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Massive Preparatory Efforts in Support of U.S. President's Visit Stood Down as Bali Stop Rescheduled for June.
Just days before he was scheduled to leave on an Asia-Pacific trip that would bring him to Guam, Jakarta, Bali and Canberra – U.S. President Barack Obama postponed his travels on Thursday, March 18, 2010, until sometime June.
Obama's efforts to push a historic health bill through Congress, seen by many as the defining legacy of his first term as Chief Executive, are preventing him from traveling abroad at this time.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "We greatly regret the delay of the trip, (but) passage of health insurance reform is of paramount importance and the president is determined to see this battle through."
Shortly before announcing the decision to delay the trip, Obama telephoned the Indonesian President and Australian Prime Minister to explain the need to travel at a later date in order to allow his presence in Washington on Sunday afternoon when the vote on the Health Reform bill is expected to take place.
Prior to the announcement, Obama and his official entourage were expected in Bali on March 25th. In anticipation of that visit, U.S. Secret Service officers and their Indonesian counterparts have been in Bali busily preparing security measure for locations to be visited the U.S. President. Also in preparation for the visit, U.S. Air Force heavy-lift aircraft have landed in recent days in Bali bearing a helicopter and other equipment in support of the now-delayed presidential visit.
Eat, Pray, Love: The Movie Trailer
Julia Roberts Film 'Eat, Pray, Love' Opens in Theatres in August. Here's the Trailer with Glimpses of Bali.
Last week we shared some pictures snapped during the filming last year in Bali of "Eat, Pray, Love" the Sony Production starring Julia Roberts, James Franco, Billy Crudup, Javier Bardem, Richard Jenkins, Viola Davis, and directed & written by Ryan Murphy [See: A Sneak Peak at Eat, Pray, Love].
The picture, scheduled for release in theatres in August 2010, has just issued its official trailer which we share.
Lombok's New International Airport in a Holding Pattern
Due to Numerous Delays, Now Clear That Soft Opening of New Lombok International Airport Will Not Take Place as Scheduled in March 2010.
As reported in late February by www.balidiscovery.com [See: Delays in Opening of Lombok's New Airport], the government of West Nusa Tenggara has confirmed that the "soft opening" of the new Bandara International Lombok Airport (BIL) will be postponed from its targeted date of March 2010.
Admitting all was not yet ready for the Airport's opening, the Chief of the Transportation, Communication and Information Office (Dishubkominfo) for West Nusa Tenggara, Ahmad Baharudin, confirmed the delay due to operational shortcomings in Mataram, the Capital of Lombok on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. "It is now highly likely the soft opening in March cannot take place because PT Angkasa Pura I is itself not ready," explained Baharudin. PT Angkasa Pura I is the state-owned airport operating authority for the new Lombok Airport.
Baharudin went on to explain that the soft opening of BIL can only be realized in June or July due to failures to complete all preparations on schedule.
PT Angkasa Pura have yet to publicly comment on any delays in the planned soft opening scheduled in March.
The Dishubkominfo official told Antara that he remains optimistic that any remaining technical difficulties preventing the opening of Lombok's new airport will be overcome in the near future.
The construction of supporting infrastructure elements for BIL, such as the by-pass highway connecting the island to the new airport, are being delayed by difficulties in freeing right-of-ways needed to complete the highway. Baharudin said: "What's more, the governor of West Nusa Tenggara has already created a special technical team after a coordination meeting held at the Hotel Grand Legi in Matarman on January 6, 2010, assigned to end the polemic over the access right-of-ways for the highway serving BIL." Baharudin continued, revealing that the technical team is now discussing how best to use available budgets to free the land for the road which passes through the regencies of West Lombok and Central Lombok.
An estimated Rp. 10 billion (US$1.063 million) is needed to acquire the needed right-of-ways in West Lombok, while only Rp. 3 billion (US$319,000) is in hand for the project. An additional Rp. 20 billion (US$2.127 million is needed for the construction of the road in Central Lombok where only Rp. 13 billion (US$1.383 million) has been allocated in that regency's budget to that end.
In order to meet these funding shortfalls, the West Nusa Tenggara government will use part of the State's 2010 Budget for the province.
Thus far, the West Nusa Tenggara provincial government has invested State funds totaling Rp. 110 billion (US$11.7 million) from the 2008 and 2009 budgets.
When opened the new Lombok Airport will have a runway measuring 1,750 meters long and 40 meters wide, supported by an apron measuring 62,074 square meters. A terminal building of 12,000 square meters and a parking area of 17.500 square meters are also part of the new Lombok International Airport.
Bali Standing in Place of Drifting Backwards?
Bali by the Numbers: More Tourists Spending Less and Staying Less Time Rendering Record Tourists Arrivals a Zero Sum Game.
The Jakarta Post reports a dramatic drop in the length of stay for foreign tourists visiting Bali, down from 13.6 days reported in 2008 to only 8.75 days in 2009.
In practical terms this is a more than 35% decrease in room nights sold by Bali accommodation providers, more than canceling out advances made in Bali in total foreign tourist arrival totals.
In 2009, 67.91% of all foreign tourists emanated from ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific With the exception of the Australian market share of 20.9%, visitors from ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific are "short-term" visitors to Bali.
Spending is also reported to be down. Foreign tourists are spending an average of only US$136.90 per day, some US$12 less than one year before.
Declining average spends and shorter periods spent by tourists in Bali is undermining efforts to grow the island's economy. Bali's economy grew 5.33% in 2009, less than the targeted growth rate of 5.74%. Adding to the pain, Bali's handicraft exports decreased by 2% to US$262.9 million in 2009.
Silence is Often a Virtue
A Young Man's Outburst on Facebook Puts the Island of Bali in an Uproar and its Author in Hot Water.
In a moment of reckless spontaneity with consequences only possible in the modern world of social networking, a young Indonesian man committed the seemingly irrevocable mistake of insulting the enture island of Bali and placing in question his very future on the island when he recklessly posted a statement on his Facebook page grravely insulting the Bali's majority Hindu population.
Over the Bali Hindu high religious holiday of Nyepi, the young man, Ibnu Rachal Farhansyah, made what may prove an unpardonable faux pas of comparing the sacred day of silence with feces.
Aided by hindsight and an avalanche of almost instantaneous condemnation for his statement, Ibnu now claims he made the ill-considered posting when he was frustrated by the enforced isolation of the holiday, a lack of money, and recent dressing-downs from a brother and his employer.
He immediately opened a new Facebook page begging forgiveness for his error, quickly received several thousand gracious votes of support. However, a separate Facebook page, that roundly condemned the 20 year-old and called for his eternal banishment from Bali, logged more than 25,000 angry supporters.
Trying to defuse a dangerous situation, the coordinator of a major Hindu group - The Bali's People Component (KRB), I Gusti Ngurah Harta, has issued a plea for calm and reconciliation. Harta, who also heads a 25,000 strong martial arts group in Bali, told The Jakarta Post: "We need to remember that Balinese Hinduism is a peaceful religion and when a non-Hindu somehow misinterprets the teachings of our religion then it is solely our responsibility to educate him. Violence will only escalate the tension to an unnecessary level and will demean the core teaching of our beliefs."
Joining Harta in his call for forgiveness were representatives of the Indonesian Hindu Students Association (KMHDI), Indonesia Nationalist Students Movement (GMNI), Hindu Dharma Institute (IHD) and Bali's Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Bali).
Labeling the young mans as "confused" but with "no evil intentions," Harta reminded everyone that Ibnu has apologized to the Balinese, creating an instant tradition-bound obligation among Balinese Hindus to grant forgiveness."
Ibnu's outburst was posted on Facebook on the eve of the 24-hour period of Nyepi when Balinese seclude themselves and refrain from any activity in respect to the beginning of the Hindu New Year.
Despite his repeated apologies, Ibnu must now reassess his future on the island where some have posted Facebook responses to his statement by calling for his lynching, death by fire and decapitation.
Bali and Earth Hour 2010
Bali Joins a World Wide Movement to Turn Off the Lights for One Hour on the Evening of Saturday, March 27, 2010.
In a movement some claim was inspired by the Balinese day of absolute silence - "Nyepi," the World Wildlife Fund is busily recruiting supporters in 110 countries around the world to voluntarily turn off their lights for one hour at 8:30 pm on Saturday, March 27, 2010 to mark Earth Hour.
At least five major cities across Indonesia, including the island of Bali, have signaled strong support for the program aimed at reminding everyone of our precious diminishing natural resources and the dangers of climate change.
Fitrian Ardiansta, of WWF Indonesia said: "So many student groups and local communities in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Denpasar have shown very high enthusiasm about Earth Hour. The mayor of Yogyakarta has expressed his support and is willing to turn off the lights at the city's iconic Tugu monument."
In a movement coordinated to make the world go calm and dark, some 1,882 cities are scheduled to turn off the lights for one hour at 8:30 pm on March 27, 2010.
According to Fitrian, the goal is for at least 10% of the residents in each of the five Indonesian cities to join the movement and turn off the lights at the appointed time.
According to the chairwoman of WWF Indonesia's advisory board, Pia Alisjahbana, the movement in 2009 was estimated to have saved 180 megawatts of power in Java and Bali, an amount sufficient to power 900 villages. Pia says the power savings target for this year is 500 megawatts.
Office buildings and hotels in Bali and Jakarta are joining the movement, pledging to turn off or reduce their lighting on the evening of March 27, 2010.
Bali's Deteriorating Power Grid
Aging Infrastructure and Insufficient Capacity Spells More Electrical Power Outages Ahead for Bali.
As Bali's residents face increasingly frequent power outages, the people who run the Bali Power Board (PT PLN) are blaming their spotty performance on an outdated and worn out physical plants at power generating stations supplying Bali consumers.
A report in The Jakarta Post quotes the PLN-Bali spokesperson, Agung Mastika, who says breakdowns in the Pesanggaran diesel-powered plant in Denpasar, Pemaron gas-powered plant in Buleleng, and the Gilimanuk power plant were due to an aging infrastructure together with faulty underwater transmission lines connecting Java and Bali. According to Mastika: "All the machines are very old, they were made in the 1970s. Although we have conducted routine maintenance, technical errors still occur, thus decreasing the power supply, and the only solution is to cut the power temporarily."
Bali's total power grid can generate 592 MW of power with Pesanggaran providing 182 MW; Pemaron 80 MW, Gilimanyk 130 MW and power plants in Java sending another 200 MW. Bali's current peak load reaches 515 MW with growing power demand from new consumers and thousands of poor Balinese still living without electricity.
PLN-Bali is asking that the provincial government to create new power sources and approve new Bali crossing transmission lines as part of the very heavy investment that must be made in overhauling the existing power system.
A Part of Bali that Was Not Silent on Nyepi Day
Bali Aga Village of Tenganan Has its Own Set of Rules for the Observance of Hindu Holy Days.
Radar Bali reports that while the absolute day of silence - Nyepi, that descended across Bali on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, was not uniformly observed in every part of the island.
The Bali Aga village of Tenganan in Karangasem is well known for its ancient traditions, some clouded in mystery, including rules that mandate marriage only among those within the village and others that stipulate visitors must leave when the village gates are sealed each evening. Tenganan is also physically different from other vilklages in Bali. Homes are laid out on wide stone-paved boulevards that all lead to the center of the village.
Abiding by rules and traditions that predate the advent of Hinduism in Bali, Tenganan also operates by its own rules as regards the observance of Nyepi, the day when most Balinese refrain from any physical activity and even lighting flames for a 24-hour period.
Using a religious calendar of their own design, the people of Tenganan celebrate their day of silence in January, two months before the rest of the island.
In fact, when Bali's more recognized Nyepi fell on March 16, 2010, the village folk of Tenganan were not shuttered up in their homes but were busily making preparations for the piodalan or anniversary of a local temple, Pura Sri, that fell on the following day, March 17th.
The Chief of Tenganan village, I Nengah Timur, explained: "Here, we don't know Nyepi. In fact, the next day (after Nyepi) we had to prepare materials for the piodalan of Pura Sri which falls all Ngembak Geni (March 17th)."
And, even thought the people of Tenganan don't observe Nyepi, village officials do urge locals to honor the day of silence observed by the rest of Bali. "Even though we don't celebrate (Nyepi), we ask our villagers to pay homage to Nyepi," added Timur.
While the normal prayers and ritual that accompany Nyepi on the rest of Bali are absent in Tenganan, many locals stay indoors during the period out of respect to those observing the day of quiet who live just outside their walled community. At the very least, according to Timur, the residents of Tenganan do not stray beyond their walls during the 24 hours of silence during Nyepi.
A similar sentiment was voiced by the pemangku of Tenganan village, I Mangku Widya, who revealed there is no singular approach to Nyepi in his community, the result of local adherence to a ritual calendar markedly different from the rest of Bali.
"It's not that we don't observe Nyepi, in fact we do perform ‘Tawur Kesanga' (payments to the demons). But we are not uniform and compact in performing these rituals due to the differences in various calendars," said Widya.
The celebration of Nyepi with the name and traditions known to the rest of Bali remain foreign to the Bali Aga of Tenganan. Mangku Widya said it would require a process of socialization to introduce Nyepi and Galungan traditions to the people of his community which remains isolated in both location and time from the rest of Bali.
Mandala Airline Earns IOSA Certification
Mandala First Privately Owned Indonesian Air Carrier to Win Prestigious IOSA Safety Certification.
TTG reports that Mandala Airlines has become the first Indonesian private air carrier to receive IATA Safety Audit Certification (IOSA).
As an added distinction, Mandala has attained the certification without the distinction of being an International Air Transport Association (IATA) member.
An international recognized standard by which to measure an airline's compliance with recognized safety and quality standards, IOSA was developed by IATA.
Comprehensive and rigorous in its requirements, IOSA certification covers every aspects of an airlines operating procedure, safety and security controls, and overall safety systems. An ongoing system of safety evaluation, every IOSA air carrier must undergo re-certification every two years.
Commenting on the certification, Dion Nuriadin, President Director of Mandala, said, "this has made us the first Indonesian private domestic airline, which has bench-marked itself against international safety standards and has received recognition from IATA through the IOSA registration."
Mandala operates a modern fleet of aircraft flying to a number of Indonesian destinations. Expansion plans for its fleet and services will see Singapore. Thailand, the Philippines, China and Australia incorpporated into the airlines growing route network in the near future.
Yvonne Wan Named Hotel Manager at St. Regis Bali Resort
Veteran Lady Hotelier Yvonne Wan Joins the Helm at St. Regis Bali Resort.
St. Regis Bali Resort have announced the appointment of Yvonne Wan as Hotel Manager.
She brings 10 years of experience in the hotel industry to her Bali appointment. She started her career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2002 as Director of Business Development at the Sheraton Perdana Langkawi. In that assignment she was involved in the team effort to re-brand the hotel as the Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa. After the re-branding she assumed the role of Director of Sales and Marketing for what was the first Westin Resort in Malaysia.
A Malaysian national, the Bali assignment is Yvonne's first assignment outside Malaysia, representing a rare, refreshing and much needed female hand in the management of one of Bali's leading hotels.
Governor Pastika: Make Bali Plastic Free
Bali Governor Sees Fight Against Plastic Trash as Part of World-Wide War on Climate Change.
Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika has invited the people of Bali to free Bali from the unsightly and environmentally dangerous burden of plastic trash, particularly in beach front areas of the island. Quoted by Kompas.com, Pastika said: "Let's all work together to do this in order that our internationally known province can become the green and clean island of Bali."
Speaking in Kuta on Friday, March 19, 2010, at a gathering of Women Concerned with the Environment (Gerarkan Perempuan Peduli Lingkungan), Governor Pastika said his office would continue to work together with the Agency for the Empowerment of Women and Child Protection to support the efforts of women to enhance the island's natural environment.
Pastika also underlined that all efforts to protect Bali's environment are in keeping and in support of his administration's program to have "Bali Go Clean and Green."
The impetus for Bali to pursue a green future was also made necessary by Bali's growing popularity as a venue for important international environmental summits.
As an island whose religious majority embrace the Hindu faith, the Governor said that the people of Bali understand the principles of Tri Hita Karana which mandate a balance be maintained between man and the environment. This can be achieved, at least in part, by planting trees and cleaning the environment, especially keeping beach fronts free of the plastic trash which bring the risk of permanently polluting Bali's natural environment. By eliminating plastic trash from Bali, Pastika reminded, "we can participate in worldwide efforts to save the world from the threat of global warming."
Making Flying Less Taxing
Indonesia Wants to Reduce Tax Burden of National Flight Schools.
The Minister of Transportation is seeking a tax exemption for all Indonesian flying schools on value added tax and luxury taxes.
To achieve this, the Director General of Air Communication, Herry Bakti S. Gumay, is asking flying schools to send formal requests for tax exemptions in order the strengthen his recommendation to the Minister of Finance seeking the subject exemption.
Gumay said: "flight schools should put forth requests for tax exemption. We can then seek the exemption on their behalf from the Minister of Finance."
The importation of small aircraft used to train Indonesian pilots is tied to current regulations which provide for charging luxury tax on all imported planes unless those planes are owned by the Nation or used for commercial aviation. Under these rules, training aircraft can be charged up to 50% of their value in luxury tax.
Indonesia is home to seven flying schools including the Curug Higher School of Aviation (STPI Curug), Aero Flyer Institute, Alfa Flying School, Deraya Flying School, Sekolah Tinggi Teknologi Adisucipto and the Bali International Flight Academy (BIFA).
Indonesia is currently suffering a severe shortage of trained pilots to fly the country's fast growing fleet of commercial aircraft.
We Get Mail
Record Number of People Write www.balidiscovery.com to Express their Views on an Editorial on Bali's Continuing Taxi War.
www.balidiscovery.com's recent editorial on the real dynamics behind the power struggle taking place among Bali's taxi operators stimulated an unprecedented number of readers to write in to express their view. [Who Speaks for the Public] and [Heil! Taxi! Heil!]
• Claudius Wirz from Switzerland:
"I could not agree more with your statement to the Bali taxi war! It's so true!"
• Kelvin Warburton from Australia:
"My wife and i were in Bali at the beginning of March this year. Yes we do use blue bird but will every now and then get the next taxi coming our way what ever it may be BUT. Once again we had difficulties with the other company drivers asking for X amount of money to take us to our destination instead of turning the meter on and then getting sullen when we make them turn the meter on. Also I have noticed that if we don't get a bemo to take us but hope into a taxi instead we are now getting sworn at. Not always, but it is trend happening."
• Kathryn Sweeney in the U.K. wrote:
"I totally agree with the sentiments put forward about Bluebird taxis. I have used them on past visits and found them to be extremely courteous and helpful in all matters. How can we out here over the Internet support these guys so they can continue to work? If there is anything I can do to support them in any way please let me know."
• Rick Higginson in Australia:
"Well said Jack! My first trip to Bali, Aug '06, I got caught out with a IDR225,000 fee from Bemo corner to the beach end of Double 6. Should have been IDR 22,500 but with the meter half-hidden by the gear stick, and not knowing any better, I paid. Will be in Bali next week on my 11th visit, and, like many others, would rather walk than take a taxi other than Blue Bird. I have been yelled at, abused, and once, hit by taxi drivers from other companies, whilst insisting on my preference for Blue Bird. A visit to Bali Forum, and other similar sites, shows how much Blue Bird is loved, and the other taxi operators hated, by regular visitors to Bali. LONG LIVE BLUE BIRD TAXIS!"
• Steve Bradley a travel agent in Australia :
"Bluebird Taxis have been my carrier of choice in Bali since their inception. They have always been the reliable, honest choice, whereas others have tried to "rip off" for short gain. Covered meters, "broken meters" all sorts of excuses and a reason to get out of the cab! Things have changed over the last few years where these "other colored cabs" have realized that they are ignored by many, due to their grubby practices. As a Travel Agent, I have always advised my clients to use Bluebird for reliability, honesty and pleasant drivers...language can sometimes be a problem with some young drivers, but there is always joviality in the cab and a deserved tip for their service!"
• Bruce Wyder wrote:
"As I come to Bali 3-4 times a year, I use taxis a lot. Blue Bird are far ahead of the green, gray and dark blue taxis. Blue Bird taxis are superior in service, promptness and a clean cab. In November I got caught in a bad traffic jam and the driver had the decency to turn the meter off which really impressed me."
• Joan wrote in :
" I totally agree with your article on "who is the real victim". I have been a regular visitor to Bali for many years and am one of those who prefer to wait in the rain for a Blue Bird to come along. The other cab drivers are rude, they try to talk you into not using the meter and when the meter is used the fare is always a lot higher for the same distance using a Blue Bird Taxi. Blue Bird Taxis have my full vote!"
• Shirley wrote :
"I certainly hope this problem comes to an end soon and in favor of Blue Bird taxis. Our son lives in Renon and I frequently take a taxi to his home from the hotel in Sanur. One day the driver said he remembered taking me there several years before!! The drivers are, for the most part, very friendly and certainly reliable. It is a well run company and they deserve the business."
• Charlotte writing from Indonesia :
"JA, BRAVO - nothing more to add. Hopefully this article reaches the persons in charge - including the Governor."
• Brigid said:
"Well put! Even after many years of living in Bali I would only ever take Blue Bird. Except when there is no option given such as the airport... One incident we had returning from a long-haul trip overseas the Taxi driver (who dropped us at our home in Sanur) stole all our duty-free alcohol and a shopping bag full of magazines and books. (He shut the boot quickly and didn't let us check inside that we had everything and drove off in a big hurry.) I realized as soon as we took our bags inside…There was no one to report it to. even after trying to ring the airport and even going in the next day to lay a complaint - we were simply told that it was another 'team' on the night before and had total disregard for our situation. Bali has a lot of stuff to work out in regard to the way it looks after and treats tourists…there is plenty of competition for the Asian vacation dollar these days."
• Pamela Burt in Australia :
"Agree totally with all you have stated. I will stand and wait for Blue Bird taxi and find the taxi service from airport has some rogue drivers."
• Geoff & Dorothy Longhurst from Australia wrote:
"What an excellent editorial on the Bali Taxi situation. My Wife and I visit Bali twice yearly, and we get met at the Airport by our friend who manages the Bali Rich Property and transferred there. After that, we would only travel by Bluebird or private contractor recommended by the management of the Property we are staying at. Our experiences of Taxi Driver behavior outside of Bluebird have been dreadful, and frankly if Bluebird was for some politically misguided reason forced to close I doubt we would travel to Bali, instead spending more time in Fiji, Vanuatu or Tonga, as frankly the hassle each day with other Taxi Company Drivers would make any stay too stressful."
• Eve Dimitrov from Canada:
"If you want visitors to enjoy their holiday, then keep the Blue Bird Taxi service. The cabs are CLEAN, the drivers Polite, the meter CORRECT. I am a frequent visitor, twice a year for the past 8 years. Komotra drivers are not to be trusted.
• Richard from Australia :
"Oh so very well said. Right on the money."
• Nicholas Rety from Canada :
"I left my wallet, full of money in a Blue Bird taxi. The driver returned it to my hotel. A driver of a competing taxi company kept my digital camera. It was recovered by a Balinese friend who tracked him down. The taxi fiasco at Ngurah Rai airport gives a bad impression of Bali right from the start. It is corruption, it should be stopped."
• Lorraine wrote :
"Regarding the Taxi situation you are 100% correct. My Husband and I are frequent travelers to Bali 2-3 time each year. We will not use any other than Blue Bird Taxis and would rather walk than ride in any of the others. Also when once
catching a Taxi from Airport (paid in advance) was asked for payment again when we arrived at our destination. We now have our Driver come and collect us.
I suggest everyone boycotts all other than Blue Bird Taxis until this is sorted out."
• Margaretha Linggard wrote :
"My opinion may already have been voiced by other readers; having been away from Bali for a while I have missed some of the readers' comments. The reason Blue Bird Taxis are so popular, and yes we do need more of them, is that there is a 90 per cent chance that their drivers know where to take you and deliver you at the stated address with some certainty, safety and comfort, and what's more, at a fair price. All this is not at all to be guaranteed by any of the other organized or not organized, legal and insured, or illegal and uninsured taxi drivers. I have had some ghastly experiences with taxis, missing appointments and being stranded in the middle of nowhere at twice the price of a Blue Bird taxi's. Sorry guys, but firstly you need to learn to read maps and know where the addresses of your potential clients are, then you may have a stronger point to argue. Until then, for me, Blue Bird taxis are fine in addition to my private driver, who is the best - when he is available."
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