Sunshine State News Blogs

Millions of Florida voters have turned out to vote early in this year's election, and while Republicans are turning out at a slightly higher rate than Democrats, Dems are closing in and narrowing the GOP lead.

As of Friday, 43.9 percent of GOP voters had turned out to vote either through early voting or absentee ballots compared to 38.7 percent of Democrats -- a 5.3 percent lead. The GOP lead has been decreasing daily. Yesterday, their lead stood at 5.9 percent. 

Still, Republicans lead early voting by 135,000 votes.  

Nearly every poll shows a neck and neck race between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist. 

Early voting ends Sunday, Nov. 2.
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Facing a tough challenge from Democrat Gwen Graham in next week’s election, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., is going on the attack in the final days of the campaign. This week, Southerland’s team launched a new TV ad trying to link Graham to Beltway Democrats and insisting she is looking to cut Medicare. 

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“Obama, Pelosi and Gwen Graham are putting your Medicare at risk,” the announcer of the ad says.

“Gwen Graham continues to lie about Steve Southerland’s record on Medicare,” said Luke Strickland, Southerland’s campaign manager, on Friday. “In fact, non-partisan fact checks have called her recycled attacks the ‘lie of the year’ and a ‘whopper [used] shamelessly to scare seniors.’ So why is Gwen Graham deceiving our seniors? Because she could never get elected if seniors knew the truth about Gwen’s support for devastating cuts to Medicare funding and Medicare Advantage benefits for Florida seniors.”

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Former NBA star Grant Hill sent a fundraising email out on behalf of former Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday night.

“I was on a lot of great teams in college and in the pros. But this fall I'm thrilled to be on the People's Team -- on Charlie's team,” Hill wrote. “I live in Florida and love this state, but Rick Scott is taking us in the wrong direction. He killed a job-creating high-speed rail project between my home city of Orlando and Tampa -- and he won't raise the minimum wage or fight for equal pay.”

A star player at Duke University, Hill was a seven-time All Star in the almost two decades he played in the NBA despite injury problems. Hill played for the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers.

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., went to bat for Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo, the Republican candidate running against U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., sending out a fundraising email for him. 

“Our country is at a crossroads. In November, we have a choice to make,” Rubio emailed on behalf of Curbelo on Thursday afternoon. “Obamacare, failed stimulus programs, job-killing tax hikes and wasteful spending are pushing this country in the wrong direction. The result of this election is absolutely crucial to the future of our children and our grandchildren.

“Carlos and I believe that the American spirit can thrive again, providing us security and prosperity for our families and our communities," Rubio added. “We need Carlos in Congress.”

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Why is it when you round up and shake out the fraudsters in Florida around election time, you've got a great chance of winding up with a contributor to a Charlie Crist campaign?

Well, it's happened again. I'm sorry -- I don't make this stuff up.

When Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest today of attorneys, chiropractors and clinic employees involved in an organized personal injury protection (PIP) fraud scheme, who turned up in handcuffs but Boca Raton attorney and Crist good-buddy Cory Meltzer. Meltzer just contributed $1,000 to Charlie Crist's campaign for governor.

According to Atwater's press statement, the arrests made this morning in Martin, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties follow a year-long undercover investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud.

“Today’s arrests are the culmination of more than a year of extensive and often dangerous undercover work that has exposed a crime ring responsible for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud,” said CFO Atwater.

During the investigation, multiple undercover detectives were embedded into clinics that were accepting patients illegally solicited. One clinic in particular was billing for services that were never rendered. On several occasions, patients were also found being coached to claim they were injured when they were not.

Besides Meltzer, others arrested this morning include chiroprator Roger Hughes Bell, Hobe Sound; attorney Brian Greenspoon, Boca Raton; Alejandro Marin, Homestead; and Douglas Santiago, Boynton Beach. Individuals with warrants out for their arrest include Christina Savoye, Stuart; and chiropractor Ryan Grand, Lake Worth.

I know this is something we don't usually talk about. (Shhh. Being press, I'm expected to parrot the Rick Scott-HCA litany of shame.) But here's the problem: the Crist Crony Wing of federal prison is getting crowded. One more of the former governor's buddies in the slammer makes how many? I'm losing count.

Read this story. Or this story. Or this story. Or this story. In the words of Dr. Watson, "Disturbing pattern here, Mr. Holmes."

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Time is ticking down until Election Day, and one of the most prominent figures in Florida politics will be lending a last-minute helping hand to Gov. Rick Scott as he makes his final push for re-election.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush will be hitting the campaign trail with Gov. Scott this weekend in South Florida, joining the governor on his bus tour to promote early voting. The two will appear together in Hialeah on Sunday. 

Bush has been a staunch advocate of Scott, appearing in recent campaign ads for the governor to express his support for Scott's re-election. 

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4.
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Opponents of Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana use in Florida, released a new TV spot on Thursday. The ad notes the opposition Amendment 2 has garnered from the Florida Medical Association, former Florida Supreme Court justices, editorial boards and law enforcement.

“Florida newspapers, doctors and sheriffs across the state, as well as seven former Florida Supreme Court justices, have all warned about the potential negative impacts if Amendment 2 passes," said Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Vote No on 2 Campaign, on Thursday. “There are no do-overs in the Constitution and there is just too much at stake to put this terribly flawed amendment in our state's Constitution. It is clear that the only choice is to vote no on Amendment 2.”




“And, with Election Day right around the corner, we will continue to push out the facts so that all Floridians are informed on the true intentions behind Amendment 2,” Bascom added.



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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) continues to pound away at former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate looking to topple Gov. Rick Scott in next week’s election. On Thursday, the RPOF released a new TV ad contrasting their records on the economy, taxes and higher ed costs.

"Go backward with Crist,” the narrator of the ad says. “Go forward with Rick Scott. That’s how this election with affect you.” 

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The American Conservative Union (ACU) announced on Thursday it was supporting Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., for a second term.

“I urge all conservatives to turn out and vote to re-elect Rick Scott on November 4th. Scott is a strong conservative who will help Florida continue to grow,” ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp said on Thursday. “Rick Scott not only talks about tax cuts, he cut taxes 40 times in four legislative sessions.”

Schlapp took aim at Democratic challenger former Gov. Charlie Crist.

“Charlie Crist, on the other hand, is everything about politics we all hate,” Schlapp said. “He is the ultimate show horse who will saying anything and do nothing. His victory would send a message of encouragement to low life, empty headed politicians to keep squirming until they fool enough people to grab power again."

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Prominent national pundit Larry Sabato and the Center for Politics released their congressional elections rankings on Thursday and they think two congressmen from Florida are going down in next week’s elections.

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., is now an underdog according to the new rankings as the race goes from “Tossup” to “Leans Democratic,” making Gwen Graham a favorite. Down in South Florida, Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo is now the favorite over U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., as the race goes from “Tossup” to “Leans Democratic.”

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., remains the favorite over former state Rep. Carl Domino as the race stays “Likely Democratic.”



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Want to see what PACs have donated the most money to Rick Scott and Charlie Crist in the Florida gubernatorial race through Oct. 3?

Brian Bandell in The South Florida Business Journal -- "Who's Funding Crist and Scott?" -- has it all, including this showing of more money poured into political action committees than has gone to candidates or political parties during the current election cycle.

Says the Journal, PACs and similar groups have raised $257.4 million, compared to $47.5 million for the Republican Party of Florida and $20.6 million for the Florida Democratic Party.

PACs with the most fundraising in Florida:

• Let's Get to Work (Rick Scott): $41.1 million
• Charlie Crist for Florida: $22.7 million
• NextGen Climate Action Committee: $10 million
• People United for Medical Marijuana: $6.5 million
• Drug Free Florida Committee: $4.7 million
• Florida's Water and Land Legacy (For Amendment 1): $4.5 million
• AFSCME Florida (union): $3.8 million
• Florida for All (Democrat leaning): $3 million
• Realtors Political Advocacy Committee: $2.9 million
• DGA-Florida (Democratic Governors' Association): $2.7 million.

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam looks like a lock for a second term according to a poll unveiled on Thursday.

Cherry Communications took the poll of likely voters for the Florida Chamber of Commerce Political Institute which shows Putnam taking 46 percent. Democrat Thad Hamilton musters up 30 percent in the poll. The Florida Chamber is backing Putnam for another term.

The poll of 508 likely voters was taken from Oct. 27-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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Florida state CFO Jeff Atwater looks poised to win a second term in next week’s election.

A poll released Thursday from the Florida Chamber of Commerce Political Institute and taken by Cherry Communication shows Atwater taking 50 percent. Democrat William Rankin takes less a third of those surveyed, pulling in 32 percent. The Florida Chamber is backing Atwater for another term.

The poll of 508 likely voters was taken from Oct. 27-Oct. 29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is running over former DCF Secretary George Sheldon, according to a poll released on Thursday.

The poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce Political Institute and taken by Cherry Communication shows Republican Bondi garnering 48 percent while Sheldon takes 32 percent. The Florida Chamber is backing Bondi for another term.

The poll of 508 likely voters was taken from Oct. 27-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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A new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce Political Institute shows Gov. Rick Scott with the lead over former Gov. Charlie Crist. The Florida Chamber is backing Scott for another term.

The poll of likely voters, taken by Cherry Communications, shows Scott ahead with 44 percent and Crist at 39 percent, outside the margin of error. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 4 percent

The poll of 508 likely voters was taken from Oct. 27-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce Political Institute released a poll of likely voters on Thursday which shows Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State, falling short of the 60 percent threshold it needs to pass. The Florida Chamber opposes Amendment 2. 

The poll, taken by Cherry Communications, finds 55 percent of likely voters back Amendment 2 but 40 percent oppose it.

The poll of 508 likely voters was taken from Oct. 27-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) took aim at former Gov. Charlie Crist on his education record in a TV ad released on Thursday. Crist takes on Gov. Rick Scott in next week’s election.

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“Charlie Crist ran a negative campaign, with false ads distorting events from 20 years ago,” the narrator of the ad says. “Charlie is going back 20 years ago because he doesn’t want to talk about 4 years ago, when he was governor. Governor Crist cut education by over $300 million. Under Governor Crist, tuition up 15 percent each year. Crist made bad decisions, so nearly a million people lost their jobs. Florida families paid the price. Charlie Crist. Slick politician. Lousy governor.”

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Florida TaxWatch released a report on Thursday showing how out-of-state patients seeking medical treatment in the Sunshine State helps the economy.

"Florida's world-quality health care professionals are a valuable resource for the state," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Thursday. "Highlighting Florida as a world-class vacation and medical destination will increase state revenue to the benefit of taxpayers and will firmly establish the state as a thriving location for health care professionals and businesses."

"Medical tourism attracts more than medical tourists,” Calabro insisted. “It attracts businesses, jobs, and encourages health care professionals to remain in Florida, while improving health care options for our Florida residents. Just like Florida's traditional tourism venues provide unique, resident-exclusive opportunities to Floridians, medical tourism facilities will provide added value to residents."

The report can be read here.

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As the Florida gubernatorial contest enters it final days, Quinnipiac University released a new poll on Thursday morning showing the race remains close. The poll of likely voters shows Democratic challenger former Gov. Charlie Crist with a slight lead over Gov. Rick Scott, thanks to a solid lead with independent voters who break the Democrat's way 47 percent to 29 percent. 

Crist takes 43 percent in the new poll while Scott stands at 40 percent, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 8 percent and 9 percent remain undecided. Last week, a Quinnipiac poll showed the race dead even with Scott and Crist mustering 42 percent each.

The poll of 817 likely voters was taken from Oct. 22-27 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.

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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) unveiled a new TV spot on Wednesday afternoon showing the many twists and turns former Gov. Charlie Crist has made in politics and on the issues. Crist, the Democratic nominee challenging Gov. Rick Scott in next week’s election, left the GOP in 2010 after being caught by Marco Rubio in the Republican U.S. Senate primary and continued his bid with no party affiliation. At the end of 2012, Crist joined the Democrats. 

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Is the needle moving in South Florida for two Democratic congressmen?

Prominent political pundit Stuart Rothenberg and Roll Call have made Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo a slight favorite over U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. In Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rankings released on Wednesday, the race was moved from “Pure Tossup” to “Tossup/Tilts Republican.”

Even as Garcia’s odds are lowered, another Democrat from South Florida continues to become more of a favorite. The rankings also moved U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy’s, D-Fla., odds up against former state Rep. Carl Domino. The race had been pegged as “Favored Democratic” but now it’s “Safe Democrat.”

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On Wednesday, legendary singer Pat Boone and the 60 Plus Association, a group focused on senior issues, cheered Carol Platt, the Republican candidate looking to upset U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., in next week’s election.

“I’m still singing at concerts, but today I’m singing the praises of Carol Platt,” Boone said on Wednesday. “Seniors can depend on Carol Platt.”

“Happy to have the support of music legend and senior activist Pat Boone and the 60 Plus Association!” Platt posted on Facebook in response to the news.

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Dr. Rudy Moise, best known in Florida political circles for his two unsuccessful bids in the Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Fredercia Wilson, D-Fla., announced on Wednesday he was backing Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

“Americans are suffering with pain every day and medical marijuana is a safe, measured and regulated way for patients to be comfortable and live life,” Moise said on Wednesday. “What voters don’t know is that communities with medical marijuana availability have actually seen decreases in crime, decreases in deaths from prescription painkillers, and even decrease in teenage use. We are just beginning to see the many benefits of this miracle medicine!

“The majority of Americans, more than 160 million in 23 states plus the District of Columbia, have the legal right to choose medical marijuana when recommended by their physician for allowed conditions,” Moise added. “However, in Florida the elderly and residents who seek to relieve their suffering with cannabis are considered criminals. This is just wrong and inhumane!”

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a leading congressional Republican on foreign affairs, came out swinging at the United Nations General Assembly after it voted against the U.S. embargo on the Castro regime.

“For the 23rd time, the representatives at the U.N. General Assembly have demonstrated their disconnection from the realities in Cuba by ignoring gross human rights violations and the lack of fundamental freedoms for the Cuban people as a result of Castro’s tyrannical regime,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday. “The international community should focus its efforts on being a voice for pro-democracy forces in Cuba and condemn the abuses perpetrated by the regime of Havana.

“The vote at the United Nations General Assembly negligently overlooks the duplicitous behavior of the Castro regime at the international stage when a shipment of military equipment originating from Cuba was intercepted in Panama destined for North Korea, in violation of several U.N. Security Council Resolutions,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “We commend and thank our close friend, the democratic state of Israel, for joining us in voting against this senseless resolution.”

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With less than a week left in a close election against former Gov. Charlie Crist, Gov. Rick Scott made a major jobs announcement on Wednesday with news that Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) will create 5,000 new jobs in Pensacola as it invests $350 million in the Panhandle to expand operations.

“Today’s announcement that Navy Federal will create 5,000 more jobs for Floridians is a huge win for the Florida families,” Scott said. “Because of companies like Navy Federal, we have created 651,300 private-sector jobs since December 2010, and we will continue working hard to create jobs so that every Floridian can live the American dream.”

"This is our largest expansion in Pensacola thus far," said Cutler Dawson, the president and CEO of Navy Federal, on Wednesday. “It underscores what we’ve long been saying about this great community -- it’s a great place to grow your business and a wellspring of talented people to employ. Continued growth for Navy Federal not only signifies the strength of the credit union, but also means upholding our high standards for member service. It takes the best to serve the best, and that’s why we continue to invest in Pensacola."

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Former Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled an ad featuring former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday -- -but the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) responded on Wednesday with a TV ad of its own showcasing where Crist once stood on Clinton. Back in 1998, when he was the Republican running against U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., Crist was a vocal opponent of Clinton, calling on the president to resign during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.



After being caught in the polls by primary rival Marco Rubio, Crist left the GOP during his second unsuccessful Senate bid back in 2010 to continue his campaign with no party affiliation. Crist joined the Democrats at the end of 2012 and is now his new party’s candidate against Gov. Rick Scott in next week’s election.

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A conservative like U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., is not exactly the type to praise liberals like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., and Gov. Bruce Rauner, D-Ill. But the North Florida congressman did exactly that, and threw in kind words for Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., and Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., for leading readiness efforts against the Ebola threat. Yoho also contrasted their records with President Barack Obama’s efforts in Florida.

“I commend the governors of New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, and any others who are doing what is necessary to protect their state by requiring a common-sense quarantine/monitoring period for possibly exposed people traveling from endemic regions,” Yoho said on Tuesday. “While a difficult choice, they are doing what is necessary to prevent the spread of this deadly disease, and doing their sworn duty to protect their citizens. I applaud their leadership in the face of the administration's failure to act in a timely manner. Ebola, like so many other issues, will not wait for the president to consult a focus group. So, I commend the governors of these states for taking the common-sense initiative and doing what needs to be done.”

Yoho has been a leading advocate for enacting a temporary travel ban on African nations impacted by Ebola.

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On Wednesday, with less than a week left in a close election, Gov. Rick Scott’s team continued to pound away at former Gov. Charlie Crist for taking $90,000 for his campaign from strip club owners. Crist has adamantly refused to return the money.

Scott’s team showcased three activists against human trafficking on Wednesday: Niki Cross, a survivor of human trafficking herself and the founder of STAAR Ministry, Trudy Novicki from Kristi House and Frances Lee of Safe and Free Florida. The three activists released a statement on Crist taking money from strip club owners:

Charlie Crist will say anything to get elected but actions speak louder than words. He has taken $90,000 from strip clubs to fund his campaign, but the problem isn’t the money. It is what it represents. Strip clubs devalue women and are often a place of prostitution, drug use and even human trafficking. Ending human trafficking in Florida won’t just happen because of stricter laws. It will happen when we have a cultural change that has zero-tolerance for any mistreatment, abuse or demeaning of women. That is what we are fighting for every day.

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Even as most polls show support for Amendment 2 -- a proposal to expand medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State -- sinking, United for Care, which is behind Amendment 2, released a poll on Tuesday showing the measure with its nose above water.

“With both sides competitive in outreach and advertising, this continues to be a tight race to watch over the final week,” United for Care insisted on Tuesday.

The poll from Anzalone List Grove Research shows Amendment 2 at 62 percent support. To pass, Amendment 2 needs 60 percent support at the ballot. More than a third of those surveyed -- 35 percent -- oppose Amendment 2 while 5 percent are undecided.

The poll of 834 likely voters was taken from Oct. 22-27 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.

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Half of Americans say they're not willing to pay any extra in taxes and fees to generate more money for schools, according to a poll released Tuesday from Rasmussen Reports. 

Although 50 percent said they wouldn't be willing to pay extra money in higher taxes and fees to generate more money for schools, nearly the same amount (48 percent) say they believe the local community doesn't spend enough on education. Twenty-six percent say local communities spend the right amount of money on education while a smaller percentage -- 16 percent -- say the local community spends too much on education.

Most respondents -- 69 percent -- said they would rate the performance of their child's school as either "excellent" or "good." Twenty-two percent said they'd rate the performance of their child's school as "fair" and only 6 percent would rate the performance of their child's school as "poor."

But when it came to rating the performance of elementary and secondary schools in America, the majority -- 66 percent -- rated schools as either "fair" or "poor" while 26 percent rated schools as "good." Only 4 percent said the performance of America's elementary and secondary schools was "excellent."

The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted Oct. 22-23 by Rasmussen Reports.
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