Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yay For The Press VIII: The Blade

The news reporting on the shower-nuts' petition drive has been wonderful. Some media outlets lean one way, some lean the other, but almost none of them have fallen for the perverted-men-in-the-ladies-room frame that the Citizens for a Responsible Whatever used to scare people into signing their petition. If they continue to present the facts to the public and there is a referendum, then people can vote intelligently, one way or the other.

Debate over the federal employment nondiscrimination act has highlighted both solidarity and differences between gay and transgender populations. The fact is, they're two different things. Sexual orientation has to do with who you feel attracted to, gender identity is about who you feel you are. Different as they are, both groups suffer similar effects as sexual minorities. As I have said here before, I think a lot of the discrimination against gay people actually comes from gender role nonconformity, not their bedroom behavior. Macho lesbians and limp-wristed gay guys who wiggle when they walk have a lot worse problems than "straight-looking" gay people. So as much as some like to think the two things are separate, there is considerable overlap, especially in prejudice and discrimination. All in all, it has seemed that the gay community favors adding gender identity to legal nondiscrimination wording, if only because transgender people are in fact a vulnerable population that suffers from terrible discrimination.

This week the area's gay newspaper, The Blade, reviewed events in our local controversy. They got some new information, too.
A new law barring discrimination against transgender people in Montgomery County, Md., is in jeopardy, after a group opposed to the measure submitted a petition that could force a referendum on the issue.

Citizens for a Responsible Government submitted thousands of signatures Tuesday to county officials seeking a referendum on the law that prohibits “discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, cable television service and taxicab service on the basis of gender identity.”

But county officials — required to suspend the law at least until the 32,087 signatures can be verified — said the organization advanced its cause under false pretenses.

Montgomery County Council President Mike Knapp said opponents of the law wrongly represented it as allowing men into women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.

“The misinformation being put out about this law really troubles me,” he said. “We guaranteed that certain people in our county will have the same rights as other residents — and that is all we did. Those who intentionally mislead people about what this bill means will have to explain what is behind their actions, but we want everyone to know exactly what this law is about.”

Knapp said the law allows the operators of public bathrooms and locker rooms to continue to separate their facilities based on gender identity or biological gender. This allows a restaurant owner, for example, to require a biological male presenting as a female to use the men’s bathrooms. Md. trans rights law in jeopardy

This term "biological male" might not be the most solidly grounded concept ever, though the real problem may be that our language assumes that people's minds and genitals will agree, and that there are certain kinds of acceptable explanations for things. Some intersex conditions are obviously "biological," but in cases where genitalia indicate one sex and the individual subjectively experiences the other, what is the alternative to "biological?" It's not "social," and it's not a personal choice. It's certainly not a "moral" decision that a person makes. It seems to me that there is most likely a -- I hate to keep using quotes like this, but the language really isn't well-designed for discussion of this topic -- "biological" cause, whether it has been identified or not.

Knapp then is not talking about transgender people, he's talking about people like the man from Citizens for a Responsible Whatever who go out in dresses and try to use the ladies restrooms. I hate to think this all about that one guy, that they're just trying to figure out what to do with their guy in the blue dress at Rio. Because ... in all my years of living, I have never been in a place where there was a question about what bathroom somebody was supposed to use. Maybe it would be easier for them just to kick him out than to drag us all through this.

By the way, we haven't speculated publicly about which one of them went into the gym at Rio in a dress, but some of the emails have been hilarious.

There is a bigger point here. Petition signatures were gathered using false information. I heard their petition-pushers say things like "This law will force men and women to use the same bathroom." One guy had a sign that said "Protect our children," though there is nothing in the bill about children -- everybody wants to "protect our children," who wouldn't sign a petition to do that?

I'm afraid this reveals a fundamental vulnerability of our democratic process: democracy doesn't work for stupid people. If you're going to let the citizens run things, then you have to count on them educating themselves about the issues and being smart enough to filter out the garbage and make good decisions. You walk out of a store and a guy says, "Sign here to protect our children from predators in the ladies room," you really should know something about it before you put your signature down. Because the law requires some checks on the signatures, validating it was really you who signed, that you're a registered voter, etc., but there's no way they can x-ray your brain to see if it was on at the time.
Theresa Rickman of Citizens for a Responsible Government said a strict reading of the law, however, indicates that a biological male presenting as a female could insist on using the women’s bathroom.

She said the organization misrepresented nothing when it collected signatures and welcomes an open discussion with county officials.
“Name the time and the place and we’ll be happy to debate the law,” Rickman said. “We are happy to meet them anywhere and discuss it.”

Tuesday’s petition filing indefinitely suspended the law, which passed the Council unanimously in November. It did not become effective Wednesday, as was expected, and could remain suspended until a public referendum is held.

Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg said the law would have a significant impact on transgender people living and working in Montgomery County.

“As the last few months have shown, transgender citizens can be the target of unpleasant invective and misguided fears,” she said. “What this bill does is simply preserve the basic rights transgender people should enjoy along with everyone else — to live and work day to day with dignity, respect and equal protection under the law.”

The shower-nuts would be happy to debate the law now -- where were they while it was being debated in the first place? Were they proposing wording, meeting with council and staff?

America works by a really cool process of representative democracy. We elect people, they conduct legislative, judicial, and executive functions for us. If we don't like them, we elect somebody different. Besides the inherent checks and balances within the system, public officials are motivated to be responsive to the public. If you want to participate in the development of a new law, all you have to do is pick up the phone. The people who make up the CRW believe themselves to live outside that system, however. They refuse to participate in the established processes, and instead try to overthrow the results of everyone's hard work. They believe themselves to be persecuted, they believe elected officials are corrupt and conspiring against them, they believe the system of American democracy is incapable of functioning. I'm as cynical about politicians as the next guy -- more, probably -- but I have had to admit that the Founding Fathers came up with the best system I can imagine. It prevents tyranny by handing power over to the people, but the people don't have to decide every little thing. You want a referendum on how close you can park to a stop sign? No, let somebody else decide that, and we'll live with it. If it's too far, we'll debate the issue and elect a person next time who would propose parking closer. It's a beautiful system, not a perfect one obviously but that's because people are not perfect.

The Blade predictably takes a view that these latest developments are dangerous. Rights could be lost. But again, I can't say this enough, it is really heartening to see the media of the community presenting this story objectively. The Blade writes to its audience, but it is accurate, it has facts, they interviewed Theresa and got her quotes in there, as well as Duchy and others. These guys whining complaining about men in the ladies locker-rooms are trying to hijack reality, they want to scare people and they do succeed in scaring people who aren't paying attention. What people need is clear information, facts, and our media have been great about giving the facts to them. The CRW's mission is simply to force conformity to their expectations. It's plain old-fashioned bigotry, and most people in our county won't go along with them if they understand what the issue is, so we're counting on the press to keep people knowledgeable.


Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Small point, Jim. "Intersex" is, by definition, biological. We know enough about what is called transsexualism to know it's a form of intersex, i.e., biological. We have not studied cross-dressing or any more minor variations, so we can't yet speak to those categories.

There is also a frequent confusion between the reality and its cause. In medicine we often don't know the cause of a condition, but we know they are biological conditions. We know that transsexual women have female brain structures, and we know the causes for some individuals, but we don't know all the causes. Similarly, we know the manifestations, symptoms, signs, lab results, imaging studies, epidemiology, etc., that fit the disease we call MS, but we still don't know what causes it.

There are today EXTREMELY few medical professionals left who believe transsexualism is a mental illness or the result of improper child-rearing, rather than a variation of human sexual development. Anyone who has studied human sexual development --genetics, embryology, signalling systems, and the like -- knows that if transsexual persons weren't visible, they would have to be searched for because it's inconceivable they wouldn't exist.

As I've pointed out repeatedly here, this debate is long over in scientific circles. It is only on the loony right that we have people like Ruth and Theresa who continue to spout ancient Freudian cliches, and then degenerate into rants about pedophilia and predation. It would be worthy of a segment on Comedy Central if actual people weren't being harassed, fired, assualted and murdered because of the hate generated by CRW and its sister group across this country.

February 24, 2008 12:36 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Oooh, Theresa is not going to like this news item:


Gay Microsoft employee leaves amazing $65 million to support LGBT orgs

This is the largest single bequest ever to the LGBT movement. The estate of Ric Weiland, who was one of the first five employees at Microsoft, announced the establishment of a sizable new fund through the Pride Foundation, which serves the Northwest's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. These are the organizations that will receive gifts from the Weiland Designated Fund; providing $46 million over the next eight years to 10 national LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations that Mr. Weiland personally selected:
* amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research
* Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
* Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
* In The Life
* International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
* Lambda Legal
* National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
* Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
* Project Inform
* Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

"As one of Microsoft's first employees, having joined the company that was started by two of his high school classmates Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Ric Weiland used philanthropy to strengthen his community by giving generously to many organizations. When Weiland died in June of 2006, he made sure that the work he cared about in his life would continue, leaving the vast majority of his estate to LGBT, HIV/AIDS, environmental and education organizations. Pride Foundation is honored to be one of the organizations receiving a tremendous bequest from Ric Weiland for our grants, scholarships and leadership development work and for distribution to organizations working to advance LGBT equality.
"Ric was one of Pride Foundation's closest supporters, not just as a donor, but as a board member and volunteer," said Audrey Haberman, executive director of the Pride Foundation. "All of us feel such a tremendous loss with him gone. Ric's bequest will do what he always wanted-inspire others to give to the causes they care about to the full extent that they can."

A modest man, Weiland could have easily started his own foundation, but chose instead to work through existing national and local organizations. He was known for carefully vetting the charities he supported and shunning public accolades. Weiland intended his gifts to inspire people to work together for positive change and to strengthen the communities that they touched.

"Ric was a good friend, a terrific computer programmer and a very generous man," said Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and friend of Weiland. "His gift to the Pride Foundation demonstrates his compassion and dedication to the community, and I'm very proud to have had him as a friend. He will be sorely missed but his legacy lives on through the work of Pride and the charitable organizations it supports."

That Mr. Weiland took the care to identify the organizations he felt could best serve the community now and in the future with this generous gift is a testimony to his commitment to civil rights, health and growth in the community to lift all boats.

I'm sure CRW is not opposed to AIDS research and treatment, but they can't be too happy about their long-term adversaries such as PFLAG, GLSEN and Lambda Legal ebign on the list.

February 24, 2008 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when is a referendum not part of the democratic process, Jim....

It is the very definition of democracy...

and all it does is put it up for a vote by the all county, not take it off the books...

A little confused as to how you think this is somehow impedes govt...

It is the definition of the democratic process at work.

As it has been pointed out ad nauseam, writing the county council doesn't work.... they must need to hire a new staff, because Marc Elrich and Valerie Ervin "didn't receive any letters or phone calls", though of course there were over 3000 sent. Why in the world shoudl one bother to call them when their staff can't seem to get them their messages ? That would be a waste of time.
A complete waste of time. It seems like the easiest course of action would be to take the message to the people, and get a council voted into office that can hire a staff that will tell the council when their constituents are calling them...

It is absolutely pointless to call them, as their ignoring 3000 emails and phone calls already proved.

February 24, 2008 3:17 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Listen --

Referenda are a function of plebiscitary democracy, not representative democracy.

As for those 3000 calls and emails, I can't speak for those offices you mentioned, but you keep spreading the lie that those were from Montgomery County. If those calls and emails were anything like the ones we received, the vast majority were not only not from MoCo, they weren't from Maryland, either. So you can claim this wave of support, but that doesn't make it so. Those emails included some of the rudest and crudest I have ever seen, and there were death threats as well. You should be proud.

The fact, again, was that you had the opportunity to present your arguments to the Council, and you did so. That you were insulting and rude and not on point was the reason you weren't taken seriously. Had you come in and said that you simply wanted clarification, and behaved civilly, you would, indeed, have been heard. That you called trans persons predators and pedophiles along with the rest of your hyperbole was your choice, and to whine now about not having been taken seriously is sad.

February 24, 2008 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got facebook? Join our our PRO-EQUALITY group of Montgomery County (and the rest of the world).

Here's the link:

February 24, 2008 4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not a reader of the Blade. I know what their point of view of their editorial department is though. Still, as with the rest of the media, the story seems fine. Don't know why Jim is feigning a state of rapture. The press has a solid record of reporting on this story. Nothing surprising- nothing new. Just the next rhetorical game by TTF.

In general, TTF supporters here keep repeating several falsehoods.

Among the most common:

1. CRG's referendum seeks to force a gender seperation of restrooms.

2. CRG has said transgenders are "pedophiles and predators".

3. Transexualism is biological rather than mental.

4. Transexuals are being denied their rights.

5. Employment is a right.

6. Referendums are questionable tactics.

7. And the biggest falsehood of all: That TTF doesn't want this debate to be about bathrooms. The slightest mention of this restroom aspect of the debate causes a pent-up flood to burst from the levee. Bringing up any other aspect of the bill is ignored.

Take the advice of your supporter, R.F., and let's conduct this debate in a mature and civil manner.

Peace out

Objective Observer

February 24, 2008 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really, OO?

Interesting considering that you people only live by means of anonymity.

February 24, 2008 8:52 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Here you go, Wyatt. A blogger just posted this from the CRW website:

CRG is an offshoot of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC), which has struggled for years to exclude discussion of homosexuality from Montgomery County Public Schools. Prior to CRG’s establishment, CRC led a crusade against Bill No. 23-07, stating on its website:

Bill 23-07 adds “gender-identity” to the current Non-Discrimination Law, and will allow males who self identify themselves as females to have open access to ALL women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and showers. In other words, a male teacher or student will be able to use the female restrooms and locker rooms if he thinks he is a female.

Again, this view is directly contradicted by the language that was passed.

Furthermore, prior to CRG’s start of a paper petition, CRC posted an online petition to mount pressure against the bill. The statements of the signers are very revealing and if you read them, you will quickly realize their real intent. Following are some of the signers of the online petition against Bill No. 23-07 speaking in their own words:

Sheila F. Stepek, petition signer 47: “Those unable to use the proper facilities can go find a tree!!!!”

Joan Press, 109: “What restrooms are the Council members going to use? They are setting OUR children and neices up for RAPE. The council members and the State of Maryland will be hels accountable and sued for this one. Between the HOMOSEXUAL class in Montgoery County Public Schools and now this we have NO rights. Only in America! It's time to move, and we pay high taxes for this? They are Crazy or we are stupid! Or they are trying to make us look both! I didn't vote!”

Kathleen O’Connor, 167: “Stop using MY tax dollars to strip MY parental rights and stop endandering and indoctrinating our children with endless perversions.”

Bonnie Van Veldhuizen, 290: “HEADLINES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY MARYLAND EXTENDS OPEN INVITATION TO ALL PEDOPHILES AND STALKERS SEEKING NEW TARGETS. Shame on every council member who supports this bill. It may be your granddaughter or grandson in the next stall.”

Jeff He, 308: “Nonsense. Who summit the bill should GO TO HELL!!!”

Stephen W. Sweet, 492: “Gay is one thing. But a man/women thinking they are the opposite sex is litterally not figureitively, INSANE!! If this becomes acceptable; I promise the county counsel I will then become a dog and your yard, tree, light post and fire hydrant , are then MY bathroom.”

D. Selleh, 732: “Why isn't the council advising free psychological help instead of encouranging dilusion?”

Robert J. Cassotto, 757: “God is Still in control and those who are not with Him are against Him.He will show is all that He lives.God is also Just and we will very soon have to pay for following satan.....some of us will, that is! Come Lord Jesus !”

Michael Garlick, 768: “Matt. 23:27: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.”


David John, 991: “This is shame wellcame evil in America bye bye God and son and h spirit, What next patition man or women to marry pets”

John Fulayter, 1006: “To applease's the transgender, is to undermine's the well-being of public's mentality & pshyical show how the bill or in any form cannot encourage the harmony but put it backwards to wondering why we only have more dysfunctional problem to fix's. Please do not allow this bill back fired the public safety.”

February 24, 2008 9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In general, CRG supporters here keep repeating several falsehoods.

Among the most common:

1. CRG's referendum does not seek to deny transgendered persons anything at all.

2. CRG has not said transgendered persons are "pedophiles and predators".

3. Transgenderism is not real.

4. Transgendered persons are not being discriminated against.

5. Equal employment opportunity is not a right.

6. Referendums designed to legalize the oppression of minorities are not questionable, immoral, and sinful tactics.

7. This debate is about bathrooms.

8. TTF supporters are the one’s repeating falsehoods.

9. And the biggest falsehood of all: Lying, slander, and hypocrisy are mature and civil ways of conducting debate.

February 24, 2008 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OO reported that "Transexualism is biological rather than mental" is a "falsehood."

This interesting little paper seems to disagree with that:,_Transsexualism_and_Sexual_Orientation.pdf

It identifies a number of chemical and physical anomalies that are related to sexuality and gender identity.

Of particular interest are figures 1 and 2, showing the size, shape, and enervation levels of the sexually dimorphic BSTc. It would seem highly improbable that this particular brain structure of ALL of the transsexuals in the study line up perfectly with their self-identified gender, regardless of whether or not they had taken hormones – especially if we choose to believe the assertion of many bloggers here that transsexuals are “confused.”

I should also point out that many conditions categorized as a “mental illness” have specific brain chemistry anomalies that are treated by psychotropic medications to bring various chemical levels (serotonin, dopamine, etc.) back into “normal” ranges. As such, just because it’s “mental” doesn’t mean there isn’t a biologic explanation for it.



February 24, 2008 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting and informative facts like yours are useful when you are in a debate with those who have a brain. Reread the comments in Dana's post...that is the kind of ignorance we are dealing with here. To win the minds and hearts of people like these (if, indeed, it can ever be done), you must reduce your information to the lowest common denominator. When you have thoughts such as this expressed as to why someone would sign a peititon: “This is shame wellcame evil in America bye bye God and son and h spirit, What next patition man or women to marry pets”, or this "“God is Still in control and those who are not with Him are against Him.He will show is all that He lives.God is also Just and we will very soon have to pay for following satan.....some of us will, that is! Come Lord Jesus !” or this, “HEADLINES: MONTGOMERY COUNTY MARYLAND EXTENDS OPEN INVITATION TO ALL PEDOPHILES AND STALKERS SEEKING NEW TARGETS. Shame on every council member who supports this bill. It may be your granddaughter or grandson in the next stall.”, it is a waste of time to appeal to a higher order of thinking.
We definitely have a tough fight ahead of us!

February 25, 2008 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like Theresa's friends are having some trouble:

Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances

POSTED: 2:44 pm EST February 22, 2008
UPDATED: 2:56 pm EST February 22, 2008
[NEWSVINE: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances] [DELICIOUS: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances] [DIGG: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances] [FACEBOOK: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances] [REDDIT: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances] [RSS] [PRINT: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances] [EMAIL: Judge Orders Funeral-Protesting Church To Reveal Finances]
TOPEKA, Kan. -- A church infamous for protesting at the funerals of U.S. soldiers is being told to hand over its financial data as it fights paying a $5 million court judgment.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett in Baltimore on Thursday ordered two members of the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church to appear at a March 6 hearing and bring certified financial statements of the church's assets and other financial holdings.

The church regularly pickets across the country at the funerals of members of the armed forces, claiming their deaths are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance for homosexuality.

In October, a Maryland jury awarded Albert Snyder $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages for emotional distress and invasion of privacy after church members picketed the 2006 funeral of his son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder.

Bennett earlier this month lowered the award to $5 million.

In court filings, the defendants -- the church, pastor Fred Phelps and his two daughters, Shirley Phelps-Roper and Rebekah Phelps-Davis -- have said they have a net worth of about $997,000 and can't pay the judgment.

In his order, filed Thursday, Bennett told Phelps-Roper and Phelps-Davis to appear with a financial accounting of the church's assets and liabilities, their bank statements, copies of real estate deeds and mortgages, a list of church shareholders and the defendants' tax returns.

The church is appealing the decision and the verdict, saying it is unreasonable as Snyder didn't suffer any physical or economic harm from the church's actions.

Those protests have led numerous states to pass laws in recent years limiting protests tied to funerals. The U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected a motion to hear the church's request to have those laws declared unconstitutional limits on free speech.

Phelps-Roper, an attorney, said she wasn't surprised by the court's decision, but added, "It's a question of when, not if, they are going to have to deal with this."

February 25, 2008 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theresa has always denounced the Westboro people that seem to be among TTF's favorite cultural characters.

Here's an excerpt from the U of Hawaii study Cynthia sited above:

"The transsexual is characterized by an unshakable conviction of belonging to the opposite sex,
presenting a most extreme gender-identity disorder. Gender identity (gender identity refers to an identity experience expressed in terms of masculine or feminine ‘belongingness’, independent of the anatomical
reality of the sex) is therefore totally in disharmony with corporal reality, forcing the
individual to request sex-reassignment surgery....

There is little information about the factors that may influence gender and cause gender-identity disorders and transsexuality in humans"

Note the phrases "independent of anatomical reality" and "disharmony with corporal reality".

The condition is mental not biological.

February 25, 2008 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Readdy, OO?

Can you tell me the difference between the CRW and Westboro BC?

They believe in the same thing, they both lie and they don't mind making the lives of others difficult.

February 25, 2008 8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... the upshot of your remarks is that you still believe it is ok to discriminate against transgenders (and perhaps, also, any other minority group within the population)? Our belief in equal rights and justice for all of our citizens is not conditioned on what percentage of the population they comprise. Discrimination is discrimination, even more so when applied to people who you personally do not like. Democracy at work!

February 25, 2008 10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OO said...
The condition is mental not biological.
Therefore what?

February 25, 2008 12:03 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

You guys are such idiots. The only anatomic or corporeal reality which is relevant to you is genitalia, and I have pointed out, again and again and again, that there are other attributes of sexuality that matter more than genitals.

If you were castrated tomorrow, Wyatt, you would still be a man. That's it. If under that circumstance you thought you suddenly became a woman, then you truly would be mentally ill. That you so clearly ignore scientific reality fits well with the antediluvian worldview of your compatriots.

February 25, 2008 12:09 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Red Baron said "The condition is mental not biological.".

Wrong. The brains structures of transgenders line up perfectly with their self-identified gender. This proves it is biological, not mental.

February 25, 2008 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anyone else seeing all the comments on this page smack up against the left side of the wall?

I'd especially like to hear from those of you who might have a right leaning, or "objective" perspective...

February 25, 2008 3:00 PM  

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