(U. S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

Lt. Commander Rorke Denver has spent 13 years as a platoon commander and training leader with the Navy SEALs, the country’s top special operations force. He has led hostage rescue, counterinsurgency and counter-narcotics operations all over the world, and starred as a Navy SEAL in the film “Act of Valor.” He joins us to discuss his new book, “Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior,” and what it takes to make it through SEAL boot camp and on top secret missions.

Damn Few by Rorke Denver by Hyperion Books

Guests:
Lt. Commander Rorke Denver, former Navy SEAL, author of "Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior," and actor in "Act of Valor"

  • Leonard

    Which military unit was it that murdered Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings in LA recently and made it look like a bizarre car accident?

    Which military unit was it that murdered Aaron Swartz, defender of Internet freedom, and made it look like a suicide?

    Which military unit was it that murdered the DC Madam on behalf of Dick Cheney, who was a woman with a Master’s degree and who said repeatedly she would never commit suicide, and made it look like a suicide?

    Which military unit was it that murdered JFK Jr and his wife and her sister, by forcing their plane to nose dive directly into the water, and made it look like an accident?

    http://www.news.com.au/world-news/reporter-michael-hastings-sent-panicky-email-hours-before-sudden-car-crash-death/story-fndir2ev-1226669297371

    • Ayn Marx 666`

      Which? Why, the same military unit that killed Andrew Breitbart and made it look like a heart-attack—there were plenty of people more obese and unhealthy than he! who didn’t drop dead that day—and dumped the bodies of victims of a previous plane-crash on the Pentagon to cover up a rocket attack. This same unit guards the secret labs at Ft Detrick where government scientists developed HIV, even though it doesn’t cause AIDS.

      It’s no surprise that no soldier has talked about this—it’s not like soldiers were ever known for loose tongues and drunken bragging to get status or women (or guys)….

      (I admire skepticism of the Official Story, but I wish some people were equally skeptical of the presented alternatives, much as I dislike people’s running away from priests to whole-heartedly fall for gurus….)

      • Carter

        HIV is not man-made. It’s a virus descended from SIV, which infects monkeys. There is also a cat variant. Lyme disease however was man-made by one of those Názi scientists that were imported to the USA after WW2.

        • Ehkzu

          I see the loons are out.

          • asdfa

            Oh my ehkzu !
            You can really think for yourself! Not…

  • thucy

    Does Mr. Denver consider his counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency “operations” to have been even moderately effective? (Or is that “top-secret”?)

    It appears that we’ve lost the “war on drugs”. It also appears that we shot our money off, and thousands of US lives, in the “war on terror” without much result.

    So why, exactly, is Mr. Denver worthy of the media attention he seeks? He seems like the poster boy for clueless American foreign policy.

  • geraldfnord

    I thank Lt Denver for his service, and am in awe of his likely training and capabilities, but [you knew that that ‘but’ were coming]:

    I see the need for élite teams, but with so few of us serving (guilty), I worry about anything that may, though true in itself, create a very distorted picture of military service.

    I understand and feel the lure of concentrating on élite “warriors”, but it distracts the public from the usual nature of war as I have understood it from veterans of my father’s day—soldiers told to go somewhere and do something in large numbers and with self-direction tolerated only to the extent that it were absolutely necessary—and I’m afraid that the mædia’s emphasis on the élite is intentional on the part of military and political leaders…as well as it being an inherently much more exciting story (‘taking down a high-value target’ is much more interesting than ‘hurry up and wait’ and ‘grunts shooting at other grunts for days or weeks or months’).

    I will point out that in the Second World War, one side prized heroism and high-tech solutions above everything except racial purity, the other side prized the well-coördinated actions of well-supplied millions of ordinary (mostly) men using rugged and simpler tech…war is surely not the same as back then, but I think there is an irreducible core that doesn’t make for a pretty story, but is real.

    • Ehkzu

      It’s been a long time, but the war movies of Sam Fuller, like “The steel helmet,” talk about exactly what you’re looking for. And while it’s kind of twisted, so does “Full metal jacket” by Stanley Kubrick.

      • thucy

        You watch war movies, but something tells me you never served. Is it all just homoerotic fantasy for you?

        • Tyranipocrit

          what is your point? Must he serve?

  • thucy

    Mr. Denver speaks of “damned few” as “the few that survived battle”

    Isn’t it more dangerous being a commercial fisherman than an “elite” seal? Who takes on more risk and requires more courage – the hospice nurse sent unarmed (except for her decency) into a home in the projects, or Denver and his obscenely armed Seal team members.

  • thucy

    Mr. Denver says: “War is love”?
    With respect to the traditions of Homer’s Iliad, Mr. Denver is in Orwell territory.

    • Carter

      Either that or he’s a loopy narcissist who watches the 300 movie while naked and oiled-up.

      • Ehkzu

        I guess one cheap shot like thucy’s deserves another like yours. But do feel free to migrate to a country that has no military to defend it.

        • thucy

          You’re defining a demand for accountability as “reflexive anti-militarism”.
          They are distinct.

        • Tyranipocrit

          okay–and i will show you a country that has tnear the highest standard of living in the world. America is one of the lowest.

      • Alyssa

        If I watch movies naked while oiled up am I a narcissist? Oh dear.

        • asdfa

          That would be illogical.

          Premise A: Person is a loopy narcissist.
          Premise B: They watch 300 while naked and oiled-up sometime or other.

          So, A implies B, and NOT B implies NOT A, but B does not imply A.

  • Jeremy

    You all need to stop being so dang pessimistic and be thankful that there are men like this. Ok, is the government perfect. No, they are not. Are you perfect though? Be thankful to live in a country where you have a choice. I am not saying that everything our country decides is correct. You’re still going about your business. Why don’t you take a few minutes to reflect on the positives instead of being so pessimistic. People are so quick to place judgement, and they forget to look in the mirror. Be thankful that you have the opportunity to live in a great nation and be quite. Thank you Mr. Denver for the hard work and sacrifice you put into this great nation!!!

    • thucy

      Mr. Denver can’t even tell you who he’s killed – he should be celebrated for this?

      Total nonsensical macho violence, exalted as a kind of circle-jerk, with no respect for the civilians killed.

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      And that kind of “secret
      operation” garbage is exactly what our Founding Fathers warned against.
      But do tell us about YOUR military service and sacrifice, Eckzu. Or are
      you so gung-ho because you never served?

    • Tyranipocrit

      “Be quite”–seriously. You’re are telling us to shut up. Not very democratic. It makes everything you say absolutely BS. The country is great for you as long as people think the way you do. navy seals work for the 1%–not for democracy. They are killers.

      What you see as a bad guy does not give you the right to kill–that is not the a civil society under the rule of law.

      America is the bad guy. If an alien civilization came to earth what would they see? Honestly. If you think seals or the American empire are the good guys you know NOTHING about the world or American policy.

      Listening to this guy talk makes me sick. So arrogant. OOh I am such a man. I’m so tough. Really? get over it man, nobody smart cares. Just people with low IQ and few morals.

  • thucy

    Former Atty General Eliot Spitzer, who fearlessly took on Wall Street entirely alone and unsupported by the SEC, showed more courage, and more patriotism, than Mr. Denver with his Hollywood-courting murder-for-hire SEAL outfit, which rarely IF EVER operates alone. Spitzer’s no angel, but he looks like a saint compared to this load of marketing hype.

    Let’s recognize REAL heroes, who stood up for REAL American values, not hired thugs who put a patina of “honor” over their disrespect for due process.

    When will you account for the civilian deaths you caused, Mr. Denver?

    • Carter

      Spitzer is more of an angel than the Secret Service schmucks who got serviced by prostitutes in Colombia. He took on real evil, whereas they just looked tough.

  • Chris OConnell

    How about Jesse Ventura? Now there is an interesting SEAL. Has he gone off the deep end in his criticisms of American Empire or is he right on the mark?

    • Carter

      He’s a real patriot. If he runs for president in 2016 as predicted I’ll vote for him.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Do Seals and Marine RECONs train in the same place – San Diego?

    Regarding drugs, military pilots get amphetamines from the govt to stay awake – do Seals?

    • asdfa

      It is a fact that the Názis invented meth and that East Germany continued to give meth pills to soldiers into the 1970s.

  • Ehkzu

    My wife & I got our dive training from an ex-Navy SEAL. As a result he gave us the training we actually needed to be safe in the ocean, instead of doing the minimum required to get his money. Consequently we’ve benefitted from that training in over 600 dives in a dozen countries, and also seen how many we’ve dived with have suffered from less conscientious training.

    • thucy

      And if that was the extent of their operations, I would be happy about my tax dollar funding it. Unfortunately, there is this issue of unacknowledged civilian deaths and lack of due process..
      In other words, the rest of the world does not care about your dive trip, because they are just trying to survive after what Mr. Denver does.

      • Ehkzu

        Well, you’re certainly consistent in your rigid ideological response to everything.
        As for “due process” that’s ridiculous. So after Pearl Harbor we should have sent policemen to Tokyo with a warrant to arrest the Imperial Navy strike force that mounted the attack, along with the Japanese High Command.
        You should study military science before embarrassing yourself with any more comments about the military. I recommend Colonel Harry G. Summers’ “On Strategy,” an analysis of our military failure in Vietnam based on the principles of Von Clausewitz.

        • thucy

          You’re actually embarrassing yourself by revealing that you took at face value a dive instructor who claimed to be an ex Navy SEAL. He was probably Coast Guard and just wanted a higher fee.

        • Robert Thomas

          Ehkzu, I suspect thucy may have been referring to the controversial targeting of American citizens with deadly force in theaters of undeclared warfare, rather than to Imperial Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

        • Tyranipocrit

          and militant solutions for everything–thats not ideological and rigid. The military is a pawn for the industrial complex. You can’t make money on weapons of mass destruction if you never use them. You need a reason to use them. Thus, make up threats and manufacture wars. Stir up fear and patriotism at home. Anyone not rigid enough, anyone critical of the farce is branded unpatriotic and treasonous. We learned from the worst or they learned from us. But it is all nazism.

          Maybe we should stop invading and conquering other people’s homelands. Close the 500 bases. Use that money to build a scoiety at home. If you were all so patriotic–perhaps you would be crying for universal health care and welfare and an end to 1% rule–and creative equal well-funded education–not indocrination–and a modern infrastructure. Maybe you would call for an immediate transition to renewable energy that respects the earth and people. Maybe you would call for an end to big oil and the death mongering oil barons. maybe you would call for student debt forgiveness and demand the banking class give back our money. maybe you would fight for an end to job export. War is not patriotism–its savagery. We provoked japan. Our 1% financed the Nazis. When was there a war in the 20c worth fighting. War is manufactured by the 1%. And the common people are manipulated by the 1%–not patriotic, not kind, not honest, not noble, not honorable, not just, not civil.

    • asdfa

      Dolphins can dive well too. My retarded dog Cheney can dive if I throw a snack in the water. Diving well does not make a human wonderful, nor their job wonderful.

    • Tyranipocrit

      I got trained in Britain. They did it write–like what you are saying. when I came to America to dive, in Florida, the people I dove with were stupid about diving and nearly got m killed. No hand signals, no plan. No organization. No precaution. I like your comment but i also like asdfa below. Safety and concern for fellow divers, fellow men is good, but is killing for the 1%?

  • thucy

    Asking your interview subject, “Are you getting softball questions from me?” so that he can reply, I don’t FEEL like I’m getting softball questions” is in itself a softball question. In fact, it may define softball question.

    You know better, Mr. Krasny.

    • Ehkzu

      But you don’t know better. The only thing worse than reflexive militarism is reflexive antimilitarism. Reality is messy, so I understand the temptation to reject it in favor of cartoonish White Hats / Black Hats thinking.
      But the difference between and an adult and a little child is that real adults reject this easy way out.
      There’s very little record of countries/civilizations that couldn’t defend themselves, because history is written by the victors. Consider why.

      • thucy

        You’re defining a demand for accountability as “reflexive anti-militarism”.
        They are distinct.

        • Ehkzu

          Accountability in the context of secret military operations conflicts with the requirement that the public not learn everything about what we do, because then the amorphous non-state entity that’s at war with us would also know.
          It’s interesting that the two groups who seem unable to trust our government to do the right thing are the extreme Left…and the extreme Right.

          • thucy

            And that kind of “secret operation” garbage is exactly what our Founding Fathers warned against. But do tell us about YOUR military service and sacrifice, Eckzu. Or are you so gung-ho because you never served?

      • Robert Thomas

        No, Ehkzu. Reflexive militarism is worse than reflexive anti-militarism. Effective diplomacy exists.

  • Ehkzu

    Some of the knee-jerk antimilitary comments here reflect the maturity of a five year old. All institutions–the military very much included–are always in danger of many kinds of corruption and error. But what we see here is pure black & white thinking: if the SEALs aren’t perfect they must be devils with guns. They’re humans–highly trained, but still human. I expect them to make errors sometimes.
    But what’s the alternative? Some of these comments are so extreme the only way to take them seriously would be to unilaterally disband our armed services.
    Which isn’t going to happen, and they know it, which makes them look like the little Chihuahua yapping ferociously from the other side of a sturdy chain link fence…

    • thucy

      Nonsense. We pay for the military, our families served, and we are OBLIGED to demand accountability.

      And we will keep demanding accountability because our military is out of control, and imperiling our own future, not to mention the hundreds of thousand of civilians killed in the “war on terror”.

      • Ehkzu

        Quit getting your ideas from comic books. “Our military is out of control” is an idiotic generalization. If anything the problems we’ve had with our military have stemmed from arrogant civilians like Don Rumsfeld overriding the sound military advice of knowledgeable patriots like General Colin Powell.
        One example: General Stanley McChrystal–who was fired by President Obama for insubordination, but who has a long, prestigious military record before that, but who is obviously not a Librul–advocates banning assault weapons from most civilian possession.

        • thucy

          Clearly you haven’t examined the out-of-control spending. Clearly, you have no loved ones serving these past tem years.

        • asdfa

          The military industrial complex gets politicians to declare wars to boost the profits of the military industrial complex.

  • Robert Thomas

    From the interview, it seem as though Lt. Commander Denver has had a challenging, strenuous, rewarding, valorous experience of service, undoubtedly an inspiration to other young men who aspire to similarly glorious achievements.

    So what?

    • thucy

      Esecially since it’s so unlike the typical military experience of the ordinary soldier, who doesn’t go on to make a Hollywood movie and the profitable lecture curcuit, but is shuttled, if he’s lucky, between various VA hospitals.

      • Robert Thomas

        thucy, I admit to having had a little dyspepsia by the end of this interview. I, too, thought of my father’s experience in the Pacific at the end of WWII, a sailor contemplating his duty to participate in the expected invasion of Japan. Like so many others of my generation have reported, my father would rather have been tortured than talk about his experience in the Navy and always politely concealed discomfort with other men (there weren’t that many) who were otherwise inclined.

        On the whole, though, I think there’s nothing wrong with men like Denver honestly sharing their experiences and perhaps in so doing allowing us to examine the value and cost of warfare and other military action conducted in our name.

        The reason I wrote “so what?” was exactly as you say- what’s needed is focus on the lessons and consequences of imprudent war policy. That doesn’t diminish the contributions or denigrate the service of valiant warriors. It’s just more important.

        • thucy

          I agree. Thanks for your comments. I think it’s important to have him as a guest, AND to ask real questions.

  • Robert Thomas

    Honestly, I tried to take this seriously. But after listening to the interview a second time (I don’t do this often) and picking up the stuff I’d missed about lacrosse stardom, movie stardom, Los Altos stardom and all-around stardom stardom, I couldn’t help recalling Stephen Sondheim’s “Bring Me My Bride”:

    [SOLDIERS]
    Look at those arms!
    Look at that chest!
    Look at them!

    [MILES]
    Not to mention the rest.
    Even I am impressed!
    [. . .]

    [SOLDIERS]
    Look at that foot!
    Look at that heel!
    Mark the magnificent muscles of steel!

    [MILES]
    I am my ideal!
    I, Miles Gloriosus,
    I, slaughterer of thousands,
    I, oppressor of the meek,
    Subduer of the weak,
    Degrader of the Greek,
    Destroyer of the Turk,
    Must hurry back to work.

    [MILES & ROMANS:]
    I/he, Miles Gloriosus,

    [SOLDIERS]
    A man among men!

    [MILES & ROMANS:]
    I/he, paragon of virtue,

    [SOLDIERS]
    With sword and with pen!

    [MILES]
    I, in war the most admired,
    In wit the most inspired,
    In love the most desired,
    In dress the best displayed–
    I am a parade!

    • thucy

      One of the interesting aspects of the interview was Mr. Denver’s response to mention of Homer’s Iliad as “putting (him) in good company.”

      During Greece’s Bronze Age, there were distinct taboos on advanced weaponry. This even continues into the Pelopponnesian War, when Spartan soldiers eschewed bows and arrows (that was advanced compared to sword and shield) as “womanly spindles.”
      So, much of the technology Denver trains with would have DQ’d him from the ranks of elite soldiers during Homer’s time and even up to the Golden Age.
      There’s a fantastic breakdown of Greek-Trojan fighting techniques in Bettany Hughes’ Helen of Troy’ DVD, put out by BBC4. They actually recreate the chariots likely used on the plains of Troy. Nimble and somehow rickety at the same time.

      • Robert Thomas

        I think that when Dr. Krasny read your comment about Homer’s Iliad and Orwell, Lt. Commander Denver heard “blah HOMER blah ILIAD blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah.”

        This is an odd thing. Denver seemed to legitimately revere such spartan sentiment as you mention but I think he’s far too smart and too responsible to discount the importance and advantage of superior technology

        Despite the romanticization of warfare, the job of an armed force in combat is to destroy the enemy and to simultaneously protect itself from injury. Under these circumstances, it’s appropriate to do this using all available technical advantages, including standoff weaponry. English soldiers were very glad their archers at Agincourt had the longbows their opponents lacked; Marines at Okinawa appreciated the aid of naval bombardment. Equally, soldiers spared from dangerous search-and-destroy missions by armed drone aircraft are happy that those tools exist. If the war you prosecute is undesirable (it strongly seems to me) then don’t prosecute it. If we decide to prosecute it anyway, we have little to legitimately say criticizing a ruthless tool that nevertheless serves to destroy the enemy while preserving our own forces. We err when we think of soldiers as public relations game pieces.

        • thucy

          Very Athenian of you… and I agree. The Spartan prohibition on bows and arrows cost them dearlly.
          Separately, I’ve been wondering how mention of Thersites’ protest survived into the final version of the Iliad. Did he have a larger role when the epic was still only oral?

          • Robert Thomas

            On my way to Wikipeek “Thersites” I’m proud to say I remembered “What every man thought yet none would say”, which turned out to be both basically correct and also the totality of my knowledge about the character. If he were more prominent in the story, would that make his message more effective?

      • Tyranipocrit

        Achilles tells Odysseus he wasted his life as a warrior seeking fame and glory. He urges Odysseus to go home and take care of his family, his wife, his people. Saying this is virtuous. Not war and bloodshed. I am paraphrasing of course. The Iliad is a anti-war novel. With the Odyssey–part2–it is a feminist manifesto. The treatment of women and its consequences is paramount in both stories. What is virtuous? Homer claims war is not. Abuse and enslavement and rape of women is not. Hospitality is. Home and comfort is. Family is. Respect is..

        war criminals always rape Homer and take him as their own–but was always against them.

  • Bob Fry

    I knew a few, including my father and uncle, who served in real wars and real combat. All, with no exception, did not like it and did not want to talk about it much.

    Posers, on the other hand, love to exaggerate their service.

    Hero worship has existed in the human psyche for eons, I suppose, but I’m worried at the extremes it’s taken in the US. If you’re a soldier, cop, or firefighter, you are god, period. There can be no budget limits, no accountability, and no questions.

    It’s only a matter of time before our ever fewer elite voluntary military (mercenaries, by another word) are used for personal purposes by a President, or conspire among themselves to properly guide the country, like Egypt, and depose an elected President.

    • Robert Thomas

      Bob, I agree. In fact, I think I can make an argument that U.S. all-volunteer armed forces have already been used by a U.S. president for personal purposes.

      The Viet Nam war is already looked upon by young adults as ancient history, but that foolish debacle wounded the United States more than any other event since the Civil War.

      How long do you guess the second war with Iraq would have continued if the Selective Service had had to be activated? I wouldn’t have given it fifteen more MINUTES.

      One of the many ways we have suffered from the war in southeast Asia is the recoil from national service and the eventuality of the all-volunteer armed forces. The united States is now defended by a *fraternity* (of men and women, and I hesitate, seriously, to say “mercenary”) who have decided to pledge themselves to military service. As has often been noted, this has lead to deep segregation between those in the military and the majority of civilians. There is no more powerful tool that a Commander in Chief has to do good or to do mischief – unchecked – in the world than the all-volunteer armed forces.

      • Tyranipocrit

        I agree but I am not sure I would want to be forced into service. I volunteered when i was young, naive and stupid. I quickly learned the truth, a valuable experience. I am not sure we should have standing armies. Coast guard yes. Green patrol yes. Inn times of need, people will stand. Maybe people should be trained in combat–in case the real need ever arrived, but no contractual obligations. More like summer camp–with humanity classes. War would be few and far between. War is manufactured. America is the biggest industry of war the world has ever seen.

        • Robert Thomas

          Tryanipocrit, I suspect no one wants to be forced into service. You will agree that adult parents of young adult children are at least as reluctant now as they have ever been to have their children sent to fight in conflicts of obscure and dubious value to the nation.

          On the other hand, I’ve observed that a large fraction of the population will enthusiastically send kids to get their heads blown off as long as it’s other people’s kids and as long as they aren’t required to pay for it.

        • Robert Thomas

          Tryanipocrit, you wrote that I assume “people [will] not supprot a war that is unjust”.

          I don’t assume this. With the all-volunteer army we employ now, though, the majority of the electorate has no stake in our military adventures whatsoever. If anything, I think the odds are better than even that the electorate, having its offspring proportionately represented in the armed forces, will object to adventures that not at least *profitable*. That’s more involvement than we have now.

          Young adults get their news from “TMZ”, celebrity tweets and The Daily Show. Why should they bother to be informed further? They’re not asked to bare any (immediate) burden for their country’s behavior.

  • Tyranipocrit

    seals have a very racist heritage

  • Tyranipocrit

    sport culture. he is the epitome of what is wrong with America. I wonder if he had ever raped anyone? OOh you’re soo tough boy. Protect me.

  • Tyranipocrit

    yes hunting–perfect analogy. Peaceful innocent unexpecting deer just minding their family and doing what they can to survive are stalked for no reason by blood lusting maniacs and slaughtered, lynched, and drained of their blood. Heads decapitated and stuck on the wall. Very barbaric–“an amazing capability”.

    the VA is not doing enough–its underfunded and mental health is ignored. how many soldiers commit suicide smart guy? How many are on drugs?

  • Tyranipocrit

    “our guys”–this is not a sport–its murder. How can disgusting can we be as a nation to glorify these murderers.

  • Tyranipocrit

    do you say anything that is not choreographed and indoctrinated into your head–every turn of phrase is manufactured and programmed into you. When I wonder will you think for yourself–robot.

  • Tyranipocrit

    if NPr is gonna have so many conservative “balanced” shows then surely they should have some progressive shows offering the other spectrum of ideas never explored in this country. or maybe we dont live in a free society or a democracy?

  • Tyranipocrit

    ooh so tough–what a hand shake–shake me big guy. Who cares. really–you are treating the American people like children–parading these “heroes” in front us and broadcasting how powerful and manly you think they are. Are American minds really so small and puerile?

    and then this guy admits his book is propaganda–vetted by the pentagon

  • Tyranipocrit

    ok–so now he equates anyone who deosn’t like his book as an enemy of the US. What a f—joke! real childish and just very SS like.

  • Tyranipocrit

    Your guest–the war-criminal–doesn’t understand the Iliad or Homer. Achilles tells Odysseus he wasted his life as a warrior seeking fame
    and glory. He urges Odysseus to go home and take care of his family,
    his wife, his people. Saying this is virtuous. Not war and bloodshed.
    I am paraphrasing of course. The Iliad is a anti-war novel. With the
    Odyssey–part2–it is a feminist manifesto. The treatment of women and
    its consequences is paramount in both stories. What is virtuous? Homer
    claims war is not. Abuse and enslavement and rape of women is not.
    Hospitality is. Home and comfort is. Family is. Respect is..

    war criminals always rape Homer and take him as their own–but was always against them.

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