Monthly Archives: October 2011

Prediction or Prophecy?


While researching the 2007 mayoral election in Amsterdam, New York, I found a couple of interesting articles from the Recorder. The first, written as a letter to the editor, was published October 7, 2007:

Ann Thane not qualified to be mayor

 As a former member of the Walter Elwood Museum board of directors and as a non-city resident I would like to say that I was not sorry or surprised to read of Ann Thane’s departure from the museum. Simply by looking at the museum’s non-profit public information (form 990), which is available online, you can see that during most of Ann’s seven years, the museum has been run at a deficit, has had a minimal face-lift and the number of children that the museum serves has been steadily declining. Yes, she is an artistic person and has a pleasant and fun-loving personality. However, financially the museum is not in good shape. Ann has only managed a staff of two part-time people, of which one position has turned over several people within a four-year time frame. This does not quantify an effective manager and cannot even compare with the overseeing of a city’s personnel that includes eight unions. Had Ann implemented and followed some form of her four-point plan that she proposes to the residents of the City of Amsterdam, perhaps the Elwood Museum would not be on the verge of closing its doors yet again. As director of an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of heritage and tourism whose own vision statement is to “promote a dynamic, rich, unified community that values its heritage” Ann really stunned me when she commented to the press about tearing down one of the Town of Amsterdam’s most historic buildings, having a nearly 200-year history. Before city residents vote for the mayor take note, take action and vote for the person with the most qualification to run the city effectively, that in my opinion is John Duchessi.

TOM FOSTER, Amsterdam

The second, written by Recorder Staff as part of an editorial titled Duchessi is the right choice for Amsterdam,was published October 31, 2007. This is the section describing 2007 mayoral candidate Ann Thane:

Thane, former director of the Walter Elwood Museum, is another one of the quirks about this race. This is her first foray into the political arena — and she’s shooting way over her head for the top job. She has already defeated (by more than 200 votes) Duchessi in the Democratic primary. Her candidacy has created a lot of buzz. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. We have for years lamented the lack of effort on the part of the local party committees to drum up enough qualified candidates to run for office. So when someone does volunteer to put their ideas on the line and their personal life on hold to make a run for a thankless job, this should be greeted with respect and appreciation. That being said, we admire Thane for her willingness to try to make a difference. After speaking with her, however, we don’t believe she can. Our concerns are numerous and are topped by the fact that she has a real chance of winning — which could send the city into a downward spiral. With the swift pulling of the wrong lever, the part-time lack of leadership we have stumbled through in the past four years at City Hall could very well be replaced by a full-time lack of leadership. Substance is a key word in any election campaign, and is the main ingredient missing from Thane’s. She initially comes across as a fresh new package — the bright light so needed in this wounded city. The package, however, is empty. Her platform has no legs. She appears comfortable with her lack of accountability, is exceptionally vague on major issues, has no real idea of how toimplement any plan she may have for the future of Amsterdam, and gives little indication that she understands how city government operates. She says economic development efforts should be more coordinated but offers no solution (“It’s something we need to look at,” she says); she admits she hasn’t been privy to the latest city/town water negotiations (“I don’t know the whole picture”); she speaks of starting up a community business center but offers no concrete information about it (“We need to look at that”); she would consider rezoning Main Street west of the mall but is not clear on the how or why (“We need to start thinking out of the box and not recycling the same old ideas”). Thane admits the 8-to-5 aspect of the mayor’s job is attractive to her. She believes her talents are for leading, jokes that she suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, and can juggle many balls at one time. Thane appears hooked on marketing the city of Amsterdam, developing a Web site, and selling the city. And although she’s not entirely clear on who her target audience might be (“That needs to be assessed”), she is confident her marketing strategies would work. “You can sell ice to Eskimos. It worked for me,” she told us. Mind you, there is little substance to this plan, other than her interest in having town residents help pay to maintain the Web site. Or maybe AIDA could help pay for it. Her answer was vague. As if she, too, was hearing it for the first time. She’s enthusiastic, energetic and in way over her head. We wish her luck, however, because this is, after all, Amsterdam. And the electorate is impossible to handicap. Can this city afford to wait while its next mayor completes on-the-job training, or would it be in our best interests to choose an administration prepared to hit the ground running? The answer, and the future of the city, are in the hands of the voters.

It’s something we all need to look at!

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Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

Story about a Debate


This is a story about Amsterdam’s mayoral debate held October 25, 2011, in the conference room of Riverfront Center.  With questions and answers covered extensively in the local media and many tuned in to the live broadcast, this story is about what you didn’t hear.

The Recorder sponsored mayoral debate was a disappointment.  Nothing was gained in terms of useful information about the candidates that had not already been revealed.  The canned questions posed by Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel did not reflect what the actual voting public wanted to ask, instead were crafted by editorial staff of the Recorder, none of who live or vote in the City of Amsterdam.

The structure of the planned event leaked to the public weeks ago as described in my blog here.

This information irked Recorder Editor Charlie Kraebel who attempted to dispel the information in Tim Becker’s blog Pars Nova here.

The event was exactly as described before. Only the two candidates appearing on the ballot were allowed to take part.  Questions were limited to Recorder staff only.  The event was not open to the public, but limited to 20 invitees each from the participating candidates. It was broadcast live by WCSS.

I attempted to get an invite to cover the event early in the process to no avail.  I made a last-minute appeal on the WCSS Facebook page to get a seat at the debate.  About 5:30PM yesterday, 4th Ward Alderman candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler knocked on my door informing me that I had a seat because of a cancellation, that I should get to Riverfront Center at 6pm.

Arriving at the WCSS station, I saw Charlie and Rebecca chatting inside.  Kraebel glanced in my direction through the glass and then executed an eye roll towards Rebecca.  I ducked my head in the room and asked if this is where the debate was to be held. I was told it was in the conference room just down the hall and did not start until 7PM.

Arriving at the empty conference room, I saw some tables set up at the far end of the room with 40 chairs lined up in front of them, only filling up half of the room.  A newly employed security guard stood at the entrance.  WCSS employee and 1st Ward Alderman Joe Isabel walked by. I asked him about the cancellation and was told he has no say in who attends; it was up to the Recorder staff.

The security guard was handed a list of invited guests and was told to only admit people on the list and the press.  She was specifically told that the man in the plaid shirt (me) was not a member of the press. I was not alone in my predicament as others who were told to come as replacements were also left out.

The candidates soon appeared, each with their political posse.  It seemed as if the entire staff from the Recorder attended.  When it was clear that the 40 seats were not filled, those of us waiting were allowed in.

Recorder Publisher Kevin McClary introduced the event, reading from a prepared speech on his iPad he never made eye contact with the audience.  He is much smaller in stature and demeanor than I anticipated from the limited contact I have had with him through emails.  In sharp contrast, the physical appearance of the Recorder’s light-hearted humorist and Executive Editor Kevin Mattison is larger than his words.

The space agreed to by Recorder and WCSS staff was just not suited for a debate.  Although there was enough amplification, it was difficult to see the candidate’s faces. The two candidates sat behind a table at the same level as the audience. Some elevation would have helped. A good part of communication is taking in visual clues from facial expressions. This is one reason people are often misunderstood in blogs.  Personally I am much more adept with photography and visual communication than the written word, but most of you already know that.

The two candidates answered questions posed by Kraebel who sat at an adjoining table next to Rebecca who represented WCSS but remained silent during the debate.

Kraebel was robotic in posing the questions and never really probed deep enough.

Joe Emanuele has a poker face.  Dressed in a black suit, white shirt and red power tie with pumpkin, he answered the questions calmly with very little hand gesturing.  He did not react when confronted or criticized.  Thane dressed in a tweed business suit with modest jewelry and toned down makeup. Thane’s facial expressions while Emanuele spoke were very telling as she often smirked mockingly at the audience.  When speaking, Thane frequently gestures with hands and arms flailing, at times self-consciously pulling her arms down to her sides. Thane tends to be very emotional when speaking in public, sometimes choking up as if about to cry. I have noticed this behavior in past speeches and was clear during her final statement.  If you have never tried it, public speaking can be very difficult.

There was applause at different points in the debate for both candidates.

The one redeeming factor of this debate is that we heard Joe Emanuele answer questions about his candidacy. Other than his first mayoral announcement that I recorded here, we have not heard much from this candidate.

The third mayoral candidate who was not invited by the Recorder to take part in the debate is William D. Wills.  Not supported by either major political party, write-in mayoral candidate Wills was given equal time by WCSS and went on the air immediately after the conclusion of the Recorder’s debate, to answer the same questions posed to the other two candidates.  With the support of his wife and daughters present during the broadcast, Wills entertained each question read to him by his daughter.

While I feel that Wills is the best choice for Mayor of Amsterdam, he may have hurt his chances with his off and on again campaign and refusal to accept campaign contributions from political parties. He was the only candidate to answer questions I posed to all three.  Those questions and his answers can be found here.

It is no secret that I openly support write-in candidate William D. Wills for Mayor. While I appreciate the fact that an attempt was made by the Recorder to present Amsterdam with a mayoral debate, I cannot get past the fact that Wills was excluded.

The last Mayoral debate held on November 6, 2007, did include a write-in candidate not supported by a major political party.  I would also liked to have heard answers to some questions posed by some actual residents of the City of Amsterdam.

Categories: Amsterdam, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Amsterdam 2011 Mayoral Debate Photos


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Cats Love Autumn


Most people like autumn because of the change in color of the foliage. Personally it is the dramatic lighting changes that excite me but cats also love autumn. They just can’t help it. Cats are wired to react to small moving objects as a predatory instinct.  When autumn comes around, my cats become hyperactive, batting with their paws as if they are going to catch the falling leaves through the window glass. When I do take them outside it is sensory overload for them. There are just too many falling leaves to keep track of.  They chase the leaves and leap into the air tying to catch them before they hit the ground.
























Categories: Amsterdam, Pets, Photography | Tags: , , , ,

Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park II


Categories: Amsterdam, Art, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

City Administrators Respond to Locked Gate


My blog entry from yesterday describing the cancellation of the Riverfront Park Phase II dedication scheduled for today, also brought to light the continuing problem of access to Riverlink Park.  Since 2007, citizens have complained about locked gates preventing access through the pedestrian walkway that links the parking lot of Riverfront Center with Riverlink Park.

The following inquiry was sent to the Amsterdam Common Council:

From: Gerald Skrocki

Subject: Riverlink Park

Date: October 13, 2011 5:30:51 PM EDT

I went down to Riverlink Park to take some foliage photos today around 11AM. I got as far as the walkway gate only to find it chained and padlocked.

Why am I denied access to a city park? Who has the key to the gate?

Jerry Skrocki

To date I have received the following three responses from Amsterdam Common Council members.

From: William D. Wills

Subject: RE: Riverlink Park

Date: October 13, 2011 5:47:17 PM EDT

One of the quotes of mine that the Mayor is fond of is from Will Rodgers:

“Denial is not just the name of a river.”

From: Joseph M. Isabel

Subject: RE: Riverlink Park

Date: October 13, 2011 9:54:26 PM EDT

Gerald,

It used to be locked at night by the police. Sometimes it was left locked and the police had to be called.  Lately it has been left open. I really don’t know what the current policy is.

I think Rob from recreation could tell us. I will try to talk with him.  I don’t know if there is a city employee down there anymore.

Alderman-Joe

From: Ann M. Thane

Subject: Re: Riverlink Park

Date: October 14, 2011 11:16:43 AM EDT

The APD will ensure that the gate is opened in the morning and closed in at night. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. A.

Mayor Ann M. Thane, City of Amsterdam

This is an example of how effective communication can resolve issues.  My confidence in the process is temporarily restored.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to look into this issue and respond to my inquiry. A special shout out to Daily Gazette Reporter Ed Munger for contributing background information.

Update: Photo taken October 14, 2011, 1:30pm

Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Photography, Politics | Tags: , , , , , ,

Park Dedication Postponed Indefinitely


The dedication ceremony of Amsterdam’s Riverlink Park Phase II originally scheduled for October 1st, 2011, rescheduled for Friday, October 14, 2011, has now been postponed indefinitely according to Amsterdam City Clerk Sue Alibozek.

I had to call the clerk to ask about tomorrow’s scheduled event, because once again there was no notification on the City’s website or Facebook page. The City Clerk assured me that notice of the cancellation was sent to the Recorder. She went on to say that there was no new date for the event because of conflicting schedules of those who were to take part in the event.

I went down to the Riverlink park this morning to see its condition. It was a very gloomy and overcast morning, but spots of autumn color popped out along the river’s edge.

The walkway to the park was chained and locked.

Sculptor Alice Manzi’s commissioned piece The Painted Rocks of Amsterdam sits coldly facing the storm ravaged Mohawk.

The Chalmers building still waits for the wrecking ball…

…as politicians pander for your votes.

Update:

I sent an email to the Common Council inquiring why the gate to Riverlink Park was padlocked and asked who had the key. Apparently is OK to open the park for dignitaries, but not for ALL the citizens of Amsterdam.

The Mohawk River is our best asset and riverfront access was established with grant money. A locked gate does not provide riverfront access.

I received no answer to my questions from our elected officials. I did find an interesting 2007 article from the Daily Gazette written by star reporter Ed Munger, Jr.

Lock blocks access to park – Residents asking why Riverlink ‘s gate is closed

Daily Gazette, The (Schenectady, NY) – Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Author: EDWARD MUNGER Jr. ; Gazette Reporter
The sun was glistening off the Mohawk River in Amsterdam Monday as a cool breeze blew. For Luke and Nicole Sheldon, it seemed a perfect day for a trip to Riverlink Park with their two children, Liliana, 3, Kelly, 1, along with their beagle-mixed breed Jewel.The young couple walked about a mile from Orange Street in the city to the upper level of the Riverfront Center parking lot only to find the gate to the pedestrian walkway chained and locked .“We’re disappointed. We were hoping it was open so we could sit near the water,” Luke Sheldon said.

The park , situated between locks 10 and 11 of the historic Erie Canal, features a swing set for children, access for boaters and a link between the canal and the city.

“We had a long walk to get here, that’s the sad thing,” Sheldon said.

City officials contacted Monday indicated it was unclear exactly who is supposed to open the gate.

Nicole Sheldon said she stopped by the park with her friend a few weeks ago and they were unable to get in. She said the entrance gate to the pedestrian walkway was open but access at the end of the walkway was locked up.

Luke Sheldon said it was his understanding Riverlink Park is a public park paid for with public money and speculated perhaps the park is only open for special occasions.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Luke Sheldon said.

The Sheldons aren’t the only people who were unable to use the park in past weeks. Two weeks ago, a couple walking away from the gate declined to comment to The Daily Gazette but indicated they wanted to go into the park but couldn’t because it was locked .

In September, Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation board of directors president Paul Gavry said there were no reasons he knew of why the park would be locked .

Gavry and other members of the Waterfront Foundation could not be reached for comment Monday.

City officials on Monday indicated there aren’t necessarily any set hours for the public park to be open.

Several people are believed to have keys to the gates, but none was directly responsible for opening up the park .

Amsterdam 1st Ward Alderman Joseph M. Isabel on Monday said the pedestrian walkway and Riverlink Park are owned by the city and managed by the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation.

The walkway is accessed from the parking lots at the Riverfront Center through an agreement with the city, but the Riverfront Center management is not responsible for opening the gates, Isabel said.

Officials at the Riverfront Center and the Amsterdam Police Department have a key, Isabel said, but only for emergency access.

Isabel said in July and August, staff from Pasqualli’s Restaurant, who operate an eatery at the park , open up the gates.

A woman who answered the phone at Pasqualli’s Monday was unsure whether the parkside eatery was still serving.

“Personally, I feel they have the right to enjoy the park . What needs to be done is the powers that be have to sit down and establish hours for the park ,” Isabel said.

Amsterdam 2nd Ward Alderman Anthony “Babe” Pallotta said he thinks details of the park ‘s operation should be reviewed. “We should sit down and look at this and see what the heck’s going on here,” Pallotta said.

The park served as host to hundreds of people during the annual CanalFest celebration this summer in addition to an expanding slate of live music events that are drawing people to the city and region, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Auspelmyer said Monday.

“It’s a very nice park , with the CanalFest and summer concert series, people are starting to utilize it more,” Auspelmyer said.

Auspelmyer said the chamber has held light discussions with officials from the Riverfront Foundation hoping to organize signs or some means of letting boaters know what attractions are available in the city if they want to stop by.

The park was built primarily with about $3.5 million in state grants, officials said in the past.

Amsterdam Mayor Joseph Emanuele III on Monday said he was not aware the gates to the park were locked .

“Certainly, we want people to enjoy it in the daytime,” Emanuele said.

Emanuele said he heard that a boater on the canal stopped in the city and went to return to his boat but couldn’t because the gates were locked . The boater had to stay in a local hotel, Emanuele said.

“We should keep that park open, at least as long as the canal is open,” Emanuele said.

Categories: Amsterdam, Art, Media | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Wills Excluded from Planned Mayoral Debate


In a tersely worded letter to Recorder Publisher Kevin McClary, Amsterdam Mayoral Candidate and 4th Ward Alderman, William D. Wills expresses his displeasure after finding out he is excluded from a planned mayoral debate.

Mr. McClary,

Please explain why I am being eliminated from the debate that the Recorder and the Chamber are putting together. Although I am not a “main” candidate, the opportunity for the electorate to hear only from a past and present mayor and not from another who hasn’t held the position but is well qualified is discriminatory and shortsighted on your part. It also looks like the “fix” is in. I have always been loyal to your paper and open to your reporters when questioned on various issues. Although I don’t spend as much as others I have taken out ads even when I ran unopposed in the past just to show that support albeit in a small way. You tout yourself as a community paper but then play God when making decisions like the one you have made here, all in the secrecy which your paper despises when public officials even try to do that on some sensitive issues which I have always objected to. It seems strange to me that the one who has advocated for a debate all along is the one who gets eliminated regardless of not having the status of being a “main” candidate.

I request that you reconsider your position and Mr. Capobianco, temporary President of the Chamber, who has been copied here I request as a member of the Chamber that if the Chamber is involved that you advocate on my behalf to be part of the debate.

Thank you!

Alderman Wills

I spoke with Bill Wills today about this letter.  While the event has not yet been publicized, he found out through various reliable sources that the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, the Recorder, the Leader-Herald along with local radio stations WCSS and WVTL are in the final planning stages for hosting a debate between Amsterdam mayoral candidates Joe Emanuele and Ann Thane.

Neither Emanuele or Thane responded to my personal request to answer a series of questions I sent them with the intended purpose of helping voters choose the best qualified candidate. William D. Wills was the only candidate to both answer my questions and push for a mayoral debate as shown in my blog post 10 Questions With Bill Wills.

Aldermen Julie Pierce, Gina DeRossi, William D. Wills, Richard Leggiero listen to public comment concerning Thane's proposed elimination of Amsterdam's 3% tax cap.

William D. Wills is a valid write-in candidate for Mayor of Amsterdam and should definitely be included in any planned mayoral debate.  Enough of the partisan politics!

From Bill Wills Facebook page:

The Recorder coverage of the 2007 Amsterdam Mayoral Debate that included write-in candidate Diane Hatzenbuhler can be found here.

Update: Recorder sponsored debate to be held October 25th.

This scheduled mayoral debate will take place in Amsterdam’s Riverfront Center Conference room. The event is not open to the public and will only be attended by a maximum of 50 people who will need a special invite to attend. Mayoral candidate William D. Wills wanted to participate but was excluded by Recorder Publisher Kevin McClary.

Categories: Amsterdam, Media, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Raoul Wallenberg Day


Section 168-a, Article 7, New York Executive Law provides for days of commemoration in recognition and special honor of a person, persons, ideal or goal. These days are determined by proclamation of the Governor or resolution of the Senate and Assembly jointly adopted.

We are now mid way through Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15, 2011. This commemoration by proclamation of Governor Andrew Cuomo, mirrors a federal proclamation of the same name. There are several commemorative days in October in addition to the holiday of Columbus Day celebrated on Monday, October 10, 2011, this year. Many people have no knowledge of these commemorative days, because they are often forgotten after the initial fanfare is over.  Let’s face the facts, they are not official holidays that garner a day off from work! Those people tend to remember.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011, is officially Raoul Wallenberg Day in New York State.  This Swedish Diplomat was responsible for saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.

Raoul Wallenberg was born in Sweden on August 4, 1912, the son of a Naval Officer who came from a family of Sweden’s most famous bankers and industrialists. His father died just 3 months before his birth. His mother Maj Wising Wallenberg, remarried Fredrik von Dardel in 1918. Raoul’s grandfather, Gustav Wallenberg paid for his education which included studying architecture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he graduated with honors in 1935. Returning to Sweden with no job, his grandfather sent him to South Africa to sell building materials. Not satisfied with that job, his grandfather gave him a job in one of the family owned banks in Haifa, Palestine (now Israel).

In Palestine he met Jews that escaped Hitler’s Germany and was profoundly influenced by their stories. Having made several contacts in the business world he soon became joint owner of  the Mid-European Trading Company which brought him through several Nazi occupied counties. In Hungary he learned of the concentration camps through eye-witness reports of Auchwitz.  The Swedish legation in Budapest succeeded in negotiating with the Germans and issued protective passes that enabled Hungarian Jews to be treated as Swedish citizens.

In 1944 Raoul was soon appointed secretary of the US established War Refugee Board at the Swedish legation in Budapest. His mission was to rescue Jews. By the time he arrived in Hungary, Adolf Eichmann had already deported more than 400,000 Jews to concentration camps and only 230,00 Jews were left. Wallenberg began work issuing protective passes for the remaining Jews and creating protected “Swedish Houses” in Hungary. Through his unconventional efforts, thousands of lives were saved.

Raoul was eventually arrested by the Soviets and lost in the gulag. While the Russians claim he was executed July 17, 1947, there are many theories of what actually happened to him. In the 1990s information was released linking Wallenberg with the CIA and financing by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rescue the Jews.


Following his presumed death, Raoul Wallenberg received many humanitarian honors, including being named an honorary citizen of the US in 1981. Wallenberg was the second person receiving this distinction since Winston Churchill.  Five other honorary citizens have been named since.

In New York State, October 5, 2011, belongs to Raoul Wallenberg.

Categories: History, Law | Tags: , ,

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies


I am sharing this recipe from Cooks Illustrated because it lives up to the title of Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies. America’s Test Kitchen takes the Toll House Cookie recipe and using a little science, improves it for this recipe featured in Cooks Illustrated. You start with the following ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a medium size bowl with a whisk and set aside.

The following step is what gives these cookies their unique flavor. Heat 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until dark golden brown.

Transfer the browned butter to a heat proof bowl with a silicone spatula and stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.

Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.

Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process 2 more times until thick, smooth and shiny.

Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, sir in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans.

Roll the dough into balls about 3 tablespoons each. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet, not more than 8 per batch.

Cook for 10-14 minutes. Cookies will be golden-brown and puffy with set edges and soft middles.

My proportions were a little larger than the recipe called for producing 13 cookies that were 3 1/2 inches across.

The full recipe and shopping list for ingredients are available by clicking on the hyperlinks at the top of the post.

These are the best chocolate chip cookies I ever tasted!

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