Tag Archives: Paris

Kim Kardashian lost ‘millions’ in armed robbery in Paris, police say

  • Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in a luxury apartment in Paris on Monday
  • Five armed masked men dressed as police officers were involved and stole millions of dollars in jewellery 
  • Police said the robbers escaped on bicycles after Kim ‘begged for her life’ 
  • Kim is described as ‘badly shaken but physically unharmed’ after the incident 
  • Kanye West was told during Meadows festival gig in New York and ended concert mid-song 

Continue reading Kim Kardashian lost ‘millions’ in armed robbery in Paris, police say

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7 Cities That Are Starting To Go Car-Free

After over a hundred years of living with cars, some cities are slowly starting to realize that the automobile doesn’t make a lot of sense in the urban context. It isn’t just the smog or the traffic deaths; in a city, cars aren’t even a convenient way to get around.

Traffic in London today moves slower than an average cyclist (or a horse-drawn carriage). Commuters in L.A. spend 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. A U.K. study found that drivers spend 106 days of their lives looking for parking spots.

Continue reading 7 Cities That Are Starting To Go Car-Free

€2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

Paris police headquarters at 36 Quai des OrfèvresParis police lose 51kg of seized cocaine from their own headquarters

Drugs worth £2m vanish from force’s famous HQ at 36 Quai des Orfèvres, just months after building was mired in rape allegation

Paris police HQ at 36 Quai des Orfèvres. The bags of cocaine were last seen in a secure room in the building on 23 July. 

Paris police are investigating the disappearance of 51kg of cocaine from a supposedly locked and sealed room in their own headquarters on the banks of the Seine.

The cocaine “bricks” with a street value of around €2.5m (£2m) were seized a month ago after officers smashed a drug trafficking network in the capital.

They were supposed to be under lock and key at the force’s legendary headquarters at 36 Quai des Orfèvres, for ever associated with the fictional French detective Maigret.

Officials say the cocaine, placed in numbered evidence bags, was definitely still in the secured store room on 23 July when it was last checked, but was definitely missing on Thursday.

Police chiefs immediately ordered an inquiry, and the force’s own internal investigations squad was sent into the building with sniffer dogs. So far, there have been no leads.

It is the second time this year that 36 Quai des Orfèvres has made damaging headlines.

In April, two officers belonging to an “anti-gang crime” squad were put under official investigation for the alleged rape of a 34-year-old Canadian woman visiting Paris. She had met the men during an evening of heavy drinking at a nearby Irish pub.

The officers said she agreed to follow them to their headquarters, just across the Seine from the pub. Once there she said she was raped. One of the police officers charged admitted having sex with the woman, but claimed she had consented. The investigation is ongoing.

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has ordered the national police investigation squad to leave no stone unturned in its search for the missingdrugs and promised the culprits would be treated with “the utmost severity”.

In a statement, the prefecture of police said: “This investigation will look into whether the relevant rules were followed for the management of evidence in the offices of this brigade in particular, and at 36 Quai des Orfèvres in general.”

It promised “very firm measures” would be immediately taken “if the investigation shows the law has been broken”.

Paris has suffered Europe’s worst terror attack in 10 years. Here’s what we know

Updated at 2:27pm ET.

Paris suffered at least six nearly simultaneous attacks on on Friday (Nov. 13), blamed by president François Hollande on the extremist group ISIL, which left at least 128 people dead and around 300 wounded.

The attacks during a normal, busy Friday night included a mass shooting at a concert hall, several shootings at bars and restaurants, and several bomb detonations, including more than one near France’s national stadium, where a soccer match between the French and German national teams was in progress.

Eight assailants died, most via suicide after reportedly detonating explosive belts they were wearing.

Hollande called the attacks an “act of war” carried out by ISIL, and pledged that France would respond with a “merciless” fight against terrorism. He declared a state of national emergency, which included increased border security, as well as three days of national mourning.

It was the worst attack on a European target since the Madrid bombingsin 2004, when 190 people were killed and more than 1,800 wounded, in four coordinated attacks on commuter trains.

It is also the second terrorist attack on Paris this year, after gunmen killed journalists at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman, and several people during an attack on a supermarket. In August, a heavily armed gunman was stopped on a train on its way from Brussels to Paris just before he was able to open fire on passengers.

ISIL claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks in a statement released on social media in Arabic, French, and English. The statement, which has not yet been independently verified, called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity,” and said that France’s actions in Syria were a factor in the decision to target the country.

Vague generalities and no specific background information about the attackers suggests that ISIL may have inspired the attacks, rather than directly orchestrating them.

The sites of the attacks

Stade de France

At about 9:20pm an explosion detonated near the French national stadium, where a soccer match between the French and German national teams was in progress. A second blast was heard 10 minutes later, and a third 20 minutes after that. Hollande, who was at the match, was quickly evacuated. No one apart from the bombers appear to have died in the blasts.

At least one attacker had a ticket to the game, and was reportedlystopped by security from entering the stadium, prompting him to detonate his explosives. According to the Wall Street Journal, a second bomber blew himself up outside the stadium, shortly thereafter, and a third attacker detonated explosives at a nearby McDonald’s.

Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carrillon

At around the same time, several gunmen opened fire at Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant on rue Bichat, in the the trendy Canal Saint Martin neighborhood. Eleven people were killed, the AP reported, citing a police officials. Patrons of a nearby bar, Le Carrillon, were also injured in the shooting.

Le Bataclan

Just before 10pm, in the worst single attack, around 87 people died when gunmen entered a large concert hall in the 11th arrondissement, where an American band, Eagles of Death Metal, were playing. The venue has capacity of 1,500 and was sold out, the BBC reported. Eyewitnesses described (link in French) the attackers as unmasked and young, and said they made concertgoers lie on the floor before opening fire on them.

French police stormed the building around midnight. At least one report from someone who escaped said the gunmen spoke to hostages, telling them that the attack was a response to France’s military interventions in Syria. France joined the US in airstrikes against ISIL in Syria in September, and announced this month it was sending an aircraft carrier to fight ISIL.

La Belle Equipe

Le Monde reported that a gunman opened fire on the crowded terrace of a restaurant on the corner of Rue Faidherbe and Rue de Charonne,killing 19 people.

Other explosions

Five people were killed during an explosion on a street called Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. A suicide bomber also detonated a blast on Boulevarde Voltaire. The New York Times reported that only one person—the bomber himself—was killed.

What’s next?

Public buildings, schools, museums, and markets are closed today, and the police have temporarily banned demonstrations and other large gatherings. The Eiffel Tower has been closed indefinitely, according to the operator of the popular tourist attraction. There is increased security at all French borders.

Attention is now turning to how such deadly, coordinated attacks could take place in a city that had so recently been struck by terrorists. Germany has offered the help of its security services, while other world leaders have sent messages of solidarity.

Discussion will intensify about how the attacks will affect Europe’s policy of open borders. These have been challenged in recent months as the flow of migrants, and especially refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, has dramatically increased.

Who are the attackers?

Belgium’s justice minister announced today (Nov. 14) that there were several police raids in the St. Jans Molebnbeek neighborhood in Brussels on Saturday, and several people have been arrested in connection to last night’s attacks.

Paris public prosecutor François Molins said two of the attackers who were killed in last night’s violence have been identified. Fingerprints identified one of the attackers as a 30-year-old Frenchman who was known to be radicalized.

He was born in the Parisian suburb Courcouronne and had been sentenced eight times between 2008 and 2010 for minor violations, according to Molins. A passport for one of the State de France assailants showed that he was born in Syria.

Vincent Callebaut Devises Smart-Towers For The Future of Paris

vincent callebaut devises smart-towers for the future of paris

project info:

type: architectural commission, ‘procédure adaptée’
international design architect: vincent callebaut architectures, paris
client: mairie de paris – paris city hall
program: 8 prototypes of positive energy towers eco-conceived to fight global warming
green engineering consultant: setec
VCA’s team: agnès martin, fabrice zaini, maguy delrieu, vincent callebaut

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
‘mountain towers’ involves the construction of bioclimatic peaks

following a climate energy plan that aims to reduce 75% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, vincent callebaut architectures has undertaken a research and development project that examines the role of high-rise architecture.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the proposal, titled ‘2050 paris smart city’, presents eight different green tower typologies that each integrate elements of nature and renewable energy within the metropolis’ dense urban fabric.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the study was carried out for paris city hall in collaboration with engineers setec bâtiment. read on for more information on each of the eight designs.

finally, the garden balconies will surround the inhabited storeys and filter in clean recycled water rejected by the inhabitants by phyto-purification and bio-composting.

Antismog Towers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
the ‘antismog towers’ will produce electricity through the integration of axial wind turbines

conceived as a 23 kilometer corridor running across central paris, the second typology plans to re-naturalize paris’ disused railway lines as public green space.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

cycle paths and urban vegetable gardens will be implemented vertically around a series of cyclonic towers, designed to filter the atmospheric smog.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

energetically, these structures will produce electricity through the integration of axial wind turbines and photovoltaic flexible textiles.

Photosynthesis towers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
the ‘photosynthesis towers’ involve the integration of green algae bioreactors

in 1975, three years after the completion of the much-derided montparnasse tower, authorities in paris decided to forbid the construction of any building over seven storeys.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

in an attempt to convert the existing building into a vertical park, the ‘photosynthesis towers’ project involves the integration of green algae bioreactors to generate positive energy.

within the triangular openings located at both extremities of the tower, public elevators with renewable energy will be separate visitor routes from the staff working in the building’s offices.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the adjacent slab-roof of the shopping mall will be transformed into a phyto-purification lagoon, recycling the structure’s greywater.

Bamboo Nest Towers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
‘bamboo nest towers’ aims to reappropriate the thirteen edifices found in paris’ massena area

the fourth typology sees thermodynamic garden towers wrapped in a bamboo bio-mesh of vertical food gardens.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the ‘bamboo nest towers’ aims to reappropriate the thirteen highrise structures found in paris’ massena district by enveloping them in an exoskeleton of woven bamboo.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

conceived an ecological 3D canvas, the structure will support individual vegetable gardens, while ensuring that maximum wind power is generated.

Honeycomb Towers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
the ‘honeycomb towers’ double the height of the city’s existing residences

in order to increase potential living accommodation in central paris, the ‘honeycomb towers’ double the height of the city’s existing residences.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

these new interlocking mini-homes are supported by a steel structure that places the loads vertically through the existing chimney ducts.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

roofs will be covered by thermal and photovoltaic solar panels, that are also able to power the surrounding street lighting.

Farmscraper Towers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
farmscraper towers’ comprises three connected structures

seeking to repatriate the countryside, the sixth tower typology comprises three connected structures that each offer local food production.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the densely populated towers also help provide the city with plentiful oxygen, while limiting the systematic use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

MangroveTowers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
‘mangrove towers’ references the shape and form of the distinctive tree

as the name indicates, the design of ‘mangrove towers’ references the shape and form of the distinctive tree.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

to be built at paris’ busy gare du nord railway station, the structures will accommodate a mixed program of offices, hotels and housing dedicated to international and traveling customers.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the station’s platforms will be full of piezoelectrical captors polarizing under the action of the mechanical constraints generated by its inhabitants. the tubular façades will be composed of grätzel cells forming a photo-electrochemical skin.

Bridge Towers

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
‘bridge towers’ is a set of twin structures that are perforated with wide funnels

connecting the city’s east and west banks, the final typology is a set of twin towers that are perforated with wide funnels.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the design uses the kinetic energy of the river below to generate power, ensuring positive energy. the inhabited bridge will meet the housing crisis of the city of paris by including a dense and mixed program of facilities.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 designboom

the dual structure seeks to reinforce the symbolism of the city through referring to a new form of urban and social innovation that emits zero carbon emission and zero waste.

vincent callebaut architectures paris smart city 2050 green towers designboom
a panoramic view of paris in 2050

Putin’s Espionage Offensive Against France

One of the major themes of my work is how Russia, drawing on decades of rich experience with espionage, aggressively employs intelligence in what I term Special War to defeat, dissuade, and deter its enemies without fighting.

As I’ve reported many times, Russian espionage against the West has been rising since the mid-2000’s and has returned to Cold War levels of effort and intensity — and in some cases, more so. In recent years, the Kremlin has endorsed aggressive espionage against a wide range of Western countries, members of NATO and the European Union (often both), to learn secrets and gain political advantage.

This is simply what the Russians do, as Vladimir Putin, the former KGB officer, understands perfectly. Such things are well known to counterintelligence hands the world over, but are seldom discussed in public.

What this looks like up close has recently been exposed by the Parisian newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur, in an exclusive report that draws on deep research and interviews with a wide array of in-the-know French intelligence officials. The world-weary French are a pretty unflappable bunch in matters of espionage, but the piece, which has caused worried discussion in Paris, makes clear that Moscow’s spies are aggressive, indeed “hyperactive,” in France, representing a serious threat to the country’s security and well-being.

The story begins with the case of Colonel Ilyushin, who was ostensibly the deputy air attache at the Russian Embassy in Paris, but in reality was an officer of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU), who was discovered to be peeking a bit too closely into President Francois Hollande. Specifically, Ilyushin was detected by French counterintelligence trying to recruit one of Hollande’s senior aides; in other words, GRU was seeking a mole at the president’s side. Ilyushin wanted information not just regarding matters of state, but about the president’s salacious personal life too. Fortunately, French counterspies were onto the GRU officer, and surveilled him for months, cutting short his secret plan. But the French were impressed by the colonel, only thirty years of age and a diligent case officer; unlike many of his predecessors dispatched to Paris by the Kremlin, particularly in Cold War days, Ilyushin was neither a drunkard nor a slacker.

Ilyushin was a busy man, always on the lookout for recruits. He regularly made his presence felt at a wide array of French defense establishments and think tanks, where he constantly tried to “bump into” senior officials, researchers, and journalists, especially those working on security affairs. As a French counterintelligence official explained about Ilyushin’s efforts to recruit influential Parisian reporters,

 “Before approaching them, he learned everything about them: their families, their tastes, their weaknesses too.” He would invite promising targets to lunch at an expensive restaurant and continue to do so every two weeks, per usual GRU practice. During these meetings, Ilyushin would volunteer juicy insider information about Russian defense matters and ties between Moscow and Paris.

At first, he asked for nothing in exchange. Au contraire, Ilyushin was a generous man, and eventually he would offer his quarry a nice gift, an expensive pen or high-end bottle of liquor: “standard first gifts from the former KGB, sufficiently expensive for being a little compromising, but not expensive enough to be considered corruption,” as Le Nouvel Observateur noted. If the gift was accepted, Ilyushin would move forward to full-fledged recruitment of the source. What followed conforms to standard Russian practice in such matters:

Then Ilyushin asked for information, initially anodyne, then less and less so. He put forward to them some small pre-written article, part of a disinformation campaign conceived in Moscow. In exchange, he offered more substantial gifts: for example, a family trip to some sunny paradise. If the interlocutor accepted, he entered into the murky world of espionage. Like in manuals, Ilyushin moved to phase three, the handling (“manipulation”) of his agent, with clandestine meetings abroad and stacks of cash.

One of the journalists whom Ilyushin was seeking to recruit became wary, and he turned to French counterintelligence just in time, as the man had access to Hollande’s inner circle, just as GRU wanted. When the journalist realized he was soon to be a paid Russian agent, he told his story to Parisian counterspies (DCRI, since May termed DGSI), specifically their H4 team that conducts counterintelligence operations against the Russians in France, which already was aware of who the “deputy air attache” really was. Ilyushin was summoned for a meeting and told by French officials to cease his espionage. When he did not do so, a few months later Ilyushin was sent packing back to Moscow, where he was promoted to general, presumably as a reward for his excellent clandestine work in Paris.

The never-before-revealed Ilyushin case represents, in the words of Le Nouvel Observateur, “but the tip of the iceberg that is the broad offensive by Russian spies in Europe, in particular in France.” As a senior French official explained, “In the last few years, particularly after Putin’s return at the Kremlin, they are increasingly numerous and aggressive.” Another added, “They are twice as active as during the Cold War.” The Ukraine crisis has only made Russian spies in France more zealous, and they are seeking everything: political secrets, military secrets, nuclear secrets, economic secrets, plus anything to do with French relations with NATO, the EU and the UN. Hence DGSI’s H4 team is very busy and has been increased to meet this new threat, but today they only number thirty, including secretaries, versus more than eighty when the Berlin Wall fell.

French counterintelligence is aware that several members of the French parliament have been approached by Russian intelligence over the last two or three years; the Russians especially look for unwitting sources who inadvertently reveal too much about defense and security matters. DGSI recently detected one such seeker of “soft” intelligence, Vladimir F., ostensibly a press attache at the Russian Embassy but actually an officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). Once detected, he was discreetly sent back to Russia.

SVR officers try to recruit politicians and also influence-shapers in Paris: “Some MP’s agree to relay information supplied by these spies, most of the time without realizing it, acting like ‘useful idiots’ … Some give diplomatic cables to their new ‘Russian friends’.” Think tanks represent another common SVR and GRU target, with prominent researchers reporting many approaches from suspected Russian intelligence officers, while French counterintelligence has tried to keep known Russian operatives away from prominent think tanks, not always successfully.

Industrial espionage is a perennial Kremlin interest, having been a major source of Soviet technology during the Cold War, since it is always cheaper and easier to steal cutting-edge technology than to develop it, but it is now perhaps less tempting than in the past:

These days, the Russian secret services, obsessed as they are with political and military matters, are less effective as regards economic intelligence than their counterparts.”

Nevertheless, there are Russian successes in this arena too. Last year, according to DGSI, the Russian company Rosatom sold a nuclear reactor to a European country because the SVR had been secretly informed about the offer made by its French competitor, Areva.

Back in 2010, then-President Nicolas Sarkozy warned Vladimir Putin about rising Russian espionage. According to one of his top aides, Sarkozy told his Russian counterpart, “almost as if in jest: ‘Instead of spying on our country, you had better deal with terrorists’.” This came after a major spy scandal, never before revealed to the public. A Russian deputy naval attache at the Paris embassy — again, a GRU officer, in reality — sought super-secret information about the sound signatures emitted by new French nuclear submarines.

He developed a French naval officer, gradually, eventually showing up at his house with a suitcase filled with cash to exchange for the desired purloined data. But the French officer had reported the GRU approaches, and French counterintelligence played a trick on the Russians. The “top secret” documents exchanged for cash were fakes. Although Paris hushed up the affair, the GRU officer was declaredpersona non grata and sent home without delay.

Sarkozy’s warning had no effect, and Russian espionage against France is today more robust than ever. According to French counterintelligence, there are some fifty Russian intelligence officers — roughly forty SVR and ten GRU — posing under diplomatic cover at the Paris embassy and the Russian consulates in Nice, Marseille, and Strasbourg. There are also a few officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB)* in France serving undercover as well. The head of SVR activities in France, termed the rezident by the Russians, usually poses as a third secretary at the embassy in Paris, while the GRU rezident masquerades as a TASS journalist or as the senior naval attache.

The Russians also employ Illegals, meaning intelligence operatives who work without benefit of any formal cover. They enter the country under aliases and wholly fake identities, through third countries, following years of training, and are notoriously difficult for even top-notch counterintelligence services to detect. (America got a rare break in 2010 when it rolled up a ten-strong SVR Illegals network in the USA, including the famously photogenic Anna Chapman.)

There is as little contact as possible between the SVR’s “legal” presence, meaning officers serving under various official covers like diplomats and journalists, and Illegals, to protect the identities of these elite spies. French counterintelligence estimates that there are between ten and twenty Russian Illegals currently in the country. How DGSI’s H4 team came to this number was explained by an official:

SVR headquarters in Moscow communicates with Illegals by regularly sending flash high-emission frequencies. They last about half a second and they are encrypted. A spy receives them at their place on an ad hoc receiver-transmitter piece of equipment. The discreet radio-electric DGSI center in Boullay-les-Troux in the Essonne, is capable of intercepting all these emissions. Given that there are some twenty different ones, and that some are probably for training purposes, one can estimate that the clandestine people are between ten and twenty.

Paris believed that there were as many as sixty KGB Illegals in France when the Cold War ended, but French counterintelligence never had much success detecting exactly who they were. Now, however, DGSI claims to have a better handle on Moscow’s Illegals. One official revealed that the Anna Chapman network rolled up in the USA in 2010 had links to an Illegal in France as well:

 “We discovered his apartment, in which there was material for transmissions. We did not arrive in time to arrest him, he had disappeared.” Nevertheless, officials toldLe Nouvel Observateur that DGSI has good information on SVR Illegals in France but is playing the long game: “We are watching them permanently. We learn. We will ‘squeeze’ them at the right time…” 

Cooperation among Western security services is a major help in detecting Russian espionage. Such collaboration has never been better, Parisian officials made clear. Everybody in the West is on a heightened state of alert these days regarding Kremlin espionage:

 “Every time we identify a Russian spy, particularly a rezident, we warn our friends in Berlin, London, or Warsaw,” explained a French official. Top security officials in Germany and Britain have admitted that Russian espionage is at unprecedented levels in their countries as well, while the head of the Belgian security service recently stated that there are “hundreds” of spies operating in Brussels, where NATO and the European Commission are headquartered, “chiefly Russians.”

In contrast, French officials have been more circumspect in public, rarely mentioning the extent of Russian espionage in their country. Indeed, the last time Parisian higher-ups raised a public fuss about such Kremlin activities was way back in 1992, when a French nuclear official was caught passing top secret documents to the Russians. Why this silence persists despite the rising clandestine threat from the East is not difficult to discern. As one Paris official noted wryly:

“How can one explain to public opinion that Russian spies are a threat and, at the same time, that it is necessary to deliver Mistral warships to Moscow?” 

This laissez-faire attitude in Paris about Russian espionage seems unlikely to change soon. The only game-changer potentially on the horizon would be Western reactions in the event Russia actually invades Ukraine with major conventional forces. In that case, the counterintelligence gloves would come off and Russian spies — hundreds of them — who are known to Western counterspies would be expelled en masse.

Unless that happens, Russian espionage in France will continue at a fever pitch. Although DGSI and other French security services are highly professional, and get a great deal of help from Western partners in identifying and blunting SVR and GRU activities to the extent that they can, without political resolve to seriously confront this problem it can only be expected to get worse.

Moreover, the same tradecraft employed by Russian spies in France is played out on a daily basis in every Western country, including — perhaps especially — in the United States. American politicians, journalists, researchers, and academics are targeted by the SVR and GRU just as their counterparts in France are and, we can assume, with similar success. This is a SpyWar, and Moscow intends to win.

*Although Le Nouvel Observateur does not state this, these FSB officers working undercover in France are mostly signals intelligence (SIGINT) specialists conducting covert electronic collection from Russian diplomatic facilities, as the FSB is Russia’s civilian SIGINT agency, as well as the domestic security service.

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