Hospitals remain key targets as ransomware attacks expected to increase

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The massive cyberattack this weekend that used “Wannacry” ransomware to infiltrate hundreds of thousands of computers has left organizations around the world -- including medical care providers -- on high alert.

The attack on the British National Health Service that affected 16 hospitals became the most visible and frightening symbol of the attack, after several patients were sent to other hospitals and surgeries were canceled. While the scale of this weekend’s attack has been massive, authorities say it is just part of what will be a continuing pattern of ransomware attacks.

Last year, multiple medical facilities in the U.S. were targeted in different attacks, with some paying thousands of dollars to recover their files. The hackers used ransomware to encrypt data, lock computers and hold the information for ransom payments.

In April 2016, the FBI published a ransomware explainer that mentioned recent attacks on U.S. hospitals, along with school districts, state and local governments, and law enforcement agencies.

"During 2015, law enforcement saw an increase in these types of cyber attacks, particularly against organizations because the payoffs are higher," FBI officials wrote.

Hospitals can be especially vulnerable, since their networks are rarely offline, according to Mark Burnette, a cyber-security expert and shareholder at the LBMC Information Security, which specializes in healthcare security.

"For hospitals to maintain their systems, they need to have a planned down time," Burnette explained. "You have to reboot a system ... It's difficult for hospitals to justify a lot of planned down time."

As a result of being unable to easily update and reboot their systems, hospitals may put off updating vulnerable software. The most recent attack, using a form of ransomware called "WannaCry" that was discovered by the National Security Agency, targeted a specific vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft released a patch for this vulnerability in March, but networks that had neglected to upgrade their systems were still vulnerable to attack.

Burnette said that hospitals are valued targets since they are seen as "treasure trove of information."

"You have Personal ID info, like social security numbers or home addresses or bank acct info, then you have protected health info, which is HIPAA data, and then you've got cardholder data," he said.

Hospitals are increasingly attempting to "harden" their systems by discarding unneeded software that would make systems more vulnerable, Burnette said. Hardening systems and creating more separation between systems can create additional levels of security, so that if the network is compromised, it doesn’t affect every computer or device on that network.

"Hardening a system can be described as turning off unnecessary services and capability so they are not available to be targeted," Burnette said. He explained that if a system is supposed to work as a file server, the IT department can remove other software like email and web browsers that would make it more vulnerable to be hacked.

But Burnette said hospitals are particularly vulnerable because many haven’t yet completed those steps. They also typically have open networks where "everything is accessible to everything else on the network."

"You take systems that are similar and put them in certain segments of network and put in security rules," so only stuff that needs to get in, gets in, Burnette said.

He said an increasing number of healthcare providers are becoming aware of the risks and trying to take action.

The FBI has advised a multi-pronged approach to battling hackers including implementing software restriction policies, backing up data regularly, patching operating systems and restricting access to certain key files or directories.

“There’s no one method or tool that will completely protect you or your organization from a ransomware attack,” said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director James Trainor in the statement. “But contingency and remediation planning is crucial to business recovery and continuity -- and these plans should be tested regularly.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Mother’s Day surprise: Baby born in car on way to hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ky.) -- A Kentucky woman received a Mother's Day surprise Sunday when she gave birth to her son while on the way to the hospital.

Christy High of Mount Washington, Kentucky, said her son was ready to come as she was riding in the back seat of the family car.

"I tried reasoning with him [the baby] and asked for a few more minutes, but he wasn't cooperating," High joked. "He wailed [when] he came out, and that was the first time my husband knew what was going on. He said, 'What was that?' and I said, 'It's Oliver. It's OK.'"

"I wouldn't have it any other way than how it went down," she added. "He will always be the best Mother's Day gift I ever got."

High, who is now a mom of two, told ABC News that she went into labor in the early morning hours of May 14.

As her husband, Jon High, was driving her to the hospital, her water broke, she said.

Oliver Joseph High was born two weeks early at 6:10 a.m., weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces.

High, a hypno-doula, delivered her son herself and placed him on her chest where he immediately began nursing, she said.

Staff at Clark Memorial in Jeffersonville, Indiana, greeted the family upon their arrival.

High said her husband is "ecstatic" about the couple's bundle of joy.

"He was very nervous being the driver, I'm sure, but he was my rock star," she added. "He got us here safely and he is an amazing father."

Oliver joins big sister Rowan, 3, who was born on St. Patrick ’s Day in 2014.

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Privacy debate emerges over 'textalyzer' devices

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New York lawmakers are trying to combat distracted driving by pushing a bill that would let police use so-called "textalyzers," or devices that could determine whether a person was on the phone at the time of an accident.

But privacy advocates say this technology may disclose too much information to authorities.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


D-Day veteran breaks skydiving world record at age 101

iStock/Thinkstock(DEVON, England) -- At 101, Verdun Hayes is living proof that you’re never too old to make your mark or experience new things.

Last year, the D-Day veteran tried skydiving for the first time to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Joined by four generations of his family, Hayes returned to the air over Devon, England, on Sunday, breaking the world record for the oldest tandem skydiver.

Hayes nabbed the top spot by a mere 35 days, knocking a Canadian from the record books who completed the feat at 101 years and 3 days old.

See more in the video below.

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How two moms are celebrating Mother's Day with their 1st child

Lauren Wethers Coggins (WASHINGTON) -- Figuring out what to do for Mom on Mother's Day is usually hard enough.

But for two Maryland women who welcomed their first child last December, it's been difficult trying to figure out how to celebrate each other in a unique way.

Lauren Wethers Coggins met her future wife, Essence Coggins, 11 years ago in Washington, D.C., at Howard University.

"One Howard homecoming, we kept crossing each other's paths," Wethers Coggins told ABC News. "The universe was saying, 'Can y'all at least exchange information?'"

A year later, they began dating. The Cogginses, who live in Oxon Hill, Maryland, wed in February 2014, after a three-year engagement.

Although Wethers Coggins, 32, admitted she was unsure if she'd ever marry, she always knew she wanted to be a mom.

"Starting a family was very intentional," she said. "It's not like it could happen on accident."

Coggins, 35, was on the same page.

"Growing up, I always wanted to have one child and adopt another," she said. "Even though, as I got older, having [or carrying] one was not a desire of mine."

The two decided to expand their family through at-home artificial insemination with a known donor, Wethers Coggins said.

"Essence and I were able to be a part of it ... with a cup. It was nice to be able to take the doctor's office and the sperm bank out of the equation," said Wethers Coggins, who carried their child.

She continued, "I have a whole new respect for the creation of life. It can be stressful when you want to create a life and it's not necessarily — poof! — we can do it."

Wethers Coggins, a stay-at-home mom, gave birth to a girl, Averie Wethers Coggins, on Dec. 23, 2016.

The two women admitted they had to "decide what roles would be like," Wethers Coggins said, but it happened "intuitively."

"I'm her gestational parent, so I'm the traditional mom," Wethers Coggins explained. "She's breast-fed, so we have that uniqueness."

In their household, Coggins is referred to as Mahtu, or Ma too.

"Being able to shape and develop a human being of my own is a great feeling," Coggins told ABC News. "I am a teacher and live a life of giving. It's nice to be able to literally reap what I sow."

Still, when it came to Mother's Day, the two had to compromise.

"Nobody really gets a break," Wethers Coggins said. "For you to leave, then I'd have the baby, so what am I going to do? You want to feel like it's your day because it's your first Mother's Day ... but you have to be selfless."

The two went back and forth about whether they each should have alone time or spend the day together as a family. Eventually, they decided on the latter.

"In an ideal world, I'd love to take a weekend trip somewhere beautiful ... with Lauren," Coggins said. "Just to get away and relax together."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Wisconsin police officer to donate kidney to 8-year-old boy she just met

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A police officer in Rock County, Wisconsin, is going above and beyond her oath to protect and serve by donating her kidney to an 8-year-old boy who she’s just met.

Officer Lindsey Bittorf of the Milton Police Department was browsing Facebook in early December when she came across a post by a mother in Janesville, Wisconsin, who had made a public plea for potential kidney donors for her 8-year-old son, Jackson Arneson. Bittorf didn’t know the family, but she was moved by the mother’s post.

 Jackson was born with a kidney condition called Posterior Urethral Valves, and his family always knew that one day he would need a transplant. After years of testing determined that family and friends weren’t a match, his mother, Kristi Goll, turned to social media.

Goll shared a photo of her little boy, saying that recent lab results showed his kidney function is still decreasing and he’s in need of a new kidney, preferably from a living donor. Her Facebook post was shared nearly 1,500 times.

“I always knew these days would come, it’s just so hard when they are here. I have reached out before, I am just trying again to see if we can find anyone out there that would be interested in being tested,” Goll wrote on Facebook. “This would be the very best gift we could receive.”

 For a successful kidney transplant, the donor must be in good health, their blood type must be compatible with the recipient and both people involved need to match a certain number of antigens.

After seeing Goll’s Facebook post, Bittorf was compelled to get tested to see if she was a match.

"I’m pretty set in my ways, so if I set my mind to something, there’s really not talking me out of doing this. I was doing it," Bittorf told ABC News affiliate WISN.

 The police officer passed the initial health test, finding that she shared the same blood type as Jackson and they matched three antigens - more than enough to proceed with a kidney transplant. At 30, she’s also within the appropriate age range and in general good health.

Bittorf said doctors were “shocked” that a complete stranger was such a good match for Jackson.

“This is seriously, like, meant to be,” she said in an interview with WISN. “It’s going to be me.”

 Last week, the police officer surprised Jackson and his family at their home with the good news. Bittorf told the boy, “I took an oath to serve and protect our community, and now my kidney’s going to serve and protect you.”

“We hugged a lot and we cried a lot, and it was just a pretty amazing moment,” Goll said in an interview with WISN, wiping away tears.

Jackson and Bittorf are scheduled for transplant surgery on June 22.

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7 siblings adopted together after years in foster care

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A family of three in Georgia became a family of 10 when they adopted seven siblings who spent nearly their entire lives in foster care.

Josh and Jessaka Clark, of Rincon, are now not just the parents of their 3-year-old son, Noah, but also Maria, 14, Elizabet, 11, Guillermo, 10, Jason, 8, Kristina, 7, Katerin, 7, and James, 5.

“It was full of emotion,” Jessaka Clark, 25, told ABC News of Tuesday’s adoption ceremony. “Honestly it’s still surreal to me.”

The seven siblings, whom the Clarks dubbed the “super seven,” first entered their new family’s lives in April 2016 as foster children.

Clark said she and her husband both knew they wanted to adopt children when they got married five years ago. More than two years after she gave birth to Noah, Clark watched as her husband got a call from a case manager about taking in the seven siblings.

“Josh hung up the phone and said, ‘What do you think of seven?’ and I said, ‘A 7-year-old?,’ and he said, ‘No, seven kids,’” Clark recalled. “We prayed about it that night and woke up and said the same thing to each other, ‘If not us, then who?’”

The “super seven” siblings, who previously lived in a children’s home together, moved into the Clarks’ three-bedroom home in August 2016.

“The hardest part to get used to actually was having school-age kids,” Clark said. “I remember the first time they came home with homework and I had to figure out how to help six kids with their homework.”

She continued, “We didn’t get done with homework until 8 p.m. that night but we finally figured out a routine.”

The family saw their way through hardships, especially with the older children, whom Clark said worried their new home would not be their forever home.

“They are excited and now know they’re loved and know that this is it,” said Clark, whose parents were foster parents. “We’ve seen a change in behavior even since the adoption, a turn to, ‘I don’t have to keep my bags packed.’”

The siblings' ability to stay in one home made for an easier transition to their permanent home, according to a spokeswoman for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, the state agency that represented the children in the adoption.

"The Clarks are an exceptional couple who understood the importance of siblings remaining together and were committed to making that happen for these seven children from the beginning," Susan Boatwright said in a statement to ABC News. "Siblings who are adopted together are able to maintain an important family bond and tend to have an easier time transitioning to a new home in what would otherwise be a difficult time in their lives."

"This month as we celebrate National Foster Care Month, we celebrate families such as the Clarks who open their hearts to provide loving homes to children in need," the statement read. "We hope others will be inspired to do the same."

Clark, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband, who works in the finance department of a local motorcycle dealership, have been embraced by their friends and church community, who donated nearly everything they needed to bring all seven children home.

They are hoping to move to a bigger home because, even with eight kids in total, the Clarks hope to adopt again.

“The way my husband and I see it is there are roughly 13,000 kids in foster care in Georgia and around 1,200 waiting to be adopted,” Clark said. “We don’t know how we could close our door when those kids are out there.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Four new moms share what they've learned about motherhood

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Moms will be celebrating around the U.S. this weekend, but for some mothers it will be the very first time.

ABC News asked four moms -- who welcomed their first child within the last 12 months -- to reflect on new motherhood.

The women answered the same five questions about what they've learned, what they wish they would've known and what's surprised them about their new role.

What’s the biggest thing you've learned about being a mother?

Ashley Gwynne, 32, of Baltimore, Maryland: "You cannot plan anything," she began. "I had this idea that I was going to be this certain type of mother -- she wasn't going to eat that, she wasn’t going to have a pacifier. And once I had her -- oh, my goodness -- you can’t really plan for this. You can try, but you're never fully prepared for it."

Tyler-Anne Hodges, 22, of Hampton, Virginia:
"You can’t really be selfish anymore. I thought that your 20s were supposed to be your selfish years," she said, "but when you have a baby it’s not like that anymore. You have to make certain sacrifices for your baby."

Andrea Steel, 36, Houston, Texas: "I’m a working mom ... and I haven’t mastered how to balance everything yet. I kind of have to prepare myself mentally to lower my own expectations of myself work-wise to make sure I'm available to my family the way I want to be available. That took a little bit of an ego bruise. I went from being a very top associate at my law firm -- I was like number one -- and now I’m like number five. But it’s okay, I know where I want my number one priority to be."

Janeria Easley, 28, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: "Learning to be present. This is actually something I was anxious about leading up to the pregnancy. You hear people talking about how time goes so fast ... and so I really wanted to soak in the different moments, everything from when I first met him when he was born and all those infant moments."

Did you have any misconceptions about motherhood?

Gwynne, mother of 9-month-old daughter, Harper: "I totally underestimated how hard it was. I’m a teacher. So for me, I work with kids all the time, but it’s nothing like that."

Hodges, mother of 3-month-old son, Caleb: "I had a strict birth plan and I really thought it was going to go the way I wanted it to go. I planned to do a natural [birth,] no medicine," she said. "I ended up having high blood pressure, I had to be induced, I didn’t dilate. He was faced upwards instead of down and I had to have a C-section. But he was healthy and I was healthy so that’s the most important thing."

Steel, mother of 10-month-old son, Isaac: "I was very nervous that I was going to lose my freedom and I wasn’t going to be able to be selfish anymore and it scared me. But it’s so the opposite. I don’t even care. I love it! I just want to be with my kid!"

Easley, mother of 2-month-old son, Atlas: "You have all these hopes and dreams of how the baby's going to be like. When he was born, I became much more aware that he’s definitely his own person. There was this shift. [Initially, I said,] 'Oh, I want my child to grow up and be all these things.' [Now,] I want him to grow up to be what he wants to be."

Are there things you wish you knew before motherhood?

Gwynne: "Before I had Harper, I was buying everything. I listened to everybody else. I wanted to know what was trendy and even though advice is great from other moms...everything's different for your kid. I thought I had to have these certain products because all the moms had it...and it doesn’t work like that."

Hodges: "There’s no such thing as last minute when you have a newborn. Everything has to be planned for. I have to know in advance. Most of my friends...go to Hampton [University]. And they'll say, 'Come to campus today but...unless I’m already out or already doing something, he’s already packed up, I’ve already got milk...I’m not gonna make it."

Steel: "Breastfeeding is really, really, really hard," she said. "In the beginning ... I felt like he didn’t like me and I felt like I couldn’t soothe him. I’d do all kinds of things, then my husband [Norman] would pick him up and he’d stop crying immediately. And then you start to learn. And no one can fix things like you can fix it because you're the mom."

Easley: "People tell you all the time that you're not in control anymore, but I don’t think I really appreciated that."

Have you experienced any surprising joys?

Gwynne: "Watching your kid eat and go, 'Hmmmm.' That’s so exciting! You get to watch her facial expressions every time she experiences something new. It’s fun to be there in the front seat with her and really watch her become her own person."

Hodges: "How quickly he’s developed. When he first started laughing and giggling, [I asked,] 'Is this normal for him to be laughing like this so early?' It’s not like this was a chuckle or something, he was weak [with laughter]. His shoulders would move, like a full-on laugh. The first time I saw that I was absolutely in love."

Steel: "Some people say that you fall in love with your kid immediately. I loved him, but when he was born I had a pretty bad infection. So when it finally hit me and I felt like I was getting better at being a mom and understand what I needed to do, I felt this overpowering feeling. It came over me -- that instinctual 'I will do anything it takes to protect my child' feeling. It's so strong. It's very overwhelming, but in a good way."

Easley: "Motherhood is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I don’t think I expected that. You’ll be extremely exhausted, waking up in the middle of the night ... but I’m surprised that I just want to sit there and hold him."

Definitively, what’s the best thing about being a mother?

Gwynne: "You have a completely new purpose in life. It’s not about you anymore and even though it sounds horrible, again, I wouldn’t trade it for anything."

Hodges: "Just the special moments; the little things. When we’re in a room with a lot of people, he stares at me like, 'That’s my mom! I know that one!' I could walk around and he follows me with his eye."

Steel: "The best thing about being a mom is you're contributing to the world because you're adding to the population and you're contributing to this person something that nobody else can. Your worth and your value takes on a new meaning."

Easley: "Everything from breastfeeding to just taking care of him. Going to college and going to graduate school just doesn’t compare to being able to take care of him."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


72-year-old grandmother gets her college degree 55 years after she first enrolled

Courtesy Tennessee State University(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Fifty-five years after Darlene Mullins enrolled in college, she's finally graduating.

The mother of two dropped out of Tennessee State University in Nashville after meeting and falling in love with her husband.

Mullins, 72, told ABC News that as a freshman she was walking to the cafeteria with a dorm mate when she spotted her future husband, John Mullins, a graduating senior.

"He was the finest thing on campus," she recalled, explaining that before getting to the cafeteria she'd have to walk past him.

"I was nervous because I was only 17 and I [asked my roommate,] 'Is he looking?' She said, 'Oohwee. Yes!' And I said, 'Girl, that's going to be my husband."

The two eventually met, and the rest is history. With John Mullins graduating, Darlene Mullins decided to drop out.

It was a disheartening decision for the track student's parents, who wanted her to pursue her dreams of becoming the next Wilma Ruldoph at the 1964 Olympics.

"I knew it would hurt my parents because my father had been a runner, and I was one of the first women to run in the Penn Relays in 1961," Darlene Mullins explained. "It was a little disappointing ... but after they met my husband, they were not sorry."

Still, Darlene Mullins, who eventually went on to become a hair stylist, said she "just knew I had to finish...I always told my children: 'Always finish what you start.'"

So Darlene Mullins returned to Tennessee State University, foregoing the 25 credits she had earned during her freshman year.

"My GPA was not that great and I figured if I'm going to go back to school, I'm going to give it all I have," she said.

It paid off with Darlene Mullins graduating summa cum laude last Saturday with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

"It felt awesome," Darlene Mullins said of her big day.

The mom, who is also a grandmother of four, said more than 40 people, including her husband, attended graduation to watch her walk across the stage.

Her school is also very proud of her.

"We are extremely proud of Darlene Mullins and commend her family for supporting her with this tremendous accomplishment," Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover said in a statement. "Mrs. Mullins' story is one of sacrifice, determination, and of course love, her love of family and of education. She is a true testament to students and others that you should never give up on your dreams and aspirations. She has always been a part of the TSU family, but we proudly welcome her as an alumnae."

And although she's retired from cosmetology, now with her new degree she hopes to work for her alma mater.

"I’d like to work at my university and help other young people complete their dreams," she said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Why the 'exercise pill' isn't likely to eliminate the gym any time soon

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Recent headlines touting the benefits of an "exercise pill" have teased the idea that it could be possible to skip the gym and stay fit.

But a new study released this month, which takes a closer look at how the drug, GW501516, acts on the body's metabolism, shows the alleged benefits aren't all that new and the potential risks could be significant.

The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism revealed additional information about the way the chemistry of the drug works, giving outside researchers a chance to assess the claims that this "exercise pill" could be a substitute for physical activity.

The intention of the research, according to one of the study authors, was not to create a pill that healthy people could take to mimic, or substitute for, exercise.

"It was never our intention to encourage the replacement of exercise with any exercise mimetics," said Dr. Michael Downes, a senior staff scientist at the Salk Institute and the co-author of the paper, in an email to ABC News.

"We believe exercise is one of the best solutions to combat many human disease conditions, and nothing can fully replace exercise for its many health benefits."

Despite the well-known risks, some unscrupulous marketers still promote the experimental drug, which has been commonly referred to as "endurobol" and sold on the black market for years as an exercise supplement. It has been a known performance-enhancing drug that at least one major anti-doping agency has warned athletes not to use.

To test the effects of the drug during the study, the authors gave a group of mice a higher dose of GW501516 and for a longer period -- eight weeks instead of four -- than in previous studies. They used sedentary mice and their results showed some promise. At the end of the eight weeks, the sedentary mice that had GW501516 outperformed the sedentary mice who did not receive it; the medicated mice were able to run for about 50 percent more time before "hitting the wall" -- reaching exhaustion or passing out -- compared to their counterparts.

The way GW501516 works, researchers found, is that it promotes the burning of fat instead of glucose for energy. This prolongs the time mice can exercise by sparing glucose, which in turn delays fatigue. The byproduct is that, in normal exercise conditions, the body starts using fatty acid stores instead of relying on burning glucose for energy, leading to weight loss and increased endurance.

The same trick worked even when the mice weren't exercising, the researchers found, leading to the idea that taking GW501516 could mimic the effects of regular exercise.

But there are many reasons to be cautious about the pill. Past animal studies have suggested that the drug is associated with a host of health issues, including cancer risks.

In fact, the story goes all the way back to 1992, when Ligand Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline started developing GW501516 with the goal of potentially treating metabolic diseases such as diabetes and hyperlipidemia.

They published the first scientific article in 2001, with promising results. But in 2007, the pharmaceutical company abandoned clinical trials after animal studies showed that even low doses led to rapidly developing cancers in animals.

But the end of clinical trials did not prevent the pill from being developed illegally and sold on the black market as a doping agent, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The agency added the drug to its prohibited list and helped develop a test in 2009 to detect it so that athletes participating in high profile competitions would be discouraged from taking the unproven medication. They also released a safety warning about GW501516 due to its potentially cancer-causing properties.

Research has continued on GW501516, and similar drugs, to study its effects on metabolism and relation to cancers over the past decade, with mixed results. In fact, Downes said, in some trials the drug has even appeared to be protective against cancer. But, he added, "further work is needed to bring clarity to this issue."

Until additional research is done and the results are in, most experts in the field agree that it would be a mistake for the public to experiment with such drugs.

Dr. Max Mehlman, professor of health law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, said further study on humans is unlikely in the near future –- and that anyone taking it now is putting their health at serious risk.

"People are taking a big risk when they take pills that have not been adequately studied in humans," Mehlman told ABC News. "No data on human safety now and all we have are safety risks in animal studies."

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