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Worksharing and Long-Term Unemployment

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Worksharing and Long-Term Unemployment (PDF)
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The Great Recession was especially deep and especially long. The sustained departure of output from its trend path was accompanied by a large drop in employment, which stayed low relative to trend for an extended period as well. As this occurred, the percentage of workers who were long-term unemployed increased sharply. Even as the U.S. economy recovers, the painful legacy of the Great Recession lives on as these long-term unemployed workers continue to struggle to reconnect to society.

In light of this, policymakers and economists must ask whether smart policy could have mitigated large employment losses and the high incidence of long-term unemployment. We believe the answer is yes, and that worksharing is such a policy. Under worksharing, a firm can reduce the hours of its workforce in lieu of a layoff, and workers whose hours have been reduced are eligible for a prorated unemployment insurance (UI) benefit. In this way, a firm can weather a temporary lull in demand by reducing its payroll costs without laying off large number of workers.

In this paper we make three points. First, the impact of long-term unemployment on the lives of those affected is so significantly negative that addressing the issue should be a top priority for policymakers. Second, extended unemployment insurance benefits are an insufficient way to deal with unemployment, and additional policies are needed. Finally, an alternative reform of unemployment insurance could reduce the risk that the next recession might lead to another surge in long-term unemployment, help keep some of the millions of workers who are laid off every year in their jobs, and in so doing help avoid the problem of “hysteresis” associated with long-term unemployment.

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DoD OIG — Section 847 Ethics Requirements for Senior Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors

April 17, 2014 Comments off

Section 847 Ethics Requirements for Senior Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General

Objective
Our objectives were to (1) address the central database and DoD IG oversight provisions of Public Law 110-181, “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008,” Section 847, “Requirements for Senior Department of Defense Officials Seeking Employment with Defense Contractors,” January 28, 2008; (hereinafter referred to as “section 847”) (2) address subsequent direction from the House Armed Services Committee (HASC); and (3) accordingly determine:

  • Whether written legal opinions required by section 847 were “being provided and retained in accordance with the requirements of this section.” (Public Law 110-181, section 847 [b][2]).
  • “The Department of Defense’s record of compliance with section 847 of Public Law 110-181.” (HASC Report on the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2013).
  • Quantitative data specified by the HASC, as follows:
    • “the total number of opinions issued,
    • the total number of opinions retained in accordance with section 847,
    • any instances in which a request for a written opinion pursuant to section 847 lacked a corresponding written opinion, or
    • in which the written opinion was not provided to the requesting official or former official of the Department of Defense by the appropriate ethics counselor within 30 days after the request for a written opinion.”

DoD did not retain all required section 847 records in its designated central repository, the After Government Employment Advice Repository (AGEAR).

This occurred because the Department did not:

  • implement the 2010 DoD Inspector General (IG) report recommendation to transfer historical records into AGEAR when the database became operational,
  • centrally supervise section 847 activities by its decentralized Components, and
  • comply with Deputy Secretary guidance making AGEAR use mandatory as of January 1, 2012.

As a result:

  • The AGEAR database was incomplete with limited or no use by specific DoD organizations with significant contracting activity.
  • Individual section 847 records were located in multiple or decentralized locations, and in a number of cases were inaccurate, incomplete, and not readily accessible for examination.

New From the GAO

April 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office

Information Security: SEC Needs to Improve Controls over Financial Systems and Data. GAO-14-419, April 17.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-419
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662614.pdf

New From the GAO

April 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Army Modular Force Structure: Annual Report Generally Met Requirements, but Challenges in Estimating Costs and Assessing Capability Remain. GAO-14-294, April 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-294
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662577.pdf

2. Foreign Aid: USAID Has Increased Funding to Partner-Country Organizations but Could Better Track Progress. GAO-14-355, April 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-355
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662597.pdf

3. Defense Contracting: DOD’s Use of Class Justifications for Sole-Source Contracts. GAO-14-427R, April 16.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-427R

New From the GAO

April 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects. GAO-14-338SP, April 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-338SP
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662572.pdf

2. National Environmental Policy Act: Little Information Exists on NEPA Analyses. GAO-14-369, April 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-369
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662544.pdf

3. National Environmental Policy Act: Little Information Exists on NEPA Analyses. GAO-14-370, April 15.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-370
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662548.pdf

HHS OIG — Limited Compliance With Medicare’s Home Health Face to Face Documentation Requirements

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Limited Compliance With Medicare’s Home Health Face to Face Documentation Requirements
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

WHY WE DID THIS STUDY
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that physicians (or certain practitioners working with them) who certify beneficiaries as eligible for Medicare home health services document-as a condition of payment for home health services-that face-to-face encounters with those beneficiaries occurred. This study (1) determined the extent to which physicians who certified home health care documented the face-to-face encounters, (2) described the nature of face-to-face documentation, and (3) assessed CMS’s oversight of the face-to-face requirement.

HOW WE DID THIS STUDY
We reviewed 644 face-to-face encounter documents to analyze the extent to which the documents confirmed encounters and contained the required elements. We interviewed the four Home Health and Hospice Medicare Administrative Contractors (HH MACs) to describe how they ensure that home health agencies met the face-to-face encounter requirements. We also reviewed guidance documents and policies from CMS or the HH MACs about monitoring the face-to-face requirement.

WHAT WE FOUND
For 32 percent of home health claims that required face-to-face encounters, the documentation did not meet Medicare requirements, resulting in $2 billion in payments that should not have been made. Furthermore, physicians inconsistently completed the narrative portion of the face to face documentation. Some face-to-face documents provide information that, although not required by Medicare, could be useful, such as a printed name for the physician and a list of the home health services needed. CMS oversight of the face-to-face requirement is minimal.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND
We recommend that CMS (1) consider requiring a standardized form to ensure that physicians include all elements required for the face-to-face documentation, (2) develop a specific strategy to communicate directly with physicians about the face-to-face requirement, and (3) develop other oversight mechanisms for the face-to-face requirement. CMS concurred with all of our recommendations.

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Commander’s Legal Handbook 2013

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Commander’s Legal Handbook 2013 (PDF)
Source: Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, United States Army

This Handbook is designed to assist you in taking proper immediate action when faced with a variety of legal issues that might arise during your command. The purpose of your actions should be to preserve the legal situation until you can consult with your servicing Judge Advocate. However, like most aspects of your command responsibilities, you can fail if you just wait for things to come to you. You need to be proactive in preventing problems before they occur.

In the legal arena, this means establishing and enforcing high standards, ensuring your Soldiers are fully aware of those standards and properly trained to comply with them. You must also properly train your Soldiers on all Army policies and higher level command standards so that they also understand and comply with them. Soldiers must also be well-versed in the Army Values and be able to apply those values to real-world situations, which will usually keep them well within legal bounds.

All Soldiers have seen issues in the news that can occur when we are not proactive about discipline and standards: Abuse of prisoners, desecration of corpses, hazing, and sexual assault to name recent examples. All of these circumstances present serious legal issues. But, fundamentally, they also represent a breakdown in unit standards, training, and discipline. Your objective as a Commander should be to develop solid systems and a command climate that prevents legal issues, rather than just reacting to them. In sum, it is every bit as important to train your Soldiers to maintain a high level of discipline and compliance with law, policy, and military standards, as it is to train them to perform your Mission Essential Task List (METL). In legal circles, we call this effort to prevent legal problems before they arise by properly training Soldiers, “preventive law.” The responsibility to practice preventive law belongs to the Commander.

See also: 2013 Fiscal Law Deskbook (PDF)
See also: Military Citation Guide (PDF)

New From the GAO

April 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Report
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Ballistic Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Address Implementation Issues and Estimate Long-Term Costs for European Capabilities. GAO-14-314, April 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-314
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662493.pdf

Department of State OIG — Management Alert: Contract File Management Deficiencies

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Management Alert: Contract File Management Deficiencies (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of State, Office of Inspector General

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), in recent audits, investigations, and inspections, has identified significant vulnerabilities in the management of contract file documentation that could expose the Department to substantial financial losses. Specifically, over the past 6 years, OIG has identified Department of State (Department) contracts with a total value of more than $6 billion in which contract files were incomplete or could not be located at all. The failure to maintain contract files adequately creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department’s contract actions.

New From the GAO

April 10, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. KC-46 Tanker Aircraft: Program Generally on Track, but Upcoming Schedule Remains Challenging. GAO-14-190, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-190
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662449.pdf

2. Air Force: Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Unmanned Aerial System Pilots. GAO-14-316, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-316
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662468.pdf

3. Presidential Helicopter Acquisition: Update on Program’s Progress toward Development Start. GAO-14-358R, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-358R

4. Status of Efforts to Initiate an Amphibious Combat Vehicle Program. GAO-14-359R, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-359R

Testimony

1. Inspectors General: Oversight of Small Federal Agencies and the Role of the Inspectors General, by Beryl H. Davis, director, financial management and assurance, before the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-503T, April 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-503T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662442.pdf

Millions of Dollars in Potentially Improper Claims for the Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions Credit Are Not Pursued

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Millions of Dollars in Potentially Improper Claims for the Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions Credit Are Not Pursued (PDF)
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

For Tax Year 2011, TIGTA determined that taxpayers potentially made approximately $53 million in improper claims for contributions made to a qualifying retirement account. Based on a comparison with third party data, these claims appear to be potentially either false or overstated. In the future, if the IRS identifies and addresses taxpayers who are potentially ineligible to receive the saver’s credit, it could recover approximately $264 million over five years.

Community Bank Performance: How Important are Managers?

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Community Bank Performance: How Important are Managers?
Source: Federal Reserve Board

Community banks have long played an important role in the U.S. economy, providing loans and other financial services to households and small businesses within their local markets. In recent years, technological and legal developments, as well as changes in the business strategies of larger banks and non-bank financial service providers, have purportedly made it more difficult for community banks to attract and retain customers, and hence to survive. Indeed, the number of community banks and the shares of bank branches, deposits, banking assets, and small business loans held by community banks in the U.S. have all declined substantially over the past two decades. Nonetheless, many community banks have successfully adapted to their changing environment and have continued to thrive. This paper uses data from 1992 through 2011 to examine the relationships between community bank profitability and various characteristics of the banks and the local markets in which they operate. Bank characteristics examined include size, age, ownership structure, management quality, and portfolio composition; market characteristics include population, per capita income, unemployment rate, and banking market structure. We find that community bank profitability is strongly positively related to bank size; that local economic conditions have significant effects on bank profitability; that the quality of bank management matters a great deal to profitability, especially during times of economic stress; and that small banks that make major shifts to their lending portfolios tend to be less profitable than other small banks. Variables within managers’ control account for between 70 percent and 96 percent of the total explanatory power of equations explaining variations in performance across community banks.

Information and Incentives in Online Affiliate Marketing

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Information and Incentives in Online Affiliate Marketing (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

We examine online affiliate marketing programs in which merchants oversee thousands of affiliates they have never met. Some merchants hire outside specialists to set and enforce policies for affiliates, while other merchants ask their ordinary marketing staff to perform these functions. For clear violations of applicable rules, we find that outside specialists are most effective at excluding the responsible affiliates, which we interpret as a benefit of specialization. However, in-house staff are more successful at identifying and excluding affiliates whose practices are viewed as “borderline” (albeit still contrary to merchants’ interests), foregoing the efficiencies of specialization in favor of the better incentives of a company’s staff. We consider the implications for marketing of online affiliate programs and for online marketing more generally.

New From the GAO

April 9, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Defense Infrastructure: In-Kind Projects Initiated during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. GAO-14-280R, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-280R

2. Mine Safety: Basis for Proposed Exposure Limit on Respirable Coal Mine Dust and Possible Approaches for Lowering Dust Levels. GAO-14-345, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-345
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662411.pdf

Testimonies

1. Health Care Workforce: Federal Investments in Training and the Availability of Data for Workforce Projections, by Linda T. Kohn, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. GAO-14-510T, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-510T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662392.pdf

2. VA Health Care: Ongoing and Past Work Identified Access Problems That May Delay Needed Medical Care for Veterans, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-509T, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-509T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662396.pdf

3. Social Security Disability Programs: SSA Could Take Steps to Improve Its Assessment of Continued Eligibility, by Daniel Bertoni, director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care, and Entitlements, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-492T, April 9.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-492T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662399.pdf

Identifying Personality Disorders that are Security Risks: Field Test Results

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Identifying Personality Disorders that are Security Risks: Field Test Results (PDF)
Source: Defense Personnel Security Research Center

Accurate identification and assessment of employees with risky personality disorders is imperative for programs that involve access to nuclear materials, weapons, and biological select agents which depend on personnel maintaining mental health and reliable behavior. Certain risky personality disorders, however, are especially difficult to diagnose with routine assessment tools that rely on the subject’s self-report. To combat this issue, PERSEREC, in collaboration with Department of Energy, initiated a field test that examined whether an improved screening tool has utility for clinicians who routinely evaluate personnel in a high-risk program. Five clinicians used the Shedler-Westen Assessment Procedure (SWAP), along with its Dispositional Indicators of Risk Exposure (DIRE) subscale developed earlier, for a period of 4 months to evaluate 26 new candidates and current employees of concern. Debriefing interviews indicated that SWAP/DIRE was more effective than clinicians’ existing tools for establishing a positive rapport with the subject, assessing personality disorders, and making legally-defensible recommendations. Findings also include recommendations for using SWAP/DIRE methodology for identifying risky personnel.

New From the GAO

April 8, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Medicare: Second Year Update for CMS’s Durable Medical Equipment Competitive Bidding Program Round 1 Rebid. GAO-14-156, March 7.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-156
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/661475.pdf

2. 2014 Annual Report: Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits. GAO-14-343SP, April 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-343SP
Podcast - http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/662283

3. Aviation Safety: FAA Should Improve Usability of its Online Application System and Clarity of the Pilot’s Medical Form. GAO-14-330, April 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-330
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662388.pdf

4. Military Capabilities: Navy Should Reevaluate Its Plan to Decommission the USS Port Royal. GAO-14-336, April 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-336
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662377.pdf

5. Information Security: IRS Needs to Address Control Weaknesses That Place Financial and Taxpayer Data at Risk. GAO-14-405, April 8
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-405
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662372.pdf
Podcast - http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/662350

Testimonies

1. Paid Tax Return Preparers: In a Limited Study, Preparers Made Significant Errors, by James R. McTigue Jr., director, strategic issues, before the Senate Committee on Finance. GAO-14-467T, April 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-467T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662357.pdf

2. Tobacco Products: FDA Spending and New Product Review Time Frames, by Marcia Crosse, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Health, House Committee on Energy and Commerce. GAO-14-508T, April 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-508T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662361.pdf

3. Government Efficiency and Effectiveness: Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication and Achieve Other Financial Benefits, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-478T, April 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-478T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/662367.pdf

Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Big Five Personality Traits Reflected in Job Applicants’ Social Media Postings
Source: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

Job applicants and incumbents often use social media for personal communications allowing for direct observation of their social communications “unfiltered” for employer consumption. As such, these data offer a glimpse of employees in settings free from the impression management pressures present during evaluations conducted for applicant screening and research purposes. This study investigated whether job applicants’ (N=175) personality characteristics are reflected in the content of their social media postings. Participant self-reported social media content related to (a) photos and text-based references to alcohol and drug use and (b) criticisms of superiors and peers (so-called “badmouthing” behavior) were compared to traditional personality assessments. Results indicated that extraverted candidates were prone to postings related to alcohol and drugs. Those low in agreeableness were particularly likely to engage in online badmouthing behaviors. Evidence concerning the relationships between conscientiousness and the outcomes of interest was mixed.

Pew Index Shows 40 States Improved Election Performance in 2012

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Pew Index Shows 40 States Improved Election Performance in 2012
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

Between 2008 and 2012, state election performance overall improved by 4.4 percentage points, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ latest Elections Performance Index, released today. The expanded index makes it possible for all 50 states and the District of Columbia to measure how well they conducted elections compared not only with other states, but also over time.

This annual study allows states to measure election administration by looking at such indicators as wait times at polling locations, availability of voting information tools online, rejection of voter registrations, problems with registration or absentee ballots, rejection of military and overseas ballots, voter turnout, and accuracy of voting technology.

Overall, 40 states and the district improved their scores in the 2012 election, compared with 2008. The scores of 21 states and the district rose at a rate greater than the national average, 19 states’ averages improved but didn’t keep pace with the national average, and 10 states’ performance declined. The district improved the most—20 points—from 2008 to 2012 but still remained among the lower performers.

HHS OIG — Questionable Billing for Medicare Electrodiagnostic Tests

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Questionable Billing for Medicare Electrodiagnostic Tests
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General

WHY WE DID THIS STUDY
In 2011, Medicare paid approximately $486 million to 21,700 physicians who billed for electrodiagnostic tests for 877,000 beneficiaries. Electrodiagnostic tests are used to evaluate patients who may have nerve damage. Recent investigations have found that electrodiagnostic testing is an area vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse. For example, in 2011, following work by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, a group of physicians was charged with fraudulently billing Medicare $113 million for false claims, including claims for electrodiagnostic tests. CMS issues comparative billing reports to providers for a variety of services, including electrodiagnostic testing. Such reports are intended to proactively educate providers and to help them identify and correct errors in their billing.

HOW WE DID THIS STUDY
We developed seven measures of questionable billing on the basis of past OIG work and input from CMS staff. We analyzed Medicare 2011 electrodiagnostic test claims to identify physicians who had unusually high billing for at least one of these measures. We also determined whether physicians with questionable billing for electrodiagnostic tests received comparative billing reports in 2011 for such tests. Finally, we identified the geographical areas with the highest amounts of questionable billing.

WHAT WE FOUND
In 2011, 4,901 physicians had questionable billing for Medicare electrodiagnostic tests totaling $139 million. Additionally, we found that approximately 20 percent of these physicians received comparative billing reports in 2011 on the basis of their 2010 billing for electrodiagnostic tests. Finally, physicians in the New York, Los Angeles, and Houston areas had the highest total questionable billing for Medicare electrodiagnostic tests in 2011.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND
We recommend that CMS (1) increase its monitoring of billing for electrodiagnostic tests, (2) provide additional guidance and education to physicians regarding electrodiagnostic tests, and (3) take appropriate action regarding physicians whom we identified as having inappropriate or questionable billing. CMS partially concurred with two of our recommendations and concurred with the third recommendation.

Adjudicative Desk Reference: Assisting Security Clearance Adjudicators, Investigators, and Security Managers in Implementing the U.S. Government Personnel Security Program

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Adjudicative Desk Reference: Assisting Security Clearance Adjudicators, Investigators, and Security Managers in Implementing the U.S. Government Personnel Security Program (PDF)
Source: Defense Personnel and Security Research Center

The Adjudicative Desk Reference (ADR) is a comprehensive collection of background information on the 13 categories of behavior considered when determining an individual’s eligibility for a security clearance. For each category of behavior, the ADR provides information that an adjudicator or manager might want to know about that behavior before making a decision, or that an investigator should know in order to formulate appropriate questions. This background information is not U.S. Government policy and may not be cited as authority for denial or revocation of access. The ADR recently was updated to reflect changes in the adjudicative guidelines and new academic research on the topics covered by these guidelines. It has been recommended by the Security Executive Agent Advisory Committee as a job aid to assist security clearance adjudicators, personnel security investigators, and security managers in implementing personnel security policy. It has also proven useful to appeals panels and lawyers dealing with security clearance decisions, personnel officers making suitability and trustworthiness decisions, and Employee Assistance Program counselors.

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