Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Toronto sex offender could be first Canadian convicted of child sex tourism in Cuba

    Toronto sex offender could be first Canadian convicted of child sex
    tourism in Cuba

    Toronto man James McTurk, 78, has been convicted twice on child porn
    charges, and now faces charges of child sex tourism for abusing children
    in Cuba.

    At the Toronto Police Service, a small group of investigators is
    dedicated to sifting through cyberspace - on the hunt for child predators.
    By: Jennifer Quinn Robert Cribb and Julian Sher, Published on Fri Mar 15
    2013

    James McTurk is 78. He has wispy white hair and glasses, and speaks with
    a soft Scottish accent. He lives on a pension — and in a jail cell.

    The Toronto man has been convicted twice on child pornography charges,
    and his legal troubles have just intensified: McTurk could become the
    first person in Canada to be convicted of child sex tourism for abusing
    children in Cuba.

    He is now one of a very small group of Canadian men to face charges for
    the crime of child sex tourism. Only five are known to have been convicted.

    McTurk does not travel to Cambodia or Thailand, destinations of choice
    for those who seek sex with children. All of his known and alleged
    victims have been Cuban girls. All were young, and some were very young
    — police currently allege some as young as 4 years old.

    McTurk has spent several years on Canada's National Sex Offender
    Registry, but he was able to make repeated trips abroad until he was
    caught last summer, almost by accident. He was arrested at Toronto's
    Lester B. Pearson airport upon his return, once again, from Cuba.
    According to court documents — and to McTurk himself, in interviews with
    police — he travels there frequently.
    Photos View gallery

    James McTurk shown in a photograph taken during a 2012 trip to
    Cuba. If found guilty, he will be the first Canadian convicted of child
    sex tourism that took place in Cuba.. zoom

    Like tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders across Canada, McTurk
    was free to come and go, whenever he wanted, to destinations where sex
    is cheap and victims are young. Despite an addition to the Criminal Code
    in 1997 allowing the prosecution of Canadians for crimes committed
    against children outside the country, child sex tourists appear to be
    undeterred, and mostly undetected.

    A succession of Canadian governments have declared their intention to
    eradicate the problem of child sex tourism, saying children abroad are
    as deserving of protection from predators as kids here. UNICEF estimates
    there are as many as 2 million children involved in the sex trade.

    But there are significant loopholes in the system. Supervision of the
    travel of sex offenders is lax. The privacy of convicted offenders is
    prioritized. The process of laying sex tourism charges is an arduous one
    for police. Ultimately, it appears Canada is failing in its moral
    obligation to protect children.

    "Talking about child protection is really easy for governments to do
    because there is nobody who is going to argue the other side," says Mark
    Hecht, a co-founder and legal counsel for Beyond Borders, a
    Winnipeg-based group that fights global child exploitation. "If you
    stand up as a government and say you stand firmly against children being
    sexually abused, who is going to say they disagree with that?

    "But if you actually break that down into what that requires, that's
    where there is a lack of political will."

    An investigation by the Star and El Nuevo Herald, The Miami Herald's
    Spanish-language sister paper, has revealed loopholes in the system
    meant to monitor offenders. The result is that Canadian sex offenders,
    unlike those convicted in the United States, the United Kingdom or
    Australia, aren't closely monitored:

    In Canada, sex offenders don't have to tell anyone they're travelling if
    it's for less than a week — and they can advise just before getting on a
    plane. The U.K. demands all travel by convicted offenders be reported,
    and they have to tell authorities at least seven days in advance. The
    same is true in Australia. Many American states require 21 days' advance
    notice of travel.
    In Canada, if offenders decide not to tell anyone they're travelling,
    and are caught, the penalties are relatively soft: a maximum of two
    years or a $10,000 fine. In the U.K., the penalty could be as much as
    five years behind bars. In the U.S., the federal penalty for not
    complying with sex offender registry rules is as many as 10 years'
    imprisonment.
    In Canada, even if sex offenders do comply and notify authorities they
    are travelling, they don't need to tell anyone where they're going, or
    provide an itinerary. The U.S., the U.K. and Australia all require
    detailed travel plans in advance.
    And unlike other jurisdictions, Canada doesn't monitor who is leaving
    the country, and so can't catch sex offenders on the way out. On the way
    back into Canada, a child sex tourist is unlikely to be caught because
    border agents aren't on the lookout for them and don't have the tools to
    catch them, such as front-line access to police data of criminal
    histories or the names listed in provincial or national sex offender
    registries.

    "These people are passing right underneath our noses," says Jean-Pierre
    Fortin, head of the Customs and Immigration Union, which has been
    pushing for such access for Canada Border Services Agency inspectors.

    The job of keeping track of child sex tourists is becoming even more
    challenging as destinations such as Cuba emerge, eclipsing hotspots in
    Southeast Asia. An internal 2011 Royal Canadian Mounted Police report,
    released to the Star under access-to-information legislation, cited Cuba
    as the most popular destination in the Americas for child sex tourism —
    and the Americas' most visited region for Canadians travelling abroad
    for sex with kids.

    McTurk, Toronto Police allege, was one of those tourists.

    No evidence against McTurk has been heard in court, and the charges
    against him are unproven. The case against him and his criminal
    convictions are detailed in a sworn affidavit for a search warrant,
    obtained by the Star, along with interviews of investigators.

    The police investigation into the diminutive retired postal worker has
    led to a dozen charges: possession of, importation of and access to
    child pornography in Canada, and another nine for child sex tourism that
    include sexual touching of minors with his hands, mouth and penis.

    Most of the sex tourism charges carry a potential penalty of between
    five and 10 years in prison upon conviction.

    Toronto police first learned of the allegations from a Loblaws manager
    who called them after an upset photo development clerk spotted images,
    in for printing, showing sad, half-naked children.

    The affidavit includes the clerk's perception of the images: "The
    children were not smiling and she believed that they looked frightened."
    When police looked at the name of the man who had placed the photo
    order, James McTurk, an alert cop recognized it — police are obliged to
    check on the addresses of sex offenders once a year.

    The case made its way to the force's Child Exploitation Unit, which
    investigates sexual crimes against children. It landed on Det.-Const.
    Paul Robb's desk.

    Robb and his boss, Det.-Sgt. Kim Gross, concluded child pornography
    charges were justified, and three of those were quickly laid. But this
    time, Gross wanted her team to pursue child sex tourism charges against
    McTurk.

    "As far as I'm concerned we have a duty to protect children in countries
    other than Canada," Gross said.

    Robb swore out a search warrant, alleging that once inside McTurk's
    North York apartment he would find evidence of sexual crimes against
    children — committed in Cuba.

    "It's new legal territory, because I can't give any statements of the
    victims or the dates or place of the crime," Robb said.

    The affidavit cites McTurk's two previous convictions for child
    pornography, in 1995 and 1998, both of which involved girls in Cuba. It
    lays out a travel record, obtained by police from the Canada Border
    Services Agency, that indicates McTurk visited Cuba dozens of times over
    a four-year span.

    Robb found McTurk had made eight trips to Cuba in 2009, another eight
    the following year, 10 more in 2011 and five in just the first few
    months of 2012. In the four months that police were investigating McTurk
    in 2012, he visited Cuba twice.

    "Based on James McTurk's past history and his apparent continuing
    behaviour, investigators are very concerned for the safety of these
    young Cuban girls," Robb's search warrant affidavit says.

    The warrant approved, Robb headed to McTurk's North York apartment. When
    the 10-year veteran of the force knocked on the door on July 11, 2012,
    McTurk wasn't there.

    He was in Cuba.

    On July 24, 2012, two weeks after Robb searched the apartment, McTurk
    arrived on a charter flight back from the beach resort of Varadero. The
    detective was there to welcome him home.

    Robb arranged for McTurk to be stopped by customs officials — who
    normally would have had no reason to suspect the elderly gentleman of
    any wrongdoing — and waited.

    McTurk presented his passport. The border agents told the unsuspecting
    McTurk to step aside for a "secondary" inspection where Robb and another
    officer were waiting to make the arrest.

    In an interview, Robb said McTurk had only a carry-on bag when he was
    arrested. Inside, police found about a dozen electronic devices,
    including a camera, digital storage cards and USB keys containing images
    from his trip. The video and photo evidence are the basis of the sex
    tourism charges for sexual touching and interference against people
    "under the age of 16 years."

    In interviews, Toronto child exploitation investigators say that while
    they can't know the precise age of the alleged victims, they believe the
    girls involved were as young as four years old.

    Police immediately charged McTurk with possession of, accessing and
    importing child pornography. And then they began the arduous legal
    process of having the child sex tourism charges laid.

    Toronto police can't lay those charges on their own; they must first get
    approval from Ontario prosecutors. So Robb drew up an application to the
    attorney general, outlining the case. That wound its way through the
    ministry, getting approval from local and then regional Crown attorneys,
    and then landing in the attorney general's office in late January.

    The charges were finally signed off on Feb. 12. On Monday, McTurk's case
    will be in front of a judge in a north Toronto courthouse for an early
    hearing in a case that isn't likely to conclude for many months.
    (Through his lawyer, McTurk declined to speak with the Star.)

    McTurk's first brush with the law was in 1995, when he was convicted of
    possessing child pornography. A clerk at a central photo developing
    plant in Stratford had reported "some disturbing photos" which
    "portrayed adolescent girls in sexual activity with an older man,"
    according to the police report at the time.

    Brought in for questioning by Stratford police, where he then lived,
    McTurk gave a voluntary written statement in which he "admitted that he
    had experienced sexual intercourse with two of the girls in the photos
    while he was vacationing in Cuba," reads Robb's affadivit. The report
    cites McTurk as saying the girls were 17; at the time, he was 61.

    In Cuba, the age of consent is 16, so sex with those girls would not
    have been illegal. But under Canada's Criminal Code, taking images of
    anyone under 18 engaging in sexual activity is.

    According to Robb's affidavit, McTurk pleaded guilty to possession of
    child pornography and received a two-year conditional discharge — no
    jail time or criminal record, just a promise to stay on good behaviour.

    Three years later, he was in trouble again, this time after an
    acquaintance told police he had seen videotapes of McTurk having sex
    with several Cuban girls.

    Another search warrant, and when police entered his new North York home,
    they found numerous photographs and videotapes, including one that
    showed "three females, approximately 14 years old, naked and being
    fondled by McTurk," Robb's affidavit says.

    Police arrested McTurk on Sept. 12, 1998, within hours of boarding a
    plane for another trip to Cuba.

    The RCMP child sex tourism report says taking images of sexual activity
    is common: they're considered trophies, or a way of "reliving" the
    experience. And the November 2011 report adds that children are "lured
    with promises of money, clothes and material goods," and that families
    can "receive financial compensation for allowing access."

    For the videos taken in Cuba, McTurk received another conviction for
    possession of child pornography, and another conditional sentence of 18
    months, plus another 18 months of probation. According to court
    documents, McTurk had to surrender his passport and undergo counseling
    for "sex offender treatment programming." And so the trips to Cuba would
    have to stop, at least until he got his passport back.

    But this conviction had another consequence. In 2001, Ontario set up
    Canada's first sex offenders registry, in the wake of the 1988 murder of
    11-year-old Christopher Stephenson, who was killed by a convicted
    pedophile. Because McTurk was still on probation as a sex offender, he
    landed on that list, police said.

    Being placed on the sex offenders registry sounds punitive. But in
    reality, the conditions are not terribly troublesome: those on the list
    need to tell police where they live, and work, and their address is
    checked yearly by officers. No need to say when you're travelling if
    it's just short trips — and no need to tell anyone where you're going.

    Once McTurk had his travel documents returned, he headed back south. He
    continued to be a regular visitor to Cuba, as Toronto police discovered
    when McTurk's activities came to light for a third time last spring,
    thanks to the Loblaws the photo clerk.

    And as McTurk waits in a Milton jail cell, officers investigating his
    case wonder how many travelling sex offenders are being missed because
    of loopholes in the law.

    "Maybe we should start looking at the travel history for everyone we
    arrest for possession of child pornography," Robb said

    "There's a helplessness on the faces of these children that is very
    striking," Gross added. "Whether it be within our borders or outside our
    borders . . . we have an obligation to these children."

    The Ugly Canadians is a series produced jointly by the Toronto Star and
    El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of The Miami
    Herald. Watch W5's coverage of this investigation tonight at 7 p.m. on CTV.

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/03/15/toronto_sex_offender_could_be_first_canadian_convicted_of_child_sex_tourism_in_cuba.html Continue reading

    James McTurk: Portrait of an alleged sex tourist in Cuba

    Posted on Saturday, 03.16.13

    Sex tourism in Cuba | First of three parts

    James McTurk: Portrait of an alleged sex tourist in Cuba

    These stories are the result of a joint investigation by Toronto Star
    reporters Robert Cribb, Jennifer Quinn and Julian Sher, and El Nuevo
    Herald reporter Juan O. Tamayo.

    James McTurk is 78. He has wispy white hair and glasses, and speaks with
    a soft Scottish accent. He lives on a pension — and in a jail cell.

    He has been twice convicted on child pornography charges, and his legal
    troubles have just intensified: McTurk could become the first person in
    Canada to be convicted of sex tourism in connection with the abuse of
    children in Cuba.

    He is now one of a very small group of Canadian men to face charges for
    the crime of child-sex tourism.

    McTurk does not travel to Cambodia or Thailand, destinations of choice
    for those who seek sex with children. All of his known and alleged
    victims have been Cuban girls. All were young, and some were very young
    — as young as 4.

    McTurk has spent several years on Canada's sex offender registry, but he
    was able to make repeated trips abroad until he was caught last summer,
    almost by accident. He was arrested at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson
    airport, returning — once again — from Cuba.

    According to court documents — and to McTurk himself, in interviews with
    police — he travels there frequently.

    Like tens of thousands of convicted sex offenders across Canada, McTurk
    was free to come and go, whenever he wanted, to destinations where sex
    is cheap and victims are young. Despite an addition to the Criminal Code
    in 1997 allowing the prosecution of Canadians for crimes committed
    against children outside the country, child-sex tourists appear to be
    undeterred, and mostly undetected.

    A succession of Canadian governments have declared their intention to
    eradicate the problem of child-sex tourism, saying children abroad are
    as deserving of protection from predators as kids in Canada. UNICEF
    estimates there are as many as two million children involved in the sex
    trade.

    But there are big loopholes in the system. Supervision of the travel of
    sex offenders is lax. The privacy of convicted offenders is prioritized.
    The process of filing sex tourism charges is an arduous one for police.
    Ultimately, it appears Canada is failing in its moral obligation to
    protect children.

    "Talking about child protection is really easy for governments to do
    because there is nobody who is going to argue the other side," says Mark
    Hecht, a co-founder and legal counsel for Beyond Borders, a
    Winnipeg-based group that fights global child exploitation. "If you
    stand up as a government and say you stand firmly against children being
    sexually abused, who is going to say they disagree with that?

    "But if you actually break that down into what that requires, that's
    where there is a lack of political will."

    An investigation by The Toronto Star and El Nuevo Herald, the Miami
    Herald's Spanish-language sister paper, has revealed loopholes in the
    system meant to monitor offenders. The result is that Canadian sex
    offenders, unlike those convicted in the United States, the United
    Kingdom or Australia, aren't closely monitored:

    In Canada, sex offenders don't have to tell anyone they're traveling if
    it's for less than a week — and they can advise just before getting on a
    plane. The U.K. demands all travel by convicted offenders be reported,
    and they have to tell authorities at least seven days in advance. The
    same is true in Australia. Many American states require 21 days' advance
    notice of travel.

    In Canada, if offenders decide not to tell anyone they're traveling, and
    are caught, the penalties are soft: a maximum of two years or a $10,000
    fine. In the U.K., the penalty could be as much as five years behind
    bars. In the United States, the federal penalty for not complying with
    sex offender registry rules is as many as 10 years' imprisonment.

    In Canada, even if sex offenders do comply and notify authorities they
    are traveling, they don't need to tell anyone where they're going or
    provide an itinerary. The United States, U.K. and Australia all require
    detailed travel plans in advance.

    And unlike other jurisdictions, Canada doesn't monitor who is leaving
    the country, and so can't catch sex offenders on the way out. On the way
    back into Canada, a child-sex tourist is unlikely to be caught because
    border agents aren't on the lookout for them and don't have the tools to
    catch them, such as front-line access to police data of criminal
    histories or the names listed in provincial or national sex offender
    registries.

    "These people are passing right underneath our noses," said Jean-Pierre
    Fortin, head of the Customs and Immigration Union, which has been
    pushing for access to criminal databases for Canada Border Services
    Agency inspectors.

    The job of keeping track of child-sex tourists is becoming even more
    challenging as new destinations such as Cuba emerge, eclipsing hotspots
    in southeast Asia. An internal Royal Canadian Mounted Police report,
    released to The Star under Access to Information legislation, cited Cuba
    as the most popular destination in the Americas for child-sex tourism —
    and the Americas' most visited region for Canadians traveling abroad for
    sex with kids.

    McTurk, Toronto police allege, was one of those tourists.

    No evidence against McTurk has been heard in court, and the charges
    against him are unproven. The case against him and his criminal
    convictions are detailed in a sworn search warrant, obtained by The
    Star, along with interviews of investigators.

    The investigation that led to child-sex tourism charges against the
    diminutive retired postal worker — which could result in a 14-year
    sentence if he is convicted — began last spring.

    The manager of a grocery store called Toronto police after an upset
    photo clerk spotted images, in for printing, showing sad, half-naked
    children.

    The subsequent search warrant includes the clerk's perception of the
    images: "The children were not smiling and she believed that they looked
    frightened."

    When police looked at the name of the man who placed the photo order,
    James McTurk, an alert cop recognized it. Police are obliged to check on
    the addresses of sex offenders once a year.

    The case made its way to the force's Child Exploitation Unit, which
    investigates sexual crimes against kids. It landed on Detective Paul
    Robb's desk.

    Robb and his boss, Detective Sgt. Kim Gross, concluded child pornography
    charges were justified, and three of those were quickly filed. But this
    time, Gross wanted her team to pursue child-sex tourism charges against
    McTurk.

    "As far as I'm concerned we have a duty to protect children in countries
    other than Canada," Gross said.

    Robb swore out a search warrant, alleging that once inside McTurk's
    apartment he would find evidence of sexual crimes against children —
    committed in Cuba.

    "It's new legal territory, because I can't give any statements of the
    victims or the dates or place of the crime," Robb said.

    The warrant cites McTurk's two previous convictions for child
    pornography in 1995 and 1998, both of which involved girls in Cuba. It
    lays out a travel record, obtained by police from the Canadian Border
    Services Agency, that indicates McTurk visited Cuba dozens of times over
    a four-year span.

    Robb found McTurk had made eight trips to Cuba in 2009, another eight
    the following year, 10 more in 2011and five in just the first few months
    of 2012. In the four months that police were investigating McTurk in
    2012, he visited Cuba twice.

    "Based on James McTurk's past history and his apparent continuing
    behavior, investigators are very concerned for the safety of these young
    Cuban girls," Robb's search warrant says.

    The warrant approved, Robb headed to McTurk's apartment. When the
    10-year veteran of the force knocked on the door on July 11, 2012,
    McTurk wasn't there.

    He was in Cuba.

    On July 24, 2012, two weeks after Robb searched the apartment, McTurk
    arrived on a charter flight back from the beach resort of Varadero. The
    detective was there to welcome him home.

    Robb arranged for McTurk to be stopped by customs officials — who
    normally would have had no reason to suspect the man of any wrongdoing —
    and waited.

    McTurk presented his passport. The border agents told the unsuspecting
    McTurk to step aside for a "secondary" inspection where Robb and another
    officer were waiting to make the arrest.

    In an interview, Robb said McTurk had only a carry-on bag when he was
    arrested. Inside, police found about a dozen electronic devices,
    including a camera, digital storage cards and USB keys containing images
    from his trip. Police retrieved the video and photo evidence and said it
    appeared he had illegal physical contact with four different girls who
    appear to range from 4 to 12 years old.

    Police immediately charged McTurk with possession of, accessing, and
    importing child pornography. And then they began the arduous legal
    process of having the child-sex tourism charges filed.

    Toronto police can't impose those charges on their own; they must first
    get approval from Ontario prosecutors. So Robb drew up an application to
    the attorney general, outlining the case. That wound its way through the
    ministry, getting approval from local and then regional attorneys, and
    then landing in the attorney general's office in late January.

    The charges — six counts of sexual interference and one each of
    invitation to sexual touching, making child pornography and exposure —
    were finally signed off on Feb. 12. On Monday, McTurk's case will be in
    front of a judge in a north Toronto courthouse. (Through his lawyer,
    McTurk declined to speak with The Star.)

    McTurk's first brush with the law was in 1995, when he was convicted of
    possessing child pornography. A clerk at a central photo developing
    plant had reported "some disturbing photos" that "portrayed adolescent
    girls in sexual activity with an older man," according to the police
    report at the time.

    Brought in for questioning by police, McTurk gave a voluntary written
    statement in which he "admitted that he had experienced sexual
    intercourse with two of the girls in the photos while he was vacationing
    in Cuba," a police report says. The report cites McTurk as saying the
    girls were 17; at the time, he was 61.

    In Cuba, the age of consent is 16, so sex with those girls would not
    have been illegal. But under the Criminal Code, taking images of anyone
    under 18 engaging in sexual activity is.

    According to Robb's search warrant, McTurk pleaded guilty to possession
    of child pornography and received a two-year conditional discharge — no
    jail time or criminal record, just a promise to stay on good behavior.

    Three years later, he was in trouble again, this time after an
    acquaintance told police he had seen videotapes of McTurk having sex
    with several Cuban girls.

    Another search warrant, and when police entered his home, they found
    numerous photographs and videotapes, including one that showed "three
    females, approximately 14 years old, naked and being fondled by McTurk,"
    Robb's search warrant says.

    Police arrested McTurk on Sept. 12, 1998.

    The RCMP child-sex tourism report says taking images of sexual activity
    is common: they're considered trophies, or a way of "reliving" the
    experience. And the November 2011 report adds that children are "lured
    with promises of money, clothes and material goods," and that families
    can "receive financial compensation for allowing access."

    For the videos taken in Cuba, McTurk received another conviction for
    possession of child pornography, and another conditional sentence of 18
    months, plus another 18 months of probation. According to court
    documents, McTurk had to surrender his passport and undergo counseling
    for "sex offender treatment programming." And so the trips to Cuba would
    have to stop, at least until he got his passport back.

    But this conviction had another consequence. In 2001, Ontario set up
    Canada's first sex offender registry, in the wake of the 1988 murder of
    Christopher Stephenson, who was killed by a convicted pedophile. Because
    McTurk was still on probation as a sex offender, he landed on that list,
    police said.

    Being placed on the sex offender registry sounds punitive, but in
    reality, the conditions are not terribly troublesome: Those on the list
    need to tell police where they live and work, and their address is
    checked yearly by officers. No need to say when you're traveling if it's
    just short trips — and no need to tell anyone where you're going.

    Once McTurk had his travel documents returned, he headed back south. He
    continued to be a regular visitor to Cuba, as Toronto police discovered
    when McTurk's activities came to light for a third time last spring,
    thanks to the grocery store photo clerk.

    And as McTurk waits in a Canadian jail cell, officers investigating his
    case wonder how many traveling sex offenders are being missed because of
    loopholes in the law.

    "Maybe we should start looking at the travel history for everyone we
    arrest for possession of child pornography," Robb said

    "There's a helplessness on the faces of these children that is very
    striking," Gross added. "Whether it be within our borders or outside our
    borders … we have an obligation to these children."

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/16/v-fullstory/3289352/james-mcturk-portrait-of-an-alleged.html Continue reading

    A pawn in Cuba’s power game

    A pawn in Cuba's power game By Editorial Board, Wednesday, October 17, 1:05 AM ANGEL CARROMERO, a 26-year-old youth leader in Spain's ruling Popular Party, was the driver of a car that ran off a rural road in Cuba and crashed on July 22, kil...

    Continue reading A pawn in Cuba’s power game

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    Spaniard to face trial for car wreck death of Cuba’s Paya

    Spaniard to face trial for car wreck death of Cuba's Paya Thu Oct 4, 2012 1:37pm EDT * Prosecutors reportedly seeking seven years in prison * Paya was winner of 2002 Sakharov Prize for human rights * Paya family accused government of involvement i...

    Continue reading Spaniard to face trial for car wreck death of Cuba’s Paya

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