About Franke James
Franke James is a Canadian activist, artist, and author focused on the environment, human rights and free expression. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
ACTIVIST, ARTIST, AUTHOR
James is the author of four books: Freeing Teresa (2023), Banned on the Hill (2013), Bothered By My Green Conscience (2009) and Dear Office-Politics (2009). The diverse issues of human rights, climate change, free expression, and ethics are all connected by the need to speak up and take action.
The spark for her newest book, Freeing Teresa, was lit ten years ago in 2013. Franke and her husband, Billiam James, helped her younger sister, with Down syndrome, get out of a nursing home, regain her decision-making rights, and get an official apology.
Earlier that same year, Franke had published Banned on the Hill, which led to her winning the BC Civil Liberties Award for Excellence in the Arts. Her related poster campaign, “Do Not Talk About Climate Change,” appeared in three Canadian cities and Washington, DC. In 2015, Franke was awarded PEN Canada’s Ken Filkow Prize for her “tenacity in uncovering an abuse of power and commitment to fostering a national conversation in the face of censorship.”
Franke lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and her sister, Teresa. In 2015, she was awarded the inaugural PEN Canada / Ken Filkow Prize for her “tenacity in uncovering an abuse of power, and commitment to fostering a national conversation in the face of censorship.”
James is the recipient of BCCLA’s Liberty Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2015, BCCLA hosted a solo exhibition of James’ “Dangerous Art“, which included a series of posters based on access to information documents called “Six Easy Ways to Crush Free Expression”.
James is an active member of the Writers’ Union of Canada’s Freedoms and Rights Committee. From June 2017 to June 2018 she served as Chair of the FAR committee resulting in TWUC supporting a campaign for anti-SLAPP legislation in BC. On March 5, 2018, TWUC joined with 45 leading organizations and public interest advocates from a broad range of sectors in signing an open letter welcoming the BC Attorney General’s commitment to enact legislation to protect British Columbians from strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP suits. One year later, on March 7, 2019, the Attorney General announced that the “Protection of Public Participation Act” was unanimously approved and passed. David Eby said, “The new law will help BC Courts identify and stop SLAPP lawsuits targeting those who speak out on matters of public interest.”
James has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mount Allison University. She is a Member of The Writer’s Union of Canada, SOCAN, the Songwriters Association of Canada, Arts BC, BCCLA, and PEN Canada. Throughout her artistic career, she has received awards and support from Canadian institutions including Telefilm Canada, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the Banff Centre, the Gairdner Foundation, Mount Allison University, the University of Victoria and others.
Contact Franke James:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- See Franke James’ Link Tree
- Follow Franke James on Mastodon
- The James Gang, Iconoclasts: PO Box 98831 The W PO, Vancouver, V6B 0M4
Gasoline, Gasoline (The World’s Aflame), James’s song with Sound Activism, was released in fall 2018. It won Music Video of the Year from the American Electric Auto Association and has been featured in six film festivals in the USA and Canada. The song will be performed live at the Elements Film Festival in Vancouver on April 12, 2019. Songwriter Franke James talked about her inspiration, “Gasoline is bad news for the planet. We felt that the world was ready for a gasoline breakup song. So, we had fun telling the fossil fool we’ve found someone new.”
Scored to a funky dance beat by Billiam James, the lyrics describe our frustrations with gasoline through the lens of a romance gone wrong. The production features vocals by four Vancouver hip-hop artists Missy D, Francis Arevalo, Sejal Lal, and Lindal. They are joined in the video by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, who sings along, “We gotta leave you in the ground.” The music video also features a cameo by former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm.
Coltura.org is the Executive producer of the song and video. The non-profit’s goal is to end the gasoline era by spurring adoption of clean vehicles and phasing out sales of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2030.
From Whacking Politicians to being Banned on the Hill
THE END OF THE HARPER ERA
The Harper nightmare is over for Canada — and for me as well. I am no longer “the blacklisted artist” — and may actually be welcome on the Hill! Liberal Leader, Justin Trudeau, surfed “a wave of revulsion at Harper’s spiteful governing style.” He swept into power on October 19, 2015, decisively ending Harper’s nine-year reign. Battling the oppressive Harper government will forever be on my resume — and something I can be proud of…. Read post
Banned on the Hill and Franke James win awards in 2014!
Banned on the Hill won the Gold Award for non-fiction, Canada-East at the Independent Publisher Book awards. Foreword Reviews honoured Banned on the Hill with the IndieFab Silver Award for Ecology and Environment.
Franke James was awarded the Liberty Award 2014 for Excellence in the Arts, by the BC Civil Liberties Association, at their gala event on June 19, 2014, in Vancouver BC.
Franke James: Banned on the Hill: a true story about dirty oil and government censorship
The pro-oil Canadian federal government is gagging artists and scientists, trampling Canada’s long record as a global leader in environmental protection and human rights, all to promote tar sands, the dirtiest source of oil on Earth. Franke James is one Canadian who isn’t taking it. She has been called, “a wicked thorn in Stephen Harper’s side” and a ‘troublesome artist.’ Why? All for asking tough questions about Canada’s dirty oil, leaky pipelines, and failing environmental record. Her story “What is Harper afraid of?” has motivated nearly 8,000 people to write to Ottawa to register their concerns.
“Banned on the Hill: It’s a tour de force”
“Banned on the Hill. It’s absolutely outstanding. It’s a tour de force and if you haven’t bought a copy, buy one. And then buy a second one for your kids and your grandchildren. Because we’ve got to get the youth. We don’t have an awful lot of youth in the room here tonight.
“We need more youth to start reading these books because it resonates with them. Franke gave me a copy, I have a 17 year-old son. He looked through it and he said, “Wow.” He said, “Dad this is better than anything you do. Well, he’s right. He’s right because he immediately related to the visual [power that Franke generated].”
The Big Leap: From Picking Up Dog Poop to Getting Off Fossil Fuels
James’ experience fighting government censorship is being used to teach grade school students. Scholastic’s textbook “CENSORSHIP” features James as an example of how artists can effectively fight back against government censorship. James is a contributing author to the book “Access to Information and Social Justice: Critical Research Strategies for Journalists, Scholars, and Activists” by Kevin Walby, University of Winnipeg and Jamie Brownlee from Carleton University. Key lessons she learned from fighting for the release of government information is included in her illustrated chapter, “Games Bureaucats Play” in “Access to Information and Social Justice”.
Artist finds inspiration in Canadian government’s attempt to silence her
“Canada, under the government of Stephen Harper, has exhibited little patience for dissent. The government has muzzled government scientists, insulted Nasa climate experts, and dismissed environmental protesters as dangerous radicals.
“But there is apparently one woman whom the government can’t shut up: the Toronto environmental writer, illustrator and activist Franke James, who turned the efforts to silence her into material for a new book.
“Banned on the Hill: A True Story about Dirty Oil and Government Censorship, released this week, shows how Canadian bureaucrats tried to silence James because her views on climate change clashed with the Harper government’s push to develop Alberta’s tar sands.
“The story is told through visual essays as well as official emails obtained by James, in which government bureaucrats discuss the troublesome artist and her work.”
James’ 20-city European art show was cancelled as a direct result of behind-the-scenes government interference by high-level bureaucrats, including the Deputy Director of Climate Change, Jeremy Wallace, a Canadian Ambassador, Scott Heatherington, and a Senior Trade Commissioner in Berlin, Thomas Marr. According to the internal government documents, James was censored because her art was “advocating a message that was contrary to the government’s policies on climate change.”
The artist has vigorously and creatively fought back against the government’s interference and censorship calling it an infringement on her right to free expression. James used freedom of information laws to obtain 2,172 internal government documents concerning herself. She has mounted two crowd-funded art shows to protest the silencing of environmental voices. The first show took place in 2011 in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. James has organized a new outdoor crowd-funded poster show to coincide with the publication of her new book, Banned on the Hill. It features an ominous art work inspired by the Canadian government and James personal experience of being censored. The work shows the Canadian Parliament Buildings dropped into tar sands with the words, “Do Not Talk about Climate Change. It is against government policy.” The poster show is travelling to Canadian and U.S. cities in 2013.
James’ books, visual stories, games and videos are focused on the environment, ethics and social justice. In addition to Banned on the Hill, James is the author of two award-winning books, Bothered By My Green Conscience and Dear Office-Politics. She has a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Mount Allison University.
Banned on the Hill, published in May 2013, is Franke James third book. Through eight visual essays, James traces her personal journey as an active citizen discovering the power of speaking out. Interviewed in the Guardian UK newspaper in May 2013, James said that she hoped the book would serve as a how-to guide to other activists hoping to fight back against government censorship, especially with humour. “It’s kind of like a judo flip, meaning that you can actually flip someone who is much bigger than you.”
See Franke James’ Indiegogo campaign in May-June 2013.
PRAISE FOR BANNED ON THE HILL
“This book makes you think, and it gets you angry. Bravo!” CLAYTON RUBY, C.M., B.A., LL.B., LL.M., LL.D. (honoris causa)
“The Canadian government has clamped down on scientists who tell the truth about the tarsands—and it’s tried to shut up artists too. Happily, Franke James is indefatigable!” BILL MCKIBBEN, Founder, 350.org
“Franke James’ commitment to art, free expression and political commentary put her in the cross-hairs of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. See what the government didn’t want the world to see.” ELIZABETH MAY, Leader, Green Party of Canada, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands
“‘Banned on the Hill’ is such a feast for the eyes one could almost overlook the disturbing and sobering tale that it tells. In the battle to communicate the threat of climate change, we need all the ammunition we can muster. Franke brings it, with a deadly combination of artistic expression, verve, and wit.” MICHAEL E. MANN, Distinguished Professor, Penn State University and author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars
“Franke James isn’t afraid to take on anyone, from the Harper government to big corporations. When my co-editor, Kim Blank, and I decided to edit a book of cultural readings for university students, we knew that we wanted James and Rachel Carson to anchor the conclusion on the environment.” STEPHEN EATON HUME, Author of Economics Writing
In addition to Banned on the Hill, James is the author of two award-winning books, Bothered By My Green Conscience and Dear Office-Politics. Both were published in 2009. In Bothered by My Green Conscience, she recounts her adventures in going green, which included selling her only car, an SUV, and fighting bureaucracy at City Hall for the right to build a green driveway. (She won!) Franke’s artwork and books have won awards and been featured in print, TV, radio and online in Canada, the USA and in many parts of the world. She has delivered keynotes, speeches and workshops at educational events in Canada and the USA.
Franke James merges science, art and storytelling to inspire people to take action and “do the hardest thing first” for the planet. Her most recent interactive quiz “How many climate deniers could you fight off?” combines humour, art, politics and science to provoke players to take action and stand up for the planet.
Franke James has delivered keynotes and workshops in Toronto, Colorado, Ottawa, Northern Ontario, Cincinnati, Maine, the Ontario Teachers Federation climate change camps, the Ontario Government, and others. (See her Speaking page for more details.)
Canada’s First Crowd-funded ArtShow On Outdoor Ads Protests Climate Artist’s Censorship
On November 2, 2011, Franke James opened her “Banned on the Hill” artshow to protest the Harper Government’s censorship of her artwork, and the muzzling of environmental scientists. Her poster artshow in Ottawa was strategically located around the corner from the Parliament Buildings. Using outdoor ad media financed with crowdfunding, Franke was able to shine a bright light on the silencing of environmental voices. See Franke’s Blacklisting index for related videos, articles and access to information documents.
James made news headlines for her environmental actions by successfully winning permission from Toronto City Hall for the right to build a green driveway. Her work has been featured on the CBC National News, CBC Radio, Grist, Change.org, 350.org, Treehugger, YES! Magazine, Gopher Illustrated Magazine, The Toronto Star, National Post, Montreal Gazette, Times-Colonist, Ottawa Citizen, Worldchanging, and in numerous blogs. Her story A Green Winter was part of an anthology entitled Perspectives on Contemporary Issues that included stories from Stephen Lewis, Margaret Atwood, and David Suzuki. Franke produced A Green Winter as an animated short. It was screened at the 2007 Green Living Show between appearances by Al Gore and Robert Kennedy, Jr.
Franke James’ Activism
“Franke James is among the tiny handful of really powerful and profound artists who have taken on climate change – the most important topic on the planet, but one so big and all-encompassing that it often defies artistic interpretation. Her work is incredibly important for many of us around the world.” ~ Bill McKibben, Founder 350.org
“Franke James’ work is honest, powerful and funny. She has a rare ability to sweep past the polarization and complexity of critical issues and shine a stark spotlight without over simplifying. Her work is not be missed by anyone interested in climate change or the future of Canada!” ~ Tzeporah Berman, Author and Co-founder ForestEthics
“Artistic communicator par excellence, Franke James is a Canadian visionary and master of inspiration for lighting the passions around the epochal realms of our time. Her visual essays brilliantly pare the broad complexities of climate change down to a human scale narrative that resonates with the Canadian public.” Toby A. A. Heaps, Editor-in-Chief, Corporate Knights Magazine
“The words ‘visual artist’ do too little justice to Franke James. She is a commentator and educator, an entertainer and provocateur. Her thoughtful and thought-provoking work is whimsical, accessible and resolutely non-confrontational – sometimes indignant, but never impolite. Franke can’t make me feel better about climate change, but she’s one of the few people around who gives me hope.” ~ Richard Littlemore, co-author of Climate Cover-up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming
“Franke James is a unique asset to the climate movement: a fearless artist whose work simultaneously bursts with joyfulness and hard-hitting rationale about the current crisis to our planet. Without fail, after reading one of her visual essays, I’m always freshly motivated to address these challenges head-on.” ~ Jess Leber, Environment Editor, Change.org
“Franke James is a Canadian treasure whose art has helped to explain the global climate crisis in understandable and even humorous ways. She is meticulous about the facts and substance, but her voice is eminently refreshing and approachable. I love her art, and that she uses it for story-telling to raise awareness of humankind’s urgent challenge.” ~ Michael Noble, Fresh Energy
“Franke James’ artwork is a vital and beautiful tool to awaken greater consciousness and action on the part of people all over the world to confront our greatest challenge: climate change.” ~ May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org
“Franke James has an extraordinary talent for mixing engaging stories and the latest science to make action-provoking climate art. Naturally, it has been a pleasure to work with Franke and Bill James on the CO2 Toaster website widget that has helped get the attention of hundreds of thousands of people to think more about humanity’s single most important environmental data.” ~ Michael McGee, Creator of Earth’s CO2 Home Page
“Our climate experts are desperate to explain their science in a way that promotes action. So are environmentalists, social justice activists, and intellectuals of all stripe. Franke James just might have the key. Her visual essays make detailed, sound arguments, but they are delivered in a way that lets people hear. She eschews polemics, admits her own uncertainties, and draws everyone into the circle of change. Here’s one voice I’d like the whole world to hear.” ~ Cathryn Wellner, This Gives Me Hope
“I have long been a fan of Franke James’ unique brand of storytelling – so much so that I’ve borrowed from one of her best – Paradise Unpaved – and made it a centerpiece of more than 30 presentations on environmental leadership I have made to more than 4,500 people from across Canada. Her story of taking on City Hall for the right to build a green driveway is exceptional for its ability to engage diverse audiences on a very sensitive matter. Her literally “grassroots” activism gets people thinking how each of us contribute to the environmental challenges we face, and also to the solutions – and for doing so in a way that is empowering.” ~ David Noble, Principal, 2degreesC
Brazilian Newspaper, O Estado de S. Paulo, Features Franke James
The double-page color spread featured six artworks by Franke James, plus a photo.
“Our daily newspaper,O Estado de S. Paulo, in São Paulo, Brazil, is working on a story about guilt and global warming. In fact, it’s about the actions that we try to do in order to “minimize” or “neutralize” our guilty conscience”
See: Do Brazilians have a Green Conscience? And will it motivate them to take action? with more information and links to Karina’s articles in Portuguese.
Business Ecology Paradox: A Breath of Fresh Air from the Usual Doom and Gloom
“Franke James shows us the importance of storytelling in creating new and productive conversations about pressing issues. The goal that all the climate change activists are pursuing is not to freak people out, but the message is often lost because news about planetary sized emergencies tend to overwhelm people and paralyze them… So kudos to Franke James for putting her talent to work and reminding us that we are all part of a movement towards a green future, one that doesn’t put our health and well being at stake. The power of individual action is the only way to move crowds, to create demand for better alternatives and incite companies in moving into new niches.” ~ Nicolas Parson
Read Nicolas Parson’s article from Business Ecology Paradox: A Breath of Fresh Air from the Usual Doom and Gloom
GopherIllustrated Magazine: Franke James is Drawing a Greener Conscience
“Posting about climate change and a green conscience may strike some as preachy, and we at the Gopher have to confess a great deal of pickiness when it comes to reading up on it… Franke James is the opposite of preachy. She is the fairy godmother of green conscience, a concerned citizen and a terrifically talented storyteller. Today Franke lets us post some of her work (scroll down to read “No one will know, except you“) and answers some of our questions.”
Read the feature article by Michu Benaim.
CBC does “Dinner with a Stranger”
CBC television’s The National and CBC radio’s The Spark shared Franke’s story of “Dinner with a Stranger” with their audiences.
CBC National: “Stranger for Christmas” by CBC video-journalist, Peter Wall.
Watch CBC video
CBC Radio: “Dinner with a Stranger” with Spark host, Nora Young.
Listen to show
Franke James’ post about CBC coverage:
Just look where “Dinner with a Stranger” has led…
(Original visual essay: Dinner with a Stranger)
“No doubt about it, we’ve got our work cut out for us with Climate Change. We’ve got a problem on our hands the size of our planet. Luckily, that planet is full of smart and dedicated people using their unique skills to make a difference. One of those people is artist and storyteller Franke James. To deal with such unprecedented problems, Franke has set about developing a new way of communication using her online Visual Stories. These wonderful tales read like the great illuminated manuscripts of the past, filling the meaning of their words with powerful images. Franke uses her skills as illustrator, writer, photographer and communicator to turn her personal experiences into a platform to address global issues. From selling her SUV to dyeing her hair, James turns her personal process into readable and accessible anecdotes. Best of all! She is now our most visual advocate for 350, and composed this visual feast to spread the word! In part 3 of her essay, Taking Action for 350, she speaks beautifully (literally – look at her images) about the campaign and the ways we all can make a difference. Still wondering what your doing on October 24th? Join Franke James’ Freeze to Protest Climate Inaction campaign, and organize a freeze flash-mob!”
Green Living Magazine
“Franke James is using her creativity to tackle climate change—armed with a paintbrush and a vivid imagination—and having dazzling results.”
Franke James, artist, author and speaker, is profiled in the Fall 2009 issue of Green Living Magazine. The issue urges Canadians “to take a stand” and challenges them to become greener citizens. Read more…
By co-author John David Mann
“‘We teach our kids not to talk to strangers. But some of our best conversations have been with strangers.’ So says The Stranger, in this charming pictorial-adventure-diary from Franke James, Toronto-based founder and editor of the blog Office-Politics®. Last August Franke wrote an extremely engaging and thoughtful piece about The Go-Giver (she even posted her own go-givers list of forty-five specific people). Franke just shared a remarkable story with us that seemed so go-giverish, we had to share it with you….” Read more…
“Imagine that a total stranger sends you an email inviting himself and a friend over to your place for dinner, in exchange for which he’d contribute $200 to charity. Would you say yes, prepare a meal and see what’s in store? That is exactly what local artist Franke James (of un-paving paradise fame) did, and now she’s trying to get the idea to spread. Franke’s latest visual essay chronicles the experience, from the initial email appearing in her inbox to its almost magical conclusion. And now, in the comments, we’ve already heard from The Stranger’s mom and the Yonge Street Mission – Franke’s charity of choice – and now Franke and The Stranger are sharing ideas of how to expand upon this concept as a larger-scale fundraiser. I had a little chat with Franke about what was on her mind hosting this dinner, and what’s on her mind now…” read more
In her most recent blog [visual essay] she takes on the Prime Minister in a way that only Franke could. The essay, entitled Dear Prime Minister, “You say a pollution tax would wreak havoc on our economy”, touches on a number of major issues facing Canadians today. The essay by no means tells you who to vote for, but it will make you think! And that’s the point, especially during this election and especially in these hard times. Climate change is a reality, period! And as Franke notes in her essay, why are we being forced to choose between the economy and the environment? We tend to forget that without an environment we would not have an economy, as everything we consume and I mean everything comes from our environment. read more
“Back in July we posted a story about a North York woman who had torn up her driveway and replaced it with a much more eco-friendly alternative. All the while she chronicled her adventures in a great photo essay called Paradise Unpaved. Well, now Franke James is at it again. But this time she has a photo essay of the recent propane explosion. It’s called 12,000 sitting ducks.” Read more…
“Franke James likes doing the hard things first, which is why, when it came to reducing her carbon footprint, she skipped right past the programmable thermostat and coffee thermos business and headed straight for the real green challenge — selling her SUV and replacing the driveway with a garden… Read more…” See as newspaper pdf.
Whack the PM is a non-partisan and spectacularly satirical election website that lets you beat the crap out of the party leaders in an effort to predict the next Prime Minister of Canada. In this game where winning means you’ll lose, candidates are hoping to come out unscathed after participants answer hot topic questions by whacking a party leader on the head… Plus this will likely be the first – and last – time you see any of the candidates rubbing shoulders in a single hot tub… Whack the PM is the product of the artistically minded James Gang, including Franke James of green driveway fame. It’s also not entirely satire… You’ll have to excuse me now as I go back to whacking Mr. Harper. Read more…
“I was first introduced to Canadian visual artist Franke James’ work via a link from Max Gladwell, a site that explores social media and green living. Ms. James, who describes her visual essays as “a freewheeling mix of illustrations, photographs and hand-drawn text,” sits squarely at the intersection of these two spaces…Read More…”
“Local artist and eco-minded citizen Franke James decided to do the hard thing first and replace her interlocking brick front yard (parking lot) with plants and an eco driveway (paradise). What she didn’t expect was a North York demand for concrete, asphalt or interlocking driveways. But, with persistence, she made one of the city’s greenest front yards a reality… Read more…”
“A year ago we recounted how artist Franke James gave up her SUV and then decided to rip up her driveway, except the law said that every house had to have a driveway paved with concrete, asphalt or brick. Even porous pavers like turfstone were illegal. Franke took her case (and a printout of TreeHugger) to City Hall and won; now she tells her story in her wonderful mix of humour, drawing and photography…” Read more…
Treehugger.com 2009: Bothered By My Green Conscience by Franke James
Treehugger.com 2008:Paradise Unpaved: Franke James’ Driveway One Year Later
Treehugger.com 2007: Franke James on Global Warming in Canada
Treehugger.com 2007 : Selling the SUV: Do the Hardest Things First
Treehugger.com 2007: Don’t Rip Up Your Driveway in North York
Franke James is Inventive:
James is the inventor of an ethical dilemma-based game: Dear Office-Politics, the game everyone plays. The game launched in 2004 and has recently been published as a game & book. The dilemmas are based on letters submitted to the Office-Politics.com web site from 2002 to 2007. It has found a special niche in the training market, and won positive reviews from organizations as diverse as Unicef and the US Army. Feedback from players has been excellent and demonstrates that it can be a useful tool in bringing office politics problems into the open. The game is useful for team building, enhancing communication, exercising ethical muscles, raising awareness, and understanding culture and fit.
James’ fascination with psychology is reflected in the online games and quizzes which she has co-created with James Gang co-founder Bill James. They include The Room [Umbra], The Love Quiz, The Looking Glass, Office-Politics [Online Contest], Whack the Mayor, and Whack the PM (2004, 2006, 2008). Their joint work has been featured on AOL, USA Today, Yahoo, iVillage.com as well as in many publications, including Rockport Publishing’s “The Best Work from the Web.”
The James Gang’s satirical humour grabbed headlines during the three Canadian Federal Elections in 2004, 2006, and 2008. The Whack the PM online game drew more than 33,000 visitors to the site. The Toronto Star, National Post, CBC Radio, CTV News, Global TV News, CH TV News, CKOM Saskatoon, 610 CKV, QR77 Calgary Today, London Free Press, the McLuhan Foundation blog plus numerous online sources, also covered the ‘whacky’ story.
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