Who is Linda Marie Edwards? The political world and the entertainment world knows her as Linda McMahon, she is an American businesswoman and politician. She is currently the Republican nominee in the 2010 race for U.S. Senator from Connecticut.
With her husband Vince McMahon, she operated World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) from its establishment in 1980 until 2009. She was involved in management of the company.
In September 2009, McMahon stepped down from her position as CEO to launch a self-financed Senate campaign, on which she has stated a willingness to spend $50 million. She is campaigning on promises of fiscal conservatism, lower taxes, and job creation.
Early lifeMcMahon was born October 4, 1948  to Henry and Evelyn Edwards in New Bern, a city in Eastern North Carolina. She was an only child and grew up as a "jock", with interests in basketball and baseball. Her parents were both employees at the nearby Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, a military base. She was raised in a traditional, conservative family and attended Catholic Mass regularly. During one Mass, Edwards, at the age of 13, happened to meet Vince McMahon, then 16. Coincidentally, her mother worked in the same building as McMahon's mother, although neither had met before.
Vince's mother became good friends with the Edwards family, and Vince, who had lived with several abusive stepfathers, enjoyed the feeling of stability and love that he felt at the home. Edwards and Vince dated throughout their high school years. She attended Havelock High School and Vince attended nearby Fishburne Military School, Vince two years her senior. During this time, Vince was a "permanent fixture" at her home, spending hours with Linda and her family. He attended East Carolina University, studying business administration. Edwards was an Honors student in high school and had hopes of becoming a pediatrician. Shortly after her high school graduation, Vince asked her to marry him. They married on August 26, 1966, when she was 18. She enrolled at East Carolina University in 1966, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and gained certification to teach. From 1968-1971, Vince worked as a traveling cup salesman before joining his father's company, the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Linda graduated college in three years so she could graduate together with Vince, and in 1970 their son Shane was born, with daughter Stephanie following in 1976.
Gaithersburg, Maryland and Vince began working as an independent promoter with his father’s company, Capitol Wrestling, located in Washington, D.C. Linda took a job as a receptionist at the corporate law firm of Covington & Burling. At the firm, she translated French documents and trained as a paralegal in the probate department. Linda learned a great deal about intellectual property rights at the law firm, which she found very useful in her later career as a wrestling executive.
Financially, the couple fared poorly for several years, and in 1976, while pregnant with her daughter Stephanie, Linda filed for bankruptcy with her husband. At the time of bankruptcy the couple owed about $1,000,000. They also received food stamps.
By 1979 Vince had determined to start his own wrestling company, separate from his father. He purchased the Cape Cod Coliseum in Massachusetts and founded Titan Sports, Inc. in 1980. Vince and Linda held small hockey and sporting events in addition to wrestling at the Cape Cod Coliseum. At one point, Linda would cook meatball sandwiches to feed the fans at these sporting events. As the company grew, Linda assisted Vince with administrative duties and used her knowledge of intellectual property to assist in trademarking wrestler gimmicks for the company. However, during much of her husband's early career in the industry, Linda personally did not have much interest in professional wrestling.
In 1982, Vince McMahon purchased Capitol Wrestling, better known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation, from his father. This made Vince the owner of a large regional wrestling company, well-established in the Northeast. He later expanded his market — and created a national monopoly — by airing WWF shows on national television.
In 1983 the McMahons moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, where they continue to reside as of 2010[update].
World Wrestling Entertainment
CorporateOne of Linda’s major interests in WWE was product merchandising within the company. She negotiated many of the company’s business deals with outside vendors, establishing the company’s first line of action figures, Wrestling Superstars, in 1984. It was a first in the wrestling industry and helped expand the company’s popularity to children. She also was the primary negotiator for the Federation's TV deal with Viacom in 2000.
During an interview with the Detroit News, when asked what it was like being CEO in a "testosterone-charged industry", McMahon replied, "It's lots of fun. I'm an only child, so I grew up as my father's son and mother's daughter. I was quite a jock. I played baseball, basketball—I think that background made Vince and I very compatible. I really have a very good understanding of the male psyche—I'm very comfortable in a guy environment. I have to say that there are very strong women in this company as well. Our human resources division and our consumer goods division are headed by women—It's still a testosterone business, and I like it."
1992 ring boy affairIn February 1992, a young WWF employee came forward with allegations he was sexually molested by company executives. Tom Cole, who was hired by the company to set-up the wrestling ring, made charges that three of his superiors made sexual advances on him from the time he was only 13 years old. Cole was recruited by Mel Phillip, a ring announcer and ring supervisor who targeted young boys from broken homes for work in the ring crew. According to Cole, Mel Phillip fondled his feet sexually and when he refused to be handled by Mel, he was denied work. Cole also made claims that Terry Garvin attempted to seduce him, and that he was fired when he refused. Pat Patterson allegedly grabbed Cole's buttocks on one occasion.
When Cole made his accusations public, it became a widely-publicized scandal in 1992, and he was interviewed on Geraldo Rivera and the Phil Donahue Show. According to Cole, he was close to filing a multi-million dollar sexual harassment suit until Vince and Linda McMahon met privately with him and promised that Garvin, Phillip, and Patterson would be fired, with Vince persuading him to accept two years of back pay—roughly $55,000—and his job back while Linda comforted Cole and emotionally connected with him, saying he was like a "son" to her and offering to pay for his college education.
In 1992, Cole was re-hired and said he was given preferential treatment by the McMahons. Cole said that Linda encouraged him to share any information he had regarding the Federal steroid investigation. (Cole had received subpoenas from the Federal government) In 1993, Cole enrolled in college at the company's expense. However, after a year of failing grades, he was officially terminated in June 1993. After he filed for unemployment, Linda McMahon repeatedly challenged him at unemployment hearings with a company lawyer. Cole successfully received unemployment benefits from the company until 1995.
In 1993 and 1994, the McMahons filed libel suits against several media outlets which had published Cole's story.
1993–1994 steroid trialLinda became President of the WWF as a legal maneuver to save the company in 1993. At the time, Vince had been indicted on charges he distributed steroids to his wrestlers. Steroid usage was rampant in the wrestling industry during the 1980s, but after passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, it became an illicit substance. The Act, passed in 1988, made possession and distribution of anabolic steroids a federal crime. Federal drug enforcement agencies collected evidence on the WWF beginning in 1989, using undercover informants to learn of an ongoing drug ring inside the company. The FBI and FDA arrested the WWF’s staff doctor, George Zahorian, in May 1990, after months of undercover steroid purchases from him. On May 27, 1990, they put a microphone on informant William Dunn, a strength trainer from North Carolina, and recorded his conversation with Zahorian during a steroid transaction worth $7,000. After Dunn made his purchase, agents arrested Zahorian and charged him with drug distribution.
Zahorian received a trial in February 1991, faced with drug charges carrying up to 40 years in jail. His trial was widely publicized because wrestlers Brian Blair, Rick Martel, Roddy Piper, and Dan Spivey testified, saying they had purchased steroids from Zahorian after 1988. Billy Graham, who used steroids for many years, testified to buying steroids from Zahorian and said he became sterile, had liver problems, and suffered a degenerative bone disease as a result. Zahorian’s lawyer said he was the first doctor to be charged under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act and had no way of knowing the law had changed. He was found guilty in 1991 of 12 counts of drug distribution (8 for steroids, 4 for illegally-prescribed painkillers) and was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
In 1991, Vince announced that the company would begin testing its wrestlers for steroids. Two wrestlers, The British Bulldog and Chris Walker, were suspended in May 1992 for violating the policy. The World Bodybuilding Federation, a bodybuilding enterprise started by Vince, was entirely shut down as a result of ongoing steroid abuse. Vince was indicted in 1993 on steroid distribution charges. He was charged on evidence from Zahorian's case. During his trial, testimony from wrestlers and drug investigators proved that many of the WWF's top stars, including Hulk Hogan, were using steroids to enhance their physiques. Hogan admitted to using steroids during the trial, saying it had been a part of his training regimen for over 13 years, but Vince never encouraged him to use them. Because of Hogan's testimony, Vince was acquitted of all charges. The jury ruled that steroid use had been an individual choice, not a company policy.
Linda's tip-off memoDuring the trial, prosecutors revealed a 1989 memo Linda wrote to the company's Vice President, Pat Patterson. The memo directed Patterson to fire Zahorian and inform him of imminent legal charges.
|“||"Although you and I discussed before about continuing to have Zahorian at our events as the doctor on call, I think that is now not a good idea. Vince agreed, and would like for you to call Zahorian and to tell him not to come to any more of our events and to also clue him in on any action that the Justice Department is thinking of taking."||”|
Monday Night Wars
|“||...Ted Turner had...stolen a lot of our talent, or persuaded them to come over to his side of the fence...he was able to capitalize on the fact that we were going through a Federal trial, we had put into place a pretty significant drug policy which he refused to put into place so he had a lot of opportunity with some of our top stars, Hulk Hogan being one of them who went with him at that time.||”|
IPO and global expansion (1999)In 1999, the WWF was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, achieving an initial public offering (IPO) valued at $1 billion. This made it the first — and to date, the only — professional wrestling promotion traded in the global market. An article in Businessweek praised Linda for making the IPO possible, ranking the WWF at Number 3 of its 100 best small companies.
Following the IPO, McMahon mentioned plans to reinvest the company's earnings. Expansion efforts were started in foreign countries, television broadcasting, and integrated media. In November 1999, McMahon introduced three new Directors to the Executive Board—Lowell Weicker, David Kenin and Joe Perkins—to expand the company.
Federal steroids investigation (2007–2009)Following the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit in 2007, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigated steroid usage in the wrestling industry. The Committee investigated WWE and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), asking for documentation of their company drug policies. Linda and Vince were called in for testimony. The documents Linda and Vince provided stated that 75 wrestlers — roughly 40 percent — had tested positive for drug use since 2006, most commonly for steroids.
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman sent a scathing letter to the Office of National Drug Control Policy in January 2009 stating that drug use was "pervasive" in professional wrestling. Waxman left the issue unresolved when he left the Committee on January 3, 2009 to pursue a chairmanship in the United States House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Before leaving he sent a letter to then-drug czar John P. Walters, requesting that "ONDCP examine steroid use in professional wrestling and take appropriate steps to address this problem." Neither Walters nor his successor, Gil Kerlikowske, ever chose to pursue the matter. Waxman's own Committee, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, abandoned the issue after his departure.
Linda addressed why there had been no follow-up during a televised interview with CBS Face the State on January 20, 2010, saying, "There's not been any follow-up from any of the inquiries that were made because I believe we had furnished thousands of documents and testimony for them, and I think if they looked at our policy and really delved into it, they would be very satisfied."
PG rating (2008–present)In June 2008, WWE changed its TV Parental Guidelines rating from TV-14 to PG. In December 2008, at a UBS Media Conference, Linda described the new rating as a marketing strategy to attract a young generation of wrestling fans. She explained it as a way to create lasting loyalty to the brand, commonly called a "cradle to the grave" strategy.
In 2009 and 2010, older wrestling fans, who were long-accustomed to more realistic violence, sexual themes, vulgar language, and controversy, felt alienated by WWE's shows. Many of these fans turned to TNA or Ring of Honor (ROH) for edgier programming or stopped watching altogether. There has been speculation that McMahon devised the PG rating change in 2008 to improve the public image of WWE for her own personal gain.
On-screen rolesLinda often referred to the creative side of WWE as Vince's specialty, stating that she was primarily in the management team. During an interview with Fox News, she said that she often did not know what the storylines were in advance and watched wrestling as the general public did, seeing events unfold on television.
McMahon appeared on-screen many times, most actively in 1999 to 2001. Unlike her husband and children, Linda appears on-screen in a more neutral, rational, and selfless character. When she appeared on-screen, she often used her "power" to thwart the plans of her family or to punish a heel. However, in October 2005, she briefly turned heel to join with her "evil" family members.
McMahon first debuted on WWF TV during the Corporate Ministry storyline, on the May 3, 1999, episode of Raw to confront her son Shane's recent actions in the company and towards his father and sister. She soon feuded with Vince during the summer of 1999 after it emerged that Vince was the one behind daughter Stephanie's abduction.
In 2000, McMahon forced Triple H to defend the WWF Championship at WrestleMania 2000 in a "Fatal Four-Way Elimination match". She also re-instated Mick Foley (whom Triple H had forced into retirement) and acted as his manager at WrestleMania. At Backlash (April 30, 2000), she led referee Earl Hebner to ringside during a match between Triple H and The Rock, ultimately costing Triple H the WWF Championship.
In June 2000, Mick Foley returned to the WWF as Commissioner—with the blessing of McMahon. At the same time, Vince McMahon went on a hiatus, claiming that he had realized why McMahon was opposing him—she wanted another baby. Dubbing himself the "genetic jackhammer," Vince left for several months. He later returned and demanded a divorce. The following week, Vince was informed that McMahon had been rushed to the hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. With McMahon in a sanatorium, the Board of Directors appointed Vince as CEO on December 18, allowing him to fire Foley. With McMahon apparently comatose as a result of her breakdown and the sedatives that Vince had administered to her, Vince began having a very public affair with Trish Stratus.
As a result of the affair, Shane challenged Vince to a street-fight at WrestleMania X-Seven. Vince faced Shane with Foley as special guest referee. Stephanie and Linda were at ringside, and as Stephanie actively helped Vince in the match, Linda sat in her wheelchair, completely comatose. At the end of the match, however, Linda stood up, apparently no longer sedated, and kicked Vince in the groin, allowing Shane to defeat him. A week later, Linda resumed her duties as CEO and asked Vince for a divorce. She harassed Vince over the next few months, forcing Vince's chosen champion Steve Austin to defend the WWF Championship and supporting Shane and World Championship Wrestling, which he had just purchased. Vince and Linda would reconcile, however, in October 2001 when they realized that The Alliance of WCW and ECW (purchased by Stephanie) would attempt to destroy the WWF.
2002–2004On March 18, 2002, Linda announced the division of WWE into two brands ("Raw" and "SmackDown!") as a result of the rivalry between Vince and Ric Flair, who prior to the Invasion storyline had bought Shane's and Stephanie's shares in WWE to equal the power of Vince. On April 28, 2003, Linda confronted "Raw" General Manager Eric Bischoff after he booked Trish Stratus in a match with himself, where Stratus would be forced to sleep with Bischoff if she lost. To balance the presence of Bischoff, Linda appointed Steve Austin as the co-General Manager of Raw.
Linda accompanied her daughter Stephanie to ringside for her October 19, 2003 "I Quit" match at No Mercy. When Vince choked Stephanie with a pipe, Linda threw a towel into the ring, conceding defeat. On December 1, 2003, Linda once again re-instated Mick Foley, this time appointing him as an "Outside Consultant" to "Raw" in order to monitor Bischoff. Foley eventually resigned from his post during a heated feud with Randy Orton.
Linda's on-screen character turned heel for the first time on the October 10, 2005 episode of "Raw" when she "fired" commentator Jim Ross and delivered a low blow to him. She did not return to WWE television until WrestleMania 22, where she was seen in a backstage promo with the rest of the McMahons, who had joined Vince in a "prayer" (where they hoped Vince would defeat Shawn Michaels). Linda returned to Raw on August 13, 2007 and announced that she had, in storyline, kicked Vince out of her home due to his summons for an illegitimate child. The storyline featured Vince claiming that his family was "all about the money". On the taped episode of Raw that aired on September 3, 2007, Linda returned with Stephanie and Shane to confront Vince on Raw. On August 24, 2009, she appeared in front of a live crowd after RAW went off air to celebrate Vince's 64th birthday.
Linda was directly involved in the lobbying efforts of the WWF to deregulate the wrestling industry in New Jersey. In 1989, State Senator Francis McManimon introduced a deregulation bill after being lobbied by the WWF. The bill removed the restrictions placed by the state's Athletic Control Board, which were more strict than those in neighboring states. Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed a bipartisan bill into law on March 18, 1997 that deregulated professional wrestling. The bill recognized professional wrestling as a form of entertainment, not a sport, removing it from the State Athletic Control Board's regulations. The deregulation law removed a $100,000 media tax for staging televised events and eliminated the need for physical examinations of wrestlers before events. During the '80s, the WWF successfully pushed for deregulation in Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. By 2000, less than half the 50 states had athletic regulations on the wrestling industry.
During Linda's 30-year involvement with the company, WWE classified its wrestlers as independent contractors rather than employees. The classification difference spared the company from providing Social Security, Medicare contributions, and unemployment insurance for its wrestlers. Linda, as CEO and co-founder, had been a supporter of the policy. McMahon has defended the company and its treatment of wrestlers, saying WWE provides lucrative contracts, merchandising deals, royalty payments and appearance fees unheard of in the wrestling industry. Although the company does not provide health coverage, it pays for treatment of work-related injuries. WWE also offers educational seminars to wrestlers interested in purchasing health insurance and managing their finances.
Under Linda's tenure, WWE became one of the largest recipients of special tax credits for film and TV production granted by the State of Connecticut.
Get R.E.A.L.Linda launched the company's GET REAL program to deliver positive messages about education to young adults. The program encourages literacy through Public Service Announcements, posters, and bookmarks featuring wrestling superstars. Since 2006, thousands of posters featuring WWE superstars have been distributed to libraries and reading facilities each year.
SmackDown! Your Vote campaignLinda initiated WWE's non-partisan voter-registration campaign, "SmackDown! Your Vote", in August 2000. The campaign specifically targeted the 18-to-30 year-old voter demographic, making use of online marketing, public service announcements, and youth voting partnerships. The campaign, which registered 150,000 new voters during the 2000 election, was started in coalition with MTV's Choose or Lose, Project Vote Smart, and Youth Vote 2000. As of the 2008 election, it listed fourteen different partners in its voter registration efforts. During the 2008 Presidential election, Smackdown your Vote! registered many voters online, often in affiliation with Rock The Vote.
Special OlympicsLinda and her husband have been strong supporters of the Special Olympics since 1986. Linda first cultivated an interest in the Olympics during a friendship with NBC producer Dick Ebersol and Susan Saint James, who encouraged them to join in the mid-1980s. Linda met Lowell Weicker, whose son is developmentally-disabled, through the Special Olympics. In 1995, as Governor of Connecticut, Weicker appointed Linda McMahon to the Governor's Council for the World Special Olympics.
McMahon became a member of the Board of Trustees of Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, Connecticut) in November 2004. She supports many organizations, including the USO, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, the Starlight Foundation, and Community Mayors. In 2005, she won appointment to The Make-A-Wish Foundation of America National Advisory Council and received the Arthur M. Sackler Award from the Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra for WWE's support of its arts education program. McMahon is also responsible for the creation of WWE's Get R.E.A.L. educational and literacy programs and WWE's SmackDown! Your Vote! campaign.
On January 29, 2007, Multichannel News named McMahon to its class of "Wonder Women" for 2007. The award recognized her outstanding contributions to the cable and telecommunications industries. In May 2007, she appeared as the keynote speaker at the Girl Scout Council of Southwestern Connecticut’s Women of Achievement Leadership Breakfast. As a former Girl Scout herself, she encouraged all Girl Scouts to improve their communities.
Under her leadership, WWE was the recipient of the USO of Metropolitan Washington's first ever “Legacy of Hope” award for its extensive support of our troops and the USO's Operation Care Package program. In 2007, the company received the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award for its support of deployed service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2008, the company received the GI Film Festival's Corporate Patriot Award.
Connecticut Board of EducationMcMahon was appointed to the state Board of Education by Governor Jodi Rell in January 2009. Many political observers questioned the choice of McMahon, especially because of her lack of political experience. Linda went through a confirmation process in the Connecticut State Assembly, where she was questioned on her record as CEO of WWE. She said that education had always been a passion of hers, but her marriage to Vince "changed the course of her life and professional career". She mentioned youth-oriented programs she started as CEO, including the GET R.E.A.L. Program and Smackdown! Your Vote; she stated: "I am proud that as WWE has grown, we have been able to undertake programs to encourage young people to read, be productive members of their community, support our men and women in the community, and vote in greater numbers."
The State Senate approved her nomination by a vote of 34-1 and the House by 96-45, with some opponents expressing concerns that the nature of her WWE activities would send the wrong message, and state representative Bruce Morris claiming she lacked "depth of knowledge regarding education".
On April 1, 2010, McMahon resigned from the State Board of Education, as state law did not allow board members to solicit campaign contributions.
2010 U.S. Senate campaign
On September 16, 2009, McMahon announced her candidacy for U.S. Senator from Connecticut. She made headlines when she revealed she would spend up to $50 million of her own money to self-finance her campaign. She ran for the Republican nomination, campaigning on promises of lower taxes, fiscal conservatism, and job creation. She hired a strong campaign staff, and delivered polished speeches that some criticized as being too scripted. Her mail, radio, television, and Internet advertisements quickly gained name recognition and strong poll numbers over her opponents.McMahon's spending became a key argument of one of her rivals, former Congressman Rob Simmons, who accused her many times of "buying the election". McMahon and Simmons engaged in a frequently bitter campaign. At the party convention, McMahon received the most support, but Simmons received enough votes to qualify for the ballot for the August 10 primary, although he has not been actively campaigning. In late July – two weeks before the primary – however, Simmons began to re-enter the active campaign by airing ads on TV reminding voters that his name will still be on the ballot, participating in debates, and accepting interviews with editorial boards. A third candidate, Peter Schiff, qualified for the primary ballot by submitting enough petition signatures. McMahon was the winner of the August 10th primary, and will go on to face Richard Blumenthal in the general election.
Political positionsLinda McMahon has made fiscal conservatism a centerpiece of her campaign. She opposes the 2009 stimulus act, saying the money from the stimulus "went into government agencies, not the hands of small businesses that are going to create 70% of jobs." McMahon has also denounced deficit spending, expressing support for a Constitutional balanced budget amendment. McMahon blamed Democrats for not reclaiming unspent money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the bailout package, saying the money should be used to repay government debts. She also charges the Executive Branch of evading the system of checks and balances through the use of "policy czars" and executive orders.
McMahon accuses the Federal Reserve of "micromanaging" small banks through the stimulus programs and calls for an end to bank bailout practices. McMahon believes that the U.S. financial crisis could be attributed in part to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, and has asked that Congress revisit the issue. She has stated many times that small businesses are responsible for job creation, and believes the government is creating obstacles to an economic recovery. She advocates for greater availability of credit so businesses can gain investment capital.
On April 7, McMahon's campaign unveiled a jobs plan to "put Connecticut back to work." The plan was modeled closely to Reaganomics, crediting Dr. John Rutledge, who wrote many of Reagan's policies in 1980-81, as a Chief Economic Adviser to the McMahon campaign. Proposals in the plan include:
- tax reductions on capital gains and dividends
- abolition of the estate tax and the gift tax
- greater tax deductions to encourage savings for IRAs and higher education
- passage of pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea
- government deregulation, rejecting cap and trade and card check legislation
McMahon considers herself socially moderate. She is pro-choice, and has donated to a pro-choice Republican Political Action Committee. She does not support partial birth abortions and favors parental notification laws. McMahon is opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants and supports border security. She also supports fixing the visa application process to encourage legal immigration. She is generally supportive of gay rights, supporting a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. She personally feels that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but favors state authority on the issue of same-sex marriage. McMahon has voiced displeasure with federal statutes on same-sex marriage, such as the Defense of Marriage Act.
On foreign policy, McMahon is generally neo-conservative. McMahon has expressed support for Barack Obama's strategy in Afghanistan, saying though she was "apprehensive about the economic repercussions of a protracted war", his troop increases were justified because of "the risks inherent in allowing Afghanistan to become a safe haven for the Taliban and a launching pad for additional al-Qaeda attacks." During a Republican debate, she took a "hawkish" stance on Iran, saying all options should be on the table, including the military
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