Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wife of Indie Owner Critical of Noel Endorsement

Saying she wants the "best for our children", the wife of the majority owner and President of The Santa Barbara Independent has sent an email to "everyone she knows" criticizing the Indie's editorial staff for endorsing Bob Noel's campaign for reelection to school board. Although I am loath to cut and paste a whole email that was meant for friends -- here is the main point of Jan Campbell's piece that was forwarded to me from a citizen stringer:

While I applaud the editorial freedom exercised at our paper -- I am compelled to write everyone I know to denounce their endorsement of this candidate -- someone whose disingenuous and self aggrandizing actions over the last four years have led to alienation of his fellow board members as well as School District staff and administration. This contentious "“at-odds"” persona which he touts to the media as "the lone ranger standing up for schools" has translated into wasted resources (time and money) that could have been used to support our students. Thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent on his pursuit of frivolous allegations about his fellow board members and violations of the Brown Act --– none of which proved to have one grain of truth in them.

The email urges the reader to vote for Santa Barbara Teacher Association endorsed candidates Suzy Cawthon and Kate Parker (Kate did get the Indie endorsement). What's great about this is that there is clearly a wall between ownership and editorial at The Independent -- what's not so great is that The Independent made an endorsement that had a lot of us scratch our head.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No head scratching necessary here ... anyone who's been watchdogging the school board these many years has observed Bob Noel's self-aggrandizing manipulation of the press. Clearly the editorial staff of the Independent bought "Dr. Noel's" line without checking too deeply into the facts.

Hey - we all make mistakes. It's just a good reminder that we voters (like newspaper editors) have a solemn responsibility to do some research before casting our votes.

10/15/2006 5:27 PM  
Anonymous Indy Insanity said...

Good for Jan---I saw her letter on the Indy website thurs night, right being horrified after reading the Indy's endorsement of Noel [and Arnold]--what the HELL happened over there on Figueroa---??

10/15/2006 6:06 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

I would like to comment on the posting regarding the Independent endorsement of incumbent Dr. Bob Noel for Santa Barbara School Board. I too was very dismayed to see the endorsement. It should be noted that all four of the other sitting board members have chosen to endorse Kate Parker and Suzy Cawthon for the two open seats on the board, including myself. In recent years Dr. Noel has failed to build consensus on the issues (mostly problems) he raises, which are often self serving and distract the board, superintendent and staff from our core mission of serving our students. He has repeatedly accused his colleagues or administrators of various levels of incompetence or wrong doing, while holding himself harmless, though he has been on the board the longest. He seems to prefer to be the lone wolf, political scientist, watch dog seeking attention in the media for his positions. His alienating manner and allegations have cost the district valuable funds that could be better spent on student programs. We need a board that can disagree amicably, while staying focused on students.

10/15/2006 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Indy Insider said...

"Editorial staff?"

The editorial positions are wholly decided by Marianne Partridge, who might take input from the other staff there, but the final decision about who to endorse is hers entirely.

The Indy obviously anticipated huge backlash, which is why their Media Blog featured a posting about their recent endorsements, entitled Jump the Shark by a "Club Reporter."

Still, one of the owner shareholders saw fit to complain openly. Are you getting this, Nipper?

10/15/2006 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with the other comments. I have been to many school board meetings over the past three years and have noticed that Dr. Noel raises many issues that could keep the school district out of trouble. This is a school board that has lost many expensivbe law suits and has violated the Brown Act on several occasions.

Through Bond money, my taxes will be paying for an Olympic sized pool at Dos Pueblos High School that will beneift only a small number of people. I think the way it was pushed through was not fiscally responsible. His watch dog attitude is protecting the money I pay in both State taxes and property taxes.

10/15/2006 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that endorsement in the Indy and found it strange as well. Suzy really stands out and she is leading a poll I found:

There are two spots open at least. Should be a competitive race, but Suzy is out there in the community.

10/15/2006 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jan Cambpell here - just to clarify - I am not an owner of the Independent - my husband Randy is the majority owner and President.

I have always been proud to be associated with the paper and I have tremendous respect for the hardworking editorial staff. I feel very passionate about this school board race because I believe so strongly in our public schools. After volunteering many hours, I have come to know some truly incredible teachers and staff and I am always in awe of what they can do with so little.

So please, even if you don't have children in SB public schools - I urge you to vote for Suzy Cawthon and Kate Parker on election day. We need a school board focused on the needs of our students - not on individual egos of board members.

--Jan Campbell

10/15/2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Sorry for the misprint -- thought both of you were. Will edit the post and thanks for the comment...

10/15/2006 8:39 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

7:42 -- very good point and we have seen this before where staff have different opinions on endorsements than Ms. Partridge, haven't we?

10/15/2006 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mrs. Campbell isn't California a community property state?

10/15/2006 9:11 PM  
Blogger passing-by said...

I concur... in my view, Bob Noel is sort of a local Donald Rumsfeld: right or wrong, he is consistently arrogant, cranky, condescending, and absolutely convinced that he is smarter than anyone else. He is the definition of "doesn't work well with others" and he's been that way since way before he was elected to the Board of Education.

10/15/2006 10:39 PM  
Anonymous Willie Shakespeare said...

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

If Mr. and Mrs. Campbell split up, the Mrs. would certainly ask for her share of the value of the Indy.

10/16/2006 7:38 AM  
Anonymous voice of reason said...

Bob Noel gets my vote. Have any of you actually BEEN to a school board meeting? I have. Bob does his best to keep the rest of them accountable. Bob understands that the mission of the school board is to act in the best interest of the children and their education. He's focused on that mission, while much time is wasted by others playing politics-as-usual to fuel other interests.

The school board NEEDS BOB NOEL!!

Do your homework and Vote for BOB NOEL!

10/16/2006 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Well this is an interesting string of "beat up on Bob Noel." I was unaware that character assination was the soup of the day. I knew Dr. Noel long ago, and if he hasn't changed, I would agree that he is impatient, condenscending, and a tad pedantic. On the other hand he is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and no one can fool him by manipulating and spinning data. He takes his fiduciary reponsibilities very seriously and has dedicated so much time to the School Board out pure civic minded desire to offer public service. He is dedicated to academic excellence and the comprehensive education of all our children. Sure, he is grouchy and not very amicable; but, in my view, his superior analytical skills are a very valuable strength to have the Board.

10/16/2006 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marianne really blew it with her endorsement of Noel, demonstrating once again why the Indie still has a long ways to go before it can be taken seriously as a true newspaper. The guy is nuttier than a fruitcake and disingenuous to the max. I suggest the Indie start hiring real investigative reporters like Scott Hadly to dig up good info before making knuckleheaded endosements like this one.

10/16/2006 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am voting for Bob Noel. He is the only one on the School Board to call in question why a high-density developer (Unidev) is doing an analysis on Tatum and Hidden Valley. I like his candor.

10/16/2006 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the one Noel fan in the crowd, I'd like to point out that previous boards may have violated the Brown Act, but not the current one. And I understand that Noel has had a habit of sending out emails to all fellow board members on substantive issues--clearly a no-no under the Brown Act.

As for the DP pool, most of the money comes from private fundraising and STATE bond funds, not local. This pool will have a huge impact on the community, starting with learn-to-swim programs that are already in the works.

Noel has accomplished little in eight years, but he has perfected his blame game as illustrated by his supporter's comments.

10/16/2006 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least this blog is consistent in harpooning bloggers who don't support every socialist lemming candidate that comes along.

10/16/2006 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a town full of socialists lemmings, the ones that aren't make easy targets. Go after their Characters, and forget the issues.

10/16/2006 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go after their character??

Joe Guzzardi = honest, straightforward, can't be bought by special interests, calls a spade a spade

Bob Noel = intelligent, courageous, holds others to high standards of integrity

As for the sharp tongues these guys have in public, you all should know how nasty many pols are behind the scenes. Carbajal, for one, shoots off threats like a gang leader. FYI.

10/16/2006 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am voting for Noel on the basis that he is working to improve the academic side of things. Isn't that what school is about or should be?

Consensus and good feelings on a board are fine in the same way that encouraging good citizenship is fine. But that's not all and sometimes it seems as though much of schooling emphasizes working together and getting along, with morning meetings and sharings.

An elementary school teacher friend says that she dreads what it will be like 20 years from now if all schools are like SB's where independence is not a valued quality. And yet the brightest students and teachers are independent thinkers, as is Noel whom I've never met but who seems heads above the other candidates in the race.

Good for the Independent for being, well, independent!

10/16/2006 8:10 PM  
Blogger passing-by said...

This socialist lemming actually agrees with Bob Noel on some (maybe lots of) issues. The problem IS his character. Even when the guy is right, he often is so egoistic and over-bearing that his personal presentation sabotages his efforts to reach his objectives. He is a bright guy but so socially inept that (in my view) he is a disaster as a public official. He is a naturally gifted critic, not a concensus builder.

10/16/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger cookie jill said...

This city needs a school board and a populace with a backbone. Anyone actually toured a school lately? Ever see some the state of some of the facilities? Ever have to help out friends who are teachers buy supplies for their students because the schools don't have any money for them?

It's a sin, really, that in a town with Oprah and her jewelry rattling ilk, McKinley can't even afford to keep their gym teacher.

10/17/2006 2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the wife of the owner of the Indy doesn't like Noel, well then that pretty much cemented my vote for him.

What's great about this is that there is clearly a wall between ownership and editorial at The Independent

Sure there is, Sarah de L'Agenda.

what's not so great is that The Independent made an endorsement that had a lot of us scratch our head.

I was surprised too, considering that Noel is questioning the jamming of high-density condos onto school land. The Independent owners' surely must have known that.

10/17/2006 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you HAVE been to board meetings in the last several years, you realize that Noel, bright or not, needs to go! His ego dominates his behavior, and he has sucked up tremendous money and time with goose chases and false accusations against his fellow board members. And about those e-mails he sends out on issues the board is considering...not exactly following the Brown Act Bobby.
I'm certain he has no understanding of the word "collaborate," much less the ability to operate in such a way with others.

10/17/2006 11:57 AM  
Blogger neushul said...

Bob Noel—are you kidding?

Kudos to Jan Campbell for stepping up and pointing out the Independent’s gaffe endorsing Bob Noel as a school board candidate. Clearly their editor has never seen this contrarian at work. I have and it is not pretty. Noel inserted himself on several occasions during the South Coast Community Aquatic Center’s (SCCAC) successful campaign for new pool at Dos Pueblos High School. Indeed, he tried to destroy the entire campaign.

SCCAC presented the goal of an Olympic sized pool in January 2001. At the initial meeting it looked to me like Bob Noel was sleeping. Over the next four years we returned to the board at least five times updating members on our fundraising for a 50 meter pool. Indeed, we often used visual aids.

In June 2004, after three years of hard campaigning in the midst of an economic drought, we exceeded our board approved goal of $700,000 for an Olympic sized pool by an additional half million dollars. Our campaign generated a total of $1.2 million.

The board voted unanimously to name the new facility the Elings Aquatic Center and sent Dr. Virgil Elings, our major donor, an official letter stating that his contribution would build an Olympic-size pool at DPHS.

End of story? Not according to Bob Noel. Out of nowhere, Noel published a rambling editorial in the News Press where he professed amnesia toward the board’s position on the Dos Pueblos Pool. In a second editorial this contrarian now turned lawyer again used the News Press to espouse the finer points of contracting. Once again he targeted the pool.

Noel’s ill-advised political double talk insulted our constituents and sent a tragic message to hundreds of children who rejoiced at the conclusion of a successful campaign only to find that Bob Noel forgot what he voted for. The Dos Pueblos swimming pool broke a lot of piggy banks and at the same time united a major segment of our community. To children, a vote is a vote. Not to Bob Noel.

Noel’s editorials prompted yet another visit to the School Board meeting. Those of us who waited two hours to address the board were treated to mini Noel seminars replete with rambling reference to his academic career. Primitive distributed game theory from the pre-computer era is not something one expects to hear at a school board meeting. This is particularly awkward when the record skips and the lecturer suddenly starts babbling about windows at Santa Barbara High School.

We reminded Bob Noel of his voting record in person at that board meeting and watched as he madly scribbled down what we had to say. Indeed, the entire display was reminiscent of Reagan and Iran-Contra. Pitiful. I do not think Bob Noel remembers what he and others said at previous board meetings. Perhaps this is why he distrusts fellow board members.

Can you imagine how frustrating this must be for other dedicated members of the school board? Despite his copious notes, Bob Noel had nothing to say in reply to any of us. No pithy little lecture. No news flash from the ivory tower. At the conclusion of the meeting, Noel changed his position for a third time and supported the pool. Evidently the needle found its way back onto the record.

Why waste time researching a small-time academic? Bob Noel cost our community considerable sums of money and tried to destroy a successful fundraising campaign that will change the lives of thousands of children for years to come. Self-absorbed contrarians obliterate any chance of consensus. Lack of consensus leads to delay. Delay cost millions in today’s building environment.

Those who want to know more about “brass knuckles” Bob from an impartial source should peruse the awkward biography that appeared in the News Press on 23 April 2006—after he accused fellow board members of violating the Brown Act. You’ll come away asking “why am I reading this drivel?” But think about it--this is what fellow board members deal with at every meeting.

Noel’s amnesia and inability to work with other board members robbed our community of money for our children. Most recently, Noel’s unfounded Brown Act accusations cost the School District almost $20,000.

Presumably there are those who read Bob Noel’s editorials and get a warm feeling that some bright light is looking out for the cash box. “Tsk tsk, look at those numbers. Bob’s setting ‘em straight again. You go Bob. You show your fellow board members how it’s done. Our man on the board—Bob.”

The “Our man Bob” crowd have never actually BEEN to a board meeting and watched this rube in action. Ask yourself how other dedicated board members feel when faced with unfounded accusations from a blowhard. It is time for this charade to end. Bob needs to start a less expensive career somewhere else.

Peter Neushul

10/17/2006 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Million-dollar condos everywhere and not a penny for the schools. While it's tempting, the sad state of affairs at our local schools cannot be blamed on a single individual--no matter how cranky or out-of-touch with the mainstream. Santa Barbara's dirty little secret is that the public schools dedicate massive amounts of money to implement political agendas and social policies that have nothing whatsoever to do with educating children. Our dedicated teachers, our future generation and our hard-working taxpayers deserve so much better! In our own family,we can ill afford it, but forgo all extras to pay private school tuition for one child, keep our fingers crossed for the other, and agonize about it daily. And the school district has the nerve to squander more than a hundred thousand dollars on a subsidized housing proposal that no one wants--while the teacher sends home a note about needing pencils and Kleenex in the classroom.Maybe Noel's the wrong package, but somebody ought to be questioning what's going on in America's Riviera. Maybe we can we soak the tourists to help the schools--or how about forcing the deep-pocketed developers to pony up?

10/17/2006 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want to talk about wasting time in school board meetings, just look at the "happy talk" that the superintendent and other 4 board members regularly engage in just to "prove" what a wonderful job they are doing. Look at the facts. Bob Noel is the only one truly willing to investigate the real issues facing the schools, the teachers and the students. He is the sole board member who takes initiative to explore better options and puts in the effort to make substantive proposals for improvement. During his time on the board, he has led board majorities on some of the most effective reforms this district has ever seen. The editorial staff of The Independent knew precisely what they were doing when The Independent endorsed Dr. Noel. In fact, if you want to see a self-aggrandizing, egotistical presentation, just watch the broadcase of Suzy Cawthon's performance during the League of Women Voter's forum that took place last night. If anyone fits the bill of 'egotistical,' it is her. Worse, she has no facts to support what she says, and instead relies on generalized, feel-good comments that demonstrate nothing except that she is essentially a cheer-leader and an apolologist for the bureaucracy. She has no concept of what it will take to improve schools in Santa Barbara. If you want positive change in the Santa Barbara School Districts, vote for the person who knows what needs to be done and has the backbone to do it -- not to just be part of the "club" that would prefer to 'get along' rather than actually accomplish something good for the kids. Vote for Bob Noel.

10/17/2006 7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a long time board observer, any one who supports Noel has had the wool pulled over this eyes. Peter Neushul is right on!

Noel is a self important, self promoting, non collaborative individual. Not only does he not listen, the man can't hear.

When is a board watch dog just a dog?.....It is Bob Noel.

A vote for this man is:

A vote for more waste, not less
A vote for more legal fees & less funds for our kids
A vote for rancour not collaboration
A vote for a misanthrope not an educator

Bob, eight years is enough. You have left your mark and it is time for the voters to move you onto greener pastures.

10/17/2006 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that the Noel bashers cannot present one single, substantive reason not to vote for the man? What, they don't like him? They don't like that he raises issues and asks hard questions?

Listen, Noel hit the nail on the head in the last forum: the school board is a legislative body, it is not meant to be a group of docile, rubber-stamps for the administration. Perhaps the superintendent forgets, but he works for the board. It is not only each board member's right but his/her DUTY to question and examine what the superintendent and his staff do. I'm voting for Bob Noel. He has the experience and the determination to make things better.

10/17/2006 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:53 or Noel Campaign Hack? You call Cawthon's performance egotistical -- I call it assertive and refreshing. She was the only candidate that could replace Noel in a heartbeat and provide the blessed watch dog status he is so proud of without being a contrarian. We need a board member that understands budget issues but also can work with people. Bob does not play well with others. She was the only candidate at that forum to actually tell us who is supporting her -- egotistical? No, it's valuable information for voters because when you are running against an incumbent and have the support of teachers and 4 out of 5 board members, you better let people know.

10/17/2006 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:16: Cawthon listing people who support her wasn't egotistical; there's nothing wrong with that. Besides, if you want to know who is supporting Noel or the other candidates, just read their literature.

No, Cawthon is egotistical because (for example) she touts experience in a Montana school district she and her supporters claim is "similar" to Santa Barbara, but she doesn't tell people anything about that district. You clearly are one of her most ardent supporters. Perhaps you can tell all of us: Precisely how many students did that district have?
(I understand from people in Montana that District 8 is tiny.) What was the racial make-up of the district? (The entire state of Montana has fewer minority students than Santa Barbara has.) How big was the district's budget? The answers to these questions render Cawthon's alleged experience laughable in the context of the scale of what is involved in Santa Barbara. Time for Suzy to fess up to the facts.

If what we are seeing from Cawthon isn't self-important ego gone wild, nothing is. And, while she's patting herself on the back about her allegedly vast experience, Cawthon doesn't readily point out that she's been in Santa Barbara only a few years. Such a short time and she's supposed to understand the issues facing this district? Give us a break.

10/17/2006 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:53: just watch the broadcase of Suzy Cawthon's performance during the League of Women Voter's forum that took place last night.

When is that LWV forum being televised?

10/18/2006 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Changing the topic -- how does one do that--- except by adding to an existing topic?

How about something on Prop 90 and how the City Council seems to be having an ostrich-like attitude towards this potentially devastating proposition? No city public comments on what passage of this measure would do to City planning except Development Director Paul Casey's off-the-cuff comment to the effect that 'if it passes, we all might as well go home'.

Where are the voices of the people, Das, Helene, Marty, Grant? Answer: Heads in sand, apparently wanting the people not wanting to hear.

There's a CPF-sponsored forum tonight, 6:30-8, at the Goleta Valley Community Center - maybe it will be televised.

Here's an url for the list of newspapers opposed: (>\x)

10/18/2006 7:23 AM  
Blogger Bill Carson said...

The mere fact that Cawthon is supported by 4 of the 5 board members will cause me to vote for someone else. I’m looking for diversity and debate when it comes to local legislative bodies….not homogenous groupthink. Bob Noel is intelligent and capable and not part of the local clique…that’s why he gets my vote.

10/18/2006 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just read Peter Neushel's posting, and, to me, it is just a sad snapshot of a man who is no longer capable of doing the job he wants so desperately to do.

I, too, have known Bob for years, and (despite his irascibility), I have held him in some esteem and respected his honest attempts to serve our community. However, in recent years, it has become clear (to me at least) that Bob is just not up to the job.

The facts are:

Bob fails to attend a significant number of meetings;

He forgets or fails to hear important information given to him by staff and members of the public;

He has - erroneously, it turns out - accused his colleagues of malfeasance, thus costing our district money that should be spent on programs for our children, and he's making it pretty clear he intends to keep indulging in this sort of behavior;

Bob has also begun to waste the time of his constituents and his colleagues by engaging in rambling, pointless monologues during public meetings.

At this point in his life, Bob should be in a position to sit back and enjoy the admiration that his many years of hard work have earned him. Instead, he has convinced himself (and a few followers) that he must run again in order to "protect" our schools from "the other" board members.

I for one would rather remember Bob Noel as an intelligent, well intentioned activist, and not as forgetful, paranoid, and mean. The really awful thing about the Indy's endorsement is that it might help keep Bob on the board, and, sadly, if that happens, we are all going to witness more and more of the latter.

I plan to vote for Parker and Cawthon, who will serve our schools well, and to hope that Bob Noel might be allowed to retire with grace.

10/18/2006 9:28 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Only I can add a topic but I am happy to make them if you either send them via the comments area below or email them to me at

10/18/2006 10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the League of Women Voters forum the other evening and would like to make a comment on the statement that Bob Noel made about the Board being a legislative body - not a team. I believe that is true - I also believe that the hallmark of an effective legislator is being able to collaborate with the other legislators to get ideas into actions. Do we honestly think that a man who blindsided his collegues can hope to get two of them to agree with him so he can get what the Independent referred to as "visionary" projects implemented? What seems to be lost on many people is the fact that Noel has been on the board longer than any other sitting board member - yet he fails to take any responsibility for the state of the district. He blames staff and other board members - this just does not pass the smell test.

In his opening statement at the forum, he talked about the three academies he wishes to implement. A description of these took nearly the entire 1.5 minutes. I had to wonder why he would focus on these (could it dovetail into the reason the Independent gave for their endorsement?) or is it because he really doesn't have much to say - I guess he could continue to promote his stance that he is the "watchdog" - but that is pretty tired by now.

New innovations must have site support and be backed up by district staff time and energy as well as approved by a majority of the board. Given his behavior during the last year - you have to wonder the chances of getting these approved.

I agree with the previous comment that said at one time Noel was a well intentioned and intelligent. Now his actions have made many of us think - he's past his effectiveness.

Unfortunately the Independent endorsement was a blow to those of us who have and will have children in public schools. Publishing an endorsment that says one of the reasons why the candidate got the endorsement was because he has a "sincere heart" is really unprofessional. How do they know this and is this a valid reason for endorsing someone who can influence the future of our children?

10/18/2006 1:59 PM  
Anonymous all about bob said...

Please, do your homework or don't vote

10/21/2006 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things that you need to know about the Independent's endorsement of Noel: 1) Noel is respected by Marianne "Partridge in a pear tree", and I believe that they are friends; and 2) Noel is a friend of Nick "the angry poodle" Welsh. BTW: I am surprised that they did not endorse Pedro Nava. I wonder why??? I think Mariane hates men.

10/23/2006 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how can anyone vote for a cranky old man who sent at least one his kids to private school WHILE sitting on the school board.

10/23/2006 9:09 AM  

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