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Entries in Louisiana (43)

Wednesday
Aug142013

Police Kill Gunman After Bank Standoff, Two Hostages Shot

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAINT JOSEPH, La.) -- A gunman inside a Louisiana bank shot his two remaining hostages, killing one of them, as police stormed the facility and killed the suspect in a standoff that lasted 12 hours, authorities said.

The standoff ended shortly after midnight local time in St. Joseph, La., when state police made the decision to send a SWAT team into the bank, police said. The gunman, identified as 20-year-old Fuaed Abdo Ahmed, shot the two hostages before he was killed by police, Louisiana State Trooper Albert Paxton confirmed to ABC News early Wednesday morning.

The two hostages, one male and one female were taken to area hospitals, where one of the hostages later died, Louisiana State Police said.

Rapides Regional Hospital confirmed to ABC News that one of the bank hostages is in their care, but gave no update on their condition. A third hostage that escaped earlier in the standoff was uninjured, according to police.

All three hostages were employees at the Tensas State Bank, Paxton said. Their identities have not been released.

The tense standoff began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday when Ahmed, who is from California, took three people hostage inside the bank, police said.

Ahmed's relatives were at the scene, helping FBI officials and state negotiators, according to Paxton.

"They've been on scene for awhile and they've been very cooperative," Paxton told ABC News Radio.

Louisiana State police say the suspect had some sort of mental illness because in a list of demands he made during the standoff, Ahmed said there was device in his head that was causing him to hear voices and he wanted them to make it stop.

Areas closest to the bank were evacuated as a "precaution" in fear of explosives, according to Paxton.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec142012

WATCH: Louisiana Man, Truck Go Airborne During Tornado

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jerry Millet got the unexpected ride of his life while he was driving down a Louisiana highway and his truck was picked up by the swirling winds of a tornado.

Surveillance video from a nearby gas station captured the horror on tape Monday afternoon as Millet was making deliveries in his Ford pickup truck in Gonzales, La.

“I didn’t know where I was or how high in the air I was, but I kept pushing on the brakes in that truck, like that was going to do something for me,” Millet told WAFB-TV.

The video shows Millet’s truck being lifted into the air like a toy.  His truck twirled several times while airborne.  Witnesses say the truck was as high as the telephone pole he flew past.

“The truck just started bouncing,” Millet said.  “I thought I was dead.”

Millet’s truck remained in the air for mere seconds before it literally fell from the sky and crashed 20 feet away onto a truck parked nearby.

A Good Samaritan driving in the opposite direction saw Millet’s truck take flight and immediately stopped her vehicle to help him.

“I hear my daughter’s voice, my baby girl,” Millet said.  “I look up, here she come a walking.”

Millet’s daughter, Lacey, just happened to be in the right place at the right time to assist her father.

“He was like, ‘How did you get here?  How did you know?’  And I said, ‘I seen the whole thing happened,’” Lacey Millet said.

The only causality was Jerry Millet’s delivery truck.  He suffered minor injuries and was released from the hospital on the same day.

He is now healing at home, thankful to be alive.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec052012

Baton Rouge Police Hope They've Cracked 28-Year-Old Murder Case

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Investigators in Baton Rouge, La., say they may have cracked a 28-year-old cold murder case after re-arresting two suspects who were originally linked to the 1984 disappearance of a Louisiana businessman.

Leila Mulla, 57, was arrested by Louisiana investigators in New York City, and Ronald Dalton Dunnagan, 64, was arrested in Bossier City, La., Monday. The missing man, Gary Kergan, was last seen alive at Mulla's Baton Rouge home Nov. 29, 1984, police say.

Mulla, who, according to the Queens (N.Y.) District Attorney's office is now a registered nurse, was seen with Kergan, 29, on that night in 1984 at a Baton Rouge nightclub. Kergan was seen wearing flashy jewelry and carrying a significant amount of cash when they left in his Cadillac, police say.

Kergan and his brother owned a string of Sonic fast-food restaurants in Louisiana.

Baton Rouge Police Lt. Don Kelly, who was then a reporter in the city before joining the police force, said Kergan was specifically targeted by Mulla and Dunnagan.

"[Kergan and Mulla] met at the strip club. They [Mulla and Dunnagan] were robbing him of jewelry and cash," he told ABC News. "He [Kergan] flashed jewelry and money, drove the big Caddy....I don't know about their [Mulla and Dunnagan's] relationship, whether they were dating...or mentor-mentee."

Kelly said that when investigators searched Mulla's apartment at the time, there was blood and signs of an effort to clean it up.

Kergan's car was later found abandoned in Metairie, La. A significant amount of blood was located in the trunk of the car, Kelly said, but it could not be determined at the time whether it belonged to Kergan.

"Of course, speculation was that [the blood] was Kergan's. But the technology didn't exist, with DNA testing, to establish that. And his family didn't know his blood type. It made it almost impossible," Kelly said.

Mulla, an exotic dancer at the time, moved out of the apartment within a few days of Kergan's disappearance, Kelly said. She and Dunnagan went to Las Vegas, where they were arrested weeks later.

Investigators had also obtained Mulla's diary, in which she outlined a plan to rob Kergan, Kelly said.

After their arrest in December 1984, Mulla and Dunnagan were charged in connection with Kergan's death. Although they had a timeline of events placing Mulla with Kergan on the night he was last seen, and evidence of a possible crime in her apartment, it wasn't enough, Kelly said. With only circumstantial evidence against the two, the district attorney opted not to prosecute.

Kergan's body has not been found. He was declared legally dead by the courts in 1986. But investigators were able to make an arrest in the nearly 30-year-old murder case when, as part of cold case review, the blood in the car was re-examined.

In March of this year, Baton Rouge police placed Det. John Dotchier in charge of re-examining the department's hundreds of cold cases. Kergan's death became the first one in which the enthusiastic detective got a break when blood from Kergan's Cadillac was re-tested at the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab. DNA analysis showed that the blood belonged to Kergan.

"We've got hundreds of unsolved cases, and this one was looked at this year," Kelly said. "When he saw this one with the blood, he could have swung and missed. It's the first one he's solved."

Kelly said he district attorney's office believes that it now has enough evidence to convict Mulla and Dunnagan.

He has been charged with first-degree murder, she has been charged with second-degree murder and both have been charged with criminal conspiracy and simple robbery. They won't be arraigned until they are returned to Baton Rouge to face formal charges.

 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov182012

Coast Guard Calls Off Search for Missing Oil Rig Workers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Coast Guard called off the search for two workers Saturday who jumped from the burning platform into the Gulf of Mexico after their oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana Friday.

The Coast Guard had been working for more than 24 hours to find the rig workers, whose names and genders have not been released. Air and sea units searched for what they believed would be two survivors.

"The search is suspended pending further developments," the Coast Guard said in a news release Saturday night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct242012

Louisiana Woman Roils Race Relations with Fake KKK Burn Story

Facebook(SHREVEPORT, La.) -- Race relations have been riled twice this week in a Louisiana town where police say a woman fabricated a violent KKK attack in which she "self-inflicted" burns on 60 percent of her body.

Sharmeka Moffitt, 20, called 911 around 8 p.m. on Sunday from a park in Winnsboro, La., to report that three men in white hoodies had doused her in liquid and set her on fire. A racial slur and "KKK" were written on her car. Police were at the scene within minutes of the call, but found no suspects.

The community rallied around Moffitt, who is in the hospital with severe burns, and several law enforcement agencies immediately joined together to pursue her alleged attackers.

But in a news conference on Tuesday, authorities said that Moffitt's fingerprints were found on a cigarette lighter and on a can of lighter fluid recovered nearby.

"I feel hurt for the victim because that could have been my child, my sister or my mother, so I'm frustrated about that," Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Martin said at the news conference.

Police did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday and have not said if Moffitt will be facing criminal charges.

Residents were angered by the fake and divisive attack.

"She had all these people believing that it was racial issues and everybody was hating everybody because of this," resident Ta'Nikqua Smith told ABC News' Shreveport affiliate KTBS. "Nobody felt safe anymore."

Alice Prescott, another resident, said that the news of the attack followed by the news of the attack's fraudulence has strained the community.

"I'm absolutely frustrated because of all of the tension that's been placed on everybody," she told KTBS.

Others expressed frustration with the cost of an investigation that involved numerous agencies.

"This has been a very disturbing case for everyone involved and it has involved multiple agencies and a lot of hard work," Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb said at the news conference.

Moffitt is in critical condition at a Shreveport hospital. Her family has asked for privacy, but released a statement saying they were "devastated to learn the circumstances surrounding our daughter's injuries."

"We are sincerely sorry for any problems this may have caused and wish to express our appreciation for the outpouring of love, prayers and support we have received from friends, acquaintances, church organizations and government officials," the family wrote.

The family said they would be focusing on Moffitt and her recovery over the coming weeks.

Authorities reminded the community of how they rallied for Moffitt and encouraged them to continue doing so.

"When we felt it was an attack situation, our community was coming together," Cobb said. "They were coming in to support her from all sides and we should continue to do that."

This is not the first time someone has faked an alleged hate crime.

Earlier this year, a Nebraska woman was arrested for faking an anti-gay hate crime in which she claimed three masked men bound her, cut words into her skin and spray-painted slurs on her wall before setting her house on fire.

Charlie Rogers, 33, had told police that the three assailants broke into her Lincoln, Neb., home on July 22.

Rogers, a lesbian and a former University of Nebraska women's basketball star, became a face for anti-gay hate crimes after the alleged attack. Reports of the alleged assault outraged the gay community, and hundreds of people participated in rallies outside the Nebraska capitol building, and at a park in Omaha.

Police charged Rogers with false reporting after disclosing evidence that contradicted her story and pointed to a faked attack.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, told ABC News Wednesday, "There's a real danger in the entire notion of hate crimes coming into question."

"These kinds of reports, for whatever reason they are made, are incredibly destructive," Potok said. "[They] cast into doubt the very real number of hate crimes that happen every day."

About 200,000 hate crimes occur in the United States every year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, with a "vastly smaller number that turn out to be bogus."

Potok added, "We spoke to people on the [Winnsboro] City Council yesterday and heard universally that this was a town that was at peace in terms of race relations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug302012

Tropical Storm Isaac Continues to Dump Rain on Louisiana

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW YORK) -- As slow-moving tropical storm Isaac moves away from New Orleans, surrounding areas of Louisiana are expected to see almost two feet of rain and more dangerous floods by the end of the week.  Meanwhile, seven tornadoes have spun off from Isaac in Mississippi and Alabama so far.

A tornado that touched down in Gulfport, Miss., has caused the most damage, where significant destruction to homes has been reported.  Carlos Redmond, a spokesman for Harrison County Emergency Management said they're still assessing the damage.

"We're looking for daylight.  That's what we're looking for.  We'll be able to tell a lot more at that time," Redmond told ABC News on Thursday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said tornadoes are possible along the central Gulf Coast region and parts of the lower Mississippi Valley through Thursday.

The rising waters from rain and flooding has already left locals scrambling up to attics and onto roofs.  The main parishes that are an area of concern are those that sit around Lake Pontchartrain.  With another four to seven inches of rain expected, many officials are worried about the rising waters.

Officials in LaPlace, La. -- about 25 miles northwest of New Orleans -- in St. John the Baptist Parish said the situation is dire.

"I'm afraid the tide is really going to catch some of us off guard tonight," Parish President Layton Ricks told ABC News late Wednesday night.

More than 3,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in LaPlace since 3 p.m. Wednesday, according to a National Guard officer, with more than a 1,000 waiting for rescue, as the city sees its worst flooding in 40 years.  The Louisiana National Guard said they will be out in force Thursday across St. John the Baptist Parish, assisting in rescue efforts.

Towns southwest of New Orleans have already gotten about 20 inches of rain, with another four to seven inches possible.  New Orleans International Airport has officially seen 10 inches of rain so far.

More than 725,000 homes and businesses throughout Louisiana are without power.

As of 5 a.m. ET Thursday, Isaac was about 55 miles southeast of Alexandria, La., and about 110 miles northwest of New Orleans.  Tropical storm winds extend outward up to 175 miles.  Isaac's maximum sustained winds are at 45 mph, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

A tropical storm warning was still in effect from Cameron, La., to the Mississippi-Alabama state border, according to the Hurricane Center.

President Obama declared federal emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi late Wednesday, according to a statement from the White House.  The disaster declarations free up federal aid for affected areas.

Of Louisiana's 64 parishes, 58 were under states of emergency Thursday morning.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

Hurricane Isaac's Eye Wall Expected to Barrel 'Right Over' Louisiana Sinkhole

Assumption Parish Police Jury(PARISH, La.) -- The eye wall of Hurricane Isaac is expected to barrel "right over" Assumption Parish, La., Wednesday -- the home of a massive sinkhole that has raised fears of expansion and possible explosions from nearby gas-filled caverns.

The eye wall of a hurricane is a band of clouds just outside of the eye, or center, of a hurricane, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The most intense winds and rain happen near the eye wall, making it the most dangerous part of a hurricane.

"The latest update puts the track of Hurricane Isaac right over Assumption Parish," police wrote in a statement.

The area is expecting sustained winds of 60 to 70 mph with gusts at 85 mph, according to the Assumption Parish Police Jury. Seven inches of rainfall are expected.

The 400-foot-deep hole measures about 526 feet from northeast to southwest and 640 feet from northwest to southeast. It is in Assumption Parish, about 50 miles south of Baton Rouge.

On Aug. 16, the sinkhole swallowed the boat of two cleanup workers, who had to be rescued from the hole.

Greg Hancock, a professor of geology at the College of William and Mary, said it's hard to predict how the hurricane could affect the sinkhole.

"The fact that we're going to get more rain doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a great collapse of the sinkhole," Hancock told ABCNews.com, but he also said it was possible that "getting additional water into the sidewalls of this sinkhole could lead to a collapse in the sidewalls."

Hancock likened the situation to building a sandcastle on the beach.

"The last thing we want is for the sand to be really wet," he said. "The more water gets added to the sand, the less stable it is."

"There's no reason why this sinkhole shouldn't continue to grow, but I don't know if it'll have anything to do with how much rain they get," Hancock said. "I'd want to keep an eye on it, but I don't think there's a reason to think that there's going to be significant growth to this associated with the hurricane."

A mandatory evacuation of all of Assumption Parish was issued on Tuesday night. Schools are closed Wednesday and Thursday, a midnight curfew is in effect and the sale of alcohol has been banned, according to officials.

A "shelter of last resort" was opened at a middle school, but officials warned, "All evacuees should bring all necessary items such as sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, toiletries, personal hygiene items, medicines, food, water, and personal identification. No cots will be provided."

The sinkhole sits in the middle of a heavily wooded space where it has consumed all of the soaring cypress trees that had been there. Flyover photos show some of the treetops still visible through the mud.

While officials are not certain what caused the massive sinkhole, they believe it may have been related to a nearby salt cavern owned by the Texas Brine Company.

After being used for nearly 30 years, the cavern was plugged in 2011 and officials believe the integrity of the cavern may have somehow been compromised, leading to the sinkhole, which appeared in early August.

Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources required that Texas Brine drill a well to investigate the salt cavern as soon as possible, obtain samples from the cavern and provide daily reports on the findings.

The sinkhole is on the outside edge of the salt dome where this particular brine well is located.

"There are some indications that it very well may have been connected, but there's just indications," Texas Brine Company spokesman Sonny Cranch told ABCNews.com. "There's nothing concrete that has connected the sinkhole to the cavern."

The exploratory rig is being assembled but parts of it are still being shipped. It could take 40 days for the actual drilling to begin, even with an expedited process, Torres said.

In the meantime, officials and residents are left to worry about the possibility of an explosion.

All of the neighboring natural gas pipelines that were of concern last week have been depressurized and emptied, but the nearby caverns are still causing concern.

One cavern that contains 940,000 gallons of butane is of particular concern, Torres said. It's about 2,000 feet from the sinkhole.

Authorities are concerned about the massive explosion that could result from the butane's release to the surface if the sinkhole were to expand far enough to reach it.

There was bubbling in the water and the sinkhole is near areas where there has been exploration for oil and gas in the past. This would make the presence of low levels of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) possible.

The state's Department of Environmental Quality said water samples from the sinkhole showed oil and diesel fuel on its surface, but readings have not detected any dangerous levels of radiation.

"It's not going to get fixed tomorrow," Torres said. "We urge the residents to leave to protect themselves. We have no idea how far this sinkhole will expand or in what direction. We have no clue."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug292012

Louisiana Father-Son Team Rescues 120 from Flooding

ABC News(BRAITHWAITE, La.) -- Residents of Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana were shocked by Hurricane Isaac Wednesday morning when ocean water burst over the Mississippi River levee, covering their town and leaving thousands trapped in attics and on roofs.

Jesse Shaffer, 25, and his father, also named Jesse Shaffer, 53, both of Braithwaite, La., stayed behind in their town to rescue their friends.

While police and the fire department were unable to reach some stranded people using their vehicles, the Shaffers were able to save lives using boats.

"We rescued a lot of people, saw a lot of things you never thought you'd see," the older Shaffer told ABC News, beginning to cry.

Each Shaffer controlled a boat, in which the pair saved a combined 120 people in 12 hours, as well as animals.

Their rescue mission began at 5 a.m. Wednesday at a local auditorium, where they rescued 10 people, including a baby and an elderly man, they said. The Shaffers had to break through the attic ventilation system to reach the victims.

"They'd call me and didn't know the water was coming up until it was late, and they'd call me to come get them," the older Shaffer said. "We had to scramble and try to find a boat 'cause none of the sheriff's department or anybody could come to this end of the parish."

The Shaffers rescued a family of five, including three children under the age of 6, from the roof of their trailer home just minutes before water overtopped it. The rescue was the older Shaffer's most memorable of the day.

"They were all on there, screaming their lungs out," he said.

The rapid rate at which water gushed over the 18-mile levee into their town was "unexpected," the younger Shaffer said. As of Wednesday morning, their home had 12 feet of water in it and they had to stash their belongings in the attic, which was then flooded. Water rose six inches every four minutes, the older Shaffer said.

"There were a lot of houses we saw that were in spots that we know where they're supposed to be and they were maybe a half a mile down the road, floating down the highway," the older Shaffer said.

The Shaffers fought through debris, rough water, wind and downed power lines to save their stranded friends.

The older Shaffer insisted they are not heroes and they were never afraid.

"I guess we were just going on adrenaline," the younger Shaffer said.

But the most emotional part of their day was not the difficulty of their rescue mission, but the thought of knowing their town has to rebuild.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug282012

Hurricane Isaac 2012: Storm Makes Landfall in Louisiana

Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Hurricane Isaac made landfall Tuesday evening in southeastern Louisiana, with winds of 80 mph that spread out over an area 200 miles wide.

It was a Category 1 hurricane as it came ashore, and the National Hurricane Center warned of "strong winds and a dangerous storm surge occurring along the northern Gulf Coast."

The storm threatened to drop more than a foot of rain -- up to 20 inches in some areas -- from Biloxi, Miss., to New Orleans. The hurricane center said a storm surge -- the bulge of water that a storm pushes ahead of itself -- of 8.8 feet had been measured at Shell Beach, La.

Isaac, a massive and slow-moving storm, reached the coastline just a day short of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Isaac's path is similar to Katrina's and the anniversary has created "a high level of anxiety."

"We don't expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you," Landrieu said. He urged people to avoid streets likely to flood.

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Usually boisterous New Orleans was a ghost town as tourists and locals heeded warnings and either left town or hunkered down in boarded-up buildings.

Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it wasn't so much Isaac's strength as the speed at which it was moving that should concern the people living in its path.

"The models show [Isaac's] forward speed slowing down, and that's not good," Knabb said. "When a large system moves slowly, that means a lot of rainfall."

President Obama addressed the nation Tuesday morning, saying that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been on the ground for more than a week working with officials in areas that could be affected.

"I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials, and follow their directions, including if they tell you to evacuate," Obama said. "We're dealing with a big storm, and there could be significant flooding and other damage across a large area."

"Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously," he added.

In advance of the storm, Louisiana set up shelters and stockpiled more than a million packaged meals, 1.4 million bottles of water and 17,000 tarps.

Since the levees failed in Katrina seven years ago, more than $14 billion has been spent on the 133 miles of floodwalls, spillways, gates and pumps surrounding New Orleans. While officials say the city is more prepared now than it was in 2005, it's still taking no chances when it comes to evacuations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug272012

Tropical Storm Isaac's Slow Pace Makes It More Dangerous

NOAA-NASA GOES Project(NEW ORLEANS, La.) -- Tropical Storm Isaac's plodding pace through the Gulf of Mexico means the slow-moving storm could punish coastal areas with up to 36 hours of tropical winds and 10 to 16 inches of rain, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned Monday.

Isaac, which is packing winds of 65 mph, is expected to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane with winds of at least 74 mph by the time it reaches land late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Jindal said the threat that New Orleans would be inundated on the seventh anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina was lessening.

FEMA director Craig Fugate and the National Hurricane Center's Dr. Rick Knabb say there has been too much focus on New Orleans bracing for Isaac on the anniversary of Katrina.

"I think people need to understand this is not a New Orleans storm. This is a Gulf Coast storm," Fugate said today.

Fugate and Jindal warned people in low lying areas to get out of Isaac's way.

"Today is the day," Jindal said. "Today is the final day you should be taking any final precautions. If you want to evacuate, today is the day to do that."

Overnight, 50,000 people had already evacuated from southeast Louisiana's St. Charles parish. In addition, 2,000 jail inmates have been moved out of Isaac's expected path.

Jindal said over 4,000 National Guardsmen will be mobilized in case of emergency, but said he does not anticipate having to activate contraflow highway rules for evacuation purposes.

While not packing winds of some stronger hurricanes, Isaac's slow pace means it "could actually cause more damage," the governor said.

He said the storm could batter areas with tropical winds for up to 36 hours and could dump more than a foot of rain while lingering over some areas.

Jindal said he is skipping the Republican National Convention in Florida where he was expected to speak because of Isaac. "I will not be speaking or attending the Republican National Convention in Florida. There is no time for politics here in Louisiana," he said.

Fugate warned that Isaac's biggest punch may land in Alabama or Mississippi. The National Hurricane Center said to expect a storm surge of at least six feet with the possibility it could reach up to 12 feet.

Alabama and Mississippi have already joined Louisiana in declaring states of emergency. A tropical storm warning is in effect along the Texas and Louisiana border.

The storm is currently off the west coast of Florida and is moving in the direction of the northern Gulf Coast.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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