FOX23 Special Report: The Made in America Movement & Made in the U.S.A.

Reported by: Adam Paluka   Published: 2/06 8:03 pm

Buy American and you help the economy. That is an old adage that is getting new life thanks to a movement to build homes across the nation using more products with the “Made in the U.S.A.” label.

If you were to drive around Tulsa, chances are you’ll pass a home built by Bill Rhees. He’s been making blueprints a reality for almost 50 years with his son, and Partner, Phil Rhees.

Together they run BMI Construction. Right now, they’re working on a $5 million home near 111th and Yale in south Tulsa.

“This house we started about three and a half years ago,” Phil told FOX23.

2008 was a time when no one was thinking about a “Made in America Movement“. It never came up with buyers.

“Never, never. They just assumed, and I’ve been amazed myself how many of the products we put in these houses come from overseas,” Bill said.

It never came up when they discussed what lumber, stones, and drywall to buy.

“We don’t know exactly where every individual product came from,” Phil explained.

Phil said last month that is changing, “We really do want to make a effort to make this happen.”

The “Made in America Movement” is simple, encourage builders across the country to use just five percent more made in American products during construction. It’s not the brain child of the feds, a housing agency, or politician, rather it began as a dream by on builder in Montana.

If every builder in the country buys in, Paul Kane with the Tulsa Home Builders Association said, “They’re going to create anywhere to 220,000 to 250,000 jobs nationwide.”

Phil is up for the challenge.

“I believe that we could easily use five percent more,” he said.

Easy because it could take just a few phone calls to get everything with a Made in the U.S.A. sticker.

“You need to spend some time on the phone with the suppliers to find out where these products are coming from,” Phil said.

Often, its overseas, but if you were to look hard enough, the movement’s believers say you’ll not only find all elements of home construction made in the U.S.A., but some made right here in Oklahoma.
Products like York HVACs systems made in Norman.

“If there’s a buy Oklahoma or buy American movement that would be exciting to everyone in this building,” Vicki Davis, who works for York’s parent company Johnson Controls, said.

Their facility is a world of machines, robots, assembly lines, and hard working Oklahomans.
Around 750 people get a paycheck at the plant.

“We offer the higher quality, and that’s what we sell our products on. It’s not that we build the cheapest, but it’s that we build the highest quality,” Davis told FOX23.

Should the buy American dream become a reality Davis would be excited.

“If we pick up five or ten percent (new orders), then we’re going to add anywhere from 150 to 200 jobs here in the Norman plant.”

Cost could be a factor, if made in America means your wallet takes a beating this might not work.

“A lot of it has to do with price. We have to be price conscious for our clients,” Phil said,

If the price increase to buy American made is slight, BMI Construction is ready to get on board

“It is going to happen, once we start getting the word out. It’s going to happen, just watch it,” Bill Rhees said.

Now, it’s all about getting the word out.

“If we were unaware as builders, just think what the general public is going to be thinking. They’re going to say, ‘My gosh, I never realized this.’”

Supporters of the movement tell me the Americans build 1.4 million homes each year. They say if builders reallocate 5% of their construction spending to American made products, this would add roughly $10 billion to America’s Gross Domestic Product.

Join the Made in America Movement, sponsored in part by Made in USA Certified.

Copyright 2012 Newport Television LLC All rights reserved.

Come On, China, Buy Our Stuff!

A Gap Inc. store in Shanghai, China.

A Gap Inc. store in Shanghai, China.

By NYT ADAM DAVIDSON    Published: January 25, 2012

The first time I visited China, in 2005, an American businessman living there told me that the country was so huge and was changing so fast that everything you heard about it was true, and so was the opposite. That still seems to be the case. China is the fastest-growing consumer market in the world, and American companies have made billions there. At the same time, Chinese consumers aren’t spending nearly as much as American companies had hoped. China has simultaneously become the greatest boon and the biggest disappointment.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2000, the United States forged its current economic relationship with China by permanently granting it most-favored-nation trade status and, eventually, helping the country enter the World Trade Organization. The unspoken deal, though, went something like this: China could make a lot of cheap goods, which would benefit U.S. consumers, even if it cost the country countless low-end manufacturing jobs. And rather than, say, fight for an extra bit of market share in Chicago, American multinationals could offset any losses because of competition by entering a country with more than a billion people — including the fastest-growing middle class in history — just about to buy their first refrigerators, TVs and cars. It was as if the United States added a magical 51st state, one that was bigger and grew faster than all the others. We would all be better off.

More than a decade later, many are waiting for the payoff. Certainly, lots of American companies have made money, but many actual workers have paid a real price. What went wrong? In part, American businesses assumed that a wealthier China would look like, well, America, says Paul French, a longtime Shanghai-based analyst with Access Asia-Mintel. He notes that Chinese consumers have spent far less than expected, and the money they do spend is less likely to be spent on American goods. Read more of this post

Feds To Release Second Chinese Drywall Report

Associated Press Logo

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The federal government is set to release its second report on problematic imported Chinese drywall.The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is leading the investigation, was set Monday to release findings from a 51-home indoor air quality study, including preliminary data about electrical corrosion and fire safety.The agency last month released its first report on the drywall, but it couldn’t yet definitively link the materials to health problems or corrosion of pipes and wires that thousands of U.S. homeowners have been reporting for nearly a year.The agency said then it needed to further study the matter before it could consider a recall, ban or other solutions.Hundreds of homeowners have sued builders, contractors, and manufacturers.

South Florida home buyers leery about Chinese drywall

By Paul Owers

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Home buyers in South Florida are petrified of tainted Chinese drywall.

rule out entire neighborhoods or houses and condos built within the past seven years. Others don’t want anything to do with builders known to have used Chinese drywall. And buyers who do sign contracts seek assurances that might not prove reliable.

Mike and Sandy Siegel are asking potential neighbors in the Tivoli Isles community west of Delray Beach about any evidence of the drywall. The couple had a handyman climb into the attic of the home they want to buy to make sure Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, a Chinese maker of drywall and other building materials, is not written on any of the boards.

“There are no signs yet, but you never know,” Mike Siegel said. “Once you get this, it’s a son of a gun.”

As many as 100,000 homes in the nation, including 36,000 in Florida, could have the imported wallboard, which is thought to corrode wiring, copper pipes, appliances and metals and give off a “rotten egg” stench.

Worse, homeowners say, are the nosebleeds, respiratory problems and other symptoms they blame on the drywall.

However, state and federal officials said last week they had yet to link the drywall to any health risks.

Builders used the material from China because of a shortage of American-made drywall earlier this decade during the housing boom and after the busy hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. Even older homes renovated in recent years could have the suspect drywall.

Most builders have refused to fix the homes, and lenders and property insurers have offered little or no relief.

Homeowners who can afford to are moving into rental housing. Others are abandoning the properties.

Hoping to avoid any drywall-caused problems, “buyers are asking a lot more questions and doing a lot more research,” said Jon Klein, a real estate agent for Coldwell Banker in Broward County. “They’re very cautious. Very cautious. I would be, too.”

Some buyers refuse to consider homes that don’t have Chinese drywall if they’re in developments where the problem is prevalent.

“It’s fair to say that anyone who buys a home in a community with Chinese drywall is adversely affected as well,” Boca Raton attorney Allison Grant said. “It hurts everybody’s property values.”

The Broward County property appraiser is slashing assessed values of affected homes in half, and Palm Beach County also plans to cut values.

Based on those assessments, nearby homes without Chinese drywall also stand to lose value.

Drywall complaints in Broward and Palm Beach counties generally have come from Parkland, Pompano Beach, Davie, Miramar, Boca Raton and communities west of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.

Parkland has been the unofficial epicenter for the drywall complaints in South Florida. About 150 homes there have it, Mayor Michael Udine said.

Heron Bay and Parkland Golf & Country Club are the two developments most affected in Parkland. Many people expected all home sales in those communities to decline, but that hasn’t been the case, Udine said.

Udine said he has heard that investors are trying to get deals on homes with the drywall and factoring in the cost to repair them, even though the federal government has not yet issued an official remediation plan.

But many buyers who intend to live near reported cases of Chinese drywall are trying to make sure they don’t inherit a major hassle.

Debbie Anderson, an agent for Prudential Florida Realty, held an open house recently for a new home in Parkland Golf & Country Club.

“I had a pretty good turnout – about 10 people,” Anderson said. “Almost every one, as soon as they walked in, asked, ‘Does this house have Chinese drywall?’ “

Some real estate agents note it in marketing materials if a home does not have problem drywall. Other agents prefer to exclude any mention of it.

Under Florida law, sellers and their real estate agents must disclose any known material defect or condition that would affect the value of a home.

The Florida Association of Realtors added a disclosure form for Chinese drywall, but there is no state law requiring sellers to use it.

Buyers are starting to hire inspectors such as Howard Ehrsam to test homes before they commit to the purchase.

“They’ve invested a lot of emotion and energy into finding homes, and if they’re tainted, they get pretty upset,” Ehrsam said. “But they’re also relieved that they’re finding out now versus later.”

Ehrsam, a civil engineer and general contractor from Port St. Lucie, said he saw a need for the niche business across Florida and beyond because many home inspectors don’t know how to detect Chinese drywall.

He and his workers check a home’s mechanical systems, electrical outlets and appliances for corrosion. They also dig into walls and ceilings.

They summarize their findings in a written report, but it does not come with a guarantee. Because so little is known about Chinese drywall, Ehrsam said all he can offer is a “professional opinion.”

Julie Fass cast a wide net across Broward County in her search for a home and was drawn to one development in Coconut Creek.

The curb appeal was striking, and the interior of the home had plenty of bells and whistles. But then she found out the builder was dealing with Chinese drywall elsewhere, so she reluctantly moved on.

Fass’ search continues, though she has narrowed it to Weston because most of the homes there were built before 2005, she said. When she does find a house, she will check the drywall in the attic to make sure it’s not from China.

“There are so many things you have to think about when you’re buying a home, and this is just one more,” Fass said. “It’s a pain.”

Court-ordered Chinese drywall inspections begin

ALLISON ROSS

PALM BEACH POST Homeowners’ efforts to get relief from their Chinese drywall problems are moving ahead as court-appointed inspectors began examining a handful of affected properties this week.

A house in the Cobblestone Creek subdivision west of Boynton Beach will be inspected next week. It and 14 other Florida homes will help set a protocol for other affected homes.

U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon in New Orleans, who is overseeing consolidated drywall lawsuits, ordered the inspections. Thirty homes – 15 in Florida, eight in Louisiana and seven in other states – will be examined by Atlanta-based firm Crawford & Co.

Paul and Alli Sirota’s home, slated to be inspected Wednesday, is one of them. The couple has previously received independent confirmation that their home contains the tainted material, but this court-ordered inspection is meant to be an unbiased, consistent way of examining homes.

“I’m actually kind of excited, because hopefully that means that there will be a quicker resolution for us,” Paul Sirota said. “I would like nothing more than to put all of this behind us.” The inspections will not address health concerns. They will document odors, corrosion and other symptoms, as well as markings that may help identify the drywall manufacturers, distributors and suppliers.

Some Chinese-made drywall brought to the United States between 2000 and 2008 gives off a sulfuric gas that corrodes such metal components as air conditioning coils and bathroom fixtures. The gas has also been blamed by a growing number of homeowners on health problems.

Paul Sirota says he wishes that he had paid more attention when his wife complained of a strange smell in the brand-new house they bought two years ago in Cobblestone Creek.

“Since the day we moved in, she said that she smelled something,” said Paul Sirota, whose wife is pregnant with their third child. “I just thought it was new construction smell.

” Chinese drywall drove the Sirotas out of their $700,000 house last spring. Judge Fallon has said he expects to begin hearing drywall cases as early as January.

To date, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented 1,174 reports of defective drywall from residents in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

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By ALLISON ROSS Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Tainted drywall a top issue, says new Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman

LESLEY CLARK

The Miami Herald

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers from Florida and Louisiana Thursday pressed new Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Inez Tenenbaum for answers to the Chinese drywall problem plaguing thousands of homeowners in their states.

Tenenbaum – who took over the agency in June – pledged to lawmakers that the agency will “vigorously pursue its investigation” into the cause and effect of the suspect drywall, which homeowners say is corroding metal pipes and making them ill.

She said the agency hopes to issue a report on indoor air quality and health assessments in homes with Chinese drywall in late October.

“I understand the personal hardship that this issue has caused homeowners and want to reassure members of the subcommittee that effective and efficient completion of this investigation is a key priority for the CPSC,” she told members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. She said in prepared remarks that the agency was “pouring a record amount of money and manpower toward the goal of helping affected families.”

An internal commission task force – which made an investigative trip to China to meet with government and industry officials – has conducted air sampling field work in 50 homes and hopes to release a report by late October with initial air sampling test results and a preliminary health assessment, Tenenbaum said.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., said he was anxious to hear the agency’s findings. He said that, after Florida, Louisiana has had the most number of complaints and that his office has fielded complaints from homeowners who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and Wilma, only to find themselves having to move out of homes with shoddy drywall.

“It’s clear drywall has wreaked havoc in homes,” he said.

Tenenbaum said one likely recommendation will be standards for drywall safety, noting that current drywall standards address only “structural integrity” – not toxicity.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, called the drywall “just the tip of the iceberg of what’s wrong with import monitoring in this country.”

And Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, called the situation an “important Florida issue” and asked whether the agency was considering a ban on Chinese drywall imports.

“It’s making many families in Florida sick,” she said. “Families should not have to worry that building materials in their homes emit toxic fumes.”

But Tenenbaum suggested the adverse publicity about the drywall was already serving as a practical ban on the product.

“The market has taken care of that,” Tenenbaum said. “Very few people want Chinese drywall and we see very little of it coming into the country at this time.”

As of Sept. 4, she said the commission had received 1,192 incident reports about drywall from 24 states and the District of Columbia. The majority of the reports are from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia.

Insurers Drop Drywall Victims

By M.P. MCQUEEN

At least two home insurers in Florida have begun dropping policyholders who filed claims for property damage linked to drywall imported from China.

Disputes with insurance companies are increasing as a growing number of homeowners file claims for property damage they say is caused by defective Chinese drywall. Insurers are fighting the claims and in some instances using the information in them to drop the policies.

Associated PressBlack dust covers tubes in the air conditioner of a Parkland, Fla., home that has Chinese drywall. Homeowner Mary Ann Schultheis displays the dust in April.

The Chinese drywall, also known as gypsum or wallboard, is under investigation by federal and state agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission, for emitting sulfide fumes suspected of causing corrosion of electrical wires and plumbing.

Many affected families also have reported health symptoms, including skin irritation and respiratory difficulties, to the CPSC and state health agencies. As many as 100,000 houses across the country, most built in 2006 and 2007, may be affected based on estimates of the amount of drywall imported into the U.S. during the period.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a state-created, nonprofit corporation in Tallahassee that is the largest home insurer in Florida, confirmed that it has notified some policyholders who recently had filed claims for damage linked to Chinese drywall that their policies won’t be renewed if the damage isn’t repaired within six months of the date of notice. Citizens also holds the position that the claims aren’t covered.

Citizens spokesman John Kuczwanski said the insurer hasn’t paid any damage claims for Chinese drywall, citing policy exclusions for pollution and builder defects. He said it is standard procedure to require homeowners to repair conditions that could lead to further property damages and additional claims. “Corrosion leads to a likely future claim for a covered peril such as fire or a water leak,” which the insurer would be responsible for covering, he said.

Replacing drywall and corroded components in a house of average size costs $80,000 to $100,000, according to builders’ estimates.

Universal North America, a unit of Universal Group Inc. in Puerto Rico, sent a notice of cancellation, which is more serious than a nonrenewal, to at least one policyholder in Hallandale Beach, Fla., who asked not to be identified. The letter, dated Sept. 24, 2009, states that the reason for the action is an “unacceptable condition — the dwelling was built with Chinese drywall, which has been shown to have adverse long-term effects on the plumbing and other dwelling components.”

The Universal homeowner policy was effective July 20, 2009, and had been scheduled to continue until July 20, 2010. But the notice states that the cancellation is effective Oct. 19 at 12:01 a.m. Universal has about 105,000 home-insurance policies in the state, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Universal, the 12th largest insurer in Florida, didn’t return repeated calls seeking comment.

In August, one major manufacturer of Chinese drywall, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co., said its tests indicate that its drywall isn’t harmful. Carbon disulfide and carbonyl sulfide are being emitted by some of its drywall, but not at levels that would damage health, said Phillip T. Goad, principal toxicologist and partner at the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health in North Little Rock, Ark. The center is a private company hired by Knauf Tianjin that consults for corporations and government agencies.

In July, Lennar Corp. said it had identified 400 houses in Florida with confirmed problems with defective Chinese drywall and set aside $39.8 million to repair the homes. Several other large home builders also have set aside funds to repair homes with imported drywall from China from a number of manufacturers.

An attorney for both the Citizens and Universal policyholders, David Durkee of Coral Gables, Fla., said that “if you go ahead and disclose and do the honest thing you are subject to possible cancellation or nonrenewal. It is truly a cruel predicament.”

Write to M.P. McQueen at mp.mcqueen@wsj.com

Thousands of U.S. Homeowners Cite Drywall for Ills

The New York Times

When Bill Morgan, a retired policeman, moved into his newly built dream home in Williamsburg, Va., three years ago, his hopes were quickly dashed.

His wife and daughter suffered constant nosebleeds and headaches. A persistent foul odor filled the house. Every piece of metal indoors corroded or turned black.

In short order, Mr. Morgan moved out. The headaches and nosebleeds stopped, but the ensuing financial problems pushed him into personal bankruptcy.

“My house is not worth the land it’s built on,” said Mr. Morgan, who could not maintain the mortgage payments on his $383,000 home in a Williamsburg subdivision called Wellington Estates and the costs of a rental property where his family decamped.

Mr. Morgan, like many other American homebuyers who tell similar tales of woe, is blaming the drywall in his new home — specifically, drywall from China, imported during the housing boom to meet heavy demand — that he says is contaminated with various sulfur compounds.

Hundreds of lawsuits are piling up in state and federal courts, and a consolidated class action is moving forward in Louisiana before Judge Eldon E. Fallon of Federal District Court, who will begin hearing cases in January.

Three hundred cases have been filed in Louisiana alone, many with similar complaints from homeowners — a noxious smell, recurrent headaches and difficulty breathing. In Florida, the health department has received over 500 complaints with such symptoms.

In addition, these suits say, metal objects in homes corrode quickly, causing kitchen appliances, air-conditioners, televisions and plumbing to fail.

“There could be 60,000 to 100,000 homes that are worthless and have to be ripped completely down and rebuilt,” said Arnold Levin, a Philadelphia lawyer and co-chairman of the plaintiffs’ steering committee.

While tainted Chinese imports like toothpaste, pet food and baby formula have been quickly removed from store shelves, drywall is installed throughout homes and does not lend itself to a quick fix.

This month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose investigation into Chinese drywall is the largest in its history, will release the results of a study to determine why the drywall is causing the problem, and what kind of remediation programs might be effective.

Already, the commission has sent six investigators to Chinese gypsum mines and to meet with the government there. The Chinese government’s counterpart to the federal safety commission sent two of its experts here to inspect affected homes.

The commission is also making sure that no more Chinese drywall comes into the country.

“Our ports are on alert,” said Inez Tenenbaum, chairwoman of the commission. “They are not letting any in. The market, too, has corrected. No one wants Chinese drywall.”

Even President Obama is being pressed by members of Congress to raise the issue on his November trip to China — the loudest cry coming from Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, who has traveled to China on his own to learn more about the drywall problems.

Investigators are finding that getting scientific data, establishing legal accountability and following a supply chain is difficult when so many drywall sheets — millions in all were brought into the United States — were simply marked “Made in China,” providing no clues to their actual source. The drywall was brought in because United States supplies ran low, not as a cost-saving measure for builders.

One target of the lawsuits is Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin, a German company with manufacturing plants in China that supplied about 20 percent of the Chinese drywall brought into the United States.

Don Hayden, the company’s lawyer, said that its own toxicology tests from affected homes showed that the drywall presented no health problems. Even so, he said his company was cooperating with American government investigations.

“Unlike other Chinese manufacturers, we are the only one to come to the United States to address this problem,” said Mr. Hayden. “We’ve spent considerable time and energy and hope that we can provide a workable solution to U. S. homeowners.”

One puzzle is why problems have surfaced in the United States and not Asia, where drywall was also sold. According to a safety commission official who declined to be named because of the delicacy of the issue, a theory offered by Chinese officials during their visit to the United States was that American homes are more tightly built, with less ventilation than homes in China.

One drywall manufacturer, the Taishan Gypsum Company, which is controlled by the Chinese government, was found to be in preliminary default last week by a federal judge after the company failed to show up in court.

But whether the Florida builders who brought the class-action lawsuit could ever collect on any future judgment remains unclear, because of the difficulty of gaining jurisdiction and enforcing rulings against foreign companies, especially in China. In other cases, many of the Chinese companies cannot be found or have disbanded.

Homeowners, insurers, home builders, drywall suppliers and Chinese manufacturers, if they can be identified, are often suing each other. Drywall installers and suppliers are also expected to be targets of the next wave of litigation. Many lawsuits need to be translated into Mandarin and follow rules of international law, adding layers of difficulty.

Among the homeowners filing suit are the lieutenant governor of Florida, Jeff Kottkamp; and Sean Payton, head coach of the New Orleans Saints, who has moved out of his Mandeville, La., home.

The product safety commission has received more than 1,300 complaints from 26 states, but the bulk are from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia, where hurricanes led to an unprecedented housing boom in 2006 and 2007.

In 2006 alone, nearly seven million sheets of drywall were imported from China. The federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana has identified 26 brands of drywall, but 11 others had no markings other than variations of “Made in China.”

Insurance companies, in particular, have become a popular target of lawsuits over their refusal to pay claims filed by homeowners and home builders, stating that their policies do not cover problems caused by pollutants.

There are estimates that it costs $100,000 to $150,000 per home to rip out and replace tainted drywall and the electrical equipment attached to it. In these cases, homes are being stripped down to the studs and new drywall is installed.

Some home builders, worried about their reputations, are doing just that. The Lennar Corporation has set aside $40 million for home repairs, while it tries to collect from its insurance company and sues several Chinese suppliers and American middlemen. Lennar declined to comment.

But many smaller home builders, hoping to survive the downturn, do not have such deep pockets. “This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industry,” said Jenna Hamilton, assistant vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Home Builders.

For that reason, some members of Congress hope the federal government will provide financial assistance for their constituents, just as it does after natural disasters.

There may be local relief, too. Broward County, Fla., has cut property assessments as much as 20 percent in some affected areas and Miami-Dade is considering a similar tax break. “Florida is hypersensitive to hurricanes and this is like a silent hurricane,” said Representative Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida. “Whole neighborhoods are being wiped out in terms of property values and people’s ability to remain in their homes.”

Help could not come soon enough for Mr. Morgan’s Virginia dream home.

“Every piece of drywall in the house except for four pieces is Chinese,” said Mr. Morgan. ”We built our home to be safe from floods, and for three years we’ve been breathing this stuff.”

Mr. Morgan said that metal fixtures in his house turned black. His air-conditioner and electrical outlets failed. Lamps and mirrors tarnished immediately. Neighbors, too, had similar problems..

Mr. Morgan bought his house in 2006 after his family spent two years living in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency when their previous home was destroyed in 2003 by Hurricane Isabel. Mr. Morgan has lost the equity in his home, but he still drops by to cut the grass.

“When I drive by my house, it breaks my heart,” he said.

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