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Made in China – Sold in China

For decades, we have been used to seeing almost everything we buy with the label ‘Made in China.’ It was convenient for every party, consumer and seller alike. However, lately Chinese tech products have caused quite a lot of concern in the free world.

TikTok is one of the most talked about issues. The app’s popularity casts a shadow on the danger it poses regarding data collection and the apparent link between the company and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). No surprise that several governments have already taken steps to limit the use of the app. First, the United States banned TikTok on government devices, followed by some universities doing the same. Canada is likely to follow, and many people hope the slow and bureaucratic EU legislation will pass something similar.

Another concern is the Huawei 5G network, which some EU countries have already given up. Still, most member states depend on this Chinese technology, although many alternative service providers come from the free world. 

Lately, it has caused uproar in Australia to learn that the notorious Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua provided surveillance cameras to government buildings. According to James Paterson, the opposition spokesperson for cybersecurity and countering foreign interference, the Commonwealth was “riddled with CCP spyware,” and he urged the government to remove them immediately. Some months ago, the same took place in the United Kingdom, where these two companies were banned due to human rights issues and possible espionage.

The latest news that has caused worry has come from Android users in China, where the cell phones of popular Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Oppo Realme collect a massive amount of data via their operating systems. Although, as of now, we only have information that this concerns only phones in China, we must be cautious about using similar Chinese tech products and services. Otherwise, we will end up having our data ‘Sold in China.’

Originally published here

Bill Would Give US Production of Vital Electronics to China

The consequences of a bill in Congress will make you want to buy a new phone and laptop, provided that inflation leaves you with enough disposable income to do that.

While Americans are dealing with the effects of record-high gas prices, Democrats in Congress are suggesting the so-called PFAS Action Act, which would declare perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances as hazardous chemicals. This legislation would open the gates for a ban on a large set of substances needed to produce everything from consumer electronics and vital medical equipment.

In an effort to preserve clean drinking water and protect consumer health, Democrats (and a handful of Republican co-sponsors of the bill) are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. PFAS, according to the CDC, englobes over 9,000 chemicals, which all have varying uses and severity.

Lawmakers in Washington are relying on cases of malpractice, when companies violated their duty to protect local communities by failing to ensure safe use, transport and disposal, to pull the rug out from this large set of substances.

Ultimately, why care? No citizen likes the idea of potentially toxic chemicals being in use at all, so why not just endorse this piece of legislation?

In fact, while within the set of 9,000 chemicals, some of them may very well need phasing out, others are essential to key American industries.

For instance, these chemicals are vital for the production of semiconductors, predominantly the use of coolant, and a ban would worsen the already existing chip shortage, which affects anything from mobile phones to electric cars. Computer chip shortages cost the U.S. economy $240 billion in 2021.

That said, waiting another six months for your electric vehicle or stomaching a significant price increase on your latest smartphone is just the tip of the iceberg. While regulators in the United States or Europe may decide to ban PFAS, manufacturers are unlikely to follow suit.

In fact, Beijing is famously less concerned than Western nations when it comes to chemical regulation, and would be more than happy to rake up the market shares made available by destructive environmental restrictions.

What message is Congress sending to American companies by considering this bill? Intel has announced it will spend $20 billion on a chip factory in Ohio, to stop the increasingly endemic lack of semiconductors. Presumably, Washington is thanking them by stripping the company of the tools to manufacture components and outsourcing the task to producers abroad.

When dealing with consumer goods, we should prefer that they are made with a transparent and reasonable regulatory framework that punishes wrongdoing to the full extent of the law, instead of relying on imports from nations that do not share our vision of safe manufacturing.

Originally published here

UK is Right to Delay the Decision on China’s Semiconductor Takeover

The UK government has decided to delay its decision on whether China can take over the UK’s largest semiconductor company. In May, an inquiry into the state of UK chips was announced.

The Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group, welcomed the decision, arguing that at a time of great geopolitical turbulence and global chip shortages, the UK should indeed be extremely cautious about any dealings with China.

“China is well-known for building back-doors into its technologies, spying, and breaching users’ privacy. For that reason, the fact that China owns major chip firms in the UK and aspires to expand is concerning. To compensate for the once lenient approach towards Chinese expansion into the UK semiconductor sector, the government should now focus on enhancing domestic semiconductor production,” said Maria Chaplia, Research Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

“Regaining a competitive edge in the semiconductor industry is vital, but it is impossible without taking an evidence-based approach to PFAS, a grouping of 4000+ man-made chemicals, which are vital for the production of semiconductors. If the UK is serious about increasing domestic chip production, they have to also work to secure the key inputs involved in the production process, and PFAS are one of those key inputs.” said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

“British green groups have been fear mongering around PFAS, but the UK government should prioritise long-term national security and consumer welfare over populist claims,” added Chaplia.

“With the global chip shortage, the UK has a unique chance to become a semiconductor powerhouse if it doesn’t ban PFAS. Among other things, this will ensure the UK can effectively counter China’s increased chip manufacturing. The UK government shouldn’t succumb to Chinese influence and calls to ban all PFAS,” concluded Chaplia.

The EU and the U.S. Need a Common Digital Market Strategy to Counter China

The past few weeks have been hardly an easy time for Facebook.Frances Haugen’s leak, combined with a six-hour blackout last week, has reinforced some politicians’ desire to further regulateFacebook, or even completely break it up, as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. However, while the EU and U.S. are thinking long and hard about their next move against big tech, China has been taking over our digital space in the West slowly but consistently.

Following a report by an anonymous researcher, Hikvision, a Chinese surveillance company, is now facing scrutiny over a privacy breach in Europe. The high-tech cameras produced by Hikvision have been found to be vulnerable and carry risk of malicious code insertion or cyberattacks.

In the U.S., Hikvision was put on the sanctions list under President Trump in 2019. China’s appetite for data is hardly news, and as Europe is finally starting to open its eyes to its scope, it’s time for a shared action. To counteract growing Chinese influences, the EU and U.S. need a comprehensive transatlantic agreement on digital policies.

In January 2021, the European Commission presented the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA). At first glance, both acts aim to curb innovation in the EU by keeping American tech giants at bay. Combined with antitrust investigations against Facebook and Amazon, the European Union’s behavior can be easily classified as hostile toward the U.S. However, both DSA and DMA are inept attempts to understand how online platforms work and seemingly fail to strike a balance between the need to safeguard the competition while allowing smaller enterprises to innovate.

To level the playing field for all platforms regardless of their size, the Digital Markets Act put in place a series of ex-ante restrictions to determine the acceptable market behavior for big players. DSA and DMA are not anti-American per se; it just happens that the U.S. tech sector is fertile ground for disruptive platform businesses, which makes them a prime target for EU authorities.

Even U.S. lawmakers have been determined to clip the wings of big tech to encourage future digital innovation. Throughout the years, Facebook has had to fight several antitrust complaints to disprove the claims of its alleged monopoly in the social networking market. Last year, Amazon faced its first antitrust lawsuit, and Google has been flooded with these as well. Most of these proceedings are a knee-jerk reaction to the continuously growing market power of businesses that are fundamentally different from conventional supply chains and corporations that sell physical goods. The Internet has changed everything.

U.S. state and federal regulators and their European counterparts are equally puzzled about how best to address the sudden and continuous exponential growth of tech giants, services that have provided vast benefits to consumers. But in a quest to come up with a perfect piece of legislation to tame tech companies, both the EU and the U.S. have lost sight of the far-reaching hand of the Chinese Communist Party and its influence in the digital market and beyond.

TikTok is a well-known case of how one popular app with ties to China can threaten what we in the liberal democracies value most: freedom. A 2019 report released by The Guardian showed that TikTok was as much a social media platform for sharing videos as a strategically organized censorship and propaganda machine.

The app was found to not only have banned specific anti-Chinese government videos, but also promoted various Chinese organizations, ministries, schools, and universities founded outside China that pushed the Communist Party’s narrative. Huawei’s backdoor to mobile networks globally is another example of how technology is used by the Chinese government to undermine national security and privacy in liberal democracies.

The EU and the U.S. should stand up to China and its growing influence in all areas, but especially on the digital front. The potential extent of its surveillance powers in our countries is terrifying. According to a 2019 research by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, Global Tone Communications Technology Co. Ltd, supervised by China’s Central Propaganda Department, mines data in more than 65 languages from 200+ countries. Since the company is state-owned, the bulk data can be used by others who have access to it.

If left unconstrained, China’s playbook on controlling its citizens could spread to liberal democracies. The EU and the U.S. must work together to develop a common digital strategy to tackle the ever-expanding influence of the CCP.

It is more important that we protect our consumers from a spy country that has detained three million Uyghurs. As such, an EU-U.S. agreement on a digital strategy centered around a shared goal to stop China is paramount to preserving our freedoms.

Originally published here

To Tackle China, the U.S. Should Invest More in Africa

The Biden administration has requested that Congress approve an $80 million package to finance the newly launched Prosper Africa Build Together initiative. The project will focus on fostering trade and investment between the world’s poorest continent and the United States. Given Africa’s ambitious free trade aspirations and China’s ever-growing obsession with the continent, such a move couldn’t come at a better time.

The past few years can hardly be seen as the golden age of free trade in the West. Trade wars combined with persistent attempts to make trade woke—through the integration of environmental or gender causes—have undermined economic exchange globally. However, while European Union governments and the U.S. have imposed sanctions, blocked exports as part of COVID measures, and failed to negotiate new agreements, Africa has been silently making strides toward its own free trading future—with China’s help.

Founded in 2018, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the largest free trade area in the world in terms of participating countries. By removing 90% of tariffs on goods traded among 54 African countries-signees within five to 10 years, the AfCFTA looks likely to become the biggest free trade entity since the 1995 launch of the World Trade Organization. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52% within five years.

As of 2019, intra-African exports accounted for 16.6% of total exports. For comparison, in Europe, the share was 68.1%. If fully implemented, the AfCFTA has the potential to put the continent, long crippled by poverty and corruption, on the path of lasting prosperity.

For international trade, the AfCFTA will mean clearer customs checks and unified market access rules, which could hugely benefit the United States. Africa could become the largest market for the automotive industry. In 2018, Volkswagen and Peugeot Société Anonyme opened their first car plants in Rwanda and Namibia, respectively. Car imports from Africa could become a great alternative to the European imports.

Although ambitious, the AfCFTA is also riddled with implementation problems. Decades of socialist African governments whose main objective was their own enrichment have resulted in substantial infrastructure problems, among other things, in many countries. The construction and modernization of infrastructure combined with establishing efficient customs check procedures is key to making the AfCFTA succeed.

This is where China has stepped in to fill the gap. Last November, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (pictured) said that his government “will provide cash assistance and capacity-building training to its [AfCFTA] secretariat.”

Such support for the AfCFTA is not surprising. Over the years, China has made itself indispensable for Africa’s leaders. Between 2003 and 2019, Chinese foreign direct investment in Africa has increased from $75 million USD in 2003 to $2.7 billion USD in 2019. There is no sign of this trend losing momentum.

Although it can be seen as beneficial to Africa’s development, active Chinese participation in Africa’s development is increasingly worrisome. There is no such thing as free Chinese money. By investing in Africa, China is making the continent indebted, and it won’t hesitate to ask for something in return. Knowing China’s appetites—taking the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka is one example—it is not hard to predict what will happen. Aside from active political involvement, China will also ask for preferential access to the AfCFTA once it is fully functioning.

Africa presents many opportunities for the United States. Almost all African products can freely enter the U.S. through the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade preference program launched in 2000. The U.S. has also formally committed to supporting the AfCFTA, but its impact is negligible compared to that of China.

More active engagement from the U.S. in AfCFTA is crucial financially and ideologically. The foundations laid by the AfCFTA today will determine the continent’s fate. U.S. assistance in the form of investments and general support will be key in shaping a better and freer tomorrow for Africans, revitalizing trade globally, and counteracting China’s influence.

Originally published here

Which aspects of China’s basic dictatorship does Trudeau admire most?

In this week’s episode of The Western Voice the State Broadcaster gets first mention as it has been recently exposed that CBC CEO Catherine Tait has been jet setting between her $5.4 million Brooklyn New York home and Ottawa while normal Canadians remain in a miserable pandemic lockdown.

Morgan muses on Trudeau’s obsession with pandering to China makes sense when it is considered that Justin Trudeau had expressed his admiration for China’s “basic dictatorship” in how it aids them getting things done.

A number of things that China has done lately: hold Canadians hostage, arrest journalists and round up members of religious minorities. Admirable indeed.

The broken carbon tax promise will cost Canadians dearly at all levels. An example from just one Saskatchewan farming irrigation collective demonstrates how the proposed 467 percent increase in the carbon tax will likely drive many farmers right out of the industry while Canadian consumers will see increases in basic food costs.

Morgan interviews North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center, David Clement on his recent article on Canada’s supply management system and an international trade initiative called “CANZUK”.

Originally published here

How a coronavirus epidemic in China could ripple through the global economy

An international outbreak of respiratory illness sparked by a novel coronavirus has spread from its origins in central China to at least 11 countries, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases — including a presumed case in Canada — and over 40 deaths.

Like previous outbreaks, including the SARS virus 17 years ago, the flu-like disease poses a risk to economies around the world as fear and confusion lead to abrupt changes in behaviour, decreased economic activity and a ripple effect across sectors that threatens everything from productivity to consumer prices.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome pandemic of 2003 cost the Chinese economy up to US$20 billion, according to the Asian Development Bank, as travel warnings and transit shutdowns discouraged consumption, foreign tourists stayed away and local residents stopped going out.

“The travel and tourism sectors were most obviously hit, although that ripples through the entire economy,” said Richard Smith, a professor of health economics at the University of Exeter Medical School.

“But many effects are short-lived during an outbreak as once the panic is over people go back to business as usual.”

Chinese authorities clamped down on mass transit during the SARS outbreak, hampering commutes, shopping runs and social outings. The national securities regulatory commission closed stock and futures markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen for two weeks to prevent viral transmission. And Beijing ordered movie theatres, internet cafes and other venues to shut down temporarily while hotels, conference centres, restaurants and galleries saw visitors almost disappear completely.

China’s response to the current crisis appears to be swifter, and the disease less virulent, but the country now boasts a far more extensive high-speed rail network than it did in 2003, and its economy is six times larger, upping the risk of transmission and the repercussions of an epidemic.

“China is the engine of the global economy, churning out goods,” said German health economist Fred Roeder.

Its critical role in international shipping may be thrown into disarray as authorities begin to hold back some ships from entering the port at Wuhan, a key hub on the Yangtze River.

“If they cannot leave it creates huge delays in the supply chain and value chain of businesses all across the world,” Roeder said. “It could actually hit the latest generation of smartphone if ports are shutting down.”

Manufacturing could also feel the crunch as supply chains stall, he said.

Roeder has felt firsthand the disruptive power of a pandemic. In the summer of 2003 the teenage Berliner was eagerly gearing up for a United Nations youth conference that would take him to Taipei, but the event was cancelled a few days beforehand due to SARS.

The epidemic also sparked layoffs and time away from work. At one point Singapore Airlines asked its 6,600 cabin crew to take unpaid leave. Children stayed home from school, prompting more parents to shirk their job duties and further reducing productivity, said AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray.

“I was losing guys left, right and centre as people were quarantined,” recalled Murray, based in Toronto — the epicentre of the SARS pandemic outside of Asia. The disease infected 438 Canadians in total and caused 44 deaths in the Toronto area.

The economic damage culminated with World Health Organization’s one-week travel advisory for the city in April 2003, costing the Canadian economy an estimated $5.25 billion that year.

The outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu, in 2009 also sparked work “dislocations,” Murray said. “It went from, ‘Maybe it’ll be okay,’ to sheer panic.”

Freelancers and gig economy workers such as musicians or ride-hail drivers may feel the pinch more acutely, since they can’t rely on a steady wage when demand shrinks.

“It’s something that unfortunately has happened before in a similar way and it tends to affect areas like retail,” said Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, said this week.

“People don’t go out, they don’t fly in planes, they don’t do as much tourism to the affected areas,” she said.

The fallout makes workers ranging from servers to wholesale bakers to non-unionized hotel staff more vulnerable. Meanwhile spending or investment plans by larger companies may have to be delayed, said Roeder.

It is not clear how lethal the new coronavirus is or even whether it is as dangerous as the ordinary flu, which kills about 3,500 people every year in Canada alone.

Originally published here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at 

How Estonia’s cybersecurity strategy can help the EU cope with China

Fred Roeder, a German health economist and the managing director of the Consumer Choice Center, proposes Estonia to lead the European Union to a coherent cybersecurity strategy in order to protect consumers and businesses not only from cyberattacks from Russia but also from potentially much larger attacks and espionage from China.

Within the past twelve years, Estonia has emerged as a leading nation in the field of cyber defence and security. The cyberattacks of 2007 made Tallinn much earlier aware of the massive threat of online attacks compared with its larger NATO allies.

Especially under EU commissioner, Andrus Ansip (nominated by Estonia, Ansip was the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society from 2014 until July 2019 – editor), Estonia has been a driving force behind the European Commission’s new cybersecurity agenda. Estonia now needs to lead the European Union to a coherent cybersecurity strategy in order to protect consumers and businesses not only from cyberattacks from Russia but also from potentially much larger attacks and espionage from China.

China’s backdoors

The adoption of Internet of Things solutions and the highly anticipated rollout of very fast 5G networks will make consumers’ privacy even more vulnerable. The recent events in Hong Kong and the Chinese Communist Party’s reluctance to keep its commitments towards the rule of law are reasons why we must heed caution.

Some governments and manufacturers tend to be mostly concerned about competitiveness through low prices, which is important for consumers. However, we also care about privacy and data security. Therefore, a smart policy response is needed that would incentivise market players to give enough weight to consumer data security in Europe, all the while achieving that goal without undue market distortions and limiting of consumer choice.

n more than just one instance, the Chinese leadership has put legal or extra-legal pressure on private firms to include so-called backdoors in their software or devices, which may be exploited either by government agents alone or with a manufacturer’s help. As a response to threats like this, countries like Australia and the US went so far as to ban the Chinese network equipment manufacturer, Huawei, from its 5G networks.

Pressure on non-European suppliers to adopt the security-by-design approach

While some governments see bans as the best way to protect national security and consumer privacy, we know there is no single silver bullet solution for safeguarding privacy and data security. A mix of solutions is needed, and this mix will likely change over time.

Healthy competition between legal jurisdictions and between private enterprises is the best mechanism for the discovery of the right tools. But those working on cybersecurity solutions should also consider consumer interests. Keeping new regulation technology-neutral, and thus not deciding by law which technological solution is best, allows an agile framework for consumer privacy.

The EU’s current legal rules, like the General Data Protection Regulation, for example, do not provide sufficient clarity regarding liability of network operators for privacy violations made possible by hardware vulnerabilities. Thus, a clear standard of supply chain security must be defined.

Emphasising liability rules for using or reselling software or devices with vulnerabilities would give those rules more teeth and thus incentivise telecommunications operators and others to think about their customers’ privacy during their procurement decisions. This should, in turn, put pressure on non-European suppliers to adopt the security-by-design approach and to take pains to show that they have done so.

Smart regulation needed to prevent autocratic governments from spying on us

In solving the problem of unclear and ineffective legal rules on data security, we must take into account that technical standards should be as technology neutral as possible. Manufacturers from countries that are under scrutiny – such as China – might want to provide purely open-source technology in order to rebuild trust in their products.

Instead, the rules should be focused on outcomes and be as general as possible while still providing sufficient guidance. These standards should be possible to identify and adopt not just by the biggest market players who can easily devote significant resources to regulatory compliance. A certification scheme must be thorough in order to minimise the risk of any backdoors or other critical vulnerabilities.

The debate around 5G reminds us how vulnerable consumers are in a technologically and politically complex world and that cyber threats originate usually in autocratic countries.

Therefore, smart regulation is needed in order to protect consumers from data breaches and to prevent autocratic governments from spying on us. By continuing the legacy of commissioner Ansip’s leadership and strengthening the liability of network operators for technological vulnerabilities, both consumer choice and privacy can be ensured. Blunt instruments like total bans based on country of origin or regulators picking the technological champions should be seen as measures of the last resort.

Originally published here

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Im Kreuzfeuer: 5G, China, Sicherheit und Datenschutz

Schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G vs. Verbraucherschutz?

Nie war Mobilfunk so politisch wie heute. Während die EU-Kommission Vorschläge für ein abgestimmtes Vorgehen der EU zur Sicherheit von 5G-Netzen vorlegt, kritisiert das amerikanische Consumer Choice Center – nicht ohne Ironie -, dass man in der Datenschutzhochburg Europa bei 5G ausgerechnet auf Technologie aus einem Land (= China) setze, in dem der Datenschutz mit Füßen getreten werde.

Nach allerlei Winken mit dem sprichwörtlichen Zaunpfahl seitens der US-Regierung oder regierungsnaher Stellen setzt sich nun auch die liberale Lobbyorganisation Consumer Choice Center kritisch mit dem wachsenden Einfluss chinesischer Anbieter von Mobilfunktechnologie auf dem europäischen Markt auseinander.

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia).

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia). (Bild: Consumer Choice Center)

Für Fred Roeder, Geschäftsführer des Consumer Choice Center, sollte die Privatsphäre der Verbraucher in dieser Debatte an erster Stelle stehen. “5G bietet eine völlig neue Art der Konnektivität und verspricht enorme Vorteile für das Internet der Dinge. Dies wird begrüßt, aber gleichzeitig sollten sich die europäischen Verbraucher des potenziellen Gepäcks bewusst sein, das einige Infrastrukturanbieter mitbringen”, so Roeder.

“Während die EU eine der strengsten Datenschutzbestimmungen der Welt hat die DSGVO die Geschäftstätigkeit vieler gesetzestreuer Unternehmen in der EU erheblich erschwert hat, sollten wir uns Sorgen machen, dass Technologieunternehmen mit Sitz in Ländern ohne Rechtsstaatlichkeit ein potenzielles Datenschutzrisiko für Verbraucherdaten darstellen. Während ein schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G für einige ein großer Sprung nach vorne sein könnte, müssen wir sicherstellen, dass wir nicht in dunklere Zeiten zurückkehren, wenn es um den Datenschutz der Verbraucher in Europa geht”, erklärt Roeder.

Read more here

China ‘supports millions of American jobs, makes big profits for US firms’, Beijing says

YAHOO NEWS: The document cited the US Consumer Choice Centre as saying that US President Donald Trump’s administration was punishing the American people with its punitive action, saying the tariffs would have a direct impact on 150,000 jobs in North Carolina and 6,500 in South Carolina, both of which are heavily reliant on exports.

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