Archive for Saturday, December 15, 2012

Letter: School Scrooge

December 15, 2012


To the editor:

How would we think differently about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day if we changed the name to Civil Rights Day? I suspect we would eventually diminish the memory and greatness of him who did so much for our country. That is what happened, after all, when we renamed Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays “Presidents Day.” Something great about our heritage has been lost. For the most part elementary school classrooms and cafeterias no longer celebrate those men annually as they once did.

Likewise, the Lawrence public school district now calls Christmas parties “winter” parties. That meaningless name diminishes the memory of the heritage we have as a nation so profoundly influenced by the Christian religion. It treats an important part of our history as if it were so unimportant that we don’t bother to teach it at school.

Since the Supreme Court has affirmed the legality of teaching about our religious heritage, it seems that the only reason we call them “winter” parties is some mistaken notion that referring to Christmas will “exclude” people of other religions. In fact, refusing to diminish our heritage will be “including” folks in all the wonderful history and traditions of America. The goal of public schools should not be to advocate for one religion. Rather it should be to advocate for all we are as Americans. That includes the importance of Christmas. Instead of behaving like Ebenezer Scrooge before he was visited by the ghosts, let us all, including USD 497, say with Scrooge, “a merry Christmas!”


Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

Seriously? This is what you spend your time worrying about? Why not quit griping about the fact that not everyone shares your religion and just devote your time to doing things that Jesus would have done. It certainly would be more productive.

Abdu Omar 5 years, 4 months ago

Not only that, Katara, but a lot of our founding fathers were not all Christians, some were Diests. They believed in One God, but didn't include the worship of Jesus as part of that belief. Please read history of our founding fathers and you will see. But above all they believed in freedom for all who land on our shores or live here. Freedom from the oppression of one religious group. This is not a Christian country but a country with the majority of the population Christian. Our country is made up of every religion, ethnic group, race, and original nationality and that is why we are the best in the world.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't know of a lot of winter or Christmas "parties" that are occurring at the public schools anyway. LHS and Free State are having finals next week... Does that count?

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

Elementary schools. When I was in school in the late 90s/early 2000s we had holiday parties for just about every holiday during the school year. We started out having Christmas parties that eventually evolved into generic winter or New Year's celebrations. Since they don't have finals, they are able to have such parties for the younger students. Their classroom time is not as regimented. The parties usually include snacks, crafts, and games.

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

Keep in mind that Christmas is both a religious Holiday and and national holiday. You may not be Christian, but if you are American, then Christmas is a holiday that your country celebrates.

You don't have to celebrate it, but Americans who choose to celebrate it should not be impeded by the government since it is a government holiday.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 4 months ago

And children who do NOT celebrate Christmas should not be forced to sit through that.I always felt bad for the Jehovah's Witness kids who didn't get to participate but had to observe.Or leave the classroom.

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

Would you be supportive of not forcing kids who do not celebrate MLK Jr's birthday from sitting through any classroom or school celebrations? Both his birthday and Christmas are national holidays so both should be treated equally.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 4 months ago

They don't have parties for MLK Jr's. birthday. They may learn his history but I'venever heard of a party.

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps not a party, but they celebrate his birthday and observe the holiday with educational series and banquets. So, if the schools didn't have a party, but had discussions on Christmas and the birth of Christ you'd be okay with that?

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes. They could discuss the Feast of Saturnalia, Winter Solstice celebrations, and the other pagan celebrations that have been absorbed into the holiday. Would you be ok with that?

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

fred, Martin Luther King is a part of history, recent history, not a religion. President's day would be celebrated more, if the No Child Left Behind attempt to ruin public schools had emphasized history. Schools were forced to concentrate on making sure that kids knew their math and the difference between a simile and a metaphor. Some teacher's tried to use readings of history to teach the concepts, but science and history has pretty much been ignored. That's why I didn't finish an education degree and opened a business instead. Not a lot is done on MLK day either anymore, except schools get the day off. Most schools don't get President's day off anymore; no one does, unless you are a Federal employee.

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

NO ONE has ever impeded you from celebrating Christmas, people!!!! If I say Happy Holidays to you, it's because I choose to be all inclusive to all of the people who celebrate holidays this time of the year. If you say Merry Christmas to me, I just assume you are Christian. I won't force you to say Happy Holidays, if you don't force me to say Merry Christmas. If saying hearing Happy Holidays, instead of Merry Christmas makes you believe less, then you obviously aren't much of a Christian anyway.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 4 months ago

And if you assume that all the people who celebrate Christmas and say Merry Christmas are Christians, you would be wrong...some are, some are not...

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

tomatogrower, can students in a classroom celebrate Christmas? It is a national holiday like President's day, or the 4th of July. They can put up decorations to celebrate these holidays but they can't do so for the national holiday of Christmas, so yes, the government has impeded the celebration of Christmas.

I really don't care if people celebrate Christmas in government settings. For me, religion is personal and there should be a separation of it from government. My only issue is the hypocrisy in allowing one national holiday to be celebrated in schools and not another. If Christmas shouldn't be a national holiday then change it, but until then there should be no separate rules for it and other national holidays.

Corey Williams 5 years, 4 months ago

do students decorate for the fourth of july?

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

School is not in session for the summer. So no, students do not decorate for the fourth of July. Children may celebrate that holiday at home.

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

You obviously haven't been in a school recently. Yes, they decorate. Maybe not with pictures of Jesus and Nativity scenes, but there is usually a tree and lots of glitter. But they are also busy learning, so there aren't as many parties of any kind in schools now. It would take away time from getting them ready to take the tests the politicians require to prove that they are learning. Parties aren't learning, even though most of our politicians spend more time at fund raising parties than running the countries.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

The elementary schools in Lawrence have 3 parties in the school year. There is a Fall party (used to be a Halloween party). There is a Winter party (used to be Xmas party) and a Valentine's Day party.

voevoda 5 years, 4 months ago

Christmas is a national holiday in deference to the many persons who are employed who are Christian and like to be able to spend it with family. It's not a "national holiday" in the sense of, say, Independence Day, when we recall important events in the history of our country. And that's the difference. The birth of Jesus Christ is not an event *in the history of our country.

In some places in the country where there is a substantial Jewish population, for example, in New York City, the Jewish High Holidays are official holidays, too. Would you advocate, fred_mertz, that those communities hold parties or even lessons as part of the school day to propagate Judaism, and have all the children attend?

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

voevoda, if what you say is true that Jewish holidays are official New York state holidays (and I don't believe they are) then I think it is acceptable to celebrate them in the school.

And while Christmas may not be as important to our history as the 4th it is a national holiday - you cannot deny that fact. Also, January 1 is not important to our country's history but it too is a national holiday so that argument really doesn't hold water in my opinion.

Finally, as I stated before, I would not oppose removing the national holiday status from Christmas. I support the separation of church and state, but until that happens, it is a national holiday.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

Christmas is indeed a federal holiday ( This allows public and private employees to have the day off to spend with family if they choose. If you look at the list of holidays with days off, you will not that not every holiday is "celebrated" by everyone to the same degree. The city of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania has a parade for Labor Day with all of the unions and area high school bands. A federal holiday is not required to be celebrated by everyone to the same degree. They are simply days off for government employees that private companies have acknowledged too.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

The State of New York has no official Jewish holidays. However, the New York City public schools are closed for the major Jewish holidays. the practice of New York City schools’ closing for the Jewish High Holy Days dates back to at least the 1950s, when the teaching force was largely Jewish. Because the majority of the teaching force had requested for a absence because of these religious holidays, the City had decided to close the schools on those specific days altogether; since then, the policy has simply been retained

deec 5 years, 4 months ago

Since the period prior to December 24 is actually Advent in traditional Christianity, worrying about calling it Christmas is kind of weird.

Of course the season is more accurately called Greed and Consumption season in modern America. Religion has nothing to do with the mad rush to buy stuff.

KayCee 5 years, 4 months ago

No one is forcing religion on you. He is just stateing the facts, and appling some common sense.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure what "appling" common sense is, but if it means making an irrational argument about a non-issue, then yes, yes he is.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Common sense??? If makes no sense to me. If a Christian is threatened by changing the name of a school party from "Christmas" to "winter" then it sounds like they have some pretty serious issues concerning the strength of their faith. That's a personal matter that needs to be dealt with in the confines of their church, and not in public schools.

beatrice 5 years, 4 months ago

Do zombies celebrate Christmas? I always thought they would be more into Easter.

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 4 months ago

NO, but apparently they are real in yourn as Jesus was, technically, a zombie.

Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 4 months ago

You need to hang with a different crowd of "secular progressives". And ease up on the spin.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Your entire second paragraph bears little resemblance to reality.

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

I have decided that the people who are so upset about sharing Christmas with all the holidays that happen this time of the year are weak Christians. Why do you feel so endangered? Do you think you will stop believing in Jesus? Are you that weak minded?

It's like those who believe if we allow same sex marriage, somehow their marriage will be endangered. Will you suddenly want to be married to a person of the same sex?

The real issue here is you need to turn off the fear mongers on FOX.

Brian Laird 5 years, 4 months ago

BS. There is no attack on Christmas. Christmas is ubiquitous this time of year. The only people who believe that there is an attack on Christmas are paranoid, and insecure people who are just pissed that everyone doesn't think like them and that their efforts to make others conform are not working.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

Much like marriage, xmas is a contract. They give you a day off work and you are supposed to spend money prop up the economy.

Lisa Medsker 5 years, 4 months ago

But... If I celebrate the "holiday of my choice", and it isn't your version of Christmas, isn't that a blatant attack on Christianity?

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

WT, I'm sure that Martin Luther King would be much happier in heaven if they did just that. He was just an icon of a greater movement to allow all people the same rights. Turn off Fox. There is no plot. Come out of your bunker.

voevoda 5 years, 4 months ago

Socialism isn't necessarily "godless," WristTwister. As for the philosophy you attribute to "socialists" and then deride, actually, that is what Jesus himself taught: Blessed are the poor, the material goods of the wealthy impede their salvation, share with the needy in a spirit of equality, praise the lilies of the field who do not toil, the kingdom of heaven is open to all, even those who do not deserve it on their own merits. Your philosophy, WristTwister, owes more to the atheist Ayn Rand than to Jesus.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 4 months ago

If this is a "nonissue" then I suppose Congress can move forward with legislation which will change the name of Martin Luther King Day to Civil Rights day. Agreed.....

Sure. No problem here. I suspect MLK would agree.

Greg Cooper 5 years, 4 months ago

OK, here we go.

First, who are the "secular progressives"? You say that "the left", as a whole, is secular, but have no evidence to back up that claim. Therre are secular righties, as well as lefties.

"...want to destroy traditional America..." as if everyone left of your thought process wants to destroy the nation. And, too, what is "traditional America" but a conglomeration of different beleif systems and ethos melded into one of history's greatest nations. Who, exactly, wants to destroy that, and where is your evidence?

How, in Heaven's name, can a "Dodless form of Socialism" result in everyone being poor while at the same time taking from those who have and giving to those who have not? Would that not result in everyone being different, where the former rich are now poor, and the poor rich? Which way is it? They're all the same or they're different.

Moving right along, then, the "safety net" you descsribe would result in the former rich being in need of it, wouldn't you say?

Oh, hell, you make such unsubstantiated statements while trying to insult and put down anyone who doesn't share your hysterical need to be right. If only you'd think about what you wrote, and write, even you would at least attempt a modicum of logic in your posts.

purplesage 5 years, 4 months ago

The spirit of Mr. Grinch has possessed most of you. Or perhaps it is Ebenezer Scrooge. From dismissive to outright rude, these responses to Mr. Upchurch's letter are very revealing of the intolerant spirit of many liberals. It is Christmas. God's give of Jesus may still be received today. There's nothing in this letter that presses or forces that.

voevoda 5 years, 4 months ago

You just illustrated, purplesage, what the problem is with having "Christmas" parties in the public school. You regard them as an opportunity to evangelize non-Christian children.

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

The consumer frenzy at Christmas is what keeps the economy fueled.

As an atheist I can celebrate whatever holidays I choose or make up my own. I personally am fond of the winter solstice---fires and such. I imagine faeries, elves and other wee folk dancing in my garden and they become real. Sometimes I dance with them. You can have your dead trees and Santa Claus.

I do like the lights. I imagine that they're meant to encourage the sun to return and bring Gaia back to life. I'm happy---or should I say merry?

Linda Endicott 5 years, 4 months ago

I prefer to think of the lights as just something the trees chaning color in the fall, or when they bloom in the spring...

Everybody doesn't always have to put meaning on everything in order to enjoy it...sometimes, a rock is just a rock...there is no symbolism...

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

That's true and to each his own. I just happen to enjoy symbolism---when the mood strikes.

Mark Jakubauskas 5 years, 4 months ago

By the way, Thanksgiving vacation is no longer Thanksgiving, but is now referred to as "Fall Break" in the elementary schools as well. NOT joking.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Yup. And Halloween is "harvest festival" and Valentine's day is "warm hearts."

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

That's terrible! It's still Thanksgiving Break at KU. Fall Break is in October.

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

They get two breaks? No wonder KU is going to the dogs!

asixbury 5 years, 4 months ago

Every college gets two breaks in the fall semester.

voevoda 5 years, 4 months ago

A "winter party" allows all the children to participate, while a "Christmas party" excludes some. It excludes children who belong to a non-Christian faith, those who are not religious, and those Christians who believe that it is a violation of canon law to observe holidays in the company of heretics. It forces them to identify themselves as different, and that is very hard on them.

Furthermore, Mr. Upchurch, by claiming that the "American" tradition is really the "Christian" tradition, you are excluding not only non-Christian schoolchildren from a party, but many of your fellow-citizens from full membership in our nation. From its inception, this was a multi-religious country, Mr. Upchurch, and there is no compelling reason to single out Christianity as the one tradition that deserves special celebration.

I am 100% in favor of teaching children (in an age-appropriate manner) about religion and its diversity and its place in world and especially American society. But a party is not the right setting to do so, and wishing people "Merry Christmas" without regard to whether they are Christian or not is actually counter-productive in conveying the lesson.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 4 months ago

Then perhaps the real problem is that too many parents don't teach their children about other religions (even just to say they exist) or teach them any tolerance toward things that they don't practice, but that others do...

I personally have had people wish me happy Hanukkah, or happy Kwanzaa...I am not Jewish, nor am I black...guess what...I wasn't offended by either one...I wished it right back to them, and I meant it...

A lot of people celebrate Christmas, and they aren't necessarily religious at all...there IS a secular component with Christmas, you know...unless you think Santa and the elves are really sheep and wise men in disguise...

I've also heard about many Jewish families that celebrate Christmas...

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

The writer also implies that all Christian children celebrate Christmas with a tree, presents, and Santa. I knew several kids from religious families who were not allowed to ever believe in Santa or have a tree. How are they to be included in a Christmas party that has those things?

verity 5 years, 4 months ago

My religious parents always told me Santa wasn't real. Do you suppose that's what turned me into an atheist? Didn't have dead trees inside either.

My mother was well-known for her creative and awesome nativity scenes---people came from miles around to see them.

You can wish me a happy or merry whatever and whenever. I will smile and say thank you. Seems the right thing to do. But don't say "have a good day." That sort of pisses me off.

beatrice 5 years, 4 months ago

WristTwister writes: "The secular progressives want to destroy traditional America ..."

I am curious, what exactly is "traditional America"? Would that be the America of the 1950s, when we had segregation? How about the 1910s, before women were acknowledged as capable of voting? Or do we go back to the beginning, when Presidents owned slaves? What is "traditional America"?

If you ask me, America is like the shark that needs to keep moving to stay alive. An ever evolving society that increasingly includes more and more people in all walks of life is the real tradition of America.

deec 5 years, 4 months ago

Only the Christian ones. The Buddhist ones get to work double shifts to cover the others. :)

Brock Masters 5 years, 4 months ago

You may have a point considering that Apple produces its products in China where they take young people from remote villiages and house them at the factory. But Apple does care about its Chinese employees. The put nets under the stairs to prevent the employees from committing suicide by throwing themselves off the stairs. You don't want to lose good slave workers do you.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

Yawn. Yet another out of context quote from right wing websites. You'd think they would have learned that the tactic doesn't work very well.

"CHARLIE ROSE: China is changing. It may be being stabilized as we speak. What does that mean for China and what does it mean for the United States? Should it change expectations?

JEFF IMMELT: It is good for China. To a certain extent, Charlie, 11 percent is unsustainable. You end up getting too much stimulus or a misallocation of resources. They are much better off working on a more consumer-based economy, less dependent on exports. The one thing that actually works, state run communism a bit– may not be your cup of tea, but their government works."

Here's the link to the show if you'd like to watch it.

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

It is a non-issue. December has many holidays for many faiths. A Winter Party lets all children enjoy the time. It is also a nice way to end the semester.

A Winter party at school does not impede anyone in celebrating their holiday of choice at this time of your choosing. No one is being forced to celebrate a holiday they don't believe in with a Winter party and no one is forced to celebrate their holiday of choice in a manner not of their choosing.

A Winter party has nothing to do with any religion and it should be that way. All get to enjoy a fun day at school. I don't see why a fun day at school is a bad thing. It is a party. There are yummy treats and fun games. Those are good things. And everyone gets to enjoy them.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes. The horrors. I'm sure the poor children will never never learn about this thing called Christmas because the school party has a different name. Why, just the other day, while wandering past all the Christmas decorations and listening to the store radio play a Christmas song next to the Christmas card aisle, I thought about how kids these days just don't learn about Christmas. They never hear about it at home, and we certainly don't have a culture that ever encourages anyone to mention the holiday at all.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow. Sarcasm sure isn't lost on you.

Sure, the schools don't label their parties as Christmas parties, but so what?

There's the Christmas decorations down town, the Christmas parade, the Christmas music, the ever-present bell ringers in front of every store, Christmas episodes of TV shows, and the piped in Christmas music every where you go. And lots of people wishing "Merry Christmas," because apparently "happy holidays" is now terribly terribly offensive. I'll add that this last bit is a fairly recent fake culture war, as evidenced by this:

Nobody said you couldn't say Merry Christmas or celebrate or be all proud about it or sing lots of Christmas songs. You just can't do it in school. If your kids don't learn about Christmas at home, I'm not sure why you'd complain about them not learning about it at school, and if they do learn about it at home, why does it need to be taught in school?

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

The people who brought this upon the schools are the same people who are screaming about "Merry Christmas" no longer being said & are fussing about Winter parties instead of Christmas parties.

This whole thing started with Halloween parties. Schools don't have those anymore. They are Fall parties now. Why? Because some loud squeaky wheels think Halloween is Satanic and therefore should not be celebrated. They made a fuss and in order to keep their children from being isolated from the fun, the schools changed Halloween parties to Fall parties so the squeaky wheels' children would not be excluded or teased for their parents' beliefs.

And now we have another drama unfolding over Yoga. Some parents are offended by yoga so they are trying to keep schools from having the kids do it. Nevermind that yoga has been shown to decrease stress and is a good form of exercise. It helps with balance and flexibility. Instead these parents are trying to get it removed because they mistakenly believe that it teaches their children about Eastern religions.

So yadda yadda about having everything is bland and PC if you like but the ones who got their panties all in a wad about holiday greetings are the ones that started it. You reap what you sow.

Lisa Medsker 5 years, 4 months ago

Waittaminnitt... Yoga is "The Devil", now? Wooowww... Someone has gone completely overboard. Dungeons and Dragons, Harry Potter, and now, Yoga! Next thing you know, they'll be trying to teach kids science!

Betty Bartholomew 5 years, 4 months ago

Ohmigosh, they're right! banning yoga does make people more Christian! I'm an atheist and suddenly feel the need to shout "Good, God!" and "Jesus H. Christ!"

Lawrence Morgan 5 years, 4 months ago

In The Gambia, for instance, Christians and Muslims celebrate Christmas, each in their own way. It is not limited to a Christian point of view.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm constantly amazed by what people care about.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

Radical Right Wing Fundamentalists leave many wondering what is christianity? Is there any such creature? So hateful and demanding their way or no way. Kinda like Sam Brownback.

Isn't it the right wing that complains soooooo much?

The fact is not everyone celebrates Christmas the same way or at the same time. Some never celebrate matter what.

Some believe the so called holidays have become nothing but 'big sale" days.

For some holidays create more work to do after returning from a holiday.

Let's do real holidays say 90 days at a time once a year and eliminate the "big sale days". Stagger the 90 day holidays accordingly.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

I teach my children that Krampus will eat them. Much more effective than that creepy elf on a shelf.

Lisa Medsker 5 years, 4 months ago

We do! Music, spiced cider, mead, a chiminea fire (if I don't need a permit or it's not banned, anyway...), debauchery and revelry at my place on the 21st! :-)

Linda Endicott 5 years, 4 months ago

I think the Phelps clan would be biting off way more than they can chew...we can hope that saner minds prevail...

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

Phelps' clan will make a big fuss about it until someone buys them off with some attention. They did the same thing with the Amish children's funerals in PA.

roadwarrior 5 years, 4 months ago

Loved the joke on SNL last night: Many faiths celebrate during this time of the year. It doesn't matter whether you celebrate Hannukkah, Quanza are buddist or Muslim. The only thing that matters is recognizing Jesus Christ as the king and savior." LOL.

kugrad 5 years, 4 months ago

My kids attend elementary school in the Lawrence Public Schools. In their classes are many children of many faiths. They have learned about the seasonal holidays many religions celebrate this time of year: Hannukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, and, yes, Christmas. So the author of the LTTE is operating on a false premise. The Christian holiday is taught in public schools, but so are other holidays. How would you feel if your child was taught only the Christian traditions but he or she was Jewish or Muslim? What about the children of Atheists? The timing of Christmas isn't based on some factual known birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth, but rather reflects the timing of the Festival of Lights and pagan holidays of earlier centuries.

This nation isn't founded on Christianity so get over yourself.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Muslims don't necessarily celebrate Ramadan this time of year. It's not tied to the solar calendar, so it shifts around. Recently, it's been during the summer. For winter holidays, you're pretty much stuck with pagan solstice holidays and the Christmas that tried to steal all their traditions, Hanukkah, and the recently created holiday of Kwanzaa. But it's nice that kids are at least attempting to learn about other traditions.

chootspa 5 years, 4 months ago

Let's not forget how us awesome Americans stole this here country in which to force the natives to celebrate Christmas.

bevy 5 years, 4 months ago

They can have whatever parties they want, as long as they only serve HEALTHY SNACKS! Break out the carrot and celery sticks! Haul out the hummus! But not a cookie, not a candy, not a sweet of any kind.

Lisa Medsker 5 years, 4 months ago

Happy ChriSolstiKwanzakkah, to all, and to all a good night! (Or a good day, just in case you happen to not like night, or have to work nights, or something.)

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