Sunday, May 13, 2012

UN Ceasefire in Syria enters second month violence unabated kills 23

Security force raids on protest hubs and clashes with armed rebels on Sunday left 23 people dead, 16 of them civilians, monitors and activists said, as a tenuous UN-backed ceasefire entered its second month.

The fresh wave of bloodletting came as the UN mission in Syria said it now has 189 military observers on the ground, nearly two-thirds of its planned strength of 300. The observers are tasked with shoring up a ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to take effect on April 12 but which has been broken daily by both sides to the conflict.
Two civilians and five soldiers died in gunfights between regime forces and armed rebels in the southern province of Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Clashes broke out in front of a military intelligence office and a recruitment centre in the Daraa village of Nawa and at a checkpoint in the town of Hara, it added.
In central Hama province, five people were killed by gunfire, including a woman, when regime forces raided the village of Al-Tamanaa Al-Ghab, the Britain-based watchdog said, adding that 18 people were wounded and several houses set on fire.
A man and his son were killed and 10 other people wounded when they were shot by regime forces in the town of Qusayr in central Homs province, where armed rebel groups have strongholds, the watchdog added.
Also in Homs, a civilian was killed by sniper fire in the town of Rastan.
Outside Damascus, a civilian was shot dead by regime forces at a checkpoint in Dmeir, while another two were killed by regime forces in the capital's northern suburb of Douma, according to the Observatory.
A rebel commander, Abu Adi, was killed in overnight clashes with regime forces in Douma, while an officer who deserted the army died in a dawn ambush in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Regime forces killed two more civilians in northwest Idlib province and another in the town of Anadan in northern Aleppo province.
The Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a coalition of opposition activists on the ground, said the Syrian army shelled Douma early on Sunday and that heavy gunfire was also heard in the suburb.
On Saturday, 22 people were killed, including 11 civilians, two deserters and nine regime troops, of whom seven were killed during fighting in Idlib province.
Parliament's independence must be preserved: Sonia

Reflecting on the journey of Parliament, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has said while its integrity and independence must be preserved at all cost, it must not only be a source of law and power but also justice and compassion.

Participating in a discussion in the Lok Sabha to celebrate the 60th year of the first sitting of Parliament in independent India on Sunday, she also said that members' conduct must rise to the highest ethical standards.

Gandhi said the greatest triumph of the country in the last sixty years of its independence is that the "aam aadmi has become the heart and soul" of Indian democracy.

Noting that the journey of Indian Parliament has "not always been smooth or without challenge", Gandhi said an anniversary is also a moment of reflection to consider the members' role and place in the rich fabric of the nation's life and history.

"The integrity and independence of Parliament must be preserved and protected at all cost, with no room for compromise. Our conduct must rise to the highest ethical standards that were followed and demanded by the founding fathers of our nation," she said.

The Congress President urged the members to resolve to make sure that Parliament embraces "not only the triumphs and joys of this but rids our people of the sorrows and sufferings that still blight their lives. This great institution must be not only a source of law and power but also of justice and compassion."

Gandhi said the poor and illiterate masses have "again and again voted with wisdom, they have voted with purpose, sometimes reaffirming their faith in those who govern them, sometimes voting them out."

Noting that India's freedom struggle reinvented the idea of democracy, Gandhi said, "If there is one thread running through these past six decades, it is that people's power is felt constantly at the highest levels of governance."

She said Indian social legislations have emerged as a global benchmark today and the laws enacted in last sixty years have especially protected the excluded and the marginalised.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress President said, "My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest."

She also paid tributes to the security personnel, who sacrificed their life in 2001 when Parliament had come under a terrorist attack.
Handful throttles "silent majority": Mukherjee
Leader of the Lok Sabha and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday lamented that a handful of members throttle "silent majority" and called for a mechanism that will eliminate disruptions.
"On many occasions, this House has been tumultuous, tempers ran high, but disruptions were the least this House has adopted.”
"Because when we disrupt the House then it serves no purpose. We cannot hear. We cannot speak. Only a handful of members completely throttle the desire of a silent majority to speak," Mukherjee said, initiating the debate to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first sitting of Parliament.
Mukherjee said Parliament has acted as a "shock absorber" on several occasions and whenever there have been disputes, dissensions, the Lok Sabha has played a role in defusing it.
"Whenever there were tensions, disputes and dissensions, it has come to this House and under this great dome we have been able to defuse that on most occasions," he said.
Mukherjee noted there has been confrontation in the federal structure between various organs of the government and judiciary, executive and legislature.
"But over the years we have evolved a system and able to find an amicable solution," he said.
Endorsing the views of Mukherjee, BJP leader L K Advani said tolerance and understanding for each others' views and debates in Parliament can solve issues.
Highlighting the success of Indian parliamentary system, he said views of the opposition are given due understanding and respect.
"Parliament is a major example of that," he said adding that he endorsed the views of Mukherjee that differences can be resolved through debates.
Referring to famous thinker Charvak, Advani said his line of 'eat, drink and make merry' was understood and respected despite the fact that he challenged the traditional philosophy that you pay for your sins in the next birth.

President talking about the moms in his own life

 

To:
Nksagar_1@yahoo.com
Obama - Biden
Naresh – Today’s one of my favorite holidays. I get a chance to be grateful for my daughter, who made me a mom, and I take some time to remember my own mother, whom I loved very much.
President Obama knows there’s no tougher job than being a mom. It’s one of many things I admire about him.
Watch this video of the President talking about the moms in his own life:
Video: Mother's Day message from the President
This year the girls are making handmade cards for their mom. Thanks for helping the President do a little something extra by signing the First Lady’s card — she’s going to love it.
Check out this message from the President — it’ll put a smile on your face — and if you know anyone else who should see this or who might want to sign the card, please pass it on:
http://my.barackobama.com/Happy-Mothers-Day
Seriously: Don’t forget to call your mom.
-Katherine
Katherine Archuleta
National Political Director
Obama for America
Paid for by Obama for America
This email was sent to: Nksagar_1@yahoo.com

Anti-austerity protests continue in Euro cities

 

Spain, hundreds of thousands of people held rallies in 8 cities on Saturday to express their dissatisfaction with high unemployment.Tens of thousands of people have protested in a number of Spanish cities to mark the first anniversary of the “Indignants” movement.Rallies activists marked the one-year anniversary of the founding of the “15 M” movement, with nationwide demonstrations. Protesters took to the streets of Barcelona, with organizers claiming up to 300 thousand people took part.  Central London hundred of protesters  complained that they have to endure austerity measures while a handful of people enjoy the nation’s wealth.A trifle occurred when police officers tried to stop the protesters from setting up tents leading to ten people detention.Many off-duty police officers took to the streets in London on Thursday in a rare display of collective anger against government austerity measures,
Belgian capital Brussels demonstrators shouted that they represent 99 percent of the population. They held up banners that called for reducing the economic gap.
Hungary,  2, 500 far-right supporters marched through the capital Budapest, shouting slogans against the government’s austerity cutbacks. Hungarians are angry about a series of tax hikes and other measures which authorities say are needed to support growth and keep the country’s budget deficit under control.
The protesters  rallied near the offices of the Socialist Party, and later marched over to the headquarters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.Jobbik leader Gabor Vona said Fidesz and Socialist governments had economically ruined Hungary in the two decades after the fall of communism, selling out the country to foreign banks,multinational companies, financing the “economic and political mafia” coterie.Briefing end of  the event he called “The Hungarian March of Life,” Vona also criticized gays and the Roma minority and said the country’s Jews were “anti-Hungarian.”
 Protesters held rallies in Portuguese capital Lisbon and Germany’s economic hub, Frankfurt.
Media agencies

President Karolos Papoulias to bid for coalition government


Greece will either has to form a coalition government or have to hold another election early next month, raising concerns that the political turmoil in the country may affect the financial aid package.Three  largest political outfits are winners in the election took turns to negotiate forming a coalition, but all failed due to disagreements over austerity measures.President of Greece called meeting on Sunday with political parties leaders pursuing to form coalition government in lieu of  threatening voices for the country’s euro membership calls from Euro members .Karolos Papoulias met  with the chief of conservative New Democracy, radical left Syriza and socialist PASOK parties, then continuing with individual discussions with the leaders of smaller parties with parliamentary seats, including the head of the extremist right-wing party Golden Dawn.
Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, made big gains to come in second place after campaigning on an anti-bailout platform.Tsipras insists any new government must cancel the austerity measures as he argues the terms are so onerous that they are giving the country’s battered economy no chance of recovery.Samaras and Venizelos may join forces with the Democratic Left party of Fotis Kouvelis and form a governing coalition, but all three have insisted they cannot do so without the support of Syriz. “The Greek people didn’t just send us a message, they gave us a mandate,” Samaras said as he arrived for the meeting with the president. “A mandate of cooperation for all of us to change policy, but also to remain in the euro.”  Political turmoil has alarmed Greece’s international creditors, persist country must stick to the terms of its rescue deals  to continue receiving the funds. Leader of the third-placed PASOK and former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, met President Karolos Papoulias on Saturday afternoon to return the mandate to him. Papoulias is expected to gather all party leaders early next week in a last-minute bid to discuss ways to launch a coalition government.
  The political  parties are not expected to reach a compromise even through mediation by the president.
The opposition parties refuse to cooperate with the outgoing ruling parties that are pushing for austerity measures in return for additional bailout funds from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Thus Speculation is mounting that Greece will have to hold another election early next month,
Media agencies

NCERT asked to remove Ambedkar cartoon from textbooks: Sibal

Agreeing that Ambedkar's cartoon in an NCERT textbook was objectionable, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said orders have been issued to withdraw it and stop distribution of these books, and promised concrete action in the matter. 

Responding to concerns expressed by members in Rajya Sabha, Sibal said the Government will also examine whether any criminal offence was made out against those who drew or included the cartoon of B R Ambedkar in the textbook.
Admitting that there were many other objectionable cartoons of political leaders in NCERT textbooks, he said his Ministry has decided to constitute a Committee of experts to look into cases of all such objectionable cartoons and remove them.
"When I got information in the beginning of April, I wrote a letter to NCERT that such a cartoon should not be there as it is objectionable... On April 26, 2012, I wrote to NCERT stating that it is considered advisable to withdraw the cartoon. After this, they set up a Committee to examine this," Sibal said.
"Then I called all textbooks and found there are many other such cartoons about other leaders which are objectionable. Then I decided to set up a Committee to look into all textbooks. I told NCERT to stop distribution of all books immediately," he said.
When asked by BSP member Mayawati as to what action the Government was taking against those responsible for inclusion of Ambedkar cartoon in textbooks and by when would action be taken, Sibal said, "Nothing objectionable about Babasaheb Ambedkar will be allowed and action will be taken so that this is not repeated."
Clarifying that the textbooks are made by an independent textbook authority - Textbook Development Committee, which comprise academics and not officials of NCERT.
He said none of the existing members of the present Textbook Committee which approved this book will be part of the new Committee set up to examine objectionable cartoons.
Meanwhile, amid uproar in Parliament over a cartoon of B R Ambedkar in NCERT textbooks, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday apologised over the objectionable content, saying he has directed removal of the material and stoppage of distribution of books.
He appealed to political parties not to make it an issue for vote bank politics. "...I am willing to personally apologise for it though I was not the minister at that time in 2006. I was involved in the publication of the books," Sibal told reporters outside Parliament House.
He said there was no question of anybody trying to malign Ambedkar or anybody trying to make fun of him because that "I think will be against the secular ethos of our country".
Sibal said much before the issue came to Parliament, he had taken action on it and set up a committee to look at the entire gamut of cartoons in textbooks and their content to ensure material of this nature is taken out of textbooks.
"This issue came to my notice sometime towards April and we sought an explanation from NCERT and after the explanation had come, we took the decision on April 27 that this particular cartoon should be withdrawn from NCERT textbooks on political science," he said.
Sibal said the government on Friday further decided that the textbooks which contain the cartoon shall not be distrubuted.
The wholesalers, he said, have also been asked to stop distribution of the textbooks.

Nepal: No consensus on Constitution drafting

The stalemate between four major political parties in Nepal over contentious issues of Constitution drafting continued on Saturday even after several rounds of negotiations.

Issues of state-restructuring have been a bone of contention among the major political parties even as the May 27 deadline to promulgate the constitution is fast approaching.
“Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have been stuck to the idea of eight federal states to be incorporated in the new constitution against the Maoists’ proposal of 11 states across the country”, Nepali Congress senior leader Bimalendra Nidhi said after the talks this evening.
During bilateral talks between the Maoists and the Nepali Congress, the latter reiterated its stand that the states should not be more than 8 as it would not be economically viable, he said.
The Nepali Congress is also against naming the states on the basis of ethnicity.
A mixed formula should be adopted while naming the states, Nidhi said.
Later on in the evening the three party meeting is scheduled to take place between the Maoists, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML in an effort to forge consensus on key issues, he informed.
The UCP-Maoist and the Joint Democratic Madhesi Front (the five party alliance), have floated the idea of 11 states with names of the states based on ethnicity.
“Rather than ethnic capacity, economic viability should be taken into account while dividing states,” Nidhi said.
Besides state restructuring, forms of governance is another key subject which needs to be settled among the major political parties before promulgating the constitution.
Nepali Congress is in favour of a Parliamentary system with the provision of the Prime Minister being vested with all executive powers and the president elected from electoral college having ceremonial powers.
However, the Maoists are campaigning for an executive president directly elected by the people.
Until the parties tackle these contentious issues promulgation of the constitution is not possible within May 27 deadline.
Meanwhile, Nepali Congress Vice-president Ramchandra Poudyal has issued a statement calling different agitating ethnic groups to calm down and to help create a conducive environment for drafting the new constitution on time.
He asked the ethnic groups to maintain communal harmony, peace and to seek a solution to their problems through peaceful means of dialogue.
Poudyal’s call comes even as the general strike called by different ethnic groups in Far-west Nepal for an undivided Far-western region continued for the 16th consecutive day.

Greek socialists fail in last-ditch bid to build government



Greece's socialist leader admitted on Saturday he had failed in a last-ditch bid to form a government, taking the nation a step closer to repeat elections as it faces increased EU pressure over its finances.

Pasok chief Evangelos Venizelos's announcement came after the key radical leftist party Syriza refused to join a pro-austerity coalition with the socialists and conservatives, paving the way for weekend talks hosted by the president to try to stitch together an emergency unity government.
The latest twist in the tortuous political drama came as EU paymaster Germany threatened to cut off the country's loan lifeline and hinted that the crisis-ridden eurozone could get along without Greece.
Venizelos was the third party leader who tried and failed to cobble together a government after inconclusive elections Sunday that saw a backlash against painful austerity measures that have triggered sometimes violent protests.
"I am going to inform the president of the republic tomorrow (Saturday) and I hope that during the meeting with Carolos Papoulias, each party will assume its responsibilities," Venizelos told reporters in Athens.
If the parties cannot agree a compromise by next Thursday, new elections will have to be called.
Venizelos had been hoping to win the support of Syriza, a party deeply opposed to the terms of the 240 billion euro (311 billion dollar) EU-IMF bailout and which surged to second place in Sunday's vote.
"It is not Syriza which is rejecting (joining a coalition with the socialists and conservatives) but it is the verdict of the people of Greece," said party chief Alexis Tsipras.
Earlier, another possible ally, the small Democratic Left party, said it would not join a government made up of only Pasok and the conservative New Democracy party that did not include Syriza.
Earlier this week both Tsipras and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras failed in their own attempts to assemble a coalition government.
German leaders warned today that Athens could expect no more money without reforms and also suggested that the eurozone would cope if the cash-strapped country left the 17-member currency union.
Greece has already committed to finding in June another 11.5 billion euros (USD 15 billion) in savings over the next two years.
It also needs to redeem 436 million euros in maturing debt on 15th May.
The political deadlock saw the Athens stock exchange plunge 4.5 per cent on Saturday after closing up 4.19 per cent on Friday.

Special sittings today to mark 60 years of Parliament‎

Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will hold special sitting on Sunday to mark 60th anniversary of the first session of Parliament.

Two living members of the first Lok Sabha Reishang Keishing and Resham Lal Jangde will be hounoured on the occasion.
Both Houses of Parliament will meet at 11:00 AM on Sunday to discuss ‘The journey of 60 years of Indian Parliament’.
91-year old Keishing, a member of Rajya Sabha was member of the first and third Lok Sabhas, while Jangde was member of first, second and ninth Lok Sabhas.
In the evening, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil will address a joint sitting of both Houses in the Central Hall.
Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar will also address the joint sitting.

Level of Technical Education in the Country

The Government has taken several steps to improve the quality of technical education. National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) has been launched to create a skill and productive work force that matches international standards of quality and productivity through integration of vocational education and training with main stream education. Apart from this, a revamped programme of Finishing Schools would also help in enhancing the employability of engineering graduates and AICTE has various schemes such as Quality Improvement Programme (QIP) scheme for improvement of faculty. The World bank funded TEQIP II also caters to improving the quality of technical education in the country. This Rs. 2430 Crore project will cover 200 institutions in the country out of which 20% will be private engineering colleges. Moreover, the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) has been set up to regulate and monitor the quality of engineering education in the country through a revised accreditation system which is outcome based.

This information was given by Dr. D. Purandeswari, Minister of State for Human Resource in written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today.

National Policy on Microfinance


Planning Commission had constituted a High Level Committee on financial sector reforms under the Chairmanship of Shri Raghuram G. Rajan, Professor, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago in August, 2007. The Committee submitted the report in September, 2008.

The Committee observed that, “despite its success, the future growth of microfinance is constrained by a number of factors. An important issue is the ability of MFIs to raise financing. Given the large estimated demand for microcredit, MFIs need multiple sources of financing, apart from the traditional loan financing from banks. Other constraints include an unclear regulatory environment and the lack of well-developed management information systems and an adequate supply of trained management talent to facilitate sustainable scaling up.”

To provide a formal statutory framework for the promotion, development, regulation and orderly growth of the micro finance sector and thereby to facilitate universal access to integrated financial services for the unbanked population, the Department of Financial Services is formulating Micro Finance Institutions (Development and Regulation) Bill 2012.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Finance, Shri Namo Narain Meena in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.

Indian Banks in Rural Areas

There are 93,659 branches of Scheduled Commercial Banks (SCBs) functioning in the country as on 31st March, 2012, out of which 34,671 branches are in rural areas and 24,133 are in semi-urban areas, which together constitute about 63% of the total bank branches.

During 2010-11, the SCBs opened 3,294 branches in rural/ semi-urban areas against 1,795 branches opened in urban/ Metropolitan areas of the country.

As per the extant Branch Authorization Policy of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), general permission has been granted to domestic SCBs (other than Regional Rural Banks) to open branches in centres with a population upto 99,999 and in all centres of the North-Eastern States and Sikkim, subject to reporting. In order to further expand the banking network, RBI has advised that while preparing their Annual Branch Expansion Plan, the Banks should allocate at least 25 percent of the branches proposed to be opened during a year in unbanked rural centres with population upto 9999.

Further, under the “Swabhimaan” financial inclusion campaign, banking facilities have been provided to over 74,000 villages having population over 2000.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Finance, Shri Namo Narain Meena in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.

Funds for Gram Panchayats for Border Districts of Punjab

Sh Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development, Drinking Water & Sanitation today announced that the Rural Development Ministry would be providing separate funds under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) for enhancing road connectivity in the six border districts of Punjab i.e Amristsar, Gurdaspur, Ferozepur, Fazilka, Taran Taran and Pathankot. The Minister said this while addressing a gathering of Ministers, MLAs, Deputy Commissioners and other senior functionaries of the Government of Punjab at the Seminar on Rural Development Policies & Programmes here today. The Chief Minister of Punjab, Shri Prakash Singh Badal and Sh Sunil Sunil Jakhar, Leader of the Opposition in Punjab were also present on the occasion.

The Minister said that the condition of minimum inhabitation of 500 persons for providing road connectivity under PMGSY would also be relaxed to 250 persons in the case of border districts on the lines of tribal and naxal areas. As regards the Right of Way condition of 10 metres of road, the Minister said that the rural development ministry was in favour of reducing it to 8.33 metres and already his Ministry has approached the Indian Roads Congress for giving its formal approval to the same.

The Minister further announced that the Government has decided to remove the BPL condition for providing funds under the rural sanitation programmes of the Ministry. Referring to the inadequate amount of funds available for construction of a toilet under the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), Sh Jairam Ramesh informed that the Government has decided to increase this limit to Rs 9500 from the next month. Of this, Rs 5000 would be available as direct subsidy and Rs 4500 would be available under MNREGA. He also asked the state government to look into the aspect of liquid and solid waste management as well.

At the same time, Sh Ramesh called upon the Punjab government to improve its record as far as Nirmal Gram Panchayats were concerned. He said that while in Punjab only 170 villages out a total of 12500 have been declared as Nirmal Gram Panchayats, in case of Haryana the figure was 1500 villages out 6500, which is nearly a fourth of the state’s total villages.

He also informed that the work on the new BPL list for Punjab was already underway and the final list was likely to be out by September end. The Minister further added that he was of the opinion that for many rural development schemes such as the Indira Awas Yojna, the condition of BPL should not be there.

Referring to the problem of water logging in the state, the Rural Development Minister said that this was a problem which had to solved jointly by the state and the Central government. While asking the Chief Minister to propose a short term and a long term plan for the problem, he suggested that the Centre would be happy to constitute a technical expert committee for looking into the issue. About the problem of drinking water in the state, the Minister said that it was not just good enough to provide drinking water, but the state should also look into the aspect of the quality of the water being provided. He observed that water in Punjab had Uranium and Arsenic contents and even fluoride in some places. He informed that the Ministry has already provided Rs 90 crore for this purpose for the current year and was prepared to give even more money, if required.

Talking about his plan for strengthening the panchayats and also making them more accountable, Shri Jairam Ramesh said that the Government has decided that out of the total budgetary allocation of Rs 99,000 crore for the Rural Development Ministry, one per cent, which was nearly Rs 1000 crore would be given to the Gram Panchayats to carry out programmes as per their own priorities. This would mean that each panchayat in the country gets around Rs 5-6 lakhs annually as untied fund, he added.

However to ensure greater transparency and accountability, the Minister said, every rural development programme would henceforth come under the financial and performance audit of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG). CAG, he informed, was already carrying out an audit of the performance of rural development programmes during the last six years, the report of which is expected by October or November this year. Additionally, each Gram Panchayat would have to have a compulsory certification of its accounts every year.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Shri Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab sought the help of Shri Jairam Ramesh for the project for cleaning of rivers and village ponds in the state. Shri Badal also highlighted the problem of water logging in the state and sought the help of the Union Minister in this regard. The Chief Minister also mentioned that there was an urgent need for a low cost sewerage system in the state for which the state required nearly Rs 150 crore per year out a total requirement of Rs 700 crore. He also requested Shri Ramesh to enhance the limit of funds for construction of toilets and for housing under IAY, since the present limits were too low and unviable.

In his remarks, Shri Sunil Jakhar raised the issue of pollution in the rivers of Punjab, the cancer problem in the Malwa region and water logging in the Fazilka area. He called for a hike in the MNREGA wages being given in Punjab, which were quite low as compared to Haryana. While asking for a probe into the mismanagement of rural development funds in Punjab, Shri Jakhar also called upon the state government for more judicious use of Central funds and for strengthening the Panchayati Raj System in the state.

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