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"Wi-Fi Refugees" Shelter in West Virginia Mountains 627

Posted by samzenpus
from the break-out-the-tinfoil dept.
The 13,000 sq mile U.S. Radio Quiet Zone is an area in West Virginia where all wireless transmissions are banned because of the large number of radio telescopes located there. (This official page shows a map of the Zone; an old Wired article is fascinating reading.) These high-tech telescopes have attracted unlikely neighbors, people who claim to have Wi-Fi allergies. In recent years, scores of people have moved to the area to escape the "damage" that electromagnetic fields can cause them. From the article: "Diane Schou is unable to hold back the tears as she describes how she once lived in a shielded cage to protect her from the electromagnetic radiation caused by waves from wireless communication. 'It's a horrible thing to have to be a prisoner,' she says. 'You become a technological leper because you can't be around people. It's not that you would be contagious to them — it's what they're carrying that is harmful to you.'"
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"Wi-Fi Refugees" Shelter in West Virginia Mountains

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:46AM (#37387964)

    As if the hillbillies out in some of those valleys weren't batshit enough already, now they're inviting in a bunch of tinfoil-hatter paranoid schizos to stay. Expect a significant jump in alien abduction and anal probing reports (above even the current extremely high levels).

    And before everyone gets all offended, I'm not saying EVERYONE is WVa is a hillbilly. But don't even THINK about pretending that *none* of them are. There are some fucking crazy dudes out in those hills, just ask the locals. Oh, not so much the doesn't-wear-shoes-and-makes/drinks-moonshine variety these days--more the has-a-shitload-of-guns-is-trigger-happy-and-makes/uses-crystal-meth types. Equally as violent/well-armed as their isolationist predecessors, but now they're tweaked up on meth and hallucinating too. Mixing those guys with a bunch of tinfoil-hatters who think radio waves are making them sick just cannot lead to happy-happy-joy-joy results. Though it is nice to cordon them off.

    • by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:50AM (#37388020)

      There are some fucking crazy dudes out in those hills, just ask the locals.

      It's not nice to talk about the scientists at the radio telescope observatory that way. I would have thought a site dedicated to geek culture would be a bit more understanding ...

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        Umm... Most scientist would agree with, and self-apply those adjectives... We are fucking crazy dudes, and if were weren't, life would be so much less enjoyable!

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          Umm... Most scientist would agree with, and self-apply those adjectives... We are fucking crazy dudes, and if were weren't, life would be so much less enjoyable!

          I was fucking crazy chicks, and it was very enjoyable except for the bite marks, but to each each their own.

      • by thesh0ck (1983948) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:43PM (#37388884)
        I bet she is going to be pissed when she finds out there is in fact radio transmissions there... quite a bit of them in fact. The ones that are banned are the ones from outsiders. They transmit thier own radio signals that are accounted for in the science, as are the goverenment radio signals. There is in fact more electro-magnetic radiation in that area than in a city. Its a true lack of understanding of anything in reality that makes these people do these things. After all... light is also electromagnetic radiation, and there is radio waves coming from the sun and stars but she doesnt mention anything about having problems in the sun or looking at the stars. Crackpot ignorant people.
    • Too bad that the 'wireless quiet zone' only refers to a very narrow band of EM radiation.

      Hopefully they've also banned TVs, VCRs, microwave ovens, cars, police and fire transmitters and church PA systems.

      (Actually would be a nice place if they could do that).

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        Nice depends on the concept, considering that you would have zero emergency response when it matters as a result.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:03PM (#37388208) Homepage

        Actually, FTFA, they HAVE banned most of those things directly around the Radio Telescope. Still and all, the poor afflicted darlings have probably never heard of the inverse square law. Or inverses. Or squares.

        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:17PM (#37388446) Journal

          Or the fucking sun, apparently. I trust they're all living several miles below ground.

      • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:06PM (#37388266) Journal

        Too bad that the 'wireless quiet zone' only refers to a very narrow band of EM radiation.

        If it's enough to quell their psychosomatic symptoms while keeping them out of the way of the rest of us, I'd say it's a win.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Hopefully they've also banned TVs, VCRs, microwave ovens, cars, police and fire transmitters and church PA systems.

        According to that Wired article, *all* electronics are basically banned - power cables have to be shielded, no WiFi at all, etc. Now, police/fire/etc radios, as public safety do trump the EM quiet-zone, but even then a lot of work goes into making sure the antennas don't interfere with the telescopes. Apparently something like a WiFi card can generate a strong enough signal that blows the ampli

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:21PM (#37388518) Journal
          There was a story on Slashdot a couple of years ago about a mobile company that put up a mast in a village, and started getting complaints from people saying that the transmitter was giving them headaches and so on. They issued quite an amusing press release, saying that they were sorry and they hoped that the symptoms wouldn't get much worse next month when they turned the transmitter on...
          • by fyngyrz (762201)

            lol

          • by Insightfill (554828) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @01:03PM (#37389216) Homepage

            There was a story on Slashdot a couple of years ago

            Probably this story [slashdot.org] from last January.

          • by RsG (809189) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @01:11PM (#37389224)

            Heard the same story, only it was a ham radio. It's likely apocryphal in any case, though it would not surprise me to learn there's an actual event obscured by the retelling.

            Regardless, the GP has the right idea. I've heard of blind tests of "EM sensitivity" done in the past, with results that unambiguously showed a purely psychosomatic condition - that is to say, the subjects felt sick when they believed they were being exposed, regardless of their actual exposure, and felt fine when they believed they were "safe". But to the patient, this is always going to be met with denial. "Can you believe that doctor thought it was all in my head! Where the hell did he learn medicine? I don't like being called crazy, I'm going to go to my homeopath for advice from now on!"

            Partly this is the fault of our culture labelling all mental health issues under the broad brush of "s/he's crazy". Nobody wants to admit that there could be anything wrong with their head, ergo all psychosomatic illnesses are attributed to external causes, sensible or otherwise. The prevalence of quacks and snake oil salesmen ready to cash in on the latest hysterical bandwagon only makes the problem worse.

        • by ae1294 (1547521)

          something like a WiFi card can generate a strong enough signal that blows the amplifiers of the telescopes.

          Time for a trip to W. Virginia with my AWUS036H! Damn dirty scientist with their magnets. HOW DO THEY FUCKING WORK!

    • It would be interesting to have these people participate in a blind test in the same way that audiologists do hearing tests. Give them a button to push when they "feel" the pain associated with the electromagnetic field while you turn on the and off the field during random intervals. Unless they're actually feeling something, they shouldn't be able to correctly push the button at the right time.

      I'd be interested in hearing their response to that. (although I suppose there are some people with whom you si

      • They've done exactly that and the results are exactly what you would expect.

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        I was thinking the same thing; although TFA does allude to a (apparently disputed) positive result from a double blind study, it doesn't provide a link to a published article, or even a name to look up.

      • TFA says some scientists have done such an experiment and it appeared to indicate the subject actually could detect radio waves. There was no link to more info unfortunately.
    • by Tsingi (870990)

      Expect a significant jump in alien abduction and anal probing reports

      This is no joking matter. Have you ever had your ass probed by an alien? I suspect not, or you would temper your remarks.

      • This is no joking matter. Have you ever had your ass probed by an alien? I suspect not, or you would temper your remarks.

        Well, I once had my butt chewed off by a supervisor who was pretty damned odd by any measure. Does that count?

    • by hrieke (126185) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:08PM (#37388288) Homepage

      Actually, having grown up there in West by god Virginia, I can tell you that the Greenbank radio observatory area is very lovely and populated with very smart people doing very good work.

      The Hillbillies that you are talking about are more from Bluefield.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not saying EVERYONE is WVa is a hillbilly.

      A reporter went way up into the hills of West Virginia to write an article
      about the area. He met an old man in a small town and asked him about any
      memorable events in his life.

      The old man said, "Well, one time my favorite sheep got lost, so me and my
      neighbors got some moonshine and went looking for it. We looked and looked
      and finally found the sheep. Then, we drank the moonshine and, one by one,
      started screwing the sheep. It was a lot of fun!"

      The reporter figured he can't write an article about that, so he

  • then there's these people

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:52AM (#37388058) Homepage Journal

    Sorry, Diane, but you are contagious. Just as you learned of this invented disease from someone else, you've undoubtedly passed it along to another hypochondriac. Just because it's not transmitted by biological vectors doesn't mean that it can't spread from person to person.

    • by madhatter256 (443326) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:01PM (#37388196)

      No use telling her... she won't be able to read this comment...

    • by PPH (736903)

      you've undoubtedly passed it along to another hypochondriac.

      But with a national whack-job preserve like this, its not likely the contagion will be passed on. I mean, what's this person going to do? Blog about it?

    • Memetic virulence.
    • by kheldan (1460303)
      All kidding aside, what I think is really going on with this, is it's part of a trend I've been seeing more and more over the last, say, 20 years. People are more and more rejecting technology and technological progress altogether. Not sure why. I suspect that our poor caveman brains are just finally getting overloaded by the non-stop onslaught of sensory input. Think about it: We watch too much TV; the commercials are noticeably louder than the actual program, and the program very often has pop-up ads on i
  • by Gedvondur (40666) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:53AM (#37388062)

    It's like a crazy-enclave. I think the easiest way to make these people realize that they are suffering from mental illness or delusional thoughts is to explain to them how many waves and what type pass through them every day, even in a radio-free enclave.

    I just don't get this kind of irrational behavior. I think it has to be an illness similar to germaphobia.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      I liked the lady who thought she needed to live in a faraday cage made of wood and chicken wire. I bet you could get cell recption in there, and it only blocked a couple of frequencies at most.

      Or lady the lady who got sick sitting in front of her TV. She was old enough that i would bet the elctron gun was damaged and outputting higher than normal.

      She should get an LCD tv and see if she feels the same.

      • by Amouth (879122)

        i have an old CRT TV - and i get sick sitting in-front of it, that is if i'm watching any current media.. turn it off or watch a good old movie and the sickness goes away.

        • I get sick sitting in front of any TV, largely because I apparently have an allergy to pretty much everything that's shown on it.

  • From Wikipedia... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:54AM (#37388076)

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_hypersensitivity :

    The majority of provocation trials to date have found that self-described sufferers of electromagnetic hypersensitivity are unable to distinguish between exposure to real and fake electromagnetic fields,[2][3] and it is not recognized as a medical condition by the medical or scientific communities.[4]

    [2] Rubin, James; J Das Munshi J, Simon Wessely (March–April 2005). "Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: a systematic review of provocation studies". Psychosomatic Medicine 67 (2): 224–32. doi:10.1097/01.psy.0000155664.13300.64. PMID 15784787.
    [3] Röösli M (June 2008). "Radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure and non-specific symptoms of ill health: a systematic review". Environ. Res. 107 (2): 277–87. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2008.02.003. PMID 18359015.
    [4] http://www.cdc.gov/search.do?q=%22Electromagnetic+hypersensitivity%22+&btnG.x=20&btnG.y=5&sort=date%3AD%3AL%3Ad1&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&ud=1&site=default_collection

    • by gfxguy (98788)
      Majority can't tell = a minority CAN. I rather doubt most of these people, but I don't doubt it's possible.
      • Majority of trials not people.
  • by jbarr (2233) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:56AM (#37388100) Homepage

    I'm 45, and while the likes of the Internet and mass-media obviously provide significantly more information than we ever had in the past, I just don't remember so many people having food allergies, aversions, ADD, "sensitivities", or other maladies that are so abundant today. Is it because we are less ignorant and more informed of what were otherwise "hidden" issues, or have we physically evolved into people weaker constitutions?

    • by 0racle (667029)
      You could use that there internet and find out.
    • by arcite (661011) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:08PM (#37388280)
      Perhaps its precisely due to the internet that we have so many people acting on their neurotic tendencies. With 24/7 access to the 'net and the ability to look up any information desired, we can self-diagnose ourselves like never before. We're now so afraid of disease that we sterilize our homes (and ourselves) to such an extent that our own bodies immune system turns on us. We believe in conspiracy theories, listen to Internet bloggers, form social circles and 'friend' celebrity actors who promote ideologies based on nothing more than being critical of the status-quo (or for it). Critical through is thrown out the window in favor of demagoguery. Oh well, at least this set of self-diagnosed, technologically persecuted individuals can find peace among the dense Virginia forests, safe from harming wider society.
    • There's some of both. Partly it's better diagnosis and information about these different sensitivities: People are more likely to find out exactly what they are sensitive to, and be able to communicate it better to others. We are also making an effort to make public areas more open to people with these sensitivities, so someone who 20 years ago would just not eat out, now can go and find something on the menu tailored to them in many restaurants.

      But there's also the fact that people who grow up in near-st

    • by brusk (135896)
      Don't forget that there used to be other illnesses such as female hysteria and neurasthenia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Historical_and_obsolete_mental_and_behavioural_disorders [wikipedia.org]) that are no longer diagnosed. Conversely, behavior that was once within a normal spectrum might now be considered pathological (e.g., ADHD). So some change in apparent rates of disease have to do with shifting medical practices. That doesn't mean, for example, that some allergies have become more common.
    • by gfxguy (98788)

      I think you're just hearing more about it because of ubiquitous access to information, and when we talk about peanut allergies, for example, the really bad cases 20 or 30 years ago may not ever have even made it to school age.

      As for some of the other problems, I do think a lot of it bunk, but I also think that humans have stopped becoming a stronger species and are, in fact, getting weaker. Survival of the fittest doesn't apply to us any more.

    • I'm 45, and while the likes of the Internet and mass-media obviously provide significantly more information than we ever had in the past, I just don't remember so many people having food allergies, aversions, ADD, "sensitivities", or other maladies that are so abundant today. Is it because we are less ignorant and more informed of what were otherwise "hidden" issues, or have we physically evolved into people weaker constitutions?

      Read up on the old medical literature (on the Internet of course). 'Hysteria', 'the vapours' and a host of other obviously psychosomatic maladies have been around for quite a long time. The current fad of blaming said problems on the environment (the 'sensitivities') is fairly recent. Previously the scapegoat was God, the Devil, Witches or similar malign influence. It's not surprising since we know that some of the many chemicals / radiations we're exposed to ARE really dangerous (pleased to step away f

    • by berashith (222128)

      There are reasons for a few of these heightened sensitivities outside of people just wanting attention.

      There is a theory that the amount of cleaners that we use prevent us for being exposed to mild toxins, and our immune systems really want to have something to do, so an allergy occurs to things that we should not be sensitive to. Not sure I buy it 100%, but it holds more water than just blaming more information to the hypochondriacs.

      The soy allergies that have occurred go right to Monsanto. They have a pro

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I think the increased incidence of these sorts of things has a three fold cause. The first is that a significant number of the people who suffer from genuine problems (such as severe allergies) would have died from them or something else at a very young age in the past. The second is that the threshold for diagnosis of certain disorders have been lowered (diabetes and autism are two examples). This does not account for all of the increase in the incidence of those disorders, but it accounts for a significan
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jalefkowit (101585)

      It's neither. The reason is because the environments we live in have become less dangerous. There's only so many hours in the day to worry about things, so the more dangerous things take priority. As we've removed more and more dangers through scientific and social progress, it has freed up room in our busy schedules to worry about less significant things.

      Think of it as a Maslow-style [wikimedia.org] hierarchy of risks. You only start worrying about things higher on the hierarchy when you no longer have to worry about

    • I haven't reached your august age but I've seen a lot of the same. I knew exactly one kid at school with a food allergy, and she couldn't eat large amounts of chocolate. That was the extent of the allergies my school had to content with.

      That said, two of my kids have been diagnosed with ADD (not ADHD). They simply could not concentrate on school stuff. For example, I'd watch my son try to do homework at the kitchen table, and he'd be fine for a little while until a neighborhood dog barked. Maybe the numbers

  • by UncHellMatt (790153) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:58AM (#37388132)
    Really the best remedy would be homeopathy. What better way to treat an imagined allergy than an imagined cure?
    • by gfxguy (98788)

      I'm glad you're so smart and have studied the issue so well that you can determine that it's simply not possible that a human being, whose nervous system runs on electrical impulses, couldn't possibly be affected by electromagnetic fields.

      I'm not really defending these people - I make no claims to be affected, and I'm sure most of them are hypochondriacs, but isn't it possible that, out of over 300 million people in the U.S., some of them might actually be more sensitive to the effects of electromagnetic fi

      • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:41PM (#37388860)

        I'm not really defending these people - I make no claims to be affected, and I'm sure most of them are hypochondriacs, but isn't it possible that, out of over 300 million people in the U.S., some of them might actually be more sensitive to the effects of electromagnetic fields than you?

        No, at least now how they describe it.

        They only complain about man-made electromagnetic fields. The Earth has this HUGE magnetic field, maybe you've heard of it. The Sun is positively bombarding us with electromagnetic radiation. Basically, the amount energy from man-made electromagnetic radiation you're exposed to on a regular basis is insignificant compared to the natural kinds. The only difference is that the man-made contains ordered signals instead of being purely random noise. It's limited to particular frequencies instead of being at a broader spectrum. These people moved to a place containing a large number of radio telescopes whose purpose is to, wait for it...detect electromagnetic signals.

        Apparently only man-made EM can trigger these people's allergies, which pretty much means that what these people are claiming is literally impossible. In addition, every single study done so far has shown that when you tell these people that you turned off the source of EM they think is the cause of their problem, they get better. Even if you lie to them about it, and the thing is still on. Similarly, if you tell them that you turned a device on, they'll suddenly start getting their headaches, even though nothing was turned on.

        Now, if you tell me that in a population of billions, there are some humans that are sensitive to electromagnetic fields in such a way that makes them good at finding north...I'm willing to believe that and run some tests. Sounds plausible and interesting.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        The problem is that they are claiming that they are only claiming to be affected by electromagnetic fields that they have been informed about. The symptoms disappear when they are around electromagnetic fields that they don't know about.
    • sugar pills. Twice a day with distilled water.
  • I'm not sure if its practically possible, but if it is then, without the knowledge of these people, temporarily shut down the telescopes and blast the town with WiFi frequencies for a few days.

    You'll find out if there's any truth in their statements

  • by Chirs (87576) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @11:59AM (#37388144)

    I personally have no problems with electronics...I work in front of a computer all day.

    That said, it's been shown that cell phone radiation can cause brain activity. Is it such a stretch to imagine that under some circumstances some people could experience that brain activity in a negative way?

    I can't find a reference, but I seem to remember my psychology class covering people that could get skin burns because they were touched with a piece of metal that they *thought* was hot, but really wasn't. If the mind can do that, it seems plausible it could cause other symptoms.

  • I used to live in Green Bank (the area noted) as my father worked there at the observatory in the 70's. A wonderful place with intelligent scientists and friendly people.

    Too bad this weirdo makes it sound like a freak show.

  • Good Lord. Has anybody taken a wifi base station walked up to these people, claimed it was on just to watch them scream in agony only to show them they had not ACTUALLY turned it on?

    I would LOVE to see that.

    Of course...You can't rationally argue a person out of a position they did not rationally get themselves into (quote by somebody...can't remember who) so I'd guess they would deny that it was actually off when they screamed in pain.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:04PM (#37388230)
    The first link in TFA is all about an additional approval process required for transmitters in the region so that they do not adversely affect the Radio Telescopes. The second link says basically the same thing.

    Come back Taco .. we miss you.
    • The first link in TFA is all about an additional approval process required for transmitters in the region so that they do not adversely affect the Radio Telescopes. The second link says basically the same thing.

      Come back Taco .. we miss you.

      We've had dupes for years. Now they're just in the same article. It's progress, you Luddite.

  • In other tech news, crazy (technophobes,technophiles) found a way to (avoid,misuse) technology found in (your favorite tech here), conducting activities that resulted in (isolating them,harming people) in a surprisingly (ignorant,creepy) fashion.

    The world responded with (shock,anger,compassion) for (1,2,5,30) minutes and then returned to their (pathetic lives,regularly scheduled programming).

  • by leighklotz (192300) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:06PM (#37388254) Homepage

    Radio transmitters are not banned there. Licensed ham stations have minimal limitations: for example, the main amateur radio restriction is that it's not allowed without permission to establish a "beacon" (transmit-only) station, and those themselves are already limited to 28 MHz and up anywhere in the US.

  • Irony: In order to escape wireless emissions, people move to a place where a bunch of massive radio telescopes stand next door as proof that wireless emissions are everywhere.

    Correlation isn't causality: moving from a populated area to the middle of nowhere and having your symptoms "disappear" proves that wireless emissions were the root of the problem.

  • Whenever I am maxing out my cheapo WiFi router, sometimes I can hear a very slight humming from the router

    Similarly, if its very quiet, under certain conditions I can hear slight noises from my laptop (not the Fan or HDD, seems to come from the CPU), and sometimes from CRT TV's

    I wonder if their issue is something like this

    • Humming in what ought to be solid-state hardware is often improperly potted high frequency magnetic passives. Inductors, transformers, and suchlike widgetry. Get a bunch of fluctuating magnetic fields in close proximity, in wires that aren't properly potted, and you'll get some vibration.

      CRTs could be doing the same thing(flyback transformer and friends), or could be electrostatic crackling(40Kv has a way of making itself heard sometimes...)
    • by PPH (736903)
      Its probably magnetostriction [wikipedia.org].
  • Dollar-store aluminum foil for headwear construction. Problem solved!
  • While this alleged "sensitivity" has borne up quite poorly against basic double-blind testing, which makes me deeply doubtful of its existence, I do have to wonder what is going on when such a comparatively large number of people are exhibiting psychological phenomena strong enough that they will do things like hide out in a faraday cage, move, risk ridicule, etc.

    Psych symptoms are real symptoms(albeit often not of what the patient thinks they are), so the prevalence of psych symptoms is worrisome. Given
  • by rjforster (2130) on Tuesday September 13, 2011 @12:21PM (#37388520) Journal

    Don't get me wrong, I'm terribly allergic to wifi, mobile phones, even a microwave oven being used next door but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter much. You see, I'm also allergic to neutrinos. Do you know how many of those things pass through my body every single second. Oh it causes me so much pain you just wouldn't believe. :-)

  • between these people and southerners in the 1960's. Once desegregated, many of them simply moved to california to avoid equality entirely. I wonder if these mavericks arent simply attempting to escape the digital age entirely.

    of course it should be said that this effort is largely to blame for california bearing the greatest number of hate groups in the united states according to the SPLC. what will happen to the people who flee progress and technology?
  • In addition to being an area of "radio quiet," the area also incredibly scenic, loaded with state parks and national forests, home to wild and scenic rivers, and in general a great place to camp, fish, hike, hunt, canoe, or commune with Nature in your chosen fashion. There are relict populations of assorted plants remaining from the retreat of the last glacier for the amateur botanist. There are plenty of bears around for people who like a little danger with their nature walks. It's also one of the few rea

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