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The NYU Refugee Camp

Slumber party or living hell? With power out in most of lower Manhattan, NYU students were forced to evacuate their dorms and bunk together. Inside the makeshift hurricane-relief center.

Budding doctors, actors, stock traders, lawyers, and writers all had a slumber party Wednesday night.

New York University

People play board games in an East Village restaurant on Wednesday in New York City. (Abby Haglage)

When Sandy ripped through Manhattan earlier this week, it left most of lower Manhattan ravaged, flooded, and, most lastingly, without power. Below 39th Street, most buildings remain dark, including many of those owned by New York University, the city’s largest academic institution. Approximately 12,000 NYU students live in 21 NYU residence halls spread across Manhattan. As of Wednesday afternoon, seven of those buildings were running with emergency lighting and water, but the majority of the other buildings were completely without power, leaving university administrators scrambling to provide safe shelter for approximately 6,000 of its charges.

The solution: forced sleepovers and a veritable university refugee camp.

Beginning Tuesday night, hundreds of students flocked to the Kimmel Center, NYU’s student life building on Washington Square Park, to receive hot meals, charge their phones, contact worried relatives, and claim prime location on various floors of the nine-story building for their sleeping bags. By Wednesday afternoon, after administrators ordered the evacuation of 12 residence halls, that number was closer to—if not above, according to estimates—a thousand. Blankets, overnight bags, sleeping bags, pillows, iPads, books, and students were splayed throughout the building.

“It looked like the Superdome did during Katrina,” said John Surico, an NYU senior who writes for the university’s news blog, NYU Local.

While NYU, impressively, sustained “virtually no” damage, NYU Vice President of Public Affairs John Beckman tells The Daily Beast that how to accommodate students going on 48 hours without power became a pressing issue. Beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday, occupants of seven residence halls who couldn’t find housing with friends or family elsewhere in the city were ordered to evacuate for the night and sent to Kimmel, where power from NYU’s co-generation plant kept the lights on, wifi working, water running, and the building heated. Five additional buildings were paired with five dorms that still had power—or at least emergency lights and electricity. Students in those buildings have been forced to open their doors to strangers.

“People are staying in our rooms on the floor,” says freshman Cameron Noble, who lives at Goddard Hall, NYU’s smallest dorm, forced to host stranded students because it was one of the only buildings with power. “Some might have to stay in the hallways.”

FILL 'ER UP

Gas Shortages, Long Lines in NYC Area

Gas Shortages, Long Lines in NYC Area Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Thanks, Sandy.

Now that business is slowly getting back to normal, commuters are ready to get back on the roads—but they’re going to have to wait on some mighty long lines for gas first. Areas hit hard by Sandy in the New York metropolitan area were seeing gas shortages already on Thursday, leading to concerns that prices for gas could spike. “The price spike will last several days, probably as long as a week, and then it will depend on whether or not some of the key facilities get back on line,” said John Kilduff of Again Capital. Currently it’s impossible to make deliveries to many stations in the region.

Read it at CNBC

RELIEF

NYC to Get FEMA Help

NYC to Get FEMA Help Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Will deliver one million hot meals and bottled water.

There's relief in sight for stranded New York City residents: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday the National Guard and FEMA will deliver one million hot meals and bottled water to areas most affected by the hurricane. While the city's electrical company, Con Edison, said power should be restored to Manhattan by this weekend, other parts of the city could remain without power for longer and be stranded. Staten Island in particular took a particularly harsh hit from the storm: roughly 113,000 residents are without power and are not expected to get it back for 10 days, while the city's main transport to Manhattan, the ferry, is closed.

Read it at New York Daily News

Worst Case

‘I Need to Get to Manhattan’

New Yorkers faced long lines Thursday morning as many attempted to get to Manhattan by bus or ferry. See photos shared on Twitter.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Con Ed: Manhattan Power Back by Saturday

Con Ed: Manhattan Power Back by Saturday Brendan Smialowski, AFP / Getty Images

225,000 already restored.

Con Edison, New York's power company, said Thursday morning that they expected power to be restored to most of Manhattan by Friday or Saturday. The good news comes on the heels of the announcement that power has already been restored to 225,000 customers, including some in lower Manhattan, although there are still 667,000 customers without power in the city as a whole. Meanwhile, the Long Island Power Authority said there are still 750,000 without power in the suburban Nassau and Suffolk counties, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday had suffered the most power damage.

Read it at New York Daily News

RECOVERY

NBC to Air Sandy Benefit Concert

 NBC to Air Sandy Benefit Concert Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and others to perform.

NBC will air a benefit concert on Friday hosted by Matt Lauer and featuring New Jersey native sons Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, along with Billy Joel and Christina Aguilera, the network announced on the Today show Thursday morning. Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together will donate the money collected to the American Red Cross. The special will air Friday at 8 p.m. on NBC, USA Network, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, E! Style Network, G4, and ohers. Meanwhile, in Jersey, the house featured on Jersey Shore is still standing, but most of Seaside Heights, where the show is filmed, has been devastated by the storm.

Read it at NBC

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

The Renegade Parade

Hurricane Sandy may have canceled New York City’s Halloween parade, but don’t tell that to the guy in the octopus costume and the other spirited freaks that flooded the streets. Caitlin Dickson and Lizzie Crocker join the merry band of revelers.

At 8 p.m. on Halloween—48 hours after Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York City—Manhattan’s Greenwich Village was dark and deserted. This time last year, more than 50,000 costume-clad rabble-rousers crowded the streets, marching from Soho to Chelsea as thousands more looked on. But this year, only cop-car headlights lit the roads, while those who hadn’t already fled the powerless neighborhood walked their dogs or scavenged for open bars.

NYC Halloween Parade

Tina Fineberg

The annual Village Halloween Parade had grown from an independent exhibition of costumes and masks founded in 1974 by artist Ralph Lee and the Theater for the New City to a city-sponsored spectacle held together by the NYPD. But when the city canceled this year’s parade for the first time in its 39-year history, most locals didn’t seem to mind.

Perhaps that’s because the parade isn’t what it used to be, at least according to Todd Katz, a Village resident of 23 years. “To me this is the most beautiful Halloween ever in New York,” Katz said. “I used to march in the old parade which was down on Christopher Street, but when it became really corporate I stopped.”

Or maybe it’s because there was something else in the works.

Around 9 p.m., as entertainment-seeking stragglers wandered into the few candlelit bars that remained stocked with ice and booze, the sounds of an accordion, bass drum, and even a sousaphone suddenly flooded the streets. The official Halloween bash may have been dumped but the Village Parade had gone back to its roots.

The 100 or so spirited freaks weren’t going to let a blackout get in the way of their Halloween festivities.

“We’re all artists and activists who go ahead and make things like this happen. We don’t need permits or permission from the city,” said one costumed woman from Brooklyn. Her friends had told her about the parade as she spent the day doing relief work in the Lower East Side. “We’ve got to keep the spirit alive,” she said. “People have been having a hard time lately and it’s just good to show that we have as much life and vitality as we always have. We’re survivors and we like parades.”

BACK TO LIFE

NYC's Subways Reopen

NYC's Subways Reopen Craig Ruttle / AP Photo

All mass transit free on Thursday.

See where service has resumed.

New York City showed signs of getting back on its feet on Thursday in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Sandy as its 108-year-old subway system roared back to partial life at 5 a.m. Thursday morning.  "It's the lifeline of the city," said one early rider, Ronnie Abraham. The subway will only offer limited service, as much of downtown Manhattan still has no power and only three of the eight East River subway tunnels have been dried out. In areas without subway service, there are some shuttle buses running as well as regular bus service. All subways and buses will be free on Thursday.

Read it at Associated Press

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Sandy’s Mounting Bill

In the wake of Sandy, the economic losses mount. Matthew Zeitlin looks at the numbers.

As workers clear debris, the estimates for the economic impact of Sandy continue to come in. And they are all over the place. The risk modeling firm Eqecat estimated insured losses from Hurricane Sandy would be between $5 and $10 billion, while total economic losses would be between $10-20 billion. The catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide put the projected insured losses between $7 and $15 billion. This does not include payouts to be made by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

APTOPIX Superstorm Sandy

Brian Hajeski, 41, of Brick, N.J., reacts after looking at debris of a home that washed up on to the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after superstorm Sandy rolled through, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Mantoloking, N.J. (Julio Cortez / AP Photo)

The NFIP is a federal program that subsidizes flood insurance that is required for homeowners with government-backed mortgages in low-lying areas. In addition, some banks require purchase of flood insurance in certain areas, said Robert DiUbaldo, an attorney at Edwards Wildman.

Beyond losses to property, businesses will be seeking payment for losses incurred during the storm. Diubaldo notes that businesses can collect for losses that arise due to interruption to business, or because suppliers and customers are stranded. Diubaldo explained that claims related to “contingent business interruption” policies spiked around the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 in Japan as supply chains were disrupted. Something similar can happen with Sandy. Traffic in and out of Manhattan is sluggish at best, with workers and shoppers only able to get across the East River by car. Entire commercial areas on the Jersey Shore have been devastated by the storm, along with the homes of the people who shop there and the roads to get to those communities.

According to the ratings agency Fitch, these claims can also be triggered if a “civil authority” prevents people from going into a certain area. With the mandatory evacuations up and down the Jersey Shore and low-lying areas of Manhattan, including much of Lower Manhattan, the financial center of the world, there is every reason to expect real losses followed by real payouts.

Whether insured or not, the disruptions are indicative of real damage and real costs to the economy. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, wrote on Wednesday that Sandy was sure to be one of the 10 most costly natural disasters. Robert DiUbaldo and other insurance experts put the likely combined cost at less than the damage done by Katrina, which caused just over $157 billion in damage and loss of economic output, but above last year’s Hurricane Irene, which caused $12.6 billion in combined damage. Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Miami in 1992, was the second costliest hurricane ever, cost the country $13.1 billion in lost output and $41.3  billion in damages, according to Moody’s. While devastating, Sandy is not likely to cripple the insurance or reinsurance industries with massive payouts.  

As for the overall economic impact, there is some dispute. There’s no question that Sandy is sandbagging economic activity around the country. Since Saturday, according to Flightstats, 19,574 flights have been cancelled in the U.S. due largely to the storm. The machinery of home sales, mortgage financings, and stock trading has ground to a halt. Halloween, which injects a huge amount of cash into local economies, was essentially cancelled.

On Tuesday, economists at IHS Global Insight, a consulting firm, wrote that “the effect on growth for the fourth quarter will not be catastrophic but might still be noticeable, especially in an economy with little momentum anyway.” Much of the economic activity—cancelled plane flights, deferred retail purchases—that didn’t take place in October due to Sandy will likely take place in November or December. But not all of it will. “Suppose that the affected regions lose just 25 percent of their overall output for two days that is not recoverable later,” HIS writes. “That would knock about $25 billion annualized ($6 billion actual) off GDP, and could take as much as 0.6 percentage points off annualized fourth-quarter real GDP growth rate.” Given that the economy is growing at an annualized rate of about two percent, that would make Sandy a significant drag on the economy.

Freak Show

Nightmare on Coney Island

New York’s iconic neighborhood is a disaster zone, as shattered residents try to pick up the pieces—while fighting off looters. Paula Szuchman reports from Sandy’s wake.

You know things are bad when Chernobyl is your reference point.

“This is bad, but I believe Chernobyl was worse,” said Irene Sarafanov of the devastation Superstorm Sandy left in its wake after passing through her gated seaside community at the western tip of Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Sarafanov grew up in Kiev, Ukraine, some 40 miles from the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. On Wednesday, she was digging out from one of the worst natural disasters in New York history, taking care of a neighbor who had lost her home, and joking about having lost her extensive shoe collection when the waves came crashing into her basement. “We’re healthy. We’re alive,” said Sarafanov, looking down at her mud-caked galoshes and smiling.

It was a sentiment echoed by other residents of Sea Gate, a tight-knit community of about 800 single-family homes that was reduced to ruins by a storm more powerful than anyone here has ever witnessed. The last time Coney Island had flooding this bad was in the late 1820s—and even then, there wasn’t this much water.

“I’m homeless,” said Christa Cirl, who has lived in Sea Gate for 14 years and returned from an evacuation center Wednesday afternoon to find her house destroyed. Teary and shaking, Cirl said the minute she passed through the gate, “it was like World War III.” She lives alone, cell phone service is non-existent, and the only clothes she now has are packed into one small suitcase.

A few doors down, Jeff Nier was trying to figure out how to untangle the three-car pile-up in his driveway. The waves carried two cars from across the street and slammed them down onto his Ford Explorer. The ranch house opposite him was flattened. Nier, a roofer and a fishing boat captain, has lived in Sea Gate for 30 years and says he has never seen a storm like Sandy. But he’s not going anywhere. “I love being by the water.”

All along Atlantic Avenue, people were pumping water out of their basements, rinsing off muddy furniture, and firing up generators. Some were huddled together shaking their heads. Others just looked at the ocean in a daze. The smell of mold and mildew was pervasive.

A similar scene played out elsewhere in Coney Island, one of New York City’s most iconic neighborhoods, a place of hot-dog-eating contests and roller coasters, but also notorious housing projects and high crime rates.

Lost in the Storm

A Son’s Life

A hundred homes burned in Breezy Point. Lower Manhattan had flooded. The subway was knocked out. But for one New York mother whose son was killed by a falling tree, all that seemed inconsequential.

Jake Vogelman was a kind of unofficial first responder in things as small as fixing a neighbor’s television or as large as accompanying a friend into Hurricane Sandy to check on her cancer-stricken father.

Jake Vogleman and Jessie Streich-Kest

Facebook

Jake texted his mother, Marcia Sikowitz, to say that he and his friend Jessie had arrived at her father’s house on the other side of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. But he never texted to say he was leaving, and he did not pick up when she called his cellphone.

Jake was 24 and certainly under no obligation to keep his mother informed of his whereabouts, but he had always taken care not to cause her worry. She wondered if perhaps he had just fallen asleep while watching a movie at Jessie’s apartment.

When she awoke Tuesday morning, Sikowitz still had not heard from him. She began calling his cellphone every 15 minutes, again and again and again. She then heard an unfamiliar man’s voice answer.

The man said he was a detective. Sikowitz told him that she was Jake Vogelman’s mother and that she was trying to reach him. The detective asked for her address.

“Just tell me my son is alive,” she said.

The detective again asked for her address. He arrived at her Park Slope home soon afterward. He showed her Jake’s driver’s license and she confirmed that was her son. The detective then informed her that Jake and a young female had been killed by a falling tree during the storm.

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How Congress Helped Sandy Victims

Quietly, amid last year’s partisan warfare, Capitol Hill worked out a deal to fund disaster relief that could help the countless suffering in the hurricane’s wake. Eleanor Clift reports.

Damage assessments are just getting underway in New York and New Jersey, the states hardest hit by Sandy. And much of what could be a humongous tab will be shouldered by taxpayers. The good news is that FEMA’s disaster relief fund is well stocked at the start of a new fiscal year, with $7.8 billion to help the states and individual homeowners and businesses rebuild.

Was7018139

A man rides his bicycle on the deserted Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington DC, October 29, 2012. Federal government offices in the Washington area were closed october 29, 2012 as Hurricane Sandy comes crashing into the US East Coast. The US Office of Personnel Management announced that only emergency employees were to report to work, as heavy rain and strong winds generated by the monster storm Sandy struck the US capital. (Mladen Antonov / Getty Images)

That may sound like a lot of money. But given the magnitude of the devastation, it could end up being pocket change. This is the age of deficits and budget cutbacks; what everyone wants to know is what happens if the cost of Sandy exceeds FEMA’s resources. The answer is there’s good news from an unlikely place: the U.S. Congress.

If the federal government’s portion of the tab exceeds what FEMA has available, there’s another pot of money that Congress can tap without violating any of its self-imposed caps on spending. As part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress after last summer’s debacle over raising the debt ceiling limit, lawmakers quietly changed the way disasters are funded.

It’s rare to find anyone saying something positive about that budget agreement, which spawned the dreaded word “sequestration.” But the White House aides and Senate appropriators who hammered out the deal
deserve a round of applause for planning ahead and recognizing reality. After wild fires in Texas, tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Hurricane Irene drained FEMA down to its last $100 million, Republicans balked at spending more money for disaster relief unless it was paid for by cutting other spending, which Democrats refused to do.

The resulting stalemate was broken when Republicans backed off amid the negative publicity. But Democrats didn’t want to go through that again, and so what a Democratic aide refers to as “wiggle room” was created for disaster relief spending in the Budget Control Act. The details are convoluted, but the bottom line is that there is $5.4 billion in addition to FEMA’s $7.8 billion that Congress can tap to 20 assist rebuilding in New York and New Jersey without violating the budget caps Congress put in place.

It would take an act of Congress to free up that money, but President Obama would not be required to make a formal request. It would be up to Capitol Hill; with the money made available under the Budget Act, getting the votes shouldn’t be that heavy a lift. With disaster impact assessments in their early stages, lawmakers representing the hardest-hit region have not made the decision to take that next step. For the moment, FEMA is flush with cash, so any request would be later this year or early next, says a Democratic leadership aide.

He notes that the money if requested would be “spread around” depending on the needs. Some would likely go to FEMA to help homeowners rebuild, some to the Army Corps of Engineers for coastal shore rebuilding, and some to a new emergency fund created under the Budget Act at the Department of Transportation that could be used to repair New York subways.

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How Obama Seals the Deal

Sandy has stopped Mitt’s momentum cold and transferred it to the president. Michael Tomasky on what Obama needs to do in the final days.

The picture is taking shape. It’s still early for predictions—I’ll do that over the weekend or Monday. But let me put it this way. While there are certainly a few known unknowns, and always the possibility of the emergence of one more unknown unknown, I’d sure rather be Barack Obama right now than Mitt Romney. Sandy (and Chris Christie) stopped Romney’s momentum cold and put some wind (so to speak) behind the president’s back. Consider: Thirteen swing state polls came out on Wednesday. Obama led in 11. Romney is on the mat. Now Obama needs to step on his neck and put this thing away. He can do this in five ways.

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama enters the White House Briefing Room in Washington D.C. on Oct. 29, 2012. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo)

First, hit the trail furiously. He’s back in campaign mode as of Thursday morning. I don’t know where he’s going, but he should obviously hit Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia. He should make one stop in Michigan to batten it down (Wisconsin looks safe, as does Pennsylvania), and maybe New Hampshire. And he should make a new push into North Carolina. That will be seen as a power move—testing Romney’s little Confederate Maginot Line, as it were, reopening the conversation in a state that had been seen as red but is now up for grabs. It’ll probably go to Romney at the end of the day, but Obama can make him sweat it out, and who knows, with the right kind of turnout, maybe pick it off.

Florida? Let Joe Biden and Bill Clinton take care of south Florida. The alter kockers are more their crowd. Obama needs to hit the I-4 corridor, where the white swing voters and the Puerto Ricans (and plenty enough African Americans) live, with a huge weekend rally, probably in Tampa. He carried Tampa’s Hillsborough County 50-48 last time, and if he can replicate that, he has a shot at Florida, which would crush Romney.

Campaign, campaign, campaign. Get hoarse. Get tired. As I wrote in my cover piece, drop any hint of “I Got This” Obama and be hungry.

Second, pound away on this Romney lie about Jeep and China. One fact like this can grow to become symbolic of the whole Romney enterprise (as indeed it is!) if the Obama team chooses to make it so. When the heads of General Motors and Chrysler both in essence call a presidential candidate a liar, that’s pretty much without precedent in American politics, and it’s most definitely campaign commercial fodder. This is the kind of thing that makes for backyard fence chit chat, and it can stick like molasses.

Third, keep pumping up the gender gap right until the end. Considering a range of polls, the gender gap was very wide before that first debate, 15 points or more. Then it narrowed to almost nothing or, in some polls, nothing. Now it’s back up to eight or 10 or 12, depending on the state. Obama beat John McCain among women by 13 points last time, according to exit polls. He should hit at least that, with all the fodder out there, from Romney’s own vow to defund Planned Parenthood to all these nutso Republican Senate and House candidates and their 16th-century comments about women’s bodies. Romney’s positions have been considerably more reactionary than McCain’s were—on Planned Parenthood, on contraception generally—so he deserves a worse fate.

Fourth, I’d like to see the Colin Powell and Susan Eisenhower endorsements used in ads aimed at independent voters. I don’t know who’s undecided at this point. And they may not even persuade anybody, although I do think Powell swung some votes. But they’re semi-surprise validators who aren’t elected Democrats and are enrolled Republicans. Hearing from them just makes independents feel a little better about their vote. It even makes most Democrats feel better about their vote.

Obama Halo

Romney Stranded by Sandy

The candidate was sidelined as odd couple Obama and Christie toured storm-damaged New Jersey and exchanged compliments. Howard Kurtz on how Romney gets back in the game.

With President Obama getting a bear hug from Chris Christie as he toured storm-battered New Jersey, Mitt Romney is facing an unusual challenge: pushing his way back into the national debate.

Obama Superstorm

President Barack Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, NJ. Obama traveled to region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey in areas damaged by superstorm Sandy. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo)

Romney strategists are downplaying the brief marriage of convenience between Obama and Christie, who keeps praising the president’s response to Hurricane Sandy while professing not to “give a damn” whether Romney visits the state.

“Governor Christie is doing a job,” Romney adviser Russ Schriefer told reporters Wednesday. “He is governor of a state hit by a very, very horrific storm.”

At the same time, the bromance allowed Obama to don the mantle of bipartisanship, project the image of a take-charge executive, and express empathy for storm victims—not a bad trifecta days before the election.

“I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion,” Christie said in comments that seemed above and beyond the call of duty. Obama returned the praise.

Side by side in their navy windbreakers, the rotund Christie and the lean Obama looked very much the odd couple—and both seemed to revel in their cross-party partnership. All but forgotten is that Christie, who flirted with his own White House run this year, was Romney’s keynote speaker at the Tampa convention.

Republican strategists say Romney’s sidelining by the storm will prove to be a blip on the radar and that the challenger will have no difficulty returning to full campaign mode. The former governor, for his part, did not criticize the president by name on Wednesday, perhaps mindful of seeming overly harsh while television screens are still filled with pictures of devastation in New Jersey and New York.

What Makes a Hero?

Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.

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    We Love You, Lydia Callis

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    Chris Christie's 'SNL' Warning

  3. Marc Jacobs’ Apartment Is Flooded Play

    Marc Jacobs’ Apartment Is Flooded

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Hilarious Wind-Blown Reporters

Hilarious Wind-Blown Reporters

As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.

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