Jerry Sandusky Trial Still Waits for Strong Defense

Patrick Smith/Getty Images(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) -- The defense team for Jerry Sandusky on Tuesday will have its second chance to cast doubt on the 51 charges of child sex abuse facing the former Penn State football coach, as the jury waits to see whether Sandusky's attorneys can pack a bigger punch than the string of character witnesses presented so far.

Testimony ended abruptly Monday when Judge John Cleland told the jury that "technical issues" with the witnesses would prevent court from continuing.  He did not elaborate on the issues, but said that more witnesses would be called on Tuesday, and the defense would likely rest its case by Wednesday morning.  The jury of seven women and five men could be handed the case by Thursday.

While the defense prepares its second day of witnesses, the prosecution is reportedly considering submitting an unedited transcript of an interview Sandusky gave to NBC, part of which was played in court for the jury.  The transcript, however, includes part of the interview that was not aired on NBC, in which Sandusky says he did not seek out "every young person for sexual needs that I've helped. There are many that I didn't have -- I hardly had any contact with who I have helped in many, many ways."

The prosecution has not submitted a motion on the matter.

On Tuesday, the defense may call Sandusky, his wife Dottie and son Matt, as well as psychological experts to testify on the coach's behalf.

They may also submit evidence including phone records of accusers calling one another in an effort to help prove that the men are colluding to make money off of the case.  Amendola has hinted that he has evidence and witnesses to prove that some of the men have made comments about getting rich, but so far his witnesses have only included former colleagues from the Penn State coaching staff and from the Second Mile charity testifying to Sandusky's character.

Amendola also suggested during the first week of testimony that the defense would present an expert witness who would diagnose Sandusky's behavior as histrionic personality disorder, a condition which causes people to act out in attention-seeking ways, and use the disorder to help explain some of his overly affectionate behavior described by his accusers.

The judge, however, ruled last week that if Amendola were presenting an expert witness, the prosecution would also have the chance to present a psychologist who could explain Sandusky's behavior in other ways. Sandusky reportedly was evaluated by a prosecution psychologist on Sunday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Veterinary Groups Push for Better Protection for Championship Horses

ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- Citing allegations of "extremely abusive" practices that persist in the world of Tennessee Walking Horses, two of the country's leading veterinary groups joined forces Monday to urge Congress to modify the Horse Protection Act to better protect the animals.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) are asking for a ban on the use of "action devices," which include chains often used in conjunction with caustic chemicals on the horse's ankle, and thick, heavy pads that are attached to the horse's hoof that cause the horses to walk more abnormally. The devices, both groups maintain, are implicated in soring -- the practice of intentionally inflicting pain to enhance the high-stepping gait sought after in Tennessee Walking Horse championships.

The new call to action follows an ABC News Nightline investigation into abuse inflicted on the high-dollar horses, including soring, by one of the sport's leading trainers.

"For half a century, the action devices have been used to cover up the cruel practice of soring, they disguise and hide it," said Harry Werner, horse veterinarian and chair of the Equine Welfare Committee for the AAEP. "If the action devices and pads are gone, soring will have to go to because it will be far too obvious what's going on."

While soring was made illegal in 1970 with the passing of the Horse Protection Act, some maintain it has continued to go on behind closed barn doors.

"Increasingly shrewd and more difficult to detect -- yet equally painful -- methods of soring continue to plague the Walking Horse industry," said Rene Carlson, president on the AVMA.

After the Nightline investigation aired last month, the sport came under intense scrutiny, with the Chattanoogan newspaper reporting that the top 20 trainers in the Riders Cup have amassed 161 violations of the Horse Protection Act in the last two years alone. The Tennessean newspaper reported that eight of the last 10 "Trainers of the Year," as awarded by the Walking Horse Trainers' Association, have been suspended for soring at least once in their careers.

Werner said the veterinary groups are also hoping to raise awareness among amateur horse owners, who are not always aware of what trainers are doing to train the horses for competition.

"They're all going for the grand prize, which brings with it a fair amount of money in the breeding barn," he said. "It's a greed-driven mission."

He's hopeful renewed spotlight on these practices and an amended Horse Protection Act will finally bring such widespread practices to an end.

"It's gone on way too long, it's time for it to stop," Werner said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Is a Military Drone Base Coming to Your Hometown?

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Death-dealing drones buzzing above may be a constant worry for militants in far-flung lands, but now more of America’s aerial assassins and their spying compatriots could be coming to your backyard -- just for testing and training, according to the Department of Defense.

The military has identified 110 potential bases for drone operations at military installations in 39 states, from Georgia to California, according to a new Defense Department report dated April 2012 and published online late last week by the Federation of American Scientists. The U.S. bases could support all kinds of drones, from the deadly, missile-capable Predators to the next-generation surveillance Global Hawks.

Drone testing and operator training are already done in the U.S., but the report noted that the “strong demand” from the military’s various branches for expanded access to domestic airspace, which is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, has “quickly exceeded the current airspace available for these activities.” The report says that under current policy, the military has to obtain temporary permission to operate Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) outside its own restricted airspace.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee said in a defense budget bill that the government needs to speed up the process in which drones are integrated into the national airspace.

“Without the ability to operate freely and routinely in the NAS [National Airspace System], UAS development and training -- and ultimately operational capabilities -- will be severely impacted,” the committee said in its report.

The Defense Department report’s public unveiling follows the publication of a list of dozens of “current” drone bases early last week by the anti-secrecy website public intelligence.

The U.S. military currently has 6,316 drones of various types, according to the report, and plans to add another 2,076 by 2017.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jerry Sandusky Defense Ignores Detailed Accusations

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) -- The withering allegations of sex abuse from eight accusers in the Jerry Sandusky trial were largely ignored Monday by Sandusky's legal team as the defense began telling their side of the story.

The defense's first day of testimony ended abruptly only an hour into the afternoon session as Judge John Cleland told the jury that "technical issues" with some of the witnesses would keep court adjourned until Tuesday morning. But he laid out a schedule that indicates Sandusky will offer few witnesses on his behalf.

Cleland would not explain what the problems with the witnesses were Monday, but said only that he expected the defense to rest Wednesday. He said the court would hear a rebuttal from the prosecution on Wednesday afternoon, and told the attorneys to be ready to give closing arguments on Thursday.

The judge informed the jury that they will be sequestered once they begin deliberations.

Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the charges.

Sandusky's lawyers called four people to the stand and all were essentially character witnesses.

Former youth counselor Brett Witmer was called to the stand to counter some of the claims from the man known as Victim 4, who testified that Sandusky took a special interest in him, wrote him letters and made him sign contracts, stalked him from school begging the boy to talk to him, and sexually abused him.

Under questioning by defense attorney Joseph Amendola, Witmer said that he worked with Victim 4 at a youth group program the boy was in during elementary and middle school. He said that the boy told him Sandusky was a big part of his life, and he often saw the two interacting.

"Jerry certainly seemed to be an important part of (Victim 4's) life....He seemed like he had a genuine interest in making sure the kid was moving in the right direction," Witmer, now an elementary school teacher, testified.

He relayed an incident in which Sandusky showed up at the youth center to pick up Victim 4, and the boy did not show. Sandusky and the counselor chatted on the steps of the youth center.

"He said, 'You've got to understand when you're dealing with kids coming from difficult situations sometimes they're not going to want to meet with you, go with you, and other times they're going to want to do fun things and play. You just always have to be there for them,'" Witmer recalled. "Even as I do social work now I keep that in mind."

David Pasquinelli, a former board member for the Second Mile, the charity Sandusky helped create, said that for two years he and Sandusky would take fundraising trips together and got to know each other well.

"I saw a mutual admiration between Second Mile youth, both boys and girls, with Jerry. I saw a lot of goofing around. Jerry had a very unique way, and many of us were inspired by this, how he could relate to youth of all ages and really get to their level and communicate," Pasquinelli said.

In addition, two former Penn State coaches who worked with Sandusky, Richard Anderson and Booker Brooks, were called to testify about a locker room culture where showering with young boys was common. Sandusky is accused of using showers to molest young boys.

"Jerry had a great reputation. He had a wonderful reputation in the community, he was well thought of in every way," Anderson said.

Before the defense began its case, the prosecution presented one last emotional witness.

The mother of Victim 9 testified through tears that she felt responsible for pushing her son to spend time with the coach because "he was Jerry Sandusky. He was an important guy."

The woman said that she never asked her son, who testified last week that he was raped by Sandusky, what exactly happened to him in Sandusky's basement during the sleepovers he said he had every weekend for nearly four years.

On Thursday, Victim 9, who is now 18, said that he was repeatedly forced to perform oral sex on Sandusky and be sodomized by Sandusky in the coach's basement. The testimony followed seven other witnesses who said they were sexually abused by Sandusky.

The mother said that her son called her once from Sandusky's house asking her to pick him up immediately because he was feeling sick. In his testimony Thursday, Victim 9 said he called his mom for help once when Sandusky was sexually abusing him, but did not tell his mother the reason for the call.

Victim 9's mother testified that he suffered medical problems during ages 15, 16, and 17 when he had severe stomach problems and trouble going to the bathroom. She said he also never put his underwear into the laundry, always telling his mother that he had an accident and threw them out.

On Thursday, Amendola questioned Victim 9 about rectal bleeding and stains on his underwear. The boy said his mother never saw stains and that he "just dealt with it."

The trial resumed Monday with a surprising statement from Judge John Cleland saying he had doubts about the strength of the prosecution's case, but at this point in the trial is convinced that there is enough credible evidence that the charges should go to a jury. His comments were made while the jury was out of the courtroom.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teen Burning Jurors Begin Deliberating in Florida

Hemera/Thinkstock(DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.) -- Jurors began deliberating Monday in the trial of a Florida teen accused of planning the torching of his middle-school classmate after the prosecution urged them not to let him "get away with letting other people do his dirty work for him."

In her closing argument, prosecutor Maria Schneider told jurors Monday that Matthew Bent, 17, on trial for second-degree attempted murder, was trying to avoid responsibility when he offered money for the 2009 attack in which Michael Brewer was soaked with rubbing alcohol and then set on fire.

"Matthew Bent was the reason why this crime happened," Schneider said. "He was offering people money to beat Michael, not to scare Michael."

Bent faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

On Oct. 12, 2009, Bent and two other teens confronted Brewer, who was 15 at the time, near an apartment complex after their middle school let out in Deerfield Beach, Fla. One boy doused Brewer with rubbing alcohol and another flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.

Brewer survived the attack by jumping into a nearby pool, but not before second- and third-degree burns covered nearly two-thirds of his body.

Schneider stressed to the six-person jury the disputes between Bent and Brewer prior to the attack.

Brewer testified Thursday that Bent targeted him because he refused to buy drug paraphernalia from Bent. And the day before the attack, Brewer's parents reported Bent to the police for allegedly attempting to steal a family bicycle. Brewer said he stayed home from school on Oct. 12, fearing possible retaliation by Bent.

The bad blood between Brewer and Bent reveal revenge as a clear motive for Bent to plan the attack on Brewer, Schneider argued.

Denver Jarvis, 17, is serving eight years in prison and Jesus Mendez, 18, was sentenced to 11 years for their roles in the attack. Jarvis poured the rubbing alcohol on Brewer and Mendez flicked a lighter, setting Brewer ablaze.

Bent's attorneys rested their case Monday morning after informing the court that Bent would not testify in his own defense and without calling a single witness.

Defense attorney Perry Thurston called the allegation of Bent's offer a fabrication on Friday. The attack happened spontaneously after the boys chanced upon a jug of rubbing alcohol on the street, he said.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Johnny McCray said Bent "will have scars for the rest of his life" because of the trial, and argued that convicting an "innocent child" would not bring justice for Brewer.

"This is prosecution overkill," Thurston said.

Brewer has undergone extensive skin graft surgery and physical therapy since he was attacked. His mother Valerie Brewer testified that her son still requires therapy in order to keep his muscles flexible enough for routine functions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Roger Clemens Emotional After Prosecutors Strike Out

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a federal jury cleared him Monday of all counts, Roger Clemens, the legendary pitcher known for his toughness, broke down.

"For all you media guys that have followed my career, I put a lot of hard work into that career" Roger Clemens said as he wept on the courthouse steps surrounded by family.

Clemens, known as "The Rocket" and perhaps the most dominating Major League Baseball pitcher of his era, has been in a five-year fight to clear his name. He had become one of the primary symbols of what was wrong with baseball, accused of taking steroids and lying about it to Congress.

"Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids," Clemens said in a dramatic hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which called him to testify in February 2008.

The government spent four years investigating Clemens, dispatching 103 agents to 72 locations across the United States and around the world to prove that the former pitcher had committed perjury in denying his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens was charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements, and one count of obstructing Congress. On Monday, a jury acquitted him on all charges after a 10-week trial.

The case was largely built on the word of one man: Clemens' former trainer, who directly contradicted Clemens during that dramatic hearing before Congress in 2008.

"I injected Roger Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs," former New York Yankees trainer Brian McNamee told the House committee.

In end, the jury did not believe McNamee, whose credibility was severely damaged by the testimony of his estranged wife.

"She was able to persuade this jury that everything her estranged husband said was nothing but a lie," Lester Munson of ESPN said.

So the government struck out, and Clemens did something he had done many times before. He won.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Amid Colo. Blazes, Man Arrested for Impersonating Firefighter

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images(LARIMER COUNTY, Colo.) -- With so many homes and neighborhoods deserted because of mandatory evacuations during Colorado's week-old High Park Fire, the local sheriff has a new worry: potential looters.

Police arrested a 30-year-old Denver man on Saturday for allegedly using phony firefighter credentials to enter the fire's restricted area. His truck displayed stolen government license plates, police said.

Michael Stillman Maher at first evaded authorities but was found later that night at a local bar. He was arrested for impersonating a firefighter, theft and attempting to influence a public servant. Police say they found stolen property and a firearm in Maher's car, although they did not say if it came from a home evacuated because of the fire.

A Larimer County Sheriff's Department statement said there were no confirmed cases of looting.

"Residents worried about looting in the fire area should be reassured there is a very strong law enforcement and National Guard presence to deter any such activity," according to the statement.

Officials said they are beefing up roving patrols and deploying mobile surveillance equipment to catch looters in the act.

"We have extra roving patrols to watch for looters," Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said at a briefing. "If someone's sneaking around back there, we'll find them."

Maher is currently in a Larimer County Jail, pending setting of bond, according to the local sheriff's office.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


George Zimmerman Urged Wife to Buy Bulletproof Vest

Seminole County Sheriff's Office(MIAMI) -- George Zimmerman in a jailhouse phone call urged his wife to buy herself a bulletproof vest shortly after he was arrested in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

"As uncomfortable as it is, I want you wearing one," Zimmerman told his wife Shellie.

Zimmerman's urging came as he was receiving death threats and his Sanford, Fla., neighborhood as well as much of the country was outraged by the shooting of the unarmed Florida teenager.

The conversation was among a series of taped jailhouse phone calls between Zimmerman and his wife that were released Monday.

In the calls, which were used to revoke Zimmerman's bond while landing his wife briefly behind bars for perjury, the couple discusses transferring money between bank accounts, paying off bills, and George Zimmerman's concern for safety.

Shellie Zimmerman was so intent on remaining hidden that she testified at a bail hearing for her husband by speaker phone.

Zimmerman, who was wearing a vest when he was released on bond, also discusses a possible escape route and renting two cars to throw off the media, possibly driving into a hotel with an attached garage or heading to an airport to fly to "heaven."

In one conversation, as the two are planning a possible escape route if he receives bail, Zimmerman talks about going to a hotel like the Western he stayed at in Tampa, and that if he is in a car he could wear "his hoodie" and lie down as they are driving away.

The phone calls were cited when prosecutors charged Shellie Zimmerman with perjury for claiming the couple were indigent when they were aware that they had $135,000 available from website donations.

Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara has said repeatedly that the couple was not deceptively trying to withhold information from the courts, but were concerned for their safety.

The couple show their affection for each other throughout the calls, and Zimmerman warns his wife repeatedly to stay safe.

"Just be smart when you leave, honey....If something is even questionable, don't go home," he warns her.

The tapes also shed some clues about the whereabouts of Zimmerman and his wife. In one call, his wife says she passed by the courthouse and that it was full of news vans.

At their heart though, the taped conversations detail the steps the couple were undertaking in the days leading up to Zimmerman's bond hearing that would grant his wife greater access to the funds collected through the website.

The site, set up before Zimmerman's arrest as a way for him to speak to the public while soliciting legal funds from the public, resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being poured into their bank accounts. But they were cautious in their conversations, aware that they were being recorded. Shellie Zimmerman: "Can I put you on speaker phone?"

George Zimmerman: "Yes, please, but remember, no, no personal information."

Shellie Zimmerman: "Okay…I'm putting you on speaker phone, but we're not going to say the name of the institution or your name or any personal information recorded."

In two of the six conversations which lasted an average of 15 minutes each, Shellie Zimmerman was inside a credit union resetting passwords with his sister and a bank official nearby, so that his wife could transfer "10" between accounts. The prosecution alleges that "$10" stood for $10,000.

In an earlier call he advises his wife to take out $10 to keep in her pocket and put another $10 in the box. Zimmerman also tells his wife to pay off all but two of their bills, and in another conversation expresses his hesitancy to use a large amount of the money for bail if it is set high.

Zimmerman also comments on the large outpouring of support from the public and that they need to start "vocalizing themselves." He tells her about his difficulty taking showers initially and his gratefulness towards the chaplains in the jail.

Zimmerman’s next bond hearing is scheduled for June 29.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dangerous Rip Currents Claim Lives at Florida Beaches

David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An outbreak of rip currents at beaches in Florida has claimed several lives and endangered dozens more in recent days, prompting the National Weather Service to extend its public warnings to beachgoers.

Over this past weekend, two people drowned and more than 70 had to be rescued from rip currents in a single Florida county on the Atlantic coast, officials there told ABC News.

A 14-year-old boy went missing Sunday after getting caught in a rip current while swimming with friends at New Smyrna Beach, Fla. His body was found on shore Monday morning. Volusia County Beach Patrol Capt. Tammy Marris told ABC News that the teens were swimming at an unguarded beach, over 300 yards away from the nearest lifeguard.

The same day the boy went missing, a 66-year-old man died after getting caught in a rip current just off another beach in Volusia. He was pulled in by lifeguards but fell unconscious during the rescue process and did not recover, Marris said. Authorities have not released the identities of either victim.

The deaths follow another pair of fatal incidents that took place on Florida's opposite coast along the Gulf of Mexico the previous weekend.

There, 42-year-old Sonia Westmoreland died June 9 after she was caught in a rip current while trying to rescue her daughter and her daughter's two friends. The girls were saved by their father but Westmoreland was "blue around the mouth and non-responsive" when officers arrived, according to a police report obtained by ABC News. She died several days later.

Also on June 9, a 23-year-old Mississippi man drowned while swimming at an unguarded beach in Pensacola, Fla., according to the Pensacola News Journal.

Though the weekend is over, the threat from rip currents is not, according to the National Weather Service, which said there is a high rip current risk until 8 p.m. tonight in Volusia County. Other Atlantic beaches including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach also faced a high risk until Monday afternoon.

Rip currents are strong gushes of water that flow through a low point in a sandbar often away from beaches. The channeled force of the current can drag swimmers away from the shore at a rate of up to eight miles an hour.

"People are being pulled away from shore -- in a sense like a treadmill -- they are not able to get back in and, in most cases, due to their physical conditioning, or distance from the shore, or their swimming ability, the rip current takes a lot of out of them, and which then leads to potential fatalities," Gerry Falconer, a lieutenant with Miami Beach Ocean Rescue and president of the southeastern region of the United States Lifesaving Association, told ABC News in a 2005 20/20 special.

According to USLA statistics, which are self-reported by participating agencies, most drowning deaths blamed on rip currents occur at unguarded beaches. Last year the association counted 16 deaths due to rip currents at unguarded beaches and three at beaches where lifeguards were present.

"The most basic and important thing is to swim in front of a life guard tower, no matter what the conditions are," Marris said.

Falconer told ABC News that the frequency of drowning because of rip tides reveals a lack of awareness about the hazard.

"If people were out on the beach and the word 'shark' was used, they'd clear the water without a doubt, but to hear the word rip current, a lot of times, it has little effect…and it is just as deadly," he said.

The 2005 20/20 investigation highlighted the problem of drownings along the unguarded beaches of Florida's Panhandle.

Eight people drowned in one day in 2003 -- known as Black Sunday -- including retired CNN correspondent Larry LaMotte of Atlanta, Ga., and Ken Brindley of Conway, Ark., who were vacationing with their families. LaMotte had gone in the water to rescue his son who was caught in a rip current and got swept up himself. Brindley, seeing LaMotte in distress, went in to help but could not make it out.

LaMotte's wife Sandee told ABC News that the families had been completely unaware of the danger.

"Here we are, two families, two husbands, two fathers leaving behind two sets of children all because we didn't realize that were in danger playing here at the water's shore," said LaMotte.

How to Escape a Rip Current

Lifeguards insist that the safest option for inexperienced ocean swimmers is to swim at a beach with lifeguards. For beachgoers who find themselves caught in a rip current, they offer these potentially life-saving tips:

  • Remain calm.
  • Don't try to swim against the current.
  • Try to swimming parallel to the shoreline to get out of the current.
  • When out of the current, swim at an angle away from the current, towards the shore.
  • If you are unable to swim out of the current, float or calmly tread water.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Whale Sinks Sailboat Off Coast of Mexico

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A California man was rescued after his 50-foot sailboat was struck by a whale while he was sailing alone about 40 miles off the coast of Mexico.

The impact from the collision disabled the sailboat's steering and the vessel began taking on water late Tuesday.

Max Young, 67, a retired Sacramento high school teacher, quickly stuffed a mattress into the hole in the ship's hull and activated several pumps.

Young also activated his EPIRB, an emergency radio beacon, around midnight which alerted the Coast Guard.

"The safety equipment he had on board allowed us to find him very quickly. It was a big reason why we were able to rescue him," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Pamela J. Boehland.

The Coast Guard requested assistance from the Ocean Virgo, a Panamanian-flagged merchant ship. The Ocean Virgo was approximately 60 miles away and immediately headed to the scene.

"The fact the freighter was less than 60 miles away and was able to respond to our rescue request was great, but he was very lucky that he was able to be rescued so quickly," Boehland said.

The command center watch also diverted an HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Sacramento to investigate the sinking vessel.

When the crew of the Hercules located and established radio communications with Young at about 2 a.m., he was bailing water from his boat. He had also deployed his life raft in case he had to abandon his boat.

The Hercules remained on scene until the Ocean Virgo arrived around 4 a.m., and Young climbed out of his boat via a rope ladder that was thrown by the ship's crew.

Young had been on the final leg of a trip from the East Coast to a marina in Emeryville, Calif., when the collision took place. Young has been sailing for at least 30 years, and having worked on boats with his father, who was a commercial fisherman, he's been on the ocean most of his life, his wife said.

Debra Young said she has been in contact with her husband while he's on board the Ocean Virgo, which is headed for Panama. He's not expected to be back to Sacramento for another few days.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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