Why should the taxpayer pay?


Plunket, like most other submitters on a proposed extension to paid parental leave emphasises the benefits if children have more time to form an attachment to their families.

The benefits for children and parents of extending PPL aren’t under question.

What is up for debate is whether taxpayers should pay for it and none of those in favour have yet been able to give any good reasons for that.

More money for maternity services


Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced a $54.4 million boost for maternity services and assistance to new mothers.

 “It will mean better teamwork and provide extra help to mothers and babies who need it.

“This Government has invested an extra $1.2 billion in health services over the past two years, and Budget 2011 will provide an extra $33.2 million for maternity services over four years to improve safety and quality.

“A further amount of $21.3 million will boost extra WellChild services, with a particular focus on first time mothers.

“We all want the best possible services to protect the safety of mothers and babies,” Mr Ryall says. “The additional funding will support midwives, nurses and doctors to improve safety and quality in maternity and WellChild services.”

This will extend initiatives the government has already introduced to improve services for mothers and babies. That includes one I feel particularly strongly about, the funding to enable new mothers to stay in maternity centres until breast feeding is established.

The extra funding includes:

$18.4 million to improve the safety and quality of services for mothers and babies, by bringing all local maternity professionals together for regular clinical reviews of all births. This funding will also increase the number of midwives in hospitals, together with medical specialists on-site and on-call.
• $6 million to revamp new parent information services.
• $6.8 million to help vulnerable mothers access a fuller range of health and social services. It will also assist midwives to make appropriate and timely referrals to other practitioners.
• One-off funding of $2 million to ensure all DHB maternity data is collected nationally.

The $21.3 million over four years for additional WellChild visits has a particular focus on the needs of first time mothers.

The additional funding is expected to deliver an extra 54,000 visits to around 18,000 mothers who need this additional support. For these mothers, this will mean, on average, three additional WellChild visits up to the first two months of a baby’s life.

WellChild currently provides two visits during the first two months of life.

“The Government is committed to giving new mums greater support if they need it, Mr Ryall says. “These three additional WellChild visits will ensure a smoother handover from midwives to WellChild providers and an even better start for mothers and their babies.

Additional Wellchild visits will be especially welcome.

New parents often don’t have the support of extended family as they might have in the past. Even if they do, a health professional can give reassurance, help prevent problems and treat those which do arise earlier.

Going into the home allows midwives and Plunket nurses to get a much better idea of how new parents are coping and are better able to identify babies which might be at risk then they could when babies are brought to them for clinic visits.

And because everyone gets Wellchild visits  there is no stigma attached to them as there might be to visits by other agencies like CYFS or a Public Health nurse.

Who Needs Sleep Anyway?


Happy birthday Plunket – 103 today.

Roger Hall and his daughter Pip wrote Who Needs Sleep Anyway for Plunket’s 100th birthday.

May 14


On May 14:

1264  Battle of Lewes: Henry III was captured and forced to sign the Mise of Lewes, making Simon de Montfort the de facto ruler of England.


1483  Coronation of Charles VIII of France (Charles l’Affable).

1509 Battle of Agnadello: French forces defeated the Venetians.

1608  The Protestant Union was founded in Auhausen.

1610 Henry IV of France was assassinated bringing Louis XIII to the throne.

1643  Four-year-old Louis XIV became King of France upon the death of his father, Louis XIII.


1727 Thomas Gainsborough, English artist ,was born (d. 1788).

1747  A British fleet under Admiral George Anson defeated the French at first battle of Cape Finisterre.

Bay of Biscay map.png

1796  Edward Jenner administered the first smallpox vaccination.

1804 The Lewis and Clark Expedition departed from Camp Dubois and began its journey by traveling up the Missouri River.


1811 Paraguay gained independence from Spain.

1836 The Treaties of Velasco were signed.

1861 The Canellas meteorite, an 859-gram chondrite type meteorite, struck  the earth near Barcelona.

1863 American Civil War: The Battle of Jackson.

Battle of Jackson

1868 Japanese Boshin War: end of the Battle of Utsunomiya Castle.


1870 The first game of rugby in New Zealand was played in Nelson between Nelson College and the Nelson Rugby Football Club.

1879  The first group of 463 Indian indentured labourers arrives in Fiji aboard the  Leonidas.

1889  The children’s charity the NSPCC was launched in London.


1907 The Plunket Society was formed.

Plunket Society formed

1913   New York Governor William Sulzer approved the charter for the Rockefeller Foundation, which began operations with a $100 million donation from John D. Rockefeller.

Rockefeller Foundation logo.png

1925  Virginia Woolf‘s novel Mrs Dalloway was published.

Mrs. Dalloway cover.jpg

1926 Eric Morecambe, British comedian, was born  (d. 1984).


1927 Cap Arcona was launched at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg.

Cap Arcona 1.JPG

1929 Barbara Branden, Canadian writer and lecturer, was born.

The Passion of Ayn Rand.jpg

1929Wilfred Rhodes took his 4000th first-class wicket during a performance of 9 for 39 at Leyton.

A man with a moustache, wearing a cap, white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, white trousers, cricket pads and gloves, holds a cricket bat on his left side. The bat has white stripes at the bottom. He is walking on grass in front of a wall behind which can be seen spectators.

1931  Ådalen shootings: five people were killed in Ådalen, Sweden, as soldiers open fired on an unarmed trade union demonstration.


1935 The Philippines ratified an independence agreement.

1939 Lina Medina became  the world’s youngest confirmed mother in medical history at the age of five.

1940 ‘H’.  (Herbert) Jones, British Soldier (VC recipient), was born (d. 1982).


1940  World War II: Rotterdam was bombed by the German Luftwaffe.

1940  World War II: The Netherlands surrendered to Germany.

1940  The Yermolayev Yer-2, a long-range Soviet medium bomber, has its first flight.

A twin-engined, low-winged, metal monoplane with a twin tail and conventional undercarriage

1943  A Japanese submarine sank  AHS Centaur off the coast of Queensland.

A single-funnelled merchant ship at rest. The ship is painted white, with a dark horizontal band along the hull, interspersed by dark crosses. The number "47" is painted near the bow, in a black box above the line.

1948  Israel was declared to be an independent state and a provisional government established.

A white flag with horizontal blue bands close to the top and bottom, and a blue star of David in the middle

1955 Cold War: Eight communist bloc countries signed a mutual defense treaty -the Warsaw Pact.

1961  American civil rights movement: The Freedom Riders bus was fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama, and the civil rights protesters were beaten by an angry mob.

1966 Fabrice Morvan, French music artist (Milli Vanilli), was born.

1970  The Red Army Faction was established in Germany.


1973 Human Space Flight: Skylab, the United States’ first space station was launched.

1975 Carlos Spencer, New Zealand rugby player, was born.

Carlos Spencer.jpg

1986 Pride of Baltimore was lost at sea.

Pride of Baltimore II

1988 Carrollton bus collision: a drunk driver travelling the wrong way hit a converted school bus carrying a church youth group killing  27.

2004 The Constitutional Court of South Korea overturned the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun.

2005  The former USS America, a decommissioned supercarrier was deliberately sunk in the Atlantic Ocean after four weeks of live-fire exercises.

USS America (CV-66)

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

Happy 102nd Birthday Plunket


It’s a day late, but my happy birthday to Plunket which was founded on May 14th 1907, is no less sincere for that.

I was invited to my first Plunket sub-branch meeting when I was only just in maternity clothes. Like most other women in the district I became a member, served on the committee and then stayed on long after my children were no longer eligible for Plunket services.

The sub-branch raised funds to support the work of Plunket nurses, it was a social outlet and also provided support for members.

When our first baby was born the Plunket nurse was a neighbour, living only a little over a kilometre away and while I never needed to call her in an emergency, it was reassuring with a first baby, and one born six weeks early, to know there was a professional so close.

She moved when the baby was just over a year old and another nurse looked after our second and third babies who had brain disorders.

I can’t overstate how supportive she was. She continued making what she called love visits to the third baby long after the official quota of  home calls was used up. Only in hindsight do I understand she wasn’t just keeping an eye on him, she was also looking out for his older sister and making sure I was coping.

You don’t have to have babies with problems to appreciate Plunket services. I don’t know any parent who didn’t value the help and advice they got and the home visits are an important part of that.

Every now and then someone wanting to save money suggests changes to the universal home visits, but the universal visits are an integral part of Plunket’s strength.

Going into homes allows nurses to see where the baby lives and notice things that wouldn’t be obvious in a clinic visit.

Equally important, going in to every home means there is no stigma about the visits and  because of that the Plunket car outside a house is welcomed where a Public Health nurse’s car might not be.

Plunket has performed an invaluable service for babies and their parents for 102 years and it is needed just as much now as when it was founded.

Roger Hall was commissioned to write a play for Plunket’s 100th birthday. I recommend Who Needs Sleep Anyway  to anyone who’s had a baby or even been a baby.

Losing fear and ignorance of disability


Dan had a degenerative brain disorder which left him with multiple disabilities. He passed none of the developmental milestones so could do no more when he died, 10 days after his fifth birthday,  than he could the day he was born.

He didn’t appear to see or hear, he couldn’t support his head or move himself. He couldn’t even smile.

We used to say he couldn’t do anything but in spite of that he taught us a lot.

Because of Dan we lost the fear and ignorance we might have had about disability and through him we learned to accept people as people regardless of what they can or can’t do.

Had he been born a generation earlier, Dan would almost certainly have been put into an institution rather than living at home as he did. That wasn’t always easy for us because he required 24-hour care and while the policy had changed, the system wasn’t up to speed with the support needed to meet the challenges of life in the community for people with multiple handicaps and their carers.

But we had wonderful support from family and friends, his doctors and organisations like Plunket and IHC and we weren’t aware of any discrimination against Dan, or us when we were with him.

Not everyone’s experience is so positive. That is almost always because of ignorance and we have Dan to thank because we’re not guilty of that.

This is posted as my contribution to Blogging Against Disabilism Day – and I tip my hat to In A Strange Land for directing me to it.

Just a coincidence?


The previous government stopped funding Plunketline, which dealt specifically w ith children’s health issues saying they were covered by Healthline.

The new government recently reinstated funding so Plunketline can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Is it just coincidence that the Healthline ads now running on TV focus on babies?

Private grief in public life


No one goes through life untouched by sadness but most of us are able to grieve in private.

It must be so much harder for people in the public eye like David Cameron whose son has died.

Ivan was six and from media reports it sounds as if he had a similar condition to our sons who had mulitple disabilities and recurring seizures.

Tom was only 20 weeks when he died. Dan was five years, however, he had passed none of the developmental milestones so could do no more than a newborn.

We had wonderful support from family, friends, agencies like Plunket and IHC, the family GP and Dan’s paediatrician but even so looking after Dan was difficult and we knew it would become more so as he grew physically without developing intellectually.

Because of that one of the emotions I felt when he died was relief. Dan’s death freed us to do things it had been difficult, or sometimes impossible, to do with him and relieved us from the strain of knowing every plan we made came with a proviso that Dan’s health would allow us to do it.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anger, sadness and all the pain that comes with losing a child too. Not just for Dan but over the hopes and dreams I hadn’t even been aware of having for his future, because when you lose a child you also lose the teenager and adult he would have become.

But at least I was able to go through all that in private.

How much more difficult it will be for the Cameron family when David has a public role which is so demanding and his duties as Conservative leader will sometimes, perhaps often, conflict with his own need to grieve and be with, cherish and be cherished by, his family.

I hope they are surrounded and supported by the love and kindness that helped us and that they too find that grief passes, happiness returns and that life can be good again.

Plunketline funded for 24/7 service


National has delivered on another election pledge with today’s announcement that Plunketline will be funded to enable it to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A media release from Health Minister Tony Ryall says:

The extended service is being funded through a grant of $3.75 million over 15 months to the end of March next year ($3 million per annum). By that time, a review of Well Child parent information programmes will have been completed and new contracting arrangements will be in place.

The parent information review could extend support services to include e-mail and online information and chatrooms.

The help line is an invaluable service for parents and caregivers of young children and the 24 hour/seven day service from Plunket nurses is much better than the general health helpline which the previous government funded instead.

There may well be a place for on-line asssistance too but any of these services must be in addition to not a replacement for home and clinic visits.

If that much over and misused word icon could be applied to any institution in New Zealand it is Plunket.

For more than 100 years it has provided an invaluable service to families and one of its strengths is that Plunket nurses go to every home which gives them an insight they couldn’t get in a clinic.

Equally important, because they provide a universal service to every home and every child their is no stigma about their visits in the way that there might be with other agencies such as Public Health or welfare.

I’m delighted with the Plunketline funding and hope it is just the start of policies which will not just maintain but strengthen the services and support provided to families from Plunket.

If, as is inevitable, this will cost more then funding could be diverted from the Families Commission.

Bed sharing endangers babies


When Tom stopped breathing in the middle of the night the apnoea matress in his cradle alarmed and woke us.

Because of that we were able to do CPR and call an ambulance and our GP who revived him.  Tom died later that day it but it helped us to know we’d done all we could for him.

Had that happened the night before it could have been very different because, contrary to my usual practice of taking him through to the living room to feed then tucking him back in his cradle, I’d fed him in bed and left him there. So had he stopped breathing I might not have known for hours and I’d have had to live with the knowledge that at best, because of that it would have been too late to try CPR,  and at worst that I might have smothered him.

If he’d died in bed beside me I’d have always wondered if it was my fault. Even though he had a brain disorder and we’d been told a month earlier that he was likely to die soon, there would have been doubts, questions, blame and guilt.

I remembered this when I read that Wellington coroner Gary Evans was conducting inquests  into the deaths of seven babies, including four who had dies while sharing a bed.

Auckland University professor of child health research Evan Mitchell said bedsharing absolutely increased risk of babies dying from SIDS.

Prof Mitchell said the message to not share beds was included in advice to parents on the Ministry of Health website.

“But the message is being delivered very inconsistently,” he said.

“There are a number of breastfeeding advocates … who are recommending bedsharing to improve breastfeeding rates.”

There were several initiatives that provided an alternative to bedsharing.

“At the moment we don’t know of any way of doing bedsharing completely safely — having the cot right up close to the bed so the baby’s in close contact proximity, making breastfeeding easy, must surely be the right way to go.”

Paediatrician Dawn Elder, who has studied unexplained baby deaths in the Wellington region over the last 10 years, also said more information was needed.

“Certainly there is information out there, but there isn’t enough,” she said.

The risk of bed sharing isn’t new.

It’s referred to in the Bible in the story of Solomon and the mothers arguing over whose baby lived and whose died –  1 Kings, 3: 16-22 “. . . Then one night she accidently rolled over on her baby and smothered it . . .”

It was also the subject of a poem by W.B. Yeats more than 100 years ago:

The Ballad of Moll Magee:

Come round me, little childer;
There, don’t fling stones at me
Because I mutter as I go;
But pity Moll Magee.

My man was a poor fisher
With shore lines in the say;
My work was saltin’ herrings
The whole of the long day.

And sometimes from the Saltin’ shed
I scarce could drag my feet,
Under the blessed moonlight,
Along the pebbly street.

I’d always been but weakly,
And my baby was just born;
A neighbour minded her by day,
I minded her till morn.

I lay upon my baby;
Ye little childer dear,
I looked on my cold baby
When the morn grew frosty and clear.

A weary woman sleeps so hard!
My man grew red and pale,
And gave me money, and bade me go
To my own place, Kinsale.

He drove me out and shut the door.
And gave his curse to me;
I went away in silence,
No neighbour could I see.

The windows and the doors were shut,
One star shone faint and green,
The little straws were turnin round
Across the bare boreen.

I went away in silence:
Beyond old Martin’s byre
I saw a kindly neighbour
Blowin’ her mornin’ fire.

She drew from me my story –
My money’s all used up,
And still, with pityin’, scornin’ eye,
She gives me bite and sup.

She says my man will surely come
And fetch me home agin;
But always, as I’m movin’ round,
Without doors or within,

Pilin’ the wood or pilin’ the turf,
Or goin’ to the well,
I’m thinkin’ of my baby
And keenin’ to mysel’.

And Sometimes I am sure she knows
When, openin’ wide His door,
God lights the stats, His candles,
And looks upon the poor.

So now, ye little childer,
Ye won’t fling stones at me;
But gather with your shinin’ looks
And pity Moll Magee.

We’ve come along way since then but the guilt and grief of a parent who smothered their child won’t have changed.

When our children were young there seemed to be much more publicity about cot deaths or SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and both the risk factors  to avoid and practices to keep babies safer. But the information doesn’t seem to be as widely available now.                                                         

There are still questions about exactly what causes cot deaths but some of the risk factors are well known and that’s behind the five ways to protect babies which Plunket lists:

  1. a smoke-free pregnancy and household
  2. sleeping on their back
  3. a clear face and head – free from hazards that can lead to suffocation
  4. to be close to parents when asleep (in the same room)
  5. breastfeeding.

Parents share beds with babies for a lot of reasons – it’s normal practice for some cultures, it might be warmer, they might not have anywhere else for the baby to sleep, when they’re exhausted, which is a normal state for new parents and why I had Tom in my bed that one night,  it might be easier but none of those reasons makes it a safe practice.

Dear Peter


Hon Peter Dunne

Parliament Buildings



Dear Peter


I have only a vague understand of the rationale behind the Families Commission and I think that is because there is nothing more behind it than a vague, feel-good attempt to do “something”.


But ‘something’ isn’t good enough and if the ideas behind the Commission are vague so are its achievements. I have yet to see any concrete proof of anything it has done to justify its $50m budget and the news that the commission was going to waste $200,000 on a summit confirms my views that it isn’t worth the money we’re spending on it.


Paula Bennett has made a very good start to her tenure as Social Development Minister by getting the Commission to can the summit.


Dumping the Commission itself will be more difficult because of the government’s support agreement with you, but it’s not too late for you to be sensible about it.


Could you put your hand on your heart and say that existing agencies like Plunket wouldn’t do much more for families at a fraction of the cost of this bureaucracy?


No. So it wouldn’t hurt you to swallow a dead rat and admit that it was a bad idea which has failed to prove its worth.


The families of New Zealand and the taxpayers will all be better off if you do.


Yours in hope,


Too many groups too little for causes


Last month was blue for prostate awareness, and orange for atrthritis, this month it’s pink for breast cancer, it was Hospice Appeal last Friday and there was an envelope in yesterday’s mail for Plunket.

Almost every time I go to town there’s someone selling raffles outside the supermarket and hardly a week goes by that there isn’t someone on the street or the phone asking for money for a very worthy cause.

The Manawatu Standard  wonders if it’s all getting too much:

Every week is another awareness week – if not for cancer, for some other health, disability or learning difficulty group.

If you have a conscience, your pay packet is constantly clobbered to help these genuinely good causes that need our support.

What worries me is that there are so many support groups in New Zealand now, all doing pretty much the same thing for different-flavoured causes. All with administrators organising volunteers, many with PR companies helping produce professional media kits, many with little widgets for the public to buy, to wear, to keep, to raise awareness to raise funds to help. Every day brings another awareness day, week, month, year.

Nobody’s going to like this and nobody’s going to have the stomach to do it. Feelings will be hurt. But honestly, what’s needed isn’t so much a rosy glow of pink lights over Palmerston North as a strong searchlight review of the whole fundraising industry, to get rid of duplication and the constant blaring barrage to give to every cause going.

There’s also a compelling argument that support, treatment and research shouldn’t depend on donations from the generous. What are our taxes for, if not to look after New Zealanders?

There will always be a place, and a need, for private philanthropy but I do wonder if a little judicious rationalisation of the many worthy groups might mean lower overheads with less duplication which would require less time, energy and money spent on the organisations and leave more for the causes.

Homepaddock blocked by MoH!


The Hive reports that Homepaddock has been blocked by the Ministry of Health.

Any employer has the right to take a tough line on employees wasting their time blog-surfing during working hours so I don’t have any objection to the blocking per se. But if the MoH block is allowing their staff to waste their time on blogs without my blue tint we have a problem.

However, the usual reason for blocking a website is offensive content and The Hive’s sources say that is the reason behind the Ministry’s censorship.

I make no attempt to hide my polticial bias so have no objection to being called unbalanced, I also accept the scorn of those who know better when I make silly mistakes. But I take strong exception to the accusation that this blog contains offensive material.

When writing on rural issues you can sometimes stray into subjects which might be construed as crude in other contexts and I did write a post about porn in the paddock, way back in June.

I’ve also done a couple of posts about neutering options which mentioned Winston Peters and cryptorchid in the same sentence.

It’s sad reflection on society that the search terms employed most often by visitors lead them to a post on pc gone mad which mentions children in their birthday suits at a swimming pool, and a couple of posts on topless women on motor cycles. They’ll be disappointed when they get there because, like every other post I’ve written they’re free from obscene words and images. 

The only other posts I can think of which might have been caught in a censor’s net would be several I’ve written recently on the melamine milk scandal. I’ve mentioned more than once that formula is second best and it’s better to feed babies as nature intended. In doing so I’ve made no effort to avoid the obvious term for what happens to be a part of the body which might excite a dirt-alert in another context.

If that’s what’s caused the problem then sites such as La Leche or Plunket probably run into the same problem.

That would be a pity because some MOH staff might have a legitimate work-related interest in those sites and in the melamine milk scandal.

How much cash, how many cards?


Zentiger at NZ Conservative notes people using EFTPOS to pay tiny amounts and wonders how much cash people carry.

I was doing a door to door collection for Plunket a couple of years ago and one very apologetic woman, whom I knew, said she had absolutely no cash in the house.

This surprised me because I have a money box on the laundry window sill for the coins which end up in the wahsing machine, and another in the bedroom for those which fall on the floor. So even when my wallet is cashless I have change in the house and I always have some coins and maybe a small note in the car for emergencies.

But the need for cash certainly isn’t as great as it was before we had EFTPOS and hole-in-the-wall banking. Way back then you had to get your money from banks and they closed at 3pm on Friday and didn’t open until 10am on Monday.

As the amount of cash people have on hand has fallen the number of cards we carry has risen.

This came up in discussion with friends recently so we all did a count – the winner had 32 cards in his wallet including EFTPOS, credit, swipe, membership and loyalty cards and all but a couple were current and, he said, necessary.

No doubt there are security and privacy issues, but it would be much easier if we could programme one card with all the information we needed.

Either that, or just put a bar code on our foreheads 🙂

Policy root of DHB problem


The Otago District Health Board faces cost cutting because of a budgeted deficit of $7.3 million.

At the root of this problem is the wrong assumption that Otago was over-funded.

Population-based funding is good in theory and may even work in practice when adjustments are made for factors such as age and rurality providing it is based on realistic budgets.

But when it was introduced the Minsitry of Health started by saying Otago was over funded and required it to reduce costs. Instead of working out how to bring other areas up to Otago’s standards, the bureaucrats told Otago it had to get down to the lower cost per person ratio in other areas and the board has been trying to do more with less ever since.

Over funding was simply a bureaucratic judgement based on a wrong assumption. The deficit Otago is now facing and services like the Otago Community Hopsice and Plunket complaining they haven’t got enough money to provide their services are evidence of that.

Yes Minister approach to funding


Yes-Minister  approach to funding means Dunedin women are not getting treatment for post-natal depression.

Women with postnatal depression in Dunedin are missing out on support because a $140,000 service which should have gone ahead last September has not received Otago District Health Board funding, Plunket says.

Plunket Society operations manager for Otago-Southland Barb Long says lack of the service, which will proceed only in a limited way next year with private funding, is a huge gap in services.

She said the society, which had been identified by the board as the preferred provider for the service last July, was only advised in May that the board would not be funding it.

Board chairman Richard Thomson said while he understood Ms Long’s disappointment, it would have been irresponsible for the board to introduce services it could not fund in the long term.

He describes the board as being stuck in a “Yes, Minister” situation (a reference to a British television programme which highlighted the foibles of bureaucracy) where it may get money to start up a service but not be funded to sustain it.

This is not the only Yes-Minsiter aproach to funding in the region.

Oamaru Hospital bought a CT scanner last year but the ODHB which holds the contract for scans will not pass over payment for North Otago patients. This means North Otago patients who qualify for ACC are getting scans locally but other people have to travel to Dunedin Hospital for publicly funded scans or pay to have them in Oamaru.

This is a ridiculous situation when Oamaru has the equipment and the expertise to provide the service while Dunedin has a waiting list for scans and it is a three hour return journey from Oamaru to the city. 

If people require a scan funding shouldn’t be dependent on where they get it.

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