Sands of time

Resultado de imagem para Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It’s also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene

by David Farrier is a senior lecturer in English literature at the University of Edinburgh, where his research interests include eco-criticism, postcolonial studies, and asylum and refugee contexts. He is currently working on a book about deep time in contemporary poetry. 

The red-veined rocks of Bohuslän in western Sweden have one of the highest concentrations of Bronze Age art in Europe. I was lucky enough to see the carvings during a recent October visit. The site was set back from a road, which marked where the shoreline of the North Sea would have been when the figures were first inscribed, between 2,500 and 4,000 years ago. The petroglyphs had since been painted pillar-box red so that they’d stand out for tourists, and the bright colours and wobbly lines looked like an enormous child’s drawing. But what the scene lacked in elegance it made up for in energy. Bowmen stalked antlered stags among a fleet of longships, flowing into a procession of bulls and thick-bodied giants teetering precariously atop spindly legs. Land and sea, human and animal, swam in and out of view.

Bronze Age rock art in Bohuslän, Sweden, assumed to depict the performance of a ritual. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

I found myself trying to create a narrative, some sort of lost epic, as if I were deciphering a Bronze Age cartoon. We don’t know why these inscriptions were made, or what they were meant to say. The blunt-limbed figures give no clue about where such a story might begin, or where it might end. But perhaps that tangled quality is the petroglyphs’ real message. The longships speak of a culture closely aligned with the sea; the many animals point to a strong affinity with nature. Similar sites on the Cornish and Iberian peninsulas indicate that cultural influences travelled along what the Beowulf poet would later call the ‘whale roads’, the open waters that connected Bronze Age Scandinavia to the rest of Europe for the purposes of war and trade.

We live in a similarly entangled age, in which our consumption of fossil fuels, nitrogen fertilisers, the cobalt in our smartphones, antibiotics, and plastic all bind us to faraway times and places. The world of the Anthropocene is made from this dense web of relationships, each of which leaves its imprint on the world of the future. Two hundred generations of humans have lived and died since the Bohuslän petroglyphs were chipped out of the granite, but they remain urgent and vivid, the evidence of a living presence. In their silence, they pose certain questions. How and why do we navigate the currents of time and of matter to communicate with the deep future? Is it our intentional signs and symbols that leave the most lasting marks, or our unintentional traces?

Ilive and work in Edinburgh, on the lip of the North Sea. I’ve come to see these waters as a kind of Anthropocene laboratory, somewhere that lets us peer at the long-term impacts of the way we’re living now. Its past can tell us something of our future. As the Pangea supercontinent was breaking up 200 million years ago, ancient bacteria and microscopic plants were trapped in what would become the sea floor. Sediments gradually covered them over, and the immense pressure and heat from moving tectonic plates slowly converted this organic matter into the fossil fuels for which the region is now famous.

Until the end of the last Ice Age a vast plain linked Britain to continental Europe; evidence of human presence has been discovered in the form of stone hand axes, dredged up from the sea floor in the south. Then, around 11,700 years ago, the glaciers that once smothered the British Isles in sheets of ice up to 2km thick began to melt, and the North Sea slowly emerged in its present shape – a shallow basin, edged by a deep trench where the sea meets the crenellated coast of Norway…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/the-north-sea-is-a-sign-of-what-awaits-in-the-anthropocene

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Signs of Consciousness, Sentience and Intelligence in Nature Demand Our Respect

by Sofia Adamson, Staff Writer, Waking Times

Part of our lot as human beings on planet earth is dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms, and as a by-product of our economic and cultural heritage, we have largely become indifferent to the suffering of animals. An indicator of the cruelest aspects of our nature.

This systemic disrespect for nature and her creatures is part of, or symptomatic of, a larger problem with modern society, the institutionalized perception that we are separate and independent of our environment. This dualism is part of the division of consciousness that is often noted in ancient texts as well as contemporary discussions of the characteristics of human consciousness.

Perhaps the most appalling sign of human kind’s dualistic trap is how we treat our friends in the animal kingdom. Yet this destructive idea is a tragic falsehood, as animals and plants alike are conscious, sentient and intelligent. The examples of this are everywhere today, and in this video, we see humpback whales clearly showing their appreciation to the humans who freed them from fishing nets.

We are now also discovering the deeper lives of plants, and in a research study spanning some 30 plus years, biologists have discovered the songs of plants.

 

Forest ecologist Dr. Suzanne Simard of the University of British Colombia has uncovered the subterranean network of organisms that allow trees to communicate with one another.

It appears that animal consciousness is rising at present here on planet earth, in spite of wholesale neglect. Elephants can understand and correctly interpret human gestures, and chimpanzees are developing new behaviors and skills. Here, Kanzi the bonobo chimpanzee starts a campfire to roast marshmallows.

Chimps have now been observed using tools to fish for food, a sign of their continuing cognitive development.

 

Their learning process is now being compared to that of human children, and in the following video, an experiment demonstrates the similarities between the two.

Many of the world’s most majestic animals are under direct threat of extinction today, and while most humans fail to appreciate this for what it really means, others continue to learn from animals, admiring their tenacity in the face of overwhelming pressure from humans. In the following case a pack of Andean bears works together to dismantle remote wildlife cameras.

Animals display a broad range of emotion as well, as is sometimes revealed in front of cameras, for example here, when a leopard exhibits compassion for the child of monkey it has just killed.

And animals also like to have fun, as is seen in this clip of dolphins getting high off puffer fish and having a good time in the wide open ocean.

You don’t have to look to hard to find signs of mankind’s disrespect, disregard, and distrust of nature. Raising awareness of our connection and dependence on the natural world in these materialistic times is the only way to counter the devastation. Fukushima, the Deepwater Horizon, mountain-top removal, deforestation, tar sands, fracking, plastic pollution, depleted uranium, animal cruelty, so on and on… there really is no end to our ignorance and disrespect.

Whatever your relationship to the natural world is, and no matter what kind of dystopian illusions you may have for our future, there is no escaping the truth that we are all products of nature, and as such dependent on the natural world for survival and happiness.

About the Author

Sofia Adamson is a contributing writer for Waking Times with a keen appreciation for matters of science and the spirit.

This article (Signs of Consciousness, Sentience and Intelligence in Nature Demand Our Respect) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Sofia Adamson and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio. 

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/05/10/10-signs-nature-intelligent-sentient/

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Dead Whale Shows Highest Pollutant Level Ever Seen by Scientists in an Animal

An orca whale swims with other whales in the Pacific Ocean near the mouth of the Columbia River near Ilwaco, Washington

© AP Photo/ NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

A dead orca whale that washed up on the shore of a Scottish isle has been revealed to have the highest concentration of dangerous pollutants ever recorded.

Following the dead whale’s discovery in January on a small island, researchers with the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), a group that according to their website, “collates all data from stranded marine animals around Scotland,” conducted an autopsy that revealed astonishingly high levels of dangerous pollutants, including highly toxic manmade polychlorinated biphenyls (PBCs).

Scientists conducting the autopsy said the PCB levels are the highest ever recorded in an animal, according to Ibtimes.

The 20-year-old orca, nicknamed Lulu by the team of scientists, was revealed to have PCB levels at concentrations 100 times above the toxicity threshold for sea-going mammals. A study of Lulu’s ovaries revealed that the cetacean had never reproduced, likely a result of the pollutants riddling her tissues, according to the SMASS report.

According to SMASS head Andrew Brownlow, “Previous studies have shown that killer whale populations can have very high PCB burdens, but the levels in this case are some of the highest we’ve ever seen.”

“We know Lulu died from becoming entangled,” Brownlow added, “but given what is known about the toxic effects of PCBs, we have to consider that such a high pollutant burden could have been affecting her health and reproductive fitness.”

Between 1920 and 1977, when their use was eliminated, PCBs were ubiquitous in electrical distribution and power-generation equipment. According to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), some 1.5 billion pounds of the deadly compound was manufactured for use in a wide spectrum of applications in the industrialized world.

Banned in 1979 by the US after it was revealed that PCBs were harmful to the environment and caused cancer in humans, the compounds continue to leach into the oceans and many other habitats. PCBs have been identified in almost every biome of the planet, including 36,000 feet below the surface of the sea, according to a February NOAA study.

“Once PCBs get into the marine environment, they are difficult if not impossible to remove,” said Brownlow.

https://sputniknews.com/environment/201705071053350251-dead-orca-most-polluted-animal/

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What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

Wald_BREAKERILLUSTRATION BY EMMANUEL POLANCO

A controversial test for self-awareness is dividing the animal kingdom.

The idea for a tool to probe the basis of consciousness came to Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. while shaving. “It just occurred to me,” he says, “wouldn’t it be interesting to see if other creatures could recognize themselves in mirrors?”

Showing chimpanzees their reflections seemed like a fascinating little experiment when he first tried it in the summer of 1969. He didn’t imagine that this would become one of the most influential—and most controversial—tests in comparative psychology, ushering the mind into the realm of experimental science and foreshadowing questions on the depth of animal suffering. “It’s not the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror that is important,” he would come to believe. “It’s what that says about your ability to conceive of yourself in the first place.”

Gallup was a new professor at Tulane University in Louisiana, where he had access to the chimps and gorillas at what would later be known as the Tulane National Primate Research Center. The chimpanzees there had been caught as youngsters in Africa and shipped to America, where they were used mainly in biomedical research. By comparison, his experiment was far less invasive. He isolated two chimps in cages, and placed a mirror in each cage for eight hours at a time over 10 days. Through a hole in the wall, Gallup witnessed a shift in the chimps’ behavior. First they treated the reflection like it was another chimp, with a combination of social, sexual, and aggressive gestures. But over time, they started using it to explore their own bodies. “They’d use the mirror to look at the inside of their mouths, to make faces at the mirror, to inspect their genitals, to remove mucous from the corner of their eyes,” Gallup says.

MIRROR TEST: Kitties and puppies see a playmate in the mirror. Are animals that recognize themselves somehow smarter?Video was compiled from various clips. Full credit info is below.

Gallup was sure that the chimps had learned to recognize themselves in the mirror, but he didn’t trust that other researchers would be convinced by his descriptions. So he moved on to phase two of the experiment. He anesthetized the chimps, then painted one eyebrow ridge and the opposite ear tip with a red dye that the chimps wouldn’t be able to feel or smell. If they truly recognized themselves, he thought he knew what would happen: “It seemed pretty obvious that if I saw myself in a mirror with marks on my face, that I’d reach up and inspect those marks.”

That’s exactly what the chimps did. As far as Gallup was concerned, that was proof: “the first experimental demonstration of a self-concept in a subhuman form,” he wrote in the resulting 1970 report in Science. “It was just clear as day,” he remembers. “It didn’t require any statistics. There it was. Bingo.”

But the result that really blew Gallup’s mind came when he tested monkeys, and discovered that they did not do the same. The ability to recognize one’s reflection seemed not to be a matter of learning abilities, with some species being slower than others. It was an issue of higher intellectual capacity. Gallup had obtained the first good evidence that our closest relatives share with us a kind of self-awareness or even consciousness, to the exclusion of other animals. Here, finally, was an experimental handle on a topic that had been the subject of speculation for millennia: What is the nature of human consciousness?

DIY Mirror Test

Gallup wasn’t the first to come up with the notion that it might be significant if a person or animal recognizes itself in the mirror. He would only later learn that Charles Darwin had shown mirrors to orangutans, but they didn’t figure the mirror out, at least while he was watching. Darwin had also noted that, for their first few years, his children couldn’t recognize themselves in their reflections. In 1889, German researcher Wilhelm Preyer became the first to posit a connection between mirror self-recognition and an inner sense of self in people.

More than 50 years later, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan conceived of a childhood “mirror stage,” in which mirrors contribute to the formation of the ego. By 1972, developmental psychologists started using mark tests similar to Gallup’s to pin down the age at which children begin to recognize themselves in the mirror: 18 to 24 months.

Meanwhile Gallup, who moved to the University at Albany-SUNY, became interested in whether any non-primates could pass. In the early 1990s, he encouraged one of his Ph.D. students, Lori Marino, to explore the question. Working with Diana Reiss at Marine World Africa USA in California, Marino exposed two bottlenose dolphins at an aquarium to a mirror. Like the chimpanzees, the dolphins learned to use the mirror in a variety of ways, even “having sex in front of the mirror with each other, which we call our dolphin porno tapes,” Marino says. The three researchers published the results, saying they were “suggestive” of mirror self-recognition.

Still, they were missing the crucial mark test for another decade. The biggest hurdle was anatomical: The dolphins didn’t have hands to touch a mark. But Reiss and Marino, by then at the New York Aquarium, designed a modified test. When marked with black ink on various parts of their bodies, the dolphins flipped and wriggled in an attempt to see it, convincing the researchers and many others that they recognized themselves…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/what-do-animals-see-in-a-mirror-rp

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What the Rat Brain Tells Us About Yours

Katnelson-BR-2

The evolution of animal models for neuroactive medicine.

Alittle more than a decade ago, Mike Mendl developed a new test for gauging a laboratory rat’s level of happiness. Mendl, an animal welfare researcher in the veterinary school at the University of Bristol in England, was looking for an objective way to tell whether animals in captivity were suffering. Specifically, he wanted to be able to measure whether, and how much, disruptions in lab rats’ routines—being placed in an unfamiliar cage, say, or experiencing a change in the light/dark cycle of the room in which they were housed—were bumming them out.

He and his colleagues explicitly drew on an extensive literature in psychology that describes how people with mood disorders such as depression process information and make decisions: They tend to focus on and recall more negative events and to judge ambiguous things in a more negative way. You might say that they tend to see the proverbial glass as half-empty rather than half-full. “We thought that it’s easier to measure cognitive things than emotional ones, so we devised a test that would give us some indication of how animals responded under ambiguity,” Mendl says. “Then, we could use that as a proxy measure of the emotional state they were in.”

First, they trained rats to associate one tone with something positive (food, of course) and a different tone with something negative (hearing an unpleasant noise). They also trained them to press a lever upon hearing the good tone. Then, for the test, they’d play an intermediate tone and watch how the animals responded. Rats have great hearing, and the ones whose cage life wasn’t disturbed were pretty good judges of where the new tone fell between the other two sounds. If it was closer to the positive tone they’d hit the lever, and if it was closer to the negative one they’d lay off. But the ones whose routine had been tweaked over the past two weeks judged this auditory information more negatively. Essentially, their negative responses bled into the positive half of the sound continuum.

Since Mendl published his so-called judgment bias task in 2004, it’s been shown to work in at least 15 other species, including dogs, sheep, bees, and even us humans. Some scientists—himself included—have begun to ask whether there’s a role for it beyond animal welfare. Considering that it probes one of the core clinical measures of depression, could it be used to evaluate the efficacy of much-needed new medicines for that condition?

Katnelson-BR-1
RAT FUNK: For years the pharmaceutical industry depended on the “forced swim test” to validate antidepressants. It showed rats given the drug would paddle longer in water before giving up than rats not doped.Frank Greenaway / Getty Images

Drug discovery in neuroscience has hit a wall, with just 1 in 10 drugs tested in the final stage of clinical trials reaching the finish line of approval. With very few exceptions, no new types of drugs for mind disorders have been approved for decades. You might think drugs fail because they’re found to be toxic, but most die in clinical trials because they aren’t shown to work. Trace that back to the root of the problem, and one big stumbling stone along the drug development pathway is the point where animal tests—and most are done in rodents—wrongly predicted they would.

“We have lots of experience with this—15 to 20 years of failure,” says Ricardo Dolmetsch, the global head of neuroscience at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. “I can name 14 or 15 examples [of tested drugs] that were just fantastic in animals and did not do anything at all in humans.”

Even as these failures have accrued, neuroscientists armed with increasingly potent tools for pinpointing the genes that play a role in psychiatric disorders and the brain circuits those genes control are getting closer to understanding the pathologies of these illnesses. As drug companies—which had largely abandoned or strongly curtailed their efforts in neuroscience and mental health over the past several years—begin to dip their toes back into the water, it seems a fitting time to ask whether modeling aspects of the human mind in rodents is even possible.

One word explains why testing neuropsychiatric drugs in animal models is hard, and that word is language. If we want people to tell us how they feel, we ask them. Animals, of course, have to show us—and it turns out some of our widely used methods for guiding them to do so haven’t been that great. That’s particularly true for depression. How do we know a rat is depressed?

An experiment called the “forced swim test” or “Porsolt test,” after its founder Roger Porsolt, has been widely used since the late 1970s, at least by pharmaceutical companies and drug regulators.

It’s a remarkable story. Before the mid 20th century, treatments for mental or psychiatric disorders consisted primarily of psychotherapy or interventions like sleep cures, insulin shock therapy, surgeries such as lobotomy, or electrical brain stimulation—most prominently, electroconvulsive therapy. Quite suddenly, spurred by the accidental discovery of an antipsychotic drug called chlorpromazine in 1952, these conditions were re-imagined as chemical imbalances that could be corrected with a well-designed pill…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/what-the-rat-brain-tells-us-about-yours

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Europe is on the Brink of Completely Banning Bee-Killing Insecticides

by Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer, Waking Times

As the first North American bumble bee has been officially added to the list of endangered species in the U.S., the European government is making a move to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are widely believed to be a major contributing factor to the rapid collapse of the world’s bee and pollinator insect populations.

The European commission (EC) has drafted regulations which would end the use of neonics, a family of agrichemicals which pose a ‘high acute risk to bees.’ As The Guardian reports:

“The EU imposed a temporary ban on the use of the three key neonicotinoids on some crops in 2013. However, the new proposals are for a complete ban on their use in fields, with the only exception being for plants entirely grown in greenhouses. The proposals could be voted on as soon as May and, if approved, would enter force within months.” [Source]

Other pesticides are also included in the ban, and for those who consider the loss of pollinator insects to be a most critical issue today, this is also good news.

“However, the European commission (EC) has decided to move towards implementing a complete ban now, based on risk assessments of the pesticides by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), published in 2016.

..the EC concluded that “high acute risks for bees” had been identified for “most crops” from imidacloprid and clothianidin, both made by Bayer. For thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta, the EC said the company’s evidence was “not sufficient to address the risks”.” [Source]

While agrichemical companies would like us to believe that more research is needed to disprove the presumption that these chemicals are of no harm to the environment and necessary to feeding the world, others insist we need to stop using them now.

“The science is catching up with the pesticide industry – the EU and UK government must call time on neonics. Going neonic-free puts farmers more in control of their land instead of having to defer to advice from pesticide companies.” ~Paul de Zylva, Friends of the Earth

Final Thoughts

One has to wonder when the reality will sink into American public and political consciousness that bees and pollinators are critical to our lives, our food supply and even our economy.

“As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination; one crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time.

For many others, crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination. In fact, a 1999 Cornell University study documented that the contribution made by managed honey bees hired by U.S. crop growers to pollinate crops amounted to just over $14.6 billion.” ~American Beekeeping Federation

The new proposals could be voted on in coming months, and if passed implementation of this policy could begin as early as this year.

About the Author
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and Offgrid Outpost, a provider ofstorable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.
This article (Europe is on the Brink of Completely Banning Bee-Killing Insecticides) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.
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How Showing Compassion for Animals Can Improve Personal Well-Being

by Alex Pietrowski, Staff,Waking Times

Compassion is the humane side of suffering, which inspires the most beautiful acts of humanity. In man’s world, animals often bear the worst of our dark side, suffering under the stresses of cruelty and ruthlessness, however, being compassionate towards animals may actually be good for your health and well-being, perhaps even prolonging your life.

For so many of us, compassion appears to be an innate, instinctual part of the human experience, something so many of us do automatically, and decades of clinical psychological research into the problem of human suffering shows how our most evolved nature is to respond compassionately. A host of university studies share the conclusion that compassion is part of our higher nature, looking at the biological basis for compassion.

Dacher Keltner summarized the emerging findings from this new science of human goodness, proposing that compassion is “an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology.”” [Source]

Human well-being is multi-dimensional and the corollaries between how we behave and how that behavior in turn affects our overall wellness are more understood now than ever before. When we act from our higher nature, it benefits our health, which may explain the tendency for so many people to live altruistic lives in helping others and protecting animals.

“That suffering, as unpleasant as it is, often also has a bright side to which research has paid less attention: compassion. Human suffering is often accompanied by beautiful acts of compassion by others wishing to help relieve it. What led 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012 (according to statistics from the US Department of Labor)? What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, pull over on the highway in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or feed a stray cat?” [Source]

Taking this one step further, looking at the tendency of people to extend compassion beyond the human race, showing empathy towards the animal kingdom and the natural world, we find an infinite number of possibilities for improving our own lives by directing our energy toward ending the pain and suffering of many beings.

Being compassionate has even been shown to make us more attractive to the opposite sex in behavioral studies looking at societies with more altruistic tendencies.

“One more sign that suggests that compassion is an adaptively evolved trait is that it makes us more attractive to potential mates. A study examining the trait most highly valued in potential romantic partners suggests that both men and women agree that “kindness” is one of the most highly desirable traits.” [Source]

Furthermore, engaging in acts of compassion, when done for the right reasons, can increase one’s peace of mind and happiness:

“The cultivation of well-being has specifically shown that it is eudemonic, rather than hedonic wellbeing which is linked to a sense of connectedness with oneself, and others. Eudemonic wellbeing implies finding meaning and purpose in life, living in accordance with one’s values and developing a sense of long-term “spiritual” health (not necessarily religious).

In turn, eudemonic well-being may be cultivated through mindful practices such as mediation and compassion training.” [Source]

Final Thoughts

It’s not something that would surprise most people, as the expression of our best nature feels good and is uplifting for everyone involved, but the inverse of this must also be true, that people who neglect their own health would have a more difficult time being compassionate to animals, and even nature in general. Therefore, adding intentional kindness, compassion and empathy the ways in which we attain better health and wellness makes perfect sense.

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and Offgrid Outpost, a provider ofstorable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.

This article (How Showing Compassion for Animals Can Improve Personal Well-Being) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/03/21/the-link-between-compassion-for-animals-and-good-health/

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