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    Local shark researchers are gearing up for their first expedition of 2020. Their work is helping the world learn more about white sharks and other animals that sometimes get a bad reputation.  Great white sharks are making their move south, with more than one swimming off Florida’s coast.  Onboard the OCEARCH shark research ship is Jacksonville University professor Dr. Bryan Franks.  “We believe that the population is increasing,” Franks explained.  Franks says more sharks are spotted near beaches in the north Atlantic Ocean, sometimes just feet away from the shoreline.  “You’ve seen the marine mammal populations begin to increase, and the shark population, their big predator, seems to be increasing along with it,” Franks added.  The lift used to transport sharks can hold up to 75,000 pounds. Without it, many of the scientific samples would be impossible to gather.  Christina Lobuglio is one of Dr. Franks’ students who will be out on the water with him and other scientists.  “The amount of people that I get to see, the amount of different scientists that come on board that allow me as a student to get that practical experience that I need to work in the field,” Lobuglio said.  Last year, local teams were able to tag four sharks.  Franks says this year, teams will spend more time farther offshore. He is hoping to tag at least five more sharks, which would bring the tagged shark population to 60.  Researchers are also hoping to get an ultrasound of a pregnant great white shark.  “I’m more of an ecologist, but we’re working with microbiologists and veterinarians, and really working with other scientists allows us to make bigger breakthroughs,” Franks said.  Each shark will be fitted with at least one satellite transmitter tag and an acoustic tag.  “It allows us to track these sharks in real time,” Lobuglio said.  As the sharks’ fins break the surface, the satellite tags will transmit their locations.  For more information on OCEARCH’s tracker list, click here.
  • Plans are moving forward for a new development in San Marco. Neighbors said the city’s Planning Commission voted to approve the project at Thursday’s meeting.  A developer wants to purchase part of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church’s property and build a four-story apartment building called Park Place.  The group Right Size San Marco is made up of dozens of neighbors who are pushing back against the project.  Lauren Carlucci lives near where the apartment complex would go.  “We really are not opposed to apartments, and we’re not opposed to a garage. We just want it to fit with the neighborhood,” Carlucci said.  Many neighbors are worried about the increased traffic and overdevelopment, especially with a new Publix planned directly across the street.  “This is a ton of stuff happening at once,” Carlucci said. “We have to be careful the way that we develop. We have to manage the safety and the walkability of San Marco.”  The plan would need to go in front of the City Council before a final vote.
  • More than 100 million Americans may have been drinking water contaminated with highly toxic chemicals. A new report from the Environmental Working Group says PFAS was found in every state on military sites, in drinking water or other unknown sites. It said the harmful chemicals were found in more than 712 locations in 49 states.  PFAS are man-made chemicals. They are known as “forever chemicals” because once released into the environment, they do not break down and builds up in a person’s blood or organs. Typically, PFAS can be found in household products, food packaging and firefighting foam.  EWG said low exposure to some PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity and many other health problems.  However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no drinking water standard for PFAS. Currently, lawmakers are working to pass a bill that would enforce regulations.  According to the EWG report, Duval and Clay counties had three locations with contamination: the Jacksonville International Airport, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Camp Blanding.  The test results for JIA shows PFAS contamination in the groundwater on-base in 2018. The suspected source is firefighting foam. A representative from JIA told Action News Jax firefighting foam is used to contain fires at the airport, which is all regulated by the FAA.  Similar results were found at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The test results show PFOS=PFOA found in the groundwater on-base in 2018. The suspect source is also firefighting foam.  The test results for Camp Blanding found PFAS in its distribution system in 2017. Firefighting foam was also the suspected source.  Action News Jax has reached out to NAS Jax and Camp Blanding about these findings and have not gotten a response.
  • Thursday, the Fernandina Harbor Marina was almost empty – just like it has been since 2016. Zachary Hatten, an employee at Atlantic Seafood Bait and Tackle told Action News Jax, “We saw pieces of it float right off.”  The northeast Florida native said he remembers Hurricane Matthew and the damage that shut down the docks.  He said it had a big effect on the store’s bottom line.  “They [the boaters] come and get their bait shrimp, which they take out on their charter. They bring those buys back in, they need us to clean their fish for them and that’s a big part of our revenue,” Hatten described.  Action News Jax reporter Beth Rousseau stopped by the shop in July 2019, the same day City Manager Dale Martin said challenges were delaying repairs to the docks.  Friday, the marina’s southern basin is set to reopen for vessels.  According to Hatten, “They have been out there trying to get the docks back under control – get the pylons built and they’re trying to make sure the next time a hurricane comes through we don’t suffer quite as much damage.”  At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, Martin said the contractor is still making a few repairs and dock adjustments but it won’t affect their use.  Hatten said he can’t wait to see boats back at the marina and their owners inside the store.  “We’re going to treat it as like a grand opening, you know, welcome everybody back,” said Hatten.
  • To meet the growing need for health care services in Clay County, Baptist Health is planning to build a full-service hospital on its existing Baptist Clay Medical Campus on Fleming Island. Baptist Health is investing $200 million to build the new hospital, which will create 700 new jobs in Clay County. Groundbreaking will occur in the spring of 2020, with the hospital opening planned for early 2022. The 300,000-square-foot, full-service hospital will open with 100 beds, including women’s services and enhanced cardiology services. The hospital will be designed with modern features, including placing diagnostic equipment near the ICU for patients who need it the most, corridors designed with calming LED lighting and centralized staff services to minimize noise. TRENDING STORIES:  JSO: Deadly officer-involved shooting on Harts Road Jacksonville baseball stadium has a new name Genene Jones: ‘Angel of Death’ PICU nurse gets life for 1981 murder of 11-month-old boy These services are in addition to those already existing at the Baptist Clay Campus in Fleming Island, which opened in May of 2013, and includes an adult ER, a Wolfson Children’s Hospital ER, an ambulatory surgery center, specialty services and imaging. “Clay County residents tell us they need more hospital-based health care services close to where they live and work,” Darin Roark, BSN, MBA, RN, FACHE, the current vice president of Ambulatory Campuses and Emergency Services, who will serve as the new hospital’s president, said. “Having a full-service hospital nearby will eliminate the need for travel, while providing the medical expertise that Baptist Health is known for.” The new hospital is being designed with patients’ and visitors’ preferences in mind, with large private patient rooms and onsite amenities, like Starbucks, an outdoor dining area, and a large community room for meetings and education that can hold up to 125 people. “It will be a place of health and wellness for the community,” Roark said. “We will host a variety of health-related events, such as “Talk with a Doc” discussions on a variety of health topics.” The hospital campus will include an outdoor jogging path connecting to the current Black Creek Trail. STAY UPDATED: Download the Action News Jax app for live updates on breaking stories
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is searching for a blue, older model Toyota Camry that may be connected to a shooting at the Target in Regency off Monument Road.  JSO says they believe a man got into an argument with a group of three or four people in the parking lot, before someone in the group pulled out a gun and shot the man in the hip. In response, Target was placed on a temporary lockdown.  Police say the victim has non life-threatening injuries, and no one else was injured.  This is still an active investigation, and so far, no arrests have been made.  If you have any information about this shooting, you’re asked to contact JSO or Crime Stoppers. 
  • Morning temperatures are at least 15 degrees warmer than Wednesday, but it’s still cool and windy, especially at the beaches.  A few brief showers are possible today. Skies will be mostly cloudy as highs climb into the 60’s. A few more scattered showers are likely tomorrow. Temperatures will be mild with highs in the lower 70’s. This weekend will be dry with cool mornings and highs in the lower 60’s, which is pretty average for late January in NE Florida. 
  • A statewide sea-level rise task force and Office of Resiliency is one step closer to becoming a reality in Florida. Behind the push, is St. Johns County state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.  “That’s the San Sebastian River out over there,” Michael Davis said.  Michael Davis showed Action News Jax how close the water is to his front yard in Lincolnville.  “When the hurricanes come through all that fills up with water,” Davis said.  Thankfully, his two properties on Riberia Street didn’t suffer indoor damage during the last two storms – but the water filled his yard and the street.  “It’s really scary to see that much water come in,” Davis said.  It unanimously passed a House committee on Tuesday.  Rising seas is top of mind for Davis and his neighbors.  Take Riberia Street for example, it’s one of the most vulnerable streets in St. Augustine.  Even though new drainage was installed a few years back it’s not immune to flooding. Homeowners fear the risk of flooding will devalue their properties.  “Hopefully we’ll be able to continue getting our insurance and our neighborhoods won’t lose any value,” Davis said.  The bill would also look at the economic impact facing Florida as its natural barriers erode.  Stevenson called it a “very important and well-constructed bill.”  An identical bill is also making its way through the Senate.  Davis said he’s glad lawmakers are paying attention but until a plan takes shape, all he can do now is prepare.  “I’ve been here all my life, I’m a life resident and I’m not going anywhere,” Davis said.
  • In day two of the search for evidence in Susan Mauldin’s disappearance case, the FBI revealed they have concentrated on a baseball diamond size area in the Chesser Island landfill located in Folkston, Georgia. Dozens of people from the FBI, State Attorneys office, and Clay County Sheriffs office are helping in the search efforts that began Tuesday.  Experts from the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia and tech hazard units are assisting in the search.  The FBI said they preserved an area of the landfill early in the investigation at the request of the Clay County Sheriffs office. The FBI did not allow additional dumping in that area which is now being searched by case detectives.  The landfill is laid out in a grid pattern, trash can be traced back to a specific date, and location.  It has been the center of other local high-profile cases like Joleen Cummings, and Somer Thompson.  The search comes months after Mauldin disappeared in October. Neighbors told Action News Jax the last time they saw Mauldin she had plans to meet with Binderim.  Mauldin moved to the United States from England, neighbors said she had no children and lived alone.  This search is the first major break in the case since Corey Binderim, an unlicensed contractor, was named a person of interest in Mauldin’s disappearance back in November. He’d done work in her home, neighbors say there was a falling out over money.  Binderim was arrested on an unrelated fraud charge in Duval County.
  • One organization is counting how many homeless people are living in our area to help get funding for vital programs aimed at helping them. Wednesday morning volunteers with Changing Homelessness bundled up and scoured the beaches looking for people sleeping outside for the 2020 census survey.  Nate has lived outside for the past 10 years.  'It can be tough, thank God we're not in Detroit or Minnesota or something,' he said.  The group is counting people like Nate because its needed to get funding for programs that help the homeless.  More than 1,600 people in Northeast Florida are homeless, according to the count in 2018.  The group is giving out surveys to people living out on the streets.  They're asking questions like how long it's been since they've stayed in permanent housing and where they'll be sleeping tonight,especially with the weather being so cold.  Justin Foster volunteered by handing out surveys.  'It's important to see where the homeless population is and who exactly we need to direct the resources, is it people of color, is it queer people of color, is it veterans, stuff like that,' Foster said.  The cold is having an impact on the number of people they’re able to count too.  'We actually didn't see as many as we many as we thought there was going to be because most of them were at he cold shelters at the shelters in Neptune Beach, so it's good to know what people know where to do when it's cold,' Foster said.  Only 30 surveys in the beaches area were filled out Wednesday morning.  Foster told me it made her more aware of whose living in the streets in her community.  'We found in this area that it was definitely people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s,' she said.  Changing Homelessness says it could take several weeks until they figure out how many people are homeless in Northeast Florida because they’re still collecting data throughout the week.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A Utah teenager suspected of lying in wait before shooting five members of his family will be tried as an adult, multiple news outlets reported. On Wednesday, the Tooele County District Attorney’s Office charged Colin Jeffery “CJ” Haynie, 16, with four counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted aggravated murder and five counts of discharge of a firearm, KSL reported. The charges came five days after authorities discovered the bodies of Consuelo Alejandra Haynie, 52; Milan Haynie, 12; Alexis Haynie, 15; and Matthew Haynie, 14; in the family’s Grantsville home. CJ Haynie is also accused of shooting his father, Colin Haynie, in the leg and striking him in the head during an ensuing struggle, but the younger Haynie ultimately agreed to travel with his father to the hospital where he was arrested without incident. The attacks occurred over the course of about five hours beginning around 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, KUTV reported. According to charging documents, the elder Haynie told the defendant during their confrontation his mother “would be sad if the defendant killed him,” but CJ Haynie told his father “that his mother and other siblings were already dead,” KSL reported. According to the TV station, prosecutors outlined in charging documents how CJ Haynie stayed home from school on Jan. 17 and waited for each member of his family to return home before systematically shooting them to death upon arrival. Colin Haynie also told authorities that CJ Haynie told him after the attacks that “his intention was to kill everyone in the house except himself.” An older brother, 24-year-old Danny Haynie, was not home during the shootings and is unharmed, KSL reported. Tooele County District Attorney Scott Broadhead confirmed during a Wednesday press conference that because CJ Haynie is a juvenile, he is not eligible for the death penalty under Utah law. Instead, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole, KUTV reported Broadhead said CJ Haynie has not cooperated with police since his arrest, the station reported. According to KSL, funeral services for the victims are scheduled for noon today, and CJ Haynie will make his first court appearance Monday afternoon. Read more here and here.
  • Local shark researchers are gearing up for their first expedition of 2020. Their work is helping the world learn more about white sharks and other animals that sometimes get a bad reputation.  Great white sharks are making their move south, with more than one swimming off Florida’s coast.  Onboard the OCEARCH shark research ship is Jacksonville University professor Dr. Bryan Franks.  “We believe that the population is increasing,” Franks explained.  Franks says more sharks are spotted near beaches in the north Atlantic Ocean, sometimes just feet away from the shoreline.  “You’ve seen the marine mammal populations begin to increase, and the shark population, their big predator, seems to be increasing along with it,” Franks added.  The lift used to transport sharks can hold up to 75,000 pounds. Without it, many of the scientific samples would be impossible to gather.  Christina Lobuglio is one of Dr. Franks’ students who will be out on the water with him and other scientists.  “The amount of people that I get to see, the amount of different scientists that come on board that allow me as a student to get that practical experience that I need to work in the field,” Lobuglio said.  Last year, local teams were able to tag four sharks.  Franks says this year, teams will spend more time farther offshore. He is hoping to tag at least five more sharks, which would bring the tagged shark population to 60.  Researchers are also hoping to get an ultrasound of a pregnant great white shark.  “I’m more of an ecologist, but we’re working with microbiologists and veterinarians, and really working with other scientists allows us to make bigger breakthroughs,” Franks said.  Each shark will be fitted with at least one satellite transmitter tag and an acoustic tag.  “It allows us to track these sharks in real time,” Lobuglio said.  As the sharks’ fins break the surface, the satellite tags will transmit their locations.  For more information on OCEARCH’s tracker list, click here.
  • Plans are moving forward for a new development in San Marco. Neighbors said the city’s Planning Commission voted to approve the project at Thursday’s meeting.  A developer wants to purchase part of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church’s property and build a four-story apartment building called Park Place.  The group Right Size San Marco is made up of dozens of neighbors who are pushing back against the project.  Lauren Carlucci lives near where the apartment complex would go.  “We really are not opposed to apartments, and we’re not opposed to a garage. We just want it to fit with the neighborhood,” Carlucci said.  Many neighbors are worried about the increased traffic and overdevelopment, especially with a new Publix planned directly across the street.  “This is a ton of stuff happening at once,” Carlucci said. “We have to be careful the way that we develop. We have to manage the safety and the walkability of San Marco.”  The plan would need to go in front of the City Council before a final vote.
  • More than 100 million Americans may have been drinking water contaminated with highly toxic chemicals. A new report from the Environmental Working Group says PFAS was found in every state on military sites, in drinking water or other unknown sites. It said the harmful chemicals were found in more than 712 locations in 49 states.  PFAS are man-made chemicals. They are known as “forever chemicals” because once released into the environment, they do not break down and builds up in a person’s blood or organs. Typically, PFAS can be found in household products, food packaging and firefighting foam.  EWG said low exposure to some PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened childhood immunity and many other health problems.  However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no drinking water standard for PFAS. Currently, lawmakers are working to pass a bill that would enforce regulations.  According to the EWG report, Duval and Clay counties had three locations with contamination: the Jacksonville International Airport, Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Camp Blanding.  The test results for JIA shows PFAS contamination in the groundwater on-base in 2018. The suspected source is firefighting foam. A representative from JIA told Action News Jax firefighting foam is used to contain fires at the airport, which is all regulated by the FAA.  Similar results were found at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. The test results show PFOS=PFOA found in the groundwater on-base in 2018. The suspect source is also firefighting foam.  The test results for Camp Blanding found PFAS in its distribution system in 2017. Firefighting foam was also the suspected source.  Action News Jax has reached out to NAS Jax and Camp Blanding about these findings and have not gotten a response.
  • A former wildlife park owner and one-time Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate who goes by the moniker “Joe Exotic” was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in federal prison in a plot to kill a woman with whom he clashed over his mistreatment of animals. Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 56, of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, was found guilty last April of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. Arrested Sept. 7, 2018, in Gulf Breeze, Florida, he went to trial in late March in Oklahoma City. Maldonado-Passage is former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. The Tampa Bay Times reported that he also ran unsuccessfully for Oklahoma governor in 2018. The “Joe Exotic” case has garnered national attention, including as the subject of a podcast by Wondery for its series, “Over My Dead Body.” The description in a trailer for the podcast calls Maldonado-Passage a self-described “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet.” He also had his own YouTube channel, JoeExoticTV, on which videos were posted until last week. The Oklahoman reported that Maldonado-Passage’s first husband, 23-year-old Travis Maldonado, died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head Oct. 6, 2017, at the animal park. Maldonado told those present that the gun would not fire because he had removed the magazine, the newspaper said. A bullet was in the chamber when he pulled the trigger, however. Maldonado-Passage, at that time the Libertarian candidate to replace outgoing Gov. Mary Fallin, was not present when his husband died. He remarried two months after the fatal shooting, the Times reported. Maldonado-Passage’s federal convictions for violating the Endangered Species Act and for falsifying records, which is a violation of the Lacey Act, involve his treatment of the animals that were in his care when he ran the animal park. “Maldonado-Passage falsified forms involving the sale of wildlife in interstate commerce, killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room for cage space for other big cats, and sold and offered to sell tiger cubs in interstate commerce. Because tigers are an endangered species, these alleged killings and sales violated the Endangered Species Act,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma said. The current owners of the animal park, Lauren and Jeff Lowe, wrote on Facebook Jan. 16 that it would be just six more days before the “monster” who killed the tigers would go to federal prison. The post was accompanied by photos that appeared to show the slain animals’ bones being excavated from the ground. “His tyranny in the animal world is over,” the post read. “He will never own another animal again unless his cell has cockroaches.” In an interview with KOCO in Oklahoma City, the Lowes said they were relieved by the sentence and were looking for a fresh start without a connection to “Joe Exotic.” They announced plans in 2018 to move the animal park to a new location not sullied by Maldonado-Passage’s actions. “His name will not be mentioned,” Lauren Lowe told the news station. “He will have nothing to do with the new facility. Going to let this place in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, die with him.” Animal rights activist Carole Baskin, the woman Maldonado-Passage tried to have killed, spoke in court last week about the decade of threats and verbal venom Maldonado-Passage subjected her to. Her statement, in its entirety, has been posted on her sanctuary’s website and on YouTube. Baskin is the founder of Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary based out of Tampa, Florida. She told the court Maldonado-Passage’s conviction was based on “only a handful of vivid examples of his malicious intent to murder me. “The prosecution didn’t need to present the daily barrage of threats to harm, rape or kill me that were my daily experience for the past 10 years,” Baskin said. She said that the trial evidence showed how, over a span of several years, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly tried to coerce, and then hire, someone to kill her. “Because of his constant threats to kill me, I have found myself seeing every bystander as a potential threat,” Baskin said. “There is nowhere that I have felt safe, and worse, no way that I feel I can safeguard those around me. “So many of his threats involved blowing me up, so that he could thrill over seeing me burn to death. Even from jail he gleefully talks about the prospect of me dying a fiery death.” Baskin told the judge it was “nothing short of a miracle” that she was able to stand up in court and ask that he consider everything Maldonado-Passage took from her. “As you consider his sentence, I would just like you to take into account that if this vicious, obsessed man is ever released from jail, my life and my family’s lives will return to what it was like during the decade leading up to his arrest,” Baskin said. “If he completes his sentence and is released, we will end up spending the rest of our lives constantly looking over our shoulders.” Watch Carole Baskin talk about Joseph Maldonado-Passage’s sentencing below. Maldonado-Passage, who also goes by the name Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, had an ongoing dispute with Baskin stemming from her criticism of his wildlife center’s care, exhibition and breeding practices for big cats like lions and tigers. “Until 2011, the dispute was carried on primarily through traditional and social media,” a November 2018 indictment in the case reads. That year, Baskin filed a civil lawsuit against Maldonado-Passage. The Times reported that, in retaliation for Baskin’s outreach efforts to stop people from booking his traveling petting zoo, Maldonado-Passage had renamed the attraction the “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.” The trademark infringement suit in February 2013 resulted in a judgment against Maldonado-Passage, requiring him to pay Baskin more than $1 million. She and her sanctuary have never received any of the money. By January 2012, Maldonado-Passage’s criticism of Baskin turned to threats of violence, including threats on Facebook and YouTube. According to an interview Baskin did with the Times, the threats included a video Maldonado-Passage made of himself shooting a blow-up doll dressed to look like her. He also produced an image of Baskin hanging in effigy, the newspaper reported. In early November 2017, Maldonado-Passage began trying to hire a hit man to travel to Florida and kill Baskin, the indictment says. On Nov. 6, the supposed hit man traveled from Oklahoma to Dallas to get fake identification for use when traveling to Florida. Later that month, Maldonado-Passage mailed the man’s cellphone to Nevada to conceal the proposed gunman’s involvement in the plot. That same day, Nov. 25, Maldonado-Passage gave the man $3,000 he had received in the sale of a big cat to the man as payment for Baskin’s murder, the indictment says. Thousands more would be paid once the job was complete. That plot never materialized. The Times reported last year that the would-be killer ran off with the money and never made it to Florida. Jurors at Maldonado-Passage’s trial also heard that, beginning in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly asked a second witness to kill Baskin or to help him find someone who would. The person he went to that time went to authorities and arranged a December 2017 meeting with a supposed hit man. The hit man was an undercover FBI agent. “The jury heard a recording of his meeting with the agent to discuss details of the planned murder,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Watch a “Joe Exotic Sizzle Reel” from Maldonado-Passage’s YouTube channel below. It may contain some graphic language. Timothy J. Downing, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, said Maldonado-Passage’s conviction and sentencing was the result of “countless hours of detailed investigative work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” “We are thankful for the court’s thoughtful consideration of the gravity of this murder-for-hire scheme, as well as the defendant’s egregious wildlife crimes in imposing a 22-year sentence,” Downing said. Edward Grace, assistant director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, said the successful prosecution was the result of cooperation between the U. S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Wildlife crime is often connected with other criminal activity, such as fraud, narcotics, money-laundering and smuggling. Mr. Maldonado-Passage added murder-for-hire,” Grace said in a statement. “The service, along with our partners, will continue to bring to justice those involved in wildlife trafficking and other assorted crimes.”

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