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Updated: 9 hours 58 min ago

Democrats To Committee Chair: We Need Answers About Michael Flynn

19 hours 45 min ago

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Democrats in the House are demanding action over former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who reportedly lied about his foreign connections to obtain security clearance. 

The House Oversight Committee's top Democrat, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, sent a seven-page letter to committee chairman Jason Chaffetz. Cummings cites a 2016 Pentagon report that claims Flynn didn't disclose various paid dealings with Russia and other foreign countries — like his appearance at this event sponsored by Russian state-funded media.

That's relevant because Chaffetz put blame on the Obama administration for failing to properly vet Flynn back in 2016, rather than President Donald Trump or the current administration. 

SEE MORE: Special Counsel Overseeing Russia Probe Could Face Ethics Challenge

"It was the Obama White House that this would have fallen under," Chaffetz told MSNBC's Greta Van Susteren. "I don't think what happened here is really the fault of Donald Trump."

Cummings' letter urges Chaffetz to subpoena White House officials for documents relating to Flynn's dealings with foreign countries. Chaffetz has said he is stepping down before the end of his term and is expected to leave Congress at the end of June.

Trump Reportedly Asked Intel Chiefs To Deny Evidence In Russia Probe

20 hours 30 min ago

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President Donald Trump reportedly asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials to deny there was any evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia in 2016.

The Washington Post reports the president asked the director of national intelligence and the director of the National Security Agency to make a statement publicly. 

But both refused and reportedly thought the request was inappropriate. The nation's intelligence agencies are supposed to be nonpartisan entities. 

SEE MORE: Multiple Congressional Committees Want Comey's FBI Memos And Testimony

In March, former FBI Director James Comey told the House intel committee the FBI was investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

One senior intelligence official told The Washington Post that Trump was hoping to "muddy the waters" about the FBI probe.

Man Behind Flynn's Turkey Lobbying Holds Conference At Trump Hotel

21 hours 2 min ago

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A conference at the Trump International Hotel is putting President Donald Trump's conflicts of interest into the spotlight again.

The Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations usually happens at the Ritz-Carlton in D.C. but is moving to the president's hotel this year, right down the street from the White House. Organizers say the Ritz wasn't available.

One of the groups hosting the event is run by Ekim Alptekin. He also founded the firm that paid former national security adviser Michael Flynn to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government.

SEE MORE: Donald Trump's DC Hotel Is A Big Conflict Of Interest

Alptekin himself has ties to the Turkish government. 

There are ethical concerns here, notably from the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause prohibits presidents from accepting any sort of personal benefit from foreign governments.

And since Trump still has a stake in the hotel, he directly profits from the guests who rent space there — including conference hosts with ties to foreign governments.

The conference's website says CEOs, entrepreneurs, and key members of the U.S. Congress and the Turkish Parliament will be attending. 

'Terrified Of Our Taps,' Residents In Flint Still Live In Crisis

21 hours 30 min ago

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"No one is looking out for the residents of Flint except for each other. So we have the poisoned and poor taking care of the poisoned and poor," Flint, Michigan, resident Melissa Mays said.

Mays still lives in Flint, and she's not leaving.

"Our homes aren't worth anything anymore, so we couldn't sell them if we wanted to," Mays said.

While the daily news cycle has moved on, Mays and her family are still very much in crisis. Mays still can't use or drink her tap water, she does laundry outside the city, and her family struggles with several irreversible health issues from lead consumption.

We are still in a disaster even though we have these state and outside officials who keep saying everything is getting better," Mays said. "You damaged my children for the rest of their lives; you've ruined our lives; you've changed the city of Flint forever."

The lead problem in Flint began in April 2014, when the state of Michigan switched the city's water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River — which was 19 times more corrosive.

While residents complained of foul-smelling brown water, the state continued to let them drink lead-contaminated water from the Flint River for 18 months.

"If they would have told us, we would have bought bottled water and filters and whatever was necessary to protect our families. They took away our right to do that," Mays said.

Now, the city of Flint's water system does meet federal regulations for lead, but the city also acknowledges "up to 20,000 Flint residences still have lead and galvanized service lines that need to be replaced."

Because of that, Mays' day-to-day life is still filled with bottled water and doctor visits.

"It hurts to be alive. Live with us for a week; shower where we shower. Live through the bottled water; the crinkling, awful sound of bottled water; and the caps everywhere. See what it's like to actually live there," Mays said.

Unlike many environmental disasters, Mays is quick to point out this is a man-made crisis and someone should be held accountable.

SEE MORE: Four More People Charged In Flint Water Crisis

"This is not because our pipes got old. This was not an accident, a whoopsy oversight. They knew the water was poisoning us, and they went out of their way not to tell us and warn us but to cover it up," Mays said.

Nearly three years after the crisis began, no one has been found criminally responsible — at least not yet. The Michigan attorney general has brought charges against 13 state and city officials so far.

But Mays isn't just waiting for things to get better or for the state to make up for its mistake. She has already sued the state of Michigan for violating the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Her joint civil suit resulted in an $87 million settlement to "replace thousands of lead pipes throughout Flint over the next three years."

"It's like OK, we've got to fight. ... Because if we don't fix Flint, if we don't fix us right with everybody watching, the next city that gets nailed like us or that's currently getting poisoned like us won't get fixed, either," Mays said.

Turkey Wants An Investigation Into A Brawl Outside Its Embassy In D.C.

21 hours 35 min ago

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A brawl outside the Turkish Embassy has led to a diplomatic scuffle between Turkey and the U.S.

Turkey's government summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain about the "aggressive and unprofessional" actions of U.S. law enforcement during the fight. It's calling for a full investigation.

The fight involved protesters and supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was visiting the embassy. A Turkish news agency put out video claiming a protester instigated the brawl by pelting a Turkish official with a water bottle.

The accompanying article, written by a reporter at the scene, claims the protesters "made a great effort to make Turkish citizens lose control through their insults and swearing." He goes on to say that protesters throwing water bottles triggered the fistfight. 

Video from the U.S. government-funded Voice of America shows that water bottle was thrown after the fight already started. The outlet also released footage of what appears to be a Turkish security guard charging peaceful demonstrators.

Turkey and the U.S. are currently at odds over the White House's recent decision to arm a Kurdish rebel group in Syria. The U.S. considers the group an ally in the fight against ISIS; Turkey thinks it's a terrorist group.

SEE MORE: The EU Cools On Turkey After Referendum

Erdogan himself, who watched the fight unfold from a distance, has become a more controversial figure recently. He's orchestrated a sweeping crackdown against political opponents and consolidated power for himself.

Trump's Budget Would Make It Harder To Clean Up Highly Polluted Sites

22 hours 19 min ago

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Administrator Scott Pruitt has a new vision for the EPA, but he might have to rethink his plans if President Trump's proposed 2018 budget gets enacted. 

Pruitt wants the EPA to focus more heavily on cleaning up incredibly polluted superfund sites. But Trump's budget — to be officially unveiled Tuesday — would cut funding for those very cleanup operations by around a third. 

Superfund sites are areas where pollution is so bad they require long-term cleanup projects. They usually contain hazardous material like lead or nuclear waste. Sites can be anything: old mines, landfills, even vacant lots.

SEE MORE: This City Is Fighting Back Against The EPA's New Climate Change Stance

Many superfund sites are located near low-income and minority communities. But despite the EPA's commitment to environmental justice, it already tends to lag behind on its superfund cleanup duties. 

Just because something is in the president's budget doesn't necessarily mean it'll become law, though. Congress has a history of ignoring presidential budget proposals. And there's evidence they may continue that trend with this one.

Explosion At Manchester Arena Leaves Multiple People Dead

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 23:11

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An explosion at a concert in Manchester, U.K. has left multiple people dead.

Manchester police confirmed fatalities at Manchester Arena and warned people to stay clear of the area. Singer Ariana Grande had just finished a concert when the explosion went off.

Eyewitnesses told The Manchester Standard they heard two "loud bangs" at one of the exits to the stadium. A representative for Grande confirmed the singer is okay.

Over 600K U.S. Visa Holders Became Undocumented Immigrants Last Year

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 22:36

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Illegal immigration in the U.S. is about more than illegal crossings and border walls. There are also a lot of undocumented people in the U.S. who just overstay their welcome.

new report from the Department of Homeland Security estimates that well over half a million visa holders were still in the country after their visas expired during the last fiscal year.

SEE MORE: Kushner Family Business Is Taking Advantage Of This Immigration Policy

That's still only around 1 percent of the 50 million visa visitors who were expected to depart the U.S. during that time frame. It also only covers sea and air arrivals — the DHS still has trouble tracking land-based visa visitors.

Visa overstays have beaten border crossings as the main type of illegal immigration since 2007. One report estimates that visa overstays made up 42 percent of the U.S. undocumented population in 2014.

People who overstay their visas do have to pass through some vetting before entering the country, so they're arguably less of a security risk than illegal entrants. But several members of the Sept. 11 terrorist plot overstayed their visas.

How And Why Do We Study The Deadly Phenomenon Of Volcanic Lightning?

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 21:32

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As if being a volcanologist wasn't dangerous enough — the ash clouds of the eruptions they study sometimes flicker with lightning, too.

And volcanoes aren't exactly safe to observe up close. But researchers think volcanic lightning holds clues to how eruptions occur.

SEE MORE: This Hawaiian Volcano Has Created A 'Firehose' Of Lava

To study the phenomenon, researchers have had to get creative. They made early observations using radio waves.

And recently, a team looked at glass spheres formed by lightning to determine how frequent and hot the strikes were.

Knowing how volcanic lightning behaves could also help us understand the risks ash clouds pose to nearby buildings and planes during an eruption.

Michael Flynn Pleads The Fifth Over Russia Investigation

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 20:33

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Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has refused to cooperate with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On Monday, Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid handing over personal documents.

The documents in question are related to Flynn's communications with Russian officials.

Flynn is a key witness in the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The panel is also looking into possible ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.

SEE MORE: Trump Team Reportedly Knew Early On That Flynn Was Under Investigation

Flynn's refusal to cooperate with the subpoena isn't a huge surprise.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee indicated last week that Flynn wasn't cooperating with its request for the documents.

And legal experts have said invoking the Fifth Amendment would be a wise decision for him.

Flynn previously offered to testify before the Senate and House intelligence committees in exchange for immunity, but neither panel took him up on it.

Supreme Court Rules North Carolina Used Race To Draw District Lines

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 18:31

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The Supreme Court ruled North Carolina unconstitutionally relied on race to change voting districts after the 2010 census.

The court ruled two districts were given disproportionate amounts of black voters while being stripped of white voters.

SEE MORE: Is Policing Racially Biased?

State officials argued the district lines were redrawn to give Republicans an advantage, not to disenfranchise black voters. But the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's decision that the district lines were racially based, not politically based.

The contested district map was thrown out before the 2016 election. But Republican candidates still won 10 out of the state's 13 districts.

Mark Zuckerberg Does Not Want To Be Your Next Politician

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 18:07

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Don't expect to see the White House closets full of gray T-shirts anytime soon. That's because the wearer of said shirts — Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg — is not running for office.

He made the announcement Sunday in a lengthy Facebook post. The post mainly focused on his New Year's resolution to visit and meet people in all 50 states.

Although a cross-country trip could signal a potential political campaign, Zuckerberg noted that's not his intent.

Instead, he hopes meeting new people will help him gain "a broader perspective" into who is using Facebook.

SEE MORE: Zuckerberg Wants Facebook To Stand Against Anti-Globalization Movement

"My biggest takeaway so far is that our relationships shape us more than we think — how we consider opportunities, how we process information, and how we form habits," Zuckerberg wrote.

If you're disappointed the tech guru isn't throwing his hat into the next presidential race, there is another well-known pair who already have their campaign poster ready.

"The truth is, America needs us. No one can seem to agree on anything anymore except for two things," Tom Hanks said on "Saturday Night Live."

"Pizza and us," Dwayne Johnson said.

We'll see about that.

Another European Country Is Ditching Nuclear Power

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 16:55

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Switzerland has taken a big step toward getting rid of nuclear power.

In a referendum, Swiss voters approved a plan that will eventually phase out all nuclear power use.

Instead, the country will focus on increasing its dependence on renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power.

Switzerland currently has five nuclear power plants, and its residents heavily depend on them for electricity.

But, once this new law goes into effect, it will bar any new nuclear plants from being built.

SEE MORE: Copying The World's Greenest Energy From Nature

The existing plants will be allowed to operate as long as they're safe. But according to The New York Times, at least one closure is scheduled for 2019.

Switzerland is joining other European countries that decided to ditch nuclear power.

Germany promised to phase out all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. And Austria banned it a long time ago.

But critics fear Switzerland's move away from nuclear energy could get pricey. And not everyone is convinced that renewable energy sources are as reliable as nuclear power.

The Swiss government will gradually start implementing the new law starting next January.

Trump's Visit To This Jewish Holy Site Wasn't Without Controversy

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 14:07

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While in Israel, President Donald Trump became the first U.S. sitting president to visit the Western Wall. It's considered to be one of the holiest places in the Jewish faith.

The Western Wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem — land Israel seized from Jordan during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Israel later made Jerusalem its capital, but other parts of the world refuse to recognize Israel's claim. That's why countries instead have foreign embassies in Tel Aviv — including the U.S.

Jerusalem is also a major sticking point of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Both sides consider Jerusalem its capital.

SEE MORE: Trump In Saudi Arabia: 'This Is Not A Battle Between Different Faiths'

That's why the Trump administration did not want Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accompany Trump to visit the Western Wall. 

ABC reports the administration claimed it was a "private visit." But a U.S. official reportedly also told an Israeli official that the Western Wall is "not your territory. It's part of the West Bank."

Trump's visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of Israel's capture of Jerusalem.

Speaking at an event Sunday, Netanyahu said, "50 years ago, we returned to the heart of our capital and our land, 50 years ago, we didn't conquer, we liberated."

History Made: Cambodian-American Woman Elected To US Public Office

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 13:58

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Khem Khoeun just made history. She's the first Cambodian-American woman to get elected to a public office in the U.S. 

"I didn't think about that when I decided to run," Khoeun says. "It was kind of like a personal decision trying to figure out whether or not it would make sense for me in this particular time of my life. It wasn't [until] after I won that I really felt the impact of what had just happened."

Khoeun won the election to become a park district commissioner in Skokie, Illinois.

SEE MORE: Women's Empowerment In Pakistan Is Spreading Via Motorcycle

But she's already had an impact beyond Skokie. Khoeun has received calls from women around the country who want to run for office in their local communities. 

"I wish I could say you break the barriers, you break this glass ceiling, whatever you want to call it, and life gets easier. It doesn't. It's something that we embrace as a woman trying to wear multiple hats," she says. 

Khoeun is a former refugee who has held various positions in her community. But what really inspired her to run for the park district was her kids. 

"I was still on the fence because I felt disillusioned. I was like: 'What's the point? This is just a park district — why get involved at all? There's so much else going on in this world right now and in this country.' … Then I realized my choices impact my children, and I have to be the person to offer that alternative and to make sure that they have a safe place," Khoeun says. 

Khoeun is part of a diverse community. But she wants to challenge women everywhere to feel empowered. 

"I think one of my pet peeves, though, is when people tell me, 'But you're different, but you're strong, I'm not like you.' And those are things that I always call them out on. … It's an easy way out — it's an easy way to not rise to the occasion or not challenge yourself to do more," Khoeun says. 

Jury Selection In Bill Cosby's Sexual Assault Trial Won't Be Easy

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 13:43

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Jury selection for Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial is set to begin Monday. 

But finding jurors who can impartially weigh the comedian's high-profile case won't be an easy task.

The judge and attorneys from both sides will agree on 12 jurors and six alternates from people living in Pittsburgh. That's about 300 miles away from where the trial will actually take place, just north of Philadelphia.

Cosby's defense team argued the extensive media coverage of the allegations has painted their client in an unfairly negative light. They lobbied to find jurors from a different part of Pennsylvania. 

SEE MORE: Defamation Lawsuit Against Bill Cosby Thrown Out Of Court

But there's still no guarantee the jury pool will be able to look past Cosby's fame and the notoriety of his case.

Cosby has pleaded not guilty to felony aggravated indecent assault. The charge stems from an alleged encounter with accuser Andrea Constand.

Cosby's trial is scheduled to begin June 5 and is expected to last about two weeks. If he is convicted, he faces up to 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.

Notre Dame Students Walk Out On Pence's Graduation Speech

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 13:16

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Dozens of Notre Dame students walked out on their graduation ceremony Sunday afternoon when Vice President Mike Pence began speaking. 

The protest was expected. Student activist groups like WeStaNDfor promoted the walkout days in advance. 

But it was bigger than anticipated. According to NBC, roughly 100 students left the venue when Pence's speech began — twice as many students as expected.

SEE MORE: Trump's Media Complaints Made Their Way Into An Unlikely Speech

More than 2,000 people received degrees Sunday. Video shows the students who left received a mixture of cheers and boos from the crowd. 

Pence was invited to be the commencement speaker after students petitioned against inviting President Donald Trump. 

Pence didn't directly comment on the walkout, but he applauded Notre Dame for its "atmosphere of civility and open debate." He said other universities have policies that ultimately suppress freedom of speech. 

One of the protesters told the New York Times: "Commencement is not a moment for academic exchange or political dialogue. It's a celebration of all of our hard work." 

Notre Dame has a history of political commencement speakers, including six past presidents. And students have expressed their discontent before.

In 2009, President Barack Obama was heckled by anti-abortion advocates during his speech at the university. 

'Alien: Covenant' Debuts Below Expectations But Takes Top Spot Anyway

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 23:33

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With a franchise that's been around as long as "Alien," there's a lot of backstory to work through. But the long and short of it is still aliens killing humans in very large numbers. 

Barely securing the No. 1 spot this week is the eighth installment in the "Alien" franchise. "Alien: Covenant" brought in an estimated $36 million in its debut weekend.

That's about $15 million behind the "Prometheus" debut from 2012. Fortunately, though, this was a cheaper movie to make, and frankly, it's just a much better film.

As IGN's Daniel Krupa put it: "Director Ridley Scott must've heard the screams of frustration as 'Alien' fans left theaters after watching 'Prometheus.' ... While 'Alien: Covenant' continues to pose new questions about the origins of the classic monster, unlike 'Prometheus,' it provides satisfying answers."

After creating the iconic original "Alien" in 1979, Ridley Scott took a solid 30-year break from the franchise. But now that he's back in the director's chair, he seems to want to hold on to his Xenomorph a little tighter this time.

In a recent interview, he said: "'Star Wars' is still running. I mean, the 'Alien' franchise should be [makes blow-up motion] into 'War of the Worlds' now. That's where I'm going."

Well, if "Star Wars" can recover from the prequels, surely we can all forget "Alien vs. Predator."

Falling to the No. 2 spot this week is "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," bringing in an estimated $35 million and continuing to clean up overseas with a $732 million box office total.

And at No. 3, Rue is all grown up now, and she's dating boys! Taking the No. 3 spot is "Everything, Everything," bringing in an estimated $12 million and beating box office analysts' expectations.

This teen love story has everything your angsty, rebellious 16-year-old will like — a blond-haired boy, running away from home and, most importantly, bad decisions.

As for next week, Jack Sparrow is back because Johnny Depp really needs a win. 

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates Donate To Ivanka Trump-Backed Fund

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 22:45

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The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to give a combined $100 million to an Ivanka Trump-backed fund for women entrepreneurs.

The World Bank's International Women's Empowerment Fund is aimed at helping women who want to build their own businesses. But for women in the Middle East, that can be hard to do because of the policies put in place by some of the very countries donating to the fund.

That's especially true for Saudi Arabia, where women can't drive, are required to completely cover themselves in public, and live under the rule of a male guardian. Women traditionally haven't been allowed to get a paying job without his permission.

Parts of the "male guardianship" system are changing, but women in Saudi Arabia still live under wide-ranging restrictions often criticized by human rights groups.

SEE MORE: Saudi Women Filmed Themselves Breaking Rules In The Name Of Equality

And while women in the United Arab Emirates have more rights, they're still restricted in legal matters.

The irony of these countries funding initiatives that champion women isn't lost on President Donald Trump.

He brought it up in a Facebook post last year in which he attacked Hillary Clinton for accepting a big chunk of cash from the Saudi government.

Now his daughter is meeting with women Saudi leaders, hoping to empower women worldwide.

The Saudi and Emirati contributions are just part of the total fund. World Bank President Jim Yong-kim wants to announce $41 billion in funds at the G20 summit in July, according to The Washington Post

America's Trees Are Trying To Outrun Threats By Heading North And West

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 21:00

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America's trees are undertaking a slow migration.

Researchers writing in the journal Science Advances looked at tree population surveys starting in the 1980s. What they found is that the trees in eastern America are moving north and west. 

Specifically, conifer trees like pines are moving north, and deciduous trees like maples and elms are moving west. 

SEE MORE: Why US Forests Growing Farther Apart Is Bad News

Don't worry; the forest isn't full of Ents. Instead, successive generations of trees are sprouting farther west or north while older trees back east die off.

The researchers say at least 20 percent of the population shift is due to climate change. The rest can be attributed to other environmental changes like wildfires, land use and new pests or blights.

While tree migration doesn't sound like a huge deal, there is cause for concern: If the populations continue to shift, whole ecosystems could be pulled apart and begin to collapse. 

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