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GAO: Thousands of Federal Workers on Extended Paid Leave

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 57,000 government workers were placed on paid administrative leave for over one month between 2011 and 2013, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released on Tuesday, with 263 employees being paid while on leave for over a year.

The GAO review looked at data from the Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the General Services Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The GAO noted "inaccuracies in Office of Personnel Management data" caused by differences in agencies' leave-recording practices and what the OPM considers paid administrative leave and differences in what payroll providers report as paid administrative leave.

While 97 percent of employees placed on paid administrative leave spent 20 days or less on leave, 57,336 were on leave for between one month and three years.

The GAO called upon the OPM to "develop agency and payroll provider guidance regarding the recording and reporting of paid administrative leave" to minimize the cost of paying workers on leave. The Washington Post reports that between 2011 and 2013, the tab for workers on leave was more than $775 million.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said on Tuesday that she took the GAO's recommendations seriously and will aim to ensure all leave policies are used and reported properly. She noted that "use of administrative leave is under the authority of each individual agency, and that each agency has the ultimate responsibility to use their discretion to determine its proper use."

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Obama’s ‘Unpaid Bills’ Quip Disappears from Transcript

Pete Souza - The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama’s unpaid bills have gone missing.

During a rare trip home to Chicago, Obama on Monday lamented the life he left behind.

“One of the nice things about being home is actually that it’s a little bit like a time capsule,” he told supporters at a fundraiser.

“Because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some unpaid bills,” Obama joked. “I think eventually they got paid -- but they’re sort of stacked up. And messages, newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”

The White House, however, left the president’s quip about his unpaid bills out of the official transcript.

According to the transcript, Obama said “we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some -- newspapers and all kinds of stuff.”

Tuesday morning, the White House issued an updated transcript, but it still didn’t mention the “unpaid bills.” Instead, it included an “inaudible” in that portion.

According to the White House, the omission was unintentional and the result of a problem with the audio recording.

No word on what bills were left unpaid.

“I did not have a chance to rummage through the desk of the president while he was home this week,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest jokingly told reporters.

The president has been talking a lot about his finances recently. Just last week, he explained how his credit card was rejected during a recent dinner out with the first lady.

“I was trying to explain to the waitress, ‘No, I really think that I’ve been paying my bills,’” he joked last Friday.

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Hillary Clinton to Stump for Sen. Udall in Colorado Again

Scott Olson/Getty Images(DENVER) -- Hillary Clinton on Tuesday will make her second stop in Colorado for embattled Sen. Mark Udall in just over a week, anchoring a get-out-the-vote rally in Denver.

The former secretary of state’s appearance -- sandwiched between Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Friday visit, and first lady Michelle Obama’s stop this Thursday -- is part of a highly choreographed effort to stimulate the Democratic base as early voting begins.

While Democrats believe their storied ground game will find voters, and universal mail-in ballots will make voting more convenient than ever, Udall can’t win without energized Democrats. They're hoping some of the party’s biggest stars can deliver that much-needed enthusiasm.

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RNC Targets Sen. Mark Pryor in New Video

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Two weeks before the election, the Republican National Committee is targeting Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in its latest “Road to Six” video, arguing that he “does not represent Arkansas values.”

The video paints Pryor as a candidate who has voted and sided with President Obama. It also features footage of Pryor saying Rep. Tom Cotton has a “sense of entitlement” because he served in the military.

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NC GOP Sends Duck Across State Questioning Sen. Hagan

NCRNC(WASHINGTON) -- Remember the Republican National Committee squirrel that hounded former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the start of her book tour? Turns out he has a Southern friend.

The North Carolina Republican Party has sent someone around the state in a yellow duck costume with a series of signs, questioning Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s decision to “duck” a proposed fourth Senate debate Tuesday evening, as well as the classified Senate ISIS briefing she missed for a New York City fundraiser.


The NCGOP Duck visited the USS North Carolina in Wilmington today to ask, "Why is Hagan ducking the Oct. 21?" #ncsen pic.twitter.com/o1ZIGRYr4M

— NCGOP (@NCGOP) October 13, 2014


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The Hilarious Moment When a Man Told Obama, ‘Don’t Touch My Girlfriend’

ABC News(CHICAGO) — President Obama found himself in an unusual situation Monday.

As he was casting his ballot early in Chicago, minding his own business behind the voting booth, a young man walked by and warned him “don’t touch my girlfriend.”

The girlfriend, who was voting in the booth next to Obama, was humiliated, to say the least. “I really wasn’t planning on it,” Obama joked with the woman. “There’s an example of a brother just embarrassing you, just for no reason whatsoever.”

“And now you’ll be going back home and talking to your friends -- what’s his name?” the president asked.

“Mike,” the woman said.

“‘I can’t believe Mike. He’s such a fool,’” Obama said, impersonating the woman.

“He really is,” she agreed.

Obama continued: “‘I was just mortified. But, fortunately, the president was nice about it. So it’s all right.’”

“I am freaking out right now,” the woman said, laughing.

The president got the last laugh, though.

“Give me a kiss and give him something to talk about,” the president said, as he gave Cooper a hug and a peck on the cheek. “Now he’s really jealous.”

But Cooper downplayed the moment.

“He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Just the cheek,” she told ABC’s Chicago station WLS. “Please, Michelle, don’t come after me!”

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The Bigger the Government, the Happier the People?

iStock/Thinkstock(WACO, Texas) -- For decades, conservatives have decried the concept of big government, claiming it hurts personal civil liberties and stifles economic growth.

However, Baylor University political scientists Patrick Flavin argues that conservatives may want to rethink their long-standing belief based on a study he did of 50,000 people in 21 countries.

The general consensus is that people are happier with big governments with leftist leanings that provide numerous entitlement programs, including welfare.

What's more, their personal satisfaction grows when the government actually intervenes in the economy as opposed to the concept of a free market.

Flavin and his team insist that they're not trying to start an ideological debate and yet they say that a social democracy is one that makes most of a country's citizens happy.

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POLL: More Prefer Public Transit to Road Building

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Americans in an ABC News/Washington Post poll favor expanded public transportation options over road building in government efforts to reduce traffic congestion. But where they live makes a difference.

Overall, 54 percent prefer focusing on public transit, such as trains and buses, while four in 10 say the government should focus on expanding and building roads instead. Preference for public transit, though, ranges from 61 percent of urban residents to 52 percent of suburbanites and 49 percent of people in rural areas.

[See PDF with full results here.]

The results come as Vice President Joe Biden and six mayors from major U.S. cities are scheduled to attend a Washington Post forum Tuesday on relieving traffic congestion.

There are other differences among groups. Preference for a focus on public transit peaks at two in three liberals and six in 10 college graduates, as well as among nonwhites, people under age 40, those in the top income category, $100,000-plus, and political independents.

Other groups have a slight preference for road building: strong conservatives, evangelical white Protestants and white men without a college degree.

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 4-7, 2014, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cell phone-only respondents. Results have a 3.5 point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York.st

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Monica Lewinsky Tears Up During Speech About Life After Bill Clinton

Photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images for Marie Curie(WASHINGTON) -- Monica Lewinsky nearly broke down in tears Monday as she recounted her experience as “patient zero, the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet.”

In what she called her “first public talk,” Lewinsky vowed to “give purpose to my past” by speaking publicly about life after her affair with then-President Bill Clinton.

“My name is Monica Lewinsky – though I’ve often been advised to change it,” the president’s former mistress began.

“Sixteen years ago, fresh out of college, a twenty-two-year-old intern in the White House — and more than averagely romantic — I fell in love with my boss, in a twenty-two-year-old sort of a way. It happens,” she said. “But my boss was the president of the United States. That probably happens less often.”

In the wake of the blue dress, the beret, and the salacious Starr report, Lewinsky says, she “came close to disintegrating.”

“I was threatened in various ways. First, with an FBI sting in a shopping mall....Immediately following, in a nearby hotel room, I was threatened with up to 27 years in jail for denying the affair in an affidavit,” she recalled. “Twenty-seven years. When you’re only 24 yourself that’s a long time.”

Choking back tears, she continued that she was “chillingly told that my mother, too — sorry — that my mother, too, might face prosecution if I didn’t cooperate and wear a wire.”

As her life unraveled in public, Lewinsky says, she heard “a relentless mantra in my head: I want to die.”

“There was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram back then. But there were gossip, news and entertainment websites complete with comment sections and emails could be forwarded,” she said. “Of course it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial-up.”

Paying tribute to Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student “humiliated to death” after classmates posted video of him kissing another man online, Lewinsky vowed to share her story despite the backlash.

“Today, I think of myself as someone who – who the hell knows how – survived....Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too.”

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Suspended with Pay After Pornographic Email Scandal

Vladek/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- The Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended one of its members on Monday after he was accused exchanging sexually explicit emails.

The court chose to relieve Seamus McCaffery of his judicial and administrative responsibilities in light of the email scandal. The court also noted allegations that McCaffery may have attempted to use his position to alter a judicial assignment outside of the scope of his duties, authorized his wife to accept referral fees from plaintiffs' firms while she served as his administrative assistant, and improperly contacted a traffic-court official in connection with a citation issued to his wife.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille filed a concurring statement in which he said, "in my two decades of experience on this Court, no other Justice...has done as much to bring the Supreme Court into disrepute. No other Justice has failed to live up to the high ethical demands required of a Justice of this Court, or has been the constant focus of ethical lapses to the degree of Justice McCaffery.

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What President Obama And 2 Million Early Voters Can Tell Us About Election Day

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama joined almost 2 million voters who have voted before Election Day as he cast his ballot Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Chicago.

“I’m so glad I can early vote. It’s so exciting. I love voting,” Obama said, making a not-so-subtle pitch to voters around the country.

Both parties are hoping voters in the 35 states who have early voting heed Obama’s words and either mail in a ballot or go to a polling station before November 4. Nineteen million voters did so in 2010, the last strictly midterm election, and University of Florida associate professor and elections guru Michael McDonald expects 2014’s early vote total to surpass that. He spoke with ABC News about some of the trends he’s seen so far, and what they could mean for Election Day.

1. Bigger turnout within both parties:

Republicans have been stepping up their early-vote mobilization game, meaning they’ve been catching up to Democrats who have been leading that charge the past few cycles, McDonald said. That’s helped Republicans close wide deficits they had at this time in 2010 in Iowa and North Carolina, and they have a 14-point lead in Florida. But it’s not clear whether these are only temporary gains for Republicans; McDonald said he suspects that Republicans are only reaching registered Republicans, which means they might have propelled more GOPers to the polls early, but those voters may be ones that would have gone to the polls on Election Day anyway, meaning fewer total new Republican votes.

2. More first-time voters:

There is a big chunk of voters who have cast early ballots but who did not vote in 2010, McDonald noted, which right now is a trend that seems to favor Democrats. In North Carolina and Georgia, Republicans are pulling strong early-vote numbers among those who also voted in 2010, but Democrats are doing better with voters who don’t have a history of voting in 2010. (Georgia doesn’t track party affiliation, but in that state’s case, race provides a useful proxy.) That’s a point in favor of Democrats reaching out to new voters, not just likely ones – and if that’s true, those numbers could get even higher once early voting starts in a number of states, a method that traditionally favors Democrats.

3. Unaffiliated push:

McDonald points to Iowa as a potentially illustrative example of how many unaffiliated voters are casting early ballots, and with which party they might be more closely affiliated. “The Democrats and the people who have no party registration tend to be tracking together,” McDonald noted. “The Republicans, on the other hand, are completely uncorrelated from the people with no party registration.”

Regardless of the early-voting-tea-leaf reading, McDonald said the bottom line is that both parties believe their marquee races around the country are going to be close – and no one is taking any race for granted. Even McDonald issued a caveat when he said election turnout would continue in an upward trajectory in future cycles: “Trends can always be broken. You never know.”

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Meet 2014's Top Mega-Donors

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The overwhelming number of Americans who will vote in the mid-term elections on Nov. 5 won't have contributed a penny to their candidates' campaigns. But a handful of people will have given a lot more.

More than a quarter of the $6 billion contributed to campaigns in 2012 came from about 31,500 individual donors, according to the Sunlight Foundation, which found that not a single candidate won two years ago without the help of the group dubbed the "one percent of the one percent."

As politics becomes more expensive with every election cycle, these super donors have never been more important.

Here are the top 10 individual donors of the 2014 election cycle, compiled for ABC News by the Center for Responsive Politics from a study of the most recent publicly available campaign financial disclosure reports.

1. Tom and Kathryn Steyer, $42.95 million, Democrat

The San Francisco billionaire made a splash on the political scene when he pledged $100 million to turn climate change into marquee political priority. After spending big in the Massachusetts Senate race and Virginia governor's race in 2013, Steyer, 57, has been active in seven midterm races across the country, opposing candidates skeptical of climate change in North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado. For now, Steyer is focused on helping others, but he’s rumored to be eying a future bid for governor or U.S. Senate in California.

2. Michael Bloomberg, $12.2 million, Independent

The former mayor of New York City is still working to shape the national political agenda. His anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety has endorsed candidates in 28 states, and is supporting a Washington ballot initiative to expand background checks for firearm purchases. Through his Independence USA PAC, Bloomberg, 72, will also spend $25 million in support of centrists in statewide and national races, including Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker, who is running for governor, and Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, who is running for Senate in Michigan, according to the New York Times.

3. Fred Eychaner, $7.84 million, Democrat

Self-effacing and press-shy, Eychaner is at odds with his outsized footprint in Democratic politics. He's described himself as a "basic social activist with small-business experience," but the Chicago media mogul was the top individual liberal donor in the 2012 election cycle, pumping $14 million into liberal Super PACs. In 2013, he bankrolled successful efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Illinois. This cycle, he’s cut checks for the Senate Majority PAC in hopes of protecting Democrats’ control of the Senate, and contributed to the Senate campaigns of Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.

4. Paul Singer, $5.3 million, Republican

Singer, a New York hedge fund manager pejoratively called a "vulture capitalist" for his firm's ownership of Argentine debt, is the top individual Republican political donor of the cycle. He was the driving force behind New York's legalization of gay marriage, and has spent millions on legalization efforts in other states, including Maryland and New Hampshire. This cycle, he’s also supporting Republicans opposed to same-sex marriage, such as Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Alaska Senate candidate Dan Sullivan and South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham.

5. Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, $5 million, Republican

Since 2010, the Uihleins, owners of the Wisconsin-based packaging supply company Uline, have given millions to local and national tea party organizations and Republican candidates. In 2012, they supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign to fight a recall and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's Senate bid. This year, they've given to the Senate campaigns of Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Col. Rob Maness in Louisiana. “I'm a conservative Republican, and I'm trying to help people who believe as I do in limited government and free markets," Richard Uihlein told Crain's Chicago Business. "I'm not one to hide from that."

6. Robert and Diana Mercer, $3.71 million, Republican

Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund manager, spent millions in 2012 contributing to GOP establishment groups like American Crossroads. This cycle, he's also spent big on tea party Republicans. According to disclosure records, Mercer, 67, and his wife Diana have contributed to the Senate campaigns of Chris McDaniel in Mississippi, Greg Brannon in North Carolina, Joni Ernst in Iowa and Rep. David Vitter in Louisiana.

7. James and Marilyn Simons, $3.41 million, Democrat

At 23, James Simons had earned his PhD in mathematics. Three years later, he was a code breaker for the National Security Agency. In the half century since, Simons, 76, has made billions revolutionizing investment banking -- Robert Mercer, who appears on this list, runs the firm Simons founded -- and establishing himself as a leading political and philanthropic donor. This cycle, he's given $3 million to Democrats' House and Senate Super PACs. His wife, an economist, has contributed to Planned Parenthood’s political arm and Ready for Hillary. The couple has also contributed to the campaigns of New York Reps. Steve Israel and Tim Bishop.

8. John "Joe" and Marlene Ricketts, $3.2 million, Republican

John, the billionaire founder of online brokerage TD Ameritrade and head of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs, is best known in political circles for spending millions to defeat and discredit President Obama in 2012, including efforts to design an ad campaign that would have connected Obama to incendiary comments made by former spiritual adviser Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and financing the controversial film 2016: Obama's America. This cycle, his wife Marlene has contributed millions to the Ricketts' Ending Spending Action Fund, and supported the campaigns of Republicans like Michigan Senate candidate Terri Lyn Land, Arizona Congressional candidate Martha McSally and Virginia Congressional candidate Barbara Comstock.

9. Robert and Doylene Perry, $3.12 million, Republican

Robert Perry, the late Houston development magnate and longtime Bush supporter who passed away in April 2013, made headlines for bankrolling Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the conservative veterans' organization that discredited John Kerry's Vietnam War service record during his presidential bid in 2004. In 2013, Perry's wife, Doylene, wrote checks to Senate Conservatives Action and the reelection campaign of Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

10. George Soros, $2.5 million, Democrat

Soros, the dean of liberal mega-donors, famously told the Washington Post that defeating President George W. Bush in 2004 was the "central focus of my life," and backed up his words with $24 million in 2003 and 2004. This cycle, Soros, 84, has given more than $2 million to American Bridge, a Democratic opposition research firm, and Democrats including New York Rep. Tim Bishop, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, and at-risk Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Udall of Colorado and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

This ranking does not take into account unreported donations made to 501(c) 4 nonprofit organizations, which are not required to disclose their donors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending by these “dark money” groups in the midterm elections could hit $1 billion.

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Obama Casts His Vote Early in Chicago

Official White House File Photo by Pete Souza(CHICAGO) -- A day after hitting the campaign trail to get out the vote, President Obama cast his ballot early in Chicago.

"The most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen," the president told reporters at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center on Monday, as he took advantage of the first day of early voting in Illinois.

"I'm so glad I can early vote. It's so exciting. I love voting," the president said, in a not-so-subtle sales pitch. "Everybody in Illinois, early vote. It's a wonderful opportunity."

After filling out the necessary paperwork, the president spent several minutes behind the voting booth. He would not say who he voted for, but said Sunday night he planned to cast his vote to re-elect Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn.

Obama often quips that Democrats have a "congenital disease," that they don't vote in midterms. Now, with just two weeks until the critical elections, the president is stepping up his effort to encourage Democrats to vote.

Obama hit the campaign trail Sunday for the first time this cycle, appearing at rallies for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in Maryland and Quinn in Illinois. While the president is ramping up his campaign appearances in the run-up to the elections, he is stumping mostly for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in deep blue states.

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Monica Lewinsky's on Twitter: '#HereWeGo'

David M. Benett/Getty Images for Marie Curie(NEW YORK) -- In May, Monica Lewinsky vowed to speak out in order "to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give a purpose to my past."

Now she seems to be doing just that -- on Twitter.

Just months after Lewinsky’s personal revelations were made public in a Vanity Fair interview, she sent her first tweet Monday morning:


— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 20, 2014

About an hour later, Lewinsky, who describes herself in her Twitter profile as a "social activist. public speaker. contributor to vanity fair. knitter of things without sleeves," tweeted again:

excited (and nervous) to speak to #Under30Summit

— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) October 20, 2014

According to Forbes' "Under 30 Summit" event agenda, Lewinsky is slated to speak about the "scourge of harassment in the digital age" later Monday morning.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan: 'This Synod Was Not to Make Any Decisions'

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said on Sunday that the new report regarding family life out from the Catholic Church this weekend does not signify a monumental change in doctrine or teaching.

The much-debated document, which included language regarding the church's stance towards gays and lesbians as well as divorced Catholics, was the final work product of a historic meeting -- or synod--— of bishops this month, which Dolan said is intended to set the agenda for further discussions this year and a second synod next fall.

"This synod was not to make any decisions," Dolan told This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos. "We weren't supposed to give any propositions. This was to set the table for a year from now."

The meeting of bishops made headlines this week after a preliminary version of their report included unprecedented, inclusive language towards towards gays and lesbians. The earlier draft read, "homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community."

However, the later version released Saturday stripped that language, and instead included a watered-down version, which read, "men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy."

Even this more tempered paragraph did not receive a two-thirds majority vote from the bishops required for approval. In a show of transparency, the Vatican released all sections of the final document with corresponding vote counts.

At the start of the meeting, Pope Francis encouraged all bishops to speak openly, and, according to Dolan, "There was pretty good, vivid conversation, especially with the African bishops."

"There was a good debate. There was a good conversation that went on," he said.

On these hot-button issues Dolan argued that Francis is walking the "middle of the road" and is inspirational.

"Pope Francis never ceases to surprise us," he said. "And so just when you think you might have him figured out, he offers another fresh innovative way of looking."

"Keep in mind that the church's major goal is not to change teaching…but for us to change, to conform ourselves to what God has told us," the cardinal said.

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