VARIOUS: LIFE! Review of the Year 2009 Part 2 - YEARENDER - Record breakers, rich lists and quirky animals...
- Title: VARIOUS: LIFE! Review of the Year 2009 Part 2 - YEARENDER - Record breakers, rich lists and quirky animals feature in some of 2009's best Life stories
- Date: 19th December 2009
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (FILE) (REUTERS) SHOT FROM INSIDE OF SOLDIERS ESCORTING IN "CHRIS" (IN CAMOUFLAGE) - THE FIRST CUSTOMER TO BUY A COPY OF THE GAME 'CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2' VARIOUS OF CHRIS BUYING GAME AND POSING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
- Reuters ID: LVA7JK75LJJZJQNL4ORQFJ2X455M
- Duration: 00:00:16
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- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
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- Story Text: Record breakers, deal makers on the rich list and animals were amongst the most memorable Life stories of 2009.
Sesame Street has been a staple of children's educational television for 40 years. The colorful and furry cast teach youngsters all over the world to read and write and count and lately the values of multiculturalism and assimilation.
Big Bird, Grover, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, and Cookie Monster can now be seen in 140 countries and are translated or produced in several languages.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, the show came up with an extra treat: with a very special guest, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.
From educational to entertainment, Barbie, the busty blond bombshell doll with a miniscule wait and long plastic legs turned 50. Barbie hit toy stores in 1959 as a miniature teenage fashion model, wedged into a zebra-striped bathing suit, with her strawberry blond hair tied up in a pony tail and her eyes painted with sapphire blue shadow.
A half a century later, Barbie has come a long way. Mattel Inc.'s best-selling doll has been outfitted by fashion designers from Christian Dior to Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren. With her now ex-boyfriend Ken doll, 100 new outfits a year, and more than a billion pairs of shoes, Barbie remains one of the most popular, best-dressed women around.
She has been reinvented as a modern career woman, holding more than 75 jobs in addition to being an Olympic athlete, an astronaut and a U.S. presidential candidate.
In Tokyo, Mattel Inc, the world's No. 1 toy company and maker of Barbie, threw a birthday bash for the 50-year-old icon as part of the company's extensive world-wide campaign to promote Barbie.
Candles were lit on Barbie's birthday cake and Japanese girls dressed up in Barbie-inspired outfits, highlighted the celebration.
Germany took their own spin on the famous doll. Instead of pink overload, Mattell presented Barbie as the most famous female politician in the world - German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The year is 50 B.C. and Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely. One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders.... The year is 2009 A.D. and France has been entirely conquered by baseball hats, Big Macs and Hollywood movies. Well, not entirely. One indomitable enclave of French culture still holds out - the Asterix series.
The courageous little Gaul whose adventures have been translated into more than 100 languages world-wide, turned 50 years in 2009 and his popularity has not faded. Comics, books, even films have been made about the short, cocky, hyper-energetic warrior with a blond mustache and a wing-helmet.
History has it that Asterix was invented in 15 minutes, thought of by two companions Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in a little flat outside Paris. 50 years later, the unlikely hero still enjoys huge boars, large quantities of mead and a good old fight with the helpless Romans.
Big Ben is looking good for its age. One of the world's most famous landmarks was celebrating its 150th anniversary. It is a part of London like red busses or beefeaters. And its distinctive chimes grace many clocks around the world, often unbeknownst that they have been a symbol of stability, security and democracy throughout the last century and a half.
Big Ben owes its existence to the Great Fire of 1834 that destroyed most of the old Houses of Parliament. It was rebuilt and the architect included a a clock tower and a large striking clock, Big Ben. But today Big Ben is commonly used to describe the Clock Tower, Great Bell and Great Clock combined.
It hasn't always been an easy ride for Turkman Sultan Kosen but after being officially declared the world's tallest man in September, he found himself in the international spotlight.
Making his first ever trip outside his native Turkey. Kosen traveled to London to be crowned the world's tallest man before moving on to New York.
Kosen has measured in at 243 centimeters tall (just under eight feet), a full ten centimeters taller than when he was officially measured in his hometown village in Turkey's south-eastern province of Mardin in 2000.
Kosen beat out previous record holder 57-year old Bao Xishun from China, who stood at 2.36 meters (7.74 ft.) tall.
Seventy-year old Itzhak Yazenpana from the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva made public his new contribution to local records: a 118 centimeter (46/5 inch) long cucumber.
According to the "World Record Academy", the previous cucumber record was 36.1 inch (91.7 centimeter), grown by Alf Cobb who beat his own record of 35.1 inch (89.2 centimeter) in south-west England in 2008.
A similar case was discovered also in the Israeli city of Hod Hasharon. 8 year-old Bar Halman has unintentionally grown a four-meter long sunflower in his house's garden.
In the Philippines, paintings of flowers, rice fields and other landscapes were created by extraordinary artists who proved that losing their limbs could not stop their creativity.
Filipino artists with disabilities paint landscapes and still life portraits using their feet and mouth to make a living.
A diving accident paralyzed Jovy Sasutona (pronounced Sah-soo-toh-na) from the neck down when he was 17-years old. He's always loved to paint, but it was his disability from a spinal cord injury that cultivated his talent. Sasutona has been painting with his mouth for 24 years, and has mastered the technique, painstakingly burnishing the details of his still lifes. Sometimes he paints from his bed, lying down.
In Japan, contestants used their hands, feet and imagination to show off virtuoso gymnastic moves at the world pole dancing championships.
Both women, and in for the first time men, from 11 countries competed to show that pole dancing isn't just about exotic dancing and seduction.
Dave Kahl, 25, hailing from Brisbane, Australia, won the men's division judged by a panel of six.
Growing up, Kahl practised gymnastics and started pole dancing four years ago.
For the women's division, Mai Sato, 29, wowed the crowd with her body's flexibility and muscle strength as she won the title for international pole dance champion in the female division.
Salim Haini hopes to munch his way into the Guinness World Records as "the man who eats everything" - from light bulbs, nails, glass, plastic, newspapers.
Perhaps he can take pointers from fellow Arab Jamal Koukeh breaks stones with his bare legs alone.
The Syrian martial arts performer smashed his way through blocks of marbles during a public show in Damascus in preparation of his Guinness Record Book entrance attempt.
Koukeh began his breaking stones when he was only nine-years old.
Barely into adulthood, 18-year-old Georgian Jemal Tkeshelashvili has found an unusual way of plotting his moment of sporting glory.
Judo master Tkeshelashvili has attempted to make history in the Guinness Book of Records by blowing up rubber hot water bottles until they burst.
Not content with aiming for this title, the teenager has chosen an intriguing method of blowing them up - by using his nose.
The athlete burst three hot rubber bottles with his nose - in 23 seconds, 16 seconds, and 13 seconds.
Tkeshelashvili, the Judo World Cup holder in his age category, then performed his piece de resistance - bursting a hot water bottle while a 120 kilogram man was sitting on it.
The young athlete has to wait for the World Guinness Book Commission to confirm his status as record holder.
In China, more than 34,000 tai chi enthusiasts did break the record for the most number of people to perform the meditative exercise at the same time.
One year after Beijing's widely successful Olympic Games, the group smashed the record which was symbolically held at the Bird's Nest, Beijing's Olympic stadium.
Love was in the air on Valentine's Day in Mexico City on Valentine's Day (February 14, 2009) as thousands poured into the capital's main plaza in hopes of breaking the world record for the most people kissing at the same time.
According to local authorities, the crowd pulled it off.
Guinness World Records adjudicator Carlos Martinez said that 39,897 people puckered up in Mexico City's zocalo to capture the title.
The record was previously held by Weston-super-Mare in the UK, where more than 32,000 people kissed at the same time in July, 2007.
In Argentina, one of the world's most famous dances, the Tango, was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The tradition of dance and music which is recognized around the world has its roots in the lower class neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay.
The announcement sparked tango enthusiasts to take to the streets of Buenos Aires.
Another historical art form, the Ceremony of the Flyers performed by "Los Voladores de Papantla" in Mexico was also deemed worthy of the World Heritage status.
UNESCO turned this tradition into the first living element in Mexico to receive this appointment.
The "flyers" climb up the pole, one by one, and tie themselves securely. The musician then climbs up with his flute and small drum attached to his waist and sits at the top. He looks to the east, calls to the Sun and asks the gods for protection for those embarking on the flight. Songs are dedicated to the east, west, north and south.
Not all records are made as in the case in Colombia.
A cannonball man at a circus in Cali was seriously injured after the stunt went awry and he landed short of his target net.
The freak accident was caught on camera and showed the exact moment when performer Israel Gaska was shot out of the cannon and plummeted to the ground after he failed to reach his target.
His cousin and circus director, Raul Gaska, blamed a technical failure on the cannon for the accident.
Lastly, Australian Ben Southall spent six months of his career on a remote tropical island in the "Best Job in the World".
The "Best Job in the World" campaign began in January 2009 with Tourism Queensland launching an advertising campaign centered around the lure of a job that is more like a paid holiday.
The job was to live on the fantasy island and report on the terrain and inhabitants.
Within days, the campaign went viral as news of the contest spread on social networking sites and applicants from all over the world sent in 60-second video applications.
Southall said he was looking forward to his next six months as "caretaker" of the Great Barrier Reef Island.
"I think it's going to be quite nice living on an island though," he said.
Southall was paid approximately 120,000 USD for his new 6-month role which he won by beating out 34,000 online applicants in the highly publicized campaign.
Those with a bit cash to flash could've certainly purchased a tropical island and Russia's Millionaire Fair in Moscow.
Eager to bank on Russia's growing number of millionaires, businesses lugged their pedigree stallions, vintage cars and designer furniture to an exhibition hall for the show on the outskirts of the Russian capital.
More millionaire fairs are set to be staged in Cannes, France, the Belgian city of Kortrijk, China's Shanghai and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Organizers estimate the fair attracted some 10,000 visitors per day, fulfilling the event's unofficial tagline "Millionaires of Russia unite!" in an ironic nod to an old revolutionary call for the world's working proletariat.
Also as one of the emerging market powerhouses, China showed that it didn't want to be outdone.
The Asian country proved its super rich have bounced back from the financial crisis with a vengeance. The annual Hurun Report, China's rich list, said China has 130 known dollar billionaires, up from 101 last year, and China now has more known dollar billionaires than any other country bar the United States, according to a new report released in October.
The number in the United States is 359 while Russia has 32 and India 24, according to Forbes magazine.
According to a Forbes official, the key to the success of many of those high up on the list was China's rapid urbanization, which has pushed up demand for property developers, iron and steel manufacturers. But the latest phenomenon, he said, was cars.
Topping the list was Wang Chuanfu, chairman of electric car and battery maker BYD Co Ltd, with an estimated personal wealth of 5.1 billion U.S. dollars.
In Hong Kong, a rare, five-carat pink diamond was auctioned off for a record 10.8 million in Hong Kong in December, putting some shine back into the world's rare and large stones market which was badly hit by the financial crisis.
The stone, of a "vivid pink" hue and considered near perfect, but not quite flawless, triggered brisk bidding in Christie's autumn sales of Asian and Chinese art in Hong Kong.
The price smashed the previous record, set 15 years ago in Geneva for a 19.66-carat stone that sold for 7.4 million (USD). The pink gem's per-carat price of 2.2 million USD was also the highest ever paid for any diamond at auction, Christie's said.
But it's not just Asia that's setting the auction world alight.
In London, a Rembrandt and a Raphael sold for a combined total of almost 50 million pounds (81 million USD) at Christie's in December.
Rembrandt's "Portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms akimbo" fetched 20.2 million pounds (32.8 million USD) making it a record price for the artist at auction.
The Rembrandt was expected to be the main attraction at the Christie's auction, but the Raphael exceeded even Christie's expectations, fetching 29.2 million pounds (47.3 million USD).
Raphael's drawing, "Head of a Muse", was expected to sell for between 12 million pounds and 16 million pounds, but after several minutes of intense counter bidding between two prospective buyers, the last bid for 26 million British pounds (42 million USD) was the one to win. The total of 29.2 million pounds was reached after commission is added to the amount.
Across the channel in Paris, only a true car connoisseur will understand why a more than 70 year old car sold for 3 million euros. But if you throw the word Bugatti in, it becomes clearer. It was auctioned off by the auctioneers Bonhams and was a part many beautiful classic cars such as Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Citroen DS and Bugatti.
It still is a steep prize and the car will probably not be used for the daily commute.
2009 will also be remembered for the year games smashed financial records, when "Beatles: Rock Band" was launched to coincide with the album digital remastering of the Fab Four.
MTV's Beatles videogame, released September 9, won the battle with its rival "Guitar Hero 5" with total unit sales of 595,000, according to the NPD Group, making it the third-best selling game of the month.
Not to be outdone, the hip-hop world got in on the act with rapper and business mogul Jay-Z leading the charge.
After mastering hip-hop, fashion, sports, nightlife, and real estate, Jay-Z flexed his business muscle once again with "DJ Hero".
It gave gamers the chance to show their spinning strength as they mix genres to create lively dance tracks. Along with Jay-Z, fellow rap superstar Eminem is also featured on the "Renegade" edition of the game.
But the biggest game premiere of the year was that of "Call of Duty", whose debut in Leicester Square was the first for a game.
In keeping with it's Hollywood blockbuster approach to entertainment, Activision Blizzard Inc's hugely anticipated "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" features characters voiced by professional actors including Bill Murray, Kevin McKidd of "Grey's Anatomy" and HBO's "Rome," Rapper-turned-actor 50 Cent, and Barry Pepper of "Saving Private Ryan."
Taking place 5 years in the future, "Modern Warfare 2" follows an elite military task force around the globe in their mission to track down a ruthless terrorist threatening world peace.
The premiere came hours ahead of a global launch in which thousands of retailers around the world opened at midnight especially to sell the game.
Almost two and half million pre-orders were placed in the U.S alone - Activision's highest ever.
"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" already beaten last year's UK pre-sales of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV, by 50 percent - and it looks set to smash that game's global total as well.
Bazooka the bulldog can do things on four wheels that most humans find challenging, becoming Japan's best-known canine skateboarder.
The dog features prominently on a website in what Ishikawa says is a tribute not only to sporty mutt fashion but also aspiring skateboard puppies.
However Bazooka's passion for skateboards means that he goes overboard at times when he breaks in new equipment -- he literally does just that, often chewing them to shreds.
2009 saw Tokyo sprouting a baby boom unlike any in its recent history.
While most animals, such as birds and mammals, tend to give birth during the springtime, Ueno Zoo says these summer babies are all part of their plans.
Arranging pregnancies so the animals give birth in the warmer summer months allows them, they say, to cut down the costs of keeping fragile newborns warm, for example.
Still wobbly on its feet when it was first unveiled to the public in May in Tokyo, the 840 gram baby anteater preferred the company of its mother than the limelight, refusing to let go of its mother and even riding on her back as she made her way around the pen.
But that may change if it is anything like its famous mom Tae - who made headlines twice over the past five years when she clawed open the door to her cage and escaped, once for even a whole day.
Nevertheless, mom's escape artists days may be over as she's now taking her motherhood seriously.
In the Netherlands, zookeepers sighed a relief in June after baby primate Daholo, a Crowned Sifaka, on the list of endangered species, has been finally accepted by his mother after she initially refused to breast-feed him.
Crowned sifakas are amongst the oldest living primates in the world, having been around for an estimated 65 million years, but today they are on the critically endangered list.
The IUCN (International Conservation Union) estimates there are only between 100 and 1,000 of them left in the wild and conservationists are breeding them in captivity to try and keep them alive.
In an effort to tame wild tiger cubs, Thailand undertook a bizarre arrangement which involved swapping baby tigers and baby pigs.
Two-year-old mother pig named Ple, laid on her side in the cage where both her piglets and a pair of Bengal tiger cubs suck on her milk.
In the next room, a tigress is taking care of Ple's six other piglets.
The aim of placing the tiger cubs with the sow is to accustom the small predators to other animals, and the zoo hopes it will tame them.
The strange arrangement has attracted thousands of tourists.
A most unlikely animal pair have been found at a zoo in the northern German town of Stroehen. A small dachshund has adopted a baby tiger two weeks after the cub was rejected by its mother at birth.
One year old "Bessi" took a shine to the baby and is now caring for it as its adoptive parent. Bessi plays with the two-week old tiger, which is yet to be named, and has also taken on the duty of cleaning the baby.
However, Bessi was not the first dachshund to play a role in the tiger's life. Just after her birth, the tiger was fussed over by Bessi's father, "Monster" a nine-year old "sausage dog" who died after being hit by a post van just a few days later.
The caretakers say they don't want the baby tiger to have to grow up without the loving care of a parent but were also keen not to let the animal feel too at home around humans.
In what has been one of the more memorable stories of the year, two donkeys earned their stripes when they were turned into zebras at a Gaza zoo.
The original animals died during Israel's January offensive on the Hamas-controlled strip.
But that didn't stop the zoo from dying black stripes on two white donkeys dyed, delighting Palestinian children at a small Gaza zoo who had never seen a zebra in the flesh.
With their long ears, drooping heads and sleepy eyes, the impostors probably would not have fooled a lioness. But effect achieved by the zoo owners' dye job applied with masking-tape looks not so bad -- to the unpracticed eye, and from a distance.
A genuine zebra would have been too expensive to bring into Israel-blockaded Gaza via the smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt, said owner Mohammed Bargouthi. It would have cost me 40,000 USD to get a real one.
A rare albino wallaby reared its white head over the summer in the southwestern tourist town of Paphos in Cyprus this year.
A white wallaby with red eyes has just started to regularly emerge from its mother's pouch and walk after being born at the end of May, and is about 40 cm (15.7 inches) tall. It first popped its head out of the pouch on June 19 when zoo staff saw it was an albino. There are eight older brown wallabies in the park, including its mother.
A hairy experiment in in Thailand turned out to be an interesting finding in Thailand.
Researchers have found that monkeys, just like humans, educate their infants - including teaching them how to floss their teeth.
A research team at Japan's Kyoto University, which has filmed the activities of crab-eating macaques in Lopburi, north of Bangkok, found that some mother monkeys teach their infants how to floss their teeth by using human hairs - as if they were using dental floss.
The flossing practice has since spread to about 100 of the wild monkeys living in the same area, according to the researchers.
The research team has also found that mother monkeys tend to spend twice as much time flossing their own teeth and exaggerate their gestures when their infants are in front of them.
In New Zealand, a shark gave birth to eight pups prematurely from a bite wound she sustained by another shark. Veterinarians in an exhibition aquarium could not believe in their eyes when they saw shark pups coming out of the wound of a shark. Vets at Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World in Auckland rushed to tank following news of two sharks attacking each other. When they arrived, they saw, to their surprise, four pups swimming out from the wound of one of the sharks.
They did not know that the shark had been pregnant.
When they looked closer at the wound, they saw four more pups inside her.
"It happens quiet often but this one was in the side, it was very deep and she happened to be pregnant, so it is kind of an impromptu C-section," said Fiona Davies an aquarium employee.
The baby sharks were taken into care until they get strong enough to be released into the wild.
An expanding mammal family in Florida used human technology to learn about their animal world.
Dolphin trainers at the Sea World used ultrasounds to show show the growing baby dolphin inside its mother's womb. From the familiar screens of the baby-detecting technology is the outline of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin's eye, spine and nose in utero. The healthy male dolphin calf was born is now spending time behind the scenes bonding with its mother.
Australian scientists have discovered a species of octopus that carries around coconut shells to hide in when feeling threatened. Research biologist Julian Finn said he and his colleague had spent hundreds of hours diving to find a Mimic Octopus, but encountered this veined species with a unique behavior.
Octopuses are accepted as the most intelligent of all invertebrates.
In Thailand, about 700 baby sea turtles were released by the navy in the Gulf of Thailand as part of a campaign to protect the species from becoming extinct. Thousands of the baby turtles received special care at the Sattahip (pron: Sat-ta-heep) since the navy launched it's conservation program in 1992. Many sea turtles lay their eggs on the island of Khram near the Sattahip navy base. The eggs are then collected and nurtured at the navy's conservation center until, after a few months, they are old enough to fend for themselves in the wild.
In England, delinquent baboons which are a tourist attraction at Knowsley Safari Park were slapped with "Anti Social Baboon Orders." The order is a reference to ASBOs - or Anti Social Behavior Orders - which are a civil order imposed on hooligans in the United Kingdom. The baboons have learnt how to break into car rooftop cargo boxes, running amok with their loot as helpless families watch from the safety of their vehicle.
Another animal which ran amok was a thirsty elephant in Kenya, which became stuck in mud after it strayed out of a national park in search of water. The elephant tore through the fence of a local primary school on its quest to find water before getting stuck in a small bog. Officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) had to disperse excited crowds as they got dangerously close to the frustrated elephant.
A drought, which experts have called the worst in years, is ravaging the livelihoods of millions of people in Kenya after four consecutive failed rainy seasons.
After several hours the elephant had to be tranquilized and pulled out of the mud by KWS officials and a couple of strong volunteers from the crowd.
The elephant started to regain consciousness when a few buckets of water were splashed on its face and the massive animal leapt to its feet, sending the crowd scampering for safety.
Droughts, wild bush fires, melting glaciers and other natural disasters were the focus of the world's press at the end of the year at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
World leaders, environmental campaigners such as former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, and protesters all vied for attention as the conference met to find a global pact on tackling climate change.
Environment campaigners staged colorful protests at the start of the final week of the UN climate conference.
Protesters donning costumes from the Hollywood film The Matrix called on the United States, Japan and Germany to do their part in climate funding.
Another group wearing polar bear costumes pretended to cry as a warning signal to world leaders to come up with a decisive plan. They also carried placards reading: "Save Human Beings".
For their part, the governments of Nepal and the Maldives went to theof the earth, literally, to bring attention to the issue.
Nepal's cabinet met close to the base camp of Mount Everest to warn the world of the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, days before global climate talks in Copenhagen.
Nepal's prime minister, Madhab Kumar Nepal, and more than 20 ministers flew in by helicopter to meet 5,242 meters (17,200 feet) above sea level with Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain, towering in the backdrop.
The cabinet passed what it called the "Everest Declaration" to be presented at the Copenhagen summit.
The Everest Declaration calls upon the world to minimize the negative effect of climate change on Mount Everest and other mountains in the Himalayan range, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said.
To bring attention the risk the Maldives face from rising sea levels and climate change, President Mohamed Nasheed went to the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
Nasheed and 12 cabinet ministers donned scuba gear and dove 3.5 meters (11 feet, 6 inches) under the surface of a turquoise lagoon to hold what is billed as the world's first underwater cabinet meeting.
Seated around a table and using hand signals and slates, the cabinet endorsed an "SOS" message from the Maldives to be presented at the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen.
It is part of the 350 global campaigns, which call for a reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide to the safe threshold of 350 parts per million (ppm). Current levels stand at 387 ppm.
The archipelago nation off the tip of India, mostly known for its high-end luxury tropical hideaways and unspoiled white-sand beaches, is among the most threatened by rising seas.
Rising sea levels of up to 58 cm, as predicted by the U.N. Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, threaten to submerge most of the Maldives' low-lying islands by 2100.
But while the developing world says rich and industrialized nations should shoulder the lion's share of the burden, the latter are calling for drastic cuts in emissions from all countries.
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