Women in charge: HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge

Rep. Marcia Fudge, 58, says it is "an honor and a privilege" to be asked to join President Biden's cabinet.

"It is something in probably my wildest dreams I would have never thought about. So if I can help this president in any way possible, I am more than happy to do it," she said.

Fudge was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on October 29, 1952. She graduated from Shaker Heights High School in 1971 and attended Ohio State University where she earned a degree in business in 1975. In 1983, she earned a Juris Doctor from Cleveland State University Cleveland–Marshall College of Law.

She went on to practice law in Ohio for over a decade in the private and public sector. In 1996, she was elected national president of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., the largest public service sorority for African-American women.

If confirmed, reports Yahoo! News, Fudge will follow in the footsteps of her Delta sorority sister, Patricia Roberts Harris, the first Black woman to lead HUD under the Carter administration.

The Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. sorority has a storied history and a tradition of activism. Founded at Howard University over a century ago, the Deltas' first action was to join the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession, marching alongside other college delegations with their mentor, Mary Church Terrell, to call for women's enfranchisement. Members of the sorority today — with over 1,000 chapters and more than 350,000 initiated members — "are highly politically active citizens who leverage their organizational ties to promote race and gender based civic engagement." Seven of the 22 Black women serving in the 116th Congress are Deltas, including Rep. Marcia Fudge.

Images: Howard University Delta Sigma Theta founders, 1913. Courtesy of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Howard University. Below: Each year, the women of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. visit Capitol Hill to use their collective voices to stand up for their communities. (2018, Instagram ); 2019 Founders Day (l-r) Reps. Lucy McBath, Joyce Beatty, Yvette Clark, Marcia Fudge, Brenda Lawrence and Val Demings (Not pictured: Rep. Stacey Plaskett) (Credit: Instagram )

Images: Howard University Delta Sigma Theta founders, 1913. Courtesy of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Howard University. Below: Each year, the women of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. visit Capitol Hill to use their collective voices to stand up for their communities. (2018, Instagram); 2019 Founders Day (l-r) Reps. Lucy McBath, Joyce Beatty, Yvette Clark, Marcia Fudge, Brenda Lawrence and Val Demings (Not pictured: Rep. Stacey Plaskett) (Credit: Instagram)

Founders Day 2018 - Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.jpg Congresswomen who are Deltas.png

Early Days

Fudge began her congressional career in 1999 as chief of staff for her close friend and Delta sorority sister, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first African American woman to represent Ohio in Congress. The two had met as teenagers and had worked together in the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. "I helped her staff the office, found housing, all of the things that you do when you come in for the first time," Fudge told Roll Call. "She was the only Black person in her class — as was I, when I [later got elected]." In 2000, Fudge left Washington and ran for office herself, becoming the first woman and the first African American mayor of Warrensville Heights, OH. Rep. Tubbs Jones administered the oath of office.

In the summer of 2008, Rep. Tubbs Jones died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Party leaders reached out to ask Fudge if she would consider running in a special election for her seat. "It's very difficult to lose someone who is as close to me as Stephanie was," Fudge said. "Ultimately I decided that it was probably the best thing to do because I want to ensure that her legacy continues."

Fudge's sorority sisters recalled that when they encouraged her to run at Tubbs Jones' funeral, she said she was worried that the race would require fundraising that she, the mayor of a very small town, would find challenging.

"We started collecting money right there," Pamela Smith, a Delta and longtime friend, told USA Today. We said, "Oh, you got some money.''

They raised $10,000 for her campaign that night.

Fudge won the special election and several after that. As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, many younger legislators credit her with being a strong mentor and ally. Increasing the representation of people of color in every representative's staff has been one of her goals on the Hill. "So many people of color never even get an opportunity to interview in offices that are not minority-run offices," she told Roll Call.

"Let me say two things that I very much pride myself on. I'm a tough boss," Fudge says. "Especially as I take young, inexperienced people, and even some who are mid-range, I try to prepare them for their next job. I try to make them stronger at what they do. I try to give them a well-rounded experience, because I always want somebody to say, 'Where did you come from? Who trained you?' I take great pride in that. ...When I know my staff is at a point where they want to go someplace else, I help them."

Rep. Marcia Fudge (center) with interns from her DC and Ohio offices on National Intern Day, 2019 (Credit: Twitter )

Rep. Marcia Fudge (center) with interns from her DC and Ohio offices on National Intern Day, 2019 (Credit: Twitter)

Fellow Ohio representative and Delta, Rep. Joyce Beatty of Columbus, told Cleveland.com "she will miss sitting next to her pal every day on the House floor. 'Talking and strategizing with her was a highlight of session days,' said Beatty. 'Her vision, outspokenness, and tenacity will be sorely missed in the halls of Congress, but I am confident those same qualities will help her excel' as HUD's second African-American female leader."

In her Senate committee confirmation hearing earlier this month, Fudge said that her years as a mayor offered her valuable experience that would inform her leadership of HUD. "As mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, I saw firsthand the need for economic development and affordable housing. We improved the city's tax base and expanded affordable housing opportunities. As a member of Congress, I tackled the unique challenges of my district, working with my delegation and across the aisle."

Marcia Fudge and her mother (Credit: Instagram )

Marcia Fudge and her mother (Credit: Instagram)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked Fudge if direct federal financial assistance to prospective minority homeowners living in formerly redlined neighborhoods to help make the down payment on a mortgage would narrow the racial gap. Equity is a central priority of the Biden-Harris administration.

In response, Fudge said yes, because making the down payment "is the biggest impediment to homeownership for communities of color.. ...It's like us being in a race with people who have already had a head start, because we don't have a mother or father to give us a down payment," said Fudge. "We don't have the wherewithal, the same kind of income, the same kind of access."

If confirmed by the Senate, Fudge will face one of the worst housing crises in the nation's history, far greater than the subprime mortgage crisis and Great Recession. New analysis shows that 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners are behind on their housing payments. Just this past week, President Biden announced that he is extending a ban on housing foreclosures, originally set to expire on March 31, to June 30 to help struggling homeowners.

"My first priority as secretary would be to alleviate that crisis and get people the support they need to come back from the edge," Fudge said during her confirmation hearing.

"It's estimated that, on any given night in 2019, more than 500,000 people experienced homelessness in America," said Fudge. "That's a devastating statistic — even before you consider the reality of what COVID-19 has done to exacerbate the crisis. According to one study, 21 million Americans currently pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. ...Native housing is also in a crisis, with far too many families living in substandard and crowded housing conditions on reservations."

"Extraordinary times require extraordinary actions," said Fudge.

And such extraordinary times require a leader who is wiling to stand up, speak up, and show up for the millions of Americans who need a compassionate and committed problem solver at the helm of HUD.

Ms. Fudge, a heartfelt feminist welcome to the table.

Onward!

— Pat

Women in charge: Secretary of the Interior nominee Deb Haaland says it's 'time to listen to indigenous people'

If her nomination is confirmed, Deb Haaland will become the nation's most powerful Native American leader in our 243-year history.Let that sink in for a minute.

Haaland will be the first Native American to run the Department of the Interior, the very department, USA Today noted in a recent article, "whose centuries of broken promises and benign neglect has contributed to the slow erosion of Indigenous culture."

In December, more than 100 tribal leaders wrote a letter to the Biden-Harris administration "advocating for Haaland's appointment, citing the reinstatement of Bears Ears National Monument—a move that both Biden and Haaland support—as a central issue," reported Gizmodo. Alicia Ortega, founder of Albuquerque-based advocacy group Native Women Lead, told USA Today, "It's our ancestors' dreams come true."

In response, Haaland said, "I think it's a time in our world ― not just in our country, but our entire world ― to listen to Indigenous people when it comes to climate change, when it comes to our environment."

Gina McCarthy, Biden's White House climate coordinator and former EPA director under President Obama, has noted that "many people are only now seeing that environmental justice is racial justice, and vice versa, for the first time."

"Young people—and particularly young women of color—are leading the climate movement now. ...I'm not surprised it's women rising up," says McCarthy. "They demand change in a way that's inspiring. …As we continue to push progress forward, we must embrace racial justice and think about climate action in a systematic way or it's not going to work."

Assuming she is confirmed, Haaland, 60, will lead the Interior Department after representing New Mexico in the House of Representatives. Haaland's successful 2018 campaign focused on fighting climate change and creating a clean energy economy. Haaland and Sharice Davids of Kansas became the first Native American women elected to Congress that year.

Haaland's meteoric rise in Washington started at the local level in New Mexico, first as a voting rights activist for nearly a decade, then as a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2014 (she lost) and then as chairwoman of the state Democratic Party in 2015 (she won).

"I got into politics because I really wanted more Native Americans to get out and vote," Haaland said in an interview with uPolitics.

Voting rights for the Native American community have been hard won. "Congress did not grant full citizenship or the right to vote to Native Americans until 1924," reports The New York Times. But that did not mean they were able to vote immediately. Congress "allowed states to decide whether to expand such voting rights. New Mexico, where Native Americans now account for about 10.5 percent of the population, was the last state to enfranchise them, in 1962, according to the Library of Congress."

Haaland's personal story — a single mother who worked her way through law school — is a testament to her tenacity and perseverance. She was born in Winslow, AZ, in 1960, to Mary Toya, a Native American women and US Navy veteran, and J.D. Haaland, a Norwegian American veteran of the US Marine Corps and a recipient of the Silver Star for his courageous actions in Vietnam. She is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, and also has Jemez Pueblo heritage.

Deb Haaland and her siblings with her parents. (Twitter)

Deb Haaland and her siblings with her parents. (Twitter)

At the age of 34, four days after graduating from the University of New Mexico, Haaland gave birth to her daughter, Somáh. She decided to pursue a law degree in the mid-2000s. In her House bio, she says, "For a single mom working her way through law school, those were some lean, challenging years." In addition to having to apply for food stamps, she also often had difficulty finding housing.

"My daughter was like, 'Mom, we were actually homeless,' she recalls. "And I was like, 'Oh my God, I guess we were.' But I never looked at it that way until I realized, 'Yes, it is.'"

After earning her law degree in 2006, she became more involved in politics. "I started going into campaign offices of candidates I liked and asking for lists of native Americans who I could make phone calls [to]," she told uPolitics. "That turned into me actually showing up in those communities, knocking on doors, registering voters. I'd go to the Navajo nation fairs, Pueblo feast days, set up a booth, register voters, and drive them to the polls when it was time."

Deb Haaland sworn in to Congress by Speaker Pelosi wearing her traditional Pueblo clothing. She is here with her daughter (left), her mother (seated), and her extended family, on Jan. 3, 2019.

Deb Haaland sworn in to Congress by Speaker Pelosi wearing her traditional Pueblo clothing. She is here with her daughter (left), her mother (seated), and her extended family, on Jan. 3, 2019.

Once in Congress, Haaland took on two leadership roles: vice chair of the entire committee and chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Haaland often found herself across the table from Trump appointees Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt. Committee chair Rep. Raúl Grijalva describes the relationship with the Interior Department during those years as one of "daily combat."

"She will raise the profile of this committee," Rep. Grijalva says. "The whole general area around environment, public lands, Native Americans, our oceans, our waters — all of a sudden you have a secretary who is going to raise it, and raise the support for those issues, and that's important for the work we do."

If confirmed, Haaland "will be tasked with carrying out Biden's moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on public lands, a move that has rankled Republicans from states in the fossil fuel business who are now coming out in opposition to her nomination," reports the Washington Post.

In the past week, Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and John Barrasso of Wyoming, have made statements in opposition to Haaland, calling her a radical. These two senators are favorites of the oil and gas industry, which has given them $1.16 million each, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"Daines's attempt to paint Haaland, a 35th-generation New Mexican and by all standards a qualified nominee for the post, as an extremist threat to America is, well, extreme," reports HuffPost. "Although Daines's effort is unlikely to succeed, he stands out as the first senator to expressly oppose Haaland for the powerful position."

It's yet more evidence that Haaland is a force for change that threatens the status quo. As she said shortly after her election in 2018, "If we don't have our Earth, we don't have anything," she said. "I am going to always talk about that." And we'll be listening.

Ms. Haaland, a heartfelt feminist welcome to the table.

Onward!

— Pat

Women in charge: Avril Haines takes the reins of a beleaguered and skeptical intelligence community

In the history of the United States, no presidential cabinets have ever matched the gender or racial balance of the country. But America could soon see its most diverse cabinet ever with the first Native American cabinet secretary; first Latino homeland security chief; first openly gay cabinet member and more. In three departments, Treasury, Defense and Veteran's Affairs, there has never been a woman in charge — until now. Altogether, Biden has announced 12 women in his cabinet, the most ever.

Raw Story is proud to reproduce "Table for 12" --- the legendary Pat Mitchell's series profiling these women.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines became the first of President Joe Biden's Cabinet nominees to be approved by the Senate on his very first day in office. Haines, 51, is the first woman to lead the intelligence community, directing a total of 17 agencies and organizations, and serving as the principal advisor to the president, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (or the ODNI) was created in the wake of 9/11 to help coordinate intelligence across all departments. During the past four years, the ODNI and the intelligence community was under constant fire from the president. At her confirmation hearing, Haines told senators that she was committed to telling the truth to her boss, no matter the political consequences, saying, "When it comes to intelligence, there is simply no place for politics — ever."

Haines takes the reins of a beleaguered and skeptical intelligence community. So skeptical, in fact, that the White House is considering denying the former president access to routine intelligence briefings and classified information as a private citizen. According to CNN:

When asked in an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell if he thought Trump should receive an intelligence briefing if he requested one, Biden said, "I think not."
"I'd rather not speculate out loud," Biden said when asked what he fears could happen if Trump continued to receive the briefings. "I just think that there is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings. What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?"

Car Mechanic, Aviator, Bookstore Owner, Spy

Before becoming director, Haines served as principal deputy national security advisor, legal advisor and assistant to the president under the Obama administration. She was also the first woman deputy director of the CIA from 2013 to 2015.

When that appointment was announced, a 2013 Newsweek profile entitled "The Least Likely Spy," outlined Haines' interesting and unusual backstory.

Haines grew up in Manhattan and spent her teenage years caring for her sick mother, an artist who suffered from a debilitating lung disease. Her mother died when Haines was 16. After high school, she took a gap year and traveled to Japan to study judo at Tokyo's Kodokan Institute, where she earned a brown belt.

She enrolled in the University of Chicago to study theoretical physics and, in order to make ends meet, worked as a car mechanic, rebuilding engines to earn extra cash in her off-hours. After a bicycle accident landed her in the hospital, she decided to pursue a dream she had to fly across the Atlantic. She bought a 1961 Cessna, rebuilt its communications equipment herself and signed up for flying lessons.

She and her flight instructor set a course to fly from Maine to Europe, but icy weather forced an emergency landing in Newfoundland, and they never completed the journey. Instead, they fell in love and moved to Baltimore. She planned to return to school. But when she saw an ad in the paper for a Fells Point bar-brothel that had been seized in a drug raid that was being auctioned off, she pursued yet another dream. She sold the Cessna, took out a loan, bought the building and opened Adrian's Book Café, named for her mother.

In the 1990s, Avril Haines and her husband, David, owned and operated Adrian's Book Cafe, an eclectic bookstore that sponsored erotica readings in the upstairs former brothel space. (Credit: Lloyd Fox)

In the 1990s, Avril Haines and her husband, David, owned and operated Adrian's Book Cafe, an eclectic bookstore that sponsored erotica readings in the upstairs former brothel space.
(Credit: Lloyd Fox)

The cafe took off, becoming a successful business and Haines became involved in Fells Point as a community organizer. The neighborhood was gentrifying and many longtime residents were being squeezed out. Haines realized that her activism would benefit from a law degree, so she sold the bookstore and entered Georgetown University Law School.

It was there that she honed her interest in human rights and international law, charting the course for her future at the State Department, CIA and now at the helm of the intelligence community.

Early in her DC career, she distinguished herself at the Treaty Affairs Office when she led a team of lawyers in writing reports to Congress on the hundreds of clandestine agreements made between the Bush administration and foreign governments that allowed the CIA to set up black sites to harshly interrogate suspected terrorists.

Critics of Haines point to her work in the Obama administration. She wrote the playbook that established the rules and standards for targeted killings in the controversial drone strike program. And in 2015, she overruled the CIA inspector general who recommended disciplinary actions against agents who had hacked into the Senate Intelligence Committee computers during the writing of the Torture Report. When the report was completed, Haines had the job of redacting it. "By the time she was done," reports The Guardian, "only 525 pages of the 6,700 total were released."

At the same time, Haines also has garnered praise from former colleagues. Known for her long hours and dedication to her work, they say that she is not shy about speaking truth to power, playing an "important role in limiting the use of drones, challenging top officials in the Obama administration to prove that a target represented a genuine threat."

As Daniel Klaidman noted in that 2013 Newsweek profile, "Ask around about Haines, and colleagues will often describe some character traits not usually associated with the CIA—or, for that matter, with rapid ascent inside the Beltway: a sweet personality, humility bordering on shyness, a deep empathy for others. 'She may quite literally be the nicest person any of us have ever met,' [said] Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes, who has worked closely with Haines."

The elevation of a woman to the top position is one that many within the intelligence community are celebrating. Rollie Flynn, a former CIA agent who spent three decades at the agency, told NPR: "Having myself come up in the days when there weren't very many women in leadership positions, to me it's very significant," said Flynn, now the president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. "There are so many women who for years have been capable of holding those jobs. And so I think to actually see that come to fruition is a terrific thing."

He's not alone in his support. The Senate confirmed Haines by a vote of 84-10, an overwhelming show of bipartisanship. That, in itself, is reassuring, given that national intelligence must be above politics... and beyond gender or race.

Ms. Haines, a heartfelt feminist welcome to the table.

Women in charge: Janet Yellen is willing to be dangerous

In the history of the United States, no presidential cabinets have ever matched the gender or racial balance of the country. But America could soon see its most diverse cabinet ever with the first Native American cabinet secretary; first Latino homeland security chief; first openly gay cabinet member and more. In three departments, Treasury, Defense and Veteran's Affairs, there has never been a woman in charge — until now. Altogether, Biden has announced 12 women in his cabinet, the most ever.

Raw Story is proud to reproduce "Table for 12" --- the legendary Pat Mitchell's series profiling these women.

"What we will see are women who are playing critical and key roles and having a seat at the most powerful table in the world, where their perspectives and voices will be heard. They will be bringing to that table all of their experiences as women, as women of color … and they will see the world through that lens."

— Debbie Walsh, Center for American Women and Politics, The 19th News

Last Tuesday marked another "first." Janet Yellen was sworn in as the secretary of the Treasury Department by Vice President Kamala Harris in what The New York Times described as "a history-making moment" as both are the first women to hold two of the most powerful jobs in the United States government."

Yellen is the nation's 78th Treasury Secretary and the first woman to head the institution in its 232-year history. Her appointment also marks a personal achievement: she is the first woman to have held all three top economic jobs in the government, having served as Federal Reserve Chair under President Obama and as Council of Economic Advisers Chair under President Clinton.

She's hit the economic trifecta, and some are asking: "Is she a feminist? Will her policies be positive for women and families?"

I might go further and ask: Is she willing to be as dangerous as she needs to be to end the unfair and inequitable economic 'shecession' and put policies in place that improve the lives of women and their families?

In my book, Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing Risk to Change the World, I wrote that dangerous times call for dangerous women. I interviewed incredible women leaders who shared their thoughts about what being dangerous means to them. In thinking about Yellen, I remember what Stacey Abrams told me, "there are few things as dangerous as a woman with a plan and the perseverance to execute."

By that metric, Yellen is as dangerous as it gets.

Yellen earned an economics degree at Brown University, graduating summa cum laude in 1967, and received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1971, followed by teaching stints at both Harvard and Berkeley. She entered government service first at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco and then in D.C. Considering the old boy's network she was disrupting, her rise to leadership was precedent setting every step of the way.

President Clinton signs legislation with Council of Economic Advisors Chair Janet Yellen in the background. (Credit: STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP via Getty Images)

President Clinton signs legislation with Council of Economic Advisors Chair Janet Yellen in the background. (Credit: STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP via Getty Images)

After the ceremony on Tuesday, Vice President Harris tweeted: "Secretary Yellen is a trailblazer, whose deep commitment to working families will be essential as we confront the urgent economic challenges facing the American people."

Yellen's ability to connect economic theory to ordinary life is one of the defining characteristics of her career. Reading through past speeches and interviews, fairness is a value that Yellen champions over and over again. In fact, her best known and most cited academic paper outlines "the fair wage-effort hypothesis," an economic theory that workers will put in less effort if they think they are being paid below what they consider to be a "fair" wage. It is credited with revolutionizing economic thinking around wages and work.

One of her earlier achievements in government during her time with the Council of Economic Advisors was a landmark report, "Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap," in which she focused on the gender pay divide. Yet, Yellen has never publicly (not that I can find) referred to herself as a 'feminist' and demurred from calling out the barriers to women's advancement in the workplace for much of her career.

Secretary Yellen meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on January 29, 2021. (Credit: Adam Schultz, White House Photos)

Secretary Yellen meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on January 29, 2021. (Credit: Adam Schultz, White House Photos)

But gratefully in recent years, she has been speaking out more about the inequalities that persist in both American society and in the economics profession. Women in the workplace have been "hampered by barriers to equal opportunity and workplace rules and norms that fail to support a reasonable work-life balance," Yellen told Brown University graduates in 2019, adding that "if these obstacles persist, we will squander the potential of many of our citizens and incur a substantial loss to the productive capacity of our economy."

Lack of diversity in economics, she observed at a recent Brookings Institute panel, wastes talent and harms the quality of research. "Diversity is important in ensuring that the research that is done within economics appropriately reflects society's priorities." She continued:

"Women focus on issues of great importance that are understudied by men. I'm particularly thinking about gender issues — such as the treatment of women (who are more than half the world's population), the family (which is humankind's most important institution), children (who at some point in our lives includes everyone) and health care (which also concerns all of us).

Women and men often have significantly different approaches and views on issues that are important to public policy. That makes it especially important to hear women's voices."

In her welcome letter to Treasury staff last week, she wrote: "Economics isn't just something you find in a textbook. I believe economic policy can be a potent tool to improve society. We can – and should – use it to address inequality, racism, and climate change."

With faith that those words will be the touchstone of her economic plan, I am so very glad to welcome Dr. Yellen to the leadership table and to the sisterhood of dangerous women prepared to stand up, speak up and show up to improve the lives of all women, their families and communities and to build forward toward a just and equitable economic recovery and more sustainable future.

Dr. Yellen, a heartfelt feminist welcome to the table where you can shape the policies to address all those issues and more.

Onward!
— Pat

When President Biden wondered what a Hamilton-style musical about the new Treasury Secretary would sound like, rapper Dessa came through with the answer, and it's amazing! Listen here:


Pat Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen. Throughout her career as a journalist, Emmy-winning producer and pioneering executive, she has focused on sharing women's stories. She is chair of the Sundance and the Women's Media Center boards and a trustee of the VDAY movement, the Skoll Foundation and the Acumen Fund. She is an advisor to Participant Media and served as a congressional appointment to The American Museum of Women's History Advisory Council. She is the author of Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing Risk to Change the World.

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