Don’t Treat A Dragon*Con Boycott Like A Fantasy

(Update at the end.) I have a Fiend Folio in a trunk in my basement, along with hexagonal graph paper, 20-sided dice and pewter miniatures. I’m a recovering hard-core Dungeons & Dragons nerd.

This confession made, know that I follow the tribulations of Dragon*Con closely, which faces growing calls for a boycott because one of its founders and principal shareholders faces serious serial child molestation charges. But you don’t have to roll 20’s to find the political and economic threads of the case fascinating.

Ed Kramer has been able to delay trial in Gwinnett County since his initial arrest in August of 2000 on charges of molesting two teenage brothers during sleepovers at his house earlier that summer. Kramer has been using the proceeds from his one-third ownership stake in Dragon*Con to fuel his tortuous legal defense.

“This case has been called for trial no less than 12 times for trial and each time, Kramer has had a reason for delay all the while screaming about his speedy trial rights,” said Gwinnett County district attorney Danny Porter in an email.

Supposedly on house arrest for medical conditions, Kramer was nonetheless caught in a Connecticut hotel in September 2011 with a 14-year-old boy with whom he was apparently filming a horror movie, in violation of the no-contact terms of the court. Georgia extradited him in January.

Kramer has since filed more than 200 requests for accommodation of his physical handicaps and religious restrictions along with various grievances since his return to a Gwinnett County jail cell. Porter has pretty much had it and is arguing that Kramer’s medical condition isn’t legitimate – that he’s faking it to delay trial.

Horror writer Nancy Collins, who is spearheading the boycott, reminded me in a phone call Tuesday that one of Ed Kramer’s principal attorneys has been none other than Bob Barr, former congressman, current Republican candidate for the 11th district U.S. House seat currently occupied by Phil Gingrey, and semi-recovering libertarian. Barr and Kramer go way back. Barr has been working for Kramer since at least 2007. Meanwhile, Kramer has political roots in the science-fiction libertarian movement.

Collins told me she was obliquely referring to Barr’s role in Kramer’s defense when she made claims in a post on comic site The Beat that this case has dragged on for as long as it has because “someone relatively powerful in Georgia politics (is) pulling strings on his behalf behind the scenes.” She clarified in conversation with me that she doesn’t know if Barr himself made phone calls, but said it was suspicious, for example, that Kramer had been granted permission in 2006 to travel to Israel.

It’s an absurd allegation, of course. “Kramer’s trip to Israel was before Barr got involved,” Porter said. “The trip was allowed at Kramer’s attorney’s request to explore a possible disposition of the case, which involved a suspended prison sentence and emigration. This possibility was explored with the consent of the victims but fell through when Kramer was not prepared to admit his guilt, fired that attorney and filed motions claiming that I had tried to banish him from the United States and that we had denied his speedy trial rights.”

Hell, Kramer isn’t even Barr’s most controversial client — Baby Doc Duvalier takes the crown. But given the state’s culture of corruption, there’s an audience willing to believe an accusation like this on face value. That’s how corruption becomes a competitive issue — and I’m writing about this because I think this case represents a competitive threat to Atlanta’s growing media industry.

Sans boycott, Dragon*Con has all the potential to become Georgia’s equivalent to San Diego’s Comic-Con International: a must-stop event for Hollywood to gauge audience interest in upcoming billion-dollar blockbusters. As Georgia’s movie industry grows, Dragon*Con could begin to supplement Comic-Con as a taste-maker. That is, assuming the connection to Kramer’s sordid charges doesn’t continue to keep A-list celebrities from coming.

“I am not sure why anybody has a question about this,” said Don Murphy, producer of Transformers, said in an email. “The only question is, ‘Out of your $120 admission, how much goes to a child molester? How much is okay for you?’ That’s the only question. If you are okay with 25 cents of it going to a child molester, then I submit you have lost your moral compass.”

Still, it’s easy enough to question the effectiveness of a boycott.  Everyone isn’t going to be on board in any case. Science-fiction writers are like cactus — prickly and resistant to harsh environments. “Yes, Kramer should be obliged to use his right to a speedy trial. Thirteen years, feh,” said Larry Niven of Ringworld fame, in an email. “Me, I’m committed as a guest. I’ll be at Dragon*Con regardless of any boycott.”

I know, I know. Business is business. Somehow guys like Roman Polanski still manage to get work. But Polanski’s charges don’t really affect Hollywood’s bottom line. Kramer’s charges are affecting Dragon*Con, and I think Dragon*Con influences the Atlanta film industry’s fortunes.

If we’re going to be doing self-congratulatory backflips over multimillion dollar studio construction deals in Norcross and Fayette County while debating the merits of hiring a chauffeur for Reese Witherspoon, then come to terms with the rest of it, too. Atlanta is Zombieland, folks. We can’t treat entertainment industry issues like background noise any more if Atlanta is to be taken seriously as an alternative to Los Angeles, New York and Toronto. Sci-fi stuff matters here.

Phil Foglio, a brilliant and wildly successful web comic artist — and by no means an artistic conservative — pulled out of Dragon*Con in February.

“In my experienced opinion, if we went to Dragon-Con, Studio Foglio would make over $15,000. and that’s net, not gross,” Foglio wrote in a Facebook post about the decision. “But we’re not going. This decision is costing us, and we don’t care. …  the Board of Directors has decided that they would rather send hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to a known, active pedophile. They are okay with that. They have made an active decision to keep on doing that.”

By most accounts, the board of directors of Dragon*Con are stuck. “Since Edward Kramer’s arrest in 2000, we have made multiple attempts to sever all ties between Edward Kramer and Dragon*Con including several efforts to buy Edward Kramer’s stock shares,” the board wrote. “Unfortunately, Edward Kramer’s response to our buyout efforts was repeated litigation against Dragon*Con … The idea proposed of dissolving the company and reincorporating has been thoroughly investigated and is not possible at this point. Legally, we can’t just take away his shares. We are unfortunately limited in our options and responses as we remain in active litigation.”

Dragon*Con has been fairly tight-lipped about all of this. Other than to note the most recent estimate of Dragon*Con’s economic impact from the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau —  $42.3 million, based on last year’s attendance of 52,000 — the con’s flack, Rachel Reeves, had nothing to add when asked.

It seems that the easiest way to dislodge him – and to protect that economic benefit – would be to convict him. A judge could then force him to financially compensate his victims, which might require him to sell his shares.

I bring all this up because I fear that the treatment of the Kramer case symbolizes a broader problem Georgia’s political leaders may have adapting to the vicissitudes of a growing entertainment cluster. When the telecom industry says it needs some bit of legislation or some policy change, we see amendments on the ballot. The utility industry seems to find no difficulty parting rate payers from their wealth. Favorable rules for the airline industry aren’t elusive. And, yes, there’s a big tax credit for film and television production here.

But building an entertainment and media economic cluster is more complicated than building a tire factory or a power plant. The social, intellectual and legal climate matters. Whatever else Hollywood might be, it knows where its money is made. If there’s a threat to show business in Tinseltown, it’s not going to take 13 years to resolve in court.

When I moved to Atlanta, I had no idea I was in nerd Nirvana, with active comic shops, game studios and the famed White Wolf publishing house headquartered here. And I’d never been to a convention before Dragon*Con.

I’d like to go again.

I’m not suggesting that a judge should just railroad Kramer. He should be tried on the evidence. But I suggest, for the public good, that some sense of urgency for a resolution start to apply to the case. The nerds are watching.



In response to my blatant fishing expedition reasoned speculation in the comments, Greg Euston, a Dragon*Con spokesman sent this reply by email.

“I’m actually the “flack” for Dragon*Con and was reading the comments this afternoon.  Your story was great, and we appreciated the time you put into it.   In the comments, however, you waded into speculation and you’re 100 percent dead wrong on some things.

Please make sure you include the following in your comments – Robert Costner was a volunteer director – meaning he lead a task-oriented team – and had no role in founding Dragon*Con and does not now, nor has he ever, owned a single share of the company’s stock.   I checked with Pat Henry, the chairman, who recalls that Costner was a director for a few years in the early 1990s – a time when the convention had approximately 300 volunteers – and had some role with computers or IT.

Most importantly, the board of Dragon*Con is united in its belief that Ed Kramer is not innocent, and your speculation to the contrary is completely wrong.  Moreover, the board of Dragon*Con – which consists of Pat Henry, David Cody and Robert Dennis – is working very hard to sever its ties to Kramer.

Kramer had complete access to Dragon*Con’s books during the three attempts to buy his shares in 2004, 2006 and 2008.  The offers at that time were very fair.   Management would be happy to re-open the books for him to review as part of the current litigation, but Kramer refuses to sign a confidentiality agreement.”



  1. George Chidi says:

    I tweeted at and emailed Bob Barr and Kramer’s current counsel with a draft of this story for comment. No reply. Dragon*Con’s folks replied, but aren’t particularly talkative. And if any of the other con panelists I contacted get back to me, I’ll append it later.

  2. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    Fascinating read.

    So the boycott is by the panelists and celebrities at this point? Or are attendees also being encouraged in some circles to also boycott? Usually it’s that pressure ( attendees) that gets results, so I find it interesting it’s coming from leaders in the community.

    Please keep us posted.

    • George Chidi says:

      Hard to say. It’s a general boycott, but I’m not sure where it’s going to materialize first. The convention folks said they don’t want to talk about pre-sales yet … for obvious reasons.

  3. Three Jack says:

    I remember Kramer as the MRESA (Metropolitan Regional Educational Service Agency) screwup who profited from a computer/video contract that blew up because the techology was as bogus as those promoting it –

    Somehow all parties escaped without charges while bilking taxpayers out of millions through an education funding grant. Kramer was an integral part of the deal.

  4. Engineer says:

    Don’t get me wrong on this, but from what I’ve read (of the above linked), the Dragon Con folks can’t really do anything about it at this point (other than pay several times the actual value of the stocks that fellow holds). So what exactly would you (you referring to anybody in general) expect a boycott to force them to do that is different?

    • Stefan says:

      This is an object lesson in buy-sell shareholder agreements. What could they do? Sell Dragon*Con to another entity which isn’t beholden to child molesters. Depending on what percentage Kramer owns, dissolution could be a way to go. Doesn’t even require a spell to be cast.

      I’m sure they’ve thought of all of this. What the other owners and board members mean by having their hands tied is, “we don’t want to lose control of the organization or lose financial position all for the sake of removing Kramer.”

      • Engineer says:

        While yes, I agree with you that dissolution is possible, we all know that brand recognition is a major thing. As such, it would be very difficult to start over after this many years with a new name.

  5. George Chidi says:

    It’s a cash move. No profits means no dividend check for Kramer. It’s more symbolic than anything, of course, because reducing Dragon*Con to a zero profit base is unrealistic.

    • JediJD says:

      Also, its odd that this terrible horrible monster’s alleged offenses were so bad that the victims and prosecutors at one point seemed to agree he could simply banish himself to Israel…which on the one hand seems a little “reverse Roman Polankski-ish” but also strikes me that perhaps there is some fuzziness in the facts. Agree that he seems to be a complete tool, though…just an as yet unconvicted one.

    • That’s not necessarily true. I don’t have a copy of their bylaws, but there are a few scenarios I can think of which could take them to zero profit. Corporations do it all the time. For instance, they could vote themselves salaries /bonuses instead of dividends perhaps and decide not to pay dividends any longer. So long as the board is able to approve that type of scenario by majority vote, it sounds possible to me.

      As well, perhaps they could start making payments towards the future rental cost of facilities. Go ahead and pay the rent for 2013, 2014, 2015, etc. I’m not sure if “inventory” would be considered part of the bottom line, but perhaps DC needs to buy some gold coins or something. You know, in case they decide they want to sell them in the future. It’s a reasonable expense. (Maybe even have some DC gold coins made?)

      There are all sorts of ways to manipulate a business if the board has the appropriate power and simply wants to ensure that there is zero profit, thus no dividends paid. 🙂

  6. JediJD says:

    Nice work, George…but as a simple country lawyer I’m not smart enough to figure all this out and had a couple of thoughts you might help me with…
    1. What about that pesky “innocent until proven guilty” stuff? Should we boycott every business with a principal who may be guilty of a mortal sin but hasn’t yet been convicted? I just want to be consistent. If so, how long?
    2. Why the shots at the lawyers? All they did was argue a position, the judges in the cases made the calls…and it sounds like Danny Porter (and some of the victims) agreed to some of them…do we boycott them, too?
    3. I thought the shots at Barr were unsportsmanlike conduct, but probably goes with the territory of being a Libertarian Conservative attorney.
    4. Completely get free markets. Completely get voting with your pocketbook, but just want to know how this works…if Kramer is found innocent, do we get to go next year?
    5. Last, how far does our moral outrage go? Judge Mathis was a gang-banger, Tim Allen a coke dealer (and Colgate Palmolive advertises on their shows…should we stop buying their soap), Danny Trejo and Georgia Durante movies? How about ol’ Jay Z…and if we are boycotting him, do we also have to stop watching Beyonce’ shake?

    Just thinking that this boycott thing could be a slippery slope and I just want an idea which way to slide. Thanks! Good job!

    • George Chidi says:

      Reasonable people are going to disagree about both the moral value and the practical utility of a boycott. And I rather avoided getting into the weeds of the substance of the allegations in the piece, simply because at 1400 words, I’m already losing about half the audience. Sure, he might be innocent, but since I’m not on the jury, I can hold whatever opinion I like on the matter. Innocent people are, sadly, convicted from time to time. And guilty people walk sometimes, too. Individual spending decisions are a matter of private conduct, not public policy.

      My piece is about public policy, though — whether or not we should care about what might otherwise be dismissed as stupid entertainment tabloid garbage. And the short answer for me is — most of the time, sure … but not when there’s real money on the line in the Atlanta entertainment industry. In this regard, appearances matter.

      I might be taking a shot at Bob Barr here, but it’s a fair one. I recognize the democratic value of seeing even the worst in society have legal representation, and I know some lawyers take on terrible clients as a matter of principle … or to prove their skill. Those people aren’t typically running for Congress.

      It’s not that I’m taking a shot at Porter. He makes my short list of people with authority that I trust. But what the hell is wrong with the judicial establishment? If this were a case that, say, affected $40 million a year in land development in Gwinnett, it wouldn’t have taken 13 years to resolve. If it were $40 million in technology jobs, or $40 million in road construction or $40 million in bank loans, they would have found a way to get it to trial. Hang him, or free him, but for reason’s sake, try him!

      And you’re right about the board. I think two things are going on there. First, they don’t want to have to open their books, either to Kramer or to anyone else. The con is probably drawing $3 million a year in revenue just from ticket sales. Kramer’s share of the profits has been cast at something like $150,000 a year … but I wonder about that. If it’s operating margin is 40 percent, then Kramer would be due at least $400,000 a year and not the $150,000 number that’s being thrown around. If the con is worth, say, a revenue multiple of two, then Kramer’s share might be worth $2 million and not the $500,000 he was offered a few years ago.

      Second, I think Kramer still has supporters on the board. I received this e-mail earlier today from Robert A. Costner, in response to this piece:

      I just read your article about DragonCon, This is a copy of the amicus filed by Bob Bar in the case. This was written by Mr. Barr before his representation of Mr. Kramer. And yes Mr. Barr is still Mr. Kramer’s counsel. here is a copy in case you did not have this.
      Your article seems to contend that Mr. Kramer is guilty. Perhaps more research would make it clear that Ed is innocent of the charges.
      If you are interested in additional information, please feel free to contact me.


      Costner is listed in various places as a founding director of Dragon*Con, but I don’t know if he’s still on the board. He didn’t reply when I asked him in email to clarify that for me.

    • Mongr1l says:

      @JediJD, so in other words, let’s not do *anything* until we are absolutely sure of the result. Let’s not cross the street until we are absolute sure we are not going to get run over by a car.
      A bunch of false logic created to disingenuously protect Edward Kramer.

      I suspect Ed Kramer may still have a few more closeted advocates, going by your obvious remarks….

  7. saltycracker says:

    George: Why isn’t your focus on the Gwinnett judge (s) who have granted delays for years and the Board that won’t act ? Barr’s involvement and suggesting political influence may be but heat on the first line players is needed.

    Who are the judges and what did they have to say to keep this going ?
    According to Wikipedia: Dragon*Con was launched in 1987, as a project of a local science fiction and gaming group, the Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Role-Players (DAGR). It was founded by a board of directors including John Bunnell, David Cody, Robert Dennis, Mike Helba, Pat Henry, and Ed Kramer.[3]

  8. chamblee54 says:

    The last time I went to the DragonCon parade it was a nightmarish mob scene. Maybe, if half the people there were to boycott the event, it would be enjoyable.

  9. DavidTC says:

    There is no reason any trial needs to stretch 13 years, and what _I_ would like to see is some actual timeline of each and every stalling tactic.

    I keep hearing ‘He keeps getting delays’…but by _whom_. Who is granting them? On what grounds?

    I’m actually confused as to what the real issue here. The guy is _actually in jail_, because they won’t give him bail after he decided to leave the state to film a movie, and, incidentally, violate his bail terms by having contact with minors.

    Granted, Dragon*Con proceeds might help his ‘legal team’, but, uh, the guy’s not getting out of prison. He can stall all he wants, he’s not getting out.

    Incidentally, I wish people would stop mentioning the idea of dissolution. Georgia corporations _can’t_ dissolve while legal cases are pending against them, and Kramer currently has a lawsuit against Dragon*Con for their attempt to freeze him out way back in 2001 or 2002 or whenever they tried to break ties.

    • There have been so many delays that’s it not funny or easy to compile a quick list. Early on, the delays were coming from both sides and, in one instance, because of the system. The prosecution requested delays to gather more evidence. The entire jury pool for every case was thrown out in February of 2002 because it had been improperly compiled. One (very legitimate) delay came about because of the death of a family member (mother if memory serves) of one of the prosecutors.

      Almost all of the rest of the delays after the early years were 100% Kramer though. Much as it’s reported that he’s doing now in a recent Fox Atlanta news story, he filed complaint after complaint and had his legal team file motion after motion based on his health, claiming religious discrimination, and other petty garbage. He’s greatly exaggerated his medical disabilities to claim that he would be unable to sit in court for longer than a few hours without threatening his health (now claiming it will threaten his life) and that he’s physically unable to stand trial. I always found it odd that the courts went along with that since he would be seen tooling about on his scooter when allowed out of jail and even attended fundraisers for Bob Barr’s presidential run.

      To a degree I think they let him wear them down. Until just recently, I thought that they might do it again because of Porter’s comments in the September ‘In the Shadows’ article from Atlanta Magazine.

      “Even though Porter is confident he could win a guilty verdict, he worries about Kramer’s incarceration. After all, Kramer, who spent the last decade frustrating and manipulating the state’s legal system to put off his trial, could soon have a new objective: medical reprieve.

      “If Ed Kramer’s convicted tomorrow and sentenced to twenty years, what’s the Georgia prison system going to do with him?” Porter says. “The chances of him serving significant time, given the costs of maintaining him, are negligible. That’s the elephant in the room and he probably knows it.””

      He’s talking a lot less like that now though. Hopefully they stick to their guns and we see this go to trail before another 13 years go by.

  10. masguy says:

    Two points

    It should have been made more clear that when Ed Kramer comes into court he’s in a wheelchair with an oxygen mask. When he was on the fim set in Connecticut, there was sworn and uncontradicted testimony that he was walking around under his own power, sometimes carrying a video camera, all without any assistive breathing apparatus.

    The second and far more important flaw in your description is your acceptance of the red herring that the only way to deprive Ed Kramer of Dragon Con revenue is for the other owners to buy him out or, as some have naively suggested, dissolve the corporation that owns DragonCon and reform it sans Kramer. There is a very simple way for DragonCon to put its money where its mouth is. It would require that the con’s other owners share in Kramer’s financial pain, but their sacrifice would make up in some small part for turning a blind eye to Kramer’s criminal acts when he had free run of DragonCon and the children it attracted.

    All DragonCon’s owners need do is donate all or most of the net profits from this year’s con to a charity that helps the victims of childhood sexual abuse. This serves the legitimate business purpose of combatting what could be a death blow to the con’s reputation – that attendees are directly subsidizing the delaying tactics of a child molester. Let Kramer sue to try to prevent the money going to charity. There are other lawful corporate maneuvers that could tie up the Con’s money and keep it out of Kramer’s hands, the other owners just might have to make a financial sacrifice equal to Kramer’s.

    DragonCon’s other owners have it within their power to stop subsidizing Kramer’s defense. So far they have been able to sell the notion that their hands are tied by the wily unprincipled Kramer. No one has asked them that if Kramer is making $150,000 a year out of DragonCon how much money are they being paid? They need to have their feet held to the fire about whether they really have tried to do the right thing, or has their own desire to make money blinded them to the fact that when they get paid so does a child rapist.

    • George Chidi says:

      I’m not convinced that the con is doing “everything in its power” to dislodge Kramer. We have only their assertion, without detail. But the tactic you’re describing — donating all the proceeds to charity — is probably not permissible without drawing yet another lawsuit from Kramer, who seems perfectly comfortable using the legal system to protect his financial position regardless of appearances.

      You are on to something, though. The idea that the directors are unwilling to take any personal financial damage to deal with Kramer might be an element to this. Time will tell.

      • masguy says:

        There is no doubt in my mind that Kramer would sue if DragonCon took any step to deprive him of revenue. Ed Kramer is living proof that in America anyone can sue anyone over anything. So the question is what do you want him to sue you about? In the past he has sued over the allegation that the other shareholders have tried to screw him out of his fair share for their own personal gain. But a case in which he would be suing to prevent a donation to a charity for the victims of childhood sexual abuse would be perceived much differently.

        If “the board of Dragon*Con is [truly] united in its belief that Ed Kramer is not innocent,” it’s time to put their money where their mouths are.

  11. This thing has been such a cluster for so long now.

    I think the boycott is foolish and have said so elsewhere. Simple fact checking has shown that much of what has been said is not fully accurate and now the boycott’s rhetoric is devolving into conspiracy theories and childish tittering in an effort to paint the convention as being just shy of a giant version of Caligula’s orgies.

    But the thing I find the most foolish about it is that I think its focus is aimed at the wrong target. I’m a cop. I’ve been in local courts, my state’s Supreme Court, and a federal court more times than I can accurately count at this point. I think I have a fair amount of experience with this kind of thing and a part of that experience is that I’ve seen people with more money, better legal representation, and better connections than Ed Kramer will ever have try to avoid justice and fail.

    Hell, we all have. Scooter Libby had millions and wanted to avoid court. He had some friends, a sitting President, a Vice President, and a host of political power-players with loads of cash, who all said he shouldn’t face trial and he had better legal representation than any of us will ever see if we ever need it. Not only did he face trial, but he even got convicted. But Kramer is avoiding justice based on an annual income that’s ranged from five figures to the low six figures over the years? Right…

    Even my friends that are lawyers who have looked at the history of this just scratch their heads. It blows their minds what Kramer has been allowed to get away with and how many, in their phrasing, missteps have been made in handling him. For all the world it looks like the legal system down there fell down on the job more than just a wee bit in the early years of this mess.

    The only good thing to come out of this is that the side effect we’re seeing here is what I said should be the primary point of it back in February. There’s so much media attention on Kramer right now that the jails and the courts know that they are under a seriously strong spotlight. For the first time in almost 13 full years, they’re not playing the game the way Kramer wants them to. The judge has denied bond, the jail is refusing to buckle under his games, and the DA, having been admittedly embarrassed by the Connecticut arrest of Kramer while not knowing that Kramer was even in Connecticut, is actually treating this is an A-#1 priority.

    I’m sure some of that can be attributed to everyone getting tired of this dragging on this long and some of the new faces in places that are key to getting things done. But at the same time I have to think that the media focus on the legal system’s actions down there has got to be a part of this about face as well.

  12. Here’s my take on the whole scenario. Sure, Kramer may be guilty of a crime which we all find disgusting. However, looking at this quote…

    “The only question is, ‘Out of your $120 admission, how much goes to a child molester? How much is okay for you?’ That’s the only question. If you are okay with 25 cents of it going to a child molester, then I submit you have lost your moral compass.”

    …begs the question. Should a list be made of all of the stocks that convicted child molesters own so that likewise we can make sure not to do business with them, so as to make sure that none of our money ever goes to a child molester? DragonCon is much bigger than Ed Kramer. I’ve never paid for an admission to it, though I’ve been downtown while it’s been going on a couple of times. I’ve seen friends post to Facebook who are invested in going back year after year, volunteering, and who have developed some great friendships as a result of the con. I’d suggest that those who have issues with Kramer taking a profit perhaps help pay for a legal offensive strategy to ensure that Kramer is ousted from the organization and receives that which he deserves.

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