Review Category : National News

Why a 103-Year-Old Woman Was Banned From Her Life-Long Church

Genora Hamm Biggs(ELBERTON, Ga.) — A 103-year-old woman who has been attending the same church for nearly her whole life said she has been banned for disagreeing with her pastor’s way of service.

Genora Hamm Biggs joined Union Grove Baptist Church in Elberton, Georgia, when she was just 11 years old and now, almost a century later, she was told she was “not to come back to the church, not even on the ground,” she told ABC News Wednesday.

She and the Rev. Timothy Mattox have disagreed on his way of preaching since he was hired six years ago, she said, but their problems came to a head when he put out a motion to remove her from the church the first Sunday of August. This motion came after she and some other members held a church business meeting where she voiced her concerns about him not answering or returning her phone calls.

“We tried to get him away but he’s determined to stay. After that motion was made, the next week I got his certified letter saying I was not to come back.” Biggs said. “I was sad and unhappy. Very unhappy.”
Biggs did not like the way Mattox’s service was “different than the real Baptist [traditions],” but she went back to church after being banned along with other long-time members who also received letters, she said.

Mattox threatened to have her and the other members escorted out, she said, but they refused to leave. When police declined to get involved in the dispute, she said, he cancelled the service.

“The lights went out while we were sitting there. Finally we got up and filed our way out and we left. But they went back in there after we left and started the service,” she said of some remaining congregation members and the pastor.

Although Biggs said about 20 long-time members have left the congregation, including a deacon who was told by the pastor he would go to jail if he came back to church, she has been going back, she said.

Mattox could not be reached for comment by ABC News.

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Obama Invites Teen to White House to Show Him Clock Mistaken for Bomb

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama tweeted from his official personal account on Wednesday, inviting Ahmed Mohamed to the White House to show him the clock invention that was mistaken for a bomb.

“Cool clock, Ahmed,” the president tweeted. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Mohamed, a freshman at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, was taken into police custody Monday when his homemade digital clock was mistaken for a bomb by school officials and the police.

Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said at a news conference Wednesday that no charges will be brought against Mohamed for bringing a “suspicious device” to school.

Besides attracting the attention of the president, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and celebrity Russell Simmons expressed their support for Mohamed on Twitter.

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Georgia Family Says Nanny Found on Stole Their Identities

iStock/Thinkstock(CHAMBLEE, Ga.) — A Georgia couple claims a babysitter they found on the babysitter-finding website stole thousands of dollars from them using their stolen identities.

David and Keating McCarthy said they hired a nanny named Regina Christopher to watch their 8-year-old son after paying close to $300 on to find Christopher and perform a background check.

“I felt like she was just a very safe and nice person that would do a great job and care a lot for my child,” Keating McCarthy, 48, told ABC News.

Christopher spent just one night sitting for their son and spent time watching their dog while they were away on a summer vacation, the McCarthys, of Chamblee, Georgia, told local ABC News affiliate WSB-TV, which conducted an investigation into the McCarthys’ claims that Christopher stole their identities.

“She [Christopher] tried to charge several charges on my American Express and she tried to open up two Capital One cards on my husband’s account using his Social Security number that she had stolen,” McCarthy told ABC News.

When packages of items they had not purchased arrived at the McCarthys’ home in June, just days after Christopher dog-sat for them, McCarthy took a photo of the nanny’s license plate and called police, according to WSB-TV.

Police say the nanny the McCarthys hired is actually a woman named Gina Groves, who had warrants for her arrest in four counties. Groves gave a fake name to, which is why her background check came back clean, police said.

“I just could not believe I was so gullible to have let a virtual, a complete stranger into my house and left her at home alone with my child,” McCarthy said.

Groves was arrested for violating her probation on June 21, 2015, and is currently in the Douglas County Jail, according to WSB-TV, whose investigative reporter found six mugshots of Groves dating back more than two decades. called the McCarthys’ experience a “highly unfortunate incident” in a statement to ABC News, writing, in part, “This provider is a career criminal who violated our terms and conditions by providing false information.”

Cyber security experts recommend parents do an online search of the provider themselves to make sure their pictures match.

Experts also recommend checking references, setting up a nanny cam in your home and coming home earlier than expected when first using a new babysitter.

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James Blake Lookalike Condemns NYPD ‘Mess’

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The James Blake lookalike from Australia who was also mistakenly identified as a suspect during a New York Police Department credit card fraud sting has spoken out, saying he believes “this whole mess could have been avoided.”

A photo of Sean Satha, a sunglasses designer who has been in Australia during the whole ordeal, was given to the NYPD by a delivery company claiming a group had purchased $18,000 worth of items from the company in fraudulent credit cards, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said after the incident last week.

Company officials said they got the photo off Instagram, based on the name of a person they’d done business with, he added.

“If you look at the photo … it’s a reasonable likeness to Mr. Blake,” Boyce said. “They look like twins.”

But it turned out that the man in the photo was Satha, who was not involved in the fraud case in any way, the chief of detectives said.

“So the image of me that a lot of people have seen was originally posted on Instagram by my brother,” Satha told ABC News station WABC-TV in New York. “I’m actually pictured holding a friend’s newborn in the sun.”

He added, “Actually, my name is pretty clearly tagged on the original photo, so I think this whole mess could have been avoided if someone had spent 10 minutes doing some research on Google prior to the manhunt.”

Satha, himself a twin, said he was “pretty upset” after he saw his photo “being broadcasted all over the media and being called a suspect and thief,” but he was “really inspired by the way James Blake handled the situation.”

Blake, 35, “was assaulted and intimidated during the mistaken arrest, but he’s handled the situation like an absolute champion,” Satha said. “I respect him for addressing the situation with a cool head and a kind heart. He’s used his profile to give a voice to others — those suffering from excessive force who have been unable to speak out — so I just really hope that something good comes from this unfortunate series of events.”

The NYPD has called Satha to explain the photo mishap, reiterating the chief of detectives’ words in the news conference last week.

Satha has also been able to find humor amid what he said was a “ridiculous situation” that “sounds like an episode of Seinfeld.”

“At first, I was kind of stoked that the cops thought I looked like a professional athlete,” he said, laughing. “Honestly, I don’t think I look like James Blake, but he’s a good looking bloke so I can understand the confusion.”

Satha added that he actually has a twin brother, though that twin is definitely “not James Blake.”

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Teen Arrested After Homemade Clock Mistaken for Bomb Cleared After Investigation

iStock/Thinkstock(IRVING, Texas) — Police in Irving, Texas, have cleared a Texas teen after an investigation showed that the teen’s homemade device was not a bomb.

Ahmed Mohamed, a high school freshman at MacArthur High School in Irving, was taken into police custody Monday when his homemade digital clock was mistaken for a bomb by school officials and the police.

Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that no charges will be brought against Mohamed for bringing a “suspicious device” to school.

Boyd said officers were quickly able to determine that the device was not a bomb, and that their subsequent investigation was aimed at determining whether Mohamed made a “naive mistake.” Boyd said the investigation found no evidence to support charges that there was “intention to create alarm” so no charges will be filed.

Boyd defended the actions of the police and school officials, saying that officials had to take a suspicious device seriously in order to protect students after recent school attacks. When asked if the situation would have been handled differently if the student had been white, Boyd said, “Our reaction would have been the same either way.”

Mohamed’s recent brush with the law has attracted the attention of a presidential candidate and a celebrity. Hillary Clinton and Russell Simmons expressed their support for Mohamed on Twitter.

Mohamed, who studies engineering and has won awards for his inventions, told ABC News’ Dallas station, WFAA-TV, that he created the clock over the weekend and brought it to school to show a teacher.

Mohamed was tinkering with the clock during class and plugged it into an electrical outlet when it began making noise, according to the police.

Mohamed said he was then pulled out of class by the principal and school resource officer and questioned about the device. Police later confiscated the clock along with Mohamed’s tablet computer, according to WFAA.

In addition to calling police, Mohamed told WFAA that the school principal suspended him for three days.

Irving Independent School District released the following statement to ABC News:

“Around 3 p.m. yesterday, a MacArthur High School student was arrested on campus by the Irving Police Department. School officials have been cooperating fully with the police investigation, and while privacy laws prevent us from sharing specific details about student discipline, we can assure everyone that school administrators are handling the situation in accordance with the Irving ISD Student Code of Conduct and applicable laws. We always ask our students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items and/or suspicious behavior. If something is out of the ordinary, the information should be reported immediately to a school administrator and/or the police so it can be addressed right away. We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students and keep our school community as safe as possible.”

ABC News has reached out to Mohamed’s parents and is waiting for comment.

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A Father’s Fight to Win Back His Daughter Secretly Put Up for Adoption

Chris Emanuel(AIKEN, S.C.) — Skylar is a rambunctious toddler who runs and plays and giggles with her father, Chris Emanuel.

But she has no idea she sat at the heart of a massive custody battle with far-reaching implications for fathers’ rights.

Emanuel, a 25-year-old from Aiken, South Carolina, met Skylar’s mother, whom he now refers to as simply “the egg donor,” through their work as fork lift drivers at a manufacturing company three years ago. He said they started off as friends before it escalated into something more.

“She wasn’t the ordinary girly girl. She was a girly girl but she could play pool. I could sit down and play pool with her,” he said. “She listened to the same music that I listened to but she rode horses. You know, it was different. I never met someone of that nature before but I definitely enjoyed the moments that we shared.”

In the beginning, Emanuel said they texted all the time, and their affectionate messages soon turned into flirtations. Three months later, Emanuel was overjoyed to learn he was going to be a dad.

“I was happy, who wouldn’t be happy?” Emanuel said. “It was my first child and at the time, you know, I’m going to be there. We’re going to do everything we got to do.”

Emanuel said he and Skylar’s mother talked about getting married. Throughout the mother’s pregnancy, Emanuel said he was a deeply involved expectant father.

“It was in my heart that despite anything, I’m going to be there…I’m going to do what I got to do,” he said.

After a long-awaited meeting between both of their families, Emanuel said he knew in no uncertain terms that her parents were dead set against him and even accused the family of racism.

“Like hearing racism but actually feeling it, it totally different. It’s like being punched in the stomach,” he said. “The crazy thing about it was when we left she reassured me that we would continue to raise our child together.”

The woman’s mother said Emanuel is a “liar” and that she disapproved of their relationship, not because of the color of his skin, but because he didn’t have a job.

Emanuel said he and his girlfriend continued to be in contact, talking and texting frequently. Texts often ended with a “mwwuah” kiss. But Emanuel said his girlfriend started to avoid meeting in person and asked him to skip doctor’s appointments.

“She was saying her mom was coming and I didn’t need to come,” he said. “And I was like, ‘Dang, why can’t I come to the doctor’s appointment?’ If I can’t come to the doctor’s appointment, I can’t even think about being there to witness my child’s birth.”

Six months before Skylar’s birth, Emanuel’s half-sister, Chelsea McKnabb, and her best friend, Jill Thomason, were more than worried. They feared the woman would give the baby away.

“I said, I don’t think ‘the egg donor’ is keeping the baby, and he was like, ‘No, she is. We’re going to get married. We’re going to move in together,’” Thomason said. “They had plans and I was like, ok, but I still went home and started researching, started looking up fathers’ rights in South Carolina.”

Thomason discovered that South Carolina is one of at least 25 states that have what’s called a “responsible father registry” where unwed fathers can sign up to be notified if their child is put up for adoption, and urged Emanuel to look into it. Thirty-thousand children were born out of wedlock in South Carolina according to the 2014 census, yet less than 300 men signed up for the registry.

But at the time, Emanuel said he didn’t think signing up was necessary. To him, it seemed like a lack of trust for Skylar’s mother. Instead, he and his family focused on organizing a family baby shower. But when Skylar’s mother never showed up, Emanuel got nervous and signed up for the registry.

A few days later, a messenger showed up at Emanuel’s house to hand him papers showing that his daughter Skylar had been born over a week earlier, that she had been given up for adoption and had already been placed with an adoptive family in another state.

Emanuel said he refused to give up his parental rights and immediately confronted his girlfriend through a text message, and she admitted to the deception.

“You misled me! You played me! You lied to me! Numerous times!” Emanuel wrote in a text message to Skylar’s mother.

“I can’t take back what I’ve done,” Skylar’s mother wrote in a text message to Emanuel.

Emanuel immediately contested the adoption and hired attorneys Kimaki Nichols-Graham and Jennifer Mook.

“My daughter was stolen from me,” Emanuel said. “I asserted my rights. My rights were stripped of me. But not only that, now I’ve got to prove myself for my daughter.

Skylar’s mixed race is what gave Skylar’s mother the loophole to put her up for adoption out of state. An old South Carolina law only allows “difficult to adopt” children — children who are age 6 or older, have physical, mental or emotional disabilities, or are mixed race — to be sent across state lines.

The couple who adopted Skylar were lied to as well and were told the baby’s father was out of the picture. They continued to care for and bond with Skylar over the course of several months and sent Emanuel a heartfelt email, describing it as “a last plea from desperate adoptive parents who love Skylar with all of our hearts” and assured him that if he stopped fighting for custody, Skylar would “go to the best schools.”

But Emanuel refused to back down.

“No one can love my daughter the way I can,” he said. “It don’t matter what type of title you have, that’s my daughter. You can’t take my daughter, give me my daughter, that’s all that mattered.”

Although Skylar’s mother declined to speak to ABC News, in a letter to the court she said she felt that Emanuel “could not provide for them,” and she thought Skylar would be better off with the adoptive parents who were raising her in a “loving, devoted and stable home.”

But Emanuel had pages and pages of text messages that he said prove he was an engaged and devoted dad-to-be and that his then-girlfriend deliberately lied to him about his daughter’s birth. After a three-month legal battle, the court granted custody of Skylar to Emanuel.

“All I could do was break down on my knees, and I cried and I thanked God for bringing my daughter home because all I needed was for her to get in my arms,” Emanuel said.

His attorney Jennifer Mook said that often in cases of adoption, father’s rights can be trampled, which is why Emanuel went public with his story, talking to media outlets like The Atlantic.

“If he hadn’t registered, he might have never known that his child was placed up for adoption because that registry gave him notice that his daughter was going to or attempting to be adopted,” Mook said. “In my opinion, the biological family should be the first choice to raise children if they are fit and willing, and in Chris’ case, they were fit and willing.”

Two weeks after the judge granted Emanuel custody, the adoptive parents reluctantly brought back baby Skylar to South Carolina.

“I felt her breath for the first time, seeing her eyes, seeing her touch. It was like, I lost a part of me, I was lost, I was so lost and I felt complete. I felt whole again,” he said. “Having my daughter for the first time where she’s supposed to be. It’s a moment that is irreplaceable.”

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10-Year-Old Boy Among 16 Dead in Utah Flash Flooding

iStock/Thinkstock(HILDALE, Utah) — Twelve people, including a 10-year-old boy, are dead after flash floods tore through the town of Hildale, Utah, Monday night, on the border with Arizona, authorities said.

One person is missing, Washington County Emergency Services said Tuesday afternoon.

Separately, four people were killed in nearby Zion National Park and three people remained missing as a result of the flooding.

“I join with other Utahns in mourning today the lives lost in two tragic incidents at Zion National Park and Hildale,” Gov. Gary R. Herbert said a statement. “Jeanette and I send our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones.”

The victims in Hildale had stopped their cars at a point where waters from Maxwell Canyon cross Central Street, authorities said.

They exited their cars, then got back in, when a massive flash flood swept them away, authorities in Colorado City, Arizona, said at a news conference Tuesday. Hildale serves as a sister town of Colorado City.

The 10-year-old’s body was found over 6 miles downstream from the incident, authorities said.

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Dirty FBI Agent Gets 5 Years for International Bribery Scheme

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The FBI Special Agent’s “master plan” was simple: Mine FBI computers for dirt on a prominent foreign politician, then sell that information to the rival political party for a handsome sum of money. “No one knows… No one gets hurt.” Easy.

If all went according to plan, the corrupt agent and his co-conspirator would be “having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant” in no time, as the co-conspirator put it.

Instead, former Special Agent Robert Lustyik and his co-conspirator, Johannes Thaler, will be eating their next few hundred meals behind bars, after Lustyik was sentenced Monday to five years in prison — in addition to a 10-year sentence imposed by a Utah court in a second, unrelated bribery case in March. Thaler previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

In the case for which he was sentenced Monday, Lustyik had pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes from a Bangladeshi man in the U.S. in exchange for providing that man with confidential information on a rival politician — information pilfered from FBI computers. Lustyik worked through Thaler, who played the role of middle man.

The first exchange back in December 2011 went well, according to court documents. Thaler met the buyer, identified as Rizve Ahmed, at a food court in Danbury, Conn., where he gave Ahmed an “FBI memo” and a Suspicious Activity Report on the rival politician, and received $1,000 in return.

Lustyik, a who had been at the Bureau for more than 20 years and at the time worked in counter-intelligence, didn’t bother with code words when asking his partner about the meeting, except for an apparent alias for Ahmed.

“Hey did you see cezar [Ahmed]? Did he pay you?” Lustyik texted Thaler after the meet, according to court documents.

“Yeah. I got some for you. We need to talk about Bangladesh,” Thaler responded.

“Ok. He give you a grand? And r they ready to play?” Lustyik wrote.

“Yes on both,” Thaler said.

The pair tried to escalate the deal quickly, hoping for a $40,000 “retainer” and then a $30,000 monthly salary. But things went south when Ahmed didn’t hold up his end.

“I want to kill C… F—king C. Let’s kick his ass. Show them. I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing?” Lustyik reportedly texted Thaler later, before indicating he could turn on his buyer by speaking directly with the target of the spying, the Bangladeshi politician.

It appeared Lustyik and his partner were able to mend fences with Ahmed, but only a few weeks before Lustyik was arrested for a separate bribery case prosecuted out of Utah.

That case, involving a former Green Beret and international security contracts and in which Lustyik also pleaded guilty, may shed some light on why Lustyik, the veteran FBI Special Agent, would sell out the U.S. government in two overlapping bribery schemes.

“[I]t is kind of sad that after 24 years of government service all I have to show for it is a couple of boxes of awards somewhere in my basement and the bitter taste of knowing that ‘the Bureau’ is a family… a dysfunctional one,” he wrote in an email to the ex-Green Beret in March 2012, five months before he was arrested.

Ahmed pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in March for his role in the Bangladesh plot.

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Lost GoPro Found 2 Years Later With Stunning Footage of Grand Canyon From Space

Bryan Chan(STANFORD, Calif.) — A GoPro launched into space by Stanford University students was lost for two years years — that is until an Arizona hiker found it recently intact with stunning footage of the Grand Canyon from space.

Stanford alumni Bryan Chan told ABC News that the GoPro and a phone with a GPS was launched near the Grand Canyon on June 8, 2013 on a high-altitude weather balloon to gather data for his aerospace engineering dissertation. His fellow classmates and friends — Ved Chirayath, Ashish Goel, Tyler Reid and Paul Tarantino — were part of the team working on the project.

The GoPro caught incredible aerial footage of the Grand Canyon and of Earth a few miles out in the stratosphere, but the team never got to see the footage because the GoPro went lost.

“We were supposed to recover the GoPro and the phone two hours after the launch, but it ended up being two years,” Chan said. “The GoPro and phone was projected to land in an area with cell coverage, but the problem was that the cell service coverage maps we relied on weren’t accurate, so the phone didn’t have signal as it came back to Earth. We couldn’t get the text it was supposed to send with the coordinates of where it landed.”

But this past March, an Arizona hiker named Pearl Tsosie found the GoPro and phone “in the barren dessert” near the Grand Canyon, Chan said. Tsosie was also an employee for AT&T, and she used that to her advantage to identify the phone’s owner using the sim card.

“She was able to call my friend Ved, and we got the footage and data a few weeks later,” Chan said. “We couldn’t believe it.”

Chan edited the incredible aerial footage and uploaded the video last Thursday to YouTube, where it had over three million views as of Tuesday evening.

“We’re blown away by how many people love the video,” Chan said. “I’ve got message from people saying they’ve put it on their desktop, and it’s just really great to have such an overwhelming positive response.

Chan said he and the team are still in the Bay area in California, and they may get together to create another epic GoPro video.

“We’re thinking about it for sure, and though there’s no strict timeline, we’re beginning to put plans into motion,” he said. “This video definitely won’t be out last.”

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Baruch Student Killed in Hazing Incident ‘Singled Out,’ Authorities Say

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Authorities said Tuesday that Chun “Michael” Deng, the Baruch College student who died during a 2013 hazing incident, had been “singled out” by members of the school’s Pi Delta Psi chapter, some of whom now face charges in his death.

“The overall investigation shows that, yes, he was singled out and he was treated harsher than the other pledges,” said Chief Chris Wagner, of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police, during a news conference Tuesday in Pennsylvania. He would not explain further.

On Monday, authorities announced that 37 people were expected to be charged in connection with Deng’s death, including members or alumni of Pi Delta Psi and as well as the fraternity itself. Prosecutors said Tuesday that five members would face charges of third degree murder.

Authorities say members of the Pi Delta Psi Fraternity at Baruch, part of the City University of New York, pushed and tackled Deng, 19, during a December 2013 hazing ritual while on a retreat in the Poconos, where he and other pledges were blindfolded and then forced to run across a frozen field while wearing a backpack filled with 30 pounds of sand.

At one point he fell over and hit his head, police said.

After Deng lost consciousness, other fraternity members brought him into the house, but they never called 911 for help, police said. Instead they put him near the fire, changed his clothes and searched the Internet for information about his symptoms, police added. After two hours, Deng was taken to a local hospital by three of the fraternity members. He later died. Authorities said fraternity members then allegedly tried to cover up the crime.

The first five college students charged are set to be arraigned Thursday, Pocono Mountain Regional Police said Tuesday. They will not be facing murder charges.

New York Congresswoman Grace Meng — whose brother Andy Meng, the former national president of Pi Delta Psi fraternity, faces lesser charges including hazing and hindering apprehension — said in a statement: “This young man’s death was a terrible tragedy and our deepest condolences and prayers continue to go out to his family and friends. I love my brother very much and as his sister I’ll be here for him as he goes through the legal process.”

In a statement released by their lawyer Douglas Fierberg, the Deng family said they were taking further action against those involved in Deng’s death.

“Fraternities and their members must be held accountable. … Michael was a wonderful, beloved young man and in his honor, the family also continue pursuing its wrongful death case against the fraternity to cause it and other fraternities to change so that other parents will be spared the loss of a precious child,” Deng’s parents said.

The Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi was disbanded after Deng’s death.

In a statement, Baruch College said: “In the wake of Chun Hsien ‘Michael’ Deng’s tragic death at an unsanctioned fraternity event in the Pocono Mountains in December 2013, Baruch College has taken strong action to ensure the safety and well-being of all students who participate in student organizations on campus. Baruch immediately instituted a permanent ban of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity. … While we cannot comment on the disciplinary status of any individual student due to privacy requirements under Federal law, Baruch conducted its own internal judicial review of students involved in this incident and brought disciplinary proceedings against all of them, except for those who voluntarily withdrew from Baruch College. We owe it to Michael and his family to hold accountable those who were responsible for the senseless death of this promising young man.”

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