Anti-Semitism Antivaccine nonsense Cancer Medicine

So it’s guilt by association again, is it?

William “turbo cancer” Makis has found some trivia about the ancient history of my old stomping grounds ScienceBlogs and is using it to deceptively associate me with Jeffery Epstein. Oh, hell no!

Sometimes, a blogger’s gotta do what a blogger’s gotta do, even if it’s a post that he doesn’t really want to write. However, when deceptive attacks attempting to portray me as tight with a pedophile reach a certain level, eventually I do feel obligated to respond. So it has been the last week or two, the attacks coming from a particularly odious and stupid antivax quack, namely William Makis, one of the originators and key popularizers of the myth that COVID-19 vaccines are responsible for a wave of “turbo cancer.” Even though he blocked me on X, the hellsite formerly known as Twitter, through the intervention of others I learned that he’s been claiming that I was in the pay of the odious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who after his arrest in 2019 on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York committed suicide in his jail cell, leading me to say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

How, you may ask, is Makis trying to link me to Epstein? Well, let’s take a look:

One thing that interested me was Makis’ inclusion of an old Tweet in which I expressed dismay and said I felt “dirty” for having ever been associated with a company that had any link to Epstein while wondering what the link was. I also laughed out loud at the image claiming that Steve Novella and Harriet Hall were also linked to Epstein through ScienceBlogs. (Hint: Neither Steve nor Harriet were ever members of the ScienceBlogs collective. Seriously, this dude’s research skills are…not great.)

Neither are the research skills of some of the idiots sharing Makis’ six-degrees-of-separation-style guilt-by-association:

Bryce isn’t too bright, is he? come to think of it, neither is James Lyons-Weiler.

All I can say to Lyons-Weiler is: Bring it, but be prepared to pay for it. You wouldn’t be the first—and likely wouldn’t be the last, either—to have subjected me to an abusive FOIA request. One of my favorite examples came from some clueless antivaxxer in France who wanted any emails I had with the NIH (among other sources). What he didn’t know was that, like many researchers, I’m on a number of NIH mailing lists, which meant that the search results produced hundreds, if not thousands, of mailing list emails for him in addition to the much smaller number of emails between me and collaborators at the NIH about a project regarding the study of mammography breast density and risk of breast cancer. He had to pay for all the effort to find them. At least, I hope he did. As for the his having been “told” that I had graduate students playing “know-it-all” on social media, that’s an easy one to refute. I’ve never had graduate students, unfortunately, just postdocs, techs, and residents. I will admit that never having mentored a graduate student all the way through to a PhD is one of the great disappointments and failures of my career. Basically, whoever “told” JLW that I had a posse of graduate students on social media playing “know-it-all” didn’t know what they were talking about or were lying. Naturally, JLW lapped it up, because he is just that gullible.

Before I go on to explain the context, which will make it obvious that this whole thing is really a stretch, even as guilt-by-association, here’s a spoiler alert: Apparently Epstein apparently did invest in Seed Media Group (SMG), which owned and operated ScienceBlogs, in 2005—I joined in 2006—but, as far as I can tell, was never on the SMG board of directors, as some have falsely claimed.

Funny, how Makis seems to think that I tried to keep this bit of knowledge secret or that I was cool with it. Let me also say that this thread was the first time I learned about even a whiff of a hint of a connection between SMG and Epstein, and that was two years after the whole ScienceBlogs collective was shut down. (It was later sold to someone whom I do not like and resurrected, zombie-like, to shamble about, but that’s another story.)

I do not know if Epstein ever invested again, as Adam Bly, the founder and CEO of SMG, never answered questions about this. Unfortunately, I also found out that Epstein’s procurer Ghislaine Maxwell was on the board of directors for about a year and a half, possibly longer, from 2007-2008. However, I also note that her disappearance from the board seems to have coincided with Epstein’s first conviction for procuring a child for prostitution and soliciting a prostitute in 2008. More on all that later. In any event, the claim that Epstein was on the board of SMG appears to have come from a 2019 Mother Jones article featuring a truly bizarre interview with Stuart Pivar, a friend of Jeffrey Epstein that mentioned that in his complaint, “Pivar made a point of mentioning by name two prominent members of SMG’s board: Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Well, I guess 50% is not bad for Mother Jones‘ fact checking on this article. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) Actually, the original complaint names not just Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein as SMG board members, but James Watson as well. (As far as I can tell, Watson was never on the board; he was on the advisory board, if you can call being a one-person advisory board “on the advisory board.”)

But who is Brockman? He’s a literary agent linked to Epstein who apparently helped him meet so many luminaries in the world of science. Well, let’s go to PZ Myer’s expression of dismay at the whole situation, as well as a post in which he admitted that Brockman was his agent. Elsewhere, PZ notes:

I should have known — Seed Media Group was based in NY, was tightly focused on connecting science and media, and of course Epstein and his crony, Maxwell, would have been attracted to it, and it could well have been the recipient of Epstein money. So yeah, some of those blogging fees I was paid back then could have been stained with the Epstein taint, although I knew nothing about him at the time, never met him, and darn, never got invited to fly on the Lolita Express or visit his private island for sexy times. So while you might be able to draw a connection between us, my name would be in tiny print with only a thin red thread to tie us together.

Yep. Same here, although who knows about the blogging fees that I received, given that Epstein apparently invested a year before I joined? My early blogging fees might or might not been tainted. That is bad enough. Even so, however, what Makis is doing is grade-A conspiracy mongering, linking me to something that happened nearly 20 years ago that I knew nothing about until five years ago, as I didn’t really pay much attention to the Stuart Pivar shenanigans when they were actually happening.

The red yarn linking Orac to Epstein would be microscopically thin and very long.

One of the commenters pointed provided a lot more detail:

FWIW, a little digging shows that the Seed Media Group Board ¹ started out as Adam Bly, Joseph Gantz, James M. Gould, & R. Neil Raymond. James D. Watson was the Advisory Board. ²

But skipping forward a bit, I see that it grew a bit: ³

  • Adam Bly, Chairman
  • James Gould, Director
  • Jamie Macintosh, Director
  • Frederic Mayerson, Director
  • → Ghislaine Maxwell, Director
  • Neil Raymond, Director & Secretary
  • James Watson, Adviser ²

So while G. Maxwell is on there, Jeffrey Epstein was not. And I see she disappeared from the Board of Directorsat some time after April 2008 (the date of the snapshot before the one linked). What happened in 2008, again? Oh…
WikiP: “On June 30, 2008, after Epstein pleaded guilty to a state charge (one of two) of procuring for prostitution a girl below age 18 […]”

So the classic crackpot was half right about that one point.

1: If you want to see a bletcherous example of marketdroid-speak, you could read this page about Leonardos.

2: This was criticised on Scienceblogs itself, and the criticism is still online. Hm!

3: The management team is also there.

  • Adam Bly, Founder & CEO
  • Dean Daniels, COO
  • Fabien Savenay, Senior Vice President
  • Irina Golub, Vice President, Finance
  • Anna Herceg, Vice President, Advertising & Business Development
  • Tim Murtaugh, Director of Technology
  • Michael Tive, Vice President, Marketing
  • Claudia Valentino, Managing Editor, Content Labs
  • Ari Wallach, Vice President, Corporate Development

Ew. James Watson, racist and misogynist.

Also, it appears that Pivar’s beef was mainly with Seed, and he falsely and irrelevantly named Epstein as an SMG board member. Don’t get me wrong. It’s bad enough that Maxwell definitely was on the board for a time, and I’m definitely embarrassed about that.That two-degrees-of-separation is not separation enough. All I can say is that at the time I was really pretty oblivious to the whole Epstein story and learn from this incident to do and be better.

Before I conclude, I really do want to point out one particularly stupid bit of six-degrees-of-separation style conspiracy mongering I came across while researching this. It comes in the form of an article by an anonymous loon called JWO Watcher entitled JEFFREY EPSTEIN ,SEED MEDIA,DAVID GORSKI ,PAUL ZACHARY MYERS. (Yeah, I did search my name versus Jeffery Epstein to find out what the conspiracy loons have been saying. Hopefully I can get this post to rank higher on Google, so that anyone looking for dirt will find this post. However it ranks on Google, though, at least it will be out there. But let’s see what this conspiracy loon says:

Gorski ‘s Linked in page shows a 11 year relationship with Seed media writing under the pen name ORAC .He probably has as good a set of”blogging fees” from the Epstein group as Myer …..and probably has Brockman as an agent . Gorski’s only claim to fame is that he blogs frequently enough to be high in the search rankings. He peddles such a large amount of puerile, inane, jibber jabber that its impossible to believe he is an actual surgeon/professor and not a full time troll collecting “blogging fees ” from Epstein

I do so love basking in the adulation of my fans. However, it’s easy to refute the part about Brockman ever having been my agent. Why? Because I’ve never had an agent, ever. I do love the one constant in my fans’ accolades, their utter amazement that at one time I could blog so prolifically and prodigiously that they had a hard time believing that could also be an academic surgeon running a lab. Funny, though, that they haven’t stopped that line of criticism, now that my life situation has forced me to slow down to just two or three posts a week. It’s also funny how they never mention that I am completely unpaid now for my blogging. Quite the contrary, actually. I probably spend over $1,000 a year paying for hosting of my blog and a handful of useful WordPress plugins.

Next up:

In 2014 a oncologist like Farid Fata pleaded guilty to intentionally poisoning hundreds of patients through unnecessary treatment and raking in more than $17 million from fraudulent billings. The web site for the claims process in the case of United States v. Farid Fata mentions Karmanos the hospital Gorski held a high position multiple times Prior to that the Detroit Free Press had stated that An amended complaint (in the Fata criminal case) was filed in late December with allegations against new, unnamed defendants. Given Gorskis high positton in Karmanos and Fatas habit of unnecessary referrals to “friendly hospitals” there is a probability that one of those unnamed defendants could be Gorski .The “Epstein Network” given its track record ,could be blackmailing Gorski into either writing or allowing his blog/s to be used as a platform for write ups by hasbara like trolls

Nice touch of antisemitism there, with the “hasbara” remark.

The only thing that’s true in the nonsense above is that Dr. Fata was indeed arrested and did plead guilty to giving unnecessary chemotherapy to patients, some of whom didn’t even have cancer. However, if memory serves, I think he raked in considerably more than $17 million. Now, as then, however, this fool fails to note that Dr. Fata was never on staff at Karmanos Cancer Center. The only reason that this association was seized on was because Dr. Fata’s office was in the same building as a Karmanos satellite clinic at his hospital. I explained this before in 2016, when Mike Adams first started spreading this lie:

The truth is that I’ve personally never met Fata or communicated with him, much less worked with him. More importantly, I have nothing but contempt for the man, as I have related in the past. I am glad he is in prison. If there was anyone who richly deserved being in prison for a long, long time, it’s Dr. Fata. I also resent Adam’s attempt to use me to smear the Karmanos Cancer Institute, which is an excellent cancer center, one of 41 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center and a center I am proud to be part of. As far as I know, Fata was a private oncologist who ran a chain of clinics in the Detroit suburbs. He never had privileges at Karmanos and never practiced here, Adams’ lies otherwise and apparent harassment of a nurse at St. John’s Hospital notwithstanding. Indeed, Dr. Fata is universally despised by every oncologist I know who has heard of him, as well he should be. So desperate is Adams to slime me with his lies I expect that his next post will feature a crude Photoshop job showing Dr. Fata and me shaking hands.

To my surprise, eight years later, I have not seen that crude Photoshop job—yet. No doubt Makis will find or make one.

I’ll conclude by reiterating once again that even this distant link to Ghislaine Maxwell in the distant past (seriously, at least 16 years ago) and the knowledge that nearly 20 years ago Epstein did invest as much as $2 million in the blogging collective that I joined a year later are dismaying. Maybe I was too oblivious. Even if I was, that’s all that I was; it’s not as though I was, as Makis tries to imply, buddies with or on the direct payroll of Jeffrey Epstein or, as the JWO Watcher claims, a client of Brockman’s. It’s possible that some fraction of the very tiny checks that I received for blogging in 2006, back when I was first starting out and my traffic was not that high—we were paid based on traffic, and it took me a year or two to achieve decent traffic once my blog had been moved—might have come from Epstein, but there’s really no way to know or be sure now. So I’m not going to beat myself up over it anymore. I’ll just try to be more careful.

Finally, once Makis becomes aware of this post, he’s sure to update and add context and nuance to his attacks on me based on what really happened, right? That is, of course, sarcasm. Likely he’ll double down and claim that I “admit” everything, which I don’t. Such are the conspiracy-addled vileness and quackery that are William Makis—not to mention all the antivaxxers sharing screenshots of his highly deceptive accusation. He should be careful. I bet it would not be too difficult to find some unsavory associations that he has that are much tighter than even the most fantastical exaggerated “association” that he claims that I had with Epstein. The difference, of course, is that he’s proud of those associations.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

26 replies on “So it’s guilt by association again, is it?”

Well, there’s one positive to take from this.
They must be really desperate if this tenuous link between you and Epstein is the only thing they have to smear you with.

“Outing” people by linking them to Epstein has become a small industry.

As the Harvard Crimson explained, those outed include “a vast array of academics, politicians, and celebrities that Epstein has been linked to — a list that also includes Harvard professor emeritus Alan M. Dershowitz and former University president Lawrence H. Summers.”

When outed, the first response of most people, especially politicians, is to make up some excuse that only makes them seem guilty of something.

I think Noam Chomsky’s response was far more effective. When the Wall Street Journal tried to slander him by asking him if he knew Epstein, he replied: “First response is that it is none of your business. Or anyone’s. Second is that I knew him and we met occasionally.”  So he told them to F off, and then outed himself. After that, what could the Wall Street Journal say?

When the Harvard Crimson asked him to elaborate, he said: “Like all of those in Cambridge who met and knew him, we knew that he had been convicted and served his time, which means that he re-enters society under prevailing norms — which, it is true, are rejected by the far right in the US and sometimes by unscrupulous employers. I’ve had no pause about close friends who spent many years in prison, and were released. That’s quite normal in free societies.”

And then, in the same Harvard Crimson interview, he outed Harvard and his own university of far worse things than associating with a free person who previously served prison time: “I’ve often attended meetings and had close interactions with colleagues and friends on Harvard and MIT campuses, often in labs and other facilities built with donations from some of the worst criminals of the modern world. People whose crimes are well known, and who are, furthermore, honored by naming the buildings in their honor and lavishly praised in other ways.”

I once shared a plane flight with Michael Portillo (used to be a British politician). Now I understand why I have a lingering affection for steam trains.

Seems a rather dangerous ploy to use though. If, for example, an employee of the same company is guilty by association, even when employment period did not overlap, then it will be likely that Mr Makis has some rather dubious connections of his own.

Given that Lyons weiler has let himself be interviewed by the original antivax experimental medical science abuser of autistic children Andrew Wakefield, he really shouldn’t have gone there.

Actually, this neatly illustrates how these people think when persons distantly linked are the portrayed as being closely linked – or the same– and it clearly resembles their thought process about how science works. A few sequences in common show that Covid contains hiv! A slight resemblance of concepts leads to identifying them as being the same. Free association reigns supreme! It’s sloppy thinking and loosely associating ideas to prove a probably non-existent relationship. Magical thinking as well.

If we play 6 degrees of association- or even 2- most of us could find links to very interesting people- famous or infamous.

On a lighter note, I’ll ask again- does anyone have a name for the yarn-based flow chart featured here? I usually refer to it as the Beautiful Mind chart as it was shown in that film when the protagonist’s wife discovers that his ‘secret government project’ is really just a manifestation of his disordered thinking.

I’m from pretty meme oriented corners of the internet and usually see it referred to as a ‘conspiracy wall’. I think the trope is also called an evidence board, but I’m not going to fall down the rabbit hole that is TVTropes to see if that’s the commonly accepted term for the concept.

Conspiracy wall is pretty widely known/accepted though.

Thank you.
That’s very good;: “wall” also suggests an obstruction-… from reality perhaps

re magical thinking and thought processes

Orac has discussed the Law of Contagion and the Law of Similars
(- once something has been in contact with something, it remains forever so and “like cures like”, respectively,) in regards to homeopathy

Thought, which is naturally associative via language,/ images, that is unhinged from contact with external reality thrives by travelling around similar ideas and past connections despite the futility of this process.
Contrary evidence is not entertained or assimilated. It doesn’t fit.



I find it funny how those who promote conspiracy theories and disinformation often try to attack people based on how much they write. As if it is some bizarre form of tone policing. “Look how much you have written, you must be hysterical!” Or on someone’s payroll. Or (now) an AI bot.

I’m not sure if it is some acknowledgment of Brandolini’s law, or just simply because most of them really struggle with reading. I bet on the latter.

The normal answer is: People with money often give to random causes based on tax reasons or what’s fashionable at the time.

The answer you’re probably looking to spin is: something, something depopulation, something, something breakdown of society allowing free access to (insert sketchy thing here), something vague that’s a general assumption of malice that goes beyond the scope and scale of the actual issue.

I’d fill in the blanks better, but I’m not going to do your work for you and more detailed fiction either has to be commission work of part of an exchange of some sort.

All charitable donations have the same tax implications.

But why would Mr. Epstein chose to choose to sponsor vaccine advocacy, as opposed to thousands of other charitable causes, like dog rescue or poetry festivals?

Epstein had his reasons, but what were they?

This is what critical thinkers like me do, think hard about why would someone do something

“ speculate with no evidence about things that barely matter.”

It would be nice if Igor would spend as much time trying to learn things instead of taking meaningless coincidences and spinning new ways to blame vaccines for all the world’s ills. Alas, that will never happen since his history shows he is averse to learning.

@ Ldw56old:

However, scoffers like him think that learning entails scouring the internet / periodicals for material that agrees with their particular bent rather than formally studying which involves curated selections that encompass all the important questions in that field as understood by experts**
I often hear/ read alt med/ anti-vaxxers discuss issues whilst leaving out most of the real issues. e.g. autism sans prenatal brain development or Covid “deaths” without standard epidemiological considerations.
If you think that diet and supplements can “cure” HIV/aids then you won’t look into the history of ARV/ HAART interventions..
Although all you really have to do is watch commercials for evidence of successful treatments over decades.

** to these people, experts don’t exist/ everyone is an expert.

@Denice who said:

However, scoffers like him think that learning entails scouring the internet / periodicals for material that agrees with their particular bent rather than formally studying which involves curated selections that encompass all the important questions in that field as understood by experts**
I often hear/ read alt med/ anti-vaxxers discuss issues whilst leaving out most of the real issues. e.g. autism sans prenatal brain development or Covid “deaths” without standard epidemiological considerations.
If you think that diet and supplements can “cure” HIV/aids then you won’t look into the history of ARV/ HAART interventions..
Although all you really have to do is watch commercials for evidence of successful treatments over decades.

All true, but I think

** to these people, experts don’t exist/ everyone is an expert.

is the key. Igor clearly doesn’t understand the things he write about but his posts indicate he has a pretty big eqo (repeatedly calling himself a “critical thinker” when he’s dismissing views of others, talking about his skill at “critical reading”, etc). If he can’t feed his ego (and his wallet through Substack) by providing proper explanations of these issues, the only way he can pass himself off as an expert is to make things up, and we’ve seen he has a huge imagination.

Perhaps to better his image?
You are not a critical thinker but someone who suppose people handle only in bad faith.

ScienceBlogs was not only about vaccine advocacy. I’m trying to remember off the top of my head, but PZ Meyers was there, and there was at least one astronomy blogger, some biology blogs . . . I don’t remember all of the subjects.

I do so love Igor’s conspiratorial “guilt by association” effort here. He’s no different than William Makis in his love of this sort of thing.

Here’s the deal. People are complicated. They can do good and evil at different times. If Epstein did indeed invest in vaccine advocacy, that would have been one of the only good things he did with his misbegotten adult life. Moreover, if he did invest in ScienceBlogs in 2005 (which he appears to have done), that, too, would have been a good thing, regardless of his crimes. Of course, because you believe vaccines are evil (and, yes, you do), any perceived connection between Epstein and vaccine advocacy only reinforces your belief.

Because anti-vaxxers believe that vaccines are the ultimate evil, anything or anyone associated with them is, by nature, evil as well thus evil people will choose vaccines.Vaccines are the central organising construct of their worldview: their raison d’etre so, OBVIOUSLY, they employ them as a platform to attract a like-minded audience to support their endeavors -selling supplements, “literature”, Substacks or themselves ( brands/ personae) as bold rebel paradigm shifters.

It’s an easy way to find followers.

“This is what critical thinkers like me do”

Hope everyone had their ultra-filtration masks on, to avoid ingesting a shower of microparticulates from the irony meters that exploded in response to Igor’s comment.

The correlation between being an antivax crank and praising oneself as a “critical thinker” and/or “truth-teller”* is powerful indeed.

*see: Steve Kirsch

And this is what fanfic writers like me do (as opposed to peddlers of fiction of your sort):

Igor, as you have many people you know who fall ill and die after vaccines, I have many acquaintances who associate with all sorts of unsavory characters because people who are wealthy, immoral, or both tend to run in overlapping circles – not the exact same circles mind you, but there is overlap. I am unfortunately not one of the wealthy, I am what would be considered ‘the help’ because island dystopias and secret lairs in ominously skull shaped volcanoes do not maintain themselves. When the ultra rich get to drinking freely they get to talking freely and when they find themselves in an environment where they feel at ease they tend to do both even more so.

And in those moments they forget that those who are serving them drinks and clearing the tables before bringing the next lavish course for them to savor have ears. The help may seem ignorant and unthinking, merely hands and uniforms with the intent to serve, but behind those agreeable smiles and carefully bland expressions there are keen minds,

So please, take this at face value – there are many reasons people donate to causes – as you are fond of saying, ‘who knows why these people act the way they do’, and what is fashionable at a given time is an influence, as is it simply being brought up in conversation, a sort of bandwagon effect.

It could very well be that someone at a party Epstein was invited to someone mentioned that they were donating to some health related cause, perhaps funding towards cancer research, medical outreach in at risk communities, or something similar and the idea stuck with him. I believe the devil herself is a huge proponent of research related to immunology, so there is that to consider.

Later on, when it came time for him to get rid of some of his ill-gotten gains the thought was in his head to give to something medical related. He tossed a dart at a wall covered in the names of organizations and causes that people he hung out with talked about and where the dart landed was where he donated to.

It was simply chance, pure random chance through a chance mention that planted a name in his head and then chance again through the toss of a dart.

This is my opinion, based on someone who comes from a long line of henchmen and waitresses at locations that cater to the rich and famous.

Alternately, if you want something with more appeal, something that really gets the attention of the readers, I could write a story that features engineered viruses, evil schemes aimed at depopulating the globe, and attractive women far beyond those blonds buying Wonderbread at Costco that come up in your stories, but, uh, that’s not the kind of thing I’d post here.

And the real fun is, what I’ve written above is just as grounded as any of the stories you spin.

He of course did not sponsor vaccine advocacy, It was a science blog, long since.

Just to be clear on this ‘critical thinking’ lark…..

How do you know that he DIDN’T sponsor dog rescue or poetry festivals? If he was rich then he might have sponsored a lot of different stuff.

Making assumptions that vaccine advocacy is what he donated to AND that it was the only thing he donated to, is not critical thinking. Just as it wouldn’t be critical thinking if you discovered all sorts of donations but dismissed them all as camouflage to hide his true nefarious reasons for vaccine advocacy. What you’d have there would be classical conspiracy thinking.

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