Update 249


Satan Wants You!

On June 24, 2006, Edwin Pope will give the sermon, titled “Satan Wants You!”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Enjoy Sports–The Right Way

by Norbert Link

As I watch the soccer matches on TV during the world’s greatest
sports’ event–the Worldcup 2006, which is being held in Germany–I
find myself cheering for “my” teams. Actually, I have been cheering for
two teams–the Germans and the Americans. Having grown up in Germany, I
know what the German soccer team is capable of accomplishing–but
having lived for over 25 years in the United States and having seen the
rise of the US national team from insignificant beginnings to a
respectable level, I hoped that they would do well during this Worldcup
(which is only held every four years for one month).

At the same
time, I am reminded of the former days when–at least sometimes–teams
played with joy, dignity and class. I remember many occasions when
German or English players helped an injured opponent, while the game
was going on. And I know how impressed I was as a child or young man
when I saw the team’s fans applaud the opponent for a good
accomplishment. While some national teams were known for playing
somewhat “unfair,” there were other national teams which hardly, if
ever, fouled their opponent. Especially England’s teams and fans were
known for a sportsmanship and gentleman-like attitude–but today,
English fans are considered to be amongst the worst in the world.

all sports have terribly deteriorated, and soccer is by no means an
exception. Although originally designed as a “no-touch” game, which did
not permit a player to as much as intentionally “touch” another player
(except for using one’s shoulder to touch the opponent’s shoulder), we
see more and more “professional fouls,” and we are used to referees
issuing warnings and giving out yellow cards and even red cards
(signifying expulsion from the game).

Therefore, some have
concluded that God does not approve of any competitive sports. But this
conclusion is not necessarily correct.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-26,
Paul draws a spiritual analogy to competition in sports. This passage
does not seem to allow for the conclusion that such competition is
necessarily wrong. Paul says:

“Do you not know that those who run
in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that
you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate
in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for
an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty…”

draws another analogy in the book of Psalms, comparing the sun with “a
bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to
run its race” (Psalm 19:5).

As is true for every walk of life,
God wants us to enjoy what we are doing (Ecclesiastes 8:15; 9:7, 9;
11:9). This applies to both a team and supporting fans. But God does
not want us to have an attitude of harming or injuring an opponent, or
of wishing that he be injured so that “our” team will get an advantage.
When “competition” reaches that destructive level, it is wrong. But to
want “our” team to win in a game is not wrong. And “our” team had
better make every right effort to win, so that it is deserving of “our”
support (Ecclesiastes 9:10). But once a game is finished, we are to go
on with life and our responsibilities. I remember Mr. Armstrong
commenting once that he was enjoying watching a basketball game with
the L.A. Lakers, but once the game was over, he would return to his
duties. Some get so involved in the support of their team that they get
all upset and can’t sleep at night if their team has lost. They might
even get drunk to “forget their pain.” That, of course, is not
indicative of a healthy and Christian attitude.

Sports can be
good entertainment. They can contribute to our health and relaxation.
They can be exciting. But they must never take first place in our
lives. Recently, an overseas Worldwide Church of God congregation
reportedly changed the time for their worship services, so that the
members could watch a soccer game of their national team during the
Worldcup. This, of course, shows that the heart of these people is
really not where it should be. And even though watching sporting events
can be good and clean fun, that should be all. In this world, “the race
is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong… Nor favor to men
of skill; But time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

let’s enjoy sporting matches in a right way, while never getting our
priorities mixed up. And if we do it the right way, watching sports can
be entertaining, exciting and relaxing at the same time.

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German and American Patriotism–Right or Wrong?

On June 14, Der Spiegel Online published an article by American journalist Marc Young. In the article, Young discusses Germany’s and America’s patriotism and argues that America has become the “new Germany”:

“The World Cup has caused Germany to break out into a patriotic burst of black, red and gold not seen since reunification 16 years ago. Many Germans are confused. Some are even concerned… Sometimes it would be easier to just be Swedish. Aside from getting uncontrollably drunk on Baltic Sea ferries, the Swedes haven’t really annoyed anyone for over a century. The times when Scandinavian armies or hordes of pillaging Vikings descended upon Europe are far enough back that no one begrudges the friendly Swedes their orgy of yellow-and-blue-colored patriotism whenever their national soccer team steps onto the pitch…

“Of course, supporting the national soccer team has long been the most innocent way for Germans to feel good about their country. But it’s still easy to believe that what we might all be witness to this summer is nothing less than a watershed in attitudes towards patriotism and pride in Germany. Six decades after the horrors of World War II and 16 years after reunification, it’s okay to be German again. As an American, I can attest that’s a positive thing. There’s absolutely no reason why Germans shouldn’t be able to feel good about their modern and tolerant country. Germany is still far from perfect, as I have written here before, but the best way to cut neo-Nazis and other mutants off at the knees is to avoid abandoning love of country and patriotism to right-wing extremists…

“… while in Germany it’s becoming easier to wave the flag, unfortunately the situation is exactly the opposite for me and many of my American countrymen. When it comes to being disliked abroad, it sometimes feels like America has become the new Germany. When you’re from a large and mighty country, nobody likes to see you throw your weight around and then gloat about it. When Swedes revel in unabashed national euphoria it’s cute. But when your country invades another under false assumptions and is reviled by many around the globe as either the ‘Great Satan’ or the rotten source of imperialistic capitalism, flying the Stars and Stripes isn’t easy. The official bus transporting the US soccer team during the World Cup is the only one out of 32 that isn’t painted in the country’s national colors…

“So Germans should be happy they can freely cheer for Michael Ballack and team while swaddled in black, red and gold for the next three weeks. But before they get misty-eyed about the Fatherland, they should thank US President George W. Bush. Ironically enough, his decision to invade Iraq has helped many Germans feel proud — as well they should — about their country and its strong opposition to the war. Besides, patriotism isn’t about some misguided ‘my-country-right-or-wrong’ type of attitude. I can vehemently disagree with US apologists for embarrassments like Guantanamo Bay exactly because I believe the sort of legal limbo the prison camp creates goes against the very principles that actually make me proud of my country.”

It is remarkable that the United States of America has become so unpopular in the world. But there are reasons for this astonishing development. For more information, please read our free booklet, “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America.”

USA Unprepared!

AFP reported on June 16, 2006:

“The United States is not prepared to cope with a large-scale terrorist attack or a powerful hurricane, the US Department of Homeland Security has said in a report… The Nationwide Plan Review comes two weeks into the hurricane season, which started June 1. US weather experts are forecasting between eight to 10 hurricanes — as many as six of them major — would form in the Atlantic basin this year. The review was conducted in all 56 states and territories and 75 urban areas over six months. The emergency plans were compared to pre-Katrina standards by review teams that included former state and local homeland security and emergency management officials.

“‘The majority of the Nation’s current emergency operations plans and planning processes cannot be characterized as fully sufficient to manage catatrophic events,’ the report said. ‘Significant weaknesses in evacuation planning are an area of profound concern,’ it said, adding that the capabilities to receive and care for large numbers of evacuees were found to be ‘inadequate.'”

kutv.com added on June 16:

“Utah is only partially prepared to respond to a catastrophic event such as an earthquake along the Wasatch Front, a federal security analysis concluded Friday. ‘An earthquake along the Wasatch Front would be our Hurricane Katrina in magnitude and impact,” said Derek Jensen, spokesman for the Utah division of emergency services and homeland security… New Orleans is still woefully unprepared for catastrophes 10 months after Hurricane Katrina… New York and Washington, al-Qaida’s targets on Sept. 11, 2001, received lukewarm ratings. Seventy-one percent of New York’s emergency plans were described as only partially sufficient. In Washington, 67 percent of the plans were deemed partially sufficient and 2 percent insufficient.”

Europe’s Immigration Problems

Not only the USA is confronted with illegal immigration problems. Europe is facing similar issues. The EUObserver pointed out on June 16:

“EU leaders have agreed they must find some common principles on how to tackle immigration, with Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel stressing that immigrants must accept some European values if they want to settle in the continent. ‘It is very important for somebody who is coming to our countries to learn the language and sign up to the values, the human rights, the position of women, the rule of law. There is no compromise on this,’ Mr Schussel told journalists on Thursday (15 June) at the EU summit in Brussels… Spain and Malta pointed to the increasing number of illegal immigrants ending up on their territory. French president Jacques Chirac indicated the EU must improve its cooperation with African states on the issue, and try to help them solve the roots of the illegal immigration… The European Commission is planning to table some fresh proposals on illegal immigration in July, including a plan for rapid border intervention teams and a list of safe countries–from which the EU will not accept asylum seekers.”

Cruelty to Animals

The Associated Press reported on June 15:

“Customers craving fresh crustaceans will have to look beyond Whole Foods Market Inc. after the natural-foods grocery chain decided Thursday to stop selling live lobsters and crabs on the grounds that it’s inhumane… Animal rights activities were thrilled with the decision, not just because of the way lobsters are harvested, shipped and stored but because of the fate that awaits many of them–being dropped alive into a pot of boiling water. ‘The ways that lobsters are treated would warrant felony cruelty to animals charges if they were dogs or cats,’ said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In making its decision, Whole Foods pointed to a November report from the European Food Safety Authority Animal Health and Welfare panel that it said concluded all decapod crustaceans, including lobsters and crabs, appear to have some degree of awareness, feel pain and can learn. But other scientists and seafood industry officials said Thursday that lobsters have such primitive insect-like nervous systems they don’t even have brains and can’t experience pain the way animals and humans do.”

For more information, please make sure to view our new StandingWatch program, “Why So Much Cruelty?”

The Long-Term Effects of War

Der Spiegel Online reported on June 15, 2006:

“The German military is battling a new problem: As it prepares for a new foreign deployment in Congo, many soldiers are still suffering from traumatic experiences in Somalia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. A term most commonly associated with the Vietnam War — post-traumatic stress disorder — is now increasingly afflicting German soldiers returning from missions abroad… It is the most difficult of all human reactions to stress; it changes the personality and, if untreated, often leads to a permanent disability that renders the patient incapable of working. A good 30 years after Vietnam, one-third of all homeless men in the US are veterans. Drug abuse and rates of criminality, divorce and suicide are way above average in this population… Symptoms of the trauma are always the same: sleeplessness, aggression, depression. Then come problems with a spouse or a boss, and then, more often than not, total social dysfunction… Of the American soldiers who return today from Iraq, 17 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder… ‘Kriegszitterer’ or ‘war-tremblers’ is what Germans called soldiers who fell apart during World War I — who suffered from hysterical crying or whose limbs shook despite the absence of visible injury. Doctors considered them malingerers and tortured them with electroshock therapy until they were ‘fit’ to return to the front.”

War is SO wrong. And war does not bring good results. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Should You Fight in War?”

Haider vs. Bush

The Jerusalem Post reported on June 16, that “Far-right Austrian leader Joerg Haider called US President George W. Bush a war criminal on Saturday. In an interview with the Austrian daily Die Presse, Haider claimed Bush ‘brought about the war against Iraq deliberately, with lies and falsehoods … The Iraqi population is suffering terribly. Bush took the risk of an enormous number of victims.’  Haider added in the interview that Bush’s actions have only served to strengthen international terrorism. Bush is expected to arrive in Vienna this coming week in order to participate in a summit meeting with European leaders.”

The Pope Head of All Christians?

On June 14, the “Indian Catholic” published an article by Cardinal Ivan Dias, the newly appointed head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples. In the article, Dias took the position that the Pope has a God-given authority to speak for all Christians, and to all of mankind. He explained this bold assertion as follows:

“The moral and spiritual authority vested in the Pope is normally referred to as The Holy See: the term ‘see’ (which means seat) symbolically signifies the chair from which teaching is officially imparted, laws are promulgated and judgements pronounced, something akin to… the thrones of the kings in Europe…

“Strictly speaking, the Holy See or the Apostolic See is the ministry of the Pope who has a double sovereignty: as Pastor of the universal Church and as Head of the Vatican City-State… The Holy See is thus the central governing body of the Catholic Church, whose head is the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, and it is precisely in the exercise of this function that it enjoys international recognition. The Holy See is also the supreme authority of the Vatican City-State… The Holy See, not the Vatican City, maintains diplomatic relations with 174 nations and participates in various international organizations. Foreign embassies are accredited to the Holy See, not to the Vatican City, and it is the Holy See that establishes treaties and concordats with other sovereign entities and, when necessary, even on behalf of the Vatican City… The State of the Vatican City was… created with the signing of the Lateran Pact between the Holy See and the Italian Authorities on February 11, 1929 to ‘ensure the absolute and visible independence of the Holy See’ and ‘to guarantee to it an indisputable sovereignty in international affairs’… This permanent international recognition of the Holy See is proof enough that States and Governments looked at the Holy See, not primarily as a territorial entity, but as an international juridical reality, whose foundation was the spiritual sovereignty of the Church exercised through the ministry of the Pope… The Holy See has existed ever since Peter was mandated by Christ to take care of His flock, which is the whole human race.”

It should be clearly understood that Peter was not a pope or the “first pope”–even though the Catholic Church has falsely proclaimed this concept over the centuries. In fact, when reviewing the teachings of the apostle Peter with those of the Catholic Church, one has to conclude that any similarities might just be coincidental. But it is interesting that the Catholic Church restates its century-old claim that the Pope is ABOVE the State, and that he speaks for and to the State. This unfortunate alliance and interdependence of Church and State has caused much persecution for the true followers of Jesus Christ, as well as the entire world. And the Bible does show that it will bring much more trouble in the future. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

Son of Late Italian Emperor Arrested

AFP reported on June 16:

“Prince Victor Emmanuel, son of Italy’s last king [King Umberto II, who reigned briefly as Italy’s last king in 1946], was arrested on suspicion of links to criminals involved in corruption and prostitution…  Victor Emmanuel of Savoy made an official return to Italy in March 2003, after 56 years of exile imposed on the family of his grandfather King Victor Emmanuel III, who ruled from 1900 to 1946 and died in 1947, for its support of the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. The constitutional ban on a return to Italy by male heirs of the kingdom of Savoy was lifted in July 2002 by the national parliament.”

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Why don't we see more spiritual gifts in the Church of God today?

It depends what is meant by “spiritual gifts.”

Some equate
“spiritual gifts” with magnificent spectacular miracles and wonders,
such as public healings or the calling down of fire from heaven. It is
true, of course, that Jesus Christ, when He was here on earth,
performed many spectacular miracles (Acts 2:22), and that some of the
early apostles of the New Testament Church were able to do likewise
(Acts 2:43: 5:12). We read that Christ did many more miracles than have
been recorded in the Bible (John 21:25). We are also informed that
people were even healed when Peter’s shadow fell on them (Acts
5:14-16). We are told that at the very end time, just prior to the “Day
of the Lord” and Christ’s return, His Church will be given the power to
perform spectacular miracles (Joel 2:28-31), and the Two Witnesses will
have the power to call down fire from heaven, when and if necessary
(Revelation 11:3-6).

We should also realize, however, that God
has wisely decided not to grant such spectacular powers to the Church
or His disciples all the time, because of very important reasons. We
read that John the Baptist, even though he was the greatest of all men
born of a woman (Matthew 11:11), did not perform ANY sign or miracle
(John 10:41). During His public ministry, Christ was at times very
careful NOT to perform miracles in public, or to have made His miracles
known (Matthew 8:1-4; 9:27-30; Mark 1:40-45; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark
8:26). He even commanded the demons, as well as His disciples, not to
tell anyone that He was the Messiah–the Son of God (Matthew 16:20;
Mark 1:34; 3:11-12). He knew that once He was revealed as the Messiah,
it would be difficult for Him to preach the gospel openly (Mark 1:45;
Luke 5:15-16), and He said that the preaching of the gospel was one of
the reasons for His First Coming (Luke 4:43).

He also stated that
many of those who began to follow Him did not do so because they wanted
to learn the truth from Him, or because of His signs which He
performed, but because of the physical benefits which accompanied the
signs (John 6:26). It is true that the signs and miracles which He did
should have been enough evidence for the people, and for us today, that
He was and is the Son of God (John 10:25, 37-38; 20:30-31).
However, they were not sufficient in many cases (John 12:37; 15:24),
and when they were, they did not provide a lasting basis for the people
to stay loyal and committed. Even though His own disciples had seen His
signs and wonders, many of them left when they became offended by His
teachings (John 6:60-66). We also read, of course, that the public
miracles of Christ and the early apostles brought about persecution
(John 5:15-16; 11:45-53), preventing Him to “walk… openly among the
Jews” (verse 54).

We should also consider the possibility that a
lack of faith might prevent God from granting power to the Church to
perform public miracles. Even Jesus could not do many miracles among
those who did not believe in Him or God’s Power (Matthew 13:53-58; Mark

Most importantly, however, is the realization that God
has a time table. He knows WHEN the time is right to give His end-time
Church the power to perform public miracles, which will, in turn,
invite persecution from Satan and those under his influence (Matthew
24:9; John 15:20). Right now, God is more interested in the Church’s
fulfillment of its ongoing commission to preach the gospel in all the
world as a witness (Matthew 24:14). At the same time, He warns us that
some will arise to perform miracles and signs, but they will DECEIVE
many (Matthew 24:11, 24). Even a charismatic religious figure, soon to
manifest himself on the world scene, will be able to perform public
miracles, but he will do so with the power of Satan, not of God
(Revelation 13:11-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).

Christ came to
proclaim the gospel or the good news of the Kingdom of God to the
people–mainly those in Judea. But He told His disciples that they
would preach the gospel in all the world (Acts 1:8), and that He would
give them the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to do that. He said
that His Church would do greater WORKS (not necessarily public signs
and wonders) than He did, as He would go to the Father (John 14:12). He
poured out of the Holy Spirit from on high which He received from the
Father (Luke 24:49). And we can safely say that Christ has already
fulfilled His promise in these days–the gospel of the Kingdom of God
is being proclaimed in all the world. This has been made possible
through the marvelous technical inventions of the printing press,
radio, television and the Internet. It was not Christ’s purpose at His
time to have the gospel proclaimed in many other countries, but He knew
that in subsequent times, He would do so through His Church. Of course,
we realize that the technological advances have also made it possible
that big, powerful churches proclaim false gospel messages in all the
world–hence Christ’s warning to His disciples not to be deceived by
such false churches and doctrines.

The fact, however, that we do
not see God’s Church perform spectacular public miracles today, which
would attract worldwide attention, does not mean that God does not use
His Church today to perform miracles; or that He has not bestowed
spiritual gifts on His ministry and the Church as a whole. Every time
God’s ministers anoint sick persons with oil and pray for their
healing, or send an anointed cloth to the sick person, and that such
sick person is healed, God has performed a miracle. Every time God
protects His children from physical or spiritual harm, God has
performed a miracle. Every time God’s disciples are obedient to His
laws, even in situations which seemingly make it impossible to do so,
God has performed a miracle. Every time a person understands the truth
and responds to the gospel message, repents of his sins, believes in
Christ and His sacrifice, becomes obedient to God’s Word, and is
baptized and receives the Holy Spirit, God has bestowed spiritual gifts
on that person and has performed a miracle. Every time God’s Church is
receiving a better understanding of God’s Word, thereby growing in the
knowledge of Jesus Christ, God has performed a miracle and bestowed on
His Church a priceless spiritual gift. And every time one of God’s
children overcomes the temptation of forsaking the truth, resisting
false teachers and wrong doctrines, God has performed a miracle.

greatest miracle of all is that both the Father and Jesus Christ are
willing to live in true Christians, through the power of the Holy
Spirit. And what a great miracle it will be when, at the return of
Jesus Christ, true Christians will receive the gift of eternal life
(Romans 6:23) and the gift of the inheritance of the Kingdom of God
(Luke 12:32)–when they will be changed from mortal to immortal; from
flesh and blood to spirit; from a human being to a God being! Rather
than looking for outward signs and wonders, let us concentrate on what
God HAS BEEN giving to His true Church. Christ said that the greatest
GIFT which God the Father is willing to bestow on us, is His Holy
Spirit (Luke 11:13; John 4:10; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45). God’s Spirit in
us enables us to develop the very MIND of God (2 Timothy 1:7),
including His very characteristics, such as His love, His peace, His
joy and His faith (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let us consider what
spiritual GIFTS, in particular, God is referring to in His Word, which
He gives to us today, and which we must deeply appreciate and value. We
read in 1 Corinthians 12 about all kinds of spiritual gifts, such as
gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits,
and different kinds of tongues or languages (verses 1, 9-10). Paul says
that not everyone in the Church has the same identical gifts (verse 4),
but all gifts are given “to each one for the profit of all”–the entire
Church (verse 7). God gives individual spiritual gifts to some so that
the entire Church can be built up. That is why He GIVES “some to be
apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and
teachers, for the equipping of the saints… for the edifying of the
body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
But, the greatest or best spiritual GIFTS of God to us are His love,
His faith and His hope (1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13).

let us never belittle God’s awesome POWER which He gives to all of us
if we are His children, through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God’s power
WILL change the world–in His due time. In the meantime, let us make
sure that the spiritual GIFT of God’s power changes US.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program has been posted on the Web. It is titled: “Why so much cruelty?” Set forth below is a summary of the program:

Foods Market announced today that they will no longer sell live
lobsters for human consumption. Animal rights activists welcomed the
decision. They had pointed out the cruelty with which lobsters are
treated–by dropping them alive into a pot of boiling water. While some
scientists who are presumably supported by the food industry claim that
lobsters cannot feel any pain, the opposite has been clearly proven.
Why do we have so much cruelty in this world–from torturing animals in
laboratories to find some medication for human sicknesses, to brutally
killing unborn children in their mothers’ wombs, by literally tearing
them apart during abortion procedures? And why are we so casual
regarding the death of innocent civilians in war? Has God created us
with such a brutal, cruel human nature? And if not, how did we become
this way, and how can a change of our hearts come about?

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

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United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom

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