Archive | June, 2009

Cork: Fresh Strategy Being Drafted To Tackle City’s Growing Heroin Crisis

29 Jun

By J. P. Anderson:

THE taskforce tackling the drug problem in Cork is drafting a new strategy to deal with the city’s growing heroin crisis.

It is the first time the Cork Local Drugs Task Force (CLDTF), which was established in 1997, has had to consider a completely separate strategy to deal specifically with heroin. It is due to meet within days to discuss the plan.
The move comes as a leading consultant warned he would not be surprised if 20 people die from drug overdoses this year in Cork.
Dr Chris Luke, consultant in emergency medicine at Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital, said the amount of heroin and other opiates being consumed in Cork city and county at present is "breathtaking".
"The people of Ireland should be very afraid, mainly because salvation will require fearful sobriety. None of the imminent financial and social pain will match the rising tide of grotesque death, disease and civic disorder which will accompany the current nationwide epidemic of drug-taking. The Cork Local Drugs Task Force (CLDTF) has already started tackling the problem, said taskforce coordinator David Lane. With the support of a local GP, it has launched a pilot community detox programme in one specific city area, which Mr Lane does not want to identify.
It was set up after community leaders approached the GP seeking medical support to tackle the heroin problem in their area.

UPDATE:

SEVERAL significant heroin dealers have been jailed in recent months.

Declan Harris, 50, who was described in court as a professional heroin dealer, was jailed in April for nine years.
Handing down the sentence, Judge Seán O Donnabháin said Harris’s "commitment to drug-dealing was total".
The court heard as a result of confidential intelligence, gardaí conducted a search of the flat where he was living and found 22 deals of heroin and 23 deals of crack cocaine. While the total value of the drugs seized was a little over €1,300, Harris had previous convictions for similar offences.
In February, he was given a seven-year sentence for what was at the time the largest heroin seizure in the city.
In May, John Paul Carey, aged 22, of 9 Brooklodge, Glanmire, Co Cork, received a five-year sentence after being convicted of having €49,000 worth of heroin at his home in Glanmire.
He enjoyed a lavish lifestyle and holidayed in Los Angeles. He was described in court as "a fully committed dealer" who despite his young age, was well up the supply chain.
Judge Seán O Donnabháin said he found it exceptional that Carey was involved in the drug trade so high up at such a young age. He imposed a 10-year sentence on him and suspended the second half of the sentence.
Earlier this month, Keith Heaphy, 22, from 59 Kerryhall Road, Fair Hill, Cork, was jailed for four years after being caught with almost €3,000 worth of heroin for sale in Cork city.
Heaphy was found in possession of the drug at Spriggs Road on December 30. He pleaded guilty to the offence.
The defendant’s father, John Heaphy, who is serving a prison sentence for a different offence of dealing drugs, blamed the prison service for the fact that his son developed a heroin problem.
A few days later, Michael O’Callaghan, 40, and originally from Farranree, was jailed

for three years after he confessed to dealing about €1,000 of heroin at Highfield West off College Road, Cork, when he was living there on September 16, 2007.
He told the court at the sentencing hearing that he has become a born-again Christian while in prison.
Around the same time, a Killarney man who was caught dealing heroin in Cork was jailed for five years.
Following the undercover Operation Reuben, several people were charged before the courts. The charges relate to alleged incidents involved a range of different drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and heroin, in relatively small amounts under €200, in June to August last year.
Those accused of heroin offences include two women with addresses in Passage West and Cork city.
A man charged with supplying heroin in Douglas has a city address.
Another man from the west of the city is charged with having heroin and cocaine for supply where the street value was allegedly €2,400 for the total quantity of drugs.

THE amount of heroin seized by gardaí in Cork has almost doubled in two years.

The Cork City Divisional Drugs Unit made 105 seizures of the lethal substance in 2007. According to the most recent figures, detectives have already made 48 separate heroin seizures in the first quarter of this year alone.
If this detection trend continues for the next six months, the unit is on course to make close to 200 seizures this year.
It is a massive increase from the nine seizures in 2005 and proves that heroin has become a problem on the streets of Cork.
The problem first began to emerge in 2006 when 60% of the heroin detection cases involved non-nationals – most of whom arrived in Cork with an existing addiction.
As the trend developed, the indigenous population began to feature.
Gardaí responded with the formal establishment of a dedicated heroin detection unit within the divisional drugs unit in September 2006 to target the importation and distribution of heroin.
Inspector Ger O’Mahony, head of the divisional drugs unit, said the unit has had several major successes, including the recent undercover drugs operation, code-named Operation Rueben, which culminated last month with several arrests and drugs seizures, including heroin.
"It targeted street-level dealing and was new to Cork. It had a significant impact on the supply of drug at street level," Inspector O’Mahony said.
He is reluctant to discuss the operational element of the undercover operation but confirmed that officers engaged in test-buying, and gathered solid evidence which resulted in 14 arrests and over 55 charges.
Several people have been before the courts and some are facing a number of charges.
Detecting heroin-related drugs offences is extremely difficult given the ease with which the drug can be concealed. A single heroin deal, or wrap, which costs around €25 on the streets, can be concealed in a piece of plastic no bigger than a one cent piece.
People can conceal up to one ounce of the drug, which can be worth up to €5,000, in small plastic bags which dealers or drug mules carry internally.
Most of the heroin available in Cork comes from Dublin and Limerick.
The Kerry market is supplied mainly from Limerick.
Heroin is a significant issue in concentrated pockets of Cork city and in most county towns.
People from these regions travel by car, bus or train to Dublin or Limerick to collect the drug and return with the substance hidden internally. It is then broken in to smaller deals and distributed to smaller dealers for sale on the streets.
Whereas cannabis and cocaine was usually sold by a small number of big-time dealers, most of whom were known to gardaí; the heroin trade is controlled by a large number of smaller-time dealers, some of whom are new to the trade, making the job of detection even more difficult.
But Inspector O’Mahony said gardaí can tackle the problem if there is a coordinated multi-agency response to the problem.
He also urged members of the public who have concerns or suspicions about drug dealing in their communities to contact gardaí in strictest confidence.
The recent Dial To Stop Drug Dealing hotline initiative, first piloted in west Dublin and launched in Cork in March for six weeks, generated a flood of calls which provided valuable intelligence.
Callers to the confidential, anonymous hotline, which is not operated by the gardaí, spoke to a trained operator, who asked them for their information and nothing more.
The callers weren’t asked for a name, their phone number wasn’t recorded and the calls weren’t traced.
The information was passed to the Garda National Drugs Unit and useful information was filtered back down to local garda drugs units for action.
"This information came from well-meaning people who are concerned about this activity. Some of the information is already known to us. Some of it is new. But all of it will be evaluated, actioned and followed up," Inspector O’Mahony assured.

IT’S the bridge for people to the drug and alcohol support services they need. But with its focus on prevention, it also offers education, support and alternatives to teenagers.

This week, a fiercely contested soccer tournament will kick off as part of the Knocknaheeny Hollyhill Drug and Alcohol Project’s (KHDA) annual nine-week summer programme.
"The programme is just one of several diversionary projects run by the project to give kids an alternative," project manager Tony Fitzgerald said.
He has been working in the community since the late 1970s.
"Any death is a tragedy, especially in a tight-knit community. Our project is part of the ups and downs of the community and we are there to support," he said.
"We may not be the solution but we are the local contact. We are part of the process of helping people solve their problems."
The KHDA project was set up in August 1998 following years of lobbying after the area became, in 1994, one of the first in Ireland, along with Ronanstown in Dublin and Moyross in Limerick, to get a garda youth diversion project.
The KHDA is funded through the Department of Justice via the Cork Local Drugs Taskforce and National Drugs Strategy Team.
It is managed by a local voluntary committee, including local representatives, gardaí and the Probation and Welfare Service.
It expanded over the years and today, it is widely regarded as a national model for such projects.
Its full-time drug coordinator, Celine Hurley, works with young people aged 13 to 22 telling them about the effects of drug misuse and encouraging them to engage in other activities.
She delivers drug awareness workshops, and offers confidential support and advice to parents around drug and alcohol issues.
A community addiction counsellor from Arbour House is based in the youth centre on a weekly basis.
Its youth cafe for 15 to 18-year-olds is open on Monday and Tuesday nights.
Mr Fitzgerald said it is difficult to quantify the success of the project. But people have come to us years later and said without it, they don’t know what would have happened to them.
"When we were starting our campaign in the early ’90s, the Department of Finance view was that funding should be for prisons and the recruitment of more gardaí," he said.
"We broke new ground to get the department to invest in prevention. Now there are about 200 similar projects nationally."
* Contact: Project Coordinator: Celine Hurley, Knocknaheeny Hollyhill Youth Project. Hollyhill Shopping Centre, Cork. Tel: 021 4303902. Mobile: 087 1224794. Email: celinehurley@eircom.net

A WORRYING trend has emerged in Cork’s growing heroin crisis following a surge in the number of people injecting the drug, a medical expert has warned.

Dr Declan O’Brien, the medical officer at Arbour House, the Health Service Executive’s Southern Regional Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Service for Cork and Kerry, said this new trend increases the severe health risks already faced by heroin users.
With heroin deals available on the street for €50 a bag, heroin addicts are leading chaotic lives struggling to cope with what is in some cases an eight bag, or €400-a day habit.
Dr O’Brien said the vast amount of money required to fund such a devastating addiction comes mainly from two sources – crime or prostitution.
Most of the people seeking medical help for heroin addiction smoke the drug. But in recent months, Dr O’Brien said he has seen more and more people who are injecting themselves with the drug.
"This is a developing problem. When you smoke heroin it gives you a high, a relaxed and euphoric feeling. Then you become drowsy and fall asleep, so you stop taking the drug," he said.
"When you inject, it’s in your system and you can’t get it out. If you take too much, it will kill you."
Smoking the drug increases the risk of lung damage and pneumonia. But injecting presents a whole range of added complications like severe weight loss, infections like HIV and Hepatitis, and ultimately death, he said.
There are 120 people from Cork and Kerry engaged with the Arbour House service for help with their heroin addiction. For every woman presenting at the service, there are five men.
The vast majority of those seeking help for their addiction are on a methadone treatment programme.
While the HSE has appointed a second doctor to work part-time with Dr O’Brien on the Arbour House methadone programme, he admitted that their services are stretched.
There are about 100 people on a waiting list that could be waiting several months for an assessment appointment.
"We fully accept that we are not providing a full service," Dr O’Brien said.
"But we can’t deliver a service if we don’t know about the full extent of the problem. I would urge people out there who want help to contact us."
* Contact Arbour House, St Finbarr’s Hospital, and 021-4923204

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Alcohol Epidemic Claims Women & Young Amongst Its 250,000 Victims

29 Jun

By J. P. Anderson:

Around 250,000 people in Ireland are alcoholics yet just a fifth is receiving treatment, it has been claimed.

More than a third of all drinkers binge with the cost of tackling alcohol-related problems soaring to over 900 million euro-a-year, according to the country’s leading mental health hospital. As St Patrick’s University Hospital unveiled its new addiction and mental health centre, medics warned the need for vital services was increasing with the recession.

Dr Conor Farren, Consultant Psychiatrist at St Patrick’s, said the downside to years of

economic boom was now becoming evident. He said: "It is only now, in the post boom period, that we are recognising some of the negative consequences of the boom. It is vital that Ireland has centres of excellence for treatment of alcohol dependence, and that treatment, training and research dovetail into a coherent programme in those centres."

MORE YOUNG people and women are seeking treatment for alcohol dependency at a Dublin hospital following the economic boom, a psychiatrist has said.

Dr Conor Farren, consultant psychiatrist at St Patrick’s hospital, said it was only now, in the post-boom period, that we were recognising some of the negative consequences of the boom.

“We had a boom from 1995 to 2005, and during that 10-year period we had an expansion of alcohol consumption by about 40 per cent. We were the only country in the world to do that. The equivalent figure for that 10-year period in the UK was a 5 per cent increase.”

He said the boom, “an enormous laxity of licensing laws” and multi-million euro promotions by the drinks industry had all played their part.

“And now, unfortunately, we are beginning to see the consequences.”

St Patrick’s, which today opens a centre into which all its addiction services are being consolidated, now has a constant waiting list for admission to its inpatient addiction treatment programme.

Dr Farren said while more young people were seeking treatment, they were more difficult to treat, partly because in the 18 to 30-year age group there was more poly-drug abuse.

He said alcohol was still the primary substance of abuse in the State despite all the talk about other drugs. An estimated 250,000 people in Ireland have an alcohol abuse problem, of which only 20 per cent were engaged in any form of treatment. Of the other 80 per cent, he said half would have no interest in treatment and half were not in treatment because of difficulty accessing treatment services.

The new Temple centre at St Patrick’s, which will deal with all addiction services, can treat some 500 inpatients a year, and will also undertake research and training.

“This is the start of the development of a centre of excellence,” said Dr Farren.

Dr Conor Farren, consultant psychiatrist at St Patrick’s, said the downside to years of economic boom was now becoming evident.
"It is only now, in the post-boom period, that we are recognising some of the negative consequences of the boom," Dr Farren said.
"It is vital that Ireland has centres of excellence for treatment of alcohol dependence, and that treatment, training and research dovetail into a coherent programme."
The universities new centre, the Temple Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, will see addiction services provided in the community via clinics and when necessary through inpatient services at the hospital.
According to St Patrick’s, addiction is a growing problem here and it is estimated:
250,000 people have an alcohol abuse problem of whom only 20% are engaged in any form of treatment.
* The direct cost of alcohol related health problems is €960m per year, and the indirect cost is much higher.
* Women’s consumption of alcohol is also increasing. Figures show 50% of Irishwomen between the ages of 15-24 are regular drinkers compared with an EU average of 19%.
* We are the third highest consumers of alcohol in the EU, about 40% above the EU average.
St Patrick’s chief executive Paul Gilligan said: "The hospital is confident it will excel as a centre for treatment."
The centre is to be opened this morning by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

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UK: Many Teenagers Carry Weapons To Feel Safe: Pool

29 Jun

By J. P. Anderson:

One in 10 teenagers living in areas with high levels of knife crime still carry a weapon to feel safe, a poll suggests.

Five hundred 13 to 19-year-olds who live in 10 "hotspots" targeted by the Government were questioned for BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Two-thirds of those under-18 said it was "very easy" or "fairly easy" to buy a knife, even though this is against the law, and around half believed the police could not protect them from violent crime.

Polling company ComRes questioned young people in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Thames Valley.

Just over half said the Government would not be able to reduce the number of knife attacks.

Research by the Children’s Commissioner earlier in the year revealed that young people living in areas with high levels of gun and knife crime were twice as likely to carry a bladed weapon than the national average.

NHS figures showed the number of children treated in hospital after being assaulted by a sharp object increased by 72% from 1996-97 to 2006-07.

The Home Office has spent millions on campaigns to dissuade young people from carrying knives.

According to the British

Crime Survey, from 1995 to 2007/8 the proportion of violent crimes involving a knife has remained at or below 8%.

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‘An Bord Snip Nua’ To Recommend €5bn Of Imminent Cuts In Government Spending

28 Jun

By J. P. Anderson:

The Government spending-cut group – known as “An Bord Snip Nua” – is expected to recommend cuts amounting to between €4 billion and €5 billion in Government expenditure when it submits its report early this week.

Officially titled the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes, the four-member committee headed by University College Dublin economist Colm McCarthy is expected to recommend some 400 measures to cut public service and Government spending.

The group’s report is expected to be delivered to the Department of Finance on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Speculation has mounted that a major redeployment of staff within Civil Service departments will feature prominently in the report.

It was reported today that under the group’s proposals, several Government departments, including the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will be reorganised.

The Sunday Times reported that the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism will be abolished.

Speaking on RTÉ radio this afternoon, Minister for Social Welfare Mary Hanafin refused to speculate on a €1.5 billion cut to her budget. She said the best way to reduce the social welfare bill was to "get people back to work."

However, when asked whether Child Benefit would be targeted, she said the measure costs the State €2,500,000 per annum and confirmed that it would either be taxed or means-tested.

The Minister said her department was working closely with the Department of Finance and with Revenue but added that means testing would be "difficult" as it would mean assessing 600,000 mothers.

Rent allowance, which amounts to €530m per annum, will also be looked at as rents have fallen.

Speculation is growing about the recommendations from the committee, which was given a remit to examine a wide range of government spending with a view to identifying possible savings.

An Bord Snip was established in November 2008 tasked with identifying areas where public sector reforms, including significant redundancies and the abolition of decades-old restrictions, could lead to significant savings for the State.

The group was established as a result of declining global financial conditions and the collapse in the building industry.

UPDATE:

The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, has said that the Government is to reduce the amount it is spending on child benefit payments.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Minister Hanafin confirmed that the payment was to be means-tested or taxed, and said the scheme cost the State €2.5 million per year.

She said that social welfare payments had increased ‘very significantly’ during the years of strong economic growth.

Ms Hanafin said the Government was awaiting the report from the Commission on Taxation before deciding whether to means-test or tax child benefit.

She described the social welfare budget of €21 billion as ‘just too much’.

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UK: Parents Of Disruptive Pupils Targeted In New Government Plans

28 Jun

By J. P. Anderson:

Teachers will be able to take parents of disruptive pupils to court under Government plans to be unveiled this week.

Schools will get stronger powers to ask for the imposition of parenting orders, which could mean families being forced to attend classes to learn how to control their offspring.

If they still fail to keep children in line, they would face a £1,000 fine – and a jail sentence if they do not pay.

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, Children’s Secretary Ed Balls insisted: "Every parent has a responsibility to back our teachers and make sure the rules are enforced.

"We all have to play our part to make sure that happens. And that doesn’t just mean 95% of parents, but all parents – including the very few who aren’t taking their responsibilities seriously.

"Schools already have Home-School Agreements which set out the school’s rules and should make clear to parents what is expected of them and their children. But heads tell me that not all parents are willing to co-operate. And when pupils and parents break the agreement, it’s hard to enforce it. That has to change. There must be real consequences for those parents who don’t take their responsibilities seriously."

Other measures likely to feature in the Schools White Paper, which will be presented to MPs on Tuesday, include one-to-one tuition for pupils falling behind in maths and English.

Schools will also get more freedom from Whitehall over teaching reading, writing and maths. The move will save taxpayers the £100 million a year which goes on hiring consultants.

Meanwhile, it emerged that families could face compulsory parenting lessons if children aged 10-15 are being considered for Asbos.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the News of the World that parents sometimes needed "structured help and support from professionals" to deal with difficult youngsters." The move could be formally announced later this year.

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UK: New Breakthrough In NHS Hospital Superbugs Fight

27 Jun

By J. P. Anderson:

A new cleaning product could cut rates of a deadly hospital superbug by a third, according to research.

Levels of

MRSA were reduced by a third when wards are treated with Byotrol rather than standard bleach, a study found.

The 11-month study at Manchester Royal Infirmary suggests the product could be a useful tool for the health service.

Thousands of patients still die from superbug infections every year, despite recent progress in tackling the problem.

Byotrol was used on two general medical wards, while two others were treated with the NHS’s normal cleaning bleach.

Dr Andrew Dodgson, the consultant microbiologist who led the trial, said the results were "very impressive".

"Cutting the levels of pathogens on the wards reduces the risk to patients of picking up an infection," he said.

The Manchester research follows earlier tests at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, which found Byotrol cut levels of MRSA by half.

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Fourth ESPAD Survey On Substance Use Among Young People

27 Jun

Edited By J. P. Anderson:

Fourth ESPAD survey on substance use among young people by Jean Long and Deirdre Mongan

Mary Wallace TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, announced the publication of the fourth European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) on 26 March 2009.1

ESPAD surveys have been conducted every four years since 1995, using a standardised method and a common questionnaire. The rationale for these surveys is that school students are easily accessible and are at an age when onset of substance use is likely to occur. (By definition, early school leavers, a group known to be vulnerable to alcohol and drug use, are not represented.) ESPAD survey information is valuable in planning prevention initiatives.

The fourth survey was conducted in 35 European countries during 2007 and collected information on alcohol and illicit drug use among 15-16-year-olds; 2,249 students from 94 randomly selected schools participated, which represents a response rate of 78%. Fewer schools and students participated in 2007 than in 2003.

The 2007 survey report acknowledges that problems in the wording of the questionnaire affected the comparability of Irish data in relation to beer and cider consumption, and in relation to binge drinking.2 Consequently, this report does not contain Irish data on the volume of alcohol consumed on the last drinking occasion or the frequency of binge drinking.

In terms of alcohol consumption, the Irish data show unusual trends in both alcohol use and drunkenness. Drunkenness increased between the 1995 and 2003 surveys, but decreased considerably in 2007 (Figure 1). The percentage of students who had consumed any alcohol in the past 30 days decreased between 2003 and 2007 (from 73% to 56%), while the percentage who had been drunk in the previous 30 days halved (53% in 2003, 26% in 2007). The 2007 European average for alcohol consumption in the last 30 days was 61% (5 percentage points higher than Ireland), while the European average for drunkenness in the last 30 days was 18% (8 percentage points lower than Ireland

In terms of drug use, the Irish data show a marked decrease in lifetime use of any illicit drug between 2003 (40%) and 2007 (22%), a fall of 18 percentage points (Table 1). As the majority of those who have tried any illicit drug have used cannabis (marijuana or hashish), the decrease in illicit drug use was influenced by the considerable decrease in the number of students who had tried cannabis at some point in their lives, from 39% in 2003 to 20% in 2007 (European average 19%). Lifetime use of solvents/inhalants decreased from 18% in 2003 to 15% in 2007, but remained higher than the European average (9%). In the case of both amphetamines and cocaine powder, the proportions reporting lifetime use increased marginally to just above the European average of 3%. In 2007, one in ten of the survey participants reported that they had taken prescribed tranquillisers or sedatives at some point in their young lives; the use of such drugs had decreased marginally since 1999.

In another national study, the HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) survey,3 lifetime cannabis use among 15-17-year-olds was 29% in 2006 compared to 26% in 2002 and 25% in 1998 ( S Nic Gabhainn, personal communication, 2008). The HBSC survey shows a steady marginal increase in cannabis use between 1998 and 2007, whereas the ESPAD survey shows a large increase between 1999 and 2003 and a larger, unexpected decrease between 2003 and 2007 (Figure 2). It is important to investigate the reasons for the variability in alcohol and cannabis use reported in the ESPAD surveys; it could represent a genuine decrease in the use of alcohol and cannabis or a change in the type of sample chosen or the way the questionnaire was administered. (Jean Long and Deirdre Mongan)

1. Hibell B et al. (2009) The 2007 ESPAD report: substance use among students in 35 European countries. Stockholm: The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (CAN) and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe.

2. These anomalies are explained in the report (pp. 224-225), and concern the fact that Ireland uses both metric and imperial measures (litres/pints) and has a wide variety of containers for beer and cider (ranging from 284 ml to 568 ml), the absence of one answer category in the question about spirits consumption, and the lack of a definition of ‘a drink’ in the binge-drinking question.

3. The HBSC (Ireland) survey is conducted every four years by a research team at the Health Promotion Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Europe. see

www.nuigalway.ie/hrbsc

(Editor’s note: Graphs in this article are not shown here:

Source: Drugnet Ireland. Issue 30. Summer 2009: Newsletter of the Alcohol and Drug Research Unit of the Health Research Board Of Ireland).

www.hrb.ie

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