Critics Claim Supreme Master Ching Hai's Followers' Restaurants Featuring Tasty Vegan Fare Front For an Exploitive Movement.

Other than a simple slate-rock sign before it that reads "Quan Yin Family," there's little to distinguish the one-story house from any other in this rural patch of Buckeye, where horseback riders and children on motorized mini-bikes share the area's unpaved roads.

"Quan Yin" refers to the Quan Yin method of meditation taught by Supreme Master Ching Hai (also called "Suma Ching Hai"), the spiritual leader of tens of thousands worldwide who regard her as an enlightened being, along the lines of Jesus Christ or Buddha.

But Quan Yin can also refer to the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion, often depicted swathed in flowing robes while standing atop a lotus flower.

So it's probably no coincidence that Ching Hai, 61, born Hue Dang Trinh in Vietnam, often dons robes and headpieces mimicking the deity, for photos and videos purchased by her adherents.

Portraits of Ching Hai adorn the center's walls. Some followers wear medallions depicting the supreme master's visage. The rear of the property includes a garden and an outside meditation area beneath an awning with wooden pallets to sit on.

Inside a trailer on the property is an air-conditioned meditation room with a bare, wooden floor. The room is dominated by a shrine, with a large picture of Ching Hai in white, surrounded by sparkly Christmas decorations. Below the photo is a stuffed chair covered in a bright yellow cloth.

"It's kind of a reminder, like we're meditating with the master," said Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association member Dr. Elie Firzli, a Phoenix pediatrician.

Firzli, a Christian originally from Lebanon, explained that the Association is open to individuals of all faiths and that people do not have to abandon their beliefs to be initiated into the Quan Yin method

Sunday is the day local Association members gather for group meditation, a vegan meal, and fellowship. Members are supposed to meditate for 2 1/2 hours a day, but on Sunday, the meditation sessions can stretch to five hours or more.

Initiates are expected to follow a strict vegan diet, which means no dairy, as well as no eggs, meat, poultry, or fish.

There are also five precepts to follow: Do no harm to other living beings. No lying. No stealing. No sexual "misconduct." And no intoxicants, defined in Association literature as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs.

Adherents exude a calm, friendly aura. Their community in Arizona is small and humble, with about 40 active members in the state. Tiny compared with much larger Ching Hai centers across the globe.

The house and the property have been donated for the group's use by Ngan Tran, owner of the Loving Hut vegan restaurant in Glendale. There's another Loving Hut on Indian School Road with different owners. Both are part of a franchise that boasts 219 locations worldwide.

Over a meal of Vietnamese pho (noodles in a broth with slices of faux beef, cashews, and ping-pong-ball-size dumplings made of mushrooms), Tran, an engineer at Honeywell originally from Vietnam, explained how Ching Hai's message inspired her to become first a vegetarian, then a vegan, and finally proprietor of the first Loving Hut in Arizona.

"When people suffer, everything's from the killing [of animals]," said Tran, a small, excitable woman with dark, flickering eyes. "When you stop the killing, the suffering stops. So easy!"

Tran had no experience in the restaurant business. But when Ching Hai created the concept of the Loving Hut franchise a few years ago, encouraging her followers to spread the gospel of veganism through tasty, meatless meals in a fast-casual setting, Tran opened the Glendale location in 2009 with the assistance of fellow initiates.

Now, future Loving Hut franchise owners come to her restaurant to learn how to prepare meals and run a business.

The success of her Glendale eatery mirrors the global proliferation of Loving Huts, which are riding a wave of interest in veganism by the health-conscious and those concerned with global warming. Some medical experts now believe veganism can reverse such maladies as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Scientists warn that meat eating and livestock farming are speeding the process of climate change.

All of which, along with the moral problem of slaughtering animals, is part of Ching Hai's message, which Loving Hut franchises soft-peddle through free literature, DVDs of Hai's lectures, and the presence of TV screens fixed to the Supreme Master TV satellite channel in every restaurant. The hook for that message is Loving Hut's menu, which offers a sumptuous array of dishes using fake meat, chicken, and seafood that can convert committed carnivores, if only some of the time.

Yet detractors depict the Loving Huts as a recruiting mechanism for a cult with a dictatorial leader who exploits her followers and has grown rich from selling them such merchandise as books, videos, and jewelry.

Hai's devotees counter that their goal is the greater good of changing people's minds about veganism, and if that's accomplished, where's the harm?


"If we want people to be vegan," Tran said, "then we have to have a sample, so we can say, 'Here's how delicious vegan food can be.'"

Indeed, there's little argument when it comes to Loving Hut's preparations or the concept itself, which have earned plaudits from restaurant writers, customers, and even competitors.

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58 comments
peacepossibility
peacepossibility

it would seems many have been moved to meditate by this article, and they are reflecting what they have found . . . within themselves

makepeacebevegan
makepeacebevegan

I know that master Ching Hai does some businesses to make money, but most of her money goes to the poor peoples and disasters.

igorgargiulo
igorgargiulo

VEGAN ARE,along with her  head chef :Ching Hai, JUST CHARLATANS !

Guest
Guest

Please I NEED some help! "Family members of Ching Hai adherents assert under online pseudonyms that the Association brainwashes its members through prolonged meditation and a diet that keeps them weak and compliant. They say Hai's followers end up devoting all their time to the cult and force their families into debt spending money on Hai merchandise"

My dear sister that I LOVE so much has been involved with this group for 10 years! She is so brain watch and has such an unhealthy and unbalanced life because of this movement! She dedicates 100% of her time without any remuneration to help with the group and she does not think about herself or her 2 beautiful young daughters. She is so exploited by this group and she believes absolutely everything they tell her. She is so depressed! We dont know how to help her anymore. How can we help her to go back to her healthy life? Does anyone know of anybody that can help us? We have tried to talk to her many times but she does not listen to us her family!

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

"Some medical experts now believe veganism can reverse such maladies as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Scientists warn that meat eating and livestock farming are speeding the process of climate change."

Some experts? How about ALL experts on the subject of diet. There's no question - humans are screwing up their bodies and their minds eating meat. It is a completely insane industry that perpetuates itself with death, destruction and lies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V...

Martin Smith
Martin Smith

Did y'all know that Rick Ross has a high school education and was once a convicted felon? Try Googling him up online...

Koldin
Koldin

Have you REALLY done your research?

From: *** ***** <******@yahoo.com>To: ******@yahoo.comDate: Tue, 5 Aug 2008 00:51:48 -0700 (PDT)Subject: LA Center - Loving Hut Restaurant/Central Kitchen

Dear Saint Brothers/Sisters,

Just wanted to send a clarification about the LA Center - Loving Hut Restaurant/Central Kitchen Project.

At this time, as Master instructed, we are focusing on opening a Loving Hut Restaurantand Central Kitchen to be run by the LA Center. All contributions will be applied towardits opening. If there's any profit earned, it will also be used for the next Loving Hut Restaurant,as Master said we need to have a total of 10 Loving Hut Restaurant in our area.That's why all contributions made by the initiates will not be reimbursed to them as aprofit earned.

As far as the investment of the Loving Hut Restaurant, the initiates need to form their ownteam and to be run by themselves, such as funding, working staff, and etc...The LA Center - Loving Hut Restaurant/Central Kitchen will be their supplier in order forthem to be in the Loving Hut Restaurant system.

Hope this is clear to everyone.

Thank you so much for your loving support.

WML,

LA Center============================

J. P. Coldstar
J. P. Coldstar

Rather sensationalistic headlines for such a tame article. The biggest complaints are some dude whose wife spends too much money on jewelry (wow, THAT'S never happened before), and the bewildering incident when Ching Hai's followers built her a patio in the protected Florida swampland. (For those curious, her adjoining property was seized by the state to pay the costs of removing the structure.)

I investigated the Suma Ching Hai Association about a year ago (clearly using the same state-of-the-art Google search keywords that Mr. Lemons used), and found all the same info. As a skeptic, I was looking for anything bad about Ching Hai, but there's really nothing to be found. They promote meditation, eco-friendly living, and a vegan diet, which is rather benign. Members don't seem to be "exploited" any more so than individuals who volunteer at their local church or favorite charity organization.

Sometimes people donate their time to causes they believe in; not ALL of us are only in it for the money, Mr. Lemons!

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

To Newtimes Readers:

I'm sorry for being such a jerk by making up lies and stories about The Supreme Master Ching Hai. If you really want to know the Truth, truth may be found anywhere but here on my blog, least in my article.

Regretfully yours,

Stephan "Lame" Lemons

Broski Love
Broski Love

I used to watch Supreme Master Ching Hai on some cable public access channel on COX in the early 90's.

Neil
Neil

I've learned not to trust what we read but simply what we have experienced then we can be sure what's truthful or not. Regarding to "Breatharians", it's true that they exist now and throughout history all over the world. I know of one in current time. Last of all, it's easy to judge others by what we read but try to do our own research without bias then we will find out for ourselves. Good luck!!

Pauline45
Pauline45

Fr.David Ostler (alter boy abuser from Cornwall,Ont.ca.) now in sun city west,Az.

Marcy
Marcy

Regardless of whether or not the food is good, it is a fact that Ching Hai is an epic kook and anyone who hangs on her every word is a fool.

Marcy
Marcy

"There are also five precepts to follow: Do no harm to other living beings. No lying. No stealing. No sexual "misconduct." And no intoxicants, defined in Association literature as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs."

Sounds like a fun loving cult of kooks.

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Yilulu12

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Hannah
Hannah

Well I have certainly visited many Loving Huts in my business travels and have not once been asked to join the group or so-called "cult." So this so-called "recruitment" that you suggest is lousy at best, Stephen. Are you writing this piece from an honest point of view or using Google and Wiki to fact check and add controversy to sell your piece?

If anything, the food at all Loving Huts I've been to is superb and the people are always kind and hospitable.

Take what you will from this article, but think critically with what the author and tabloid journalism has to say.

Whitney Fitzpatrick
Whitney Fitzpatrick

Did Scott Henderson illustrate a picture of David from the old Veg House? If so, he is AWESOME! David, with the fried rice as a close second, was the best thing about that place. IMHO.

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Mistalee
Mistalee

"Green's Damon Brasch concurs.

"What they're doing over there really isn't hurting anybody," he said. "You can look at the [National Football League], and it's somewhat of a cult, as well.""

I call bullshit.

Any time somebody presents themselves as a "spiritual teacher" or "guru" or evangelist or whatever and ropes a lot of psychologically vulnerable people into subordinating themselves and surrendering their autonomy, harm is done. Those who are roped in are inevitably led further down the road of self-alienation, further away from self-awareness. Doesn't matter whether the koolaid being peddled is old-school hellfire and damnation or new-age wheat-germ-and-granola woowoo shit, the results are similar.

When your time comes to die, you're the one who has to lie down and stop moving. So until then, don't waste your life doing anybody's thing but your own, even if they claim to be God's right-hand man.

rlsw7072
rlsw7072

Frankly, she sounds like she has a full and happy life--she's been with them for 10 years.  You say she is depressed--how do you know that?  Has she told you she's depressed?  If she truly is depressed, maybe it's because of you and other family members harrassing her.  Leave her alone.  And, if she is truly unhealthy because of her diet, then she's unhealthy because she's not eating a balanced diet, not because she's eating a vegan diet.  Most vegans are healthier than non-vegans.  I'm 61, have been a vegan for 15 years, and am the healthiest I've ever been in my life--I do not need cholesterol or high blood pressure medicine as many in my age group do. I'm 5'7", weight 125 lbs. and work out at the gym 5 days per week--weight/strength training 3 days, cardio all 5 days, in addition to bike riding 3-4 miles per day average.     

SM
SM

Dear Guest:

I don’t mean to be rude at your lament, but a VEGAN diet DOES NOT make people “weak & compliant”.

Please check out VEGAN ATHLETES at: http://www.bestveganguide.com/...

That’s the first FALSE allegation on your part. Secondly, no one following Ching Hai is ever being coerced into doing something that they DO NOT themselves ENJOY. I know these folks very well myself. They play, sing, dance, laugh, volunteer, work, and enjoy healthy vegan celebrations all the time among themselves & like-minded friends.

You did not elaborate on why your sister is so “depressed”. Is it because, at every family gathering with you, she might be thinking of how NOT to be poisoned by BBQ on the 4th of July, or how to AVOID having turkey shoved down her throat every Thanksgiving, and ham crammed on her plate each Christmas? Or is it because she could not convince YOU, someone she dearly LOVES, that you are the MOST DESTRUCTIVE part of global warming that she cannot help turn around?

With so many calamities over natural or manmade disasters, wars, famine, drought, world hunger (etc), it’s pretty amazing that you may lead on a toxic NON-VEGAN lifestyle and label that “balanced & healthy”. Don’t worry, your sister sounds like a beautiful selfless Saint being so dedicated the way she is.

Please educate yourself, meanwhile. Please check out “suprememastertv.com” to learn more about the REAL Ching Hai and Her devotees to see for yourself how HAPPY they are most of the time.

Al
Al

Maybe you should share this problem in some forums. In Cult Education Forum there is a long and active thread about Ching Hai : http://forum.rickross.com/read...Also a thread in Forumosa forum : http://www.forumosa.com/taiwan...A thread in David Icke's forum : http://forum.davidicke.com/sho...You can also try the YahooGroup ExSat : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/...You can find more, googling "Ching Hai cult forum"

Good luck!

If you want to read about Ching Hai, there's SupremeLeak which is a collection of links about Ching Hai (mostly independent sources rather than the Ching Hai official propaganda)

SupremeLeak2 : http://supremeleak.over-blog.c...(The old website http://supremeleak.pbworks.com has been closed)

SM
SM

Amen !

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

“The only causes of regret are laziness, outbursts of temper, hurting others, prejudice, jealousy and envy.” ― Germaine Greer

Thank you for your kind input !

Michael
Michael

I found your article helpful.

Rather balanced.

Re: critics generally: Personally I never understood debunking - how can you beleive against something - reality is reality. Anyway I feel your positive conclusion is appropriate. The organization Master Ching Hai has created is promoting good things.

thank- you again for your perspective. :)

BillyShears
BillyShears

ya know, marcy...you're exactly right. who do these people think they are? how dare they! the nerve!

we all know the world needs more bloodthirsty, drunken liars, cheats and thieves!

what a cult of kooks!

SUPREMEMASTERMYBUTT
SUPREMEMASTERMYBUTT

There are Ching Hai products all over the place, a TV with Ching Hai on it all the time, Ching Hai's bad paintings on the walls, people wearing Ching Hai's face around their necks. I'd call that "cult of personality." A book about her dogs? Her birds? What exactly is incorrect in this article? The tax returns? The visit to the cult center? Come on educate us, Hannah.

malasangre
malasangre

meditatation is very much about introspection that by definition focuses on self

KCarson
KCarson

But what if my thing is to be in a group of like-minded people?

If I do what you tell me to do, and thereby not be in the group, am I really doing my own thing?

The NFL does have a cult following, at least as that word is defined in Webster's:

"5 a : great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fadb : the object of such devotionc : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion"

We should examine each cult by its merits and avoid blanket statements. I don't have an opinion on this one, or I should say I haven't formed an opinion yet, but I've got a lot of information to consider.

Interesting read, Mr. Lemons, even with the slow start, I like your depth. You can't find reporting like this in the other AZ outlets. NIce work!

PopeIntheWoods
PopeIntheWoods

All these crackpots do is meditate and eat vegetables. If they want to kneel before some Vietnam crazy lady, it's a free country. At least they don't diddle little boys like Catholic priests.

SM
SM

Maybe you should share this with others:

Critique of the VegNews article “Supreme Mystery” : http://worldpeacediet.org/vncr...

Suprememystery’s Blog: http://suprememystery.wordpres...

Rick Ross Mental Instability: http://www.religiousfreedomwat...

Gary Yourofsky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Howard Lyman – Mad Cowboy (Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Neil Barnard MD:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead: http://www.hulu.com/watch/2891...

Forks Over Knives:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

The World Peace Diet:http://www.worldpeacediet.org

The China Study:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

The Comparative Anatomy of Eating:http://www.vegsource.com/news/...

Jesus was a Vegetarian: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Check Out Documentaries: As We Sow, Chow Dow, Diet for a New America, Dirt, Earthlings, Food Inc, Food Fight, Food Matters, Fresh, King Corn, May I Be Frank, Super Size Me, THRIVE, The Future of Food, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, The World According to Monsanto, We Feed The World, What's On Your Plate...

igorgargiulo
igorgargiulo

@SM ..Amen ?? ..u don,t belive in God ! ..so why r u doing this ?

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

... hallelujah, billy, for making comments the way you did. good observations, ya hear ! now, marcy, ya can run along and find the right tree in yur neighborhood to bark up to... wolf, wolf !!!

Marcy
Marcy

Billy,

Just the "do no harm to other living things" precepts is silly. What is harm? What is a living thing? Should we not consider the greater good? Swerve into a ditch to avoid hitting a sparrow on the road?

No lying is equally silly, that's like saying no breathing. Speaking of which, the whacky cult professes to have people who claim they survive only by breathing, no eating anything. That's a lie.

What is "misconduct" when it comes to sex? Who defines it?

No intoxicants? At what level does something become an intoxicant and is having a sip of wine the same as becoming drunk?

No stealing? Define stealing. Is it a legal definition or a moral definition?

Life gets muddy around the edges Billy and people who profess to some simplistic code and are led by a flat out whacked out nutjob (see her UFO comments) is simply a CULT.

Now are there worse cults out there? Are there worse things in life than being an idiot and becoming a devotee of L Ron Hubbard or Ching Hai? Sure, but lets not pretend that Ching Hai isn't leading a cult of mindless followers because she is.

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

Stephan here. Why don't you shut up and it down before Marcy calls you a kook !

bystander
bystander

She's asking you to think, not beg for enlightenment, moron.

Mistalee
Mistalee

Meditation is a blanket term. It depends on the specific practice being followed. Some "meditation" practices are an adjunct to brainwashing. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon's followers "meditate," and Moon's "Unification Church" is as cultish as it gets.

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

Well now, let's see, Marcy:

Just the "do no harm to other living things" precepts is silly. What is harm? What is a living thing? Should we not consider the greater good? Swerve into a ditch to avoid hitting a sparrow on the road?

YOU MIGHT CONSIDER YOUR HUSBAND, DOGS, CATS, EVERYONE & EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE PLANET "LIVING THINGS". HARMING OR HURTING IT IS JUST LIKE HURTING YOURSELF. WHAT'S THE GREATER GOOD ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT HERE, MARCY? AND THANKS FOR SWERVING INTO A DITCH TO AVOID HITTING A SPARROW ON THE ROAD !!!

No lying is equally silly, that's like saying no breathing. Speaking of which, the whacky cult professes to have people who claim they survive only by breathing, no eating anything. That's a lie.

YOU MAY TRY IT FOR A WHILE THEN LET ME KNOW IF IT'S A LIE. UNTIL THEN, DON'T BE TOO QUICK TO JUDGE, MISSY !

What is "misconduct" when it comes to sex? Who defines it?

OH, THAT JUST MEANS YOU DON'T WANT TO TURN AROUND AND FIND YOUR HUSBAND WITH HIS HANDS WRAPPED AROUND ANOTHER WOMAN ON THE SAME BED. GOOD FOR HIM, BUT MIGHT BE BAD FOR YOU & YOUR MARRIAGE.

No intoxicants? At what level does something become an intoxicant and is having a sip of wine the same as becoming drunk?

NOT EXACTLY THE SAME BUT THAT'S HOW YA GET STARTED IN THE FIRST PLACE (WITH JUST AN "INNOCENT" ONE SIP.) TALK TO ANY ALCOHOLIC ANONYMOUS.

No stealing? Define stealing. Is it a legal definition or a moral definition?

HOW ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH, MARCY? HEY, YA WANNA GIVE THAT CAR AWAY BY ANY CHANCE? IT LOOKS REALLY GOOD IN YOUR DRIVE WAY.

GEEZ, I HOPE I'VE SATISFIED ALL OF YOUR INTELLIGENT QUESTIONS, MARCY.PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WRITE.

BillyShears
BillyShears

marcy,

i did a little research about this. those are Buddhist precepts much like the 'ten commandments' for Jews and Christians...not created by these folks. would you call someone who followed those commandments nutjobs? it's my personal opinion that we would live in a much better world if we all subscribed to such ideas. it also says 'refrain'....which to me, doesn't necessarily come across as dogma.... maybe just suggestions to help people lead a better and more ethical/moral life in their decision making. i, personally don't see this as anything negative.

there are also many, many people who 'believe' in ufo's or have said they have sighted them. some are world leaders such as jimmy carter, ronald reagan and bill clinton. is there something to this? i have no idea, but i won't judge it and try to keep an open mind.

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

Good point, my friend. Thanks for bringing it up !

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

Stephen here. Why don't you back off, moron !!!You almost sound like an impostor who needs some deprogramming yourself.

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

Sorry, Hannah, for me being such a jerk! Don't know what has come over me the last few days. I was almost not myself for a while there...

Sorry for wasting so much of my readers' time over unfounded gossips. Everything was written has nothing to do with children dying in 3rd world countries every second, ever minute as we speak, due to starvation tied in with cattle farming. What a shame !

SUPREMEMASTERMYBUTT
SUPREMEMASTERMYBUTT

"She's asking you to think, not beg for enlightenment, moron." The only morons I see here are the ones that turn their brains off and refuse to see a cult for what it is. Ching Hai doesn't want her followers to "think." She wants them to OBEY, to open restaurants, work for free, and buy her ugly-ass jewelry.

"Any New Times article will be injected with the writer's biased opinion and not simple neutral facts. And no, Wiki is not a reliable source." Huh? Lemons went to the freaklodge cult center, read their freaky books, interviewed their brainwashed staff and followers, went to their restaurants, looked up their income tax returns, which isn't on any "Wiki" I've seen unless you're ready to post it for the cult ;)

And what about the millions in donations? Where did that come from? Out of thin air? From supporters who don't have to contribute but do so anyway?

Lemons talked to BOTH Rick Ross AND to Ching Hai's corporate slaves. And he didn't even dis them hard as he should have, in my opinion. It's like he's saying, "yeah, it's a cult, but the food ain't bad."

As for "firsthand knowledge," just watch one of Ching Hai's videos online (which I did after reading this article). The people in those videos act like ROBOTS. This "supreme master" is a shyster like the crazy Televangelists. And if you can't see that in her sites online, you're not capable of thinking critically. Weld your ears shut and eat all the Ching Hai food you want. There's a sucker born every minute.

Hannah
Hannah

Thank you, bystander, that was my point.

To the commenter above with the crude name, you can choose to take the editorial piece at face value, or you can think critically and get first hand knowledge to formulate your own opinion. Any New Times article will be injected with the writer's biased opinion and not simple neutral facts. And no, Wiki is not a reliable source.

I'm not here to downgrade what you have to say. I'm simply stating what I know from what I'm seen and people I've interacted with when visiting the Loving Huts, rather than swallowing everything I'm given in this article as truth.

In a world with so much strife and hatred, why are we wasting time to criticize people we don't fully understand, but who simply promote peace and vegetables for our planet and animals? Absurd. Maybe we all need to tune in to Al Jazeera and check out what's really happening on the other side of the world.

 
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