HIST 3635 Final Paper Guidelines

For the final paper, you will need to analyze a historical court case, piece of legislation, or public controversy that has to do with the media. For instance, the Stop Online Piracy Act would be an example of both a controversy and a legislative measure—albeit one that never succeeded in becoming law, owing in large part to determined opposition from the tech industry. In your paper, you should lay out the basic facts of the case, law, or controversy and explain why it was historically important.

Questions to consider: Why did this event matter? Why did it unfold the way it did, and what were the consequences? How does it fit within a broader pattern of media history that we have studied over the course of the semester?

The final paper should:

  • Be 6-7 pages in length, in 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Advance a clear and effective argument about the historical significance of the outcome of the case, legislation, or controversial event
  • Cite sources using footnotes in Chicago or Turabian-style
  • Draw on both primary sources—newspaper and magazine articles, court rulings, interviews and oral histories, films, or other documents from the historical period under consideration—and secondary sources, such as the scholarly works we have read in class this semester, e.g. academic books or journal articles

    You can find valuable primary and secondary sources from online databases such as Proquest,

JSTOR, and Lexis Nexis, which are available through the GSU Library website, as well as sources such as Google’s online newspaper archive: https://news.google.com/newspapers.

You should choose one of the following topics to research for your final paper. Under certain conditions, I would be willing to consider an alternative topic if it fit well with the basic guidelines of the assignment. Please come to class on Thursday, April 1 with a tentative idea of one or two topics that you might research for your final paper.

  • FCC v. Pacifica (1978)—obscenity on the airwaves
  • Chandler v. Florida (1981)—cameras in courtrooms
  • Fairness Doctrine (1949-1987)—policy requiring equal time for opposing views
  • Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. (1991)—sampling in hip-hop
  • California v. OJ Simpson (1995)—not so much the case itself as the media coverage
  • Telecommunications Act (1996)—law that lifted ownership restrictions on media
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998)—new protections for copyright
  • US v. Microsoft (2001)—antitrust suit
  • A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc. (2001)—online file-sharing
  • Eldred v. Ashcroft (2003)—challenged constitutionality of longer copyright term
  • Dixie Chicks controversy (2003)—band removed from airwaves because of antiwar comments
  • “Balloon boy” hoax (2009)—media frenzy that spread through social media, cable
  • Stop Online Piracy Act (ca. 2011-2012)—new powers to enforce copyright online
  • Serial podcast (2014)—hugely popular series about Adnan Syed murder case
  • American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, Inc. (2014)—controversy over streaming TV online
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HIST 3635: Paper Two Assignment

For the second paper, you should draw on the insights from our assigned readings in order to analyze one or more primary source documents.  In this case, the primary sources will be radio or television programs from the 1930s through the 1950s.  The goal is to provide a cogent and well-argued analysis of these cultural texts by using some of the ideas from the readings by Susan Douglas, Gary Edgerton, and/or Lynn Spigel.  In a double-spaced, five-page paper, you should make an argument about how the radio or TV program(s) create a particular depiction of race, gender, or class.  For instance, you might look at Amos & Andy  or I Love Lucy as an example of the way ideas about race or gender were portrayed in early radio or television.  You should support your analysis with quotations from Douglas, Edgerton, and/or Spigel that discuss representations of race, gender, and class.

Your paper must properly cite sources using Chicago/Turabian-style footnotes, and it must cite specific evidence from one or more the primary sources to support your argument.

Here are some clips you may use as primary sources.  You can focus on one clip, or you can use several as part of your analysis.

Amos & Andy Christmas episode

Amos & Andy marriage mix-up

Burns and Allen: All Promises Are Fictitious

Milton Berle and Gertrude Berg 1935 comedy sketch

Jack Benny and Milton Berle

Lucy and Desi Show Episode 1

Uncle Miltie as Auntie Mildred on I Love Lucy


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Welcome to Spring 2016!

rooney mara in carol

My name is Dr. Alex Sayf Cummings, and we will be discussing the history of media and technology over the next few months in HIST 3635 and 8885. This site should help you navigate your coursework, readings, and assignments this semester. (Most of the work for HIST 8885, however, can be found at Normal Accidents.)  Other than the required books, most of the other readings for class should be available on this webpage – look for the link to the syllabus for your course on the right.  If you have any questions about the class, please do not hesitate to contact me at alexcummings@gsu.edu.

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HIST 7010: Age of Fracture

Many conservatives fundamentally saw the Cold War as a war of ideas. As such, the last quarter of the twentieth century reflected this reality–think tanks, academic journals, and partisan media outlets proliferated. The Age of Fracture, by Daniel T. Rodgers, positions itself as “a history of the ways in which understandings of identity, society, economy, nation, and time were argued out on the last decades of the century, and how those struggles of books and mind changed the ways in which social reality itself would be imagined” (2). His understanding of this quarter century was an age of fracture, in which strong notions of society, and institutional arrangements reflecting these notions, gave way to less collective social arrangements and ideas. What we should look to is the discursive shift from a focus on “society, history and power” toward one focused about “individuals, contingency, and choice”–the political and social consolidation of the thirties, forties and fifties yielded to the disaggregation of the seventies, eighties and nineties (4-5). Rodgers says that it should be understood as a qualitative shift in ideas and understandings about society.

Rodgers identifies a shift away from aggregate macroeconomics that dominated the economics profession from Keynes through the 1960’s to a microfoundational approach to macroeconomics that stressed the reduction of macroeconomic analyses down to the individual as the unit of analysis. He starts with the impact of marginalism on the economic profession and its integration by Alfred Marshall at the end of the nineteenth century, a marginalism which he says brought a modern ideal of the market into the economic discourse. That is, until Paul Samuelson of MIT synthesized John Maynard Keynes’ macroeconomic insights into the profession, which focused on aggregates, not individuals engaging in exchange. Keynesian aggregates dominated the profession until the turmoil of the 1970s, and the failure of Keynesian models (Phillips Curve) to account for stagflation, brought with it a renewal of the dedication to individual understandings of macroeconomically significant phenomena from Monetarists like Milton Friedman–Friedman’s monetarist models didn’t hold up very well either. This debate would coincide with the influx of law and economics devotees like Ronald Coase and Richard Posner on to law faculties who incorporated an understanding of the market and efficiency into the study of law–an infusion that was not without its critics. Conservative supply-side economics also developed during this period.

Moving onto discourses of power in the latter half of the twentieth century, Rodgers notes that discussion about power and its sources became less concrete and more fragmented and dispersed. One important reading of power was rooted in game theory and economics and stressed that politics and politicians could be analyzed along the same lines of individual, rationally self-interested behavior as the market had been. The new field of public choice economics, led by figures like James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, William Riker, Garrett Hardin, Kenneth Arrow, and Mancur Olson stressed that self-interested behavior was prevalent in the field of politics and that it could bring about serious systemic inefficiencies–government failures usually more serious than so-called market failures. For the left, power was social, and for E.P. Thompson it was intimately connected to classes and an understanding of domination. Thompson rejected vulgar Marxist determinism in favor of an “active, contingent, historical element of class formation,” meaning the formation of the English working class depended on its circumstances and was not inevitable. Thompson infused the importance of culture in the formation of the working class, while Antonio Gramsci would see the impact of culture from the top down, asking the question of “How do the rulers rule?” and answering through a culture of hegemony, or the imposition of the ruling class culture of the rest of society, made to appear the natural order of things. Language and its influence became a dominant motif in the social sciences as well. J.G.A. Pocock described the American Revolution as a competition between systems of language, and Clifford Geertz read diverse societies, drawing expansive conclusions out of small, but rich ritualistic events that tried to find meaning in these anthropological recurrences, not explain their structures. Michel Foucault carried the obsession with power to a new level, beginning by studying institutional power in which power was projected by projected by authorities to discipline the body and then the mind of the individual, using the prison as his archetype, but also focusing on discourses of power which “classified” and “regulated” the individual by creating “regimes of truth” in which the individual both affected and was affected by power.

In the realm of race, Rodgers examines the changing understandings of race in the final decades on the twentieth century. Starting with the inclusion of African-American Studies classes on college campuses in the sixties, “African Americans took the language of race–with all its stigmas, its social disadvantages, its pains and injuries–and reshaped it as a point of pride”; from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, to Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, to Alex Haley’s Roots, each reshaped African American identities through recasting their history “as a story of generations of pride, unquenched desire for freedom, and heroic struggle”–a new consciousness of race (116-117). Underlying this was a conviction of a common experience that united African Americans, which would be questioned starting in the seventies. William Julius Wilson’s The Declining Significance of Race argued that middle class black Americans no longer shared the same experiences of domination that the rest of black America felt. Conservative Dinesh D’Souza argued that black culture was primarily responsible for the inability of blacks to catch up to whites, not overt racism.

Looking at gender, Rodgers finds a destabilization of marriage, a restructuring of the labor force that absorbed scores of women in the 1970s, and a variety of court decisions and legislative changes tackling gender inequalities in the law. We see the discussion of patriarchy evident in this outpouring of writings by feminists, a concept that could mean “a labor system rooted in men’s expropriation of women’s unpaid family labor; for others, it was a system through which men gained domination over women’s reproductive powers by trading women as commodities in marriage and kinship exchanges; for still others, it was a system of outright physical domination constituted in rape and sexual violence.” Overall, feminists during the sixties wanted to create a unified voice for women whose understandings of the world stemmed from their own experiences, rather than those of men. The problem was, of course, that there was fractures in the feminist camp, with differential focuses and goals that did not always reconcile with each other. There were also counterfeminist groups that opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and helped grind its state ratification success to a halt. By the 1980s, the women’s alliance had nearly collapsed, with a renewed focus by women on family and a rebuke against the homogenization of women’s experiences and desires they felt feminism was bringing about, especially along lines of race and class. Feminists searched for new modes of analysis, with many settling on the gendered nature of language, some focusing on literature, others establishing the new field of Critical Legal Studies that “unmasked the hidden arbitrariness of the law’s language.” French Poststructuralists focused on hierarchical power in opposing binaries like mind/body and male/female, where one side of the equation was given a default status of normal or natural, with the other subordinated to it–language disguised the arbitrariness and instability of language. Some of the cultural backlash came from conservative women and men who read into the equal rights amendment a denial of gender differences, an assault on the family, or an uncomfortable acceptance of homosexuality, which culminated in a conservative defense of the family to counter these trends.

The era was also one in which Americans rethought their concepts of community and collective obligation, coming to new answers than the preceding decades. John Rawls’ pivotal work, A Theory of Justice, was a political philosopher’s attempt to answer what justice requires that we owe each other, taking a thought experiment–the Veil of Ignorance–and concluding that in such a situation, self-interested individuals who knew nothing about their relative talents would choose an egalitarian system of justice that focused on the well-being of the least well-off in society, making sure no one was desperately impoverished. Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick challenged Rawls’ formulation four years later in 1975 with Anarchy, State, and Utopia, formulizing justice not as an end-state, which inevitably required coercion by the state into the autonomy and liberty of individuals, but as a process–if the given, or original, distribution was just, and exchanges were just, then the distribution resulting from the exchanges must be also just. Conservatives felt themselves torn between articulating a vision of community somewhere between Nozick’s perceived atomism (or leftist nihilism) and Communistic leviathan, ultimately settling on a “local” rhetoric praising the virtue of civil society and citizenship on a small scale–”little platoons of society”. They saw universities as an avenue for promoting common experiences that develop civic-minded and virtuous individuals, so they became distressed when they saw universities eliminating traditional common experiences such as teaching the “Great Books,” as well as promulgating political correctness and instituting speech codes that stifled free speech and open inquiry on campus.

Rodgers brings Age of Fracture to a close discussing school voucher implementation, textbook wars, Constitutional originalism, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and has an epilogue on 9/11 as a unifying force against the late twentieth century’s trend of fracture.

Discussion Questions

    1. In Chapter two, Rodgers frames the shift toward microeconomic foundations for macroeconomics and the increasing importance of economic concepts in social debate as “the puzzle of the age.” He says “the riddle is that so abstract an idea of efficient market action should have arisen amid so much real-world market imperfection,” in which he includes “worldwide ratcheting up of global oil prices during the Arab-Israeli War of 1977,” high inflation rates, deflationary actions taken by the Federal Reserve, the Mexican government’s default of 1982, and Carter’s oil and gas price controls; is this really a tale of market imperfection?
    2. What does it mean for the black experience that race is socially constructed and not essential? Does this draw into question black racial identity and their experience with racism? Is identity totally fluid, or are there limits to what identities we can embrace?
    3. Debate into the proper method of recourse for blacks who had been harmed by racism abounded in the latter portion of the twentieth century. Does justice require individual claimants with individual wrongs, or, as Thurgood Marshall put it, is it “unnecessary in twentieth-century American to have individual Negroes demonstrate that they have been victims of racial discrimination”?
    4. Does Rodgers identify a causal mechanism for this fracturing of America? Or does he only identify the ways these intellectual currents reflected the fracturing without truly explaining the causes
    5. Rodgers first looks to how Ronald Reagan changed presidential rhetoric from a Cold War emphasis on solidarity to a “psychic optimism” that emphasized America’s positive future and the boundless dreaming on Americans that produces that future. For Rodgers, this rhetorical shift is symbolic of the larger shifts occurring in the intellectual arena, in academic journals and newly established think tanks. As an introductory analogy, detailing the more individualist, disaggregated view of American society that was developing. Is this chapter only useful as an introductory analogy to the change in the intellectual sphere, and otherwise out of place in his work, or does it play a more significant role in his thesis?




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HIST 2110: Final Exam Study Guide


The Cold War





John F. Kennedy (JFK)

Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ)

“Daisy” ad

The Civil Rights Movement

Brown v. Board of Education (1955)

Betty Friedan

The Voting Rights Act (1965)

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stokely Carmichael

The Rise of the New Right

The Vietnam War


Jimmy Carter

Iran Hostage Crisis

Anita Bryant

Ronald Reagan

The War on Drugs

After the Cold War

Mikhail Gorbachev

Bill Clinton


The “New Economy”

Welfare reform (1996)

America in Globalization and War

2000 Presidential election

The Iraq War (2003)

“Weapons of mass destruction”

Hurricane Katrina

Global Financial Crisis (2008)

Barack Obama


Essay Questions:

What was “containment”?  How did anxieties over Communism influence American foreign policy and life at home in the United States?  Give at least three explicit examples of how the US government acted to fight Communism at home and abroad during the Cold War, and the consequences these actions had.

What strategies did members of the civil rights movement use to combat racist oppression of African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s?  What specific tactics were used to dismantle segregation and fight for greater political, social, and economic equality during this period, and what were the movement’s greatest successes?

What did Betty Friedan mean by “the problem that has no name”?  In what ways were women limited by law and tradition in the 1950s, and in what ways did the feminist movement fight to expand freedom for women in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s?  Give specific examples of laws, court rulings, and/or cultural attitudes that changed during this period.

Why did the Pruitt-Igoe housing project fail? What social, political, and economic factors contributed to the decline of this ambitious experiment in public housing?  Be sure to cite and explain at least three factors, outlining the consequences of each for residents of Pruitt-Igoe and greater St. Louis

What factors gave rise to the New Right in the 1960s, 1970s, and the 1980s?  Why did conservatism begin to appeal to more American voters during this period, following a long period of liberal dominance from the time of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s to LBJ’s Great Society/War on Poverty in the 1960s? Be sure to cite specific issues and/or events that led to greater political success for conservatives and the Republican Party.



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HIST 7010: Suburban Exceptionalism and The Silent Majority

From Andrew:

Until recently, a key feature of the historiography of the sixties in general and the Civil Rights era in particular was the idea of the “backlash,” where the triumphs and changes made by movements focused on race, gender and sexuality, and ending the Vietnam War eventually flew to close to the sun and alienated large portions of the white working and middle class, giving rise to an ascendant conservatism exemplified by the Nixon and ultimately, Reagan administrations. This perspective changed in the early 2000’s, as a growing number of historians began examining the rise of the New Right as a kind of parallel movement to the much more studied activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Alongside historians such as Lisa McGirr, Joseph Crespino, Kevin Kruse, and Rick Perlstein, Matthew Lassiter locates the fracturing of the New Deal coalition and the era of a “New South” not in an overtly racial backlash to the Civil Rights movement, but in the growth of suburbia as a major node of power in American Society. The Silent Majority primarily focuses on Atlanta and Charlotte as case studies of how “the primary demographic forces behind postwar political realignment in the New South became the sprawling middle-class suburbs and the expanding black electorate, not the defiant Dixiecrats and the defeated massive resisters” (Lassiter, 41). Lassiter expands his focus towards the end of the book to make a compelling case against the ideas of Southern Exceptionalism, the divide over de jure versus de facto segregation, and the successes of a “Southern Strategy” in electoral politics in lieu of an emphasis on the meritocratic ideal of the suburbs couched in the language of the rights of property owners and freedom of choice in terms of education.

Lassiter begins by looking at Atlanta. “The city too busy to hate” and “capital of the New South” provides a key window into postwar changes in the region. Following Brown v. Board, tensions in Atlanta existed not only between whites and African-Americans, but between the rural denizens espousing massive resistance against de-segregation, including shuttering all private schools, and the residents of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, who sought a program of peaceful one-way integration that would not tarnish the city’s reputation for corporate expansion (Lassiter, 45). Lassiter spotlights the grassroots nature of suburban activism by focusing on Help Our Public Education (HOPE), founded by two suburban mothers to prevent disruptions in their children’s education (61). HOPE was virulently castigated by proponents of massive resistance as it shattered their contention that all of white Georgia was united against the prospect of school desegregation (78). HOPE became an exemplar of “pragmatic segregation”, where a small handful of high-achieving black students would be admitted into white schools, meeting the bare minimum requirements of desegregation while avoiding outright integration. While these activists could be seen favorably compared to the demagoguery of massive resisters, Lassiter writes that “Atlanta’s open-schools movement never countered the segregationist crusade to preserve southern tradition with an alternative argument about the responsibility to atone for injustices of the past, but instead with a color-blind vision of a prosperous future liberated entirely from the burdens of southern history” (104). Lassiter ends his section on Atlanta by chronicling the failures of the city to annex the growing northern suburbs, leading to segregation along residential lines which shaped the future of the city. In switching the focus to Charlotte, Lassiter provides an example with similar origins but a different ending.

In switching to Charlotte, Lassiter explains the “Charlotte Way” as “a civic ideology that embraced the Sunbelt Synthesis of economic progress through racial moderation while managing to avoid the hubristic excesses of Atlanta Exceptionalism” (128). After an attempt at a limited, voluntary desegregation plan led to a white mob assaulting a black student, Charlotte’s civic and business leaders devised a new plan to ensure order and prevent violence while attempting to forge a biracial consensus (128-129). When the limits of one-way desegregation led to a push for two-way busing and integration, the Concerned Parents Association (CPA) fought back using language that stressed ideas of taxpayer rights and privileges, rather than outright racial animus, to try and thwart complete integration. Using the CPA as a prime example of “the Silent Majority” as coined by the Nixon administration, Lassiter notes how these “Forgotten Americans” managed to appropriate the language of individual freedoms and rights from Civil Rights leaders while simultaneously ignoring the origins of racial, residential segregation. An ahistorical viewpoint of color-blind individualism and merit that Lassiter states “underlay[s] a predisposition to reject-or more often to fail to even consider-the abstract proposition that the government’s culpability in concentrating black residents in a certain part of the city should have any personal impact on middle-class lifestyles” (142). Charlotte differs from Atlanta by the ability of the city to incorporate its growing suburbs, leading to an interracial alliance against upper class proponents of busing that were unaffected by its implementation (194-5). Following these case studies, Lassiter looks at the bigger picture of how the suburbs have shaped modern America.

As we noted in our last meeting, racial integration, busing in particular, is hardly a phenomena occurring solely in the South. As the suburban model spread throughout the nation, Lassiter puts a finger on why measures like busing lead to such virulent reactions. “The meritocratic ethos celebrated throughout America’s upper-middle-class suburbs has always contained two central contradictions: the refusal to acknowledge that any historical forces greater than individual accomplishment shaped the spatial patterns of the metropolitan landscape and the ‘neighborhood schools’ presumption that children of privilege should receive every advantage of the consumer affluence accumulated by their parents instead of competing on an egalitarian playing field” (217). This analysis repudiates the idea of de jure segregation being a different species than de facto segregation, where the former is Un-American and remediable while the latter is simply a product of circumstance. The failure of Bradley v. Richmond to withstand appeal, due in large part to a “massive resistance” of middle class families up to the Nixon administration prevented a wide-scale challenge to segregation resulting from residential patterns (292-3). Going forward, this allowed for a view that segregation was not a shame of the nation, but something that was triumphantly defeated and relegated to the past. Suburban politics have become the dominate politics of modern America, with a focus every electoral cycle on “soccer moms”, naïve or cynical declarations that racism is over, and the primacy of property rights over individual lives. Near the end of his work, Lassiter states that “the dominant ethos of American suburbia has always idealized the present and celebrated the future at the expense of any critical reflection on the past” (322-3). In many ways, this ethos has spread beyond the artificial boundaries of the gated communities where it spawned and became an ethos for national politics in the twenty first century. In short, we can never get away from the sprawl.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Throughout the book, opponents of busing speak in a “color-blind” language of meritocracy and the rights of taxpayers. How does this construction of rights fit in to our ongoing discussion about the nature of rights?
  1. On page 115 Lassiter writes “the resilience of Atlanta Exceptionalism lies in the futuristic amalgamation of pieces from across the American landscape: The Sunbelt growth ideology of Houston and Los Angeles, the Rust Belt poverty of Detroit and Newark, the elitist enclaves of Manhattan and Grosse Pointe, the consumer ethos of suburban privilege that extends from the subdivisions of Orange County to the townships of New Jersey and Connecticut.” Taken as a sum of its parts, can Atlanta be seen as a microcosm of post Civil Rights America?
  1. Most Americans are familiar with Brown v. Board and the 1964/1965 Civil Rights/Voting Rights Acts. Have other Supreme Court decisions mentioned in The Silent Majority such as Baker v. Carr, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Bradley v. Richmond, and Milliken v. Bradley been neglected in discussing the triumphs and shortcomings of the Civil Rights Era?
  1. Do you agree with Lassiter’s argument that “de-facto” segregation is a historical fiction?
  1. How does The Silent Majority demonstrate the limits of the American Constitutional system in addressing systematic issues such as racism and barriers to socioeconomic mobility? Is one of the jobs of The Supreme Court correcting the injustices of the past?
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HIST 2110: Lecture Slides


Below you will find the basic outlines for most of the lectures over the course of the semester. Please keep in mind these are only outlines; the lectures for the remainder of the semester are subject to change, and the material we cover will often diverge from the slides, meaning that regular attendance is critical. These slides offer a skeleton that you can flesh out by taking better and more extensive notes in class.  It would be ideal if you printed out or copied down these outlines before coming to class so you have the opportunity to take fuller notes on the lecture.

  1. Origins of American Settlement
  2. Slavery and the Atlantic World
  3. Spiritual America
  4. The Rights of an Englishman
  5. Nation or Confederation?
  6. Life in the Early Republic
  7. A White Man’s Country
  8. Democracy in Crisis
  9. The Second American Revolution
  10. Reconstructing a Nation
  11. Industrializing a Continent
  12. Thinking the People
  13. The Yen for Reform
  14. The Progressives’ War
  15. The World of the 1920s
  16. America: Back to the Drawing Board
  17. A Democratic Culture?
  18. The Ideological War
  19. Building a Free World
  20. The Third American Revolution
  21. Vietnam and the Rise of the New Right
  22. The Washington Consensus
  23. America in Globalization and War
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