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Monday
Mar182019

Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, targeted in mass shooting, raising money for Muslim victims of massacre at New Zealand mosques

iStock/Montes-Bradley(PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania) -- Still recovering from a mass shooting at their temple in which 11 worshippers were killed, members of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh have launched an effort to raise money for the victims of a rampage at two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 people dead.

Synagogue members started a GoFundMe campaign on Sunday, with a goal of raising $100,000 for the families of those killed and the victims wounded in Friday's attacks at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch.

As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $13,000

"We stand beside our Muslim brothers and sisters and mourn alongside the families and friends who have lost loved ones in this unconscionable act of violence," reads a statement from the Tree of Life congregation on its GoFundMe page. "We will continue to work towards a day when all people on this planet can live together in peace and mutual respect."

On Friday afternoon, a 28-year-old man described by police as a white supremacist allegedly walked into the Al Noor mosque and opened fire, killing 42 people, according to police. The attacker, identified by police as Brenton Harrison Tarrant, an Australian, then allegedly drove three miles across Christchurch to the Linwood mosque and killed eight Muslim worshippers attending a prayer service.

In addition to the 50 people killed, another 50 were wounded in the two attacks.

The New Zealand attack came less than five months after a gunman burst into the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire. The suspect, Robert Bowers, 46, was charged with federal hate crimes including the murder of 11 congregants at the Tree of Life.

"We’re unfortunately part of a club that nobody wants to be a part of, and we wanted to reach out to New Zealand in the same way everyone reached out to us,” Sam Schachner, president of the Tree of Life, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Following the Oct. 27 killing rampage at the Tree of Life, people from across the country donated money to help members congregations that use the temple.

"Tree of Life members, and our friends who continue to comfort and bolster us as we recover, must now come together to support the Muslims of Christchurch," reads a statement on the GoFundMe page. "Please share this page with your families, friends and neighbors. Make a donation, and leave a kind message of hope to let them know that the entire world is with them."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar182019

California police investigating 2 'virtual kidnapping' cases that happened within 24 hours

iStock/Thinkstock(LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.) -- Authorities are investigating two “virtual kidnapping” cases which occurred within 24 hours of each other in California.

The two incidents took place in Laguna Beach, California, on March 7 and March 8, Sgt. Jim Cota of the Laguna Beach Police Department told ABC News.

Cota said the incidents were similar: the victims would receive a phone call that said their child was kidnapped with a male or female voice audible in the background sounding distressed. The victims would be instructed to take out money and then go to a pre-determined location in Costa Mesa, California, to wire the money to Mexico.

Cota said that in the March 7 case, a man who was told his daughter was kidnapped wired $5,000 to the account just before his daughter contacted him and said she was safe.

The next morning, according to Cota, a woman who was told her daughter was kidnapped took the requested money from her bank account and was on her way to wire it when family members and a friend of the woman contacted police, who were able to stop her before she could wire the money. Cota said police were able to reach the woman’s daughter, who attends school in Chicago, and confirm she was safe.

Cota said police were able to stop two virtual kidnapping incidents in 2018 that had a similar setup to the two 2019 cases. He also said the virtual kidnapping cases would be turned over to the FBI.

Kathie Gross, a resident of Laguna Niguel who was a “virtual kidnapping” victim in March 2018, told ABC News that she received a call from an unlisted number one morning. Gross said when she picked up, she heard a voice that sounded like her daughter’s voice screaming for help and saying she was put in a van. Gross said she used her daughter’s name in the call, which she said was a mistake.

Gross said a male voice then asked if she was Kathie Gross and said that the suspects had “him,” warning Gross not to call anyone. Gross said once the voice referred to her daughter as “him,” she hung up the phone and called her daughter’s school to confirm where she was. Gross said she was on hold while the school attempted to locate her daughter, who was not in the class she was supposed to be in at that time, and that she kept receiving calls with no caller ID. Gross said she arrived at the school to find her daughter was safe.

The FBI says that a virtual kidnapping scheme “depends on speed and fear” to work, with the perpetrators trying to get the money they want “before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved.”

The FBI says that in most cases where someone is contacted demanding a ransom in an alleged kidnap, the best action to take is to hang up the phone. They also say not to use the alleged victim’s name on the call and recommend trying to ask the victim questions only the victim would know the answers to and listen carefully to their voice. The FBI also recommends contacting the victim on their phone and trying to “slow the situation down” by asking to speak with the victim or trying to buy time.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar182019

Fiance of slain DC jogger Wendy Martinez plans to run Boston Marathon in her honor

Metropolitan Police Department(WASHINGTON) -- Newly engaged, with a list of goals that could fill five lifetimes, 35-year-old Wendy Martinez, an ambitious Washington, D.C., woman, was on her after-work run when it all came to an end.

Six months later, Martinez's fiancé is coping with the shock of the loss as he vows to fulfill a major goal she couldn't reach: running the Boston Marathon.

A brutal attack

Martinez was running in D.C.'s bustling Logan Circle neighborhood on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, when she was stabbed seven times in the face, neck and back, in an unprovoked attack by a stranger, according to court documents.

Surveillance video showed Martinez alerting others around her about the danger, authorities said.

Officials said she stumbled into a restaurant after the attack where customers tried, unsuccessfully, to save her life.

"She did nothing to deserve this," her mother, Cora Martinez, told ABC News Friday, overcome with emotion. "Her faith, her passion for people and her determination to reach her goals ... She was full of life, full of dreams. A person that really wanted to enjoy life even more. And she couldn't."

Suspect Anthony Crawford was arrested two days later and charged with first-degree murder while armed, according to police.

'Living the happiest moment in life'

Wendy Martinez moved to the United States from Nicaragua when she was 5 and was raised in Florida.

A determined young woman with a "passion for people," according to her mom, she was working as chief of staff at tech startup FiscalNote. But she also "kept looking for better ways to reach out to women," said Cora Martinez. "My daughter was a great motivator."

A world traveler, she wanted to help Latina immigrants in the U.S., her mother said, and "had a dream about helping people from Nicaragua, women with low income, so they'd be educated and financially ready to become independent."

"She also developed this passion for running. She found in running a great way to find herself," Cora Martinez said. "Not only to relieve her body from stress but to relieve her mind of any negative thoughts. So she would go run and she would dream while running. 'What is next? What am I supposed to do in life? Who am I supposed to be helping?'"

Running brought Wendy Martinez to her future fiancé, Daniel Hincapie, as he trained for his first half marathon a few years ago. A mutual friend suggested Wendy give him some tips, Hincapie told ABC News.

They became a couple, and in September 2018, days before Wendy Martinez was killed, Hincapie popped the question.

He decided to propose at her favorite spot in D.C. -- the Spanish Steps.

"To actually tell her that I loved her and I wanted to spend the rest of my days with her in that place had a lot of meaning," he said. "It was a moment of joy... we were very much in love."

"She was living the happiest moment in life," Cora Martinez said. "She was excited about what was coming."

Three days before the attack, the mother and daughter picked out a wedding dress.

The 35-year-old would be buried in that dress.

'It's almost like running with her'

Crawford, Martinez's suspected killer, underwent psychiatric treatment and medication for psychosis, and this month he was ruled competent to stand trial, reported ABC Washington, D.C., affiliate WJLA.

Crawford is due to return to court on May 17. His defense attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Hincapie called the shocking crime "one of those things I think that no one is prepared to face."

"And when you actually realize how random the whole thing was, it's very difficult to grasp, because I think at the end of the day, we're humans and we try to rationalize violence," he said.

Amid the grief, Hincapie said "the worst thing you can do is fall into hate," so he instead chose to celebrate his fiancée's life.

"One of her dreams was actually to run the Boston Marathon," Hincapie said -- a race he'll run in her honor next month.

"Having the opportunity to fulfill her dream after what happened, it's extremely symbolic," Hincapie said. "She was running when she was attacked, so it's also a way to tell the world [we will] finish her race."

"It's a way to cope," he said. "It's also a way to connect with her. ... It's almost like running with her."

Beyond the marathon, Hincapie said he wants to inspire other young women to embrace a full life the way his fiancée did.

"I want to young women to continue believing that it's possible to be kind, to give back to the community, to pursue love and to be successful. Wendy represented all those aspects I think," he said. "If you can be any person in the world, be someone like Wendy."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar182019

Georgia woman charged with helping ISIS come up with online 'kill list' of Americans

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A 20-year-old Georgia woman has been charged with helping ISIS by posting a "kill list" online that included the names of State Department employees and American soldiers, according to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

According to the indictment unsealed last week, Kim Anh Vo joined the United Cyber Caliphate in 2016 -- a group that authorities said pledged allegiance to ISIS and was committed to carrying out online attacks and cyber intrusions against Americans.

Vo is accused of working with the UCC to recruit a minor in Norway and others to "create online content in support of ISIS," a DOJ release said.

She was known as "F@ng," "Zozo" or "Miss.Bones" online, according to the government.

According to court documents, she "worked as part of the Kalachnikv E-Security team, which pledged allegiance to ISIS."

That group "worked under the UCC banner with other hacking groups that had pledged allegiance to ISIS," officials said.

In April 2016, the UCC posted a kill list of just over 3,600 people in the New York City area that said "List of the most important citizens of #NewYork and #Brooklyn and some other cities ... We Want Them #Dead," according to the Justice Department.

That list included personal information and was posted on Twitter, according to the Justice Department.

Another kill list came a year later in April 2017 and this time included a video with more threats and had more than 8,000 individuals on the list.

“We have a message to the people of the U.S., and most importantly, your president Trump: Know that we continue to wage war against you, know that your counter attacks only makes stronger(sic). The UCC will start a new step in this war against you. . . .” one video said, according to court documents.

“We will release a list with over 8000 names, addresses, and email addresses, of those who fight against the US. Or live amongst the kuffar. Kill them wherever you find them," another alleged threat continued, accompanied by what prosecutors say is a decapitation of a kneeling man.

The group also targeted a nonprofit whose CEO is was a former U.S. ambassador, court documents said. Videos posted on the company's internal site read "This message is directed at you ... you have been spying on us."

It's not known who the company is that's mentioned or who the former ambassador is who was targeted.

"You messed with the Islamic State, SO EXPECT US SOON," the video message reads with the CEO's image in front of a video depicting a decapitation.

Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen mentioned the Vo case in a speech Monday, saying ISIS is encouraging followers to "stay in your homeland and kill -- using any means possible."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar182019

Harvard report helps parents emphasize ethics, character during college applications

teekid/iStock(NEW YORK) -- After the curtain was pulled back on the allegations of bribery, cheating and deception that has plagued some of the country's elite universities, a new study from a Harvard University-based group is urging parents and high schools to put ethics and character at the heart of the college application process.

The Making Caring Common project released their new report, "Turning the Tide II," with the graduate school of education on Monday in the wake of the largest-ever prosecuted college cheating scam.

The report largely focuses on how high schools and parents can support "core ethical capacities" while reducing "achievement-related stress" as teens go through the application process.

"What kids are hearing is 'achievement, achievement, achievement'"

"All these things that parents are doing to get into the selective college isn't, in the end, gonna make their kids happier," Richard Weissbourd, faculty director and study author, told ABC News. "What's gonna make their kids happier is if they end up in colleges where they're likely to really be engaged and fit and thrive."

Weissbourd said parents -- largely in middle- and upper-income families -- "think" they are "communicating this message that what's most important is that you're a good person. But what kids are hearing is 'achievement, achievement, achievement.'"

The report also emphasized the small number of kids who actually get into elite universities -- and the treatment they get once they're there.

"The biggest problem in college admissions is that huge numbers of young people, especially low-income and first-generation students, struggle to access or simply can't afford college or land in colleges that aren't committed to their success," a portion of the report stated.

"The SAT is like $50, and most people can't afford the $50"

Vincente Waugh and Nicholas Burgess, juniors at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida, represented students trying to make it into college for Harvard's Youth Advisory Board. Both emphasized that a lack of resources stunted their efforts.

"I personally can't afford the SAT tutor or the classes, and the SAT is like $50, and most people can't afford the $50," Burgess told Good Morning America.

Waugh added, "I was able to get a laptop this year, but prior to that, I didn't have a laptop and I wasn't able to get any of my homework done."

And it's not just the physical resources -- a lack of personal support can also make the process difficult.

"It's really hard to know where you want to go and how you're gonna get there if you don't have people around you who are guiding you in a sense to tell you how to do that," Waugh said.

Burgess and Waugh credited their success in school to the EVAC Movement, an organization that aims to help young black men in their area.

Both students have their sights set on Florida State University, and if they are accepted, they would become the first in their family to attend college.

"No matter the obstacles, just have hope," Burgess said. "And never forget where you came from, always keep your manners and that's about it."

A map for success -- beyond achievement

Making Caring Common released this report as a follow-up to one published in January 2016 that suggested ways to "reshape the college admissions process" to emphasize "ethical engagement" and to "level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students."

In the coming months, Making Caring Common will also publish resources to help high schools and parents implement guideposts from the new report.

Check out what the report suggests for parents below:

Seven tips for ethical parenting in the college admissions process

Keep the focus on your teen

"It's critical for parents to disentangle their own wishes from their teen's wishes," the report said. "It's important for parents to just pause and listen."

Follow your ethical GPS

"Parents may slip into more subtle forms of dishonesty -- allowing their own thinking or voice to intrude in college essays," the report said. "We as parents ought to be willing to ask ourselves hard, fundamental questions about who we want to be and what we want to model for our children."

Use the admissions process as an opportunity for ethical education

The report suggests parents take up ethical questions such as differences in access to resources and affordability to "explore with their teens how to address the unfairness in the process."

Be authentic

"Mixed messages can diminish parents' role as trusted guides and erode their capacity to support their teen in expressing themselves authentically," the report said.

Help your teen contribute to others in meaningful ways

"What makes service meaningful and what matters to the deans is whether service is chosen based on authentic interest, and is immersive, meaningful and sustained," according to the report.

Advocate for elevating ethical character and reducing achievement-related distress

"Parents need to step up -- respectfully but firmly -- to advance a very different vision of high schools and the college admissions process." The report said parents can "take a zero-tolerance stance on achievement-related distress."

Model and encourage gratitude

"Parents can ask their teen who they’ve appreciated in this process and why, and encourage their teen to consider people who may not be on their radar," the report said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar182019

Historic river flooding devastates parts of Midwest due to rapid snow melt, ice jams

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- An 80-year-old woman who was trapped in her home is the third fatality from historic floods overwhelming parts of the Midwest.

At least 16 rivers are flooding, with the worst along the Nebraska and Iowa border.

One reason the flooding is so severe is because of the region's massive snow accumulations and sudden rise in temperatures.

The dangerous flooding, caused by snow melt, ice jams and last week's rainfall, washed away roads and bridges, isolating some communities.

A Nebraska man died when he drove around a barricade and was swept away in his vehicle, The Associated Press reported.

A Nebraska farmer died when he was trying to reach stranded drivers and a bridge collapsed, the AP said.

The body of 80-year-old Betty Hamernik was found in her home in rural Columbus, Nebraska, according to the Platte County Sheriff's Office.

Over 100 people have been rescued and more than 870 are staying in shelters, according to officials with Nebraska's Office of Emergency Management.

Some of the worst flooding is receding Monday, but other areas, especially from Nebraska City, Nebraska, to St. Joseph, Missouri, will see river flooding continue this week.

One third of the structures at Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base are underwater, a spokesperson told ABC News Monday.

In a bit of good news, the Platte and Elkhorn rivers near Omaha were quickly receding Monday morning. Both of those rivers had crested this weekend, breaking records from the 1960s.

River flooding is also ongoing in other parts of the Midwest.

In Joslin, Illinois, near Quad Cities, the Rock River is cresting below a record but will remain in the major flood stage for much of this week.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar182019

ATV driver drags Nashville officer down busy street after traffic stop

Andrew Weyer(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Police are searching for an ATV driver who was caught on video dragging a Nashville, Tennessee officer down a busy road last week.

Metro Nashville Police Department officer John Bourque, 22, was injured during an illegal bikers' demonstration on Friday when an ATV driver ran him over and kept driving as the officer held on to the vehicle, officials said.

The police department shared footage of the suspect zooming down a busy Nashville road with the officer clinging to the suspect's four wheeler.

Bourque was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and was home recovering as of Sunday evening, according to the police department. A second officer was also treated for minor injuries on the scene, ABC affiliate WKRN-TV reported.

The suspect was one of an estimated 100 bikers who "illegally took over" the road on Friday, according to the police department.

Cellphone video showed the bikers speeding, blocking the roads and weaving in and out of traffic during the apparent protest. The driver fled the scene after striking another unrelated vehicle.

Metro police shared images from the scene over the weekend, asking residents if they recognized the driver in question.

"Here are more photos of the driver of the 4 wheeler who dragged Sgt. John Bourque as he was working on Broadway," the department tweeted. "Recognize this person? Please call Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463 anonymously. Callers qualify for a cash reward."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Mar172019

Husband of murdered North Carolina nurse captured, authorities say

Nash County Sheriff(NEW YORK) -- The husband of a murdered North Carolina nurse has been captured, authorities said Sunday.

Rexford Lynn Keel Jr., 57, was taken into custody just outside Tucson, Arizona, about 34 miles from the Mexican border, Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone told reporters Sunday. He had a large amount of cash on him when he was caught on Interstate 10, authorities said.

"I can only speculate ... he was headed toward the Mexican border," Stone said, adding that had he made it, it would have been "a lot tougher" to arrest him.

His wife, Diana Keel, 38, an emergency room nurse, was found dead Tuesday near Leggett, North Carolina, about 30 minutes from her home in Nashville. She was reported missing by her daughter on March 9.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission was searching for Lynn Keel in the air Sunday morning when they received a tip that he was traveling westbound on I-10. Arizona State Police took him into custody without incident just before he came within Tucson city limits around noon eastern time, Stone said.

"We got a killer off the streets today," Stone said.

Lynn Keel has been charged with first-degree murder, Stone said. He is currently being held in Arizona as he awaits extradition and will appear in court on Monday.

Authorities initially considered Lynn Keel armed and dangerous as the manhunt for him began, but he was not armed when he was captured, Stone said. Lynn Keel obtained the vehicle he was driving, which had North Carolina license plates, from his father, Stone said.

Lynn Keel left the state before his arrest warrant was issued on Friday, Stone said, adding that "he was able to leave the state and go about his business" before the charges had been filed. He was last seen in Nashville, North Carolina, around noon Thursday, investigators said Friday.

When interviewed by investigators last week, Lynn Keel said he didn't report his wife missing because she would leave "from time to time" and "stay gone a couple of days," authorities said.

Lynn Keel left the state before his arrest warrant was issued on Friday, Stone said, adding that "he was able to leave the state and go about his business" before the charges had been filed. He was last seen in Nashville, North Carolina, around noon Thursday, investigators said Friday.

When interviewed by investigators last week, Lynn Keel said he didn't report his wife missing because she would leave "from time to time" and "stay gone a couple of days," authorities said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Mar172019

DNA links suspect to 1999 cold case murders of 2 Alabama teenage girls, police say

Dale County Sheriff's Office(BIRMINGHAM, Alabama) -- Alabama police have linked a suspect to the 1999 cold case murders of two 17-year-old girls using DNA and genetic genealogy.

Investigators identified Coley McCraney, of Dothan, Alabama, in the murders of J.B. Beasley and Tracie Hawlett as the case closed in on two decades without being solved, Ozark Police Chief Marlos Walker told ABC News.

The upcoming 20th anniversary, along with the April 2018 arrest of Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, prompted the police department to send evidence from the crime scene to Parabon Labs, a Reston, Virginia, company that provides DNA phenotype services, Walker said.

The two teens, students at Northview High school in Dothan, were headed to a party on July 31, 1999, but got lost and ended up about 20 miles northwest in Ozark after they confused the directions, ABC Dothan affiliate WDHN reported.

Hawlett's mother, Carol Roberts, said in 2007 that the girls called her from a gas station, telling her they were on their way home, according to the local station. When they hadn't made it back by dawn, Roberts called police.

At first, there were no signs of foul play when investigators found the black Mazda sedan the teens had been driving by 9 a.m. the next day, WDHN reported. But when they opened the trunk, they found Beasley and Hawlett inside with gunshot wounds to their heads, according to the station.

One of their purses was found in the front of the car with all of her cash and credit cards inside, leading police to believe that the motive was not a robbery, WDHN reported.

No one had been arrested in the nearly 20 years since the killings. But a few months before the anniversary, police sent evidence from the crime scene to Parabon.

Genetic genealogy allows law enforcement agencies to identify a potential suspect through his or her family members who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database, allowing investigators to create a larger family tree than in years past.

After the evidence was analyzed at Parabon, investigators recognized McCraney's last name from the DNA search, Walker said.

Police then brought the 45-year-old in for a DNA swab, the police chief added, and it matched the evidence collected at the crime scene.

McCraney was arrested Friday and charged with multiple counts of capital murder as well as first-degree rape, online jail records show. Walker said he was not considered a suspect in 1999 and had been under investigators' radar.

It was not clear Sunday if McCraney had an attorney. He is being held at the Dale County jail without bond, according to his jail records.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Mar172019

Nebraska dealing with record river flooding

ABC News(NIOBRARA, Nebraska) -- Eastern Nebraska continues to deal with record-breaking river flooding this weekend due to rapid snow melt, ice jams and last week's rainfall.

The flooding has caused parts of highways, including some bridges, to be washed away, isolating some communities.

The scale of the devastation near Niobrara, Nebraska, is unprecedented as the swollen Niobrara River washed away a dam.

The Platte River, near Louisville, Nebraska, has crested, breaking a record that stood since 1960. The Platte River, near Ashland, broke its record from 1997, and the Elkhorn River, near Waterloo, swelled over 17 feet in the last five days to break a record from 1962 on Saturday.

There are several other rivers in parts of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin that have risen into flood stage, including rivers near Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Rockford, Illinois.

There are widespread flood alerts in the Central Plains and Midwest for river flooding. The good news is there is no notable precipitation coming to the region through the week.

Brief snow from Illinois to Maryland

Nearly the entire country remains quiet in terms of weather, but there is a compact, quick-moving disturbance moving through parts of Illinois and Indiana on Sunday morning. This disturbance will struggle to draw in much moisture, but as it slides off toward the Mid-Atlantic it could drop a quick period of snow from Illinois to Maryland.

Some of the moisture will be in parts of Ohio and Kentucky by Sunday night before reaching parts of the Washington, D.C., metro area on Monday morning.

Accumulation will not be significant, however, the system could cause a few slippery spots over the next 24 to 36 hours in the region.

Temps rise out West

High pressure remains firmly in control over much of the U.S. this weekend and will persist for a couple more days. Storms traversing the Pacific will be forced into southern Canada until the high pressure systems dominating the West finally ease up.

The result of this is fairly mild weather across much of the country, including a good deal of sunshine.

Much of the West will see a gradual increase in temperatures the next few days, with some of the most comfortable weather in months for the region.

It looks like the high pressure will begin to ease around midweek, which would allow the next storm to move onto the West Coast, and eventually bring some effects to the central and eastern U.S.

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