Christina V. Tormey

Losing Our Minds

Brice Taylor calls it the Lincoln Memorial (Oral Sex) Tour: Beginning in the early 1960s when she was in her teens, Taylor -- the pseudonym for Susan (Eckhart) Ford of North Carolina -- says she joined foreign dignitaries, congressmen and other leaders on a shuttle service that offered more than a tour of the national monument.Taylor, who claims she was brainwashed from birth by a government agency to be a mind-controlled sex slave, asked each "tourist" if they wanted their shoes shined, a joke to loosen up the man, before engaging in oral sex with him. JFK was one of her frequent fliers, she says, and he did not limit their relationship to the limo, often bringing her to the White House for further sex acts. Many of these men were repeat guests for the tour; Taylor says her boss, entertainer Bob Hope, was responsible for bookings.This is just one of hundreds of similarly degrading experiences in Taylor's life, including the times she says she was forced to act in porn films -- including one involving actor Sly Stallone, in which she and her daughter had sex with dolphins. She was also expected to download mind files for Henry Kissinger. In other words, her brain had been trained to store intelligence information, which she couldn't access herself, which she would then download on command by regurgitating the information.All of this is documented in a 311-page, self-published memoir, Thanks for the Memories, The Truth Has Set Me Free: The Memoirs of Bob Hope's and Henry Kissinger's Mind-Controlled Sex Slave.Taylor may be what we used to call crazy, and yet fear of being controlled by another entity -- whether religious groups, the government or a club -- is perhaps as old as history itself. One could argue that the wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, for instance, were wars about "mind control," with both sides animated by the fear that the other side was in the grip of an external power -- the Pope or Luther -- whose influence so clouded the minds of their followers that it limited their capacity to see the truth clearly.But the kind of mind control that Brice Taylor claims happened to her -- in a sense, being made into a robot by a government agency -- is a relatively new kind of paranoid anxiety, one that many argue began with the Cold War. Think of Otto Preminger's 1962 film, The Manchurian Candidate, with Frank Sinatra, where Korean war veterans return to the United States to fear they have been "brainwashed" -- a Cold War term -- during their spell in prison to become political assassins, and you get the flavor of a particularly 20th century anxiety.An anxiety-based reality, however. The CIA and other government agencies now freely admit that during the Cold War they experimented with LSD, sensory deprivation, and other kinds of brain-altering technologies to see if "brainwashing" was feasible. While the Cold War may be over, our collective anxiety about just how far our governments might go to insure our unbridled loyalty has not dissipated. Dozens of films in recent years have had as their premise an all-seeing, all-powerful and nefarious government conspiracy. In Conspiracy Theory, with Mel Gibson, for instance, the lunatic ravings of a New York cab driver with a whacko conspiracy theory turn out to be the truth. In Enemy of the State, with Gene Hackman and Will Smith, a government agency with advanced satellite technology effortlessly tracks the protagonists' movements through the streets of Washington.In other words, during the Protestant Reformation, if you wanted to hide from the government you could make yourself scarce. Now, with Social Security numbers, e-mail monitoring, and the like, it is pretty hard to disappear.Having said that the question remains -- is Brice Taylor's story a credible one? Some believe that it is, while others -- perhaps more dependable and critical -- say it is as fantastical as it sounds.But either way, her story is an interesting one. Even if it is a paranoid fantasy, Taylor's narrative may be thought of as a symptom of the current state of our subconscious suspicion where the government is concerned. What makes it particularly stark and compelling is that in Taylor's memoir the murkiest sexual desires meet the most high-flown Cold War fantasy to create a specter of total control and subjugation. Even more than George Orwell's 1984, where at least there remained a kernel of human autonomy, however repressed, Brice Taylor's vision is of a world where not even our bodies or our minds are our own -- where all human dignity has been stripped away.Now the "clinical director and neurotherapist" for a North Carolina healing center, Taylor is not easy to find. Despite months of calls and a couple of brief phone conversations, she was impossible to track down for long. Her phone number is unlisted -- even close friends do not have it.She doesn't look like a psychotic on the fringe of society. In her photograph, she is a petite, attractive woman. She is consistent and detailed when recounting the alleged horrors she suffered for her country.According to her story, Taylor's father tortured her, by starving or sexually abusing her, with the intention of creating multiple personalities that would help her create government mind files and respond to various sexual and intellectual demands when she was older. Taylor says her father also brainwashed her mother, who obsessively cleaned the house and listened to music, which kept her in a hypnotic state.Songs, children's fingerplay games like "Where is Pointer," and movies like The Wizard of Oz were used to program Taylor, she writes. Through the Wizard of Oz, she claims she was programmed to develop amnesia whenever her parents said the word "home."By the time she was five, Taylor's uncle had introduced her to Henry and Bob -- that is, renowned entertainer Bob Hope and Noble Prize-winning former secretary of state and assistant to the president for national security affairs Henry Kissinger. She writes:Henry had other "robots," as he called them, but I was the one with whom he spent the most time perfecting. He said I was the perfect subject and that my father had done such a great preliminary job that his work was guaranteed a success, where other robots fell short because they "bled through" and so couldn't be relied upon.By the time she was 10, Taylor says she could pass for a girl of 16. She had her hair done weekly so she could look mature. She had braces that a brainwashed orthodontist removed for special appointments. Those appointments varied from memorizing secret files in the Pentagon to performing sexual favors for various politicians, including Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Ted Kennedy (who liked "violently and sadistically torturous sex"), Senator Alan Cranston (who liked "spankies" and once passed out drunk in the middle of having sex with Taylor, who was tied up), former California governor Pete Wilson, Casey Kasem, Lee Iacocca, and Frank Sinatra (who liked whips and chains and "those very scary leather straps").But it wasn't all blowjobs and stripteases. Taylor was a bright girl and all that torture from her father trained her brain to break apart, thus allowing her to memorize thousands of pages of secret documents that could be accessed only by specific triggers. She whispered programmed phrases into Neil Diamond's ear that he would then incorporate into his songs.Kissinger was more familiar with how to access the information than anyone else was because he created the system. He knew how to access me for different functions, in addition to keeping the plan of the global elitists organized. This form of communication allowed them to secretly communicate around the globe at times they didn't want anyone to be able to publicly associate their connections. I not only kept rooms full of information, neatly tucked away in my brain for easy access, but it gave Kissinger and others an advantage as it appeared they were less prepared and had less data at their fingertips than they actually did... I was a REAL robot.Eventually, the stress of acting as a personal library and free prostitute wore her down and Taylor suffered a breakdown. She says she began remembering the events of her early life in her mid-thirties. She suspected it was due to some kind of memory phenomenon and started researching Vietnam vets' experiences with flashbacks.She underwent daily therapy for four years before she says, "I was forced to leave my home and family in California, due to a clever plot and threat to my life if I continued to pursue remembrance of my past in therapy and try to become healed."One of her therapists, Margaret Paul, author of books such as Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God, suggested Taylor leave Los Angeles for safety reasons, so Taylor fled to Hawaii where she says she was "still part of the project and still not free."Since then, she seems to have freed herself, though she is still concerned about retaliation. She says her husband and children have also been brainwashed. In November she was preparing to bring her daughter, Kelly, home after a brief stay in a mental institution. She says that she and her daughter were terrorized as the pair drove to Los Angeles with friend and former FBI agent, Ted Gunderson.In a phone interview from California, Gunderson explains that a woman wearing sunglasses and driving a brown car made subtle hand motions on the steering wheel, "re-triggering" Kelly. This was not simply an incident of someone bopping along to tunes on the radio, he says. The woman was clearly trying to control Kelly's mind and, he says, he took down the woman's license plate number and "will take care of her" though he won't say how.There are lots of people who believe what Taylor and Gunderson believe. Many have found each other through the Internet at sites like Parascope, ( The site boasts a chronology of CIA history, all based on declassified intelligence documents that reveal mind control experiments, hypnosis experiments and plots to kill Fidel Castro. Another site, ( has a section for users searching for others who have experienced similar misdeeds by the government. An AOL user writes, "I was a guinea pig at edgewood arsenal in 1965 and am having a real hard time getting proper medical attention. Looking for others who may have been there."And there are national conferences that attract thousands of attendants. For the third year in a row, Neil Brick, a Massachusetts man who says he was a victim of satanic ritual abuse, will bring the SMART conference (Stop Mind control And Ritual Abuse Today) to Windsor Locks, Conn. in August where survivors of ritual abuse and incest will meet in an effort to learn how to stop ritual abuse.At last year's conference, Taylor spoke of her experiences as part of a panel. Other panel members included other ritual abuse survivors, a professor of criminology, psychologists and a law enforcement officer familiar with interrogation tactics. One hundred people from around the country attended the conference.Gunderson, who worked in New Haven from 1965-73 for the FBI and was an anti-terrorism consultant for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee, says he firmly believes the government is responsible for mind control experiments taking place today."People have come out of the woodwork," says Gunderson. "They've come from all over the country claiming they were victims of mind control. They're not related and they all come up with the same basic story. That's when I started believing it."Political scientists say belief in government conspiracy theories is on the upswing. According to a 1997 survey by the Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University, more than half the Americans surveyed said they believed federal officials were responsible for the assassination of President John Kennedy. More than half believe the CIA deliberately allows Central American drug dealers to sell cocaine to black children in the inner city. Relatives of the victims of the Branch Davidian massacre in Waco, Texas are suing the government for inappropriate actions taken during the standoff there, and claim there was a conspiracy to kill the Davidians and cover it up. Many intelligent and mainstream Americans are sympathetic to their view of events.Over the last several decades there have been dozens of similar accusations. But one of the most stunning is one that the government now admits is true.In the '50s and '60s, CIA agency officials tested mind control on Americans. They used electroshock, LSD and hypnosis all in an effort to find non-lethal ways to build up their defense tactics. These practices have been widely corroborated and reported in magazines like Newsweek and Time and in prestigious newspapers such as The New York Times.U.S. intelligence agencies became concerned in the years after World War II that the Soviet Union had developed means to "brainwash" their opponents into making confessions. This seemed to be confirmed by the Stalinist show trials of the 1940s, where Stalin's enemies publicly confessed to crimes against the state that they could not have committed. In order to keep up with the Russians, in 1950 the CIA instituted Project Bluebird to learn how to control individuals through interrogation techniques and prevent the unauthorized extraction of information from individuals.The CIA renamed the project Project Artichoke and evaluated the use of drugs and hypnosis in mind control. Not long after, in 1953, the CIA instituted MK-ULTRA, which was rumored to test the use of radiation, electroshock and drugs such as LSD. Most of the documents involving MK-ULTRA were destroyed in 1973 by the order of then-director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms.The subjects for these experiments were American citizens: patients of mental institutions, soldiers, blacks, college students and johns who were slipped drugs by prostitutes. Even CIA agents tested out LSD, slipping the drug into their co-workers' drinks and even the punch bowl at the annual office Christmas party.According to an L.A. Times obituary, Sidney Gottlieb -- a renowned scientist who worked with the CIA and who died in March 1999 -- led 149 mind control experiments. Twenty-five of those were on unknowing subjects. He supposedly halted the experiments in 1972, saying the drug rendered subjects "too unpredictable" to be very useful.But that was after at least one tragic death due to the experiments. Gottlieb, or someone working on his orders, spiked a drink with LSD, according to a documentary entitled Mind Control by Turner Original Productions. An Army scientist and germ warfare specialist named Frank Olson had a very bad reaction to the drug. He became very disoriented and delusional for several days. According to a coworker who stayed with him one night, he woke up to see Olson run across the room and hurl himself through a 10th floor window. Agents told Olson's family he had been suffering from job-related stress. It was not until the 1975 Rockefeller Commission on CIA domestic activities that the Olsons learned that their husband and father had been slipped the drug.Canada's McGill University in Montreal was also a home for a series of CIA-sponsored experiments attempting to change behavior patterns of unknowing subjects. Patients were knocked out for months at a time during which they underwent electroshock therapy and were given LSD. Nine out of 10 patients have since sued the American government.But supposedly all of these experiments were dropped by the '60s when the CIA realized those tactics weren't all that effective and, in fact, unethical and even dangerous. In 1976, President Gerald Ford demanded there be no further drug testing on human subjects.So, if the government has a record of using its own citizens for experimental purposes, doesn't Brice Taylor's story take on the hue of truth?Not really, say mainstream observers. While there may be reasons for strong distrust of government, most historians point out that there are limits to what our government can and will do. Political scientists like Daniel Pipes, author of Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From, say mistakes like the CIA mind control experiments of the '50s are in our past."Our government is staffed by human beings who make mistakes. All sorts of mistakes have been made. But that's quite different from saying the United States government is an aggressive maligning institution," he says.In fact, Pipes says the United States government is actually quite harmless, and one of the least dangerous countries -- especially when compared to China, Nazi Germany and Iraq. Whereas other countries have a strong need to conquer and take over, the U.S. tends to fight their war, make their point and return home."The logic is completely backwards," Pipes notes. "The most benign states are the ones accused of the most terrible crimes. And the most horrible ones are ignored. They," he says of conspiracy theorists, "have it absolutely wrong." he says.Daniel Shea, a political science professor at Allegheny College, adds that conspiracy theories are fueled by a lack of connection with local governments. "There's a growing disconnect between government and citizens. It used to be that people felt connected to government in a very interpersonal way."The Internet has contributed to the paranoia boom, both men say. "Whereas before you may have been the only person with a particular theory, in chat rooms where people share things there is a better chance of finding someone with similar ideas," says Pipes. "The Internet allows wacky ideas to proliferate. And it's hard to tell what's real and what's not. It's cheap and easy to get a decent looking Web site; it's not as easy to publish a newspaper."How then do we explain Taylor's story, and its remarkable level of detail?Taylor says she remembered most of her repressed memories while alone in Hawaii, and believes that accurate memories can be retrieved in that way.The validity of such recovered memories, however, are disputed in the psychiatric community. The theory is that through hypnosis, visualizations and sodium amytal (a truth serum), patients can remember events of their past. The actress Roseanne Arnold, for instance, said she had repressed memories of childhood abuse until undergoing psychotherapy, as have famed patients diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.But memories are very delicate. They naturally decay over time and they are highly subjective. Originally, scientists thought memory acted as an in-the-brain recorder that passively took facts and filed them away.Instead memories are easily distorted after an event, simply by a suggestive question. For example, a 1978 study tested the fallibility of memory by showing a group of subjects a series of slides of a car turning right at a stop sign and hitting a pedestrian. Weeks afterwards, subjects were asked a passing question making reference to a non-existent yield sign instead of a stop sign. Subjects then answered a questionnaire. A majority of students who were aware of the stop now suddenly replaced it in their memory with the yield sign.In another instance, Dr. Robert Baker, a professor emeritus at the psychology department at the University of Kentucky at Lexington, says a radio report of a panda escaping from a zoo generated sightings in a 150 mile radius. But not one of those people could have possibly seen the panda, which had dug itself into a hole and died.In January scientists announced that mass hysteria, or psychogenic illness, was the explanation for an incident in Tennessee in which 170 students and teachers at a high school were hospitalized for nausea, dizziness, headaches and drowsiness in November 1998. The illnesses started after a teacher noticed a "funny smell" and fell ill. Officials closed the school for more than two weeks and spent nearly $100,000 to investigate the cause of the illnesses.According to Paul Martin, director of the Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center -- which offers programs to help people recover from abusive relationships and cult-like environments, like hysteria, mind control like that claimed by Taylor can be as simple as a suggestion. All human beings are vulnerable given the right conditions, he says."Any human being is vulnerable if their moorings are temporarily destabilized," he says. Basically, people want to fit in and a strong desire to build a support system may void any concept of thinking for oneself. "Mind control is a systematic program of controls and manipulations. It's a belief system, a way of propagating and maintaining a belief system by strict rewards and punishments."All of this stuff about electrical shock and sensory deprivation is stuff out of science fiction. It's really crude and ineffective," he continues. "You can get a lot more mind control out of people by being suave and persuasive. If you have a big carrot, you need a very tiny stick."Baker says delusions most likely play a role in experiences similar to Taylor's."This sounds like run-of-the-mill delusions," says Baker. "We all like to think that we are important. If we are important, important people will pay attention to us. As a result of these delusions, they will assume they are terribly important. The next thing you know, they say someone is out to get them."Is it a sense of powerlessness, then, that fuels Taylor's conspiracy theory? Instead of being a confused nobody, does Taylor's "history" give her a sense of order, that there is some logic to a life that has been experienced as frightening and confusing?Jon Blumenfeld, chairman of the Connecticut chapter of the New England Skeptics Society, says everybody wants to be somebody. "When you hear religious organizations prophesizing about the end of the world, you rarely hear them say the world will end in 250 years. They all say it will end next Thursday because they all want to be involved," he says."There's a desire for transcendence," he explains, "and being an important part of history."No one is likely to convince Taylor that she is making it up though. On the inside leaf of her manuscript she writes: "As a citizen of the United States of America, I have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to disseminate the autobiographical account of my own life and to convey it to the American people. My account is the absolute truth...I would suggest that those planning legal action against me, consider instead doing so against those agencies in the Federal Government that have used and abused me...Since my mind was invaded at birth...I cannot in good faith take full responsibility for my mental perceptions, which brought forth the disclosures in this book. This also I have fully documented and certified. Therefore, to all those who take action against me, you have been forewarned."

Girl Rockers

In 1997, women rockers were the rage. You could not turn on the radio -- any station -- without hearing Sarah McLachlan, the Indigo Girls or Shawn Colvin. Not anymore. While women continue to be well-represented in pop and even R&B, fewer women hard rock acts are getting airplay and concert promotion. Rock music -- as in aggressive, guitar-driven rock -- is currently experiencing an estrogen drought. Stations have traded in female acts like Paula Cole for all man bands such as Creed; they've exchanged Veruca Salt and Babes in Toyland for Godsmack and Sevendust.It's always been hard for women to make their way in the male-dominated rock world, particularly in the guitar-thrashing, mosh-pitted sub genres like heavy metal, punk or alternative rock, which have typically been the domain of the adolescent male, and expressive of the aggression and alienation that comes with them. Historically, a few women have broken through the gender barrier on the rough edge of music, like Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, or Chrissie Hynde. But typically, female rockers have either been decorative adornments -- maybe that's what Grace Slick really was -- or they've been novelty acts, like Joan Jett or Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics -- screaming into a microphone but not wearing a shirt: a bit decorative, a bit of a novelty.It looked for a moment in the 1990s that this might be changing. Female rockers like The Breeders started to get airplay on college radio, and soon the music found its way into the mainstream. The trend came to a head in 1997 with the Lilith Fair, a nationally touring summer festival of female-led bands and soloists, the brainchild of singer Sarah McLachlan. For three seasons, the fair brought acts like Tracy Bonham and Luscious Jackson to national consciousness, and that attracted record companies to women bands like flies to honey. Women rockers were the next big thing, and everybody wanted a piece of them.That has changed. Radio stations say they are playing fewer cuts from female rock artists than they were, and women artists say they are finding it harder to get a record company to promote them. There are a few reasons for this, say people in the business. Pop music has always been a game of trends. Maybe the trend has passed.But there may be underlying factors. For one, the Lilith Fair, so much a part of the women rock scene, leaving a hole where promotion of women acts is concerned. Second, say some women, men in the music business were threatened by women's success and have started to close the doors again.And there may be a third, more fundamental determinant: demographics. During the 1990s more women were buying records than ever before. In 1997, women made up more than half of the record buying public for the first time in recorded history, up to 51.4 percent from 43.5 percent in 1988 according to the Recording Industry Association of America. While there are no recent figures from the RIAA, it does seem that the demographic pendulum has swung back to favor the adolescent male. A recent CNN report claims that there are more 12- to 24-year-old males -- prime head-banging material -- than any time in history. In 1999, this group spent $278 billion dollars, and had 33 percent more buying power than their female peers. That puts a lot of financial power in the pockets of male consumers -- who are using it on music made by other men."I think there is a backlash against women in music," says Emily Saliers, the folkier half of the folk/rock duo the Indigo Girls. "People thought women were taking over the charts. Everyone thought there was an inequality."The success of the Lilith Fair threatened many men because of its exclusivity, says Saliers. The intention of Lilith was not to alienate men but to celebrate women in music, and that might have hurt a few egos."I think that men did feel threatened," agrees Liz Queler, a musician and board member for Women in Music, a New York-based, not-for-profit organization attempting to help women achieve success in the music industry. "I heard many male musicians asking why they couldn't have an all-male festival, but they did. It was called Lollapalooza."Other men did feel threatened and not because women were getting all the attention, but because they weren't getting the attention. If you're an artist and something is going on and you aren't involved, you feel threatened," she adds.Because the fair was such a success -- proving that women were not only in demand but could also generate enough dough to carry a tour -- some male acts felt they were losing ground. This was one trend that simply stated "no boys allowed" -- at least not in prominent roles as lead singers.The Lilith phenomena was said to have grown out of alternative radio listeners who had grown up -- and grown tired of the grunge scene. Listeners wanted something cleaner, softer, different, but not something as offensively syrupy as adult contemporary. That's when the softer, singer/songwriters that typified so many of the women acts were able to get a hold on the radio listening market.But now, in the year 2000, the radio-listening market is significantly younger and predominantly male, and they want harder rock."The whole climate of alternative radio has really changed since our last album," says Kate Shellenbach, Luscious Jackson drummer. "Right now radio is in a very interesting place. Music is either superduper mindless pop or heavy, guitar-based, male-dominated Korn type of stuff."But since rock is on the rise again, why wouldn't female rock bands -- especially the harder, heavier ones -- get a lift as well? Doesn't a rising tide lift all boats? The reason, say observers, is that enthusiasm for rock and roll in particular is primarily driven by identification. The audience -- mostly male, mostly young -- wants to see themselves reflected in the bands that they like. We want to be like our music stars. We want them to speak for us.That gets a bit complicated for a male audience when the voice presuming to express rage, lust, anger -- is the voice of a woman."When a woman goes up on stage and is a rocker, there's a toughness that takes away that femininity," says Don Grierson, who worked for several major record labels, such as EMI and Capitol, working with acts like Celine Dion and Heart. He now is a private consultant and works for an online service called Taxi ( that helps artists make inroads to major labels."Males audiences never really accept it," he continues, "and females are more likely to listen to something more sensitive like Sheryl Crow or Sarah McLachlan, who are certainly from the rock world, but their music is more melodic, not hard-ass, in-your-face rock. Rock is very masculine and women who are masculine are not considered very attractive."Few women have successfully melded the rocker girl image and when they have, their lyrics have primarily spoken to female audiences. For example, PJ Harvey can manhandle a guitar but lyrics like "Look at these, my child-bearing hips and look at these, my ruby red lips" are distinctly female.Still, there are a few female-led rock bands that are making a name for themselves in the male-dominated world of rock. The teenaged punk/metal quintet, Kittie, is certainly making waves with their new single "Brackish" off their first album Spit. They sound like a female incarnation of Marilyn Manson, complete with churning guitars, growling vocals and the goth-metal image. Joydrop, led by vocalist Tara Slone, has also received at least semi-regular airplay at rock and modern rock stations nationwide.Michael Creamer, manager of the rock group Letters to Cleo, a female-fronted band that was quickly signed in 1994, says he is optimistic that women will have another chance in the spotlight. "The pendulum swings in this business. It will swing back," he says.Creamer says when he first tried promoting Letters to Cleo, radio stations didn't have any female artists on their play lists. But when women artists were hot, he had no problem getting singles like "Here and Now" on modern rock stations.Yes, agrees Grierson. It's a fickle business, and big labels don't encourage a band to keep touring if it isn't making money in a hurry, Grierson explains."This is a very interesting business. It's a business for followers, not leaders," says Grierson. "Our business today as an industry is built on finding a quick fix. They'll do typically anything to make their numbers look good, but they don't do a good job developing artists or looking towards long-term success. They're all looking for an easy way to make a quick buck."So if women bands want to escape the ebb and flux of market-forces, then they are better off with a small label. "If you're an unknown and a major label is courting you, that's fucked," says Holly Figueroa, singer/songwriter and founder of Indiegrrl, a music collective for independent female artists. "They're only looking to crack the next big thing and when that big thing isn't so cool anymore, they'll drop you for someone or something else."There's no question in my mind that signing a major label deal is a death sentence," Figueroa adds.Still, everyone in the business agree that there is a solid, if smallish, audience for female rockers, and that will continue to develop as long as women who like the music continue to support it.

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