Rogue Valley News, Monday 4/22 – Grants Pass RADE Search Warrant Nets Drugs, Guns, Cash and 3 Arrests. Body of Missing Glide Teacher Found & Other Local and Statewide News…

The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Monday,  April 22, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather

May be a doodle of map and text

 

Grants Pass RADE Search Warrant Nets Drugs, Guns, Cash and 3 Arrests

Grants Pass, Ore. – On Thursday, April 18, around 9:00 AM,  members of the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement (RADE) team and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Medford Office executed a search warrant in the 1800 block of NW Burns Ave. in Grants Pass, Oregon.

The search warrant revealed approximately four (4) pounds of fentanyl, approximately $35,000.00 U.S. currency in suspected illegal drug proceeds, thirteen (13) firearms (three were found to be stolen), over 12-ounces of methamphetamine, an ounce of cocaine, an ounce of Psilocybin mushrooms, and other controlled substances.

Brandon Ruppel (47 years old) and Laura Berry (52 years old) were transported and lodged in the Josephine County Jail for PCS Schedule II, MCS/DCS Controlled Substance within 1000’ of a School, and Felon in Possession of a Weapon.  An additional occupant of the residence, Jason Ruppel (50 years old) was cited and released on multiple drug crimes and firearms charges.

The RADE team is a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force that identifies, disrupts, and dismantles local, multi-state, and international drug trafficking organizations using an intelligence-driven, multi-agency, prosecutor-supported approach. RADE is supported by the Oregon-Idaho High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), composed of members from the Oregon State Police, Grants Pass Police Department, Josephine County Community Corrections, and the Josephine County District Attorney’s Office.

The Oregon-Idaho HIDTA program is an Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) sponsored counterdrug grant program that coordinates with and provides funding resources to multi-agency drug enforcement initiatives, including RADE.  There is no additional information available at this time.  

 

Body of Missing Glide Teacher Found

IDLEYLD PARK, Ore. – The body of Rachel Merchant-Ly has been recovered from the North Umpqua River.

On April 19, 2024, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue organized a large scale search in their ongoing efforts to locate 27-year-old Rachel Merchant-Ly of Idleyld Park. Merchant-Ly was reported missing on Thursday, February 29, 2024, when she didn’t arrive at Glide Elementary School where she worked as a kindergarten teacher. Later that morning, a Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy located signs of a motor vehicle crash near milepost 41 on Highway 138E. On Friday, March 1, 2024, Merchant-Ly’s vehicle was recovered from the North Umpqua River, but she was not found inside. Since that time, searchers have conducted numerous searches by water, land, and air without success. On April 19, 2024, searchers from Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, Jackson County Search and Rescue and Lane County Search and Rescue organized to conduct further searching. Volunteer rafting groups and community members also organized and were coordinating with the Sheriff’s Office efforts. At approximately 9:30 a.m., a community member volunteer located a deceased body in the river approximately 7.5 miles downstream from the crash site. Deputies confirmed the presence of the body and began coordinating recovery efforts. The Douglas County Medical Examiner’s Office responded and confirmed the body to be that of Rachel Merchant-Ly. “I cannot thank the dedicated deputies, SAR Volunteers, agency partners and community members who have not given up on finding Rachel,” Sheriff John Hanlin said. “Commissioner Freeman and I have been in personal communication with Rachel’s husband, mother, father and extended family. They are extremely thankful for the efforts of everyone involved.” The Sheriff’s Office was assisted throughout the investigation by Douglas County, Jackson County and Lane County Search and Rescue teams, the Oregon State Search and Rescue Coordinator, Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, Pacific Power, Weekly Brothers, North Umpqua Outfitters, Northwest Rafters Association, Douglas County Fire District #2 and all of the community members who volunteered their time.  

 

Klamath Falls kidnapping case takes more turns as Sakima Zuberi represents himself and tries to get case dismissed

Sakima Zuberi (formerly referred to as Negasi Zuberi, Justin Hyche or Justin Kouassi) is the alleged kidnapper who abducted a woman from Washington state last summer, driving her back to his rental home in Klamath Falls where he kept her in a crafted cinderblock cell in the garage. The woman escaped shortly after her arrival, leading to Zuberi’s arrest in Nevada the following day. Zuberi plead not guilty to all charges received so far with a motion to dismiss the case from his lawyer when the cell was dismantled shortly after the investigation by the owner of the house, Klamath Falls Mayor Carol Westfall. “Obviously I have no use for a cinder cell,” the mayor later told the Rogue Valley Times, also noting that she’d received permission from the FBI prior to taking the structure down. A letter submitted to U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane last December came handwritten from Zuberi himself, explaining why his case should be dismissed. “Due process is the right to see, inspect, examine, analyze and confirm all evidence being used against me in a criminal proceeding,” Zuberi wrote, citing the FBI’s photos of the cinderblock cell as “the life of their case.” McShane denied the motion for dismissal. Last month, the case took another interesting turn when Zuberi addressed the court, requesting to represent himself on the case. At the following hearing on April 1, McShane allowed Zuberi to argue why he should proceed without legal counsel. McShane said, “I’ve never seen anyone represent themselves with great success. It’s generally been a mistake.” Zuberi’s attorney Michael P. Bertholf declined to comment on his client’s request. In addition to the kidnapping charges in the initial indictment, Zuberi also faces local charges in Klamath Falls in a separate sexual assault and kidnapping case involving a resident of Klamath County. He is also charged with attempting to escape after he allegedly tried to break through the window of his own cell in Jackson County Jail. Zuberi remains in custody and is awaiting trial in October.  

 

Detectives Investigating Suspicious Death as Skeletal Remains Found in Rural Jacksonville Area

 

RURAL JACKSONVILLE, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) detectives are investigating a suspicious death after skeletal remains were discovered Sunday, April 14 outside Jacksonville in the Applegate area. JCSO detectives and medical examiners responded to investigate. The rugged terrain and remote area required JCSO Search and Rescue (SAR) to assist in recovering the remains. Due to the ongoing investigation, the exact location will not be released at this time. Investigators are working to identify the subject and the cause and manner of death. Due to the advanced stages of decomposition, state medical examiners will conduct additional testing. This case is under further investigation with detectives following additional leads. No more information is available at this time. JCSO Case 24-2046

 

National Park Service approves Crater Lake National Park concessions contract transfer

Hospitality company ExplorUS to offer full visitor services this summer CRATER LAKE, Ore. – The National Park Service (NPS) has approved the transfer of the Crater Lake National Park concessions contract formerly held by Crater Lake Hospitality. Hospitality company ExplorUS will take over providing visitor services under the contract immediately, including:

  • Lodging at Crater Lake Lodge, The Cabins at Mazama Village, and Mazama Campground
  • Food and Beverage at Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, Annie Creek Restaurant, and Rim Village Café
  • Retail at Rim Village Gift Shop, Annie Creek Gift Shop and Mazama Village Store (including gas pumps)
  • Lake and Wizard Island Boat Tours

“We look forward to working with ExplorUS as they invest in facilities, staff training, visitor services, and other improvements to make visitors’ and employees’ experiences at Crater Lake even better,” Crater Lake National Park Superintendent Craig Ackerman said. NPS and ExplorUS are striving for a seamless transition of services but ask for flexibility and patience from park visitors. The majority of visitor services in Crater Lake National Park begin to open for the season in mid-May. Information about services currently available are available on the park website at https://www.nps.gov/crla. www.nps.gov About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 429 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. 

The Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is back open after the winter season closure.

Tours will be offered five days a week, Thursday through Monday, on a limited basis. They will run on a first come, first served basis between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Entry to the monument is free, however tickets for tours can be purchased on site or at the Illinois Valley Visitor Center. Meanwhile, Crater Lake National Park visitors can enjoy a free visit this weekend. Saturday is the first day of National Park Week which means the National Park Service is offering free admission to over 400 parks nationwide. That includes Crater Lake National Park, and it’s only on Saturday. The next fee free day after that is June 19. National Park Week runs April 20 through April 28 and NPS is offering up a list of themes for each day of the celebrationhttps://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/national-park-week.htm Entrance fees will be waived on April 20, 2024, to kick off the celebration and to encourage everyone to enjoy their national parks in person. National Park Service parks, programs, and partners will host events and activities all week! Follow National Park Week on social media and join the fun all week using #NationalParkWeek.

 
 

Superhero Run-Hearts With A Mission

 
We are so honored that Griffin Creek Coffee Roasters is donating a portion of their sales of 15th Anniversary Beans and Hardware through the end of June to FOTAS!
 
And, looks like we might have a new dog walking volunteer, as well! Yay!  Please support these folks and their amazing coffee!  griffincreekcoffee.com
 

 

David Grubbs’ Murder Investigation Remains Active

Community still looking for answers in violent 2011 murder of David Grubbs on Ashland, Oregon bike path The Ashland Police Department’s investigation into the murder of David Grubbs on November 19, 2011 remains open and active. Recently two new detectives have been assigned to look into new leads that have come in.

This case remains important to David’s family, the community, and the Ashland Police Department. As detectives continue to pursue these new leads, anyone with additional information is encouraged to reach out to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211. The reward for information leading to an arrest on this case remains at over $21,000.
 
 

Fauna Frey, 45, disappeared in Oregon on a road trip, June 29, 2020, following her brother’s death  —

https://original.newsbreak.com/@ada-e-1668135/3304227455096-fauna-frey-45-disappeared-in-oregon-on-a-road-trip-june-29-2020-following-her-brother-s-death

PART 2 – Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040 PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public. READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com.

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

 

Nike Layoffs at Oregon Headquarters

Nike plans to lay off 740 employees at its Oregon headquarters before June 28, the company has told state officials. The company notified state and local officials about the workforce reduction at its Beaverton, Oregon headquarters in a notice mandated by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act on Friday. The sportswear giant “will be permanently reducing its workforce at its World Headquarters” in a “second phase of impacts” that would begin by June 28, wrote Nike vice president Michele Adams in the notice, first reported by Reuters and Oregon Public Broadcasting. Two months ago, Nike CEO John Donahoe told employees in a memo of plans to reduce its workforce by about 2%, or more than 1,600 employees, The Wall Street Journal reported at the time. The company had about 83,700 employees as of May 31, 2023. “Nike’s always at our best when we’re on the offense. The actions that we’re taking put us in the position to right-size our organization to get after our biggest growth opportunities as interest in sport, health and wellness have never been stronger,” the company said in a statement to USA TODAY. “While these changes will impact approximately 2% of our total workforce, we are grateful for the contributions made by all Nike teammates.” The reductions are part of a three-year plan to cut $2 billion in costs Nike announced in December. Nike is targeting cost reductions as it forecasts a “low single-digits” decline in revenue during the first half of its 2025 fiscal year – which begins June 1. “We are taking our product portfolio through a period of transition,” Nike chief financial officer Matt Friend said during the March 21, 2024 earnings call. Nike shares rose nearly 2% this past week, but are down more than 11% so far this year and have fallen more than 23% over 12 months.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has scheduled an opportunity for public comments concerning the proposed merger of two major grocery store chains — Kroger and Albertsons.

This deal could impact more than 150 pharmacies in Oregon, according to a release from the OHA. “The OHA is reviewing this planned transaction to understand how it might affect pharmacy services in Oregon,” the release states. OHA has convened a community review board. This board is hosting a public hearing from 1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24. The public hearing will: • Provide information about the transaction and OHA’s review; • Allow representatives from Kroger and Albertsons to provide testimony and answer questions; • Allow members of the public to provide comments. To register for the public hearing, visit the OHA’s website. Background Kroger and Albertsons are the nation’s two largest grocery chains. In Oregon, the two corporations operate 176 stores, serving nearly every community in the state. Kroger operates 51 Fred Meyer and four QFC stores, while Albertsons operates 96 Safeway and 25 Albertsons stores. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has joined the Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from across the nation in acting to block the proposed $24.6 billion Kroger-Albertsons grocery chain merger. “If big grocery stores are allowed to reduce competition this way,” Rosenblum said, “they can charge higher prices for food for no good reason and reduce services, including in their pharmacies. They can also slow the growth of employees’ wages, or even reduce some of those wages. Working conditions and employee benefits can suffer, as well. In short, there’s no good for consumers or workers in this proposed merger — and lots of bad.” Oregon Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission investigators found compelling evidence that direct, head-to-head competition between Kroger and Albertsons has forced the two chains to compete vigorously against one another, both on price and on the quality of goods and services offered at their stores, according to Rosenblum. Oregon, the FTC, and the other AGs filed to enjoin the merger in U.S. District Court in Portland following a vote by FTC commissioners Feb. 26. It is the result of thorough investigations by the FTC and the states into the proposed merger’s anticipated effects, Rosenbaum said in a statement. “We are doing this to protect Oregon consumers and workers,” she said. “We believe this proposed merger would hurt both, and we’re doing our part to prevent it from going forward.”

Despite petitions, federal regulators approve construction on expanded Northwest gas pipeline

This is a map of the Gas Transmission Northwest Express pipeline, or GTN Express, from the Idaho-Canada border to southern Oregon. (Courtesy of TC Energy)

Federal regulators are allowing construction to begin on expanding a controversial gas pipeline running through North Idaho, Washington, Oregon and northern California. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order Wednesday giving the greenlight to the pipeline’s owner, the Canadian company TC Energy, to begin construction following its denial Tuesday of appeals from conservationists and attorneys general in Oregon and Washington to reassess its approval of the Northwest XPress expansion project. The 1,400-mile pipeline already sends billions of cubic feet of gas everyday from Canada to utilities supplying natural gas customers in the Northwest and California. In 2021, TC Energy asked the federal energy commission to allow it to increase the pipeline’s capacity, adding millions of cubic feet of gas extracted by fracking to the pipeline each day. Company representatives told the commission and the Oregon Capital Chronicle that they need to increase capacity to meet demand. Those opposed to the pipeline say the company has not proved a need for an expansion in an increasingly electrifying world and one where renewable energy sources are becoming cheaper and more abundant. Natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, and environmentalists also oppose fracking which involves injecting toxic chemicals into the earth. Northwest opposition to pipeline’s expansion — The project is opposed by environmentalists, the governors of Oregon and Washington, the states’ U.S. senators and the attorneys general of Oregon, Washington and California. For more than a year, they have called on the federal energy agency not to allow the project to move forward. They’ve said expanding the pipeline’s capacity undermines their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and that the company will invariably pass the costs of the pipeline expansion on to natural gas customers in the region. Consumers already pay significantly higher prices today for natural gas than they did even three or four years ago. All three natural gas companies in Oregon have requested rate hikes this year from the state’s Public Utilities Commission. Rates have gone up 50% on average since 2020 for residential customers of the state’s largest natural gas utility, NW Natural, according to the watchdog Citizens’ Utilities Board. READ MORE

Oregon State Police investigating Fetus found at state park during field trip

Oregon State Police today are investigating the discovery of a fetus in a state park in Klamath County. Oregon State Police (OSP) information to NewsWatch 12 said a group of high school biology students found it during an outing this week. OSP said the students found the fetus Wednesday at Collier State Park, about five miles north of Chiloquin. Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber said his office fielded the initial call about the discovery as a police matter around 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. He said his office called OSP because it has police jurisdiction for state parks.

“On April 17, 2024, at approximately 11:32 AM, the Oregon State Police were contacted with a report of a human fetus being located at the Collier State Park Day Use Area in Klamath County, Oregon. Oregon State Police Troopers responded to the call and learned a Henley High School Biology Class was on a field trip at the Collier State Park Day Use Area. Several biology high school students were wading in the Williamson River and located a suspected human embryo, approximately two inches long by a half inch wide. There is an on-going investigation into this incident and no further information is available to release.”

OSP invites any information regarding the incident to the Oregon State Police Klamath Falls Area Command office.  Klamath County School District said resources are available for any student who needs them.  

ODOT Reminding The Public That Political Signs Posted Incorrectly Will Be Removed

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) would like to remind the public that political signs posted incorrectly will be removed.

ODOT will remove improperly placed signs like the one above and hold them at the nearest ODOT maintenance yard. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

During election season ODOT tells us they receive complaints from the public and candidates regarding the improper placement of political signs on the state highway rights of way, where only official traffic control devices are allowed. Improperly placed signs can distract drivers and block road safety messages. Wrongly placed signs will be taken down and held at a nearby ODOT district maintenance office for 30 days. To reclaim signs, go here to find the nearest ODOT maintenance office. Signs are prohibited on trees, utility poles, fence posts and natural features within highway right-of-ways, ODOT tells us. They also are prohibited within view of a designated scenic area. State highway width rights of way can vary considerably depending on the location. Check with your local ODOT district maintenance office to determine whether placing a sign is on private property or highway right of way. Local municipalities may also regulate the placement of political signs. Political signs are allowed on private property within view of state highways with the following restrictions:

  • Signs are limited to 12 square feet but can be up to 32 square feet with a variance from our Oregon Advertising Sign program
  • Signs cannot have flashing or intermittent lights, or animated or moving parts
  • Signs must not imitate official highway signs or devices
  • Signs are not allowed in scenic corridors
  • No payment or compensation of any kind can be exchanged for either the placement of or the message on temporary signs, including political signs, which are visible to a state highway

For more information go to ODOT’s Outdoor Advertising Sign Program.

Oregon Secretary of State releases 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade released a civic engagement toolkit today, aimed at helping organizations do voter registration and voter turnout work in the 2024 elections. The tools included in the 2024 toolkit are official, non-partisan, research-backed and free to use with or without attribution to our office. Download the 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit here.

Museum receives $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities award 

  BEND, OR — The High Desert Museum will receive $500,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of 10 in the nation selected for funding for the exceedingly competitive Public Humanities Projects: Exhibition category, the agency announced Tuesday. The funding will support the Museum’s revitalization of its permanent exhibition dedicated to the Indigenous cultures of the region. By Hand Through Memory opened in 1999, supported in part by NEH funding. Hand in hand with Native partners, the Museum has been working on a new version of the exhibition for several years. This award is the second grant for the project: In 2019, NEH awarded the Museum $45,000 to support the planning of the renovation. The agency also awarded the Museum $500,000 in 2023 to support an associated expansion of the Museum, bringing the total commitment to the Museum’s future to $1,045,000. “For more than four decades, the High Desert Museum has set the gold standard for showing and telling both Oregonians and visitors our state’s history,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said. “Indigenous history is essential to that mission, and I’m gratified this Central Oregon treasure has secured such a significant federal investment to enable it to update and expand the permanent exhibition devoted to Native perspectives and experiences.” “We’re immensely grateful to NEH and Senators Wyden and Merkley for this transformational investment,” said High Desert Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “The revitalized exhibition will be centered in Native voices and knowledge, sharing the rich stories of Indigenous communities throughout the Plateau region. The NEH funding is vital for realizing our vision.” The Museum is presently working on exhibition design with Ralph Appelbaum Associates, a firm that has handled museum projects ranging from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History in Washington, D.C. to the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City, an effort sharing the stories of the 39 Tribes in Oklahoma that opened in 2021. The exhibition renovation is part of the long-term vision for the future of the Museum, which includes more capacity for educational programming, immersive experiences to bring visitors into the forest canopy, a permanent art exhibition space and a gathering space for Museum events. The Sisters-based Roundhouse Foundation helped launch work on this vision with a $6 million gift in 2021. The Museum opened in 1982. Founder Donald M. Kerr envisioned the space as an immersive experience that highlights the wonder of the High Desert, often saying that its mission is to “wildly excite and responsibly teach.” He also intended for the Museum and its programs to spark dialogue and bring people together in conversations about what they want for the region’s future. Today, the Museum shares up to nine rotating temporary exhibitions, serves more than 8,600 participants with school field trips, and provides free and reduced-price admissions to more than 25,000 visitors. It welcomed more than 216,000 visitors in 2023. The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency that supports cultural institutions in their efforts to facilitate research and original scholarship, provides opportunities for lifelong learning, preserves and provides access to cultural and educational resources, and strengthens the institutional base of the humanities throughout the nation. ABOUT THE MUSEUM: The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit highdesertmuseum.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.  

Oregon Offers Electric Car Rebates Again – Apply Now Until June 3rd

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Due to high demand and limited funding, OCVRP will be open for a short time in 2024. Vehicles must be purchased or leased between April 3, 2024, to June 3, 2024, to be eligible for a rebate. Applicants have six months from their date of purchase or lease to apply. Low- and moderate-income households can prequalify for the $5,000 Charge Ahead rebate by completing the application now at https://apps.oregon.gov/DEQ/Voucher/apply.

Oregon to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers May 7th, 2024

Every year, the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the state’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year’s ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem. The annual event commemorates the more than 190 fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the state of Oregon since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies. The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is proud to host the ceremony in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and various statewide law enforcement associations.

 

 

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