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The Real 2012 Problem: Two Candidates Afraid Of The Past

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Forget the future. Obama and Romney haven't even figured out how to talk about their own records.

Image by Charles Dharapak / AP

For a presidential candidate, downplaying your failures is a pretty obvious strategy. But running from your highest-profile successes?

Welcome to the 2012 presidential campaign, where the reluctance of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to discuss their own records extends even to their most notable accomplishments in government. Pundits complain that the candidates haven't laid out detailed plans for the future, as if campaign promises carried real weight. The candidates' inability to reckon with their own pasts — that is, with reality — is the more disturbing trend, and the one that has hollowed out the core of this election campaign.

Consider three of the defining achievements of Obama’s first term: healthcare, the stimulus, and killing Osama bin Laden. And national highlights of Romney’s time in government, like Massachusetts health care reform and a first-in-the-nation assault weapons ban. Both nominees have substantial records to run on, but for various political reasons, have deemed it best to soft-pedal them.

In Obama's case, when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, it validated the largest social legislation since the New Deal — and a goal that has eluded every Democratic President since Lyndon Johnson. Yet, in the face of polls that show Americans favor repealing the law, Obama seemed more intent on changing the subject than running a victory lap. In an address designed to tout the Court victory, the president concluded by sounding like he was wrapping up a losing fight, telling Americans it was “time for us to move forward,,” while his chief strategist David Axelrod took to Twitter to suggest it was time “to move on.”

Advertising data tells the same story: According to a CNN study last month, the president’s campaign actually spent less in paid advertising spotlighting the law than had Romney‘s.

Another big Obama policy getting little love is the stimulus. A re-investment in American jobs and infrastructure loaded with tax cuts, the 2009 bill ultimately had a major growth impact on national jobs. But as Joe Biden acknowledged in a 2010 interview with ABC News, selling the thing was a “hard slog, man.” So while Romney launched an ad last week bashing the program for “political payoffs,” the president didn’t single it out once in his 35-minute campaign announcement speech. The reason? Americans consistently disapprove of the measure, believing it wasted money and grew the debt.

Then there’s the signature national security achievement of the Obama presidency: Taking out bin Laden. On this, the President’s handling gets high marks from Americans (legitimate concerns notwithstanding). But after Republicans accused him of politicizing the effort (in what Michele Bachmann might only call “chootspa”), Obama’s zeal to promote it has tempered, lest he be accused of “spiking the football.” In an April web video, the president’s campaign suggested Romney might not have made the same call to target bin Laden in a raid. But after a throng of GOP officials cried foul over the claim, it largely disappeared.

So, while George W. Bush could run ads laden with 9/11 imagery, and Dick Cheney explicitly said that a vote for John Kerry risked “we’ll get hit again,” bin Laden is no longer a feature of advertisements for Obama, and the topic typically receives a total of 1-2 sentences in his campaign stump speeches.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is also using the “Pay No Attention to the Accomplishments Behind the Curtain” playbook.

As everyone knows, RomneyCare has become less a proud legacy — over 95 percent of his state’s residents have insurance, and large majorities approve of the law — and more a paralyzing albatross. Like many leading Republicans, Romney went from supporting a mandate-backed plan to hammering it after Obama’s embrace. This politically-motivated reversal was not unusual among Republicans, but for a nominee, it’s meant remorsefully running from his biggest achievement, and sorrowfully calling for Obamacare’s repeal, lest he offend his party or inadvertently defend the president. No Apology, indeed.

Another nationally significant Romney accomplishment was signing the first permanent assault weapons ban of any state in the union, after the federal version expired in 2004. Notably, the Massachusetts ban outlawed a type of weapon, an AR-15, used in the recent Aurora shooting. But given his party’s allergy to gun control, you won’t hear Romney touting this fact. To wit, after the shooting, the onetime leader on gun violence carefully declined to mention his past on the issue, unless asked, and his repeated position during the campaign has been opposition to any restrictions. Suffice to say, this is not an accomplishment Romney likes to discuss.

Of course, all of this raises a critical question: Does it matter if the nominees are unusually reticent about their records?

This election cycle, a common complaint has been that Romney and Obama have not spoken enough about which forward-looking policy plans they’d implement – a phenomenon that’s been called the No-Policy problem, the Smallest Campaign Ever, and inevitably, the Seinfeld Election. In this week's David Brooks column on why this is “The Dullest Campaign Ever,” the criticism ranks number four.

But while that particular trend has gotten more attention, it's the candidates’ efforts to gloss over their records — not just the failures, but the goals they actually accomplished — that should be more alarming. Promises or policy proposals offered by candidates may offer us guidance as to their priorities, but they’re obviously not sworn over an oath. If you’re looking for real clues to how a candidate might govern, their past is the only factual basis we have.

To put it more bluntly, in politics, the future is a fiction. If campaign pronouncements were real plans never to be violated and always deliverable, there would have been a drastic shift in US foreign policy between the last two administrations; the individual mandate for health care would have been off the table; Mitt Romney would be to the left of Ted Kennedy on gay rights; and the last two presidents would have fundamentally changed the tone in Washington.

In the best-case scenario, policy proposals are sincere plans that someone will try to implement, if elected – assuming that the political realities and their partners in government will allow them (no sure thing).

In the worst of scenarios, they’re gimmicks cooked up not by the policy director of the campaign, but the advertising director or the pollster or the candidate’s spouse, all with one goal in mind: to win a campaign. (Hint: Anytime you see a candidate for a major office call for a gas tax holiday, it may not have come from the policy director).

This isn’t to say that voters shouldn’t concern themselves with what candidates will do, if elected. Of course they should. The point is, you may be able to learn more about what candidates will do not by looking at what they propose during a campaign, but what they’ve actually done in office previously.

And these are clues that, so far, neither nominee for President seems eager to broadcast.

Obama's Magic Number: 316,000

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A rhetorical milestone appears to be in reach.

With three months to Election Day, today's tepidly positive July jobs report has prompted Republican attacks on an increased unemployment rate and relief from the Administration that it could have been worse.

But today's figures also bring President Barack Obama ever closer to an important rhetorical milestone: A net increase in jobs since the start of his administration.

Obama has been pummeled by presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney for the largely arbitrary net jobs figure. Democrats contend that the early-2009 losses shouldn't count against Obama, whose policies took time to take effect. Conversely, even Democrats give George W. Bush's TARP policy credit for stabilizing the economy. Regardless, the president only needs job growth of just over 105,000 jobs created in each of the next three months to be able to say — undisputedly — that he created more jobs than were lost since the start of his administration.

Hitting 316,001 jobs would be an important rhetorical victory for Obama — and missing the mark would provide Romney and Republicans with another attack to use against the president in the final days before the election.

Center For American Progress: "Romney Would Kill 360,000"

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A subject line raises eyebrows. Dorner means: jobs.

Fixed

Fixed

In 2002 Romney's Spokesman Sounded A Lot Like Harry Reid

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What is she hiding?

Eric Fehnstrom talking to Romney strategist Stuart Stevens. (Getty)

Mitt Romney's top advisor and longtime confidant Eric Fehnrstrom didn't take kindly to unsourced allegations by Harry Reid that the former Massachusetts Governor hadn't paid any taxes for 10 years saying: "Have you no decency sir?"

"I don't think there is anything behind it. He hasn't produced any evidence," Fehrnstrom told Fox News yesterday. "I'm telling you speaking on behalf of the governor that those charges are untrue, they are baseless and there is nothing to back them up."

"This reminds me of the McCarthy hearings back in the 1950s," Fehnstrom said.

It may also remind people in Massachusetts about something more recent. In fact, Fehrnstrom himself didn't always think the burden of proof fell on the accuser. In 2002, Mitt Romney's gubernatorial run Fehnrstrom was Romney's attack dog, hitting his opponent Shannon O’Brien for not releasing her husband’s tax returns.

Fehrnstrom accused O’Brien, who released her tax returns every year since 1998, of being disingenuous by releasing her but not her husband's returns, a former lobbyist who had worked with Enron implying the returns would show wrongdoing.

"Her hands aren't clean. She can't claim to be disclosing anything until she discloses the returns of her husband, the Enron lobbyist,” Fehnrstrom said. “Under Shannon O'Brien, the state Pension Board lost millions by buying Enron stock when it was collapsing -- what is she hiding?"

The O’Brien campaign called Fehrnstrom's charge a “desperate attack” and did not release any returns.

Can Obama's "Chemical Warfare" Keep The White Vote Down?

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John Ellis on the president's negative campaign. Romney hasn't figured out an antidote.

Image by Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has spent more than $100 million on advertising over the last 3 months. Much, if not most, of it has been produced to shred Mitt Romney's reputation and suppress turnout among white voters who might vote for Romney. The outlook for August is more of the same. The outlook for September and October is probably a lot more of the same.

The 2012 president election, boiled down to its remaining variables, is about two things: (1) white voters who voted for Barrack Obama last time and have since grown disillusioned and, (2) white voters who stayed home in 2008 rather than vote for John McCain but may vote this time. The Obama campaign's goal is to make both groups stay home rather than vote. It's not a "negative campaign" they're running. It's purposefully toxic.

The math is simple. In 2008, black turnout was way up. Hispanic turnout was up. Young voters flooded the polls. Barack Obama won a substantial majority (53.4%) of the vote, the largest majority for a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson’s landslide in 1964.

The white vote, as a percentage of the total vote, was down. Obama captured 43% of the white vote, the highest percentage of white votes garnered by a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson (President Clinton also received 43% of the white vote in his 1996 re-election campaign).

Fast forward to 2012. Black turnout indicators are down, substantially. Hispanic turnout indicators are down, substantially. The youth vote, as a percentage of the total vote, is expected to revert to form. White voters are now expected to comprise 75% of the total electorate.

If President Obama gets 40% of the white vote, he has a chance to win re-election. If President Obama gets 35% of the white vote, he's finished.

Right now, depending on which poll you look at, President Obama is running somewhere north of 35% and south of 40% among white voters. The danger for Team Obama is that there will come a moment – “anything is better than this” – that will cause the bottom to fall out of the president’s support among white voters. If that happens, he will fall into Mondale country (35%) and lose in a landslide.

So the purpose of the president’s campaign is to make sure, if such a thing can be made sure, that that doesn’t happen. Thus the chemical warfare campaign, the war to end all wars.

There’s a lot the Romney campaign could do to change this dynamic. It could, for instance, run a series of television advertisements that recite Mr. Romney’s success in business, management, governance, and high-profile International events. It could articulate a clear plan to jump start economic growth, spur innovation, and encourage investment and opportunity. It could highlight the obvious fact that an effective manager could easily get 10% more productivity out of the Federal government on 10% less money. It could highlight the fact that Governor Romney actually knows how to manage large, complex enterprises and organizations.

For whatever reason, Team Romney seems disinclined to do this. Maybe they’re waiting for the Convention and the fall campaign. Maybe they haven’t formulated their final plans. Maybe whatever.

It might not matter. If the election is a referendum on President Obama, then he will lose. A majority of the nation’s voters would rather he be retired than be given another term. So the race boils down to a simple question: can Mitt Romney be made so toxic as to enable the re-election of a president that a majority of voters would rather not re-elect?

Top 5 Strip Clubs Of The Democratic National Convention

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“Dear God. Bring a Clorox Wipe.”

Uptown Cabaret

Uptown Cabaret

Source: pbase.com

Uptown Cabaret, a mere 10 minute walk from the convention center, is considered one of the nicer strip clubs in Charlotte. Lapdances run for $20 or more, and drinks are reportedly expensive. The cover on Friday and Saturday nights after 1:30 a.m. includes breakfast.

Reviews are positive, praising a relaxed atmosphere and not too much sleaziness:

So ladies and gentlemen, this is my favorite "dance" club in the big CLT. Partly do to the layout, more do to the women! Though in the past couple years the women have gone down hill. It seems after the remodel the women left and the younger girls came in. I don't know about anyone else but I like a WOMAN, not a young girl. Regardless this is the spot. It's close to uptown right on Tryon and well worth the $10 taxi ride there. Seriously.

However, it is apparently sticky:

I was immediately turned off. Everything was sticky...the bar where I sat down to fill out my employment application was covered in some kind of sticky funky ickiness. It was not sexy.

The dancers were lovely, and they seemed friendly...I hear this is Charlotte's best strip club, but I was just so skeeved out by the stickiness that I couldn't appreciate the rest of the environment. Also, the cheesy sex hotel behind the place freaks me out as well.

And no one wants to see this:

Best part of the night? A 400 lb. (at least) man being brought on stage by a bunch of dancers and they slowly took all his clothes off down to his underwear. Probably the best night of that guys life next to his wedding (he was the bachelor).

Men's Club of Charlotte

Men's Club of Charlotte


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Have A Nice Vacation, Rick Gorka!

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A camp counselor in Hell? Or a “dysfunctional family with too much alcohol?” The campaign trail is maddening — and infantilizing — either way! A brief defense of the traveling press secretary.

Illustration by BuzzFeed's John Gara

After a bumpy foreign trip during which he told reporters to "kiss my ass," Mitt Romney's combative, foul-mouthed — and ultimately endearing — traveling press secretary is taking some time off the trail, ABC News reported yesterday. We will miss him.

As the foot soldier sent to the front lines in an ever-escalating battle between a no-access campaign and a frustrated traveling press corps, Gorka has earned something of a bum rap. He has, at times, been portrayed as a symbol for Romney's aloofness with the media — a compulsive question-dodger who manipulates, spins, and deflects to keep the the media on-message.

But if Gorka has seemed incapable of engaging a reporter's question that doesn't include the word "unemployment," it's likely by Boston's design. Firmly outside the candidate's inner-circle, Gorka is privy to little inside information, and even if he was, he wouldn't share it, since he rarely goes on the record.

The problem isn't the man, but the job. Gorka is a camp counselor in Hell. The traveling press secretary is "in charge of a more or less implacable group of people who don't want to be there, and who are mad at you because they're bored," recalled Hillary Clinton's man in the job in 2008, Jay Carson.

Still, Gorka has performed his duties with a certain measure of charm, if we do say ourselves. Everywhere the press has gone, he's gone, dolling out sub sandwiches at the front of the bus, ushering reporters through Secret Service sweeps, and fielding hotel requests from media members who are trying to stock up on Marriott points. He spends months at a time away from his home in New Jersey, where he left a girlfriend, a car, and a storage container that he lives out of when he's back. And he does it all for around $86,000 a year, according to FEC reports. A decently-skilled traveling salesman could make more.

Reached for comment in New Jersey, Gorka told us he was, "looking forward to coming back" but admitted that "it's been nice to sleep a little bit and say hi to the girlfriend."

“It’s one of the toughest jobs on the campaign," said one Romney aide. "You're around the same people every hour of every day for months. Obviously that will fray neves."

Indeed, Gorka has saved some of his saltier retorts for heated on-the-bus (and off-the-record) arguments with members of the press. "Kiss my ass" is G-rated stuff for the aide, who cut his teeth on the McCain '08 campaign — where one fellow alum told BuzzFeed, "It was weird if you weren't cursing at reporters." (More recently, he served as a New Jersey GOP spokesman, working closely with Gov. Chris Christie, no stranger to confrontation.)

At the same time, he's often displayed a certain fondness for the press corps, serving as our ambassador to the candidate's bus.

"You're one of the few voices... arguing for those journalists' interests within the campaign," said Carson, who was also the inspiration for a glamorous fantasy of the job: Ryan Gosling's character in The Ides of March. "A lot of the time you feel like a man without a country."

Early on in the campaign, traveling reporters were downright chummy with the press aide. We learned quickly that he wouldn't be a valuable source — dubbing his non-answers to our questions "getting Gorka'd" — but we found his quirks endearing, from his "Seinfeld Quote of the Day" tweets, to his Quixotic support for the perpetually-terrible Cleveland Indians. On his first day on the job, he distributed Domino's pizza for the whole crew. In Florida, some in the traveling press corps returned the favor by throwing a fake birthday party for him, an affair that occupied real estate in Politico's Playbook on two separate days.

But as the campaign slog wore on and access to the candidate faded even further, Gorka was increasingly thrown to wolves when Romney's aides had decided not to tell the press anything. In June, when media pressure grew for Romney to go into the specifics of his immigration plan, the campaign sent Gorka to the press section in the back of the charter plane, armed with literally one talking point that he was forced to repeat over and over as reporters grew increasingly feisty. Footage of the impromptu press conference went viral in the political class, and liberal cable news hosts used him as the face of the campaign's evasive nature.

But reporters shouldn't shoot the humble messenger, and though Gorka doesn't have a lot of fans in the press corps, we're not entirely alone either.

"I like Gorka," said Reuters campaign correspondent Sam Youngman. "He can take a punch as well as he can throw one, and he knows how to clock out at the end of the day. There is always tension between campaigns and the press. It is obviously exacerbated when access is all but nil. Best I can tell, what happened was inevitable."

Perhaps Gorka himself described his relationship with the press corps best last June, following the last event on a five-day swing state bus tour that had its own share of hiccups along the way. Chatting with reporters as they packed up their things and made their way back to the bus, Gorka mused, "This is like a dysfunctional family with too much alcohol."

Why Liberals Won't Defend Obama's Campaign Manager

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Jim Messina is under attack from the right for his White House wheeling and dealing. He's not finding much support from the liberals he wrangled during the health care wars.

Messina, right, and strategist Jim Margolis, left, walk to a meeting off the Senate floor this May.

Image by J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Republicans this week made a target of President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, pointing to emails unearthed in an investigation of health care deals to cast him as, at best, a political horse trader, and at worst, having potentially broken the law.

But before the right targeted Messina, the same approach to politics — a hard-edged, pragmatic, and unapologetically inside game — made him the left’s least favorite official in the Obama White House. Beginning in 2009, the White House corralled liberal allies into a weekly meeting some participants derided as the “veal pen.” And liberals watched with increasing alienation as the Administration chose deal-making over the bully pulpit, compromise over ideology — and blamed Messina. Now, as the Republican Party turns on Obama’s campaign manager, many on the left have a simple message: We told you so.

"Jim Messina famously said there was no grassroots strategy for winning health care reform -- only an inside strategy,” said Adam Green, a cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, citing a famous line attributed to Messina in an unflattering Nation article headlined “Obama’s Enforcer.” “This confirms it, and explains a lot about why the White House pushed for a giant giveaway to insurance companies instead of pushing for what Americans actually wanted and needed: A public option or Medicare for All."

Messina is now under fire for the deal he cut with the pharmaceutical industry, buying their support for ObamaCare with expensive concessions, and doing so in the great tradition of private Washington bargains.

"I will roll [P]elosi to get the 4 billion,” Messina from his personal email account — the White House has claimed he also forwarded such emails to his official account — in March 2010. “As you may have heard I am literally rolling over the house.”

That email, and the way it was sent, have become at the center of a Republican campaign to call into question the core integrity of the Obama Administration, and the Obama camp has sought to respond by making a virtue of Messina’s methods.

“There are many people in politics who take such an ideological hardline that they never achieve any of the progress they set out to make because they freeze out stakeholders and refuse any sort of compromise. Jim Messina is not one of those people,” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an email.

But Messina will find few defenders among the liberals whom he and his allies fought in 2009 and 2010 to keep in line behind the compromise health care plan.

“This behavior is classic Obama White House: adopting high-minded reforms with pretty words and flamboyant symbolic gestures, then doing everything possible in secret to preserve and even worsen the abuses Obama claims to oppose,” Guardian columnist and longtime liberal critic Glenn Greenwald told BuzzFeed. “Two of candidate Obama's most prominent vows were general transparency and a specific refusal to draft legislation through secret meetings with industry lobbyists. On his most consequential bill, his White House directly and deliberately violated both of those. That behavior repeats itself in almost every policy realm of any consequence.”

Another leading player in the early battles between the White House and what then-press secretary Robert Gibbs referred to dismissively as the “professional left” described the emails as characteristic of a style that alienated progressive leaders.

“I always felt like he (and [then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel]) pulled the President into a transactional mode when he had the potential to be bolder and rewarded for being bolder,” said the official, who did not want to publicly undermine the campaign. “These e-mails certainly reinforce that point.

“But given where we are now, I understand why he's an asset to the campaign. He's very good at what he does; that's why they are going after him,” the official said. “They are afraid of him and want him gone."

Other liberal critics of Messina see the emails as almost beside the point. Richard Kirsch, who headed the advocacy coalition Health Care for America Now!, suggested in a memoir of the fight that Messina had sought to have him fired for breaking with the party line.

The problem “wasn't the inside game playing itself — which is one part of the game that needs to be played,” Kirsch told BuzzFeed. “It was his suppressing another part of the game: the outside one that we were doing to support parts of the health care bill that were under attack.”

Messina, a former top aide to Senator Max Baucus, had at time a particularly difficult relationship with progressives on Capitol Hill, and appears unlikely to find defenders there. Rep. Raul Grijalva, who co-chairs the House’s Progressive Caucus, declined to comment because he had not followed the scandal, and even privately other progressives said they hadn’t paid enough attention to have an opinion one way or another.

Other Congressional Democrats, though, defended Messina. Rep. Gerry Connolly slammed Republicans for released the report, arguing it was a disingenuous political attack.

“These people are suddenly concerned about that?” Connolly said, noting that Republicans did not raise objections to similar actions by the Bush administration.

“If you’re going to be [outraged] at least be sincere about it,” Connolly added.

And to the White House, Messina gets credit for passing the massive health care overhaul — however the sausage was made.

“For decades, our nation has tried to tackle the health care crisis but both parties have reached an impasse,” said LaBolt. “Jim played a critical role in breaking that stalemate and passing historic reforms that are providing coverage to millions of young people who wouldn’t have it and putting a stop to insurance company abuses against Americans who get sick or have preexisting conditions.”

5 Porn Stars Who Have Been Active In Politics

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Jenna Jameson made headlines today by endorsing Mitt Romney. She's not the first porn star to comment on issues of governance.

Jameson in April.

Image by Bryan Steffy / Getty Images

Jenna Jameson

At a San Francisco strip club last night, Jameson told a CBS reporter she supported Romney. The endorsement may not help Romney's image, though. From CBS:

"I'm very looking forward to a Republican being back in office," Jameson said while sipping champagne in a VIP room at Gold Club in the city's South of Market neighborhood. "When you're rich, you want a Republican in office."

Jameson supported Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Mary Carey

Porn star Mary Carey ran for governor of California in 2003 on a platform that included taxing breast implants, encouraging citizens to trade their guns for porn, and installing webcams in the governor's mansion (so voters could "see their government at work"). She didn't win, but she remained involved in politics, attending a Republican fundraising dinner in 2006.

Mary Carey in Los Angeles in April.

Image by Michael Buckner / Getty Images


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Crazy Anti-Obama Tweets From Puerto Rican Political Figure

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Heidi Wys is an adviser to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico. She says she's not racist — just anti-Obama.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Wys has since deleted and apologized for the tweets. According to the Associated Press, several legislators have called for her resignation.

Syrians Instagram Their Revolution

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While the Egyptian revolution told its story on Twitter, these 32 images — horrifying, exhilarating, intensely personal and sometimes beautiful — chronicle the bloodiest conflict of the Arab Spring through the eyes of its participants.

"The government killed his entire family n wonder why little kids are fighting against them smh. Wa kilmit 7oriye yumma itgabl hal roosiya (and the word freedom evades Russia).. Wa ijeetich yumma shaheed, la tibchee 3alayaaaaa #syria #freesyria #freedomfighter #fsa #freesyrianarmy #sham #damascus #homs #aleppo #hama #fku"

Via: http://@sirley_f

"المقاومه بسوريا"
"Syria's Resistance"

Via: http://@zahraghazy

صنع في سوريا .. #syria #سوريا #سوريا_تتحرر
"#Syria #liberation .. made in Syria"

Via: http://@abdjom

"رغم الألم فالأمل بنصر الله أقوى #سوريا"
"Despite the pain, hope in victory, God is the strongest #Syria"

Via: http://@bo_fahad_89


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Conservative Opposition To Drought Bill Frustrates Republicans

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Heritage Action pushed Republicans to vote against the spending, joining 151 Democrats in attempting to block measure to help ranchers. The conservative group is “either ignorant or irrelevant,” grumbles a GOP strategist.

Image by Win McNamee / Getty Images

Heritage Action sided with 151 Democrats in opposing drought relief legislation backed by Speaker John Boehner Thursday — an instance of strange bedfellows unusual even by Washington's standards, and the latest instance of the conservative group's practice of torturing House Republican leaders.

Democrats and Heritage Action came at the vote from very different places: Democrats wanted Congress to pass a full extension of agriculture programs that included the drought relief, while conservatives opposed the bill because of the added cost to taxpayers.

Nevertheless, leadership aides privately complained about the group’s decision to “key vote” the disaster measure, arguing they essentially gave the 151 Democrats a free pass by staking out a position further to the right than the Republican leadership.

“When a supposedly conservative organization finds itself in agreement with liberals like Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, and 149 other Democrats, it's proving itself to be either ignorant or irrelevant. In this instance, it's probably both," one GOP strategist said.

Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, defended their decision to key vote the bill.

“Rather than encouraging farmers, ranchers and orchardists to plan for possible disasters, the House-passed bill simply increases their dependence on government. We should be trying to decrease government dependence, not increase it,” Holler said.
“Even worse, the bill could pave the way for a disastrous five-year farm bill that further increases crop insurance subsidies and coverage,” he added.


Ostensibly, the practice is straight forward – interest groups with an interest in a particular piece of legislation will announce they are “key voting” – or grading – members on how they vote. Those grades are then included in biannual “report cards” on lawmakers’ records as part of voter education drives.

But beyond the “education” aspect, special interests from across the ideological spectrum have come to rely on key votes as a way to enforce loyalty.
Groups like the NRA and Chamber of Commerce use key votes not only to track lawmakers’ voting records but as a threat to keep moderates and potential compromisers inline – or, conversely, to back off those threatening to undo a wanted legislative deal.

Heritage Action has stepped up its use of key votes. While most groups like the NRA or abortion groups tend to avoid putting the party they are generally aligned with in a difficult position, Heritage Action often seems to seek out those opportunities.

And rather than focus on big ticket bills only, Heritage Action has targeted numerous procedural votes and votes on bills that normally had little resistance, on the grounds that they do not live up to the group’s philosophical standards.

The strategy, according to conservatives, is based on the fact that most of the work of the government, nearly all of which strict conservatives oppose out of hand, occurs in the minutiae of daily life in Congress. So, the logic goes, if you want to curb spending and the size of the federal government, focusing on the little things can have a big impact.

In terms of impacts on legislation, Heritage Action’s efforts are a bit of a mixed bag. They’ve stopped a number of bills, most notably legislation aimed at helping workers displaced by companies moving over seas find new jobs. That, in turn has forced Congress to accept some additional reforms.

In other instances, Republicans have also blown past Heritage Action, particularly during the fight over funding the government last fall.

Still, the use of key votes has significantly upped the organizations’ profile over the last year and a half. Leadership aides regularly talk to the organization – and complain about its often Machiavellian scheming to Capitol Hill reporters.

And, according to Holler, the group isn’t going to stop using its key votes to hold Republicans’ feet to the fire, even if it means giving Democrats cover on occasion.

“Heritage Action is committed to advancing conservative policy, and we will not shy away from key voting in favor of legislation that advances those goals, and, of course, vice versa,” Holler said Friday.

Rahm Emanuel On Solyndra: Talk To The White House Counsel

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The Chicago Mayor and former White House chief of staff didn't answer a question about why newly released emails suggested he was involved in the decision to give a $535 million federal loan to the failed green energy company Solyndra. “It's simple. You just talk to the White House counsel.They're answering all the questions. And they'll answer any questions you have on the matter.”

Source: youtube.com

Pro-Obama Veterans Group Targets Anti-Obama SEAL

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Ryan Zinke is the face of Special Operations for America, an anti-Obama PAC aiming to undermine the White House’s national security record. A liberal veterans group takes issue, and gets very personal: “Not a brilliant career.” Zinke responds: “Being a SEAL was much easier than being in politics.”

Source: images.townnews.com

An election year battle between liberal and conservative veteran groups over President Barack Obama's national security record has taken a nasty turn, with a prominent pro-Obama group VetPAC raising questions about the service record of Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL who is chairman of an anti-Obama group.

“It’s Swift Boat Veterans all over again,” retired colonel Dick Klass, vice-president of VetPAC, told BuzzFeed. “It’s some guys being used, they are trolling for money among the Boone Pickens and Koch Brothers.”

Zinke, who started Special Operations for America PAC last month, is a Montana State Senator. In June, he lost his primary bid to be the state's lieutenant governor.

“We heard some things about this founder,” Klass continued, referring to Zinke. “If a guy has had two combat tours and retired as a lieutenant commander, he did not have a brilliant career.”

Klass, a former Air Force pilot with over 500 combat hours, is referring to claims by former military officials — who declined to be quoted on the record — that Zinke left the Navy SEALs acrimoniously after being accused of improprieties surrounding his travel reports in the late ‘90s.

“There were ethics issues around his travel,” a former Navy SEAL and senior Defense Department official told BuzzFeed. “He was using government travel to visit his home in Montana. He got caught. That’s why he left the SEALs.”

Zinke did not contest the allegation, but suggested that the travel dispute is hardly major a blot on his service record.

"I was younger," he says, referring to his time on SEAL Team Six. "It was a wild team. We trained hard, we ran hard, we were hard."

Zinke explained that he had wanted the SEALs to train in Montana--similar terrain to Afghanistan, he says--leading to what he calls "the incident with the travel claims."

"I was very aggressive wanting to open up opportunities in Montana," he says. "I'm sure I pissed people off along the way."

Zinke said the reason he left the SEALs, though, was because he was getting "very old."

VetPAC is an veteran's group that has traditionally aligned itself with Democratic and progressive candidates.

According to Klass, the "right wing" is trying to exploit the popularity of the Navy SEALs and Special Forces personell.

"They are being used as front men," says Klass. "One is tempted to say 'pimped' for ultra rich conservatives. It’s a very dishonest and dishonorable."

By all public accounts, Zinke, a 23-year SEAL veteran, had a distinguished career.

After leaving the SEALs in 1999, he re-joined after September 11th, where he served overseas. The tours earned him two Bronze stars, according a biography he provided.

His military service helped launch his candidacy as a State Senator in Montana, though he now says he has "no interest in continuing in politics at any level."

He added: "Being a SEAL was much easier than being in politics."

Republican activist Joel Arends, who is also involved in the PAC, blamed the White House for the attacks on Zinke, calling them "a brazenly cowardice (sic) move aimed at silencing the President's critics through false charges and innuendo by nameless and gutless critics who conveniently provide no factual support for their baseless claim."

Zinke’s and his group's high profile attacks on Obama over Bin Laden have touched on what has been a highly sensitive debate within the Special Forces community, made up both current and former operators.

Several current and former SEALs told BuzzFeed in interviews that the high profile activities of some Special Forces operators—including writing op-eds, books, and appearing on television shows—goes against the community’s ethos.

Others see it as their duty to speak up, and truly feel that the disclosures President Obama made after the Bin Laden raid put their work in jeopardy.

And there are those, still involved in missions, who view the entire debate as a distraction.

“Nobody I know in the Teams is even talking about it,” one current SEAL recently confided to BuzzFeed. “I hear former SEALs on the news but the guys I work with just keep moving forward and doing their jobs.”

For his part, Zinke says he now regrets the hyper-partisan tone of his group, and plans to take Special Operations for America in a more "bipartisan" direction.

Clint Eastwood Endorses "Too Handsome" Romney

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The tough-guy actor made his announcement during Romney's campaign stop in Idaho.

Via: @dgjackson

Image by Fred Prouser / Reuters

Image by Stringer / Reuters

Advocates, Lawmakers Demand Written Policy On Immigration For Gay Couples

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Nancy Pelosi's spokesman praised the administration's recognition of a “same-sex marriage” as family ties in immigration decisions in a comment to BuzzFeed. She believes, though, that a written policy should follow.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Image by Win McNamee / Getty Images

Lawmakers and advocates for same-sex couples facing immigration difficulties because the Defense of Marriage Act prevents recognition of their relationships say that "written guidance" is needed to ensure that the administration's policy of considering those relationships in making deportation decisions is followed.

The comments from a Homeland Security spokesman to BuzzFeed on Thursday that a foreign citizen's "same-sex marriage or other longstanding relationship to a United States citizen" would be considered by the department as being among the types of "family ties" that the agency uses to decide not to pursue deportation cases were met with support from advocates and lawmakers.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, however, had sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier this week asking for such a policy, if it exists, to be put into writing.

Responding to Thursday's report, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said today, "It’s a welcome development that a DHS spokesperson is explicitly and publicly acknowledging that DHS’s consideration of family ties includes same-sex couples and spouses. We look forward to the written guidance that we expect would be a logical next step."

Lavi Soloway, founder of Stop the Deportations and a lawyer who has represented several binational same-sex couples in deportation cases and in green-card applications, agreed.

"Yesterday’s announcement acknowledging the marriages of gay and lesbian couples is a giant step forward honoring the struggle of thousands of loving couples who are subject to DOMA’s most punishing consequences," Soloway said in a statement.

He added, though, "The Administration should issue clear guidance memorializing this announcement without delay so that all families can be protected under a clear, consistently applied prosecutorial discretion policy."

Although BuzzFeed requested a copy of any policy implementing this decision, the only policy to which BuzzFeed has been directed by any DHS officials is a 2011 policy that makes no mention of same-sex couples.

BuzzFeed Veepstakes: Blame Rafalca

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The dressage horse is the scapegoat for Romney's Veep delay. And meet Chris Christie.

Welcome to BuzzFeed Veepstakes, your daily guide to Mitt Romney's search for a running mate.

Questions? Comments? Contributions? Email veepstakes@buzzfeed.com.

Mitt Romney is in Indiana today to stump for Richard Mourdock and to hold a fundraiser. Ann Romney is touring Wales.

Bill Kristol blames Rafalca Romney for the delay in Romney's Veep selection, which now appears to be at least a week off. In her defense, we're skeptical Romney ever would have announced while competing with the Olympics for coverage.

Kristol and Stephen Hayes are calling on Romney to select Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Bob McDonnell and Scott Walker attend events for Romney in Virginia today.

The Clock: 23 days to the convention.

The New Yorker: FUSSBUDGET: How Paul Ryan captured the G.O.P.
"One day in March, 2009, two months after the Inauguration of President Obama, Representative Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, sat behind a small table in a cramped meeting space in his Capitol Hill office. Hunched forward in his chair, he rattled off well-rehearsed critiques of the new President’s policies and America’s lurch toward a “European” style of government. Ryan’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all died before their sixtieth birthdays, so Ryan, who is now forty-two, could be forgiven if he seemed like a man in a hurry. Tall and wiry, with a puff of wavy dark hair, he is nearly as well known in Washington for his punishing early-morning workouts as he is for his mastery of the federal budget. Asked to explain his opposition to Obama’s newly released budget, he replied, “I don’t have that much time."

Salon: Romney’s Olympic tax myth
"More than catnip, this latest conservative tax myth is like a designer drug for the Fox News set, tailored perfectly for maximum impact at a time when Americans are hungry for anything Olympics-related. The offense: According to Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax outfit, President Obama’s IRS will tax Olympic winners up to $9,000 after they return home victorious from London. Conservative blogs are having a field day and Republican politicians are clamoring to capitalize on news. Darling Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a bill to exempt Olympians’ winnings from taxes and an adviser to Mitt Romney told reporters today, “He believes that there should be no taxation of the type you are describing.” They’re calling on Obama to support the plan."

Politico: Ones to watch in the GOP
"Some Republicans will benefit more than others from the GOP confab in Tampa. Here’s our list of the movers and shakers who stand to gain the most from the upcoming gathering."

BBC: Who, What, Why: Why are US athletes taxed on Olympic medal wins?
"US medal-winning athletes at the Olympics have to pay tax on their prize money - something which is proving controversial in the US. But why are athletes from the US taxed when others are not? The US is right up there in the medals table, and has produced some of the finest displays in the Olympics so far."

Huffington Post: John McCain Gives Mitt Romney Advice On Vice Presidential Pick
"In selecting a vice presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says that Mitt Romney should make his pick based on who he believes 'fits best in shaping a winning campaign.' The Arizona senator and former White House candidate discussed the matter in a Q&A with Charlie Rose. He said he would advise Romney to consider the factors of trust and friendship in making his decision, 'particularly the trust side of it because, obviously, that running mate would be next in line for the presidency.'"

The Guardian: Pawlenty dogged by telecom scandal over payments made during 2001 race
"The first payment arrived in August 2001, dropped into a company created by Tim Pawlenty with just one employee – Pawlenty himself. The money kept coming as the then-Republican leader in Minnesota's House of Representative campaigned for governor of his state: $4,500 a month for more than a year. But the voters did not know."

AP: Serena Williams and Condoleezza Rice among the unexpected football fans in ‘My Team’ campaign
"NEW YORK — Football fans will soon be pulling out their jerseys, but a few have gotten a jump on the season: Serena Williams, Melania Trump and Condoleezza Rice are among the NFL fans who’ll be appearing in ads promoting team-themed apparel and gear next week in a campaign called 'It’s My Team.'"


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New Obama TV Ad Slams Romney On Contraception, Planned Parenthood Funding

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Playing to the gender gap. Began airing in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. this morning.

Source: youtube.com

Romney Press Secretary Andrea Saul released this statement on the ad:

One day after the unemployment rate increased and we reached 42 consecutive months with a jobless rate greater than eight percent, it is not surprising that the Obama campaign would release a false ad in an attempt to distract from the effects of the President’s failed policies. Dishonest political attacks will not change the fact that President Obama has not turned around the economy, and his policies have hurt women and families all over the country. We tried it the President’s way, and middle-class workers have paid the price. Mitt Romney has a Plan for a Stronger Middle Class that will jumpstart the economy and bring back millions of jobs.

Obama Silent On Climate

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In an April interview, Obama promised, “We’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.” To date though, global warming has been conspicuously absent from the President's campaign rhetoric.

In an April interview with Rolling Stone, President Barack Obama promised to make the changing global environment a central topic in this year’s presidential campaign.

“I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” he said at the time. “I'm deeply concerned that internationally, we have not made as much progress as we need to make.”

But mentions of climate change have been almost entirely absent from this year’s campaign rhetoric. Obama rarely uses the phrase "climate change" or "global warming," and he has doggedly avoided touting what his allies in the environmental movement praise — despite a stalemate in Congress — as the most impressive climate change record in American presidential history. In his State of the Union speech — given before the Rolling Stone interview — he mentioned climate change once. After the interview, in a speech delivered on Earth Day, he didn't mention it all.

This approach has left the President stuck uncomfortably between party lines, failing to excite his base without having made any inroads on the right, which despises his stance on energy: a 2012 Gallup poll showed that just 15% of Republicans thought Obama was improving the country's energy policies. His overall approval rating on environmental policy among all voters has fallen from 79% in 2009 to 56% today despite the fact that his actions in that period were largely praised by the activists BuzzFeed spoke to.

"This administration has done more to actually combat global warming than any other administration in history," said Ivan Frishberg, Environment America's political director. But the initiatives that have made Obama popular amongst environmental activists — fuel economy standards, new mercury emission regulations, a federal greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal — have barely hit the public radar.

Meanwhile, Republicans and big oil are attacking him Obama as an anti-American tree-hugger planning to destroy the country’s coal and oil industries. "What will happen to coal miners and their families as a result of the Obama administration’s new EPA regulations?" asks an April advertisement funded by American Crossroads, a Republican SuperPAC. “Our healthcare, pensions, and way of life are on the line.”

The economy, of course, has sent pushed many political topics to the margins during this cycle. "A lot of issues have taken a backseat this election with the economy being front and center,” said Navin Nayak, a senior vice president at the League of Conservation Voters. The president has, in fact, often presented his environmental policies in economic terms (in 2008, he promised to create five million new green jobs), but most voters at the moment presumably are looking for immediate growth, not ambitious economic restructuring.

At the same time, Republicans have made a concerted effort to put the president on the defensive. The Romney campaign and SuperPACs that support it have been spending an unprecedented amount of money on energy-related advertising this cycle. Bloomberg reported in May that 81% of April’s negative campaign ads were focused on energy. These television spots attack Obama’s clean-energy failures, such as the $525 million dollar federal investment in now-bankrupt Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer. Instead of getting a chance to talk about the entirety of his climate change strategy, Obama has to spend time mitigating damage from a single component thereof.

“He's fighting the live fight," said Frishberg. "You can only have so many fights."

Source: sas-origin.onstreammedia.com

In responding to Republican criticism, Obama points to his development of domestic energy and clean energy technology — solar and wind, primarily, whose inputs into the electricity grid have doubled under Obama — as well as the United States' decreased dependence on foreign oil (lower than it has been in 16 years due to decreased petroleum imports, according to Obama's campaign).

Meanwhile, the nation is suffering through high temperatures and extreme weather conditions. And evidence suggests that, despite the vigor with which climate change debates are still conducted in some quarters, the general public has come to attribute hot and unusual weather to global warming. A March 2012 study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication revealed that 72% of Americans link the unusually warm winters of 2011 and 2012 to global warming. Similar percentages see a connection between global warming and droughts, record snowfalls, and extreme flooding.

"A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse," the report stated.

"Climate change becomes less of a tomorrow problem when you start to see it today, and see the economic impacts,” Frishberg said. “It’s actually happening now, and becoming a fairly significant problem in the Midwest.”

Congress is even more loathe than the two candidates to approach climate issues, and environmentalists told BuzzFeed they don't expect that to change before the election. “It’s unlikely that Congress catches up to where the people, the science, and the weather are at, at least in the short term,” Frishberg said.

“This has been the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in history,” Nayak said. “I think it’s hard to imagine how, if Speaker Boehner is still in charge, there would be a dramatic change in that.”


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Obama Campaign Called Ohio Decision On Early Military Voting "Appropriate" In Lawsuit

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In a complex and controversial lawsuit, the Democrats are not in fact trying to limit Ohio military voting. A more subtle objection from military groups and — if you read closely enough — Romney.

Image by Charles Dharapak / AP

The Obama campaign said in a lawsuit drawing attention this weekend that the Ohio Secretary of State "appropriately" allowed a longer time period for early, in-person voting among members of the military and their families — a line that contradicts suggestions that the suit opposes early voting for servicemembers.

The lawsuit — filed more than two weeks ago by the Obama campaign, Democratic National Committee and Ohio Democratic Party — has become a target of the Romney campaign, with Spokesman Ryan Williams telling BuzzFeed that Obama's campaign "sued Ohio to object to the three extra days the state is giving military voters and their families during Ohio’s in-person early voting period."

Fox News went further, reporting that the lawsuit aims to "block a new state law allowing men and women in uniform to vote up until the Monday right before an election."

In fact, the lawsuit is addressing what it calls "a confused legislative process" surrounding the passage of three voting laws in a short period in Ohio. The effect of those laws is: (1) in-person early voting in Ohio ends for most voters on the Friday before the election and (2) two conflicting deadlines regarding the end of in-person early voting for those voting under the auspices of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voter Act, which includes servicemembers and their families.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, issued an advisory addressing the conflict and allowing for more voting time for the servicemember voters.

In the July 17 complaint, the Democratic groups state that "the Secretary of State appropriately resolved the conflict between the two in-person early voting deadlines for UOCAVA voters in favor of the more generous time period," which would appear to blunt any claim that the lawsuit's aim is to object to the extra time.

The lawsuit, if it succeeds, would not impact the in-person early voting of servicemembers and their families, instead asking the court to "restor[e] in-person early voting on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all eligible Ohio voters."

And while Republicans have accused Obama of trying to deny soldiers the vote in Ohio, the actual legal objections to the Obama filing are different: Not that Ohio soldiers' votes might not be counted, but that the Obama move might set a precedent that giving soldiers special consideration is unconstitutional.

Indeed, group of fraternal military groups, including the National Guard Association of the United States, have filed a motion to intervene (embedded below) in the case to oppose the lawsuit on those grounds — and make no suggestion that the Democrats' suit would restrict Ohio soldiers' votes.

The groups' filing states, "Although the relief Plaintiffs seek is an overall extension of Ohio’s early voting period, the means through which Plaintiffs are attempting to attain it—a ruling that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to grant extra time for early voting solely to military voters and overseas citizens—is both legally inappropriate and squarely contrary to the legal interests and constitutional rights of Intervenors, their members, and the courageous men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces."

On Friday, the Obama campaign responded (embedded below), supporting the groups' intervention in the lawsuit and stating, "Neither the substance of its Equal Protection claim, nor the relief requested, challenges the legislature’s authority to make appropriate accommodation, including early voting during the period in question, for military voters, their spouses or dependents."

Obama's allies have accused Romney of smearing Obama with his objections to the suit, a claim that is undercut to a degree by the objections of relatively non-partisan military groups. And indeed, while the Romney campaign has stoked the controversy, it has also, if its statements are read carefully, been aware of this distinction. Williams told BuzzFeed this Saturday: "The Obama campaign has publicly declared that it is arbitrary and unconstitutional to give military voters and their families extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period. Twenty times in their legal papers they say that Ohio had no good reason to provide this extra flexibility to military voters and their families. We disagree with that argument as a matter of principle."

Fraternal Military Groups' Motion to Intervene

Democrats' Response to the Groups' Motion


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