lines. Even this short-term work will require more workers, more equipment and more money.

"It's too much for us alone," Nelson Velez, a regional director for the Puerto Rican power authority, told The Associated Press as he supervised crews working along a busy street in Isla Verde, just east of San Juan, on a recent afternoon. "We have just so many, so many areas affected."

But new technologies could be introduced in strategic locations, such as around public safety buildings or hospitals, O'Sullivan said. Micro-grids could incorporate more storage and renewable energy, he said.

Puerto Rico now produces only about two to three percent of its total electricity from such renewable energy as wind and solar, O’Sullivan said. That share has been growing rapidly but is still not more than 200 or 250 megawatts of a total capacity of 5 to 6 gigawatts. A transition on an island-wide scale would cost about $2 billion and take several years of work, he said.

"The more extensive redevelopment or rewiring of the system in Puerto Rico to make it more renewably centric and more more reliable, that’s not going to happen by the end of October or November," O'Sullivan said.

Rauluy Santos, an auditor at PricewaterCoopers in San Juan, took a widely circulated photograph of Tesla Energy cargo at the Air National Guard Base Muñiz at Carolina, near San Juan's Luis Marín Muñoz International Airport on Oct. 14. He spotted the shipment while he was waiting for water, food, medicine and other goods sent from the Hyssop Church in Boston, to be distributed through the non-profit, Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción, of which he is a director.

Santos said it was time to for the island to invest in technologies such as solar energy to provide cheaper, more sustainable energy with lower carbon emissions. He and others are waiting to see if this is a publicity stunt on Musk's part or a true humanitarian effort, he said.

"However I believe in Elon Musk and have high hopes on his delivery of the promise," he said, "but please let it be with an affordable price tag in which our economy can get at least a bump with a new industry and new job opportunities from all the years in recession we've been."

He agreed that pilot programs should be tried first, on the islands of either Vieques or Culebra. 

"Our governor, Ricardo Rosselló, was proactive with Elon Musk's tweet and we're eager to learn what's the plan," he said.

While Tesla has been getting the publicity, a competing German company, sonnen, has been selling its sonnenBatteries in Puerto Rico for 18 months, according to the company’s U.S. senior vice president, Blake Richetta.

Sonnen is focused on creating microgrids for shelters, clinics and community centers in areas that lack power and clean water, it said. It is working with a Puerto Rican partner, Pura Energia, which installs solar panels with sonnen batteries, and it expects to have the first five micro-grid locations up and running by the end of October. Five additional micro-grids are to be running in November, and a total of 15 by mid-December.

Sonnen does not make solar panels but typically provides smart technology and storage while working with regional distributors and installers who bring the solar panels. For this project, the Puerto Rico Energy Security Initiative, it is donating sonnenBatteries and covering the cost of the solar panels and the installation.

"Sonnen is also unique by virtue of the fact that our factory is shipping a working, proven product, on a daily basis and we can deliver energy security to the people of Puerto Rico, without delay," Richetta said in an email. "For sonnen, this is not 'theory.'"

Longer term it expects to sell and install more sonnenBatteries in Puerto Rico, as part of systems that increase resiliency and bolster the grid by creating localized power supplies and reducing the effect of a single point of failure -- important in the face of devastating storms.

"A decentralized electricity grid in Puerto Rico, composed of thousands or even a few million solar arrays, coupled with clean energy storage, would form a 'virtual power plant' for the island," Richetta said. "This distributed 'virtual power plant' would become the most resilient grid infrastructure in the country today, one that is effectively impossible to 'bring down,' via a hurricane."

Even before Hurricane Maria hit, British billionaire Richard Branson told Reuters that he was setting up a fund to enable Caribbean nations to replace fossil fuel-dependent utilities destroyed in Hurricane Irma with low-carbon renewable energy sources. The Caribbean islands have mostly been generating power by burning diesel. 

Branson has been approaching governments, financial institutions and philanthropists, Reuters reported last month.

"As part of that fund we want to make sure that the Caribbean moves from dirty energy to clean energy," Branson, who has lived in the British Virgin Islands for 11 years and weathered Irma on his private island, said.

In a blog entry this week, the Brookings Institute noted both Tesla and sonnen’s emergency measures and evaluated the likelihood that the grid would be rebuilt with solar and battery storage.

"That is a hope but there’s no certainty," Lewis M. Milford and Mark Muro wrote.

"It would take a dedicated group of companies, a local government willing to be creative and strong federal support for rebuilding the power system in a more resilient way," they wrote. "Merely redoing the same diesel-dependent, centralized electric system, the status quo, should not be an option."

The Tesla project on Kauai consists of a 13-megawatt solar farm and a 52 megawatt-hour battery installation that Tesla and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative expect will reduce the use of fossil fuel by 1.6 million gallons a year, according to The Verge. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has contracted with Telsa to buy the electricity that is produced -- at 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour for 20 years.

On the island of Ta'u in American Samoa an $8 million solar project funded by the U.S. Department of Interior and the American Samoa Power Authority was completed late last year, according to National Geographic. That project — 1.4 megawatts of electricity that can be stored in 60 Powerbacks — shifted the island's energy generation from 100 percent diesel fuel to entirely solar. It will save about 110,000 gallons of diesel fuel and was built to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds.

Santiago, the nursery owner, is not sure his business will survive the crisis, but said he had already recovered 70 percent of his poinsettias and is trying to save others. He believes that after the catastrophe brought by Hurricane Maria more people will invest in solar energy. It has helped him protect the Earth and has provided him with clean energy and constant voltage which made his equipment last longer, he said. He sold excess energy to the government.

"Now, when nobody has electricity, we can pump our own water which makes us self-sufficient," he said.

"Cali Nurseries will survive Hurricane Maria with the favor of God," he said.

Photo Credit: Rauluy Santos
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<![CDATA[Questions Remain for Trump Administration on Niger Mission]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 05:23:11 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/NC_lv55f1020_1500x845.jpg

In Washington, there is a search for answers about the ambush in Niger that killed four U.S. Service members.

<![CDATA[Doctor Rescued Premature Babies From Wildfire on Motorcycle]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 02:57:11 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/171020-scott-witt-story-hospital-ac-808p_4d5440fb95c26e02f88ee58737bd10df.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

A courageous California doctor used a motorcycle to drive through the Santa Rosa wildfires to get to eight premature babies during the predawn hours of Oct. 9 just as the situation was intensifying.

"I got called at 2 a.m. because the flames were getting close enough to the hospital so the staff thought that we’d have to evacuate," Dr. Scott Witt, the medical director for the newborn intensive care unit at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, told NBC News in a phone interview Friday.

Witt, 45, was with his wife and four children at the time and safety had become a priority for his newborn patients as well as his own household.

His family chose to evacuate to a nearby church in Sebastopol, and Witt headed to the hospital. At first he took his truck, but he realized it would be hard to maneuver with dangerous roads and closed off areas, so he returned home.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital]]>
<![CDATA[Sessions Urges Crime-Fighting Partnerships in Philly Speech]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 11:08:29 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/854197924-jeff-sessions-campus-free-speech.jpg

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a speech Saturday to police chiefs from across the country gathered in Philadelphia, said forging new relationships between local and federal authorities will help reduce crime in communities across the country.

It was the first of two speeches Sessions will give this week in a city that his Department of Justice has publicly battled for most of the last nine months over Philadelphia's sanctuary city approach to immigration enforcement. His appearances are part of a weeklong conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Sessions spoke about the federal Project Safe Neighborhoods program and other initiatives to reduce violent crime by the Department of Justice, including the use of federal prosecutors to aid in cases by local authorities. 

"Forging new relationships with local prosecutors and building on existing relationships will ensure that the most violent offenders are prosecuted in the most appropriate jurisdiction," Sessions said. "But our goal is not to fill up the courts or fill up the prisons. Our goal is not to manage crime or merely to punish crime. Our goal is to reduce crime."

A large group of protesters, describing their demonstration as "Abolition Weekend," will hold a rally outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center at noon.

Sessions has had a rocky relationship with some of America's large cities during his tenure at the DOJ, with Philadelphia among the most notable.

He and Mayor Jim Kenney have traded barbs over the city's local immigration enforcement policies. The Trump Administration's DOJ has consistently labeled Philadelphia as in violation of federal requirements for notifying federal immigration officials when city police comes in contact with undocumented immigrants.

The city has argued that it meets all of demands of the federal statutes and any of the Trump Administration's additional requests are not only not required by law, but would hurt the ability of local police to fight crime.

The City of Philadelphia is suing the DOJ in federal court over the disagreement.

In his speech, Sessions talked about local and federal cooperation in crime-fighting efforts.

"Partnering with community leaders, and taking the time to listen to the people we serve really works. I remember, when I was a U.S. Attorney, my office prosecuted a gang in Mobile. When the case was over, community leaders asked for a community meeting to talk about how we could further improve the neighborhood," he said. "We developed a practical plan based on the requests of the people living in the neighborhood. It was a city, county, state, and federal partnership using existing resources to fix the community."

Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niger Attack Followed 'Massive Intelligence Failure': Source]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 05:20:15 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/nigerAP_17292680322023.jpg

A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger told NBC News the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a "massive intelligence failure."

The Pentagon has said that a force of 40 to 50 militants ambushed a 12-man U.S. force in Niger on Oct. 4, killing four and wounding two others, NBC News reported. The U.S. patrol was seen as routine and had been carried out nearly 30 times in the six months before the attack, the Pentagon has reported.

The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about the scope of the U.S. mission in Niger, and whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground there.

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[Man With Knife Attacks 8 People in Munich; Suspect Arrested]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 09:21:23 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/FeuerwehrMunich.JPG

A man with a knife attacked eight people in Munich on Saturday and then fled, police said. The suspected assailant, a local German already known to police for theft and other offenses, was arrested a few hours later.

No one was seriously hurt in the attack that started at around 8.30 a.m. in the Haidhausen area, east of downtown Munich. Police said they believe it was not a terror attack, they suspect instead that the assailant had psychological problems.

The lone attacker apparently went after passers-by indiscriminately with a knife, police said. He attacked eight people in all, including a 12-year-old child, at different sites. They mainly had superficial stab wounds and in at least one case had been hit.

About three hours later, police arrested a man matching a description they had issued based on witness reports. They said he was heavy, unshaven with short blond hair and had a black bicycle and a backpack.

The 33-year-old suspect, who was carrying a knife when he was arrested, was already known to police for bodily harm, drug offenses and theft, city police chief Hubertus Andrae told reporters.

The suspect didn't immediately give police any information on his motive.

"There are absolutely no indications at present of a terrorist, political or religious background, though we can only rule things out when all the questioning is finished," Andrae said. "Rather than that, we believe that the perpetrator had psychological problems."

He said police have "no serious doubts" that the suspect was the assailant, and that there was no longer any danger to the public.

Photo Credit: Munich Fire Department]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Returns to the Campaign Trail]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 09:43:07 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DIT+OBAMA+CAMPAIGNING+THUMB.jpg

Former President Barack Obama returned to the political spotlight Thursday for the first time since leaving office by campaigning for the Democratic nominees for Governor in New Jersey and Virginia.

<![CDATA[Who's Who in the Trump-Russia Investigation]]>Wed, 09 Aug 2017 18:29:15 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/russiathumb2.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Donald Trump Through the Years]]>Wed, 20 Sep 2017 07:29:28 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Trumpthumb.jpgWhat Donald Trump's presidency will look like is unclear to many observers. He has not previously worked in politics, and has made contradictory statements on policy issues in several areas during his campaign. Despite the unknowns, Trump has an extensive public profile that, along with his real estate empire and the Trump brand, grew domestically and internationally over the last few decades. Here is a look at his personal and career milestones and controversies.

Photo Credit: AP, Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[In Photos: Total Devastation in Puerto Rico After Maria]]>Fri, 29 Sep 2017 11:19:36 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/180*120/AP_17271040483244.jpgThe island territory of more than 3 million U.S. citizens is reeling in the devastating wake of what Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello called "the most devastating storm in a century."

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa]]>
<![CDATA[Raqqa's Devastation Shows Entire Neighborhoods Destroyed]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 08:45:28 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/Screen+Shot+2017-10-20+at+8.44.14+AM.png

Shells of buildings, concrete slabs littering dust-choked streets and destroyed cars are all that is left of whole neighborhoods in Raqqa, Syria, after weeks of fighting and bombings between Islamic State militants and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the U.S.

<![CDATA[New Immersive Experience Lets Users Explore Mars Using VR]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:34:07 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/10-20-2017-rover-360-mars20171019.jpg

Now everyone can get a taste of what scientists see on the red planet.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory collaborated with Google to produce Access Mars, a free immersive experience that be accessed with a computer, mobile device or virtual reality/augmented reality headset.

Access Mars: Experience access Mars by clicking here and learn about Curiosity’s mission here.

Using imagery from NASA’s Curiosity rover, users can explore the desert terrain while poking around nooks and crannies. The program features four notable regions: Curiosity's landing site, Murray Buttes, Marias Pass and Pahrump Hills. The rover’s current location on Mt. Sharp will be continually updated as new imagery comes in.

The software is adapted from a similar program used by NASA scientists to study Martian geology.

"We've been able to leverage VR and AR technologies to take our scientists to Mars every single day," said Victor Luo, lead project manager at JPL's Ops Lab, which led the collaboration. "With Access Mars, everyone in the world can ride along."

The experience was crafted by pairing Curiosity's imagery and scientific data with WebVR, an open-source virtual reality software that be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

Visitors can learn more details about Curiosity’s experiments such as photos of digging sites, soil mineral compositions and even a selfie the rover took so scientists could monitor wear and tear.

"Immersive technology has incredible potential as a tool for scientists and engineers," Luo said. "It also lets us inspire and engage the public in new ways."

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL
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<![CDATA[Cub Scout Kicked Out of Den After Asking Lawmaker Questions]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:57:26 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP_091024026071.jpg

A Colorado Cub Scout was kicked out of his den after asking a state senator questions about political issues from gun control to health care legislation, NBC News reported.  

The Cub Scout's mother, Lori Mayfield, filmed a video of her 11-year-old son Ames' exchange with a Republican state lawmaker at a Cub Scout event in Denver last week. In the video, the fifth grader confidently reads his typed questions while state Sen. Vicki Marble listened.

“Why on Earth would you want someone who beats their wife to have access to a gun?” Ames Mayfield asked in the video.

Mayfield's mother said after the exchange the den leader told her that her son would not be welcomed back into the den, NBC News reported.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steve Yeater]]>
<![CDATA[Child Porn Search Warrant Leads to Massive Weapons Bust]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 15:49:58 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/NC_weaponsbust1020_1920x1080.jpg

A man in Florida was arrested Thursday for possessing destructive devices in his home.

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies were serving a search warrant regarding child pornography in the home of Randall Drake when they found the devices and made the arrest.

Deputies also found maps and aerial photos of Essrig Elementary School, Ben Hill Middle School and a water treatment plant in Hillsborough County.

Photo Credit: WFLA]]>
<![CDATA[Donald Trump's Presidency in Photos]]>Thu, 21 Sep 2017 09:38:46 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/trumpunfeuerherdIBIBI.jpgTake a look at significant events from President Donald Trump's time in office, including the signing of the travel ban, Neil Gorsuch's appointment to the Supreme Court, the launch of 59 missiles at Syria's government-held Shayrat Airfiled and more.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Grandparents Fill Void as Opioid Crisis Steals a Generation]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 07:04:23 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2017-10-20+at+6.28.07+AM.png

Everything his grandpa does, 5-year-old Colton wants to do. Even if it means wearing Crocs with socks.

"If grandpa wears his Crocs with socks, Colton has to wear his Crocs with socks," Pennie Krietemeier, 53, told NBC News. "I have to walk behind them because it's so embarrassing."

Her grandson's idolization of his grandfather Randy, 53, is one of the sweet spots in a childhood that has otherwise been marked by chaos.

As the opioid epidemic forces increasing numbers of children into foster care or otherwise out of their parents' custody, grandparents like the Krietemeiers are stepping in, NBC News reported. Those grandparents face the daunting task of caring for young, vulnerable children while navigating courtrooms and complex child welfare systems, often with little financial or social support — all while coping with their adult offspring's addiction.

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Rebecca Black Recounts 'Friday' Cyberbullying at 13]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:58:42 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Rebecca-BlackGettyImages-486019858.jpg

"Friday" singer Rebecca Black wrote an essay for NBC News’ THINK opinion section discussing the online bullying she faced after rocketing to fame at age 13:

I was skipping my way through the minefield of early adolescence, experiencing the same low-grade bullying that most kids do, when I recorded a music video during a school break, just to help me gain some experience and have some fun. When “Friday” went up on the internet, it went crazy — and the onslaught of negative attention I receive was so sudden and so intense that I wasn’t sure I would survive. 

One minute, I was a normal girl and then, in the next, millions of people know who I was and they were ruthless in hurling the most vile words my way. People were writing things all over the internet, on social media and they were laughing at me on TV shows, and making fun of me in YouTube videos. It was open season and I was the target. The fact that there was a human, a person — a 13-year-old girl — on the other side of the screen seemingly escaped so many people’s attention.

Photo Credit: Jason Meritt/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Prevent Being Spied on in Vacation Rental Homes]]>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:24:30 -0400http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Cameras_Found_in_Airbnb_Condo_1200x675_1068525123576.jpg

For people on vacation, being watched on hidden cameras in your room should be the furthest thing on their mind, but police are warning people to be on the lookout after an alarming case last month involving a vacation rental, according to "Today." 

An Indiana couple found a hidden camera and microphone in a smoke detector pointed toward their bed at their Airnbnb rental in Longboat Key, Florida. The homeowner was arrested and charged with video voyeurism, police said.

It is surprisingly easy to hide cameras and microphones in everyday household items, according to Scott Black, owner of Bethlehem Spy Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

"You can be 2 thousand miles away and as long as there's an internet connection,'' Black said, "we can monitor this from anywhere in the world."

Photo Credit: WFLA
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