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12 May2014 MoreAccounts

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate A trip to the USA to sell Black Puddings Priceless

try and sortthe papers for my accountant

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins despite me getting two seven letter words perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.


Stefanie Zweig – obituary

Stefanie Zweig was a German writer whose true-life tale of fleeing the Nazis for British-run Kenya was made into a film

Photo: Writer Pictures

5:55PM BST 11 May 2014


Stefanie Zweig, who has died aged 81, drew on her childhood experience of the Jewish diaspora during the Nazi era in her bestselling novel Nowhere in Africa (originally published in Germany as Nirgendwo in Afrika in 1995); the book was the basis for a German film of the same name which won the Academy Award for best foreign language film in 2003.

A journalist by profession, Stefanie Zweig took the theme in Nowhere in Africa of the rootlessness of her family’s life in Kenya, to which her hitherto prosperous family had escaped from Germany in 1938, when she was five. While her father — a Frankfurt lawyer given the name Walter Redlich in the novel — struggles to adjust to his new life as a farm manager in British East Africa, his daughter, “Regina”, rapidly picks up both Swahili and English and forms close friendships with the Africans who work on the land.

A still from Nowhere in Africa, which won an Academy Award

Stefanie Zweig was born in Leobschütz, a German-speaking town that is now in Poland, on September 19 1932, and soon afterwards her family moved to Frankfurt. By the time she and her mother arrived in Kenya, in June 1938, her father had been working on a farm there for six months. “Having studied only Latin and Greek,” she wrote in The Guardian in 2003, “he neither knew English or anything about cattle or crops. It took me years to understand why my parents told friend and foe that they hated farming… [before he left Germany my father] did not even know that Kenya was a British colony in East Africa.”

While her parents remained bewildered by their new life, Stefanie “loved everything about Kenya”, in particular its people; Nowhere in Africa is jointly dedicated to her father and their houseboy, Owuor. She was not so happy, however, at being sent to the government school in Nakuru, 200 miles from her home: “I hated it. I was an only child, pampered by adoring parents, homesick, shy and speechless — I could not speak a word of English and I had no idea what was expected from me. Having learned the language, I thought it my filial duty to be top of the class — school fees were £5 per month, my father earned £6, and I wanted him to feel that he was investing his hard-earned money well. It complicated my life that swots who were not good at sports were extremely unpopular at Nakuru.” She nevertheless developed a love of the English, and their literature and history.

In 1947 the family returned to Frankfurt, where her father (untainted by Nazi affiliation) resumed his career in the law and became a judge. Back in Germany, as the family mourned the loss of Stefanie’s grandfather and two of her aunts, who had perished in the concentration camps, it was Stefanie’s turn to feel uprooted — an experience she explored in Somewhere in Germany (1996), a sequel to her earlier novel. As she recalled in 2003: “Now it was I who had to give up home and language, tradition, loyalty and love.”

Post-war life was hard. Hunger was commonplace and it took the family 10 months to find one-room lodgings at the former Jewish hospital. Stefanie’s German was inadequate (she has spoken it only during the school holidays while at home with her parents), and she had to relearn the language and also erase her English accent. “The assessment as to which is my mother-language is still going on,” she noted later. “I count in English, adore Alice in Wonderland, am best friends with Winnie-the-Pooh and I am still hunting for the humour in German jokes.”

Stefanie Zweig graduated from the Schiller School in Frankfurt in 1953. From 1959 until its closure in 1988, she worked as a journalist for the Abendpost Nachtausgabe paper, and was its arts editor from 1963. In her spare time she wrote children’s books, one of which — A Mouthful of Earth (1980) — won several awards; it was set in Africa, and gave her the idea to write Nowhere in Africa.

In 2012 Stefanie Zweig published a memoir, Nirgendwo war Heimat: Mein Leben auf zwei Kontinenten (Nowhere was Home: My Life on Two Continents).

Her partner, Wolfgang Häfele, died last year.

Stefanie Zweig, born September 19 1932, died April 25 2014


We are concerned about the lack of oversight by the intelligence and security committee (ISC) regarding the role and function of the NSA at Menwith Hill and other US bases (MPs condemn oversight of spy agencies, 9 May). There is no mention of this secretive and unaccountable US agency anywhere either in the report by the home affairs select committee or in your report and leader (9 May). On 10 April, Fabian Hamilton MP, in a parliamentary question, asked the defence secretary “whether his department was (a) aware of the nature of and (b) consulted before the start of surveillance being carried out at NSA Menwith Hill?” Mark Francois (minister of state, MoD) answered: “Operations at RAF Menwith Hill have always been, and continue to be, carried out with the knowledge and consent of the UK government.”

There is a contingence of GCHQ at NSA Menwith Hill. Some of the documents Edward Snowden revealed confirm that unlawful surveillance and intelligence-gathering of vast numbers of citizens was and is carried out in covert programmes at NSA Menwith Hill and with the assistance of GCHQ. The government confirms it has always known about this. The weak and discredited ISC says it has oversight of all US bases. The government sanctions this illegal activity. It’s essential that the ISC is scrapped in favour of a meaningful and credible independent committee which has oversight of the activities of the US visiting forces and their agencies as well as GCHQ.
Lindis Percy
Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases

• Malcolm Rifkind accuses Snowden and his supporters of “insidious use of language such as mass surveillance and Orwellian” which “blurs, unforgivably, the distinction between a system that uses the state to protect the people, and one that uses the state to protect itself against the people.” Without proper oversight, how would we know?
Barnaby Harris
Buckfastleigh, Devon

In stating that he sees no role for government in setting and enforcing regulations for greater transparency in the labelling of meat, David Cameron is playing into the hands of those who think that Brussels takes too much responsibility for our domestic law (Move to label meat by slaughter method, 9 May). If he wants to show putative Ukip voters that he’s serious about renegotiating the terms of UK membership of the EU, he’d better rethink this bit of non-intervention.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• Giles Fraser is right about our need to care more for living farm animals (Loose canon, 10 May). My son and his family live close to beautiful fields, full of grass, but without a dairy cow to be seen. The cows are imprisoned in vast sheds while the fields, where they should be grazing, are used for silage. Shouldn’t shops label milk to indicate whether the cows who produced it are permanently indoors or are roaming freely in green fields?
Alicia Baker

• Giles Fraser states: “I am a hypocrite in eating the very food whose production I morally condemn.” A bit like people who hunt on Saturday, then sing All Things Bright and Beautiful in church on Sunday.
Yvonne Nicola
Tiverton, Devon

• The inclusion of pigs in your list of the 114 million animals slaughtered annually in the UK according to halal rules (Report, 9 May) raises questions about where and by whom this pork is being consumed.
Sarah Ansari
Windsor, Berkshire

Ian Jack’s article on government promotion of fake self-employment (Private companies are making a fortune out of the unemployed, 10 May) made me think that this government could be staging a huge hoax on voters.

Days earlier, the Guardian reported that, everywhere except London, the government’s vaunted increase in “people in work” was solely due to the increase in “self-employment” (Explosion in self-employment across UK hides real story behind upbeat job figures, 6 May). Ian Jack points to various publicly funded programmes which get unemployed people to reclassify themselves as self-employed, not least the current enterprise allowance scheme. The latter can easily mask that unemployed people are simply accepting a modest reduction in their benefit income in return for freedom to earn a pittance from odd jobs and escape from Department for Work and Pensions harassment via major benefit “sanctions”.

Before the next election, someone should investigate a sample of the new army of “self-employed” to check the proportion for whom “self-employed” is a grossly misleading description. And to check how many of the latter result from publicly funded schemes to make them claim what is a misleading label.
Charles Patmore

• The Resolution Foundation’s research is important. While Thatcher kept the unemployment numbers down by moving many on to incapacity benefit, this government seems to be doing the same by forcing people to “choose” self-employment. However, these often inadequate incomes have to be supplemented with working tax credit just to make the income up to even the level of jobseeker’s allowance.
Jeremy Engineer
Manager, Cheetham Hill Advice Centre

•  Praise be to George Orwell for alerting us to “newspeak” in advance. A contract offered by an employer without a guarantee of paid work isn’t in fact a job (Jobseekers told they must take zero-hours jobs, 6 May). It’s a skewed contract for a new form of casual work.

It’s now possible for the economy to expand, for increasing numbers of people to be “employed”, for unemployment apparently to decrease, and the sum spent on social security to diminish, while more people earn less money in increasingly casualised workplaces. Parents are required to bring up children responsibly, while living in a form of servitude to licensed employers and petty line managers, often themselves at risk of returning to zero-hours. Please don’t use the word “jobs” again in such circumstances, without the inverted commas.
Janet Dubé
Peebles, Scottish Borders

• I found Zoe Williams’ piece (Zero-hours jobseekers? We’ve given up on workplace rights, 7 May) highly depressing but very informative. I just wish she had named and shamed more offending businesses. The only way we are going to change this culture is to vote with our feet and decide where we buy our caffè latte and which supermarket we shop in. Maybe when retailers realise that we don’t want to be served by staff who are being treated so unfairly they will decide to change their position on zero hours.
Ian Phillips

• When listing the ways the government tries to wriggle out of its obligation to provide a safety net to the unemployed, Zoe Williams might have added a bizarre definition of “immigrant” of which my stepson was recently a victim. In spite of being a British citizen who had spent 25 of his 27 years of life in the UK, on returning from a two-year working holiday in Australia he was told he’d have to wait three months before he would be entitled to any benefits. If he hadn’t a family to support him, what was he supposed to do?
Graham Hall
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

• Your welcome coverage (1 May) of the dark side of zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) did not mention the possible loss of state pension, one of the worst features of many such contracts. Anyone on a ZHC or short-hours contract who works for less than 18 hours a week at minimum wage, or earns less than £5,700 pa, will not get into the national insurance scheme and build a state pension. If that individual is working two or even three ZHCs or short-hours contracts, each of 15 hours, earning £5,000 in each, he must aggregate his income for tax; but he is not allowed to aggregate his income for NI cover, and thus build his state pension. If he returns to jobseeker’s allowance, having given up the struggle, he then gets credited into NI and gets his pension rights. It is desperately unfair. Why can’t the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the DWP get their act together?
Patricia Hollis
Labour, House of Lords

I look forward to David Cameron extending his “proper threshold” idea (Tories look at making it harder to go on strike, 9 May) to other votes such as local and European elections. I’m sure that both Cameron and Boris Johnson would consider these elections as being at least as important as union members voting on strike action.
Alan Hobbins
Hockliffe, Bedfordshire

•  How much credence should we place on Pfizer’s assurances about British jobs, given their record at Sandwich only three years ago (Report, 6 May)? As Aneurin Bevan once advised: “Why look in the crystal ball when you can read the book?”
Graham Sowter
Langho, Lancashire

• Your obituary on the great musician Antony Hopkins (7 May) contained a glaring omission – the hilarious 78rpm record of Hopkins and Peter Ustinov doing “Mock Mozart” and “Phony Folklore”, which was frequently played at home to huge laughter when I was a child. “Mock Mozart” can now be found on YouTube, as I discovered after reading the obit, and it’s still as brilliant and funny as ever.
Susan Castles
Wem, Shropshire

•  How better to sum up today’s society than pages 22 and 23 of the Guardian on 7 May? Centrepoint’s advert “Did you see Lisa?” opposite “Apple retail boss Ahrendts lands $68m golden hello”.
Elizabeth Dunnett
Malvern, Worcestershire

• How many more weekly columns will Chris Huhne need to write to cover his unreasonable legal costs (Huhne to pay £78,000 prosecution costs, 10 May)?
Sheila Donovan


I am no supporter of Ukip or Nigel Farage, but their rise needs to be understood in terms of the abysmal failure of our traditional three-party system.

The front benches of the main parties are mostly now filled with young professional careerist MPs, predominantly ex-special advisers with little work experience outside the Westminster village. In terms of perceived differences, there is hardly a cigarette paper between the three of them.

None of the current crop of politicians appears to speak for the average working person, and it is not only a problem of policy differences: it is the feeling of a political elite only interested in power. Many years ago, the New Labour spin doctors thought that they were being smart in helping to replace the traditional  trade-union representatives who used to fill the Labour MP ranks with ex-special advisers. But it has done them longer-term harm because now they have hardly anybody on their front bench capable of genuinely empathising with the problems of working people.

The main parties are failing to connect with the electorate and that is why Farage is striking a chord. It seems clear to me that Miliband, Cameron et al do not understand this at all, otherwise there would be a conversation about real political choice – particularly on the economy where no party has yet found a way to construct a fairer capitalism to benefit the masses.

Dr Keith Darlington, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire

Aidan Harrison (letters, 10 May) identifies the irrationality of two of Ukip’s main policies. I would add two more. First, Ukip’s commitment to the market means that even withdrawing from the EU would not make the UK an independent nation in control of its destiny.

Instead, we would be at the mercy of international companies and bankers who could dictate what economic policies, degree of workers’ rights and levels of tax they accepted in return for investing here. Free-market global capitalism is incompatible with genuine national sovereignty.

Second, many Ukip supporters are angry at the pace of change of modern life, and seem to want to return to the stability and security of life in the 1950s. Yet it is not the EU which has destroyed these, but – again – rampant free market capitalism, in which everyone and everything is subordinated to the relentless drive for higher profits. It is neoliberalism – favoured by Nigel Farage – which has created rampant consumerism, crass commercialisation, longer working hours and job-destroying technologies, not Brussels.

Pete Dorey, Bath, Somerset

Some of the Ukip-bashing is painfully stupid and bolsters the view that the establishment is against it. It is not hypocrisy that Ukip don’t dictate “No Polish, No Romanians, No Bulgarians” in their job adverts; to do so would break our current laws on equal treatment. We are still in the EU; Ukip argues to leave it to stop people having equal footing.

Jamie Neale, Sheffield

The emergence of Ukip as a major political force demonstrates the effectiveness of pandering to populist sentiments. It could further enhance its prospects of winning the 2015 General Election if it were to promise to restore the death penalty, increase the length of prison sentences, make life mean life, introduce flogging for some offences and permit the use of corporal punishment in schools, lift the ban on fox-hunting, abolish all speed limits, ban cycling, slash the price of petrol/diesel, beer and tobacco, ban wind turbines and public discussion of the subject of climate change.

Rupert Bullock, Shapwick, Somerset

The really scary development that mainstream politicians seem blissfully unaware of is the prospect of Ukip electoral success enabling them to form a coalition of the right with the Tories after the 2015 General Election.

Richard Denton-White, Portland, Dorset

What the halal row is really about

The current vociferous campaign against halal and shechita slaughter of animals is a transparent excuse to get away with showing the sort of prejudice against Muslims and Jews that is no longer acceptable in a multiracial and multi-faith society.

After all, if anybody really cared about animal suffering, they’d be vegans and not having a debate about whether pre-stunning is necessary.

John Eoin Douglas, Edinburgh

In “PM refuses to get drawn into halal meat row” (9 May), a Downing Street spokesperson is quoted saying that David Cameron is a “strong supporter of religious slaughter practices”. If true, this is a shameful admission and puts him on a collision course with the overwhelming majority of the electorate. We are rightly proud of our humane policies towards animals and it ill behoves the PM to wash his hands of this highly contentious issue and dismiss it as one that the market can decide.

Russell Webb, Ringwood, Hampshire

No one has mentioned the view of the Sikhs over this sensitive issue. Along with the ban on cutting their hair, Sikhs are also forbidden from eating any kind of ritualistically slaughtered meat, such as halal or kosher.

Satinder Singh, Edinburgh

Pfizer bid for Astrazeneca

I have a prediction for you. If this acquisition goes ahead the next step will be to move company registration to Ireland where corporate tax levels are even lower. Several US biopharm companies have already done this by buying companies based in Ireland and taking on the identity of the purchased company.

Ian Skidmore, Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Women on the front line

I was amazed to find myself agreeing with my Tory MP Richard Drax, who was talking on the radio about his own experience as a soldier in the Falklands, bayoneting other young men and asking if that is what we want women to do too? (And, logically, if we want young men to bayonet young women.)

There is a question of gender equality, but there is also a more important question of morality. Do we want more people bayoneting other people? For me the question of women on the front line (report, 9 May) is about whether we want to take a step backwards or forwards. Putting more bayonets into more hands would be a retrograde step.

Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset


If you want to kill someone, use a car

Your report “Ten Years in jail for disqualified drivers who kill” (6 May) exemplifies the love/hate relationship between public, government and drivers over the years.

At one time, the motor vehicle was king and to be convicted of any offence involving such a loved machine, however heinous, was a hit-and-miss affair in higher courts, depending, it seemed, on the balance of motorists and non-motorists on the jury. The Road Safety Act 1968, introducing the legal alcohol limit, was enacted to counter “there but for the grace of God” decisions by juries.

Now it has been decided that more must be done. There remains, even now, an option of grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm and sundry other charges (mainly under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, as amended) which could be used to charge such persons who, without regard to the effect on others, drive recklessly or disqualified. These can result in longer sentences than those available under the various Road Traffic Acts.

The decision not to use this legislation is, in my view, due to a historical blip whereby any offence involving a motor vehicle was, in the greater scheme of things, seen as less important than the use of an axe, firearm or other un-motorised implement.

I write as a former Metropolitan Police traffic officer in London, where the frustrations over such matters were, to say the least, professionally debilitating.

The reduction in “road policing” is to be deplored. Criminals use vehicles to move about. The record of crime arrests by traffic officers often exceeded those by the CID.

Chris J M Walker, London SW19

Skin-cancer, study of the obvious

A recent study has found that eczema sufferers may be less likely to develop skin cancer (report, 6 May). Did it ever occur to the researchers concerned at King’s College London that eczema sufferers generally carry some of the most hideously disfiguring body blemishes common to humans. Consequently they are far less likely to whip off their kit every the sun comes out in Hyde Park.

Mike Bellion, Sedbergh, Cumbria

Workhouse for a new generation

John Newsinger (Letters, 10 May) is on the money predicting the return of the workhouse. There our ancestors learnt the value of work. But today’s version would surely need the prefix “hard”. The hardworkhouse – preparing folk to be the “hardworking people” of this country.

Jonathan Devereux, St Albans, Hertfordshire


Empics Archive

Published at 12:01AM, May 12 2014

There are persuasive arguments for and against renationalising the railways

Sir, The last thing our railways need now is wholesale reorganisation of the kind that renationalisation would entail. Resurrecting the monolith that was British Rail would do little for customers. The massive sums spent on trains and upgrading the network since privatisation were unavailable to BR as the Treasury kept a stranglehold on spending. We could expect that again.

The franchising process does need reform, however. It is nonsense that many franchises have been awarded to consortia involving state-owned European railways when British state-owned entities are prevented from bidding. It would make sense, for example, to allow the successful team running the East Coast route to bid for the franchise. We must also stop awarding franchises to the lowest bidder. Franchise competitions need to strike a much better balance between bidders’ promises about quality and investment as well as cost.

Michael Patterson

(Secretary, Central Rail Users Consultative Committee, 1987-97)

Swineshead, Lincs

Sir, There is a flaw in Benedict Le Vay’s argument (letter, May 8) that “nostalgia is rose-tinting our view of British Rail”. Such claim assumes that British Rail could not have changed for the better in the 20 years since privatisation. When we see how technology has advanced in the interim and the subsidies to the private railways, such an assumption is groundless.

John Mattison

Beckenham, Kent

Sir, Christian Wolmar (May 6) forgets perhaps that the heyday of the railways was under private ownership funded by private investment. Nationalisation always leads to underfunding, overmanning and a politicised management. Better to manage private ownership effectively.

Roger Jobson

Tuckenhay, Devon

Sir, There is much to disagree with in Mr Le Vay’s letter. Network Rail (owner of track and signalling) is a company limited by guarantee whereas its predecessor, Railtrack, was in the private sector and was a disaster. Most train operating franchises are held by private sector businesses; foreign state-owned franchises are a minority. BR regularly had days when trains ran to time just as now train operators have days when they do not.

I worked for the drivers’ union Aslef in the 1990s when there was just a single one-day strike on BR by drivers; strikes by TSSA, the other union affiliated to Labour, are almost unheard of; strikes by RMT are more common but still rare on National Rail.

More people are travelling by rail but this is primarily because of growth in employment, especially in London but increasingly also in other cities; the rate of station re-opening slowed after privatisation; the train fleet is ageing, up from an average 15 years in 2007 to approaching 19 last year.

There was a string of serious crashes under privatised Railtrack, as victims’ relatives will recall. In fact, Railtrack managed to bring to an end the railway’s history of improving safety as time went by. The replacement of Railtrack by Network Rail led to rapid improvements in safety and the long-term trend of improving safety has thankfully been restored.

Ian Rashbrook

(Aslef HQ staff, 1992-99)

Bexley, Greater London

HMRC’s reluctance to admit mistakes means there are grave concerns about its new powers to raid bank aacounts

Sir, I am appalled by the news that HMRC can raid private bank accounts (May 9). This year I received a very brusque letter from the Inland Revenue threatening to take me to court if I did not pay my outstanding tax immediately. No amount of outstanding tax was shown. I responded by sending copies of the online payments I had made in settlement of my agreed liabilities, one of which was made on its own website. I received no letter of apology, just amended assessments showing no liabilities.

Withdrawing this comparatively large sum directly from my bank account would have been a serious embarrassment and would have undoubtedly taken weeks to obtain repayment.

This action must not be allowed to take place until the Inland Revenue has its house in order, and this seems unlikely to be in the near future.

Norman Nash

Sibford Gower, Oxon

Why don’t British housebuilders produce comfortable and affordable flats like they do in much of the rest of Europe?

Sir, While you favour burying Britain under concrete to house a surging population (leader, May 9), I am grappling with a conundrum. The British housing market could make much more of the precious available land if it were to produce substantial numbers of pleasant, spacious apartments with large balconies that overlook greenery. Why does it fail to do this?

I shall go home to just such an apartment this evening in Belgium, and I enjoy it very much. I was able to buy it. In contrast, a “house” — apparently the non-negotiable ambition of most would-be homeowners in Britain — would have been far beyond my reach.

Mike Mackenzie


Circuit leaders offer to engage with the Ministry of Justice to find savings without destroying the justice system

Sir, The Ministry of Justice is responsible for making sure that the criminal justice system functions. That includes making adequate provision for legal aid so that defendants in criminal cases are represented by suitable advocates.

Last week a judge found that the ministry had failed in its duty. He halted a fraud trial after defendants were denied adequate representation because of cuts to legal aid introduced by the ministry.

The ministry cut fees for some of the most serious, complex, state-funded fraud and terrorist cases by 30 per cent mid-contract. It is like agreeing to pay a builder £300 for a job, then saying halfway through that you that will only pay £200.

The ministry knew what might happen but chose to proceed with the cuts. The current rates of pay for these cases are publicly available. Gross fees for case preparation are between £30 (junior barrister) and £60 per hour (QC) to prepare a case, before expenses. That is less than you would pay a garage mechanic (£80) for labour.

We at the Bar want to engage constructively with the ministry to show it how savings can be
achieved while preserving our
justice system.

Sarah Forshaw, QC

Leader, South Eastern Circuit

Andrew Langdon, QC

Leader, Western Circuit

Andrew O’Byrne, QC

Leader, Northern Circuit

John Elvidge, QC

Leader, North Eastern Circuit

Paul Lewis, QC

Leader, Wales and Chester Circuit

Mark Wall, QC

Leader, Midlands Circuit

One family did some research and found out what they suspect was causing a fit teenager’s asthma

Sir, Apropos asthma (letters May 9), my teenage grandson was suffering from lack of breath at his badminton training and was prescribed an inhaler by his GP.

Fortunately, my daughter read an article about the ills of aerosol deodorants. Within a week or two of changing to a stick deodorant my grandson no longer needs an inhaler and is competing in the county badminton tournaments.

Robert Parkes

Steyning, W Sussex


SIR – Jacqui Goddard reports that a Las Vegas casino banned high-rolling actor Ben Affleck for card counting at blackjack, while pointing out quite correctly that card counting is not actually illegal.

Blackjack is surely unique in casino gambling in being the only game in which the odds can be in favour of the player. In roulette they are about 2.7 per cent in favour of the house, and in craps about 0.7 per cent, which is why craps is popular with skilled players.

Played with perfect skill, which involves using the optimum strategy and remembering all the cards remaining in the shoe, the odds in blackjack are as high as 7 per cent in favour of the player, which is why the shoe is re-loaded when there are still many cards left in it. In practice the best advantage that can be gained is about 5 per cent.

So you may well wonder why the blackjack rules are not adjusted so as to reduce the advantage to the player – but not so far as to persuade the skilled that the game is not worth the bother.

Stanley Eckersley
Pudsey, West Yorkshire

SIR – If they were not so tragic, the attempts by Irish republicans to compare Gerry Adams to Nelson Mandela (report, May 4) would be laughable. They maintain that Gerry Adams’s questioning by police over the disappearance and death of Mrs Jean McConville will jeopardise the peace process.

The “peace process” has certainly enhanced the legacy of British politicians, but the rest of Northern Ireland has been forced to live with the constant fear of offending against their real rulers, whose pleas for peace begin to sound more like thinly-veiled threats to restart the violence should they be thwarted.

Without wishing to downplay the injustices suffered by the minority community, in the Sixties and Seventies, political extremists on both sides faced the problem of Protestants and Catholics who did not hate each other: indeed, the Protestant Mrs McConville’s chief offence seems to have been marrying into the Catholic community, despite converting upon her marriage.

Terrorists from both sides have seen themselves as soldiers fighting a war; but if regular servicemen were suspected of the kidnap and murder of a widowed mother of 10 children, they would face a court martial. They would not be rewarded with money, political status and immunity from prosecution.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

Christian principles without the belief

SIR – Apropos the recent poll on religious beliefs, I believe that there should be another category: “Non-religious, non-practicing Christians” to cover those who practice the teachings of Jesus regarding good behaviour to fellow men, but do not believe that he was the son of a god.

Such people uphold Christian principles in a predominantly Christian country.

Dr Lionel Blackman
Woking, Surrey

SIR – Tim Deane says: “Looking at a beautiful image from the Hubble space telescope of a spiral galaxy, it is difficult to conceive of an all-powerful deity”.

I would suggest just the opposite. A Big Bang may have started it all, but you need an all-powerful deity to provide the materials for a Big Bang out of nothing.

Bill Scott
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – The Rev Dr Peter Mullen hit the nail on the head. Our church leaders have been woefully lacking in their proclamations to follow the Gospel of Christ our Saviour. They have either sat on the fence or bent so far over backwards that they have fallen off.

Nora Jackson
Uttoxeter, Staffordshire

Energy efficiency

SIR – As representatives from a variety of businesses, we urge the Government to support stronger energy efficiency action within an ambitious EU 2030 climate package. There are many opportunities to be more energy efficient, for example, more intelligent design and management of energy networks, refurbishment programmes and community energy initiatives.

The EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive is currently under review. This is an opportunity to build on existing EU energy-saving measures, such as setting common market standards for vehicles and energy-using goods. It is also an opportunity to address its biggest failure: the voluntary nature of the EU 2020 efficiency target, which has led to weak national energy efficiency programmes.

The benefits for Britain would be higher economic productivity, as business and consumers spend less on energy overheads, higher energy security from reducing energy imports, and lower carbon emissions as we will burn fewer fossil fuels.

John Swinney
Business Development Director, Energy and Public Services, Carillion plc

Mike Barry
Director Plan A, M&S

Richard Gillies
Group Sustainability Director, Kingfisher

Nigel Holden
Head of Energy, Environment & Engineering, The Co-operative Group

Paul Hicks
Sustainability & Design Manager, Velux

Matthew Rhodes
Managing Director, Encraft

Andrew Raingold
Executive Director, Aldersgate Group

Andrew Warren
Director, Association for the Conservation of Energy

Paul Ellis
CEO, Ecology Building Society

Paul King
Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council

John Sinfield
Managing Director, Knauf Insulation Northern Europe

Robert Barclay
Managing Director, SIG UK and Ireland

Colin Calder
Founder and CEO, PassivSystems

Neil Marshall
Chief Executive,National Insulation Association

Everlasting attorney

SIR – Betty Goble complained about the cost of registering for lasting powers of attorney, and the following week the Public Guardian responded saying how easy the process is. This emboldened us to complete the forms ourselves.

We are completing Health (12 pages) and Property (11 pages) — a total of 46 pages for the two of us. The forms themselves are not difficult to complete but the witness requirements are mind-numbing in their complexity. Even worse, though, is the application to register the powers. Much of the information is either a repetition or irrelevant but the Office of the Public Guardian confirms that we must submit all 14 pages for each of the four powers (56 pages) even though most of them will be blank. This means we shall be sending a total of 102 pages. Is it any wonder that the recorded message tells you that the registration process is currently taking a minimum of 14 weeks?

We can quite see how your original correspondent quoted a cost of £700 per power. It is disingenuous of the Public Guardian to quote the fee of £110 per power as the likely cost when, faced with this level of bureaucracy, many people will need a solicitor’s assistance.

Dr Roger Litton
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Sign language

SIR – Robert Park longs for British signposts.

We too have just driven 1,000 miles in Spain. However, we marvelled at the excellent road network, often with little traffic and no potholes: a marked contrast to this part of Surrey and much of Britain.

Tim Price
Epsom, Surrey

SIR – In the six miles between my house and Sainsburys in Street there are nine changes of speed limit – plus, of course, all the reminders and the derestriction signs.

Donald R Clarke
Barton St David, Somerset

Religious slaughter

SIR – I wait with bated breath for the next open letter from “prominent secularists/atheists” protesting about the increasingly likely (and unsolicited) prospect of eating meat over which Islamic prayers have been said.

Can you imagine their outrage if Michael Gove announced that pupils in all state schools must say grace before school lunches?

Sally Magill

Girls and boys

SIR – Why is there angst among some women about being referred to as “girls” in the workplace, as discussed on the Today programme this week? I work at a Royal Mail plant where many of the chaps are middle-aged or elderly and we revel in referring to each other as “ the boys”, and “the lads”.

At my advanced age I am flattered to be called “young man” by either sex. The women are generally known as “the ladies” or “the girls”, no matter what their age may be, and they always take it in good part.

Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent

Fishy greetings

SIR – My response to “You all right there?” is to say, “I will be when I’m being served”. That usually produces the required result, particularly at the fish counter in my local Tesco. The assistant there seems to think I’m looking at pictures in an art gallery.

William Morris
Ludlow, Shropshire

SIR – On a recent shopping trip to Luton I was inflicted with at least 12 greetings and farewells which went something like “Ruawlroit?” and “Cyerlayyter!” – a contraction of six words into two. We can thank television for brutalising the vocabulary of at least three generations of children. However, all is not lost, as the current BBC Director General has stated that he is committed to raising standards.

John Smith
Kimpton, Hertfordshire

SIR – At 9 o’clock one morning last week I was asked by a young man at the checkout, “And how has your day been so far?”

I thought it best not to regale him with the details of the gastro-intestinal upset I had suffered earlier.

Christine Holmes
Reigate, Surrey

SIR – David Woodhead says that the Coalition reports on the costs and benefits of the European Union support Britain’s continued membership. Analysis by others, including Professor Patrick Minford, however, says the case for Britain leaving is now overwhelming.

For example, EU regulation alone costs business, trade and employment an estimated £165 billion a year – equal to 11 per cent of GDP. On this evidence, politicians who say jobs will be at risk if Britain were to leave the EU should be more honest and admit that membership could actually be costing jobs and prosperity.

However, what should really concern us is how our politicians are using our democratic electoral process to defend a system of government that avoids the ballot box altogether and allows rampant corruption.

This is morally indefensible. It is no wonder that the British Electoral Study recently found that 60 per cent of those who will support Ukip in the European elections are unlikely to change their allegiance in 2015.

Ann Taylor
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – Ukip supporters keep claiming that the Labour-appointed peer, Lord Jones of Birmingham, believes that, should we leave the EU, we could have new treaties with all the remaining EU member countries and those outside of it within 24 hours. Would Lord Jones state publicly that this is total nonsense?

Similarly, Ukip supporters like to claim that Winston Churchill would not have wanted a united Europe. As I understand it, the former Conservative prime minster and sometime Liberal very much wanted us to be involved in an organisation which would be willing to co-operate and stop any further wars. As the saying goes, “You keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer”.

As for the eurozone, the collapse has bottomed out and is showing small signs of recovery.

Once that takes full effect, what happens to Little Britain?

Richard Grant
Ringwood, Hampshire

SIR – A “cost/benefit analysis” suggests, to most people, an examination of advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost, and a conclusion as to which is the most beneficial.

“Competence” is defined, in my dictionary at least, as “the quality or extent of being competent.” That the EU’s Court of Auditors has refused, for some 18 years, to give the EU’s accounts unqualified approval may, perhaps, illustrate the gulf between the EU’s understanding of “competence” and that of the man in the street. While the fact that we have traded with the EU at a loss for almost 40 years speaks for itself.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – David Cameron has promised to carry out an EU referendum if the Tories return to power.

This may convince some voters, but what happens if Mr Cameron is no longer the leader? What guarantee do we have that any successor would fulfil the promise?

Eve Wilson
Fareham, Hampshire

SIR – Although a Conservative voter and interested in politics, I find the Conservative leaflet on the EU Elections rather confusing.

It states that the Conservatives “are fighting to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU”. It then states that I, as a voter, “get the final decision on Britain’s membership of the EU at an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.

Do I understand from that statement that if Britain votes “out” then we will have the opportunity to renegotiate new terms and conditions?

And if the country votes “in”, does that also partially open the door to renegotation? I am confused. Or perhaps politically naive.

Brian Hatch
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

SIR – “In or Out” – why not “In or Common Market”?

P F Fairclough
Tattenhall, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I am a parent of two children with special needs, one with Down syndrome and another with autism spectrum disorder. I am also a teacher of three children with special needs in a mainstream class of 28 children in St Anne’s school in Shankill, Co Dublin. My children also attend this school. Most of the special educational needs (SEN) children in St Anne’s have behaviour modification programmes and individualised plans.

The Department of Education and Science recently published a circular (0030/2014) that will drastically reduce the level of support for children and teenagers with special needs. A shocking aspect of this circular is their intention to remove almost all access to specials needs assistants in secondary schools.

This withdrawal of specials needs assistant support in secondary schools comes at a crucial stage for both students and teachers. Secondary schools are only now having to cope with increasing numbers of children with special needs as they come up through the system. Many teachers are still in the early stages of working with children with special educational needs in an inclusive environment. Many of them have not been provided with relevant training to upskill to meet the challenging demands of working with children with SEN children.

This “inclusion policy” is negligent and finance driven. Under the guise of “value for money” it makes victims of our precious, vulnerable children by kicking away their specials needs assistant support.

Both of my children have access to a specials needs assistant as part of an individualised plan and appropriate interventions. Without their invaluable help, they would not be as productive and independent as they are.

My son is starting in mainstream secondary school in September. He suffers from extreme anxiety as part of his Asperger’s syndrome and requires access to a specials needs assistant to take him out of class for breaks to keep him calm.

He knows when he needs to go and get some time out and then he can return calmly to class without affecting his classmates.

If, as the circular suggests, he should be left until he has a meltdown, he would disrupt and upset all the other children and the teacher, embarrass himself and reduce his self-esteem.

Did these policy reviewers come into classrooms? Did they talk to teachers? Did they talk to parents?

This is not inclusive education. It is blatantly excluding children with special needs from reaching their full potential and is therefore denying them the right to access the same educational opportunities as their peers. By removing access to specials needs assistants, the rights of all children in these “inclusive classrooms” to an equal education will be denied.

Maybe these policy reviewers need to upskill themselves on what is really needed in our schools?

I invite them to come to our school any day of the week to see how invaluable the specials needs assistant are.

Is it not better practice if a specials needs assistant accompanies the child rather than a teacher out of the classroom? According to this circular, we should wait until the child or teenager displays violent behaviour or self-harms before we intervene.

I would ask all parents to raise this matter with their public representatives and all candidates in the upcoming local and European elections. – Yours, etc,


Rochestown Avenue,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – I wish to respond to Mark Hilliard’s article on the exclusion of the families of ordinary combatants in the 1916 centenary celebrations (“1916 families fear exclusion from centenary commemorations”, Home News, May 6th). A similar issue was raised in your letters page by Kieran Forde (January 23rd), when he highlighted his and his family’s exclusion from the commemoration of the centenary of the founding of the Volunteers, of which his father was a member. This exclusion would give weight to the contention that the 1916 commemorations will also remain “the preserve of VIPs dignitaries, and the relatives of the executed leaders”. I am the respective granddaughter and grandniece of Peadar and Michael McNulty (A Coy 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade), who fought in the North King St/Church St area in 1916. Both have a living child. I believe if the 1916 commemorations are to have a real and lasting impact on the ordinary people of Ireland they must be given ownership of the celebrations at all levels. The symbolic damage of excluding the relatives of the ordinary combatants from the celebrations should not be underestimated. Given that just under 2,500 1916 medals were given out, a least one representative from each family should easily be accommodated at the official commemorations.

Hilliard’s article highlighted the frustrations of Dave Kilmartin and Gerry Carroll in their attempts to engage the present government in this issue. Rather than wait passively for permission from a disinterested and unmotivated State body, shouldn’t we, the relatives of the ordinary combatants, come together and form our own committee? Surely we are more likely to get our voices heard if we can lobby as an organised grouping to make sure our dead relatives are remembered and represented at all 1916 commemorations. I for one would sign up for this and am open to being contacted by any of the above mentioned relatives who wish to do likewise. – Is mise,


Salisbury Avenue,


Sir, – John McManus (“Blame McCreevy and Harney not regulator for light touch”, Business Opinion, 5th May) reflects on where blame lies for the business failures of recent times. He believes that our principles-based regulation proved to be “almost comically inept”.

It may be inferred from this that a rules-based approach is better than a principles-based approach. I would suggest, however, that this would be an erroneous conclusion to draw. The point about a principles-based approach is that principles by themselves are not enough. A principles-based approach must be populated by men and women of principle. Men and women with strong ethical values lacked the freedom to exercise their values.

It can be compared to making a cake. A rules-based approach would give us a tight, step by step, specific recipe with a comprehensive list of ingredients. Then, regardless of who the cook is, a uniform, identical cake of rigid standard will emerge. On the other hand, if we have a simple statement of the values of excellent cake-making , but a cook who is not imbued with those values, of course you will have a horrible cake. You need a cook who understands those values and has the freedom, flair and experience in making cakes that are delicious , varied, can be trusted and in which the cook has pride; as well as providing him/her with a living.

The principles-based approach is not discredited. The ethics of the business people and professionals who applied those principles were under-valued and, in some cases, underdeveloped. Moral agency did not exist. It is in the area of professional and business ethics that we should direct our attention now and not towards an ever-increasing, restrictive mountain of reactive code, regulation and rules. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – I was saddened to learn that a “forgotten” Irish teenager is still in jail. I am a personal friend of the Halawa family in Clonskeagh. Ibrahim Halawa, who is only 18 years of age and a brilliant student (all straight As in his Leaving Cert), was due to start an engineering course in Trinity College Dublin. When qualified he would be a tremendous asset to his native Egypt or Ireland if he decided to live and work here. He is an all-round sportsman. He excelled in rugby and soccer in Clonskeagh. He also excelled in equestrian sports, especially showjumping.

He went with his family to Egypt on a holiday after his Leaving Cert and got caught up in a riot in Cairo, which is his native city, and only a few blocks away from his house. Like all inquisitive teenagers he and his sisters walked over to see what the riot was about. The rest is history and he was arrested and is still in jail.

I love Egypt and I spent some time in Cairo learning Arabic and studying Sharia law. I have many friends among the Muslim Brotherhood and among the present government in Egypt. I have also friends in the Egyptian embassy in Dublin.

The Halawa family are an exceptional family and Ibrahim is unique. Ibrahim is just starting off in life and I am prepared to contact the prison authorities and negotiate directly with them. They have a difficult job to do. Egyptians are a very friendly people and I loved my stay there. I have promised to return there soon and renew acquaintances.

I hope the prison authorities will allow a young man who was probably misguided to join his family in Ireland and to continue his studies. For showing humanitarian concern and compassion for Ibrahim and for his family, their gesture would have an everlasting effect and they would have the admiration of the whole world. – Yours, etc,



Whitehall Road, Dublin 12.

Sir, – Thomas Piketty’s analysis (Capital in the Twenty-First Century) of global income inequality is brought into sharp relief with the news today that a one-night stay in the hotel located in London’s Shard building will cost you £14,000. According to the World Bank Development Indicators 2008, half the world’s population lives on $2.50 a day. £14,000 is worth $23,728, which divided by $2.50 gives 9,491 days. Dividing this by 365 gives 26 years. One night in the Shard costs the amount of money that half of the world’s population live on for 26 years. – Yours, etc,


Primrose Lodge,


Gorey, Co Wexford.

Mon, May 12, 2014, 01:04

First published: Mon, May 12, 2014, 01:04

Sir, – Olan McGowan (May 7th), responding to the article by Joe Humphreys on Richard Kearney (Arts & Ideas, “How Atheists Can Still Believe in God”, May 2nd), writes that we need to embrace the simplicity of atheism.

May I ask what is simple about a position which asserts that, due to lack of evidence, we must conclude that God does not exist, while also asserting that no evidence can be provided for God’s non-existence? One cannot “prove a negative”, as they say, but it might just be that the non-existence of God is as significant for human consciousness as His existence. This is a quandary that the atheist position cannot resolve, despite the best efforts of its intellectual heavyweights, and why we need philosophers such as Richard Kearney. – Yours, etc,


Clare Street,



Sir, – In “Where’s the bridge for our greatest scientists?”, (Science, May 8th), Mary Mulvihill laments the lack of “a public statue, bridge or building honouring any of our scientists or mathematicians”. There is a public park, however. In Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, Walton Park is dedicated to Noble Prize laureate Ernest Walton, who was born in Abbeyside and who went on to split the atom. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Street


Sir, – Practising Catholics often dismiss the morally objectionable content and injunctions of the Bible on the basis that they emanate from the Old Testament, but it’s not until the New Testament that we are introduced to the concept of Hell, with its terrifying vista of eternal damnation and punishment. Hell still forms part of the official catechism of the church.Interestingly, the Catholic Church is very quiet about hell these days, its very own “Room 101”. However, unlike Orwell’s Room 101, if you end up in the Bible’s Room 101, you’re there forever.

Thankfully there is not a shred of evidence that such a place exits. – Yours, etc,


Stocking Wood Hall,

Stocking Avenue,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – The proposal that all new buildings must have carbon monoxide detectors is a step in the right direction (“Carbon monoxide alarms to be compulsory from September”, Home News, May 5th), but does not affect existing buildings. Manufacturers of appliances capable of producing carbon monoxide should be required to include a built-in carbon monoxide detector – in the same way that cars are supplied with safety belts. – Yours, etc,


Taney Rise,

Dundrum, Dublin14.

Irish Independent:

Published 12 May 2014 02:30 AM

It seems at last that Maurice McCabe is finally on the road to vindication and the term whistleblower will finally be restored to its more ethical meaning rather than that of being classed as a rat; all a whistleblower wants to do is expose injustice and is against those who had sworn to uphold the law but chose to flout it instead.

Also in this section

Letters to the Editor

Let’s make sure we know how to vote, not just for whom

That was the week that was in Irish politics

I choose these words carefully about the road he is on for though he may be on it, he has yet to finish the journey.

On a positive note, he represents everything that good character calls for. I have talked to other members of the Garda Siochana who are like Maurice.

But like any group or fraternity, gardai can easily fall prey to wrongdoing. Yet, this week, accountability has, for the first time, shone the light directly on a hidden part of the police force that most people did not know of, and it may never be the same again.

Corruption within a police force should be the business of a minority that are against the majority. In this way they will be more easily crushed. Unfortunately we have witnessed an attempt by elements within An Garda Siochana trying to crush the whistleblowers. The only thing now left to do is hope that the moral ground that was lost in the fog of a dangerous tradition will be rediscovered.

Barry Clifford, Oughterard, Co Galway



It is staggering that no notes or records regarding the complaints of the whistleblowers could be found, as reported by Sean Guerin after his inquiries.

The paradox here is the commented upon presumption that due to the Freedom of Information Act, a reticence to commit findings to paper for fear that some day they may see the light has been inculcated.

One wonders will the Government and its institutions ever introduce a policy of glasnost.

As the Taoiseach Mr Kenny pointed out “Paddy likes to know what’s going on…”

Ed Toal, Dublin 4



Having read the report of Sean Guerin, it is not only plausible but quite probable, that the only competent person in the entire Garda workforce who is fit to apply for the Garda Commissioner’s job is Sgt McCabe.

Liam Power, San Pawl Il-Bahar, Malta



With yet another pillar of our democracy shaken to its core following the findings of the Guerin Report, the citizens of this Republic have every right to wonder what part of the 1916 Proclamation has been left untarnished.

However, the same selfless spirit that brought about this State, has not been fully destroyed by the avarice, corruption and incompetence that has marred so many levels of Irish society for too long.

Sgt Maurice McCabe, John Wilson and all the other whistleblowers who steadfastly refuse to be silenced, despite consistent attacks on their personal character and integrity, have held true to the ideals that secured us our democracy.

How ironic it is then, as we we plan to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising, that we punish the few who have not compromised on the principles it was built upon.

Adrienne Garvey, Pleasants Street, Dublin 8



If last week in Ireland had been a Hollywood movie, sometime early on Saturday morning we would have seen a John Wayne character riding out of town with the cattle drive.

But it wasn’t a movie. It was real life and it was a horror story – much worse than anything that Hollywood could ever throw up and I, for one, was extremely fearful that the baddies might win out this time.

Almost to the moment that the Guerin Report was released to the public, there was a battle in and around Leinster House with the heavy-hitters grabbing microphones to let the world know of the part that they played in righting the great wrongs of these times – as usual.

I have been in awe of the whistleblowers. I had begun to think that such strength in beliefs was only for fiction – and how they held their concentration and sanity I do not know.

To Sergeant Maurice McCabe and ex-Garda John Wilson I say thank you and offer the great words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”

Thank you, again for not doing nothing.

RJ Hanly, Screen, Co Wexford



We have all heard the phrases, “clothes maketh the man” and “dress to impress”. But, I’m afraid both these sayings are not ‘Shatterproof’ as the well manicured minister was discommoded by the jeans and T-shirt backbencher.

Between cover-ups/recorded phone calls/denials and then resignations, I believe I saw all this before on ‘Reeling in the Years’, only now it includes ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘The Pink Panther’.

Sean Kelly, Tramore, Waterford



It may come as a surprise to most people, but according to the latest Company Registration Office figures, over 511 companies have closed so far this year, representing a loss of 5,000 to 10,000 jobs.

No sign of Enda Kenny or Richard Bruton jostling for the photo opportunity at any of these calamitous life-changing events, where ordinary people suffer the loss of their jobs and livelihoods.

No succour for the entrepreneurs or small business owners, many of whom have been financially ruined and whose hopes and dreams have been destroyed, often as a direct result of counterproductive and relentless government austerity measures.

These closures represent the hidden and unsung reality of life in the trenches today, out of sight and away from the spin doctors and the PR consultants.

Nothing to spin here and no winners accept the new troika of liquidators, banks and lawyers.

For those unfortunates involved, it would appear that these apocalyptic business closures are just collateral irritants for a government devoid of empathy or vision.

Unbelievably, Michael Noonan is under orders and unapologetically hellbent on piling misery upon misery by extracting another two billion euro from the heart of the indigenous Irish economy in the next year.

When will they ever learn? Maybe sometime after the May 23 elections.

John Leahy, Cork



The top four in Eurovision on Saturday night were: Austria, Netherlands, Sweden, Armenia. Put aside the beard for a minute and focus instead on the fact that they were four outstanding songs performed by very accomplished professional singers.

No gimmicks, no fancy dance numbers, just good songs. RTE please take note. It’s time to up our game and attract the very best of Irish talent back to the contest. And that means ditching the formula of Celtic themes which, while successful in the 90s, are now tired and out of date.

Ken O’Sullivan, Ashbourne, Co Meath

Irish Independent


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