Why right-wing Americans see the virus as an attack on their freedom

Richmond The noise of dozens of horns fills the spring air. The car parade encircles the seat of government of the governor of Virginia at walking pace. Flags flutter in the sun from the side windows of the SUVs and from the loading areas of the pickup trucks. “Trump 2020” is on some. In between, you can always see a black rattlesnake on a yellow background: the symbol of the Tea Party – the libertarian protest movement that a few years ago ideologically shifted the Republican Party far to the right.

David Britt has set up a black folding armchair on the sidewalk and looks at the bustle. He is happy, “more than happy”, as he says himself. He would never have expected so many to respond to his call to protest the lockdown in Virginia’s capital, Richmond, against the corona-related restrictions on US public life.

Virginia, Wyoming, Ohio: People in around two dozen US states have been going against the corona restrictions for about two weeks. Most of the time, the protest against regional governments led by democratic governors is less against Republicans.

On the surface, there is a question that many citizens in Germany are asking themselves: How can you prevent the economic consequences of the pandemic from ultimately being worse than that of the epidemic itself? But underneath that, the old cultural struggle breaks out, which has divided the USA for around a quarter of a century: Right-wing despisers sense an attack on their freedom behind the lockdown.

With his goatee and melancholy eyes behind round glasses, Britt doesn’t look like the spokesman in an ideological argument. Only his shirt reveals that something is burning inside him. On the right side it is blue with white stars, on the left red-white-striped – Britt has the US flag on his body.

A bizarre parallel world is revealed

“Our only concern is that the people of Virginia can work again,” says the spokesman for the protest movement “Reopen Virginia”. He has no doubt that the corona virus is contagious. That’s why he called for a car demo so that no one gets too close during the protest.

In Richmond, an estimated 1,000 people followed Brit’s call on Wednesday. The atmosphere is peaceful, even happy, when the many drivers and the few demonstrators cheer each other on the sidewalk. A dozen police officers on mountain bikes are enough to keep things tidy.

Auto demonstration

In Richmond, Virginia, about 1,000 people took part in a protest while sitting in their cars.


(Photo: Reuters)

But under the carefree surface, a bizarre parallel world is revealed. Dominique Kostelac, who came to the demo with his three teenage children, speaks of the “corona dizziness”. “Covid 19 is a biological weapon that originated in Fort Detrick,” the architect and contractor is convinced.

The U.S. Army once researched biological weapons at the military base in the State of Maryland. The government is now using the fear of the virus to restrict citizens’ freedoms.

Even the elegant lady in black BMW X3, the latest model, is certain that the virus “escaped from a laboratory somewhere”. The convinced Republican would rather not read her name in the newspaper, she fears disadvantages for her husband, who gets “a nice pension” from the US Army.

Billy Healy, blue blazer over the Carhartt dungarees, argues with the case numbers: “A large proportion of the corona deaths occurred in New York and New Jesey. You can’t treat 48 states like these two now. ”He is a forest entrepreneur, Healy says. In his trade, he noticed the lockdown by the fact that the demand for timber fell.

Why is he wearing a button on his lapel that says “Save lives” during a demonstration against lockdown? “Oh,” Healy says, “I almost always wear it if I happen to meet a member of parliament.”

Against the lockdown, against restrictions on weapons law

Resentment about the lockdown is increasingly intermingling with everything that right-wing Americans have always hated, such as the gun restrictions that the Democratic governor of Virginia is currently trying to enforce.

For a few weeks, it seemed that Corona could help bridge ideological gaps in the United States. One would like to think that deaths and infection rates cannot be discussed on the basis of the usual left-right criteria.

In the Senate and House of Representatives, where Democrats and Republicans usually sit next to each other in celebrated hostility, the parliamentarians have now reached a record pace on four Corona aid packages. Suddenly the US has continued sick pay and generous unemployment benefits – both limited to the corona crisis, but at least.

Sure, Trump was still offensive against unpopular politicians, shameless boast and adventurous about-turns. But at the same time the president seemed to want to prove himself as a corona crisis manager. On the advice of his team of medical experts, Trump extended the White House’s corona recommendations until April 30.

The exit plan that Trump presented on April 16 also sounds unideological and reasonable: The White House provides clear medical criteria for when and what restrictions can be lifted. The decision and implementation then lies with the governors. On top of that, Trump is smart because he can shift any responsibility onto the states if the epidemic flares up again somewhere in the United States.

Trump resumes cultural struggle

But as soon as Trump had announced this exit plan, the president opened the new round of American cultural struggle on April 18 and attacked three democratic governors who, in his opinion, were not pushing ahead with the opening quickly enough. “LIBERATE MICHIGAN,” Trump tweeted in loud capital letters, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA”, and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA”.

To add in the case of Virginia: “… and protect your 2nd amendment. It is under threat. ”The second constitutional amendment guarantees US citizens the right to own firearms. A right that the man in camouflage clothing, who is demonstrating in Richmond with an assault rifle over his shoulder, apparently does not want to be taken for granted. “The punishment for betrayal is death,” says his poster.

The culture struggle is fueled by the fact that the devastation of the virus has so far been particularly evident where the majority of Democrats are at home: in the metropolitan areas along the east and west coast and in major cities such as Chicago, Detroit or New Orleans.

The republican-dominated rural regions of the south and mid-west have so far not noticed the epidemic. Of course, there are also good reasons for the corona restrictions there. The virus spreads more slowly in sparsely populated regions, but if it spreads, even the few hospitals are overwhelmed more quickly.

But in many parts of the United States, such horror scenarios look far away. When citizens in Wyoming’s capital Cheyenne demonstrated against the restrictions on Monday last week, one of the posters read: “Quarantine means restricting the free movement of sick people, tyranny means restricting the free movement of healthy people.”

African Americans particularly at risk

The split between city and country comes between ethnic groups. A handful of African-Americans, all wearing respiratory masks, are sitting at a stop in Richmond on Wednesday and are waiting in vain for the bus. It doesn’t get through because of the car parade. The protesters in the cars, on the other hand, are almost exclusively white and none of them wear a mask.

Covid-19 kills African Americans particularly frequently in the United States. In Chicago, for example, their share of the population is just under a third, and their share in the number of corona deaths in the city was a good two thirds at the beginning of April.

African Americans often work in high-risk jobs, such as supermarket salespeople, and are often dependent on buses and trains. For these people, the breathing mask is life insurance.

For the white demonstrators, it is the symbol of a policy that aims to make people compliant with the fear of the virus. In Richmond, 17-year-old Summer Kostelac reduces this attitude to the shortest possible denominator. “Covid-1984” is on the poster that the architect’s daughter holds up.

This conflict even runs through the middle of a city 800 kilometers southeast of Richmond. In Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp (white, Republican) pushes aside all medical concerns.

According to the politician, restaurants, as well as theaters, hairdressers, gyms and massage practices, will be allowed to reopen in Georgia on Monday – although the state by far does not meet the White House criteria for relaxing the restrictions.

The Mayor of the capital, Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms (black, democrat) considers this opening to be much too early. She received unexpected support from the White House on Wednesday evening. Even Donald Trump advised his republican party friend to take it a little slower when opening it: “It’s too early.”

A sentence that the demonstrators at Richmond do not like to hear.

More: Corona hero, miser or the new reckless? This is how the world looks at Germany.

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Consumer advocates see conditions for use

Berlin For weeks, the federal government has been trying to introduce a corona app for tracking infected and infected people. But the initial enthusiasm for digital support in the virus crisis has given way to a struggle for technical solutions, European cooperation and influence. And not only that.

A digital virus defense is viewed with skepticism in the population. At least that is what the current ZDF Politbarometer suggests. An app for smartphones that provides information on contact with a corona infected person without access to personal data would therefore only be used by 47 percent of all respondents. 42 percent state that they do not want to use such an app (do not have a smartphone: 8 percent). The supporters of CDU / CSU (55 percent), FDP (53 percent) and Greens (53 percent) are more open-minded here, but most AfD supporters (70 percent) are against it.

In order for the app to serve its purpose, as many people as possible need to install it. The developers assume that at least 60 percent of the population should have the app in order to actually achieve sustainable success. Germany’s top consumer advocate outlines how this can be done. “In particular, it must be demonstrated that their use is suitable and necessary to achieve their goal,” said the head of the Federal Consumer Association (Klaus VZBV), Klaus Müller, the Handelsblatt.

The disadvantages associated with the measure should also be in proportion to the advantages. “Already by designing the system, a strict earmarking must be guaranteed and the scope of data processing must be reduced to a necessary minimum.” This also means that the data must be anonymized and deleted as early as possible.

Müller also asked for a corona app to be used for a limited time. The measure should “only take so long until its purpose was fulfilled,” said the VZBV boss. The entire process had to be carried out with “the greatest possible transparency”. “This creates trust in data processing,” says Müller. It is also crucial for acceptance that the use of an app is and remains voluntary.

Spahn defends central storage approach

The development of an app is overshadowed by a dispute over the ideal data protection concept. While the platform initiative Pepp-PT pursues a central solution in Germany – i.e. a comparison of the data via a centrally managed server, the decentralized project DP-3T trailer recently won, in which significantly more data has to be transmitted because the comparison of the information directly from Smartphone is made. Most recently, the Cispa-Helmholtz Center for IT Security withdrew from the Pepp-PT initiative by 300 scientists from eight countries.

The Ministry of Health argues that a central solution is important so that the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and local health authorities have access to the data. He takes concerns about it very seriously, says Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) on Friday on ZDF. After all, it is about sensitive and personal data, about data security and the question of who has access to it.

However, the aim is that it should be possible to find contact persons for infected persons within “within hours”. That is one of the most important keys on the way to a new everyday life. “This basic belief that data that Apple and Google with American corporations are better protected than data that is also state-controlled on servers in Germany (…) I sometimes do not understand this belief, “said Spahn.

The federal government is meanwhile negotiating with the US company Apple about the requirements for a corona tracing app. It is about the company opening the interface to enable the use of an app, said deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Friday. “We need access to the interface,” emphasized Demmer. Apple and Google had announced that they would change this by May, which the Federal Government welcomed.

Great trust in Fraunhofer system

According to their own statements, both groups want to make their operating systems compatible for mobile phones in order to make the Corona apps successful. However, it had previously been said in the federal government that, unlike Google, there would be problems opening the interface at Apple.

The government spokeswoman confirmed the government’s preference for the app developed by the Robert Koch Institute and the Heinrich Hertz Institute, which provides for the central storage of anonymized health data for epidemiological evaluation. “The federal government has great confidence in the system that is currently being tested at Fraunhofer.” With a central app system, you have to trust a government agency. “With a decentralized system, you have to trust Apple and Google,” she added.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior pointed out that the RKI app is still pending an examination by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). “Then a decision has to be made in the overall assessment,” said a Interior Ministry spokesman. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the app.

More: Corona hero, miser or the new reckless? Read here how the world looks at Germany.

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Google and Apple strengthen data protection for platform for Corona apps

Cupertino, mountain view Google and Apple have responded to criticism of the planned Corona warning apps. On Friday, they presented further details on opening interfaces in their operating systems. With new data protection measures, it should now be even more difficult to monitor individual users using the tracing apps.

The US technology giants want to enable authorities to trace the contacts of people infected with corona. According to the companies, this access could already be available from mid-May. But there is still great distrust of the apps.

Various governments and authorities had asked Google and Apple for help. Due to the widespread use of their Android and iOS operating systems, those technical tools could help to contain the virus.

The apps are seen as one of the prerequisites to loosen general contact restrictions. They should record when smartphones come close to each other. If one of the users later reports in the app as a Covid 19 patient, his contacts should be able to be informed.

The reworks presented include further encryption. Among other things, information about the signal strength of the Bluetooth radio is to be encrypted. In addition, the keys are created for every day from each device. According to experts from the companies, it is impossible to recognize individual devices or their users by such features.

Google and Apple emphasize that the use of the apps is voluntary. Users of Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s IOS system could decide at any time whether to activate the program on their smartphone.

If users decide to participate, their data are shared with the health authorities in two scenarios: when users report a Covid 19 disease in the app or when they have had contact with a reported sick person. In both cases, only anonymized data is transmitted.

The authorities in the respective country are to decide for themselves how close two users must have been and how long they have met for the data transmission to start, according to the companies. All other data should only be saved on the device of the user.

The companies did not want to comment on whether the method presented here excludes the controversial solutions based on central data storage in Germany. But they are in discussion with all interested authorities and tried to find common solutions, it said.

DP-3T vs. PEPP-PT

In Germany, a fierce controversy about the appropriate structure of an app for tracking infection chains has flared up. All experts emphasized that they wanted to build an approach that protects privacy and prevents state control.

All approaches want to develop a smartphone app that uses Bluetooth to determine which other devices are nearby. Both approaches also require servers on which information is stored. However, it is controversial how much information can be stored on the servers.

On the one hand, there is the DP-3T (Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing) approach behind which, among other things, the Helmholtz Center for Information Security CISPA is based. The model is also described as a decentralized model. The idea behind it: The servers may only store the absolutely necessary information.

In essence, this would be an anonymized code from infected people. All other information is only stored on the end devices. This works out from the current documentation of the group forth. She has already released a first version of the app.

This is contrasted by the PEPP-PT (Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing) project. In the concept paper of this approach the central servers get a significantly more extensive function. They should not only store information about confirmed infections, but also information about all devices on which the app is installed.

Data protection and network organizations warn that this collection of data can be misused. Many groups, including more than 300 scientists, have therefore spoken out against PEPP-PT and for DP-3T.

In a warning letter, the influential organization Chaos Computer Club (CCC), along with other groups, argues that the central approach offers little privacy and the information could be misused. “A corona tracing app should, if at all, only be built and programmed on the basis of a decentralized approach (…)”, demanded the groups.

More: Federal Office raises alarm due to security holes in Apple’s mail app

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Cyber ​​criminals are taking advantage of the corona pandemic

Cyber ​​police

The Federal Office for Information Security also warned of an increase in cybercrime.


(Photo: dpa)

Munich According to a study by experts, cybercriminals are increasingly using the corona crisis for fraud. Since the beginning of the year, tens of thousands of problematic websites related to the pandemic have been registered, according to an investigation by the cyber security company Palo Alto Networks.

Overall, the experts identified 116,357 new domain names in connection with Corona from January 1 to March 31. Of these, 2022 were classified as “malicious”, another 40,261 as “risky”.

The company’s 42 team for threat detection identified various campaigns: There were phishing attacks via emails with links to fake sites that were supposed to skim off access data or so-called skimmers that were supposed to tap credit card information. In addition, sites also tried directly to infect users’ computers.

The experts also found fraudulent web shops that apparently offered particularly popular items such as face masks or disinfectants very cheaply. In this context, Palo Alto Networks warns of offers that are “too good to be true”. Other problematic issues included illegal pharmacies or attempts to scare customers and urge them to buy Corona-related e-books or other products.

The Federal Office for Information Security and the European police authority Europol have also warned of an increase in cyber crime in the corona crisis. North Rhine-Westphalia recently even had to temporarily stop its emergency aid program for companies after fraud attempts with fake websites had become known.

More: Cyber ​​criminals and intelligence agencies are taking advantage of the pandemic.

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“We can get the economy going with a clear conscience”

The topic of the Corona crisis was on the agenda as four weeks ago. Politicians such as the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer and the Green MP Cem Özdemir also took part in the new round. Another guest was Hendrik Streeck, the Bonn virologist, who became known nationwide through the controversial Heinsberg study.

In such a round, the VW CEO is of course the representative of the economy. Herbert Diess is to be representative of many other German companies, explaining how Volkswagen is dealing with the corona pandemic and how the group is trying to get out of the associated economic crisis.

This gladly takes on this role. “We can get the economy going again with a clear conscience,” he says, ultimately referring to his company’s own efforts. Volkswagen is currently starting to restart production in its German plants. It was Zwickau’s turn on Thursday, followed by the main plant in Wolfsburg, Emden and Hanover the following week.

Volkswagen had “very well” prepared for the restart in the past five weeks of the production stop. The manufacturing processes have been changed so that VW employees do not have to fear a corona virus infection.

Hygiene concept for VW locations

Wherever things get narrower and where there is less work to be done, additional masks are used. There is also a comprehensive hygiene concept for the VW locations. The car dealership was also prepared for the virus – the vehicles could in future be handed over without personal contact.

This speaks of the fact that Volkswagen would have continued production breaks for two, three or four weeks. But Volkswagen incurs two billion euros in fixed costs every week. Therefore it is of course also clear that such a forced break cannot last indefinitely, Diess said.

As always with such appearances in recent months, the VW boss brings China into play. There it was possible to control the corona virus and at the same time to restart the economy. “China shows us that both are possible,” he emphasizes. The People’s Republic is extremely important for the Wolfsburg group. VW sells about 40 percent of its cars there and earns billions.

Even if the corona restrictions of the past few weeks have cost Volkswagen a lot of money, the CEO expressly commits to political decisions. “We can be proud of what we have achieved as a state and society,” said Diess.

“We made our contributions”

The German health system had withstood the stresses of the corona virus and the dramatic developments like in Italy or Spain had not occurred. The Federal Republic coped well with the crisis.

Moderator Maybritt Illner once critically asks whether Volkswagen might not be asking too much from the state if the company makes use of the short-time work scheme for 80,000 employees and now demands a purchase premium to boost car demand. Various board members of the group had discussed such a bonus several times in the past few days.

But Herbert Diess disagrees. Volkswagen actively provided help in the acute crisis situation and donated medical equipment for around 40 million euros. Seven million protective masks were also handed over. “We made our contributions,” emphasizes the VW boss. The Spanish Volkswagen subsidiary Seat even produces ventilators.

The receipt of the short-time work allowance is also completely okay. “These are contributions that we made ourselves,” says Diess. In the past ten years that was four billion euros, currently Volkswagen transfers 500 million euros annually. In March, Volkswagen received around 40 million euros in short-time work benefits.

In addition, Volkswagen behaves as a social enterprise and increases the short-time work allowance from its own resources to 100 percent. The VW employees did not suffer any financial losses.

Overall, however, Hebert Diess has relatively little say in Maybritt Illner. Politicians and scientists dominate the group. There is another argument about the Heinsberg study, the discussion about education and schools is given a lot of space. Time and again the roundtable revolves around the question of whether Germany is withdrawing the restrictions on public life too early and whether this threatens further waves of infection.

Herbert Diess only speaks briefly at the end of the program. Maybritt Illner wants to know how he feels about the obligation to wear a mask. The VW boss quickly pulls out his personal copy and holds it up: “We need five million of them in our plants every week.”

More: VW board: “A funding model could be based on CO2 emissions”.

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Two brothers take care of the hospitals and the fire brigade

Dusseldorf A few employees of the fire department in Mülheim an der Ruhr gathered in front of the syringe house. The sun is shining, Chef Sven Werner and his department head for emergency services and disinfection, Andreas Johann, are wearing short-sleeved uniforms. A forklift and a red truck are already waiting in the yard. The onward transport should go as quickly as possible.

The men are waiting for a product that is currently in demand like hardly any other product in the world: respiratory masks. It is corona time and they are their currency: the masks are an important tool in the fight against the virus. And they are not easy to get. There are still supply shortages five months after the outbreak of the corona virus.

In Germany, too, face protection is increasingly becoming a mandatory item of clothing. All federal states introduce mandatory wearing. And the federal government has “strongly” recommended wearing masks when shopping or on buses and trains.

But the fire department in Mülheim has no masks. Marvin and Aaron Steinberg are supposed to solve the problem. The brothers, 32 and 35 years old, have just climbed out of their pickup truck, wearing a T-shirt and jeans. With your Sixt– Rental cars transport the sought-after face protection.

“20,000 go straight to one of our hospitals,” says fire chief Werner, while he examines documents and the forklift lifts the first boxes. “The remaining 30,000 remain here.” These are not masks that you can sew yourself. Most are those with filter protection.

Marvin and Aaron Steinberg (1st and 2nd from left)

Appointment at the Mülheim fire department.

(Photo: Steinberg)

The federal government has so far failed to meet the huge demand for masks. According to Minister of Economic Affairs Peter Altmaier (CDU), Germany needs a total of several billion pieces within a few months. The large German manufacturers such as the Lübeck-based company Dräger have been producing at their limit for a long time despite the expansion of production. And the global market, in which companies like the US group 3M dominate, is eaten empty by all affected nations like grasshoppers.

This is why makeshift production facilities are being set up all over the world, including in Germany. Whether on an entrepreneurial basis, such as recently at Trigema, the laundry manufacturer of the eccentric owner Wolfgang Grupp. Or at Daimler, where breathing masks are now produced for your own needs. Or citizens sew them at home.

All of these are commendable initiatives. But: The resulting products often offer only limited protection, for example when shopping in a supermarket. They are usually not suitable for medical personnel.

And so there is a gap that people like the Steinberg brothers encounter. Small business owners who are quick to grab, who have contacts with professional providers abroad – and who do it instead of looking at the federal government – and who naturally hope to make a profit.

“What we do is of course just a drop in the ocean,” says Marvin Steinberg. He wears glasses and his shirt says “Corona Crisis”. “But it is a drop that leads to happy faces in many places.”

Also in Mülheim. “We are very happy to have enough stock now,” says fire chief Werner. The mask market has been going crazy since Corona. And no one can say how the situation will develop. “If the infection situation remains as it is, we are well prepared,” says Werner. “But who knows that?”

15 cents profit per mask

Aaron, the trained nursing nurse, and Marvin, who runs a marketing GmbH, have been in business for four weeks. You have set up offices in Mainz and Koblenz. According to their own statements, they pick up between 50,000 and 200,000 masks three to four times a week at Frankfurt or Cologne airports.

The Steinbergs are founding a company. Her name: “Pflegeliebe GmbH”. The Steinbergs customer base is growing steadily. Clinics, pharmacies, old people’s homes, hairdressers and taxi services now order from them. Sometimes small amounts are also donated.

The demand is great. Hospitals sometimes run out of masks, and resident doctors are also concerned about whether they can still treat their patients. It is particularly important that the Steinbergs also offer FFP2 and FFP3 products.

They belong to the type of mask that protects the wearer. FFP2 and FFP3 masks are therefore the appropriate equipment for doctors or nurses who handle potentially infected people. These masks cannot be made at home. Nor do companies like Trigema manufacture them. Special companies are needed for this.

Mask transport in the rented minibus

The entrepreneurs with helpers.

(Photo: Steinberg)

And that’s where the problem begins. There are also producers in Germany. In addition to corporations such as Dräger, medium-sized companies are now trying to gain a foothold in this field. The “Fight Covid-19” consortium, for example, which includes smaller companies such as the bikini company Maryan Beachwear or the mechanical engineering company Reifenhäuser, is currently building a network. Your production goal: half a million FFP2 masks per week.

However, the major mass producers among the specialist companies are primarily located in China. And the market remains chaotic. Even if production has started again in China, the purchase price continues to skyrocket. Before Corona, an FFP2 mask cost about 50 cents. Today, prices in the double-digit euro range are sometimes called up for this.

Of course, this also attracts fraudsters who try to sell unusable goods at a high price or only deliver material against prepayment – which then never reaches the customer. “A lot of providers are dubious,” says Marvin Steinberg. “Many of our customers have already fallen for fraudsters.”

The topic should be rather uncomfortable for the entrepreneur. Because Steinberg, who was also active in the field of gold-backed cryptocurrencies for a while, had once separated from an ex-partner in the dispute. Now there are anonymous articles online that accuse him of fraud. Even a criminal complaint is circulating.

So far, however, there is no convincing evidence. A civil law complaint by his ex-partner definitely failed before the Mainz Higher Regional Court. Steinberg has already had several entries in the network deleted by court. “It was a bad time for me,” he says. He was happy to be able to leave that behind.

Marvin Steinberg

The small entrepreneur has valuable contacts in China.

(Photo: Steinberg)

And he does not hide the fact that he also wants to earn money by supplying masks. However, at reasonable prices. One-way surgical masks cost him an average of 99 cents per piece, depending on the quantity, FFP2 masks between four and 5.50 euros. “The same masks are then partially resold by the pharmacies at a price of 14.99 euros,” says Steinberg.

For comparison: Trigema charges 120 euros for ten of its “reusable makeshift mouth and nose masks”. Steinberg even discloses its margin. On average, he and his brother earned 15 cents per surgical mask, and 40 cents for FFP2 masks.

Complicated procedure

And why don’t they sell to the federal government? Health Minister Jens Spahn recently made three billion euros available for the procurement of protective clothing and introduced a so-called open house procedure.

This means that the state buys centrally and at fixed prices if a manufacturer can supply at least 25,000 masks or gowns and guarantee a minimum standard. Masks, gloves and gowns are to be distributed across the federal states and the medical associations.

But there is much criticism of this method. Spahn had reacted too late, the control did not work, the procedure was too complicated. A German businessman from Taiwan recently reported to the Handelsblatt, who wanted to broker the sale of several million FFP2 masks. And not to the USA, but to his home country. But he just couldn’t figure out who to contact.

Did the Steinbergs hear about the federal government’s trial, did he try it once? “No, we’ve just been doing it that way,” says Marvin Steinberg. But that with the federal government is not a bad idea. But he did not know whom to speak to. Does the Handelsblatt have any contact? An inquiry to the Ministry of Health remains unanswered.

Procurement seems so easy. He has contacts in China, says Marvin Steinberg. He has had a business relationship there for a long time with a mask manufacturer who produces himself and can also get goods from other manufacturers if necessary. He doesn’t want to give the name. After all, it was his competitive advantage. The manufacturer vouches for the quality of the masks, says Steinberg.

Because quality is probably the most important criterion in this business. An FFP2 mask that doesn’t protect against corona viruses is not worth a penny.

Many false copies on the way

But how is the goods checked? A few days before the appointment in Mülheim, the Steinbergs are sitting in a van on their way to Frankfurt Airport. Another car is driving. The Handelsblatt is activated via WhatsApp video.

While Marvin Steinberg explains the process, his vehicles drive to a ramp outside the airport, where around 20 boxes are already waiting for loading. Also on board is Mr. Wu, a young Chinese man who supports the brothers in the process. He has a small export-import business himself, says Marvin Steinberg.

Together with Aaron Steinberg, Wu opens one of the boxes to check the contents. 200,000 surgical masks have arrived today.

Of course, you can only see what the goods look like, says Steinberg. The contents are on the boxes, and on the packaging of the masks there is usually also the CE seal of approval. The boxes would also have to go through customs. Ultimately, it is only the end user who will determine whether the masks are really good. “We only have positive feedback from them,” he reports.

The main problem is getting good quality at reasonable prices. Andreas Johann (Mülheim fire department)

Steinberg offers customers to come to his office in Mainz before buying to inspect the goods with an expert. Only then does payment have to be made – for example by bank transfer.

At any rate, the fire brigade in Mülheim is completely satisfied. “The main problem is getting good quality at reasonable prices,” says department head Johann. He doesn’t just say that.

He previously tested the breathing masks in three ways. He cut them apart and checked their strength. 5 layers, that’s good. He lit a mask with the lighter to see if the material just contracts and doesn’t burn. And finally he poured water into a mask. Since nothing flows out, it is tight. “Passed the quality test,” says Johann.

Then he and his boss Werner can thank you for a gift from Steinberg, staged effectively for the press appointment: 2500 surgical masks are available for free.

Yes, Marvin Steinberg also knows how to advertise for yourself, how to stage yourself. But who could blame him in these strange, difficult times – when breathing masks could become the product of the year, if not the decade?

More: Protective masks instead of bikinis – medium-sized companies convert their production

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Unemployment in Italy and the USA increases dramatically

Closed business in the United States

Since the start of the corona crisis, over 26 million US workers have registered as unemployed.

(Photo: AP)

Rome, Washington Not only in Germany, but also in the United States and Italy, the dramatic consequences of corona-related restrictions on the labor market are becoming increasingly important. The United States saw another surge in unemployment claims last week.

According to figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday, between April 11 and April 18, 4.4 million citizens applied for unemployment benefits. That is slightly less than the previous week, when 5.2 million applications were received. Overall, however, the historic downturn in the US labor market continues.

Until the start of the corona lockdown in mid-March, the US was practically fully employed. Since then, 26.5 million US workers have registered as unemployed. That corresponds to about ten percent of all workers there.

The unemployment rate for April, which will only be released in the United States on May 8, is estimated by experts to be around 15 percent. The Oxford Economics research institute calculates that the corona pandemic in the United States will lose a total of just under 28 million jobs. For comparison: The recession after the financial crisis in 2008 only destroyed about nine million jobs in the United States.

Registration for unemployment benefits in the United States is also likely to be particularly high because the US government has expanded claims to support in response to the corona shock.

American unemployed people now receive a fixed flat-rate payment of $ 600 a week from the federal budget, in addition to the unemployment benefit of a few hundred dollars a month, which varies from state to state.

For some low-skilled workers, government support is higher than their previous salary. For the first time, solo self-employed persons from the so-called gig economy are entitled to unemployment benefits.

This means that more redundant workers than before have an incentive to actually register as unemployed. However, those who quit on their own initiative or fly out due to their behavior generally have no claim to unemployment benefits in the United States.

Situation in Italy

In Italy, fear of corona-related unemployment is now almost as great as that of the virus itself. According to a survey conducted by the Tecnè research institute on Tuesday, 54 percent of Italians are afraid of losing their jobs, including civil servants . Meanwhile, 62 percent of the population fear the corona virus.

In Italy, not only is the number of corona deaths still highest in Europe, the economic consequences of the crisis are also the most dramatic. With only a few exceptions, production in the country already stops in the fifth week. There will only be easing from May 4. The International Monetary Fund therefore expects Italian economic output to decline by 9.1 percent in 2020.

In its “Global Outlook” for Italy, the rating agency Fitch estimates that the unemployment rate, which was ten percent in 2019, will rise to 12.1 percent this year and will only decrease slightly to 11.8 percent by the end of 2021.

The Italian statistics office Istat only published the unemployment rate for February at the beginning of April, a decrease to 9.7 percent was reported. But that was before the escalation of the Corona pandemic in Italy. It is only at the beginning of May that the March figures will show the true extent of the corona crisis on the labor market.

More: How are different countries and systems doing in the corona crisis? While European countries are at the top, China and the USA are lagging behind.

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Japan’s gentle corona strategy doesn’t work

Tokyo Japan’s government and its crisis strategy are delayed by virus reality. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency for the megacities of Tokyo and Osaka and five other economic centers on April 7, he still promised: “Although we declare an emergency, we will not block the cities.” This is not necessary. But on Thursday, the four local governments in the Tokyo metropolitan area want to do just that.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike called on the citizens of the 14-million-inhabitant metropolis to spend two “stay at home weeks”. And her colleagues from the neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama promptly followed suit.

Together they instructed all non-vital companies to close from April 25th to May 6th. During this period there are several public holidays, on which many Japanese companies traditionally close. Koike also asked the Tokyo residents to only go shopping every three days in the future and otherwise not leave the apartment without good reason.

In this way, the local governments are reacting to the final failure of Japan’s special route in the fight against Covid 19. At the beginning of the pandemic, the country was able to dampen the outbreak with a few tests, focusing on regional virus sources. But then the number of infections in the metropolises skyrocketed. And Abe proclaimed the state of emergency, which he extended to the entire country last week, but only a “state of emergency light”.

People should stay at home if possible, many shops were closed. However, at the request of Prime Minister Abe, restaurants and hairdressers were allowed to remain open. In many companies, employees continued to commute to work. The official goal of this strategy was to reduce social contracts by 70 to 80 percent, thereby stopping the explosive growth of the epidemic.

After two weeks of emergency, the number of cases remains high

But the interim result after two weeks is mixed. The office centers are empty. But more people are crowding in supermarkets and some parks. In addition, some Pachinko arcades did not close. They can afford it, since Japan’s Emergency Law does not provide for punishments for violations – except for a public ruffle.

The problems of this strategy are now reflected in the numbers, says the virologist Kentaro Iwata from Kobe University: “I am half encouraged, half disappointed.” The number of Covid-19 cases found fell from nationwide daily peak values ​​of over 700, but less than expected. The Ministry of Health reported 420 new infections on Thursday.

At the same time, there is growing concern that the official figure does not even begin to reflect the true extent of the pandemic in Japan. The Keio University hospital found four asymptomatic Covid-19 cases in an examination of 67 consignments. This is a warning sign for epidemiologist Kenji Shibuya, who teaches at King’s College in London and advises the Secretary General of the World Health Organization.

Last week, he had caused a sensation with his estimate that 100,000 Japanese had actually been infected, ten times more than officially known. This test now suggests that the number could be much higher, Shibuya said in a video conference on Thursday.

The test basis is very small, he admits. But the hospital warned: “It is possible that this reflects the level of infections in the region.” According to Shibuya, if this were the case, it would suggest that two to ten percent of the Tokyo population are already infected. This would correspond to 280,000 to 1.4 million people in the capital alone.

The small number of deaths still speaks against this presumption. On Thursday, their number rose by eleven to 289 people (as of 8 p.m. local time). For comparison: In Germany, more than 5,300 people have already died from the consequences of the disease. But the uncertainty about the actual spread is great, since the number of virus tests in Japan has so far been very small.

Japan tests too little

According to the Ministry of Health, only 130,587 tests were carried out by Wednesday afternoon. This means that only one in every 1,000 inhabitants was tested. In Germany the value is 25.1. Health authorities justified the restrained testing program with Japan’s strategy to focus on virus sources and sick people, rather than clogging hospitals with a flood of mild cases.

“From the point of view of a clinical doctor who wants to save lives, this is perfectly justified, but not for public health experts,” says Shibuya. “Basically, the lack of tests was the biggest problem.” Because as long as Japan does not test in large numbers, this epidemic cannot be contained.

Even worse: The strategy has exacerbated the problem, criticizes the expert. “Many asymptomatic and early cases were overlooked.” The result: Instead of protecting hospitals, more and more clinics are struggling with infection chains among patients and nursing staff. “My biggest concern is that hospital care is already collapsing due to hospital infections while the real wave of illnesses is still coming.”

He is not alone in this concern. Since the end of March, medical and hospital associations have been warning of a collapse in care despite the comparatively low Covid 19 numbers. Because Japan is the world leader with 13 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants. But after years of saving with only five beds per 100,000 inhabitants, the capacity of the intensive care units is not even half as high as in Italy or Spain, not to mention Germany.

Japan’s buffer to cope with a large corona wave is therefore smaller than in Europe. Shigeru Omi, the deputy chairman of Japan’s expert council, therefore asked the country’s citizens on Thursday: “People have to change their behavior, we need citizens’ cooperation.”

More: Crisis-proof Germans: Which countries perform best in the Corona stress test

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We are not all the same “

Munich Stephan Grünewald, member of the “Corona Expert Council” of the North Rhine-Westphalian state government, sees signs that social cohesion is disappearing in the virus crisis. “In the first few weeks there was an unparalleled collaboration between politics, experts, the media and the population,” said the psychologist and co-founder of the Rheingold Institute to the Handelsblatt. After a “tolerance to toleration”, the debate polarized again. “More and more doubters are reporting whether all of this is really appropriate.”

Corona is still experienced as an equalizer. “Everyone is affected. And all of a sudden, nurses, nurses, supermarket cashiers and garbage collectors are valued socially, ”Grünewald explains. As soon as the measures were relaxed, the “collective fate” ended and, for example, different grants or exit regulations created increasing rivalries. It will soon become clear: “We are not all the same.”

According to Grünewald, the polarizing positions of people can be determined by the agreement with the attitude of various politicians. He mentions the prime ministers Armin Laschet (CDU, North Rhine-Westphalia) and Markus Söder (CSU, Bavaria). “Some want a variant” Söder plus “, a leader – someone who is even more assertive and who rules even more clearly,” explains Grünewald, “Laschet is the type of moderating, weighing politician who takes citizens with him and takes all risks into account.”

Read the full interview here

Mr. Grünewald, you have been researching the state of the soul in the country for years. Did the behavior of the Germans in the corona crisis surprise you?
Nobody had anything like that on the screen. This is the deepest cut since World War II. As a person I am horrified, as a psychologist it is exciting to watch what happens there mentally.

What did you notice?
How we deal with a threat that we do not perceive sensually. In phase one, people tried to address the feeling of helplessness. The spring cleaning was even more martial than usual, you secured supplies in hamster purchases. In the first few weeks there was an unprecedented collaboration between politics, experts, the media and the population. All restrictions were carried.

And phase two?
The turning point came at the end of March. When the last bans were pronounced, we fainted. It was clear to everyone that the crisis could only be sat out. Most people succumbed to a tolerance of tolerance, a social fast. On the other hand, the debate is polarizing again. More and more doubters are reporting whether all of this is really appropriate.

In your last book, published in 2019, it says that there is no common spirit of departure in the troubled society: “With fearful anticipation, you look forward to the collapse.”
And the pandemic is this disturbing event. Everything breaks down that has given our life stability and security. Germany was one of the last paradises. Now you are afraid of infection, personal bankruptcy, bankruptcy and the loss of social cohesion.

And in response, are we chasing from one web conference to the next?
Working through is a counter strategy. We are experiencing a consolidation of work through digitization. Expansion joints are eliminated, you no longer have to sit in the train for two hours to get to the customer. Others, in turn, allow themselves to slow down and the richness of everyday analogue: they play, do handicrafts, talk. Then reality splits.

Escapism would be normal in such a situation.
Some actually flee into the daydream world of the Internet and from Netflix. However, this leads to unrest in the long term, and the anger potential increases. If, on the other hand, decommissioning is used as a pause for reflection, such purpose-free spaces can be the breeding ground for great ideas. It’s up to the Germans. We become inventive in the crisis.

You have criticized in the past that Germany has no master plan and no visions. Now we have to develop a plan against Corona and for a new economic miracle.

It is a negative vision. We want to ward off a great danger together. But this attitude will crumble.

In politics there are currently two politicians with different plans: Armin Laschet, whose expert council you are sitting on, and Markus Söder from Bavaria.
In our studies on Corona, we actually experience a split. Some want a variant “Söder plus”, a leader – someone who is even more assertive and rules out more clearly. The one who offers recipes. The others say the lockdown is deprived of liberty. You would need a more open, lax approach. Everyone has to be responsible for that – as in Sweden. Laschet is the type of moderating, weighing politician who takes citizens along and takes all risks into account.

And what about Angela Merkel? In your surveys, she was previously considered “caring” and “comforting”.
She has this trust bonus and again acts as a national guardian angel, just like before the refugee crisis. Oppositions will soon emerge again. The AfD will most likely occupy the “Söder plus” position, with the virus as a new enemy. The FDP will advocate more personal responsibility and relaxation. Both will get people behind.

Is there a new social gap here like 2015 in the refugee question?
I see parallels. We notice that there are cracks in the families. You no longer talk to each other – either because you consider the other person to be negligent in dealing with the virus, or because you believe in authority.

How long is a person able to do without in a lockdown?
The maximum is 40 days. The word quarantine comes from the Italian “quaranta”, forty – at the time of the plague danger in the 17th century, people were locked away in Venice during this period. That’s why our summer holidays are so long, by the way. At the beginning of May we have to give people a new perspective – and from then on it is best to do it every three weeks.

As a psychologist, what have you actually achieved in the expert council of the NRW state government?
I have pointed out the growing danger of an everyday mental collapse and renewed social polarization. The latter can now increase because there are no longer any collective measures, but differentiated ones. This has to be argued wisely, but threatens jealousy and lack of understanding.

How do you assess the easing measures that the federal and state governments decided last Wednesday?
This opening must not lead people to believe that they are back to normal. From a psychological point of view, the relief must therefore be combined with new precautionary measures so that the citizens feel that they are still vigilant and active. This includes the obligation to wear a mask and an app that shows infected people.

The population accepts that without grumbling?
Politicians should know the well-being of the population beforehand. For example, many are eager to go to the hairdresser again, they are afraid to go wild in social isolation. The well-groomed hairstyle distinguishes people from barbarians. And hairdressers are important conversation therapists who wash our heads in two ways.

How important is it to continue playing the Bundesliga in May?
People have endured social fasting only through small escapes. The good weather for weeks was something of a heavenly consolation. You went for a walk or jog. Football is often the dramatic climax of the week, so it’s a great escape.

Show professional games to fulfill TV contracts – doesn’t that seem like an arbitrary privilege for a certain industry?
Without a spectator, the Bundesliga is surely an imposition. But it is so: we have bread, games are missing. Activities in opera and theater – all without an audience – would have to be expanded for streaming. The protagonists keep more distance on stage than the footballers in duels.

The debate about the Bundesliga and exemptions gives a foretaste of the social question of who will win the crisis and who will lose.
That will be one of the major disappointments and dangers in the future. Corona is still experienced as an equalizer. Everyone is affected. And nurses, nurses, supermarket cashiers and garbage collectors are suddenly valued socially. But it will soon become clear that we are not all the same. If we relax the measures, the collective fate ends. If one branch is allowed to do more than another or one federal state more than another, this creates “sibling rivalries”.

And the role of politics in this?
It will be harder for politicians to moderate these conflicts. Your current high approval ratings are just a snapshot.

What will media consumption look like? The arousal over Corona spread faster than the pathogen, you noted.
For three or four weeks, people have absorbed everything on the subject. Our interviews show that this has now been exhausted. You really heard everything and you know how to behave. Now you watch less news again. It would be dangerous if the media wanted to counteract this through greater dramatization. They have to further educate, classify and create context, for example through country comparisons.

The phenomenon of “fake news” seemed to be a thing of the past. Everyone was interested in science and its facts. Will it stay that way?
There is still a basic interest in the factual. But conspiracy theories also fatally promise easy orientation. But here there is a guilty person, a scapegoat and with it the hope that one can turn fate if one punishes the supposed originators.

Germany has struggled with digitization for years. Now it is developing almost on its own – a gain in the market situation?
Necessity means that maneuverability arises from need. We are experiencing an unprecedented surge in digitization. However, this can lead to collateral damage if, for example, there is more digital control and control anger and the analog expansion joints break away in everyday life.

How will the country as a whole develop from the corona crisis? More foreclosure? Or more courage to find your own answers in and with globalization?
We are increasingly withdrawing from ourselves during the crisis and narrowing our horizons. It is human, but it is important to expand the radius again soon. For example, I appeal to Germans to show solidarity again in Europe.

After 1945 the Germans had the dream of rebuilding the destroyed country. Does this mechanism work now?
It is certainly a different reconstruction. The Germans have made great sacrifices recently – it would therefore not be enough to simply bring everything back to the old state. There is a longing for a new picture. It starts with the question of how fast you want to live your life. We never had the experience of extreme deceleration before. That comes into play.

What new values ​​are important when restarting?
Empathy and a new sensibility for solidarity. Who can I rely on in an emergency? Which politicians, friends and brands? That has the fiasco of Adidas shown that the rents simply did not want to pay. And leisure becomes important. In a recent study, we found that many Germans rediscovered the puzzle. You have to go step by step here, you need milestones and a framework. And all parts are equally important. It is like restarting society.

Mr. Grünewald, thank you for the interview.

More: The country heads’ resistance to Merkel’s basta policy is good and correct.

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Spahn opts for controversial Corona app model

Berlin The chaos around the planned Corona warning app seems to have cleared up. As the CDU digital politician Tankred Schipanski told the Handelsblatt, the Federal Ministry of Health from department head Jens Spahn (CDU) has now opted for the software framework of the Pepp-PT initiative.

Accordingly, the ministry informed the Bundestag’s digital committee on Wednesday that it had examined three possible technical platforms and then decided on Pepp-pt. The future mobile phone app for monitoring infections in the coronavirus pandemic is to dock on the technological platform developed by over 130 scientists.

“We are on the right track with the Corona app,” Schipanski told Handelsblatt. In close exchange with the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, Ulrich Kelber, the Cybersecurity Authority BSI and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is developing an app based on Pepp-PT technology.

The ministry’s decision is remarkable. Because the Pepp-PT project had been heavily criticized in the past few days because of its data protection concept. Around 300 experts signed an open letter warning of the risk of surveillance and misuse if data were stored centrally. The majority of them support the DP-3T concept, which provides for the decentralized storage of data on smartphones.

The Ministry of Health now prefers central storage of user data when developing the planned warning app, as a ministry spokesman said in Berlin on Wednesday. According to the Reuters news agency in the digital committee it was argued that otherwise decentralized storage on the cell phones would have to ask the US companies Google and Apple to disclose data. But that is not in the sense of an effective pandemic control.

The Greens faction leader Konstantin von Notz accused the Spahn of a lurching course when deciding on the app standard. “While it was emphasized on Tuesday that various approaches to data storage, both central and decentralized, were being examined, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health was quoted in the press shortly after the end of the meetings of the relevant Bundestag committees, saying that one preferred central storage of user data,” said von Notz to the Handelsblatt. “The Federal Government’s action is not only fatal for the acceptance of an app solution, it also shows a lack of respect for the parliament.”

Warning of “technological beauty contest”

Schipanski, however, emphasized that the effectiveness of the app in combating the pandemic is paramount. “The fact that data is stored centrally is not a legal or political obstacle,” said the CDU politician. “What matters to me is not so much a technological beauty contest, but more that the app makes an effective contribution to overcoming the crisis.”

The CDU health politician Tino Sorge advised to be more “pragmatic” when weighing up legal interests. Of course, data protection is justified. “But it is also about protecting public health, maintaining our everyday life and preserving our economic prosperity,” the Bundestag member told the Handelsblatt.

“It can not be too much for individuals to participate in a protected way in a Corona app.” After all, the app is not about personal data or even location histories, but only about pseudonymized data.

Sorge stressed the broad benefits for the digital fight against the virus. “Using the app and using pseudonymised data, the risk of infection and infection chains can be understood much better and faster than the health authorities will ever be able to do with the laborious telephone calls,” said. “We shouldn’t waste this opportunity – especially not as long as we don’t have a vaccine yet.”

The CDU politician Schipanski now expects in particular from the US group Applethat this opens its interfaces so that the app also works on the IOS system. According to the Ministry of Health, the authorities are currently using Apple, but also Apple Google Discussions about “how to design the interface and where the data is stored”.

One problem at the moment is that Apple has so far refused to open the interface for the app. However, this is seen as a prerequisite for the most extensive, if voluntary, use of the app. The Chancellery should now also engage in talks with the US company. Google is ready to open its interface. Together, the two US companies equip more than 90 percent of all smartphones with their operating systems.

App should be ready at the end of May

A Corona warning app would be installed on the smartphone. It can send an anonymized warning – if possible confirmed by the Ministry of Health – to people who have had contact with infected people. This would work via data exchange between the cell phones of people who use the app. A European exchange mechanism that protects privacy already exists for this. The broadest possible use of a warning app could make it easier to track corona infection chains – also because targeted contacts would then be tested.

In March it was still expected that a corresponding app, which is recommended by the federal government, would be available after the Easter holidays. Günther Krings (CDU), State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, is said to have mentioned Wednesday at the end of May as a possible date in the interior committee of the Bundestag, according to participants.

The authority of the federal data protection officer Kelber and the BSI should then have five days to check the app. The authorities are constantly informed about the development. In addition, the app should be made a requirement in certain areas, such as in particularly relevant companies.

The Greens politician from Notz was disappointed. “After weeks of highly contradicting statements, expectations for today were high,” said von Notz. “The Federal Government not only did not take advantage of this opportunity, but continued to get caught up in highly contradictory statements.” On Tuesday, the Federal Government still stated that it wanted a purely voluntary solution, “this clear commitment is already obsolete”, criticized von Notz Look at what Krings said.

On Tuesday, the federal government emphasized that it was only considering using the corona tracking app on a voluntary basis. Models and digital applications would have to meet the requirements of data protection law, for which data processing is based on consent. No location data should be collected either.

More: Read here why the dispute over the Corona warning app is alarming the digital associations.

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