Civil Liberties News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on civil liberties
By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. “None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance ... had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward ... but the government just said, ‘They’re lying. We’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence.” The NSA whistleblowers were not leftwing peace nuts. They had spent their professional lives inside the US intelligence apparatus – devoted, they thought, to the protection of the homeland and defense of the constitution. They were political conservatives, highly educated, respectful of evidence, careful with words. And they were saying, on the basis of personal experience, that the US government was being run by people who were willing to break the law and bend the state’s awesome powers to their own ends. They were saying that laws and technologies had secretly been put in place that threatened to overturn the democratic governance Americans took for granted and shrink their liberties to a vanishing point.
Note: The article above was is adapted from Mark Hertsgaard’s book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on intelligence agency corruption and the disappearance of privacy.
Standing Bear was born sometime between 1829 and 1834 in the Ponca tribe’s native lands in northern Nebraska. In 1876 ... Congress declared that the Poncas would be moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. More than a third of the Poncas died of starvation and disease — including Standing Bear’s sister and his beloved son. Standing Bear and his burial party evaded capture while they traveled home but were caught and detained after visiting relatives at the Omaha reservation. The man who caught them, Brig. Gen. George Crook ... was moved by Standing Bear’s reasons for leaving the Indian Territory and promised to help him. The civil rights case that resulted was called Standing Bear v. Crook. The U.S. attorney argued that Standing Bear was neither a citizen nor a person. On the second day, Chief Standing Bear was called to testify, becoming the first Native American to do so. He raised his right hand and, through an interpreter, said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same god made us both. I am a man.” The judge agreed, ruling for the first time in U.S. history that “the Indian is a ‘person’ ” and has all the rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. The judge also ordered Crook to free Standing Bear and his people immediately. Standing Bear ... buried his son alongside his ancestors. When he died there in 1908, he was buried alongside them, too.
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America in the summer of 1919 ran red with blood from racial violence, and yet today, 100 years later, not many people know it even happened. Hundreds of African American men, women and children were burned alive, shot, hanged or beaten to death by white mobs. Thousands saw their homes and businesses burned to the ground and were driven out, many never to return. It was branded "Red Summer" because of the bloodshed and amounted to some of the worst white-on-black violence in U.S. history." There are no national observances marking Red Summer. History textbooks ignore it, and most museums don't acknowledge it. The reason: Red Summer contradicts the post-World War I-era notion that America was making the world safe for democracy, historians say. "Ethnic cleansing was the goal of the white rioters," said William Tuttle, a retired professor of American studies at the University of Kansas. "They wanted to kill as many black people as possible and to terrorize the rest until they were willing to leave and live someplace else." The violence didn't start or end in 1919. Some count the era of Red Summer as beginning with the deaths of more than two dozen African Americans in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1917 and extending through the Rosewood Massacre of 1923, when a black town in Florida was destroyed. All told, at least 1,122 Americans were killed in racial violence over those six years.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on civil liberties from reliable major media sources.
The Trump Department of Justice has asked Congress to craft legislation allowing chief judges to indefinitely hold people without trial and suspend other constitutionally-protected rights during coronavirus and other emergencies, according to a report by Politico. The DOJ has requested Congress allow any chief judge of a district court to pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation,” according to draft language obtained by Politico. This would be applicable to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil processes and proceedings.” But the Constitution grants citizens habeas corpus which gives arrestees the right to appear in front of a judge and ask to be released before trial. Enacting legislation like the DOJ wants would essentially suspend habeas corpus indefinitely until the emergency ended. Further, DOJ asked Congress to suspend the statute of limitations on criminal investigations and civil proceedings during the emergency until a year after it ended. That means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. The DOJ ... also asked Congress to pass a law saying that immigrants who test positive for COVID-19 cannot qualify as asylum seekers.
California has prepared for worst case scenarios as the coronavirus pandemic heightens, including the possibility of enacting martial law. Governor Gavin Newsom said during a press conference on Tuesday he would consider implementing martial law if it was necessary to curb the novel virus. “We have the ability to do martial law ... if we feel the necessity,” he said. Issuing martial law would be an unprecedented move rarely used by officials in US history. If enacted, it would temporarily replace civil rule with military authority. The precedent for martial law in the US states “certain civil liberties may be suspended, such as the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom of association, and freedom of movement,” according to a legal journal. The president and Congress have the power to enact martial law for the entire country. State governors also have the power to enact martial law if its in their state’s constitution. Previous examples of martial law used include after World War II, specifically following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, when the state of Hawaii was held under martial law from 1941 to 1944. President Abraham Lincoln also used martial law during the Civil War to temporarily suspend habeas corpus, which is the right to a trial before imprisonment. California considering the possibility of using martial law on Tuesday comes just two days after the governor said he had no current plans for the measure.
Principled insiders have been busy in recent years blowing the whistle on wrongdoing from Big Pharma to Wall Street to Washington. Without whistleblowers, we’d probably never have heard about the lead-laced water in Flint, Mich., Jeffrey Epstein’s under-the-table funding of MIT, fraud at Guantanamo, corner-cutting at Boeing and the FAA, or the dubious dealings by President Trump in Ukraine that the House has put at the center of an impeachment inquiry. But ... it has become harder than ever to speak truth to power. What has led us here? A rise in institutional corruption and normalized fraud. Healthy organizations tend to self-correct, fixing problems long before they explode in public. Where they don’t, healthy governments intervene via independent regulators. Whistleblowing only becomes necessary when organizations become more interested in silence and loyalty than in ethics or public welfare, or when government watchdogs have been muzzled or euthanized. Anti-whistleblower pressure intensified with the Obama administration’s implementation of Insider Threat programs throughout government. These programs, a response to the WikiLeaks disclosures, frequently portray lawful disclosures by public employees as criminal acts and lump legitimate whistleblowers together with spies and criminals. Despite these barriers, whistleblowers keep coming forward, because the voice of the individual conscience grows stronger as fraud becomes normalized.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on government corruption from reliable major media sources.
Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade. Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million dollars in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody. Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states. By far the largest recipients of taxpayer money have been Southwest Key and Baptist Child & Family Services. From 2008 to date, Southwest Key has received $1.39 billion in grant funding to operate shelters; Baptist Child & Family Services has received $942 million. International Educational Services also was a big recipient, landing more than $72 million in the last fiscal year before folding amid a series of complaints about the conditions in its shelters. The recipients of the money run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities. They are essentially government contractors for the Health and Human Services Department — the federal agency that administers the program keeping immigrant children in custody. In a recently released report, the State Department decried the general principle of holding children in shelters, saying it makes them inherently vulnerable.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The indictment was damning enough: A former police chief of Biscayne Park and two officers charged with falsely pinning four burglaries on a teenager. But the accusations revealed in federal court last month left out far uglier details of past policing practices in tranquil Biscayne Park, a [suburb] of Miami. Records obtained by the Miami Herald suggest that during the tenure of former chief Raimundo Atesiano, the command staff pressured some officers into targeting random black people to clear cases. “If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” one cop, Anthony De La Torre, said in an internal probe ordered in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.” In a report from that probe, four officers — a third of the small force — told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department’s crime stats. Only De La Torre specifically mentioned targeting blacks, but former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran, who ordered the investigation after receiving a string of letters from disgruntled officers, said the message seemed clear for cops on the street. The federal case doesn’t raise allegations of racial profiling, but records show the false charges were filed against a black Haitian-American teen identified only as T.D. in the indictment.
The business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children detained along the southwest border is not a multimillion-dollar business. It’s a billion-dollar one. Southwest Key Programs has won at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to run shelters and provide other services to immigrant children in federal custody. Its shelter for migrant boys at a former Walmart Supercenter in South Texas has been the focus of nationwide scrutiny, but Southwest Key is but one player in the lucrative, secretive world of the migrant-shelter business. About a dozen contractors operate more than 30 facilities in Texas alone, with numerous others contracted for about 100 shelters in 16 other states. Trump’s order ... calling for migrant families to be detained together likely means millions more in contracts. A small network of private prison companies already is operating family detention centers in Texas and Pennsylvania, and those facilities are likely to expand. Defense contractors and security firms are also building a presence in the system, including General Dynamics ... and MVM Inc.. In Harlingen, [Texas] one recent morning, the federal courthouse that hears immigration cases was packed. Teenagers who had been apprehended crossing the border sat in the courtrooms. In the lobby, a group of men and women ... patiently waited for the hearings to end. They were there for the migrant youth. But they were neither relatives nor lawyers. They were contractors.
Note: What this article doesn't include is the possibility that some of these children are being fed into secret mind control programs and possibly even clandestinely sold into sex trafficking. For more on this, read this essay . For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens on Thursday, is a place unlike any other in the United States. Together with a new Legacy Museum which also opens this week, it addresses head on a subject that has been marked by a booming silence until now – the enforcement of white supremacy in America through racial terrorism in the form of lynching, as well as its other guises: slavery, segregation and modern mass incarceration. The memorial records and honors the more than 4,000 people of color ... who lost their lives to terror lynching. [It] sits audaciously atop a hill overlooking the heart of Montgomery. From its grounds you look down on the state capitol, the legislative beating heart of Alabama that acted as the first capital of the Confederacy and presides over a state constitution that to this day outlaws white and black kids going to school together: in 2004 and 2012 Alabamans held referendums on whether to remove the racist ban; both times the overwhelmingly white majority voted to keep it. [Equal Justice Initiative] has identified more than 4,384 lynchings by white people of people of colour [from] 1877 to 1950. They spanned 800 counties. Huge crowds often turned out: 10,000 to watch Henry Smith, 17, tortured and burned on a 10ft-high stage in Paris, Texas in 1893; 20,000 at the burning alive of Willy Brown in Omaha, Nebraska in 1919. Such was the communal complicity that sometimes entire white communities would attend – to a man, woman and child.
Note: For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Fifty years ago ... Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in Memphis. The Washington Post is running a series of commentaries. The New York Times ran an emotional editorial. Neither paper will mention that they each denounced Dr. King in his later years. Nor will any outlet today likely mention that King had fallen sharply out of favor with much of the national media ... on April 4, 1967. The offense was a speech in New York. King spoke of the “hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence” abroad, and added that a country as financially and politically committed to war as ours could never fight a “War on Poverty” in earnest. One hundred and sixty-eight newspapers denounced him in the days that followed. These editorials had a peculiarly vicious flavor. In late 1967, King pooh-poohed the “violence” and “extremism” criticisms of the civil rights movement, explicitly saying the excesses of urban rioters were “infinitely less dangerous and immoral” than the cold, corporatized murder of the “American mainstream.” “If destruction of property is deplorable,” he asked, “what is the use of napalm on people?” Yet the “mainstream” King is the one most Americans have been conditioned to believe in. King ... died wanting us to radically change our way of life. But history has sanitized him, turning him into a mainstream leader who accomplished what he could within an acceptable role. That sanitizing continues on each of these anniversaries, and is a sad commentary on our inability to listen to even the best of us.
Note: A recent Corbett Report on the assassination of MKL has some powerful evidence of conspiracy at the highest levels. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles on media corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The Supreme Court on Monday shielded a police officer from being sued for shooting an Arizona woman in her front yard, once again making it harder to bring legal action against officers who use excessive force, even against an innocent person. With two dissents, the high court tossed out a lawsuit by a Tucson woman who was shot four times outside her home because she was seen carrying a large knife. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in dissent the victim did not threaten the police or a friend who was standing nearby. This "decision is not just wrong on the law; it also sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public," Sotomayor wrote. Since the Civil War, federal law has allowed people to sue government officials, including the police, for violating their constitutional rights. But in recent years, the Supreme Court has erected a shield of immunity for police and said officers may not be sued unless victims can point to a nearly identical shooting that had been deemed unconstitutionally excessive in a previous decision. The justices did not rule on whether officer Andrew Kisela acted reasonably when he used potentially deadly force against Amy Hughes. The court instead ruled [that Kisela] could not be sued because the victim could not cite a similar case. Sotomayor said the majority had revised the facts to favor the officer. "Hughes was nowhere near the officers, had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife," she wrote.
Eric Loomis pleaded guilty to attempting to flee an officer, and no contest to operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent. Neither of his crimes mandates prison time. At Mr. Loomis’s sentencing, the judge cited, among other factors, Mr. Loomis’s high risk of recidivism as predicted by a computer program called COMPAS, a risk assessment algorithm used by the state of Wisconsin. The judge denied probation and prescribed an 11-year sentence. No one knows exactly how COMPAS works; its manufacturer refuses to disclose the proprietary algorithm. We only know the final risk assessment score it spits out, which judges may consider at sentencing. Mr. Loomis challenged the use of an algorithm as a violation of his due process rights. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case, meaning a majority of justices effectively condoned the algorithm’s use. Shifting the sentencing responsibility [from judges] to a computer does not necessarily eliminate bias; it delegates and often compounds it. Algorithms like COMPAS simply mimic the data with which we train them. An algorithm that accurately reflects our world also necessarily reflects our biases. A ProPublica study found that COMPAS predicts black defendants will have higher risks of recidivism than they actually do, while white defendants are predicted to have lower rates than they actually do.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince declared that his country, long linked to terrorism and repression, will eradicate extremism. “We won’t waste 30 years of our lives dealing with any extremist ideas," said [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman], who is the de-facto leader of the oil-rich state, at a conference for wealthy and influential business people. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by an absolute monarchy and governed under Wahhabism, a fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam that has inspired extremist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia has been criticized for exporting Wahhabism abroad and promoting radicalization. Recently, Saudi Arabia announced that it would allow women to drive and would open parts of its state-owned oil company to private investors. Experts say these moves are meant to impress Western allies and attract expats and foreign investors. While serving as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton devised plans to stop Saudi Arabia from funding terrorism. “We need to ... bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to (the Islamic State) and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Clinton wrote in an email released by Wikileaks. Meanwhile, rights groups argue that Saudi Arabia continues to jail journalists and commit widespread human rights violations.
Saudi Arabia is easing restrictions on women driving, finally allowing almost half its population to get behind the wheel. A royal decree has been issued that will allow women in the country to drive, the Saudi Foreign ministry said Tuesday. The government will have until June 24, 2018, to implement the new decree. Manal al-Sharif, one of the women behind the Women2Drive campaign, celebrated the victory by posting a photo on Twitter of herself behind the wheel of a car. Sharif, who now lives in Australia, was jailed in Saudi Arabia 2011 after posting a video on YouTube of herself, wearing a black headscarf and sunglasses, driving a car. The act provoked death threats and spurred her to start the campaign. Liesl Gerntholtz, executive director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, told CNN while it was a "very important step" there was still a long way to go for Saudi women. "This prohibition on driving is just one in a vast series of laws and policies which prevent women from doing many things," she said. "The guardianship rule stops women from making every decision in her life without the assistance of a male relative, even if that relative is her 7-year-old son. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows a strict form of Wahhabi Islam that bans the mixing of sexes at public events and places numerous curbs on women. These restrictions are enforced by religious police.
Note: The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the strongest allies of the US, yet it is also about the most backward country in the world on women's rights. And it is a dictatorship by monarchy. Why isn't there more reporting on this? For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing civil liberties news articles from reliable major media sources.
Body camera video produced Wednesday appears to show a Baltimore police officer plant drugs in late January, an act that later resulted in a criminal arrest. The 90-second Baltimore police body camera video, which was made public by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, belongs to Officer Richard Pinheiro, who appears to hide and later "find" drugs among trash strewn on a plot next to a Baltimore residence. Two other officers appear to be with the Pinheiro as he hides the drugs. "This is a serious allegation of police misconduct," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said. "There is nothing that deteriorates the trust of any community more than thinking for one second that police officers ... would plant evidence of crimes on citizens." One of the officers has been suspended, and two others have been placed on "nonpublic contact" administrative duty, Davis told reporters. Pinheiro is a witness in about 53 active cases, and he was even called to testify in a case earlier this week, the Public Defender's Office said. The new video has led to that case's dismissal after an assistant public defender forwarded it to the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office. Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender's Special Litigation Section, said that Baltimore police have long had a problem with officer misconduct but that the city does not hold individuals accountable. "We have long supported the use of police body cameras to help identify police misconduct, but such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts," Levi said.
Note: And how many thousands of times over the years has this been done and not recorded on video? Watch this video at the NBC link above. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing police corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.
Racial disparities have long been evident in the U.S. criminal justice system, but a new report drilling into statistics on wrongful convictions points up exactly how nefarious the problem is. African Americans are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted of a murder, sexual assault or drug offense than whites. The report, by the National Registry of Exonerations, found that “innocent black people are about seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” and thus also account for a disproportionate share of the growing number of exonerations. African Americans who were convicted and then exonerated of murder charges also spent four years longer on death row than wrongfully convicted whites (and three years longer for those sentenced to prison). According to the report, African Americans convicted of murder “are about 50% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers,” and that such wrongful convictions, even when later corrected, expands the impact of violence on African American communities.
The Department of Justice proudly announced the first FBI terror arrest of the Trump administration on Tuesday: an elaborate sting operation that snared a 25-year-old Missouri man who had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb - and who at one point pulled a knife on him and threatened his family. Robert Lorenzo Hester of Columbia, Missouri, didn’t have the $20 he needed to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, and roofing nails his new FBI friends wanted him to get, so they gave him the money. The agents noted in a criminal complaint that Hester, who at one point brought his two small children to a meeting because he didn’t have child care, continued smoking marijuana despite professing to be a devout Muslim. But according to the DOJ press release, Hester had plans to conduct an “ISIS-sponsored terrorist attack” on President’s Day that would have resulted in mass casualties had it succeeded. News reports breathlessly echoed the government’s depiction of Hester as a foiled would-be terrorist. But the only contact Hester had with ISIS was with the two undercover agents. There appears to be little to suggest that [Hester] had the wherewithal or capacity to carry out a terrorist attack. His case is similar to many others in which individuals in financial, legal, or psychological distress have been befriended by undercover FBI agents or government informants and coaxed into developing a terrorist plot.
Note: The FBI has been stepping up its use of stings in ISIS cases. Read how an FBI mole posing as a potential lover recently convinced a man to become a terrorist. If terrorism is such a grave threat in the US, why does the FBI have to manufacture "terrorist" plots and then exaggerate its anti-terrorism success?
Using loopholes it has kept secret for years, the FBI can in certain circumstances bypass its own rules in order to send undercover agents or informants into political and religious organizations, as well as schools, clubs, and businesses. If the FBI had its way, the infiltration loopholes would still be secret. They are detailed in a mammoth document obtained by The Intercept, an uncensored version of ... the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, or DIOG. If an undercover agent wants to pose as a university student and take classes, or if an FBI handler wants to tell an informant to attend religious services - two examples straight out of the rulebook - he or she must obtain a supervisor’s approval and attest both to the operation’s importance and to its compliance with constitutional safeguards. But all those rules go out the window if an agent decides the group is “illegitimate” or an informant spies on the group of his or her own accord. Civil rights groups ... worry that the FBI has made use of precisely these kinds of loopholes, silently undermining cherished freedoms enshrined after a dark chapter of FBI history: the COINTELPRO program in the 1950s and ’60s, when the FBI spied on, harassed, and tried to discredit leftists, civil rights leaders, and anti-war protestors. The exposure of COINTELPRO led to a famous Senate investigation and to institutional reform. The DIOG, despite being hundreds of pages of dense bureaucracy, actually documents a loosening of the standards enacted to rein in the FBI after COINTELPRO and other scandals ... after the 9/11 attacks.
Note: Read a detailed essay on the FBI's COINTELPRO program from the well-researched online book Lifting the Veil. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about intelligence agency corruption and the erosion of civil liberties.
The problem of racial bias among police [has] been a concern of the FBI for at least a decade. 10 years ago ... the FBI warned of the potential consequences - including bias - of white supremacist groups infiltrating local and state law enforcement, indicating it was a significant threat to national security. In the 2006 bulletin, the FBI detailed the threat of white nationalists and skinheads infiltrating police in order to disrupt investigations against fellow members and recruit other supremacists. The bulletin was released during a period of scandal for many law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including a neo-Nazi gang formed by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Similar investigations revealed officers and entire agencies with hate group ties in Illinois, Ohio and Texas. Much of the bulletin has been redacted, but in it, the FBI ... warned of “ghost skins,” hate group members who don’t overtly display their beliefs. “At least one white supremacist group has reportedly encouraged ghost skins to seek positions in law enforcement for the capability of alerting skinhead crews of pending investigative action against them,” the report read. Neither the FBI nor state and local law enforcement agencies have established systems for vetting personnel for potential supremacist links. That task is left primarily to everyday citizens and nonprofit organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of few that tracks the growing number of hate groups in America.
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