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Author Topic: Why Have An Extra Class?  (Read 259059 times)
W7ETA
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« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2010, 01:31:21 PM »

Just do your analysis of the present system, cite it's weakness and strengths.

Propose your new system, demonstrate how it incorporates the strengths of the current and strengthens the current weakness. 

You can tie up the package with a question pool.

OR

You can just complain the FCC and VECs don't live up to your expectations.

Or just invest enough time to pass the Extra test.

73
Bob
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N2EY
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« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2010, 05:34:50 PM »

Just do your analysis of the present system, cite it's weakness and strengths.

Propose your new system, demonstrate how it incorporates the strengths of the current and strengthens the current weakness. 

You can tie up the package with a question pool.


Good points, Bob, but there's a couple more steps:

1) Figure out changes that actually have a chance of being enacted.

2) Get widespread support from the amateur community before sending anything to FCC.

Time after time, hams propose changes that FCC can't/won't enact. For example, it would be great if FCC were to take over giving the license tests again like they did before the VEC system. But there's no way that will happen unless there's money to pay for it.

Also, time after time, hams propose changes to FCC that get mass opposition in the comments. Like the ARRL "regulation by bandwidth" proposal - it had some good features and some not-so-good ones, but the vast majority of comments on it were so opposed that it was pulled from consideration.

Skip either of those steps and a proposal is just a waste of time.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2010, 06:00:27 PM »

Why have ANY test???

Let us just have an application along with a $1000 fee. This would help reduce the deficit and get us more jerks not to talk to on the bands.

So it would be the CB bands all over again. We are almost there now, just listen to the crap on 75 mtrs some evening..


 Wink Wink Wink

Stan K9IUQ
« Last Edit: August 23, 2010, 06:02:26 PM by Stan Shestokes » Logged
AB2T
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« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2010, 06:40:51 PM »

Time after time, hams propose changes that FCC can't/won't enact. For example, it would be great if FCC were to take over giving the license tests again like they did before the VEC system. But there's no way that will happen unless there's money to pay for it.

EDIT: I have edited this in consideration of the good work of VE examiners that volunteer their time to bring new hams into the hobby.   

-------
A small minority of VE sessions have demonstrated fraudulent activity.  I wouldn't be surprised if the FCC considers it cheaper to discipline VE teams and cancel fraudulent licenses than pay Commission employees extra salary to examine amateur radio candidates.  I suspect that a number of VE team frauds go unpunished.  There needs to be a better system to check fraud, but I'm not certain that sending all candidates back to the FCC is possible or even desirable for hams and the Commission.

A solution for fraudulent exam sessions:

(the for-profit suggestion has been removed)

Any new candidate or ham upgrade that has gone through the the VEC system would be subject to FCC field office recall if the VE team that administered his or her exam has been suspected of fraud.  The tests would be exactly the same as those administered during a VE exam but would be supervised by a FCC employee.  A ham would have 90 days to appear at a field office.  If he or she does not appear, the license is canceled.  This policy echoes the old Conditional re-examination model. 
     
---

Personally, I don't mind going to a field office or examining under a VE.  Here in Canada it's still possible to take amateur radio exams at an Industry Canada field office.  I am thinking of doing so for the 5 wpm morse exam.  If you want to be an Accredited Examiner (AE) in Canada (same as VE here), you have to pass the 5 wpm.  If I am successful in starting a new club, I need to examine new candidates. I would rather just sit for the darned code test than have to wait for an established club to get around to offering the test through volunteers.  I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get the paperwork done and the club rolling.  I'll have to practice copying at 5 wpm since my brain isn't geared that slow anymore ;-/ 

From what I understand, Industry Canada will make every effort to set you up with an AE.  Industry Canada personnel do not like administering tests and have made this clear to the Canadian amateur radio community.  Industry Canada considers ham exams to be a nuisance and waste and would much rather let the "laity" take care of it.  Still, the still largely rural nature of Canada necessitates testing at a government office or at a volunteer examiner session.

73, Jordan
   
« Last Edit: August 23, 2010, 08:38:00 PM by Jordan » Logged
AA4PB
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2010, 07:25:38 PM »

"VE team fraud has been a problem since the beginning of the volunteer examination system"

I don't think I believe that. Certainly there have been cases but I think it is a pretty small percentage comparied to the total number of VE exams given. It's not a major problem - or else it covered up and not made public.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
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« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2010, 08:18:33 PM »

"VE team fraud has been a problem since the beginning of the volunteer examination system"

I don't think I believe that. Certainly there have been cases but I think it is a pretty small percentage comparied to the total number of VE exams given. It's not a major problem - or else it covered up and not made public.

I agree. I regret making that statement since it implies that corruption has been systemic and present from the inception of the VE program.  Both are false.  Also, I have taken pains to note that the vast majority of VE teams are ethically aboveboard.  VE team fraud instances are very small compared to the great number of ethically sound VE sessions administered yearly.  As with any testing system, fraud occurs despite every measure to maintain ethical integrity.  Even so, there should be a "higher appeal" for suspect licenses rather than the cancellation of suspected fraudulent licenses and re-examination through the VE system.  FCC field offices could be that higher appeal.  This is especially important for new hams and upgraders that do not have easy access to a VE team other than a team accused of fraud.

The delegation of ham exams to for-profit testing corporations is an extreme measure that I have deleted from my previous post.  I apologize to VEs that might be insulted by the proposal.  I do not think that VE team malfeasance is statistically significant enough to warrant the for profit model that I have previously suggested.   
« Last Edit: August 23, 2010, 08:43:14 PM by Jordan » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #21 on: August 24, 2010, 02:23:30 AM »

A solution for fraudulent exam sessions:

(the for-profit suggestion has been removed)

Any new candidate or ham upgrade that has gone through the the VEC system would be subject to FCC field office recall if the VE team that administered his or her exam has been suspected of fraud.  The tests would be exactly the same as those administered during a VE exam but would be supervised by a FCC employee.  A ham would have 90 days to appear at a field office.  If he or she does not appear, the license is canceled.  This policy echoes the old Conditional re-examination model. 

We have that now.

FCC has always had - and exercised = the power to call in any licensee for re-examination. It's not often done, but it does happen.

My point about having FCC do the exams isn't about fraud. I think the VEC system does a very good job and that fraud is an extremely rare occurrence.

The reason I brought it up was that the VEC/QPC system, of necessity, results in published question pools. Having the actual Q&A available results in a very different test environment than the old "secret" tests.

But FCC doing all the testing and test preparation just isn't going to happen any time soon, because of the added costs compared to the VEC system, which uses all-volunteer labor.

So any proposal to go back to FCC running the exams is going noplace fast unless there's a way to pay for it.

That's just one example, there are plenty more. 

That's all I was trying to say.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4PB
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« Reply #22 on: August 24, 2010, 05:25:26 AM »

The problem with FCC testing was and would be again if it is ever reimplemented, that it is often difficult for people to get to the office for testing. I was one of the lucky ones who lived only about 25 miles from the Detroit office. Still, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and fight the traffic into the city (I would guess its a lot worse now) in order to be at the office before 9AM. If you hit a little extra traffic and showed up at 9:01 then you got to do it all again next month because at 9:00 the doors were locked and testing began. If you arrived before 8:30 you waited in the car because the doors didn't open until 8:30.

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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
AB2T
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« Reply #23 on: August 24, 2010, 10:14:30 AM »


The reason I brought it up was that the VEC/QPC system, of necessity, results in published question pools. Having the actual Q&A available results in a very different test environment than the old "secret" tests.

That's all I was trying to say.

Sorry.  I read into things way too much.  I presumed that your desire to have the FCC administer exams had something to do with testing fraud.  RTFM.

As for published question pools: I doubt that there could be a return to "secret" exams.  A return would not be possible even if the FCC wrote the questions rather than merely ratified QPC composed exams.  I do not know the law well, but I suspect that any move towards unpublished question pools would eventually result in a court challenge per Freedom of Information Act.  Better, then, to place the exam pools online from inception.

The problem with FCC testing was and would be again if it is ever reimplemented, that it is often difficult for people to get to the office for testing. I was one of the lucky ones who lived only about 25 miles from the Detroit office. Still, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and fight the traffic into the city (I would guess its a lot worse now) in order to be at the office before 9AM. If you hit a little extra traffic and showed up at 9:01 then you got to do it all again next month because at 9:00 the doors were locked and testing began. If you arrived before 8:30 you waited in the car because the doors didn't open until 8:30.

Quite true -- the weekend VE system is much more convenient for the testers and examiners.  I am certain that most hams would object to FCC exams on the grounds of convenience alone.  I did take one of my VE administered exams on a weekday evening, but from what I remember that was not as common.  Still, the exam was in the early evening. 
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N0NB
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« Reply #24 on: August 24, 2010, 10:43:13 AM »

As for published question pools: I doubt that there could be a return to "secret" exams.  A return would not be possible even if the FCC wrote the questions rather than merely ratified QPC composed exams.  I do not know the law well, but I suspect that any move towards unpublished question pools would eventually result in a court challenge per Freedom of Information Act.  Better, then, to place the exam pools online from inception.

Or, some enterprising person would just resurrect the Dick Bash method of interviewing examinees coming out of FFC office exams and building a reasonably accurate database of "secret" Q/A.  As I understand it, that is exactly what happened by the late '70s and it was learned that the FCC question pool was quite limited compared to todays QPC pool.

The only issue that I as a radio amateur have with the public question pools is that some choose to try to memorize the Q/A rather than learn the underlying material.  I have to say that going through electronics school 20 years ago that even though the instructors did not give us any questions in advance, there were no surprise questions as I was always well prepared for any exam.

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73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

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N0NB
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« Reply #25 on: August 24, 2010, 10:59:28 AM »

The key to the success of the Novice was that it was an easy-to-get license with limited privileges that focused the newcomer on the basics. Nobody had to start with Novice, but tens of thousands, if not more, did.

What the old Novice did was to steer newcomers to a few bands and modes to get started. The rig-makers and article-writers produced lots of simple, inexpensive, easy-to-use gear and articles aimed at the Novice. It was not unusual for a Novice to get started with homebrew, kit or converted surplus gear costing very little, and a simple homebrew antenna. The Novice subbands were usually busy, yet the newcomer with a simple setup could hold his/her own because everybody else had a pretty simple setup too.

We could have something similar to that again updated, of course.

IMHO, today a lot of newcomers today are overwhelmed by the wide selection of rigs, bands, modes, antennas, etc., and the high cost and complexity of new stuff.

Working against the concept of a new Novice license based on the old ways is that instant gratification is the order of the day now.  Gone are the days when a youngster would spend time with a kindly gent learning about amateur radio for months at a time and when not in the elmer's shack would study for the written Novice exam and practice Morse Code.  Now everything must be done yesterday and with the biggest, newest, and fanciest of gear (okay, that was a bit pessimistic).  Hopefully, I am completely wrong on this.

Other than no power limitations above 50 MHz below the 1500 Watt legal maximum, the Technician license may only need to be tweaked a bit to meet your idea of a more ideal entry level license.  Should a revamped entry license give HF phone privileges on more than the current 10m segment?  Should VHF operations be limited to 2m and 70cm FM?  Should digital operations be allowed on HF?  For someone looking to amateur radio from an emcom interest, a license that offers 100W on 2m and 70cm FM and 200 W on the current General phone bands of 75 and 40m along with digital/CW privileges on 80 and 40m, might just fit their desire for emcom participation very well.
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73, de Nate
Bremen, KS

SKCC 6225
N2EY
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« Reply #26 on: August 24, 2010, 08:10:33 PM »

The problem with FCC testing was and would be again if it is ever reimplemented, that it is often difficult for people to get to the office for testing.

In the bad old days the Philly FCC office started their testing at 8 AM. But they didn't lock the doors...

The problem for a lot of hams back then was that, since the exams were all on weekday mornings, it meant time off from work - and not everybody gets paid vacation time. For folks out in the boonies, travel time and expenses could be considerable.

For me, travel was simple: Less than a mile to the 69th st terminal, a quick subway ride to 3rd street, then a couple of blocks to 2nd & Chestnut. No problem at all.

The big challenge was that, as a kid in school, the only days I could go were during the summer vacation, or if there were a Monday or Wednesday that was a school holiday but not a national holiday. (No kid in his right mind back then would play hooky to go to a Federal Government office!)

IMHO the best system was what the FCC had in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was office testing, as before, but also the FCC would send traveling examiners to hamfests and other gatherings. All that was needed was at least 10 examinees. A club could host an exam session.

But it was all swept away by budget cuts and "small government" types.

The problem is cost. Imagine what it would cost today to have FCC testing offices with paid employees running them, plus traveling examiners.

I looked into getting a Second Telegraph some time back. The private contractor closest to me is an hour or two away, and the cost was $100.

73 de Jim, N2EY
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 08:30:45 PM by James Miccolis » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2010, 08:23:29 PM »

Sorry.  I read into things way too much.  I presumed that your desire to have the FCC administer exams had something to do with testing fraud.  RTFM.

As for published question pools: I doubt that there could be a return to "secret" exams.  A return would not be possible even if the FCC wrote the questions rather than merely ratified QPC composed exams.  I do not know the law well, but I suspect that any move towards unpublished question pools would eventually result in a court challenge per Freedom of Information Act.  Better, then, to place the exam pools online from inception.

FCC takes fraud very seriously. They have a simple enforcement tool: retesting. If there's any question, they just call in the suspects and have them take the test again in front of FCC examiners. Sometimes the result is a pass, sometimes it's a fail, and sometimes the person doesn't show.

From what I've seen over the years, fraud in the VEC system is extremely rare. There's no real point in it anyway.

As for FOIA, it doesn't apply. FOIA predates the VE system by many years, for one thing. For another, and more important, it doesn't cover test questions. (Do government-run colleges have to make the test question public before the tests? How about the SAT and various other license exams? Of course not!)

Of course as N0NB points out, if the tests were somehow made secret again, someone would do the "Son of Bash" thing all over again.

But as I said in the previous post, the big issue is cost. How many millions would it cost to have FCC personnel create the tests and administer them?

Back in the day, there were test fees for a few years. They got as high as $9. Doesn't sound like much today but with inflation it amounts to $50-60 in today's money.

Main point is that proposing elimination of the VE system isn't going to go anywhere unless somebody is willing to fund it.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2010, 10:20:43 PM »

As for FOIA, it doesn't apply. FOIA predates the VE system by many years, for one thing. For another, and more important, it doesn't cover test questions. (Do government-run colleges have to make the test question public before the tests? How about the SAT and various other license exams? Of course not!)

You're correct about the law, but not necessarily correct about the purpose or advantages of test information publication.  Regardless of legal consideration, the publication of test questions might not affect testing outcomes.  The merit of question publication depends on the type of exam.

The SAT is administered by a non-for-profit group, the College Board.  Previous tests are released and published by CB (there is a moving wall of a few years).  The previous SAT's examine the same conceptual skills year after year even if the annual exam questions often change in appearance.  The SAT is a biased exam that often predicts little about subsequent academic achievement (not a discussion for eham).  Anyway, perhaps some person could memorize the entire SAT question pool and regurgitate the answers.  That would be quite a difficult endeavor. While there are conceptual similarities between questions on the SAT, each question requires a basic understanding of the verbal or mathematical relationship behind the question.       

Dick Bash's end-run around the FCC proved that ham radio exams do not test experiential proficiency.  "The Final Exam" amply demonstrated that ham test questions can be memorized.  Today's ham radio question pools contain strings of ten nearly identical answers (how many ways can you ask a question about Ohm's Law?).  Get the gist of one question and get the next nine right.             

Of course as N0NB points out, if the tests were somehow made secret again, someone would do the "Son of Bash" thing all over again.

It's important to add that the FCC never publicly claimed that the ham radio exams examined experiential knowledge.  How could they?  Nevertheless, the Dick Bash phenomenon finally destroyed any misconceptions that hams were being tested on knowledge gleaned from operation, experimentation, and self-instruction.  I suspect that Bash's demolition of the secret test as a metric of experience (in part) prompted the FCC to assent to the publication of QPC pools.  Also, no law could stop Bash from bribing test-takers. 

But as I said in the previous post, the big issue is cost. How many millions would it cost to have FCC personnel create the tests and administer them?

Back in the day, there were test fees for a few years. They got as high as $9. Doesn't sound like much today but with inflation it amounts to $50-60 in today's money.

American hams are fortunate when it comes to testing fees.  What is it now, $15 a test?

Test fee in Canada is $25 for all tests administered under the AE system. 

Britain and Australia charge steep testing fees.  In Britain, the fee for one of the exams is around 35 pounds or so (approx. $50) from what I remember reading.

You are right that the FCC would necessarily have to charge higher fees.  The FCC would likely look at the fee schedules of other countries as a guide.  In that case, American hams would look forward to much steeper testing fees.  Steep testing fees are a regressive tax and a deterrent to prospective hams.  I strongly suspect that the League would block any move towards a resumption of FCC testing on fees alone.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2010, 12:41:37 AM by Jordan » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #29 on: August 25, 2010, 04:22:59 AM »

You're correct about the law, but not necessarily correct about the purpose or advantages of test information publication.  Regardless of legal consideration, the publication of test questions might not affect testing outcomes.  The merit of question publication depends on the type of exam.

The SAT is administered by a non-for-profit group, the College Board.  Previous tests are released and published by CB (there is a moving wall of a few years).  The previous SAT's examine the same conceptual skills year after year even if the annual exam questions often change in appearance. 

The point is that there's a big difference between knowing what *may* be on the test in a general way, and knowing *exactly* what will be on the test by having access to the  Q&A.

I mentioned the SAT and other tests merely to show that FOIA doesn't apply. FCC license exam pools are public for other reasons.

Anyway, perhaps some person could memorize the entire SAT question pool and regurgitate the answers.  That would be quite a difficult endeavor. While there are conceptual similarities between questions on the SAT, each question requires a basic understanding of the verbal or mathematical relationship behind the question. 

And the FCC exam questions do not.

I don't know if the SATs still mark this way, but years ago, the marking rule for a 5 choice multiple-guess question was 5 points for right, -1 point for wrong and 0 points for blank. What that did was to make pure random guessing worthless, because you'd average out to zero. Also, the SAT is graded by percentile; getting a "perfect score" doesn't mean you got every question right, just that you were in the top percentile of those taking the same test.

By comparison, FCC license exams have only 4 choices and no penalty for guessing. The marking is absolute: get 74% or better right, and you pass.

Dick Bash's end-run around the FCC proved that ham radio exams do not test experiential proficiency.  "The Final Exam" amply demonstrated that ham test questions can be memorized.

The tests were never meant to test "experential proficiency". Their purpose is to see if a ham knows certain things.

One does not have to memorize the Q&A exactly. Rather, all that's needed is enough familiarity to get those 74%.

What Bash did was to profit from the system - for a while. Publishing the Q&A put him out of business - why pay for a book when the info can be had for free?

Perhaps the biggest revelation of his books was the fact that the FCC didn't have that big a question pool in use. That's why there was a 30 day wait to retest: if you could retest immediately, pretty soon you'd see the same test again.

The secret tests, 30 day wait, no CSCEs and other features of the old ways had an important effect on most of us: It was such a pain to re-test that we overlearned in order to be sure of passing.

Today's ham radio question pools contain strings of ten nearly identical answers (how many ways can you ask a question about Ohm's Law?).  Get the gist of one question and get the next nine right.

In the pool, yes. But not in the exam.

btw, I can think of dozens if not hundreds of ways of asking Ohm's Law questions. Just for DC:

- Basic questions where you are given two parameters and asked for the other two.

- Resistors in parallel, series, series parallel, wye and delta.

- More complex networks

- Multiple sources and switches

- Voltage dividers and bias networks, regulators and meters

- Practical problems involving wire runs, sources with internal resistance, etc.

- Thevenin and Norton equivalents.

A person who truly understands Ohm's Law would have no problem with any of them.
        

It's important to add that the FCC never publicly claimed that the ham radio exams examined experiential knowledge.  How could they?  Nevertheless, the Dick Bash phenomenon finally destroyed any misconceptions that hams were being tested on knowledge gleaned from operation, experimentation, and self-instruction.

Why does that matter?

The point of the tests was to see if a ham had the minimum necessary knowledge for the license. Experience was something else entirely. The license is the starting point, not the finish line.

To a person who knows something about radio, the technical part of the exams is pretty easy. All the pools together don't add up to one first-course in EE school. Nor should they!

The regs are amateur-radio specific, and are mostly about memorization and understanding a few concepts such as "control operator".

btw, in the bad old days the tests weren't all multiple choice. There were essay questions, draw-a-diagram questions, and show-your-work calculations too. In the latter, simply getting the right answer didn't count; you had to show how you got it. All gone before Bash's time.

In any event, the test methods aren't going to change any time soon.

I suspect that Bash's demolition of the secret test as a metric of experience (in part) prompted the FCC to assent to the publication of QPC pools.  Also, no law could stop Bash from bribing test-takers. 

The main factor was simply cost. Think how much it cost to pay Federal employee wages and benefits to do amateur license testing for free. (The test fees were eliminated years before the VE system). I suspect the cost ran into the millions to run all the field offices, traveling examiners, expenses, etc. VEs do it all for free; the VE fees go to pay postage, duplicating costs and similar.

Putting Bash out of business was just a side benefit.

A law can't prevent bribery, but it can make it a lot less successful. Would *you* take the risk? I know I wouldn't.

Besides, the tests aren't - and weren't - all that hard. Kids in grade school have passed all the tests, even back when there was code testing and 5 written exams!

There's also the question of personal honor and integrity. If one gets a license by cheating or "bending" the rules, what has really been gained? What has been lost?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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