‘Finally. Someone who thinks like me.’

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Melanie Austin sits during her kitchen list during her home nearby Brownsville, Pa., on Aug. 6. She is an eager Donald Trump believer and is certain that he will win a choosing in November. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

In a vital room in western Pennsylvania, a Republican National Convention was on TV, and Melanie Austin was removing impatient.

“Who’s that guy?” she said, examination some billionaire speak about wealth and tolerance. “Prosperity and tolerance? Forget that sh–.”

She illuminated a cigarette. Her boyfriend, Kevin Lisovich, was subsequent to her on a couch, flapping to sleep, a sham over his head. On a ottoman was her cellphone, her annals on a speakers so distant — “LOCK HER UP!!” she had combined — and a anti-anxiety pills she kept in a china vial on her keychain.

She was a 52-year-old lady who had worked 20 years for a railroad, had once been a Democrat and was now a Republican, and counted herself among a flourishing swath of people who assigned a fringes of American politics though were increasingly apropos partial of a mainstream. Like millions of others, she believed that President Obama was a Muslim. And like so many she had gotten to know online by amicable media, she also believed that he was expected gay, that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that a Obama children were presumably kidnapped from a family now acid for them.

“So beautiful,” Melanie pronounced as Ivanka Trump walked onto a gathering theatre to deliver her father, and shortly a mountainous measure of a film “Air Force One” was blustering by a TV. Melanie sat adult straighter. This is what she had been watchful for.

“Here comes Big Daddy,” she said, clapping. “The Donald. Big Daddy.”

Kevin was snoring.

“Here he is, babe,” she said. “Donald’s here, babe.”

Trump walked onto a stage, chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

“That’s right, Donald — USA, baby,” Melanie pronounced to a Republican hopeful for president, who began his debate by marveling during all a Americans who had gotten him here.

“Who would have believed that when we started this tour on Jun 16th of final year we — and we contend we, given we are a organisation — would have perceived roughly 14 million votes?” Trump said, looking out on a entertaining crowd.

“I would,” Melanie pronounced to a TV. “I would, Donald.”


Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks Jul 21, a final day of a Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The initial time she had seen him, during a convene in June, she was customarily commencement to comprehend how many people saw a universe a approach she did, that she was one among millions. At a time, her hips were still bruise from a array of injections dictated to ease her. She had gotten them in February, during a formidable time in her life, when she had been involuntarily hospitalized for several weeks after what she called a “rant,” a array of online postings that enclosed one observant that Obama should be hanged and a White House fumigated and burnt to a ground. On her liberate papers, in a box labeled “medical problem,” a alloy had typed “homicidal ideation.”

Melanie suspicion a whole thing was outrageous. She wasn’t a chairman with savage ideation. She was anxious, sure. Enraged, definitely. But positively not homicidal, and positively not in need of a sanatorium stay.

“It never crossed my mind that I’m losing it,” she pronounced several months after her release, and a large reason for this self-assurance was a arise of Donald Trump, who had talked about so many of a things she had come to trust — from Obama being a owner of a militant organisation ISIS, to Hillary Clinton being a co-founder, to a suspicion that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia competence have been murdered in a White House tract involving a prostitute and a pillow.

“They contend they found a sham on his face, that is a flattering surprising place to find a pillow,” Trump had told a talk-radio horde Michael Savage, who was regulating his uncover to explain a unfolding to his 5 million weekly listeners, who afterwards widespread it on Facebook, where it wound adult in Melanie’s feed.

To Melanie, this was a excellence of a 2016 presidential election. The law about so many things was finally being accepted, from a tip levels of a Republican Party on down to a weed roots of America, where so many people like her didn’t caring what some fact-checker said, many reduction that one day Trump would advise that Obama wasn’t innate in America, and on another contend maybe he was.

More and more, she was assembly people who felt a same as she did, fasten what amounted to a together universe of beliefs that a Trump debate had not so many combined as harnessed and swept into a presidential election. As Melanie saw it, what she had posted about Obama was no opposite from what a New Hampshire state authority and Trump debate confidant had pronounced about Hillary Clinton, that she “should be put in a banishment line and shot for treason.”

“If it’s time to close me up, it’s time to close adult a world,” Melanie remembered meditative when she had listened that.

And so when she was expelled from a sanatorium with instructions to “maintain a healthy lifestyle,” she did what seemed to her not customarily healthy though also patriotic. She began campaigning for Trump.

“Trumpslide 2016!” she posted on Facebook a few days after she got home in March.

“Lets build a winning organisation and GREAT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!! #Vote for #Donald #Trump for #President!” she posted in May. “#STOPHILARYCLINTON #STOPBERNIESANDERS #SHUTUPMITTROMNEY.”

In June, Melanie listened that Trump was holding a convene in an aeroplane hangar nearby Pittsburgh, so off she and Kevin went. On a blazing Saturday afternoon, her red “Make America Great Again” shawl bobbed amid a thousands streaming past hawkers offered “Trump that Bitch” T-shirts and “Bomb a Shit Out of ISIS” buttons and a masculine handing out pamphlets about a apocalypse.

Melanie took one to fan herself, and she and Kevin found a mark in a crowd. She looked around.

“I feel so desirous and uplifted!” she yelled over a blustering music.

“We need hope!” yelled Kevin, and shortly a “Air Force One” thesis began flourishing as Donald Trump’s Boeing 757 rolled into view.

“We wish Trump! We wish Trump!” a throng began chanting.

“There he is!” Melanie yelled as Trump stepped out of his plane. “Oh, yeah! Donaaaald!”

Her voice blended into a howling cheers, though as Trump began speaking, and people quieted down, hers became a sole voice pursuit out from a crowd.

Boo! Booooo!” she yelled when Trump referred to “Crooked Hillary.”

Traitoooor!” she yelled when Trump mentioned Obama.

And when Trump was observant how good it was going to be on Election Day — “If we lift a right trigger, we’re going to have fun together!” — Melanie was a one vouchsafing it slice from a behind of a aeroplane hangar.

Yeeeeaaaah!” she yelled.


Kayakers quarrel along a Monongahela River in front of Brownsville Marine Products, a boat bureau in Brownsville, Pa., where Austin has spent many of her life. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

A month later, she was subsidy out of a drive of her house, a gray-sided two-story, a same one in that she grew up. It was late afternoon, and her check-engine light came on.

“Oh, that’s all we need,” she pronounced during another pell-mell day.

Her morning had left by in county probity with Kevin, a onetime internal legislature member and firefighter who was now a laid-off production-shift administrator checking in with a decider about charges associated to regulating someone’s automobile though permission.

“We had to lay by all these arraignments,” Melanie pronounced of a march of heroin addicts. “I couldn’t trust all a women they brought in. They had tattoos. Blue and immature hair. These are zombies, is what they seem to be.”

After that they went to assistance Kevin’s son repair his hoary van. “So we tied a scarf up,” she said, and that was her day so far. Zombies, a destitute scarf and now a check-engine light as she was driving.

Through a windshield was a partial of Pennsylvania that is some-more than 90 percent white, ranks among a misfortune in a state on indicators such as stagnation and beforehand death, and is nearby a tip in support for Donald Trump, who got two-thirds of a GOP primary opinion in April.

“My crappy small hurtful community,” was how Melanie described it, speeding past houses with roofs sagging, porches sloping and buildings rotting into disproportionate grass. She slowed as she entered a small downtown of Brownsville, race 2,292 and shrinking.

“My workplace was right there to a left,” she said, indicating to where a tyrannise bureau once was. “It was a large red building. Bunch of offices. we don’t skip it one bit,” she said, speeding adult again. “And we have upsetting thoughts.”

She had spent her whole life here. She was lifted in a family of spark miners and tyrannise men, graduated from a technical school, and had been operative as a secretary when her sister became ill and asked her to take caring of her son temporarily. Needing some-more money, she started operative for a railroad, initial as a organisation runner and eventually as an engineer, using trains full of spark and equipment.

She was customarily a customarily lady on a crew, though she prided herself on being tough, so when she listened that some higher-up had called a co-worker and asked, “What’s Austin wearing today, her immature miniskirt?” Melanie laughed it off. She deserted a trainer who she pronounced left a Penthouse repository on her desk. But afterwards came a intimately pithy graffiti about her in a sight toilets, and a masculine colleague’s pursuit her “psycho bitch” over a radio, and another masculine colleague’s flapping her underwear like a dwindle off a sight — all of that became partial of a sexual-harassment lawsuit Melanie filed opposite a railroads. In 2002, a jury awarded her $450,000 in damages, a outcome overturned by a sovereign decider who did not doubt a contribution of a box though motionless that a matter had been rubbed appropriately.

Austin has come to censure President Obama for what she considers a decrease of her community, a United States and a world. She has been deeply doubtful of him from a start. “Nobody knew him! we mean, ‘Dreams from My Father’ from Kenya?” she said, referring to Obama’s memoir. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

“The jury gave me my one impulse in a object as distant as probity was concerned,” Melanie said. “But a politicians are never going to let a small lady slap dual Class we railroads, and they didn’t.”

That was a impulse when she began to see so clearly how a universe worked, she said, and it wasn’t customarily about a judge. It was about a whole hurtful domestic system, starting with a administrator during a time, Ed Rendell — “that dirty, dirty politician we call Swindell” — who she figured was in a slot of a railroads and had shabby a judge.

And it didn’t stop there. Rendell was accessible with Bill Clinton, and Melanie was certain it didn’t assistance her box that Clinton was trainer and inextricable in sex scandals when she began filing complaints with a Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “To see Slick Willy’s print all over, we customarily wanted to barf,” she said.

“What could we do?” she said, pushing along. “Nothing. I’m customarily one small girl.”

Someone honked.

“Oh, be quiet!” she yelled out a window.

She was late holding her afternoon anti-anxiety pill.

“My anxiety’s by a roof,” she said, and afterwards explained what came after a lawsuit. Her sister became ill with cancer. There were fights with doctors and word companies over bills. Her sister died. There was a housing fall and a banking collapse, and her hours got cut back, and her colleagues were treating her as bad as ever.

“Every day was a opposite scumbum,” she said. “I couldn’t hoop one some-more d—head.”

Her stress was removing worse and worse, and afterwards one day in 2011, Melanie went to work, and in a impulse she can't remember clearly, ran her sight by a red signal. No one was hurt, though she mislaid her job.

“I did cartwheels,” she said. “I didn’t have to continue this s— one some-more day. Not one some-more climb crawling adult on my engine. Still, it’s a ruin of a transition from operative woman, and afterwards now to have to confront PTSD, stress and depression.”

She went on disability. After a while, she attempted to get a pursuit during a internal firehouse though came to trust officials were hidden money. She attempted to stay on tip of her stress remedy though suspicion her alloy was committing Medicare fraud. She assimilated a motorcycle bar called Bikers for Christ though found a members to be customarily “filthy aged men.” And any day there was Brownsville.

“When we was a kid, during Christmas time, you’d have lights and a large ‘Season’s Greetings’ ensign hung adult here,” she said. “There is zero of that now. we don’t see many honour in this town. we don’t see many honour during all.”

Austin mostly drives by Brownsville and surrounding Fayette County, where deserted buildings and shuttered businesses abound, and where Donald Trump got scarcely 70 percent of a GOP primary opinion in April. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

What she did see some-more and some-more was not customarily a collapsing town, though also a collapsing nation and world, and when she looked during President Obama, a chairman presiding over it all, what she saw was someone who seemed “to come out of nowhere.”

“Nobody knew him! we mean, ‘Dreams from My Father’ from Kenya?” Melanie said, referring to Obama’s memoir.

To her, a trainer seemed so distant away, so preoccupied to a spoil she saw around her that when Donald Trump began suggesting that Obama was not American, it done sense. When Trump and others suggested that Obama was Muslim, to Melanie it seemed plausible. And when Obama started articulate about, of all things, happy matrimony and vouchsafing transgender people into bathrooms, it all came together: The trainer of a United States was a happy Muslim from Kenya operative to criticise America.

The some-more she suspicion about it, a some-more certain she became, and with certainty came a feeling of certainty — a clarity of ransom that culminated over several days in February, when she decided, “I’ve been pushed around all I’m going to be pushed around,” and began unleashing 20 years of feelings online.

“Melanie is holding a universe by storm!” she wrote, alongside a animation of herself flying.

“Yippeeee!” she wrote when Trump pulled forward in a South Carolina primary.

“Have a crater of close adult extract DemTARD!” she wrote during a Democratic forum.


She posted a name of a internal firehouse central with a round and a condense by it. She wrote to a internal legislature member, “Buzz off blubberlips!” She wrote #hangslickwillynow, and in anxiety to Hillary Clinton, #hangtheskanknow, and afterwards she incited her courtesy to Obama. The trainer should be hanged and a White House fumigated and burnt to a ground, Melanie wrote, and shortly after that, a state troops were knocking on her front door.

She was in her nightgown. She was off her anti-anxiety medication. She suspicion that if she non-stop a door, a troops were going to squeeze her, so she talked to them by a window.

“Oh, they were unequivocally placating. ‘Hello, Ms. Austin, how are we today?’ ” she recalled. “They couldn’t caring reduction how we was today.”

The rest of a review was a blur, though Melanie remembered that she finally motionless there was no use resisting, and as a troops led her outward and into a prohibited behind chair of a cruiser, she hummed a aged strain “Don’t Be Afraid” over and over. As she saw it, she was apropos a “political prisoner.”

Her neighbor John, a childhood crony who was examination a whole thing reveal from his yard, walked over and ducked his conduct into a troops car. He was worried. Melanie told him not to be, that God was in control, and that “time will tell a truth.” She asked him to take caring of her cat, and afterwards a troops gathering her away.


Austin displays a nightgown she was wearing a day that troops took her to a sanatorium after she had posted comments online including one observant that Obama should be hanged. She pronounced her posting was no opposite from what she reads online all a time. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Four months after that, a Republican gathering was underway, and Melanie was online with her 2,795 Facebook friends and 1,430 Twitter supporters and all a other people she was assembly any day opposite America.

She was in her garage, where she went many mornings during morning to contend her prayers and check her amicable media feeds on her phone. She sat during a large cruise list set with some laminated Holy Land place mats she had gotten during a outing to Israel, and underneath a Christmas lights in a rafters.

“Oh, look,” she said, reading a headline. “‘A West Virginia member of a House of Delegates says Hillary Clinton should be attempted for treason, murder and crimes opposite a U.S. Constitution and afterwards hung on a Mall in Washington, D.C.’ ”

She scrolled.

“I wish to find out if he’s going to a bulb residence given of it,” she said.

She illuminated a cigarette and squinted during a screen.

“Look during this,” she said, indicating to a print of Michelle Obama with a heading suggesting she is a man. “It’s everywhere.”

And afterwards she began explaining, step by step, how she had come to trust that a initial lady competence indeed be a masculine named Michael.

She figured it started with a Christian televangelists she had followed given a 1980s. In particular, she desired John Hagee, who had pronounced that a Antichrist would seem as a “blasphemer and a homosexual.” And Jerry Falwell, who had blamed a Sept. 11 attacks on “the pagans and a abortionists and a feminists and a gays and a lesbians.”

“Also,” Melanie said, “Falwell disclosed that a initial Christmas Bill and Hillary spent in a White House, Hillary collected ornaments from homosexuals all over a world. And those ornaments were hung in a White House foyer.”

And if that wasn’t adequate to infer they were “anti-Bible,” she said, a Clintons went on to support permitting closeted happy people to offer in a military, that she saw as a watershed impulse when America began branch divided from God.

Then came Obama — “Obama and his happy initiatives,” she pronounced — and her suspicions about him deepened with any one. First he upheld permitting gays to offer plainly in a military. Then happy marriage. Then came a one that struck Melanie as a strangest and many sinister of all: permitting transgender people to use bathrooms relating their gender identity.

“It’s like he wants to systematise us — alpha, beta, gamma, delta,” she said, referring to a dystopian destiny described in a novel “Brave New World.”

As she attempted to know it all, a best reason she found was that Obama himself contingency be gay, a idea introduced and reinforced by all sorts of stories and photos and videos display adult in her Facebook feed. Of these, few were some-more convincing than a video of a late comedian Joan Rivers, that was what brought her to a matter of a initial lady.

“Here we go,” she pronounced now, anticipating it on her phone.

She review a title out loud: “Joan Rivers died dual months after pursuit Obama happy and Michelle a transvestite.”

And afterwards she corkscrew by one YouTube video after another, including a 13-minute 28-second one with some-more than 1.4 million views that she watched again now. In it, a contributor asks Rivers when America will have a initial happy president. “We already have it with Obama, so let’s customarily ease down,” Rivers says as she walks away, adding, “You know Michelle is a tranny.” “I’m sorry, she’s a what?” a contributor asks. “A transgender,” Rivers replies. “We all know that.”

“So,” Melanie said, explaining since she suspicion Rivers was serious. “There are societies out there, generally in Hollywood, that we don’t know about. Joan is in a LGTB community; she’s steeped in it. we watch her things on E! Anyone knows that.”

“So,” she continued, “I consider if she comes out and says we already have a happy in a White House and Michelle is a tranny, we mean, do we consider she’s nuts?”

She took a drag on her cigarette.

“Well, we don’t,” she said, and incited her courtesy to a doubt of a Obama children.

“Let’s look,” she said, and began googling.

She started with mrconservative.com, where there was a story, headlined “Evidence Michelle Obama Never Gave Birth to Malia Sasha,” that said: “We have seen cinema of Barack and Michelle dating behind distant before they had children, like shots from their wedding, though when it comes to what would have been Michelle’s childbearing years, there is positively nothing. Not one design of her profound or with a baby baby.” It continued: “Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank.com have no annals of Malia or Sasha being born,” and also pronounced that “Malia and Sasha [bear] small similarity to their parents,” that “could unequivocally good be given a dual girls were adopted, presumably from Morocco.” After reading that, Melanie corkscrew by links to versions of a story on americasfreedomfighters.com and redflagnews.com and others among a dozens of identical websites that have proliferated in new years and pull millions of visitors any month. She looked adult from her phone.

“I consider those kids were kidnapped,” she said. “We should be looking for those kids’ parents.”

Austin is online often, checking her Facebook and Twitter feeds for stories involving a Obamas and a Clintons, many of that come from conspiracy-theory websites. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

She kept scrolling for some-more evidence.

“Obama happy is on Infowars,” she said, pausing for a impulse on a swindling speculation website that now had some-more than 6.9 million U.S. visitors per month and a daily news module hosted by Alex Jones, who had interviewed Donald Trump. “I customarily wish to finish by observant your reputation’s amazing,” Trump had told Jones in December. In May, Jones had clinging his uncover to “the probability that Michelle Obama was innate a man,” and as a Republican National Convention began, he had hosted a convene attended by Trump confidant Roger Stone. Melanie kept scrolling.

Obama Muslim. Obama ISIS. Christian beheadings. A couple to an essay on a website called commonsenseshow.com detailing how a U.S. supervision had alien 30,000 guillotines in credentials for martial law, and explaining that a singular guillotine “reportedly can clout off a heads of about 100 people per hour,” so that “in one 10 hour day, 30 million people could be executed.”

It was afternoon now, and Melanie got herself a potion of iced tea. She suspicion about a dual legislators who had pronounced Hillary Clinton should be executed, and all a memes, and all a stories on all a websites. The some-more she read, she said, a some-more certain she was apropos that she was not out of a ordinary, and that her hospitalization, for instance, was customarily one some-more instance of an increasingly unfair world. She went over it again: a troops cruiser, a injections, a medical bills after. Her hips still hurt. Her speed was off. She was roughly out of cigarettes.

After a while, her next-door neighbor John stopped by.

“John,” Melanie said. “Do we remember when we was in a troops automobile handcuffed and we came to speak to me?”

“Yeah,” pronounced John, a laid-off spark miner. “I didn’t know what was going on, to tell we a truth. we said, ‘Well, something’s up. She’s pissed somebody off.’ ”

Melanie asked him, “Did we feel we indispensable to be committed?”

John looked during her.

“That’s what Randy thought,” he said, referring to a neighbor. “He’s a one that pronounced being where you’re during is a best thing for you.”

John,” Melanie said. “I’m on a same meds currently that we was on a day they took me out of my house.”

“Well,” John said. “Maybe they suspicion they had to settle your donkey down.”

“There are a lot of people like me,” Melanie said. “What’s so special about Melanie Austin that she had to be hauled divided to a nuthouse?”

John didn’t answer, and after he left, in a early evening, Melanie put on a CD of Chuck Smith, a 1970s reverend she’d prolonged dignified who was best famous for converting hippies to Christianity.

“This is one of a final CDs he made, and it’s beautiful,” she said, branch adult a volume on a classical gospel strain “How Great Thou Art.”

“That’s a impulse I’m vital for right there, ‘When Christ takes me home,’ ” she said, referencing a lyrics. “I will say, ‘Thanks for remembering me.’ ”

She kept scrolling. Hillary Clinton murderer. ISIS chops off heads with lifeless knife.

“I do feel happy and blessed,” Melanie said, singing, reading on her phone.

She was looking for news about a genocide of Scalia. She googled “Scalia murdered by prostitute,” and shortly she was awash in stories about tip White House plots and embalmed bodies and a murder of one of a nation’s many absolute people. “Like so many other people around Hillary Clinton,” she said. “What are we ostensible to think?”

She finished her final cigarette and listened to a strain about surrender. A fan was blowing. The lights were glowing.

“So we see, a media, everybody helped me get to February,” she said, referring to a day a state troops took her off to a hospital. “I didn’t get there on my own. But I’m ostensible to be a one to compensate a cost for it for mouthing off? we need to learn my lesson?”

She got adult from a table.

“It’s not that I’m some whacked-out whatever,” she said. “I had a lot of help.”

It was roughly dark.

“Heaven dissuade we should get pissed off and say, ‘Up yours,’ ” she said.

She was inspired and meditative about creation dinner.

“I consternation if Kevin has a cigarette,” Melanie said, and went behind into a house.


Austin amenities Kevin Lisovich, a onetime internal assemblyman and firefighter, after he became dissapoint articulate about all a reversals of happening he has faced in new years. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

In a vital room a subsequent night, a Republican gathering was on a TV.

Kevin was defunct on a cot with a sham over his head, and Trump was on a radio usurpation a Republican assignment for president.

“Praise a Lord,” Melanie said.

The throng roared.

“Finally,” she said. “Someone who thinks like me.”

Trump began articulate about lawlessness, crisis, “terrorism in a cities” and how any personality who doesn’t grasp this fear “is not fit to lead a country.”

“Amen,” Melanie said, clapping sensitively on a couch. “They’re traitors.”

“Safety will be …” Trump said.

Restored,” Melanie finished.

“We can't means to be so politically scold anymore,” Trump said.

“That’s right; cut a crap,” Melanie said.

“Killings have risen,” he went on.

“Mmm hmm,” Melanie said.

“Illegal immigrants … trusting immature girl. … Her torpedo … now a fugitive,” he said.

Kevin jerked awake.

“You all right, hon?” Melanie said.

“Yeah, we was dreaming,” Kevin said.

“One some-more child to scapegoat on a tabernacle of open borders,” Trump said.

“I was kicking someone’s ass,” Kevin said, and drifted behind to sleep.

“Our roads …,” Trump said.

“Are a mess,” Melanie finished.

“Hillary Clinton…,” Trump said.

Lock her up,” Melanie finished.

“Death, destruction, terrorism and weakness,” Trump said.

Kevin jerked watchful again.

“You still fighting?” Melanie pronounced to him.

“Yeah,” he said, groggy.

“You winning?” she said, though Kevin was flapping off again, and as Trump went on about “how a complement is rigged,” and “wounded American families” and “our possess struggling citizens,” Melanie pronounced yes, yes, yes, over and over again, until Trump reached a final 3 difference of his speech.

“I adore you,” he said.

“He unequivocally does adore us,” Melanie said, and soon, a balloons were dropping, Trump was fluttering to a crowd, and she was switching off a television. She didn’t need to hear any more.

“It’s finished,” she pronounced of a 2016 presidential election, in that she was certain Trump would delight and some-more and some-more people opposite a nation would during final see a truth. “In my head, anyway.”

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