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Picture It: The Festival of Enlightenment

Posted By Love and Sex on May 25, 2010 at 11:40AM

Lanterns hang outside a Sri Lankan shop to sell for Vesak, the Buddhist festival that celebrates Buddha attaining enlightenment in his lifetime. Though Buddha's birthday is May 21, the festival begins each year on the full moon, which this year falls on Thursday, May 27.

Re: The Soul

Posted By hypnoticmix on May 3, 2010 at 2:08PM

I listened to this very insightful sermon regarding the unfoldment of the spirit and bringing forth one's gifts. I thought twice about sharing it here but then thought well why not. We all have different faith backgrounds but there's no denying universal understanding either. I tried to post the video directly but it kept automatically starting so you'll have to click on the page link below. Once it's open go to the bar underneath the video and move the little white box to the 1hr. 3min. mark. That's where the sermon starts. Everything before that is choir music, announcements and readings. The sermon runs 35-40min so probably a good idea to listen when you can get into it enough to be hooked or not.


Iran and France Both Want to Control a Woman's Dress

Posted By Love and Sex on Apr 28, 2010 at 1:45PM

An Iranian cleric made headlines and set off a boobquake when he recently claimed immodest dress causes earthquakes. Now, Tehran's police chief is taking on this "threat" by arresting "suntanned" women. The chief explained:

"The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehaviour by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values. In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins."

Hm. A national crackdown on a type of female appearance sounds familiar. Which brings us to France.

Just like in Iran, French leaders worry that a certain type of dress — namely the Islamic burqa and niqab — threatens the country's "values." Despite warnings that a ban would violate France's constitution, President Sarkozy is moving forward with a law that would prohibit women from wearing these Islamic veils in public. Those in favor of it, such as the country's immigration ministers, say face-covering veils "run counter to national values." Supporters say the law would help prevent the subjugation of women, something France cannot stand for, although opponents say it would further isolate some Islamic women.

The two laws certainly have their differences, but wouldn't a law telling women what they can and cannot wear bring France's national values closers to the values of Iran?

A postmodern Christian perspective on social justice: Part 4 - Why should it matter to me?

Posted By UnDave35 on Mar 27, 2010 at 8:34PM

I recently spoke with a very conservative friend to get his thoughts on the idea of the government being involved in social justice issues. He, like many traditional, conservative Christians, believes the federal government should have extremely limited, if any, involvement in such issues. When I asked him why, his answers echoed that which I have heard many times before: 1) Why should we go into deeper debt to help other countries when our own country and people are struggling so much now? 2) Why should the government be allowed to tell me what and how I am to spend my money? I make my money, so I should be in charge of how and where I spend it. 3) America wasn’t always the great nation it is today; it had the same struggles and hardships that other poor countries today face. But over many years, with hard work and determination, we have emerged victorious and other poor countries should be able to do the same.

Especially considering today’s economy, it’s easy for people to feel that America needs to tighten up its belt, so to speak, and worry about ourselves first. And to be honest, it’s understandable, to a degree, why people would feel that way. However, it’s important to remember something: regardless of how bad things are here, for most people in the U.S., it’s still a lot better than the majority of the world, and as long as we have anything to share, in faith, we should do so. Deuteronomy 15:7 says, “If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.” Additionally, God commanded tithes from His followers to help the poor, widow and orphan. He also commanded, among other things of the same nature, for the corners of the fields not to be harvested or the crops to be gleaned so that it would be left for the needy and the stranger. There will always be lean times, and I’m not about “guilting” people into giving. But in hard times, giving can become an act of faithfulness. And “giving” doesn’t have to necessarily equal “money.” Perhaps during those lean times, it might be easier to give of your time by serving a meal to the homeless or even cleaning out the closets to donate items. But my guess is, and this is a harsh judgment on my part I’ll admit, that for most of those people who are complaining about how, in such hard times, we should take care of “our own,” they are, in actuality, doing very little in the way of helping “our own” anyway. It has always amazed me how that some of the people who have the strongest opinions about how social justice should look (or rather not look) have not once stepped out of their house in any kind of service to the poor.

A much more difficult question to tackle is why should the government be allowed to spend “my” money on social justice issues? My conservative friend that I mentioned above put it this way, “If a single person makes the decision to put $10,000 on a credit card and go into debt to give it to the poor, well then, that’s their decision. But when the government gives money to foreign aid, furthering the U.S.’s debt, it’s no longer one person’s decision, but someone making a decision for all of us.” His logic is understandable to be sure, but with the huge sums of money the government spends on ridiculous things, I’m sure not about to argue about money they spend of social justice concerns. For Pete’s sake, I just read today that at a recent conference NASA spent $66 per person per day for “light refreshments” of soda, coffee, fruit, bagels and cookies. When confronted with spending $62,611 on snacks for 317 people for three days, NASA’s response was that they hadn’t “price shopped.” No kidding! If people are going to complain about how the government spends taxpayer money, they should start with a long list of other things before getting to aid for the poor.

Which brings us to the last point – the “if-people-just-worked-hard-enough-they-could-make-something-of-themselves-one-day-too” argument. In my opinion, this is such a narrow, (perhaps unknowingly) narcissistic worldview. Another conservative friend of mine recently reasoned another often heard argument (to paraphrase) that although God commanded His people to care for the poor He never said the government should do it, and additionally, people need to work for self worth and have a job and not just rely on federal funding. So, let’s tackle the government comment first. Originally, in the very beginning, God never intended for His people (the Jews specifically) to have a government, for the Church was to be their “government” and God, their King. However, because the Jews wanted an earthly king, God made provisions for them. In the book of Romans, we’re told that God has appointed all authority, and if the government is an extension of its people, then the government should also, in concern for the global community, make responsible decisions and policies to fight against injustices in the world. As I pointed out in the last article, this is not a call for Socialism, Communism, Name-your-ism. But rather it is a call for justice: people receiving what is due to them, what is right and proper, in the context of their own community and people.

I'll admit that I have a harder time politely discussing the “they-should-just-get-a-job” argument. I’ll start by making the assumption that people who say this aren’t talking about people who are starving to death and dying of treatable diseases in impoverished, developing countries. Although, if you recall my first friend that I mentioned really sees no difference in the ability of America (and thus Americans) to make herself great with hard work, values, morals, and good work ethic and any other developing country to do so, given enough time. I’ll only briefly pause here to mention that this logic only works with all things being equal – like availability of natural resources, a non-corrupt, non-oppressive government, security from warfare, readily available water, food, and shelter, etc. Suffice it to say that, in my opinion, all things considered are not equal, and it is unjust to say that these countries should simply be able to dig themselves out from the vice-like grips of generations of poverty with some good work ethic, morals and values.

Now certainly, in America, there are people who battle addictions and have made other poor choices that have directly or indirectly resulted in their poverty. And although I would argue that those people are just as much made in the image of God as you or I and therefore deserving of our love and service, it is somewhat comprehensible, I guess, that the general public would have little empathy for such individuals. But let me tell you this brief story: last Tuesday I had the remarkable opportunity to serve the homeless of Indianapolis at the Indy Homeless Connect event at the Convention Center (more on this experience in a later article.) About 1,000 of our homeless neighbors were served that day and of every volunteer I talked to who had spent the day talking with these people, the one thing we heard over and over again from everyone was this: “If I could just find a job, things would be better. I just wish I had a job.” Yes, there are people who abuse the welfare system, and I, like most people in the U.S. I would guess, believe it needs a serious reform overhaul. But should we really shut our eyes, and worse our hearts, to the poor simply because we believe that some people are abusing the system? Everyone has heard of Sodom and Gomorrah. It has gone down in history as a “shining” example of God’s wrath upon ungodly people, and the conservative folks have clasped onto it as proof of God’s disgust and punishment of homosexuality. And while it is true that there were many sins being committed by the people there, listen to what Ezekiel says about their sinfulness, “'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). So many conservative Christians today are wholly (and many times only) concerned with the decline of morals and sexual immorality in our country. While those are certainly disheartening and troubling, the sexual impurity the Bible speaks against is mostly our own. A far more serious concern should be what will happen to us, our churches, our country, and our world if we don’t fulfill the sacred mandate that has been faithfully entrusted to us by God to care for the least of these. 

A postmodern Christian perspective on social justice: Part 3 - Making just that which is unjust

Posted By UnDave35 on Mar 27, 2010 at 8:21PM

At this point there should be little argument to the fact that social justice is a biblical mandate given to us by a God, who has a special heart and concern for our brothers and sisters who are lowest on the social ladder, so to speak. Even Glenn Beck, in his most recent interviews attempting to clarify his position against social justice, has stated that he does believe that God calls us to care for the poor. But any agreement between the conservative Christians Beck represents and the “progressive” Christians he rails against stops at doctrine. Conservatives and progressives may agree that God calls His followers to care for the poor, but what that care should be and how it should look is a different story entirely.

Most traditional Christians believe that care for the poor should reside solely in the hands of the Church and other non-governmental private, not-for-profit agencies, which, given the government’s bureaucratic inefficiencies, would seem to be an ideal way to care for the poor on a national or local level. And there are probably some extremely liberal Christians, who believe that the government should be, if not solely, then largely responsible for doling out funds to aid the poor (although, I would argue, these people would in fact represent the Socialist ideals that Beck is so wary of). But why does it have to be this “all-or-nothing” mentality…why can’t there be some sort of middle ground?

It would be imprudent, and unbiblical I would argue, to place the entire burden of caring for the poor on the shoulders of any government. Followers of Christ have been given a special mandate by God to care for the poor, having been entrusted with the holy calling to care for “the least of these.” It would be negligent and sinful for Christians to shirk the sacred responsibility of caring for our brothers and sisters by passing the buck to the government. As Dave Rodriguez, senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Noblesville, puts it, “We [God’s people] are God’s Plan A in caring for the poor. There is no Plan B.” God would not have included passage after passage, verse after verse in the Bible regarding His plans for His followers to care for the poor, if it was something to be taken lightly.

And certainly there are many things the Church (big “C” church as in the entire body of believers) does a wonderful job at. The Church has always been at the forefront of social justice issues, speaking out against slavery, violence against women, and the disregard for basic human rights. And although some would argue that the Church has done more harm than good, I would resolutely disagree. Yes, there have been horrible and unfortunate instances in the Church’s history where the people of God have failed miserably, but it was the people who failed, not God. The Church has championed the cause of the poor, and its charitable generosity is unmatched. Right here in Indianapolis, Christian organizations like Wheeler Mission, Shepard Community, and Third Phase Food Pantry (just to name a few) are serving the poor in our communities on a daily basis and succeeding in the fight against poverty.

However – and here’s where the big hullabaloo will ensue – there are certain aspects of the fight for social justice that many believe could better be championed by a large and powerful institution, such as a government. While the Church is wonderful at feeding, clothing and loving the poor, how much influence and power does it have over changing the global economic trade policies that work to the benefit of the richest countries, often to the detriment of the poorest countries? How much power does the Church have to send immediate, large amounts of monies and quantities of disaster relief supplies and military personnel to a poor country that has just been devastated by a natural disaster? How much power does the Church have in preventing powerful countries from imposing detrimental stipulations on impoverished countries in order for them to receive aid and debt relief? My point is simply that there are instances in which the government could and should be a useful ally in our fight against global poverty. I, by no stretch of the imagination am claiming to have all of the answers to ending world poverty; I don’t think anyone does. What I am asking though is this: how many people are dying daily from poverty while Conservatives and Progressives argue about who should take care of them? If we as Christians take our command to care for the poor seriously, does it matter more that one group happens to be more capable of handling a specific social justice situation or that it simply gets done well? If our government is an extension of its people, then I don’t have a problem with electing officials who, I believe, will best promote the social justice agenda. (And no, contrary to what some people may believe that does not mean Socialism.) Do I think the government is the best equipped to handle all social justice issues? No. Do I think that the Church is God's Plan A in fighting poverty? Yes. Do I think that in today’s global community and economy my government should be making responsible decisions and policies to fight against the injustice of global poverty? Absolutely.

We are no longer a detached world of individual, non-connected countries. Technology and communications have made us a globally, interconnected community. We are now acutely aware of atrocities and injustices going on in other parts of the world, and with that knowledge comes responsibility. And when we turn a blind eye to the injustices of the world, we are just as culpable as those who are perpetrating the injustices.

A postmodern Christian perspective on social justice: Part 2 - Unjust systems of the world

Posted By UnDave35 on Mar 27, 2010 at 8:12PM

Why are poor people poor? It's a simple question, with a very un-simple answer. In fact, if you asked twenty different people that very question, you would most likely get twenty different answers. On your extreme right, you have people like Bill Cunningham, who just this past January stated on his nationally syndicated radio program that "poor people were not and are not poor because they lack money. They're poor because they lack values, ethics, and morals." And on your extreme left, you have people who say that the poor are poor due to absolutely no fault of their own, but rather because of oppression by the wealthy and lack of opportunity. The truth of the matter is that there is no one-right answer. Certainly, there are people who are poor due solely to their own bad choices. But consider these statistics on world poverty from Global Issues:

  • Almost half of the world - over three billion people - live on less than $2.50 (yes, that's the equivalent of $2.50 spent in the U.S.)
  • The poorest 40% of the world's population accounts for 5% of the global income, while the richest 20% of the world's population accounts for 75% of the global income.
  • One billion of the 2.2 billion children in the world live in poverty - that's every second child living in poverty.
  • Over 80% of all of humanity in the world lives on less than $10 a day.

Considering this, can anyone honestly argue that 80% of the world's total population is simply lacking in values, ethics and morals? Or is it possible that there are systems in this world that are unjust? That is what lies at the heart of the social justice issue, identifying those systems in the world that are unjust and attempting to do something to correct them. The late Roman Catholic priest, Helder Camara, a champion of Brazil's poor and a founder of Latin America's "liberation theology," once said, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."

This is precisely the kind of criticism progressive Christians face today when they ask these same types of questions regarding the poor. Yet despite such criticism, it does not diminish the fact that Christians are called by God to stand up and speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is not a covert attempt to cultivate and spread Socialism or Communism (as some would imply) to point out injustices against our brothers and sisters around the world. With 80% of the world living at some level of poverty, this is an issue that should affect us all. We should all be concerned with the unfair and unjust global trade policies that further indebt poor countries to the benefit of the richest countries (for more information check out the series on Trade Justice). And because we have the benefit of residing under one of the greatest governments in the world (regardless of whether you fall to the Left or Right), we should be especially concerned for our brothers and sisters who suffer under the corruption and oppression of their own governmental dictators and regimes. And because the poor are a special concern of God, it is fair and right and proper to point out the following systems of injustice:

WATER & SANITATION - 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to clean water and 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. Close to half of all people in developing countries at any given time are suffering from health problems caused by water and sanitation deficits.

SHELTER - 1 in 3 children (640 million) in developing countries do not have adequate shelter.

FOOD - around 27-28% of children in developing countries are underweight and stunted due to lack of food; approximately 790 million people in the developing world are chronically undernourished.

EDUCATION - 121 million children worldwide have no access to education; almost 1 billion people are unable to read at a basic level or sign their name.

MEDICAL CARE - 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized; 15 million children are orphaned each year due to HIV/AIDS; in 2003 alone, 10.6 million children in developing countries died before they reached the age of five; 40 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS; every year there are 350-500 million cases of malaria (which is completely preventable and treatable) and over 1 million deaths.

SECURITY - The Coalition for International Justice estimates that over 400,000 people died in the 2004 genocide in Darfur, with two million of its six million population having fled their homes; between 500,000 and 1 million were killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, almost 20% of the country's entire population.

INEQUITY - the wealthiest 20% of the world account for almost 80% of all private consumption, while the poorest 20% of the world account for only 1.5% of all private consumption; for every $1 in aid developing countries receive, over $25 is spent of debt repayment; 12% of the world's population uses 85% of its water; and lastly, consider these global spending priorities in 1998:

  • Cosmetics in the U.S. - $8 billion USD
  • Ice cream in Europe - $11 billion
  • Pet foods in the U.S. and Europe - $17 billion
  • Business entertainment in Japan - $35 billion
  • Cigarettes in Europe - $50 billion
  • Alcoholic drinks in Europe - $105 billion
  • Military spending in the world - $780 billion

Now, compare that to what is estimated as additional costs needed to achieve worldwide access to basic social services in all developing countries:

  • Basic education for all - $6 billion
  • Water and sanitation for all - $9 billion
  • Reproductive health for women - $12 billion
  • Basic health and nutrition - $13 billion
Posted By Yogaforlife on Mar 23, 2010 at 10:25AM


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A Postmodern Christian perspective on social justice: Part 1 - What is social justice?

Posted By UnDave35 on Mar 18, 2010 at 8:06AM

In light of Glenn Beck's recent comments regarding social justice and the Church, there has been a lot of controversy, and speculation for that matter, regarding what a truly biblical view of social and economic justice should look like. Some, like Beck, would argue that God isn't the least bit interested in American or global political matters and politics, therefore, they should have no part of our religion. There are others, however, who believe that not only are Christians called to care for the poor, but that social and economic justice for the poor is fundamentally central to the heart of the Christian faith.

Although Beck incorrectly attributes the term "social justice" to Father Charles Coughlin, the phrase was actually used almost a hundred years earlier in the 1840s by the Jesuit priest Luigi Taparelli (and found even earlier than that) and was based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. Father Coughlin (1891-1979) was a quite controversial Roman Catholic priest, who reached the zenith of his radio-broadcasting career in the 1930s, "preaching" about political and economic issues rather than religious ones. Although an early proponent of Roosevelt and the New Deal, Coughlin quickly became one of FDR's harshest critics (because he and the New Deal weren't liberal enough) and eventually used his radio program to espouse his extremely controversial anti-Semitic and extreme Socialist beliefs, as well as to empathize with and justify the policies of Hitler and Mussolini. The slogan for Coughlin's campaign and radio program was unfortunately, "Social Justice." And for some unknown reason, this is the specific context and skewed definition of social justice that Beck has chosen to focus upon. While there may be a small number of politicians and "progressives" (as Beck refers to liberal Christians), who dishonestly use the term "social justice" in an attempt to corrupt America with Socialist ideology (as Beck fears), it should be overtly obvious that to the vast majority of Christians today what Father Coughlin espoused is not a true biblical perspective on social justice.

Ok, so let's go straight to the source…what does God have to say on the subject then?


Psalm 140:12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.



Psalm 31:8-9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.


Jeremiah 22:3 Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

Proverb 29:7 The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern.


1 John 3:17 But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

And that's just five of literally hundreds of verses regarding God's concern for the poor! It should be obvious, even to the casual reader, that God's heart for poor is one of the most essential and fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. As John Wheaton puts it in his article, A Biblical View of Social Justice, "In matters of social concern, the biblical Christian should know God's heart well. God has a special interest in the welfare of those at the lowest end of the social ladder: widows, orphans, legal aliens, and others who are oppressed or disadvantaged in society." Now that being said, my guess is that you would be hard pressed to find a Christian who didn't believe that we are called to care for the poor. So, if that is the case, then why all of the controversy over social justice?

The biggest dispute regarding social justice between more traditional Christians and more Postmodern (progressive) Christians seems to stem not from the fact of whether or not we are called to care for the poor, but rather how that "care" should look and what form should it take. Before we get into that, however, a good definition of biblical social justice is necessary. Interestingly, I have found that when you ask people to define "social justice," they usually talk about providing food for the hungry, clothes to the naked, homes for the homeless, etc. I would counter, though, that these acts are acts of charity and not social justice. Charity, by definition, is generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless. Social justice, on the other hand, put into the simplest terms is this: people getting what they are due (what is right and proper) in the context of their own people and community. It does not mean that everyone in world will or should have the exact same. It does mean, though, that everyone in the world should have the same basic human rights of clean water, food, shelter, medical care, security, and dignity - if for no other reason than they too were wonderfully made in the image of God. Allow me to state this as unambiguously as possible - social justice is not Socialism, Communism, Nazism or any other -ism. It is not a call for the "redistribution of wealth" that Beck, and others like him, assume it to be and are so fearful of. The term "social justice," when used today by the body of believers, untainted, in its purest, biblical sense simply means setting out to right the systems of this world that are wrong - to make just that which is unjust. It is simply the phrase that we Postmodern "progressives" use to describe the unique mandate given to us by God to care not just for the physical needs of the "weakest of these," our brothers and sisters here in American and throughout the world, but "to do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed."

The next three articles in this series will cover these three social justice questions: 1) What are the systems of this world that are unjust? 2) How should we go about fixing them? 3)Why should it matter to us?



Top Catholic exorcist: Pedophiles tempted by Satan, not possessed

Posted By Yogaforlife on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:48AM

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- "The devil tempts everyone -- people in politics, in economics, in sport. And naturally, he tempts, above all, the religious leaders, so you shouldn't be surprised if the devil tempts those in the Vatican. That's his job."



Father Gabriele Amorth isn't speaking metaphorically when he says that. The 85-year-old priest means people can be tempted and literally possessed by Satan.



"It's not my opinion: I'm saying that if you believe in the Gospels, you believe in the existence of the devil, in the devil's power to possess people," he said in an interview with CNN.



The faithful believe "that there are people possessed by the devil, and ... in the power of exorcism to liberate from the devil," he said.



And as the chief exorcist of the Roman Catholic Church, it's his job to expel the devil when someone is possessed. Amorth, the founder of the International Association of Exorcists, has performed more than 70,000 exorcisms in his career, he estimates.



But there is a difference between possession -- where the devil takes hold of someone's body and actions -- and temptation, where Satan lures a person into doing evil, he said.



As a child abuse scandal sweeps across Europe, with accusations being made against priests in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, Amorth said the pedophiles are tempted, not possessed.



He has never done an exorcism on a child molester, he said.



"I have carried out exorcisms on some priests who had been molested by the devil," he said, without going into details.



"But cases of pedophilia exorcised, no. ... Pedophiles are not possessed by the devil, they are tempted by the devil," he said.



"They don't need exorcism, they need to be converted, to be converted to God, that's what they need. They need to confess, they need true penitence, true repentance, that's what they need. They're not possessed."



But no one is too strong a believer to be possessed, said Amorth, who is employed by the Roman diocese.



"Nothing occurs without the permission of God, and he allows even holy people, even saints, to be possessed by the devil," he said.



But, he added, he sees no evil in the Vatican today: "I just see good people in the Vatican. People of prayer, holy people, I don't see any evil."







German Priest in Church Abuse Case is Suspended

Posted By Yogaforlife on Mar 16, 2010 at 5:26AM

The priest in question was suspended (3?) days ago by the archdiocese.  The story says the Pope knew about this priest and hwen allegations occured, he moved him to another place rather than suspend him completely.


From article:


"In 1980, the future pope (Benedict) reviewed the case of Father Hullermann, who was accused of sexually abusing boys in the Diocese of Essen, including forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex. The future pope approved his transfer to Munich. On Friday, a deputy took responsibility for allowing the priest to return to full pastoral duties shortly afterward. Six years later, Father Hullermann was convicted of sexually abusing children in the Bavarian town of Grafing. "


Link to the original article in the NYT (it's long that's why I did not post it):





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