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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, March 28, 2020

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Soledad ('Chole') Alatorre, Mexican immigrant who changed California politicsMaurice Berger, writer and art curatorMark Blum, film and stage actorLucia Bosé, '50s Italian actressJohn Callahan, actor on 'All My Children' and other soapsFloyd Cardoz, Indian-American chefDr. Tom Coburn, former US senator from OklahomaRomi Cohn, saved Czech Jews from NazisManu Dibango, dance music saxophonistDave Edwards, Texas A&M basketball standoutStuart Gordon, film and theater director known for horror classicsLee Green, basketball standoutRachmil ('Ralph') Hakman, Holocaust survivor who revisited death campsMichel Hidalgo, French soccer coachEdward Howard, LA activist for homelessJan Howard, country singer and songwriterMike Longo, jazz pianist and composerRev. Joseph E. Lowery, civil rights leaderRichard Marek, book editor and publisherTerrence McNally, US playwrightDr. John F. Murray, pulmonary physician and expert on lung diseaseFred ('Curly') Neal, former Harlem Globetrotters starArnold Obey, NYC school principal and marathon runnerJenny Polanco, Dominican fashion designerRichard Reeves, author and columnistDez-Ann Romain, Brooklyn school principalMary Roman, world-class senior athleteJohn P. Sears, political strategistMichael Sorkin, architect and criticStanley Sporkin, SEC legal watchdogMike Stratton, Buffalo Bills linebackerAlbert Uderzo, cocreator of 'Asterix,' French comic book characterEric Weissberg, banjoist best known for recording 'Dueling Banjos'Nashom Wooden, drag performerJimmy Wynn, Houston slugger

Art and Literature

Maurice Berger (63) writer and curator whose work on the nature of art, race, and image helped to set a framework for social discourse. Berger was known for his explorations of race in the book White Lies: Race & the Myths of Whiteness (2000) and the 2003 exhibition “White: Whiteness & Race in Contemporary Art,” which debuted at the Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture before traveling to the Institute of Contemporary Photography in New York. They not only explored the inequities of the Black and Latino experience, but they also examined the privileged position of whiteness—a consideration of the issue before such discussions began circulating in the culture at large. Berger died from complications related to COVID-19 in Craryville, New York on March 22, 2020.

Richard Marek (86) when Marek was a young editor at Scribner’s in Manhattan in the early ‘60s, he was entrusted with one of the literary world’s most important manuscripts, A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s portrait of his life as an unknown writer in Paris in the 1920s. Hemingway had scrawled his edits in the margins of the manuscript. Marek planned to go over it at home and slipped the pages into an envelope before getting on the subway near his Midtown office. But once he arrived home, on the Upper West Side, he didn’t have the envelope and realized he had left it on the subway. Panic ensued; he sobbed all night and told himself, “My career is over.” The next morning he went to the subway’s lost and found and discovered that someone had turned in the envelope. His career was far from over. Marek was one of New York's most prominent editors and publishers. Over the years he worked at a half-dozen publishing houses and was responsible for shepherding more than 300 books into print. He died of esophageal cancer in Westport, Connecticut on March 22, 2020.

Michael Sorkin (71) one of architecture’s most outspoken public intellectuals, a polymath whose output of essays, lectures, and designs, all promoting social justice, established him as the political conscience in the field. In lectures and in years of teaching, Sorkin inspired audiences and students to use architecture to change lives, resist the status quo, and help achieve social equity. His motivational writings and projects helped to reset the field’s moral compass. Shown above is his Greenfill House as Garden, a finalist in New York's 2019 “Big Ideas for Small Lots” design competition. Sorkin died of the coronavirus in New York City on March 26, 2020.

Albert Uderzo (92) one of the two creators of the beloved comic book character, Asterix, who captured the spirit of the French of the ‘60s and grew a reputation worldwide. Asterix, portrayed as a short man with a droopy mustache always wearing a helmet with wings, was created in the early ‘60s by Uderzo and Rene Goscinny (died 1977). The character lived in a village in Gaul, present-day France, resisting Roman conquerors, along with his inseparable big-bellied friend, Obelix. A magic potion gave the hero and his fellow villagers temporary superhuman strength. Uderzo died of a heart attack in his sleep in Neuilly, France on March 24, 2020.

Business and Science

Floyd Cardoz (59) chef who competed on Top Chef, won Top Chef Masters, and operated successful restaurants in both India and New York. Cardoz began his hospitality training in his native Mumbai, India. He later moved to Switzerland, where he honed his skills in French, Italian, and Indian cuisine before moving on to the kitchens of New York. He was a partner in Bombay Sweet Shop, O Pedro, and The Bombay Canteen in India at his death. The Indian-American partnered with famed restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group to open Tabla in 1997. In 2011 Cardoz competed in and won Season 3 of Top Chef Masters. He had traveled from Mumbai to New York through Frankfurt, Germany on March 8, then was hospitalized in Montclair, New Jersey with a fever and later tested positive for Covid-19; he died on March 24, 2020.

Dr. John F. Murray (92) leading figure in the field of pulmonary medicine and an expert on lung disease. Murray led the Pulmonary & Critical Care Division at UC San Francisco for 23 years. As a researcher, professor, and physician, he dedicated his career to pulmonary medicine and helped to establish the study of the lung and lung diseases as a distinct field, separate from cardiology. He cowrote Murray & Nadel’s Textbook of Respiratory Medicine, now in its 6th edition, edited the American Review of Respiratory Disease, and helped to develop the standards for training pulmonary specialists. Murray and a team of researchers also developed a scoring system to expand the definition and help to measure the severity of acute respiratory distress syndrome, the condition from which, complicated by the coronavirus, he ultimately died, in Paris, France on March 24, 2020.

Jenny Polanco (62) Dominican designer of clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Polanco designed women’s fashions from childhood, creating costumes for her Barbie dolls and making her own clothes for college. She worked for more than 40 years in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Paris, and New York and was well regarded by colleagues and fashion critics. She returned from Madrid on March 4 and, after complaining of symptoms of the coronavirus on March 9, was quarantined after her test results were positive for Covid-19. She was hospitalized on March 18 because she had difficulty breathing and died in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on March 24, 2020.


Arnold Obey (73) retired Staten Island school principal who ran his first New York City Marathon in 1980, then ran it 37 more times in a row, even after suffering a stroke and even if it took him nearly eight hours to complete the last one, in 2018. Obey's best marathon time was in 1982, when he finished in 3 hours and 31 minutes. He went back to running after a stroke in 2012, the year Hurricane Sandy caused the marathon to be canceled. His NYC Marathon streak is shared by just 17 others. Obey, who had a heart condition, was on vacation with his wife and sister-in-law when he began feeling seriously ill. He died four days later in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 22, 2020.

Dez-Ann Romain (36) teacher and principal who set an example for her students by her perseverance. Romain was principal of the Brooklyn Democracy Academy, an innovative high school with small classes in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Designed by New Visions for Public Schools, a public-private partnership, the academy enrolls about 200 students 16 and older who foundered at more traditional schools. On March 18 Romain was hospitalized for what doctors said was pneumonia. On March 19 academy officials notified teachers, parents, and students that an unidentified member of the school community had self-reported a case of Covid-19. Romain became the first employee of the New York City public schools known to have died from complications of the coronavirus, on March 23, 2020.


Stanley Sporkin (88) legal crusader who, as chief enforcement officer at the Securities & Exchange Commission, held American corporations accountable for making illicit campaign contributions in the US and for bribing public officials abroad. In the ‘70s, at a newly vitalized SEC, Sporkin investigated illegal corporate slush funds, pressured American companies to comply with the commission’s cease-and-desist orders, and sued the firms if they failed to do so. He also successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. Sporkin’s investigations led to admissions by leading corporations—including Gulf Oil, Exxon, Mobil Oil, Lockheed Aircraft, R. J. Reynolds Industries, and 3M—that they had made millions of dollars in secret payoffs to scores of politicians. The disclosures of bribery by American corporations operating abroad caused political scandals in Honduras, Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, and other countries. Sporkin died of congestive heart failure in Rockville, Maryland on March 23, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Mark Blum (69) actor known for roles in Crocodile Dundee and Desperately Seeking Susan. Blum was well known in New York's theater community, having appeared in several Broadway productions throughout his career, including Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man. He won an Obie Award in 1989 for his performance in Gus & Al, the Playwrights Horizons’ production of Albert Innaurato’s play. Blum’s screen credits included a recurring role as Union Bob in Mozart in the Jungle, and he recently starred in several episodes of Netflix’s You. He landed a role alongside Madonna and Rosanna Arquette in the 1985 comedy-drama Desperately Seeking Susan as Arquette’s husband. In 1986 he played a newspaper editor in the adventure flick Crocodile Dundee. Blum, who had asthma, was one of several older luminaries to die from complications of the disease caused by the coronavirus, in New York City on March 25, 2020.

Lucia Bosé (89) Italian actress in neorealist films of the ‘50s who walked away from her career to marry Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín, only to return to acting after they separated. After she won the Miss Italy beauty pageant in 1947, Bosé traveled to Rome and drew the attention of directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Giuseppe De Santis. In 1950 she appeared in De Santis’s Under the Olive Tree and Antonioni’s first feature film, Story of a Love Affair. One of her most prominent parts was as Clara, a would-be actress who marries a film producer played by Gino Cervi in Antonioni’s The Lady Without Camelias. (1953). Bosé died of pneumonia in Segovia, Spain on March 23, 2020.

John Callahan (66) actor known for playing Edmund Grey on All My Children and starring on other soaps including Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara, and Falcon Crest. Callahan’s ex-wife and former All My Children costar Eva LaRue announced his death on her social media account. The two, who played a married couple on the show, shared a daughter, Kaya. Callahan starred on All My Children from 1992–2005. He died in Rancho Mirage, California on March 28, 2020.

Manu Dibango (86) saxophonist who fused African rhythms with funk to become one of the most influential musicians in world dance music. Dibango's 1972 song “Soul Makossa” was one of the earliest hits on the world music scene, including a catchy hook copied by some of the world’s biggest pop stars. In 2009 he filed a lawsuit against Michael Jackson and Rihanna, claiming they had stolen his music in “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” and “Don’t Stop the Music,” respectively. Jackson settled out of court. Dibango was hospitalized with an illness “linked to COVID-19.” The Cameroon-born saxophonist died in the Paris, France region on March 24, 2020.

Stuart Gordon (72) film and theater director best known for his cult horror classics Re-Animator, Castle Freak, and From Beyond. Gordon made his film debut with Re-Animator (1985), a horror comedy cult classic starring Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, a medical student obsessed with raising the dead. Gordon was also a veteran stage director with a background in experimental theater, and a cocreator, with collaborators Brian Yuzna and Ed Naha, of the 1989 Disney family hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Gordon’s films spanned horror, sci-fi, comedy, and drama genres that probed dark human curiosities. He frequently adapted H. P. Lovecraft, turning the author’s stories into Castle Freak (1995) and Dagon (2001). He adapted another Lovecraft mad-science tale, From Beyond, about researchers whose experiments turn interdimensional, with horrific results. Gordon died of multiple organ failure in Van Nuys, California on March 24, 2020.

Jan Howard (91) singer-songwriter who had a No. 1 country hit, “For Loving You,” with Bill Anderson and wrote hits for others like Kitty Wells’s “It’s All Over But the Crying.” Howard had her first hit in 1960 with “The One You Slip Around With” and had a string of others including “Evil on Your Mind” and “Bad Seed.” But she had her biggest success as a duo with Anderson, including “I Know You’re Married,” “Someday We’ll Be Together,” and ”For Loving You,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard country chart in 1967. She also wrote for others, including Connie Smith’s hit “I Never Once Stopped Loving You.” Her most personal song was perhaps “My Son,” which she wrote as a plea for her son Jimmy’s safe return from the Vietnam war. Jimmy was killed two weeks after its release in 1968; another son later killed himself. Howard documented her triumphs and struggles in the 1987 autobiography Sunshine & Shadow. The Grand Ole Opry, of which she was a member for nearly 50 years, announced her death in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 27, 2020.

Mike Longo (83) jazz pianist, composer, and educator best known for his long association with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. As an educator, Longo wrote 10 books and produced four DVDs, outlining concepts he had refined while working with Gillespie. He also advocated for other artists, engaging them for concerts and releasing their recordings on CAP (Consolidated Artists Productions), which he had established as a publishing company in 1970 and a record label in ‘81. Longo died in New York City from the coronavirus, three days after his 83rd birthday, on March 22, 2020.

Terrence McNally (81) one of America’s great playwrights whose career included winning Tony Awards for the plays Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class and the musicals Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman. McNally’s plays and musicals explored how people connect—or fail to. With wit and thoughtfulness, he tackled the strains in families, war, and relationships and probed the spark and costs of creativity. He was an openly gay writer who wrote about homophobia, love, and AIDS. McNally was a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic inflammatory lung disease. He died of the coronavirus in Sarasota, Florida on March 24, 2020.

Richard Reeves (83) author and syndicated columnist who wrote about politics for more than 50 years and published books on Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, and other American presidents. Reeves worked as a journalist for much of the ‘60s and released his first book, on then-President Gerald Ford, in 1975. In 1979 he began a weekly column that was syndicated for decades. He became a frequent commentator on PBS and even appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Reeves had been in failing health and had been treated for cancer. He died of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, California on March 25, 2020.

Eric Weissberg (80) multi-instrumentalist whose banjo work on the 1973 hit single “Dueling Banjos” helped to bring bluegrass music into the cultural mainstream. Although the theme songs from the film Bonnie & Clyde (1967) and the CBS sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, both recorded by Flatt & Scruggs, preceded “Dueling Banjos” in exposing wide audiences to bluegrass, neither made it to the pop Top 40. “Dueling Banjos,” which appeared on the soundtrack from the 1972 movie Deliverance, fared far better, rising to No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart. The soundtrack from Deliverance was also certified gold, for sales of more than 500,000 copies. But Weissberg—who also played fiddle, mandolin, and guitar—produced much more than a one-hit wonder. More than 10 years before “Dueling Banjos,” he had distinguished himself as a member of two popular folk groups, the Greenbriar Boys and the Tarriers, and as an in-demand session musician in New York. He died of Alzheimer’s disease near Detroit, Michigan on March 22, 2020.

Nashom Wooden (50) drag performer, a regular on New York's gay bar and club scene. Wooden performed in heels as Mona Foot. He appeared with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert DeNiro in the 1999 movie Flawless. He cowrote and performed a song that became a top 10 hit all around Europe. He bartended at the Cock, a long-time gay dive in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood, and showed up at countless movie premieres and fashion shows, usually in his fitted Maison Margiela leather jacket, dark jeans, and Rick Owens boots. Wooden died in New York City after a short illness that he had suspected but not confirmed was Covid-19. He was found dead at his home on March 23, 2020.

Politics and Military

Soledad ('Chole') Alatorre (94) Mexican immigrant who arrived in Los Angeles in the ‘50s with a mission: to help her exploited countrymen in the North. Alatorre joined a company that relied on low-paid immigrants illegally in the US and quickly got promoted to supervisor, then secretly taught workers about their rights and urged them to agitate for better pay. Management found out, then fired her. The employees walked out. A union usually followed, and Alatorre moved on to the next challenge. In labor and activist circles across California, she preached a message—undocumented immigrants deserve rights, too, and can be mobilized into a force. That message went from heresy to the mainstream and forever altered politics in California and beyond. Alatorre died in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, where she was born, on March 25, 2020.

Dr. Tom Coburn (72) former US senator, an Oklahoma family doctor who earned a reputation as a conservative political maverick as he railed against federal earmarks and subsidies for the rich. Coburn also delivered more than 4,000 babies while an obstetrician in Muskogee, where he treated patients for free while in the Senate. Known for bluntly speaking his mind, Coburn, a Republican, frequently criticized the growth of the federal deficit and what he said was excessive government spending endorsed by politicians from both political parties. He died in Tulsa, Oklahoma two weeks after his 72nd birthday, on March 28, 2020.

John P. Sears (79) Republican political strategist who worked for Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan and was fired by both. Frequently referred to in the news media as a modern-day Machiavelli or Rasputin, Sears was only 28 in 1968 when he was deputy director of field operations for Nixon and helped him to secure the Republican presidential nomination. He then worked briefly as deputy counsel in the White House but was perceived as overly ambitious and not deferential enough to the Nixon crowd. The administration even had his phone tapped; within a year he was fired. The firing was actually a blessing because it removed Sears from the Watergate scandal, which led to Nixon’s resignation as president. Watergate claimed so many of Sears’s rivals inside the Nixon camp that for a time he was presumed to be “Deep Throat,” the secret source who helped the Washington Post to unravel the scandal. But in 2005, Mark Felt, a former deputy FBI director, revealed himself to have been the secret source. Sears died of a heart attack in Miami, Florida on March 26, 2020.

Society and Religion

Romi Cohn (91) was just 15 when he joined the underground resisting the Nazis in what was then Czechoslovakia. But Romi was resourceful enough to supply Jewish refugees with housing and false Christian identifications, stamping them with German seals provided by a cooperative Gestapo source. In all, he saved 56 families. After the war he made his way to the US and became wealthy developing thousands of single-family homes on Staten Island. He also turned himself into an expert mohel, performing thousands of circumcisions and writing scholarly articles. He even set up an operating theater in his Staten Island home to circumcise adult Russian Jews who had not been able to undergo the ritual as infants because of Soviet strictures. Cohn died of respiratory distress caused by pneumonia and the coronavirus, in Brooklyn, New York, two weeks after his 91st birthday, on March 24, 2020.

Rachmil ('Ralph') Hakman (95) Holocaust survivor who in January made his fourth return to the Auschwitz-Birkenau prison camps where he labored as a teen. Hakman connected to his past by telling his story. Each month he would talk with college students or tour groups visiting the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. His last public testimony was on January 26 in Krakow, Poland during a World Jewish Congress observation of the 75th anniversary of the death camps' liberation. He died in Beverly Hills, California on March 22, 2020.

Edward Howard (63) was student body president at his junior college in Detroit and a civil rights leader who revered Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and brought radical feminist activist and academic Angela Davis to the campus. In the ‘80s Howard moved to Los Angeles for job opportunities and ended up managing a perfume and cosmetics counter at a Macy’s department store. Later he was a caregiver for developmentally disabled people before falling into drug addiction and landing on skid row. With his recovery at the LA Mission, Howard emerged once again as a community leader, pressing fights with the city over providing homeless people with jobs, self-determination, bathrooms, and hygiene resources. The COVID-19 pandemic lent new urgency to the community leader. For Howard, bathrooms were always a civil rights issue and a matter of treating people with respect and dignity. He died in Los Angeles, California after battling congestive heart disease, on March 24, 2020.

Rev. Joseph E. Lowery (98) veteran civil rights leader who helped Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and fought against racial discrimination. A fiery preacher, Lowery led the SCLC for 20 years—restoring the organization’s financial stability and pressuring businesses not to trade with South Africa’s apartheid-era regime—before retiring in 1997. Considered the dean of civil rights veterans, he lived to celebrate a November 2008 milestone that few of his movement colleagues thought they would ever witness—the election of a black American president. In 2009 President Barack Obama awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the US's highest civilian honor. Lowery died in Atlanta, Georgia from natural causes unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak, on March 27, 2020.


Dave Edwards (48) former Texas A&M basketball player whose single-season school record for assists has stood for more than 25 years. Edwards, who was from New York, played three seasons for the Aggies from 1991–94 after transferring from Georgetown, where he played 31 games in 1989–90, averaging 5.4 points and 4.8 assists in 20 minutes per game before transferring and sitting out a year. He was second to Alex Caruso on Texas A&M’s career list in assists (602) and steals (228), averaging 13.5 points per game. Texas A&M reached the NIT when Edwards was a senior, losing in the first round to New Orleans. He finished third nationally in assists in 1993-94 with a school-record 265. Edwards died of complications from the new coronavirus in Queens, New York on March 23, 2020.

Lee Green (49) defensive standout who played on two NCAA Tournament teams for St. John’s University. A New York native, Green played for St. John’s from 1991–94, playing his first season under Lou Carnesecca and his final two for Brian Mahoney. He averaged 2.3 points per game. Green’s death in New York City on March 24, 2020 was reportedly related to the coronavirus.

Michel Hidalgo (87) soccer coach who led France to the 1984 European Championship title and the ‘82 World Cup semifinals with a commitment to an attacking style of play. With Michel Platini pulling the strings in a midfield known as the “Magic Four,” Hidalgo brought France back to the top of international football in the ‘80s after years of underachievement. He died in Paris, France on March 26, 2020.

Fred ('Curly') Neal (77) dribbling wizard who entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for parts of 30 years. Neal played for the Globetrotters from 1963–85, appearing in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries for the exhibition team known for its combination of comedy and athleticism. He became one of five Globetrotters to have his jersey retired when his No. 22 was lifted to the rafters during a special ceremony at Madison Square Garden in 2008. Neal was a crowd favorite with his trademark shaved head, infectious smile, and ability to dribble circles around would-be defenders. He was a key player during the Globetrotters’ most popular era in the ’70s and ’80s, appearing on TV shows and specials like The Ed Sullivan Show, Love Boat, and Gilligan’s Island. Neal and the Globetrotters also appeared in numerous TV commercials and episodes of Scooby-Doo and had their own cartoon series. He died outside Houston, Texas on March 26, 2020.

Mary Roman (83) world-class senior athlete who held numerous national age records in track and field. A childhood polio survivor, Roman began competing in senior track events in 1989 and won hundreds of medals, mostly in the throwing disciplines. At various times she held the American record in the shot put in the women’s 65–69, 70–74, and 75–79 age groups. She also was once the nation’s top-ranked thrower and ranked eighth in the world in the weight throw in the 75–79 age group. In 2016 she was named Connecticut Masters Games Athlete of the Year. Roman, who for 20 years was Norwalk’s city clerk, died of the coronavirus in Norwalk, Connecticut on March 23, 2020.

Mike Stratton (78) former Buffalo Bills star linebacker, a key member of the franchise’s American Football League championship teams in the mid-‘60s. Stratton was a hard-hitting player best known for what became known as “the hit heard around the world.” It happened in the 1964 AFL championship game against San Diego, played in Buffalo. With the Bills trailing 7-0, Stratton tackled Chargers running Keith Lincoln so hard, the hit broke the player’s ribs. Buffalo went on to a 20-7 win for its first title. Stratton died in his native Tennessee from heart complications related to a recent fall, on March 25, 2020.

Jimmy Wynn (78) Houston slugger whose home runs in the ‘60s and ’70s earned him the nickname “The Toy Cannon.” Wynn hit more than 30 homers twice with Houston, including a career-high 37 in 1967 at the pitcher-friendly Astrodome. Two became particularly famous. The first came on June 10, 1967, when he knocked one out of Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, over the scoreboard in left-center and onto the highway outside the stadium. Almost three years later, on April 12, 1970, he became the first player to hit a home run into the upper deck of the cavernous Astrodome when he sent a pitch from Phil Niekro more than 500 feet down the left field line. Wynn died in Houston, Texas two weeks after his 78th birthday, on March 26, 2020.

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