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Infographic showing America's increasingly metropolitan population
America's increasingly metropolitan population
The Census Bureau came out on Thursday with a new slew of metro-area, county, and city-level population data; not surprisingly, the nation has hit another new high in terms of the percentage of people living in metropolitan areas rather than rural areas (up to 85.4 percent of the population living in metro areas, in 2013). In fact, 1 in 3 Americans are now living in one of the nation's 10 largest metro areas, and 1 in 7 live in just one of the three largest (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago).

In 2013, the nation's metro areas gained 2.3 million people, while the rest of the country actually lost a net 27,000. That's good news on the long-term political front, with urban living increasingly correlated with voting Democratic.

It's also part of a larger trend in the years since the Great Recession, where cities suddenly began growing faster than their surrounding suburbs (in other words, the cities themselves are now the fastest-growing part of the already-growing metro areas). That can be seen in, for instance, New York City, which for the third straight year gained more people than it lost through migration, reversing trends going back to the mid-twentieth century. That's partly because cities are increasingly where the jobs are, in a more knowledge-based economy, but also because energy and transportation costs are making the suburban or rural life less manageable.

Also of note, the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, became the first county to ever clear the 10 million mark in 2013. Only two of the nation's 50 most populous counties lost population during 2013: Wayne Co., Michigan, and Cuyahoga Co., Ohio (Detroit and Cleveland, in other words).

Bloomberg's Greg Giroux has a great observation about the growth in the large counties, pointing to what some would say is the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the Senate, and how that's especially on display when the Class II seats are up, as they are this year:

Putting it another way, Los Angeles County’s population also is greater than the combined populations of six states holding consequential Senate elections in November.

The total population of South Dakota and West Virginia, where retiring Democrats probably will be replaced by Republicans, along with Alaska, Arkansas, Montana and New Hampshire, where Democratic senators face serious Republican challengers, is about 8.7 million.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 01:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Which means more representation for rural areas (6+ / 0-)

    That is if Republicans have control of redistricting. The more rural areas shrink, the more representation they get under Republican lines due to gerrymandering.

    27, Male, CA-26, DK Elections Black Caucus Chair.

    by DrPhillips on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 01:59:31 PM PDT

  •  its only going to get more pronounced. (5+ / 0-)

    Transportation and jobs arent the only two reasons cities are growing and rural areas shrrinking. There is also culture.

    Rural America has become the haven of a bunch of increasingly crazy old white folks. Nobody, especially anyone even borderline sane, wants to live in a shrinking, aging, jobless, bogoted backwater. Gone are the days of the gentle small town with the small town values and old fashioned hospitality. Now your small towns are overrunwith religious nuts, gun freaks, industrial farming,  and crystal meth.

    Shouldntbe any shock why all of them losing people.

    •  I wish you weren't so right about this, bbb. But (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zwenkau, oortdust

      it's far too true. All of my immediate family lives in rural areas now, and all I have to do to find evidence of this:

      Rural America has become the haven of a bunch of increasingly crazy old white folks. Nobody, especially anyone even borderline sane, wants to live in a shrinking, aging, jobless, bogoted backwater. Gone are the days of the gentle small town with the small town values and old fashioned hospitality. Now your small towns are overrunwith religious nuts, gun freaks, industrial farming,  and crystal meth.
      is to pay a visit to one of the local grocery or convenience stores and pay a bit of attention to what people are saying or doing around me.

      "There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it."

      by camlbacker on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 02:53:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's a bit of a broad brush (8+ / 0-)

      Vermont is rural and full of liberals and all sorts of good folks that wouldn't fit into the mold you speak of. Many of them own guns, but are certainly not gun freaks. And it's the least religious state in the union, despite being mostly rural

      It reminds me a bit too much of Paul Ryan comments  stereotyping "urban people".

    •  Same to you. (0+ / 0-)

      Times ten.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:42:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think so (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMScott, MichaelNY, tb mare, verso2, Choco8

      My small town of 6700 sure isn't. There are a ton of small towns, let's not paint everyone with a broad brush.

    •  The crystal meth part is sad but true (0+ / 0-)

      i recently met a couple who moved up here to Cleveland (see, we're not totally losing population) from Alabama because they said the state was one big crystal meth lab.

      Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

      by anastasia p on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:16:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  it's been a decline of professionals. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bear83, BYw

      it's hard to get doctors, architects, engineers,,,,
      to live out in the empty states.

    •  Well, maybe in your state but (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, tb mare, Choco8

      Not in the very rural area I live in, in MN.Sure, lots of churches, but we don't go much for those preachers who tell members what to believe, so they don't have to to read if themselves. Unfortunately, yes, the area is aging, half because the land values at the lakes are so high that retired rich, well educated people are attracted to live here. I know lots and lots of people with masters and doctorate degrees. I've heard that there is drugs. I also know a surprising number of seniors who are open-minded, to say the least, about gay people. So be careful how you paint a place with a broad brush stroke.  

    •  But it's self-defeating (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      verso2, Choco8, ban nock

      To write people off based on their address.

      Of course these negative stereotypes are based somewhat on reality.   No doubt about that.  We should still be trying to reach people.  There are many reasons why people live in rural areas.  For full disclosure I grew up in a rural area and now live in an urban area.


      Partly because economic opportunities are gone.  I don't have an instant solution but right wing economics doesn't seem to have helped.


      Because older people on fixed incomes don't need a job, but do need a cheap place to live.  Their meager incomes are often what drives some rural economies.  Most other jobs are grounded in providing basic services and selling groceries to relatively poor senior citizens.  Progressives believe that senior citizens deserve dignity and adequate services.  Republicans would claim they do but  work day and night to achieve the opposite.


      Covered above.  Reaganomics doesn't seem to have helped most rural people.  Of course there is a wealthy agribusiness elite, rich on government subsidies, but that isn't necessarily helping much either.


      Conservatives will pander to bigotry but that's pretty much the only real advantage they offer to rural people.  Maybe we should be trying to convince rural people that it isn't worth it.  We don't even have to convince them not to be bigots.  We just have to convince them that it's not a good idea to harm themselves for the sake of their bigotry.


      Lots of people with humane, progressive values enjoy a quiet life in a small community.

      •  Seems easier to me (0+ / 0-)

        to let nature take its course. These people and their communities are dying, especially in purple states. In time, we'll have a solid cohesive majority. Im not even going to bother reaching out to a g 75 year old gun toting nut in rural Kansas. Waste of time and energy.

        •  "easier" isn't necessarily better (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Choco8, ban nock

          Sure, superiority and stereotyping of "the other" are fun and all.  

          However, ostensibly, this site is "dedicated to electing Democrats".  

          Hopefully Democrats will start being more proactive, but right now we have a situation where Republicans do active harm and Democrats often do nothing.   So nothing is better than active harm but we get stuck with the harmful policies.  Thus, while I'm fairly sure Obama wouldn't have initiated Bush policies of torture and drone assassination, for example, we're stuck with them indefinitely because they were initiated by Republicans and haven't been taken away.

          So waiting for them to "die off" is a bit passive and defeatist from my point of view.

          But anyway, I don't mean to pick a fight.  We probably support roughly the same things.  You do your thing and I'll do my thing.  I prefer trying to reach as many people with persuasion as possible.  

  •  You can see evidence in Pa. For example, southeast (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Pa. cities---Philadelphia (1,500,000) has increased about 1% since 2000, Bethlehem and Reading (about 80,000 each) increases of 5% and 8%, while western cities of Pittsburgh (0.2% increase, Erie about even, northeastern city of Scranton minus since 2000. Combined with robust growth of much of near Philadelphia and Bethlehem-Allentown areas seems to portend relative urban Democratic weight in the future, with much of western Pa. losing population.

  •  Part of the reason that Republicans have so much (0+ / 0-)

    control of state legislatures is that they are becoming increasingly a party of rural people.

    In my home state of Kansas there are 105 counties (one of the highest numbers in the nation despite our low total population), per the 2010 census :

    4 counties with 151,000 to 544,000 people
    6 counties with 42,000 to 151,000 people
    27 counties with 12,000 to 42,000 people
    41 counties with 3,241 to 121,000 people
    24 counties with 1,247 to 3,241 people

    We don't have many Democrats, but the ones we do have come from towns in the top category with one exception, who's in the next category down.

    FYI, Greeley the smallest county in population, and with an area of 778 miles has 1.6 people per square mile.  You can imagine the inefficiencies of trying to provide education, medical care, roads and other basic governmental services there.

  •  How do exurbs fit into all this? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    abgin, MichaelNY

    Just a thought and it's more of a question than a statement.  How many rural areas are just redefined as they evolve away from agriculture?

    The lady was enchanted and said they ought to see. So they charged her with subversion and made her watch TV -Spirogyra

    by Taget on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 06:39:54 PM PDT

    •  That's a very good question (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, Taget, hankmeister

      Some exurbs where farming and other rural practices and economic bases have declined seem to take on suburban traits -- I saw a lot of this happening in Maryland, and I see it happening with certain cities in Oregon as well -- and others just sort of shrivel and die, I think.

      Pragmatic progressive. Oregonian, Cascadian, and American. Keeper of the DKE glossary.

      by SaoMagnifico on Thu Mar 27, 2014 at 09:46:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But the exurbs are dark red (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        charliehall2, peregrine kate, BYw

        Filled with the mean and angry older white folks that other comments here have railed against.  At least that's true here in Maryland.  It's Harford, northern Baltimore, and Carroll counties that sent Andy Harris, R Teabag, to Congress.  Those in the rural eastern shore are relatively sane.

        My wife and I are white but almost all of her co-workers are black.  Her co-workers have told her they are afraid, afraid for their lives, to go to Baltimore exurbs Harford and Carroll counties.  

        "Corporations exist not for themselves, but for the people." Ida Tarbell 1908.

        by Navy Vet Terp on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:24:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Those MD exurbs (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Navy Vet Terp

          are where the hunters live.  They love their guns which I suspect is the main influence in how they vote.  I have a friend who grew up in Harford Co.  Her parents are moving to PA because they are afraid that the state will outlaw their guns and they love to hunt.  So much for dealing in reality.

          “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

          by musiclady on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:53:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  It depends on how the Metropolitan (6+ / 0-)

      Statistical Areas are defined. Here for Detroit, for example, either three, six, or nine counties are used. For this study, looks like the six-county version (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, plus Livingston, St. Clair, and Lapeer) is relevant. The far reaches of all of those counties qualify as exurbs, and for the latter three pretty much all of them do. I've never understood the sense behind that, really: to include Port Huron, which is 60 miles from Detroit and not likely to send many commuters to the city, but exclude Ann Arbor, which is 45 miles from Detroit and has lots of commuter traffic to downtown, is just odd to me. But Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are part of the nine-county version, FWIW.
      If you follow the first link in the diary to the source, and then look from that to the site, you can find metro areas you know and get a sense of how they calculate it.

      Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

      by peregrine kate on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:28:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Metro area": a term of art (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Let's hold off on the triumphalism, shall we?

      Target, your question is a good one.

      Take a look at the evolution of the boundaries of metropolitan statistical areas. Under pressure from business, no doubt, the Census Bureau has redefined them to reflect media/trade cachements, not city-and-close-suburbs as we might expect from past practice.

      The result is that, to take the Des Moines/West Des Moines MTA, where I grew up, as an example, many MTA include vast swathes of rural areas, as well as exurbs.

      In any case, suburbs and exurbs are not uniformly centers of political enlightenment. In fact, some are Tea Party strongholds.

  •  The question is, why can't we dominate the House (0+ / 0-)

    if we have the population?

  •  Break'em up (0+ / 0-)

    If metropolitan areas were to secede from their micropolitan and rural rumps and then break up even further into individual states, that could increase Democratic representation in both houses.

  •  a population of 10 million makes LA County (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, LillithMc, NM Ray, ruellia

    bigger than 157 of the 243 nations in the world . . . .  .

    Bigger than Kuwait, Uruguay, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway.

    Time to secede.  ;)

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:20:51 PM PDT

    •  interesting aside: largest city in the world is (7+ / 0-)

      Shanghai, with 17.8 million--which makes it larger than 183 of the world's 243 nations; Lagos, Nigeria, is larger than 177 nations, and Karachi, Pakistan, is bigger than 173 nations.

      Those three largest cities have a combined population of 47.7 million--only 25 countries in the world have a higher population than that figure.

      Incidentally, of the 20 largest cities in the world, none of them are in the US.

      The entire world is being steadily urbanized.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:40:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Senate will always be that way (6+ / 0-)

    Now the problems with the House split is a different issue. We really need to expand the number of reps and we need to make sure extreme gerrymandering doesn't make rural votes worth more than urban ones. That is inherently undemocratic and needs to be fixed. The Senate is intended to preserve states' rights, but the house is supposed to represent the population at large.

    Voting straight party D 'til there's no GOP...
    Oh and the name is Jim, not Tim, the user name is a typo

    by jusjtim35 on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 07:37:21 PM PDT

    •  I agree. (0+ / 0-)

      We could easily double the number of Representatives in the House so that it matches up with the population growth we've had since the early 1900s (the last time that the House was expanded).

      This needs to become a thing that Progressives push for over the next few years. Not only would this make our House more representative of it's citizens, but it would also give the House more Democratic votes.

  •  I read a Loooong analysis about this (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    patbahn, bear83, nominalize, BYw, tb mare, GleninCA

    The authors must have been paid by the word.

    But I can condense their brain-weinging efforts down to a one sentence conclusion:

    People want to live where every possible government/public service is readily available to them.

    The end.

    And, the future.

    •  This is why the Federal representative (0+ / 0-)

      …system is all screwed up.

      Every state should get ONE senator. And another one for every 30 million people.

      •  So you'd shrink the Senate to 80 members? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And it would be complicated to figure out which 30 million get a Senator. Campaigning would be a nightmare considering the gerrymander possibilities there. And of course we'd need campaign finance reform first or this scheme would be a disaster (we need it anyway).

        Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

        by anastasia p on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:22:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Based on population agustments, it would forever (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          …remain at 100 senators.

          I did the math once, but perhaps I remembered it wrong.

          Here it is:

          Actually the formula goes:

          Every state get one senator.
          A state with a population over 6 million gets two senators.
          A state with over 9 million gets three three senators.
          A state with over 12 million gets four senators.
          And so forth.

      •  just require that states that can't contribute (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pluto, GleninCA

        to the general treasury over a 20 year period lose their statehood.

        revert them back to territories.

  •  Actually NYC has been growing (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NM Ray, nominalize, BYw, MichaelNY, GleninCA

    since the 1980 census. It has added more people than the population of Dallas, TX!

    So much for the idea that high taxes are bad for growth (although to be fair our property taxes aren't bad).

  •  So the total pop of the largest three metro areas (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw, MichaelNY, GleninCA

    in the U.S. is just a couple million smaller than the total pop of people living in non-metro areas. Astonishing. A huge shift in just under a century; IIRC, the urban pop of the U.S. didn't exceed the rural pop until 1920. Though not many suburbs at all back then. Cars and highways and FHA loans fixed that for us.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:30:45 PM PDT

  •  Link, please ... (0+ / 0-)

    For the lead graphic.

    The first human being who insulted his enemy instead of throwing a rock at him was the founder of civilization. - Freud

    by Dhavo on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 08:43:17 PM PDT

  •  jack gas prices consistently past $4/gal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and red american and the suburbs will become unviable.

  •  The... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Senate is not like the House. In the House, the unit of representation is the person. In the Senate, the unit is a state. A small state is no less a state than a large one. Without the Senate being of that nature, there'd have been no republic.

    "It's almost as if we're watching Mitt Romney on Safari in his own country." -- Jonathan Capeheart

    by JackND on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 10:21:46 PM PDT

  •  At some point this farce of a "democracy" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tb mare

    will have to change, deeply, or it will lose any pretense of "democracy." The bitter political pill highlighted in this diary has a dialectical aspect that is probably not of great interest to the purist political bean-counters. But it does interest me, and, as a democratic evolutionary socialist, it scares me too. Because it evidences that U.S. democracy-lite has lost the ability to heal itself, if it ever had such an ability, and to make fundamental changes which the overwhelming majority of the people likely will want. It is unresponsive because it never was intended to be responsive. Old pitched battles inherent in the system are simply too entrenched to yield to major compromise. They were too entrenched in the late 18th century to our founding racist fathers, and they are still too entrenched today.

    Unfortunately, the cultural dynamics relating to the demographic changes pointed out in this diary are more in favor of eventual revolutionary system change resulting from desperation emanating from collapse than mature evolutionary steps to amend and reinterpret the decrepit U.S. Constitution to extract power from rural areas with Senate seats. The Civil War was, after all, a war and not a peaceful transition to equality, and even then we had to have generations of Jim Crow to follow. These rural areas are dominated by mercenary experts in racial politics and other forms of divide-and-conquer. These experts at mass manipulation answer to the oligarchs. Those employed in rural areas do so at the ultimate pleasure of the oligarchs' rural subsidiaries, namely industrial agriculture and the extraction industries. These rural areas are not about to let their political power be eroded by democratic power shifts to urban areas.

    That is one of many reasons why I increasingly believe that, short of economic collapse, which no one should want, the needed changes from U.S. democracy-lite to deep democracy that includes economic democracy will be forced by international conditions, including the rejection of neoliberalism which is already occurring, which may yet eventually destroy the power of the oligarchs. For instance, demand for U.S. agricultural products may diminish if other nations become more food self-sufficient because of concern for food security. Other nations may develop less interest in dependency on the U.S. for not only food but other resources, including faux resources such as financial instruments.

    I understand that caring human beings have no choice in the U.S. than to try to cobble together enough political resources to accomplish as much good as possible within the existing system of Senate seats in under-populated areas and gerrymandering. I am with you, although on the left wing of the possible. Meanwhile, though, the challenges of the times also require a new internationalism, which will come over the objections of the U.S./capitalism and involve more than vote-counting. Vote-counting is necessary, but international solidarity and agitation against the oligarchs are too.

    Sorry to sully a political discussion with dirty socialist theory, but I could not help myself. Regards.

    garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

    by Galtisalie on Sat Mar 29, 2014 at 10:36:32 PM PDT

    •  Persuasion is under-rated (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ruellia, Galtisalie

      The funny thing is that I strongly agree with most of your comment.

      But you've labeled some people as "purist political bean-counters", and I'm fairly sure that includes me, at least from your perspective, even though in realty that's a very inaccurate description of me.

      You proudly contrast that to your self-description, "democratic evolutionary socialist".

      What is the difference between a "democratic evolutionary socialist" and a regular person who supports progressive economics and human rights?  

      •  I have no lack of appreciation for political (0+ / 0-)

        bean counting. It is necessary. It is important. I meant no disrespect. I am grateful that many here are excellent at political science and figuring out how to win elections. I'm all with you on that.

        Socialism is in my self-description because I really am a socialist, which means I want democratic control of the economy for the benefit of all, as opposed to capitalist/corporate control of the economy. I greatly appreciate your asking me that. A progressive as the term is usually used accepts TINA--"there is no alternative to capitalism"--and tries to make the best of things. I'm pragmatic-progressive in the sense that I too try to make the best of things too, but I believe CINA--"capitalism is no alternative." These terms are from a Monthly Review article I cited in a recent diary.

        garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

        by Galtisalie on Sun Mar 30, 2014 at 10:25:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Incorrect logic in article (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "That's good news on the long-term political front, with urban living increasingly correlated with voting Democratic."

    David Brooks and other similar types used to argue that more people moving to "sunbelt" states guaranteed that the country would become massively more conservative, since those states were, at that time, conservative.  However, what they overlooked is that moving doesn't change people's political opinions.  When a liberal moves to Virginia, that's not one less liberal in America, it's one more liberal in Virginia.  In fact a number of formerly red states have become "swing" states, due to population gain, and the converse has not happened.

    You're making the same mistake here.  You're probably right that urban areas will continue to be overwhelmingly Democratic, but people moving from rural to urban areas don't necessarily change their politics in the short run.

    A more significant error is mentioned in comments below.  The US political system is set up to disproportionately represent small states.  If there are only ten people in South Dakota some day, they'll have a senator for every five people.  Unless urban areas are proportionately represented, this is not particularly good news for Democrats.  Plenty of long term trends are, just not necessarily this one.

  •  The economic forces behind this return (0+ / 0-)

    to the metros and even Megalopolis is explored in great depth by author James Howard Kunstler in his excellent book The Long Emergency (2006). It is an excellent read, and I recommend it to those interested in this topic. Among other things, it makes the issues of urban planning and public transport much more important than even 10 years ago. On the issue of smog and dirty fuels, which are important to city-dwellers, there is an excellent article in a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine about the impact that the Obama administration's policies are having on energy conservation, which may be unfortunately overshadowed by policies allowing coal companies to export "petfuels," basically coal refined down into a fuel that can be used by countries that the US exports these fuels to. To me, it helped clarify some of the key issues in the proposed coal pipeline from Canada. Very informative article, IMO, and well worth looking up.

  •  Divided Workers (0+ / 0-)

    Once again this kind of article generates the expected mix of comments, many of which perpetuate the ugliest stereotypes of rural people (of whom I am one). We should be focused on uniting workers for self-empowerment, rather than enforcing divides which only serve to strengthen the positions of the monied elites.

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