Russ Roberts

Agriculture and Food Podcast Episodes and Extras

Category Archive with 34 podcast episodes and extras
 

Podcast episode Alex Guarnaschelli on Food

EconTalk Episode with Alex Guarnaschelli
Hosted by Russ Roberts

chef%20kitchen.jpg Alex Guarnaschelli, Food Channel star and chef at Butter in midtown Manhattan, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what it's like to run a restaurant, the challenges of a career in cooking, her favorite dishes, her least favorite dishes, and what she cooked to beat Bobby Flay.

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You Are What You Eat

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

chicken farm.jpg How much do you think about where your food comes from? What concerns drive the choices you make? In this week's episode, host Russ Roberts welcomes Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel for a fascinating conversation about the food we eat, the trade-offs we make, and the judgments about others that seem to follow.

Now it's your turn. As you know, we're all about conversation here, and there's a lot to talk about this week! So share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and/or start your own conversation offline. (Though of course we'd love to hear about that, too!)

1. What does Roberts mean when he says we don't want to think much about our food? To what extent do you think that's true, and why? What implications does this have for our diets? Our culture? The environment?

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Podcast episode Tamar Haspel on Food Costs, Animal Welfare, and the Honey Bee

EconTalk Episode with Tamar Haspel
Hosted by Russ Roberts

honey%20bees.jpg Tamar Haspel, who writes "Unearthed," a column on food and agriculture at the Washington Post, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a wide variety of issues related to the cost of food and how it's produced. Topics discussed include why technology helps make some foods inexpensive, how animals are treated, the health of the honey bee, and whether eggs from your backyard taste any better than eggs at the grocery.

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Podcast episode Gary Taubes on the Case Against Sugar

EconTalk Episode with Gary Taubes
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Case-Against-Sugar.jpg Sugar appears to have no nutritional value. But is it more than just empty calories? Is it actually bad for us? Author and journalist Gary Taubes talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his latest book, The Case Against Sugar. Taubes argues that there is substantial circumstantial evidence suggesting that sugar is the underlying cause of a host of modern health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Taubes concedes the evidence is not iron-clad or definitive and reflects along the way on the intellectual and personal challenges of holding a strong view in the face of significant skepticism.

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Should we fear?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

Should we fear the influence of technology on our food supply? If not, can we still celebrate the role of technology while still eating unpalatable test-tube burgers? In this week's episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts chats with agricultural economist Jayson Lusk about his newest book, Unnaturally Delicious: How Science and Technology are Serving Up Superfoods to Save the World.

We all eat, and we all think about what we eat...So let's hear your thoughts. What drives your decisions about what to eat? What do you worry about when you think about the food you consume? Use the prompts below...or pose your own questions...And let's keep the conversation going!

science burger.jpg

1. What foods do you not eat, and why? Are your reasons based on morality? Religion? Concern for the environment? Health and wellness?

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Podcast episode Jayson Lusk on Food, Technology, and Unnaturally Delicious

EconTalk Episode with Jayson Lusk
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Unnaturally%20Delicious.jpg How bad is pink slime? Are free-range chickens happier? Can robots cook? Jayson Lusk of Oklahoma State University and the author of Unnaturally Delicious talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about these questions and more from his new book. Lusk explores the wide-ranging application of technology to farming, cooking, protein production, and more.

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Peanut Butter, Pasta, and Relative Prices

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

EconTalk host Russ Roberts once again delved into the world of charity this week, chatting with the University of Chicago's Canice Prendergrast about an innovative allocation scheme he and a group of economists developed for Feeding America.

food fight2.jpg 1. Several times Prendergrast notes how the Feeding America served to educate all those involved. Speaking of the food bank managers, he says it was "not hard to educate them on the benefits of choice." At the same time, some managers were uneasy with using prices and an auction to determine the allocation of food. How did the structure of the system implemented by Prendergast and his team resolve this tension?

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Podcast episode Canice Prendergast on How Prices Can Improve a Food Fight (and Help the Poor)

EconTalk Episode with Canice Prendergast
Hosted by Russ Roberts

If you have 250 million tons of food to give away every year to local food banks how should you do it? Canice Prendergast of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how he and a team of economists created an artificial currency and a daily auction for the national food bank Feeding America so that local food banks could bid on the types of food that were the most valuable to them. Prendergast explains the results of the new system and the cultural and practical challenges of bringing prices, even artificial ones, to a world accustomed to giving things away.

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We Know How to Make it Worse.

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

(So why don't we stop?)

If the poor aren't poor because they lack stuff, then why are they? And more importantly, what can we do about it? Michael Matheson Miller, director of the award-winning documentary Poverty, Inc., sat down with EconTalk host Russ Roberts to explore just that. He argues that we've been asking the wrong questions all along.

What did you think? Let's continue our conversation about these ideas.

1. Has this conversation changed the way you think about any particular poverty alleviation programs (TOMS shoes, NGOs, etc.)? Which one(s), and why? What might you do differently going forward, and why?

rice2.jpg

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Podcast episode Michael Matheson Miller on Poverty, Inc

EconTalk Episode with Michael Matheson Miller
Hosted by Russ Roberts


Michael Matheson Miller of the Acton Institute and the Director of the documentary Poverty, Inc., talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his award-winning documentary on the barriers facing the poor around the world. Topics discussed include the incentives facing poverty-fighting NGOs and their staff, the importance of secure and well-defined property rights, and the costs and benefits of agricultural aid.

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Podcast episode Yuval Harari on Sapiens

EconTalk Episode with Yuval Harari
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Sapiens.jpg Yuval Harari of Hebrew University and author of Sapiens talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history of humanity. Topics discussed include the move from hunting and gathering to agriculture, the role of fiction in sustaining imagination, the nature of money, the impact of empires and the synergies between empires and science.

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Lynxes, and Soybeans, and Bears, Oh My!

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

When you think about "high-tech," you tend to think about your electronic devices, silicon chips, the Internet...But what about nature? How much do bears, deer, and whales owe to technology?

This week's EconTalkepisode with Jesse Ausubel is a whirlwind of food, transportation, wilderness, and more. There's a lot to think about, and we know you doing just that! So please share your thoughts based on the prompts below in the Comments, and let's continue the conversation.

tree hugger2.jpg

1. Ausubel claims that if the world shifted to a more plant-centric diet, this would be better for the land. Roberts points to the paleo craze, which seems to dampen this possibility. How might prices play in role in encouraging one or the other? Consider the price of soybeans, the price of animal protein and the price of land used for one or the other.

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Podcast episode Jesse Ausubel on Agriculture, Technology, and the Return of Nature

EconTalk Episode with Jesse Ausubel
Hosted by Russ Roberts

city whale.jpg Thousands of bears in New Jersey. Humpback whales near New York City. Acres devoted to farming stable or declining even as food production soars. Jesse Ausubel of the Rockefeller University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the return of nature. Ausubel shows how technology has reduced many of the dimensions of the human footprint even as population rises and why this trend is likely to continue into the future. The conversation concludes with Ausubel's cautious optimism about the impact of climate change.

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Haute Cuisine pour Vous?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis

In an age of abundance, how does the way we think about food differ from the past? This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed historian Rachel Laudan for a fascinating conversation about the history, culture, and economics of food.

We'd like to see their conversation expand here. Please share your thoughts on the prompts below in the Comments. As always, we love to hear from you. burger2.jpg

1. What was the most interesting thing you took from this week's episode? Explain.

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Podcast episode Rachel Laudan on the History of Food and Cuisine

EconTalk Episode with Rachel Laudan
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Cuisine and Empire2.jpg Rachel Laudan, visiting scholar at the University of Texas and author of Cuisine and Empire, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history of food. Topics covered include the importance of grain, the spread of various styles of cooking, why French cooking has elite status, and the reach of McDonald's. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the appeal of local food and other recent food passions.

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Podcast episode Summer Brennan on Wilderness, Politics and the Oyster War

EconTalk Episode with Summer Brennan
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Oyster War.jpg Summer Brennan, author of The Oyster War, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her book and the fight between the Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the federal government over farming oysters in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Along the way they discuss the economics of oyster farming, the nature of wilderness, and the challenge of land use in national parks and seashores.

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Podcast episode Roger Berkowitz on Fish, Food, and Legal Sea Foods

EconTalk Episode with Roger Berkowitz
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Seafood is highly perishable and supply is often uncertain. Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Sea Foods talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenges of running 34 seafood restaurants up and down the east coast. Berkowitz draws on his 22 year tenure as CEO and discusses how his business works day-to-day and the question of sustainability.

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Sumner Follow-up

EconTalk Extra
by Russ Roberts

The Continuing Education entry for last week's episode with Dan Sumner asked the following two questions for you to respond to:

1. Mancur Olsen and Gary Becker argue that small groups have greater political power than larger ones, which seems counter-intuitive, as they would muster less influence (fewer votes and less money). Explain why it would be the case that their political influence would increase. Roberts notes that over recent decades, the agriculture industry has become increasingly concentrated into smaller number but larger firms. To what extent has this borne out Olsen and Becker? What does this suggest about the political power of agriculture going forward?

2. How do crop insurance programs differ from direct payment subsidies, according to Sumner? How do the effects (intended and unintended) of each type of program compare? What was Greg Page's case for his support of the switch in the 2014 farm bill from the latter to the former. What do you think Sumner would say in response to Page about which is preferable?

Everyone chose the first question--why are small interest groups relatively powerful. You'd think they'd be irrelevant. They have fewer votes to offer and potentially less money.

Rick Groves got off on the right track when he noted:

Invariably, the interests of larger groups are more complex, nuanced, and diffuse. Small groups can sustain a clear, consistent set of requests that can be addressed directly and engaged with more reliably.
A listener named Warren got to the heart of the matter by pointing out that political lobbying has a collective-action problem--it's tempting to let another peanut farmer do the lobbying and work because you might get the benefits, anyway. Smaller groups find it easier to overcome this problem, as Warren argues:
The smaller the collective action group, the more likely that the group will be able to overcome the collective action problem. (1) Because in a smaller group it is easier to monitor as to whether or not people are able to be free-riders and to then introduce some kind of mechanism to encourage them to join the collective enterprise. And (2) smaller groups will find it easier to organize politically. The farming lobby, being very small in proportion to the public as a whole, are much easier to organize politically than the whole public. Therefore, the farming lobby is able to impose negative externalities on the general population at large. We have a government failure generated by structural incentives within the political process.
The only thing missing here is the relevant jargon, which is "transaction costs." Smaller groups have lower transaction costs and while they may have fewer resources than larger groups, their incentives to employ those resources politically and their ability to encourage the employment of those resources politically are larger than for small groups. To take a simple example, crop insurance of $20 billion per year costs the average American about $60. That amount is so small that most Americans are unaware of it. And if you are aware of it, how much time are you willing to spend to stop that from happening? Not so much. It's just not worth it. But if you are a farmer who gets tens of thousands of dollars from the program, you will be very interested in the program, eager to help politicians who implement the program, and eager to coordinate with your fellow farmers to make it happen. From the New Republic summary of the most recent farm bill:
Referring to beneficiaries as "farmers" underplays how giant agribusinesses really benefit from subsidized crop insurance. There have traditionally been no limits to premium support, meaning the richest businesses reap the most benefits. A provision from Sen. Tom Coburn to reduce payouts for farmers with over $750,000 in income was stripped from the final bill, despite passing the Senate twice. The Environmental Working Group, a critic of crop insurance, estimates that 10,000 policyholders receive over $100,000 a year in subsidies annually, with some receiving over $1 million, while the bottom 80 percent of farmers, the mom-and-pop operations, collect only $5,000 annually. These are educated guesses, because under current law, the names of individual businesses receiving support are kept secret, a provision maintained in the new farm bill. The House version included a measure that would disclose which members of Congress receive subsidies, but that was dropped.

So congrats to Rick Groves and to Warren for doing an excellent job.




This week, Roberts spoke with agriculture & resource economist Daniel Sumner on the history, winners, and losers of U.S. agricultural subsidies from the New Deal to today. Now we'd like to go deeper and see what you took from this week's conversation.

Choose one of the questions below and submit your response (250 words or less, please) via email to mail@econtalk.org by midnight on Sunday, February 15. Put "Sumner Extra" in the subject line. We'll post some of your responses at EconTalk so we can continue the conversation.

agri-bus2.jpg

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Podcast episode Daniel Sumner on the Political Economy of Agriculture

EconTalk Episode with Daniel Sumner
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Daniel Sumner of the University of California talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about agricultural subsidies in the United States, the winners and losers from those subsidies, and how the structure of subsidies has changed from the New Deal to the present. Sumner also explains how American policies have affected foreign farmers.

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Podcast episode Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Precautionary Principle and Genetically Modified Organisms

EconTalk Episode with Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile, Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a recent co-authored paper on the risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of the Precautionary Principle. Taleb contrasts harm with ruin and explains how the differences imply different rules of behavior when dealing with the risk of each. Taleb argues that when considering the riskiness of GMOs, the right understanding of statistics is more valuable than expertise in biology or genetics. The central issue that pervades the conversation is how to cope with a small non-negligible risk of catastrophe.

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Podcast episode Greg Page on Food, Agriculture, and Cargill

EconTalk Episode with Greg Page
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Greg Page, former CEO of Cargill, the largest privately-held company in America, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the global food supply and the challenges of running a company with employees and activity all over the world. Page talks about the role of prices in global food markets in signaling information and prompting changes in response to those signals. Other topics include government's role in agriculture, the locavore movement and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

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Podcast episode Jeffrey Sachs on the Millennium Villages Project

EconTalk Episode with Jeffrey Sachs
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and the Millennium Villages Project talks with EconTalk host about poverty in Africa and the efforts of the Millennium Villages Project to fight hunger, disease, and illiteracy. The project tries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a set of poor African villages using an integrated strategy fighting hunger, poverty, and disease. In this lively conversation, Sachs argues that this approach has achieved great success so far and responds to criticisms from development economists and Nina Munk in her recent EconTalk interview.

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Podcast episode Wally Thurman on Bees, Beekeeping, and Coase

EconTalk Episode with Wally Thurman
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Wally Thurman of North Carolina State University and PERC talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the world of bees, beekeepers, and the market for pollination. Thurman describes how farmers hire beekeepers to pollinate their crops and how that market keeps improving crop yields and producing honey. Thurman then discusses how beekeepers have responded to Colony Collapse Disorder--a not fully understood phenomenon where colonies disband, dramatically reducing the number of bees. The discussion closes with the history of bee pollination as an example of a reciprocal externality and how Coase's insight helps understand how the pollination market works.

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Podcast episode Munger on Milk

EconTalk Episode with Mike Munger
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Mike Munger of Duke University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about why milk is in the back of the grocery store. Michael Pollan and others argue that milk is in the back so that customers, who often buy milk, will be forced to walk through the entire story and be encouraged by the trek to buy other items. Munger and Roberts argue that competition encourages stores to serve customers and that alternative explanations explain where milk is found in the store. The conversation also discusses restaurant pricing, government "nudging" and related issues of grocery economics.

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Podcast episode Narlikar on Fair Trade and Free Trade

EconTalk Episode with Amrita Narlikar
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Amrita Narlikar of the University of Cambridge talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about fair trade and policy issues related to trade. Narlikar argues--based on a recent article with Dan Kim--that the Fair Trade movement hurts workers outside of the fair trade umbrella and does little for those it is trying to help. She advocates free trade, particularly the elimination of agricultural subsidies in the developed world and the best way to help workers in poor nations. Drawing on a recent article with Jagdish Bhagwati, she criticizes the international response to recent deaths in Bangladesh factories. In the last part of the conversation, she defends the World Trade Organization.

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Podcast episode Lisa Turner on Organic Farming

EconTalk Episode with Lisa Turner
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Lisa Turner of Laughing Stock Farm talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about life as a small organic farmer. She describes her working day, the challenges of farming, the role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in her life and what some job applicants who want to work on her farm need to understand about business.

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Podcast episode Cowen on Food

EconTalk Episode with Tyler Cowen
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Tyler Cowen of George Mason U. and author of An Economist Gets Lunch, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about food, the economics of food, and his new book. In this wide-ranging conversation, Cowen explains why American food was once a wasteland, the environmental impacts of plastic and buying local, why to stay away from fancy restaurants in the central city, and why he spent a month shopping only at an Asian supermarket while living in Northern Virginia.

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Podcast episode O'Donohoe on Potato Chips and Salty Snacks

EconTalk Episode with Brendan O'Donohoe
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Brendan O'Donohoe of Frito-Lay talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about how potato chips and other salty snacks get made, distributed, and marketed. The interview follows an hour-long tour of a local supermarket where O'Donohoe showed Roberts some of the ways that chips and snacks get displayed and marketed in a modern supermarket. The conversation is a window into a world that few of us experience or are even aware of--how modern producers and retailers make sure the shelves are stocked and their products get noticed.

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Podcast episode Nye on Wine, War and Trade

EconTalk Episode with John Nye
Hosted by Russ Roberts

John Nye of George Mason University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about his book, War, Wine, and Taxes. The conversation covers the history of Britain and France's trade policy, why the British drink beer and why Ricardo's example of Britain trading wool for Portuguese wine is bizarre. Nye turns the traditional story on its head--he argues that France was more of a free trader than Britain and that the repeal of the Corn Laws was not the dividing line between Britain's protectionist past and free trade future. At the end of the discussion, Nye emphasizes the importance of domestic free trade for economic growth.

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Podcast episode Bernstein on the History of Trade

EconTalk Episode with William Bernstein
Hosted by Russ Roberts

William Bernstein talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the history of trade. Drawing on the insights from his recent book, A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, Bernstein talks about the magic of spices, how trade in sugar explain why Jews ended up in Manhattan, the real political economy of the Boston Tea Party and the demise of the Corn Laws in England. The discussion closes with the political economy of trade today and the interaction between trade and income inequality.

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Podcast episode Karol Boudreaux on Property Rights and Incentives in Africa

EconTalk Episode with Karol Boudreaux
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Karol Boudreaux, Senior Research Fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her field work and research in Rwanda and South Africa. In Rwanda, she studied how a change in incentives and property rights for coffee farmers has allowed the coffee bean growers to improve quality and prosper. In South Africa's Langa Township, she looked at how renters were allowed to become homeowners and how the ability to own changed their lives.

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Podcast episode Munger on Fair Trade and Free Trade

EconTalk Episode with Mike Munger
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Munger.jpgMike Munger, frequent guest and longtime Econlib contributor, speaks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about fair trade coffee and free trade agreements. Does the premium for fair trade coffee end up in the hands of the grower? What economic forces might stop that from happening? They discuss the business strategy of using higher wages as a marketing strategy to attract concerned consumers. They turn to the issue of free trade agreements. If the ideal situation is open borders to foreign products, is it still worthwhile to negotiate bilateral and multilateral agreements that requires delays, exemptions and a bureaucracy to enforce? What is the cost of including environmental and various labor market regulations in these agreements?

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Podcast episode Engerman on Slavery

EconTalk Episode with Stanley Engerman
Hosted by Russ Roberts

Stanley Engerman of the University of Rochester talks about slavery throughout world history, the role it played (or didn't play) in the Civil War and the incentives facing slaves and slave owners. This is a wide-ranging, fascinating conversation with the co-author of the classic Time on the Cross (co-authored with Robert Fogel) and the forthcoming Slavery, Emancipation, and Freedom (LSU Press, 2007). Engerman knows as much as anyone alive about the despicable human arrangement called slavery and the vastness and precision of his knowledge is on display in this interview.

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