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    When he took the job 15 years ago, Horry County Emergency Manager Randy Webster figured his biggest disasters would be wind and surge rolling over his county's beaches, South Carolina's top tourist destination. Instead, his worries have shifted inland, where rivers overflowing their banks have caused two massive floods in three years. 'We're getting into this sort of unknown territory,' Webster said. 'We typically in emergency management have some point of reference to work with. Two floods like this — it's unheard of.' Scientists say the Earth's warming climate means more heavy rainfall over short periods of time, and that translates to larger, more ferocious storms on the scale of 2017's Hurricane Harvey in Texas or 2018's Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas. Florence dumped six months' worth of rain on the Carolinas in the course of just a few days. The growing realization that such events are going to become more common as the result of global warming is forcing Webster and other state officials to revisit how they prepare for and respond to natural disasters. Late last year, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster created the South Carolina Floodwater Commission to figure out how to better combat flooding unleashed by hurricanes, rising ocean levels and other rain systems upstream that send rivers and creeks over their banks on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. One thing that local governments must do is use forecast tools that predict several different scenarios based on possible temperature rise, rather than relying on flood maps of the past, when severe inundations were rare, said Larry Larson, a former director and senior policy adviser for the Association of State Floodplain Managers. They also should be prepared to alter landscapes, divert runoff, and to buy up houses and other private properties that frequently end up under water, and to elevate those buildings if necessary, Larson said. 'These owners won't sell after the first flood; they think they have another 99 years to go,' he said. 'But they will sell after the second flood.' Property owners are resistant because of the cues they get from weather forecasters and government officials, who still employ such terminology as '100-year' floods. Despite its name, a 100-year flood doesn't mean once-in-a-lifetime. Instead, it means a level of flooding that has a 1 percent chance of happening in any particular year, said Susan L. Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. 'People are not really good at understanding probability,' Cutter said. Dealing with the consequences of natural disasters is daunting even when residents receive advance notice. Emergency officials in Conway, a city of 23,000 about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the beach, took the map of Hurricane Matthew's flooding in 2016 and — based on forecasts — drew the lines out a little farther, accurately predicting nearly to a home which ones would flood during Hurricane Florence in September. That gave residents a week or more to get whatever they could out their homes. Kevin Tovornik was one of them. Tovornik lost his air conditioner and duct work in the 2016 flood. In 2018, he saved his furniture, but still ended up losing the house. For a while, he paid two mortgages: this one and one on a townhome he had to move into 30 miles (48 kilometers) away. To save money, he now lives in an RV in his yard in Conway. He hasn't been able to start repairs on the house because too much rain has fallen over the past few months for anything to dry out. Tovornik and his wife don't want to rebuild. He said he would now have to elevate the house with no guarantee there isn't another record flood to come on the Waccamaw River, which crested 3.5 feet (1 meter) above the level it reached during Matthew. But at the moment, he can only get back 75 percent of the appraised value of the house through the federal government's buyback program. 'Where else in South Carolina right now is your house losing that kind of value?' Tovornik said. 'It's hard to get your feet back on the ground. You have so many strikes against you. You have a mortgage on a house that is uninhabitable.' As they consider how to plan for and react to future weather events, the governor and fellow politically conservative members of the South Carolina Floodwater Commission aren't quite ready to accept the general consensus among scientists that pollution and other manmade factors are largely to blame for climate change. The commission's leader, attorney and environmental professor Tom Mullikin said solving the problem can't be derailed by what he described as politically charged debates over the cause. 'We are going to deal with the real-time impacts of a climate that has changed throughout all of time,' Mullikin said. 'We — the governor — is not entertaining a political conversation.' Whatever the causes of the extreme weather, meteorologists say it will strike again as it did last year, when more than 100 reporting stations, mostly east of the Mississippi River, recorded more rainfall than at any other time, according to the Southeast Regional Climate Center. Weather experts are also investigating potentially record rainfall in South Carolina and North Carolina last year. Pickens County Emergency Management Director Denise Kwiatek first got a sign the weather world was changing five years ago. In the summer of 2013, Kwiatek knew a heavy storm was hitting a section of Pickens County in the northern part of the state, but conditions didn't seem too bad in the middle of the county where she was. And yet, just 15 miles (24 kilometers) away, thousands of plant species collected over decades at Clemson University's South Carolina Botanical Gardens were being swept away as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain fell in a few hours. 'More of those little events are happening. We are learning to be more vigilant,' Kwiatek said.
  • A Moscow court has ordered a U.S. investment fund manager to be jailed for two months while facing fraud charges. Michael Calvey, founder and senior partner at Baring Vostok equity firm, was detained Friday morning along with two other fund managers. Prosecutors say Calvey is suspected of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($37 million) from Vostochny Bank, where Baring Vostok has a controlling stake. But Calvey said during his court appearance Saturday that the charges against him are likely connected to an arbitration case that Baring Vostok initiated against some Vostochny Bank shareholders. Calvey has worked for years in Russia and invested heavily in the country's technology sector, including in the web search company Yandex.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel robustly defended European nations' decision to stand by the Iran nuclear deal in a spirited backing Saturday of her multilateral approach to global affairs, but U.S. Vice President Mike Pence promptly accused Europe of once again undermining the United States. Merkel's comments at the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of top global defense and foreign policy officials, followed days of tensions between Washington and Europe over Iran. U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement last year, leaving the others involved — Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union — scrambling to try and keep it alive. The deal offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has said so far that Tehran is sticking to the agreement. But the U.S. argues that the deal just puts off when Iran might be able to build a nuclear bomb. Pence pushed at the conference for Europeans to end their involvement in the nuclear deal, calling Iran 'the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.' 'The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,' Pence said. 'The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.' The comments came after Merkel said she shared concerns about many Iranian efforts to grow its power in the region. While she said the split with the U.S. over the nuclear agreement 'depresses me very much,' she defended it as an important channel to Tehran. 'I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria,' she said. 'The only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?' Merkel also questioned whether it's good for the U.S. to withdraw troops quickly from Syria 'or is that not also strengthening the possibilities for Iran and Russia to exert influence there?' Turning to nuclear disarmament, Merkel said the U.S. announcement earlier this month that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty was 'inevitable' because of Russian violations. Moscow followed suit by also withdrawing from the treaty, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also has worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which is not covered by the treaty. Merkel noted the treaty was conceived 'essentially for Europe,' where such missiles were stationed during the Cold War. She said 'the answer cannot lie in blind rearmament.' 'Disarmament is something that concerns us all, and we would of course be glad if such negotiations were conducted not just between the United States ... and Russia, but also with China,' she said. Merkel also defended Germany's progress in fulfilling NATO guidelines for countries to move toward spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024, which have been criticized as too slow. And overall, she rejected the idea of go-it-alone foreign policy. She said it is better to 'put yourself in the other's shoes ... and see whether we can get win-win solutions together.' Pence stuck to the U.S. line that the 2 percent NATO guideline is a strict commitment rather than a target, saying while more alliance members have met the criteria, 'the truth is, many of our NATO allies still need to do more.' He also reiterated American opposition to the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which Washington is concerned will make Europe overly reliant on Russian gas. 'The United States commends all our European partners who've taken a strong stand against Nord Stream 2,' he said. 'And we commend others to do that same.' Merkel defended the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, dismissing the American concerns as unfounded and assuring Ukraine that it won't get cut off from Russian fuel. Speaking as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko looked on, she told him his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the pipeline is complete. Merkel noted that Europe also has enough terminals to receive more liquefied gas from the U.S., among other options. 'There's nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.' Merkel's speech was warmly received, while Pence's met with polite applause. The two met one-on-one after the speeches and Pence told reporters they had 'frank' discussions on all of the issues they'd touched on in public. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who was in office when the Iran nuclear deal was negotiated, went out of his way to thank Merkel and defended the Iran deal as a 'significant agreement.' 'The America I see does not want to turn its back on the world,' Biden said. ___ Moulson reported from Berlin.
  • Evidence collected over months and being unveiled Monday could reveal whether the nation's last undecided congressional election was either tainted by so much ballot-tampering that a winner cannot be declared - or that that the actual winner was unfairly denied the seat. North Carolina's state elections board — reassembled last month after an unrelated legal challenge found the previous version unconstitutional — holds at least two days of hearings when investigators will describe their findings into allegations that a political operative may have tampered with or even discarded mail-in ballots. The State Board of Elections said it could decide after hearing the evidence whether to certify Republican Mark Harris as the winner over Democrat Dan McCready. It also could order a new election in the 9th Congressional District. The previous elections board twice refused to declare Harris the winner after hearing reports of irregularities just before the November 2016 election in rural Bladen County, home of a political operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. Dowless' vote-getting work has drawn attention for years. But with Harris leading McCready by only 905 votes out of nearly 278,000 cast, Dowless has come under intense focus. 'You likely wouldn't know as much about these allegations if it hadn't been such a close race,' said Martin Kifer, the political science department chairman at North Carolina's High Point University. One of the methods participants said Dowless used was to hire workers to collect absentee ballots from voters who received them and then turn them over to Dowless, according to an elections board investigation of the 2016 campaign. One witness interviewed by investigators last year said he saw Dowless handling a sheaf of blank ballots and others that may have been completed and held to turn in later. Workers took the ballots, whether completed or not, and handed them over to Dowless, according to sworn affidavits signed by multiple voters after the November election. In addition, two Bladen County women told WSOC-TV in Charlotte last fall that Dowless had directed them to do the same. State election law prohibits anyone other than a guardian or close family member to handle mail-in ballots. Former Bladen County sheriff's deputy Kenneth Simmons told The Associated Press that he met Dowless at a meeting of local Republicans ahead of the May 2018 primary. Simmons said he was given a list of voters to approach on behalf of the candidate for sheriff he supported. He said he was also handed blank absentee ballots with sections highlighted in yellow that Dowless said needed to be completed. 'He highlighted it, for where to fill it out, and he said as long as they got that much of it he'd do the rest,' Simmons said in a phone interview. Dowless declined an interview request and his lawyer did not respond to messages. Harris' team said in a legal briefing submitted to the elections board last week that the board should certify him the winner no matter what Dowless did for the campaign. 'Technical irregularities —like ballot harvesting — do not provide enough reason to order a new election,' the attorneys said. The elections board also is expected to hear about the unusual number of absentee ballots that voters requested but never returned. A Harvard University elections expert is expected to testify that absentee ballots in Bladen and neighboring Robeson counties disappeared at a rate 2 ½ to three times higher than the rest of the congressional district or elsewhere in North Carolina. Of the absentee ballots that were returned, Harris 'greatly overperformed' in Bladen and Robeson counties when compared to what might have been expected based on patterns elsewhere in the state. McCready 'greatly underperformed,' said Prof. Stephen Ansolabehere. 'Statistical tests show that these deviations are extremely unlikely to have arisen by chance,' Ansolabehere said in an affidavit filed on behalf of McCready. Dowless' activities could lead the state elections board to 'order a new election if the results are in doubt even if the candidates had nothing to do with any malfeasance,' or wrongful conduct, said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. Four of the five members on the board — composed of three Democrats and two Republicans — would need to agree a new election is necessary. If that doesn't happen, McCready's lawyers said state officials should send their findings to the Democrat-dominated U.S. House and let it decide whether Harris should be seated — arguing that the U.S. Constitution gives the House authority over the elections and qualifications of its members. ___ Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio .
  • The Latest on the international security conference taking place in Munich (all times local): 1:35 p.m. A top Chinese official is defending Huawei, dismissing American concerns that the telecom giant might covertly collect data and report it to Beijing, and urging Europeans to ignore Washington. Yang Jiechi's comments Saturday came after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence labeled Huawei a 'threat' to national security systems and urged allies to exclude them from developing 5G wireless infrastructure. Yang told the Munich Security Conference Europeans 'know where their own interests lie, so let there be fewer lectures,' accusing the U.S. of pushing its own self interests. He says 'Chinese law does not require companies to install back doors or collect intelligence' and said Huawei 'as a company is cooperating very closely with the European countries.' He says 'the Europeans know very well what is the wise path for them to go forward.' — This item corrects Pence's title. ___ 1 p.m. A senior Chinese official is signaling that Beijing isn't interested in joining an expanded version of the Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty between the United States and Russia that Washington and Moscow have decided to abandon. The U.S. announced this month that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty because of Russian violations. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also has worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China, which is not covered by the treaty. Politburo member Yang Jiechi told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that the INF treaty should be preserved but 'China develops its capabilities strictly according to its defensive needs and doesn't pose a threat to anybody else. So we are opposed to the multilateralization of (the) INF.' ___ 12:50 p.m. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is urging allies to take seriously 'the threat' posed by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as they look for partners to build 5G wireless infrastructure. Pence said Saturday the U.S. had been 'clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies.' He told the Munich Security Conference they 'provide Beijing's vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment (and) we must protect our critical telecom infrastructure.' He says 'America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems.' China rejects the U.S. position, saying Washington has provided no evidence Huawei threatens national security. ___ 12:25 p.m. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is doubling down on his criticism of European nations working to preserve a nuclear deal with Iran, saying they should follow Washington's lead and withdraw from the agreement. Speaking Saturday right after Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 2015 Iran deal, Pence said 'the time has come for our European partners to stop undermining sanctions' by continuing to offer economic incentives in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear capability. He says Europe should withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal 'and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.' France, Germany and Britain, as well as the European Union, Russia and China, have been struggling to preserve the deal since the U.S. pulled out last year. ___ 12:10 p.m. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says U.S. authorities appear to have concluded that European cars are a threat to national security. Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference that Germany is 'proud of our cars, and we're allowed to be,' and many of them are built in the U.S. The European Union and the U.S. have been trying to ratchet down trade tensions in recent months and Merkel says she has 'great hope' in the negotiations. But she added: 'It is not entirely easy for me as German chancellor to read that apparently — I don't have it in writing yet — the American Commerce Department says German, European cars are a threat to national security.' She noted that German automaker BMW's biggest plant is in South Carolina 'and if these cars ... are suddenly a threat to the United States' national security, that startles us.' ___ 12 noon Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending the development of the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, dismissing American concerns it will weaken Europe's strategic position and assuring Ukraine it won't get cut off from Russian fuel. Merkel on Saturday told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Munich Security Conference his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the Baltic pipeline is complete. On security concerns, she says the question is 'how dependent are we on Russian gas, and that has nothing to do with the delivery.' She says Europe also has enough terminals to receive more LNG fuel from the U.S., has its own natural gas and has other options, too. She says 'there's nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.' ___ 11:50 a.m. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending European powers' decision to stand by the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as an 'anchor' allowing the West to exert pressure. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Germany, France and Britain of trying to 'break' American sanctions on Iran and called on them to follow Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal. Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday the split over Iran 'depresses me very much,' but downplayed the substance of the differences. She said: 'I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria.' But 'the only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?' ___ 11:45 a.m. Egypt's president has called on Western countries to boost efforts at tackling extremist ideology in online media and mosques. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says countries must 'tackle websites that are inciting hatred and spreading extremist and terrorist narratives among communities in the Islamic world and in the West.' He also said authorities should 'be very mindful of what is being promoted at houses of worship,' adding that extremists should not be allowed to preach. He underlined his efforts in Egypt to control the sermons in mosques. Egypt has wide-ranging restrictions on free speech. El-Sissi also mentioned that in the terrorism context, the failure to reach a fair and final settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents the main source of instability in the Middle East. ___ 11:15 a.m. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling on China to join international disarmament negotiations after the collapse of a Cold War-era treaty on nuclear weapons in Europe. The U.S. earlier this month announced that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, accusing Russia of violating it. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China. Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that the U.S. withdrawal was 'inevitable' because of Russian violations. But she noted the end of a treaty conceived 'essentially for Europe' leaves Europe trying to secure future disarmament to protect its own interests.
  • Five Democratic senators vying for their party's nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020 are fanning out across the country Saturday to campaign and meet voters. Kamala Harris of California plans to spend her second straight day in the pivotal early-voting state of South Carolina, holding a town hall meeting in Columbia, the capital. Also visiting the state is Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who's set to meet voters in Greenville before heading to Georgia — an unusual early stop for a White House hopeful but one that signals Democratic hopes to make inroads in the South. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are focusing on New Hampshire. For Booker, it's his first visit to there since joining the race earlier this month. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota is making her own uncommon choice for early campaigning by visiting Wisconsin before heading to Iowa, home to the nation's first caucus. The senators are campaigning during the long holiday weekend that marks the start of Congress' first recess this year. And their outreach to voters comes in the wake of Trump's controversial decision to declare a national emergency in order to unilaterally redirect federal money for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • In early November, word began to leak that Amazon was serious about choosing New York to build a giant new campus. The city was eager to lure the company and its thousands of high-paying tech jobs, offering billions in tax incentives and lighting the Empire State Building in Amazon orange. Even Governor Andrew Cuomo got in on the action: 'I'll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that's what it takes,' he joked at the time. Then Amazon made it official: It chose the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens to build a $2.5 billion campus that could house 25,000 workers, in addition to new offices planned for northern Virginia. Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democrats who have been political adversaries for years, trumpeted the decision as a major coup after edging out more than 230 other proposals. But what they didn't expect was the protests, the hostile public hearings and the disparaging tweets that would come in the next three months, eventually leading to Amazon's dramatic Valentine's Day breakup with New York. Immediately after Amazon's Nov. 12 announcement, criticism started to pour in. The deal included $1.5 billion in special tax breaks and grants for the company, but a closer look at the total package revealed it to be worth at least $2.8 billion. Some of the same politicians who had signed a letter to woo Amazon were now balking at the tax incentives. 'Offering massive corporate welfare from scarce public resources to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world at a time of great need in our state is just wrong,' said New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris and New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrats who represent the Long Island City area, in a joint statement. The next day, CEO Jeff Bezos was on the cover of The New York Post in a cartoon-like illustration, hanging out of a helicopter, holding money bags in each hand, with cash billowing above the skyline. 'QUEENS RANSOM,' the headline screamed. The New York Times editorial board, meanwhile, called the deal a 'bad bargain' for the city: 'We won't know for 10 years whether the promised 25,000 jobs will materialize,' it said. Anti-Amazon rallies were planned for the next week. Protesters stormed a New York Amazon bookstore on the day after Thanksgiving and then went to a rally on the steps of a courthouse near the site of the new headquarters in the pouring rain. Some held cardboard boxes with Amazon's smile logo turned upside down. They had a long list of grievances: the deal was done secretively; Amazon, one of the world's most valuable companies, didn't need nearly $3 billion in tax incentives; rising rents could push people out of the neighborhood; and the company was opposed to unionization. The helipad kept coming up, too: Amazon, in its deal with the city, was promised it could build a spot to land a helicopter on or near the new offices. At the first public hearing in December, which turned into a hostile, three-hour interrogation of two Amazon executives by city lawmakers, the helipad was mentioned more than a dozen times. The image of high-paid executives buzzing by a nearby low-income housing project became a symbol of corporate greed. Queens residents soon found postcards from Amazon in their mailboxes, trumpeting the benefits of the project. Gianaris sent his own version, calling the company 'Scamazon' and urging people to call Bezos and tell him to stay in Seattle. At a second city council hearing in January, Amazon's vice president for public policy, Brian Huseman, subtly suggested that perhaps the company's decision to come to New York could be reversed. 'We want to invest in a community that wants us,' he said. Then came a sign that Amazon's opponents might actually succeed in derailing the deal: In early February, Gianaris was tapped for a seat on a little-known state panel that often has to approve state funding for big economic development projects. That meant if Amazon's deal went before the board, Gianaris could kill it. 'I'm not looking to negotiate a better deal,' Gianaris said at the time. 'I am against the deal that has been proposed.' Cuomo had the power to block Gianaris' appointment, but he didn't indicate whether he would take that step. Meanwhile, Amazon's own doubts about the project started to show. On Feb. 8, The Washington Post reported that the company was having second thoughts about the Queens location. On Wednesday, Cuomo brokered a meeting with four top Amazon executives and the leaders of three unions critical of the deal. The union leaders walked away with the impression that the parties had an agreed upon framework for further negotiations, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union. 'We had a good conversation. We talked about next steps. We shook hands,' Appelbaum said. An Amazon representative did not respond to a request for comment for this story. The final blow landed Thursday, when Amazon announced on a blog post that it was backing out, surprising the mayor, who had spoken to an Amazon executive Monday night and received 'no indication' that the company would bail. Amazon still expected the deal to be approved, according to a source familiar with Amazon's thinking, but that the constant criticism from politicians didn't make sense for the company to grow there. 'I was flabbergasted,' De Blasio said. 'Why on earth after all of the effort we all put in would you simply walk away?' ___ Associated Press Writers Alexandra Olson and Karen Matthews in New York, and David Klepper in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.
  • Chicago police released without charges two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett and said they have new evidence to investigate as a result of questioning them. 'The individuals questioned by police in the Empire case have now been released without charging and detectives have additional investigative work to complete,' Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a brief statement late Friday. He gave no details of the new evidence. Smollett, who is black and gay, has said two masked men shouting racial and anti-gay slurs and 'This is MAGA country!' beat him and looped a rope around his neck early on Jan. 29 before running away. He said they also poured some kind of chemical on him. Smollett, 36, said he was out getting food at a Subway sandwich shop in downtown Chicago when the attack happened. A spokeswoman for Smollett said she had no comment on the release of the two men Friday. The two men, identified only as Nigerian brothers, were picked up at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Wednesday on their return from Nigeria after police learned at least one worked on 'Empire,' Guglielmi said. He said he did not know what the man's job was. Guglielmi also said police searched the Chicago apartment where the men lived. But he said he had no information on what was found. Police have said they found no surveillance video of an attack but continue to look. Investigators also said they were contacting stores in the hope of finding out who bought the rope that was around Smollett's neck. But police earlier this week said there was 'no evidence to say that this is a hoax' and that Smollett 'continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect.' In an interview with ABC News, the singer and actor said he didn't remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived 'because I wanted them to see.' Smollett also said he initially refused to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers. He later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for an investigation. ___ See AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case: https://www.apnews.com/JussieSmollett
  • The frantic calls started pouring in at 1:24 p.m. A gunman was shooting people inside a sprawling manufacturing warehouse in Aurora, Illinois. Within four minutes, the first police officers rushed to the 29,000-square-foot building in the suburban Chicago city and were fired on immediately; one was struck outside and four others shot inside. By the time the chaos ended Friday afternoon, five male employees of Henry Pratt Co. were found dead and the gunman was killed in a shootout with police after a 90-minute search of the sprawling warehouse. Five male police officers were hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening. 'For so many years, we have seen similar situations throughout our nation and the horrible feeling that we get when we see it on the news. To experience it first-hand, is even more painful,' said Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin. Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said the gunman, 45-year-old Gary Martin, was being fired from his job Friday after 15 years with the company. It was not immediately known why Martin was being fired. 'We don't know whether he had the gun on him at the time or if he went to retrieve it,' Ziman said. She also said that authorities don't yet know if the employees firing him were among the victims. The names of those killed were not immediately released. In addition to the five employees killed, a sixth worker was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. A sixth police officer suffered a knee injury while officers were searching the building. The shooting shocked the city of 200,000 that is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Chicago. Christy Fonseca often worries about some of the gang-related crimes and shootings around her mother's Aurora neighborhood. But she never expected the type of phone call she got from her mom on Friday, warning her to be careful with an active shooter loose in the town. Police cars with screaming sirens revved past her as she drove to her mother's house, where the Henry Pratt building is visible from the porch stoop. It was only when they flipped on the television news that they realized Martin had killed people just a few hundred feet away. 'In Aurora, period, we'd never thought anything like this would happen,' Fonseca, a lifelong resident, said as she looked out at the warehouse where Henry Pratt makes valves for industrial purposes. At Acorn Woods Condominiums where Martin lived, a mix of brick apartments and condos nestled on a quiet street just a mile and a half from the shooting, neighbors gathered on sidewalks near Martin's unit talking and wondering among themselves if they knew or had come in contact with him. Mary McKnight stepped out of her car with a cherry cheesecake purchased for her son's birthday, to find a flurry of police cars, officers and media trucks. 'This is a strange thing to come home to, right,' she said. She had just learned that the shooter lived close by and his unit in the complex had been taped off by police. Asked if Martin's rampage had been a 'classic' workplace shooting, police chief Ziman said: 'I don't know. We can only surmise with a gentleman that's being terminated that this was something he intended to do.' .
  • Pakistani officials said Saturday a visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Islamabad has been delayed by a day, a sudden announcement that surprised many Pakistanis, who were preparing to welcome the Saudi delegation amid extraordinary security in the capital. Without giving any explanation, the Foreign Ministry said Prince Mohammad will now arrive in Islamabad on a two-day visit Sunday and that his program remains unchanged. It will be the crown prince's first visit to Pakistan since he was appointed heir to the throne in 2017. The prince was originally scheduled to come to Pakistan later Saturday along with a delegation of businessmen. But Pakistani officials confirmed Saturday that an upcoming conference of Pakistani and Saudi business leaders was postponed 'due to unavoidable circumstances.' It suggested that Prince Mohammad will now visit Pakistan with a reduced number of business officials. Pakistan expects a $7 billion Saudi investment over the next two years after Prince Mohammad's visit The prince will also travel to neighboring India amid heightened tension between Islamabad and New Delhi over this week's attack on a paramilitary convoy in Indian-controlled Kashmir that killed 41 people. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed Pakistan for Thursday's bombing. Pakistan rejected the allegation. Saudi Arabia has also strongly condemned the attack in Kashmir. Last year, Pakistan voiced its support for the prince when he faced international outrage following the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. The kingdom quickly signed an agreement for a $6 billion assistance package after Khan attended an investment conference in October that saw a wave of cancellations linked to the Khashoggi killing. Khashoggi, who had written critically about the prince, went missing on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. After denying any knowledge of his death for weeks, Saudi authorities eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed in an operation aimed at forcibly bringing the writer back to the kingdom. Saudi prosecutors say the plan was masterminded by two former advisers to the crown prince. The kingdom denies the crown prince knew of the plot.

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  • As the investigation of a quadruple shooting in Northwest Jacksonville continues, police now say the situation escalated from a planned fight. JSO responded to Elizabeth Powell Park on Redpoll Avenue Thursday night following reports of a shooting. Police initially said several people were gathered at the basketball courts when a fight broke out and several people on scene shot at each other. In all, a 14-year-old and a 24-year-old were killed, and two other people suffered non-life threatening injuries. Investigators now say the fight was actually planned in advance between two female acquaintances who were in an ongoing dispute. JSO says people learned about the fight and gathered to watch, and several ultimately got involved. Some of those spectators then pulled guns and started shooting. In light of this, JSO says they do not believe the shooting was random. Police are asking for any information you have, including asking people who were at the park or watching the fight to come forward. If anyone has video of the fight or has seen posts on social media, they’re asking those people to let them know. You can contact JSO at 904-630-0500 or JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. You can also submit an anonymous tip and be eligible for a possible $3,000 reward by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
  • A gunman opened fire at the Henry Pratt Company, a valve manufacturer in suburban Chicago on Friday, killing five people and wounding at least five police officers before he was fatally shot, police said. >> Read more trending news Officers arrived within four minutes of receiving reports of a shooting and were fired upon as soon as they entered the 29,000-square-foot manufacturing warehouse, Aurora, Police Chief Kristen Ziman said in a news conference. Update 6:45 p.m. EST Feb. 15: The chief of police says five people were killed and five officers were wounded in a shooting at a business in suburban Chicago. Aurora Police Chief, Kristen Ziman, identified the gunman as 45-year-old Gary Martin. Ziman says the gunman was also killed. The five police officers that were injured in the shooting are in stable condition according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Update 5:15 p.m. EST Feb. 15: A spokesman for the coroner’s office says at least one person is dead following a shooting at a business in suburban Chicago.  Kane County coroner’s office spokesman Chris Nelson says at least one person was killed in the attack Friday afternoon at the Henry Pratt Co. building in Aurora. Update 4:45 p.m. EST Feb. 15: A city spokesman told WGN that at least four police officers were injured.  Police have not said if anyone else has been injured. Update 4:15 p.m. EST Feb. 15: Initial reports indicate that the shooter has been apprehended, but the area is still on lockdown. Update 3:55 p.m. EST Feb. 15: A man who said he witnessed Friday’s shooting told WLS-TV that he recognized the person who opened fire at the Henry Pratt Company. The man told WLS-TV that the shooter was one of his co-workers. Update 3:50 p.m. EST Feb. 15: Police confirmed they are continue to respond Friday afternoon to an active shooting reported in Aurora. Update 3:45 p.m. EST Feb. 15: Citing preliminary reports from the scene, the Daily Herald reported several people were injured in the ongoing active shooter situation reported Friday afternoon in Aurora. Police did not immediately confirm the report. Update 3:40 p.m. EST Feb. 15: Authorities with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are responding to the reported shooting, officials said. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday to fund his promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border after Congress passed a bipartisan border security bill that offered only a fraction of the $5.7 billion he had sought. >> Read more trending news  White House officials confirmed Friday afternoon that Trump also signed the spending compromise into law to avoid a partial government shutdown. Update 3:25 p.m. EST Feb. 15:A lawsuit filed Friday by an ethics watchdog group aims to make public documents that could determine whether the president has the legal authority to invoke emergency powers to fund his promised border wall. In a statement, officials with the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said the group requested documentation, including legal opinions from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, to determine whether the president wrongfully used his emergency powers. “President Trump’s threatened declaration of a national emergency for these purposes raised some serious questions among the public and Congress that the president was considering actions of doubtful legality based on misstated facts and outright falsehoods to make an end-run round Congress’ constitutional authority to make laws and appropriate funds,” attorneys for CREW said in the lawsuit. >> Read the lawsuit filled by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington  The group said it submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of Legal Counsel last month and that it got a response on Feb. 12 that indicated authorities would not be able to expedite the request or respond to it within the 20-day statutory deadline. “Americans deserve to know the true basis for President Trump’s unprecedented decision to enact emergency powers to pay for a border wall,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union said the group also plans to file suit. Update 2:30 p.m. EST Feb. 15: Trump has signed a bill passed by Congress to fund several federal departments until September 30, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Friday afternoon to The Associated Press. Update 12:35 p.m. EST Feb. 15: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, accused Democrats of playing partisan politics in refusing to fund Trump’s border wall. “President Trump’s decision to announce emergency action is the predictable and understandable consequence of Democrats’ decision to put partisan obstruction ahead of the national interest,” McConnell said. Democrats have repeatedly voice opposition to the border wall, which critics say would not effectively address issues like drug trafficking and illegal immigration, which Trump purports such a wall would solve. Update 11:25 a.m. EST Feb. 15: In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, condemned what they called “the president’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist.” “This issue transcends partisan politics and goes to the core of the founders’ conception for America, which commands Congress to limit an overreaching executive. The president’s emergency declaration, if unchecked, would fundamentally alter the balance of powers, inconsistent with our founders’ vision,” the statement said. “We call upon our Republican colleagues to join us to defend the Constitution.” Update 11:10 a.m. EST Feb. 15: Trump said he’s expecting the administration to be sued after he signs a national emergency declaration to fund the building of wall on the southern border. “The order is signed and I'll sign the final papers as soon as I get into the Oval Office,” Trump said Friday while addressing reporters in the Rose Garden.  “I expect to be sued -- I shouldn’t be sued,” Trump said Friday while addressing reporters in the Rose Garden. “I think we’ll be very successful in court. I think it’s clear.” He said he expects the case will likely make it to the Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court. “It’ll go through a process and happily we’ll win, I think,” he said. Update 10:50 a.m. EST Feb. 15: “I’m going to sign a national emergency,” Trump said. “We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”  >> National emergency likely to be blocked by courts, DOJ tells White House: reports Update 10:25 a.m. EST Feb. 15: Trump will declare a national emergency and use executive actions to funnel over $6 billion in funds from the Treasury Department and the Pentagon for his border wall, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported. “With the declaration of a national emergency, the President will have access to roughly $8 billion worth of money that can be used to secure the southern border,” Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters in a call before the president’s announcement. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: White House: Trump using national emergency and executive actions for border wall Update 10 a.m. EST Feb. 15: Trump is expected on Friday morning to deliver remarks from the Rose Garden on the southern border after White House officials said he plans to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall. Update 10 p.m. EST Feb. 14: At 10 a.m. on Friday, President Donald Trump is expected to deliver remarks from the Rose Garden about the southern border. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Congress passes border deal as Trump readies emergency for border wall The White House announced earlier that Trump will declare a national emergency that would enable him to transfer funding from other accounts for additional miles of border fencing. Update 9 p.m. EST Feb. 14: The House easily approved border funding plan, as President Donald Trump prepared an emergency declaration to fund a border wall. The bill also closes a chapter by preventing a second government shutdown at midnight Friday and by providing $333 billion to finance several Cabinet agencies through September. Trump has indicated he’ll sign the measure though he is not happy with it, and for a few hours Thursday he was reportedly having second thoughts. Update 4:30 p.m. EST Feb. 14: The government funding bill that includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border wall, passed the Senate with a 83 - 16 vote. The bill will go to the House for a final vote Thursday evening. Update 4 p.m. EST Feb. 14: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says if President Donald Trump declares a national emergency at the border he’s making an “end run around Congress.” “The President is doing an end run around the Congress and the power of the purse,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who reserved the right to lead a legal challenge against any emergency declaration. Pelosi said that there is no crisis at the border with Mexico that requires a national emergency order. >> Trump's border wall: What is a national emergency? She did not say if House Democrats would legally challenge the president. But Pelosi said if Trump invokes an emergency declaration it should be met with “great unease and dismay” as an overreach of executive authority. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday afternoon that the White House is “very prepared” for a legal challenge following the declaration of a National Emergency. Update 3:15 p.m. EST Feb. 14: Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that President Donald Trump is going to sign a border deal and at the same time issue a national emergency declaration. The compromise will keep departments running through the fiscal year but without the $5.7 billion Trump wanted for the border wall with Mexico.  The House is also expected to vote on the bill later Thursday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent a statement confirming that Trump intends to sign the bill and will issue “other executive action - including a national emergency.” An emergency declaration to shift funding from other federal priorities to the border is expected to face swift legal challenge. Update 12:40 p.m. EST Feb. 14: Trump said in a tweet Thursday that he and his team were reviewing the funding bill proposed by legislators. Congress is expected to vote Thursday on the bipartisan accord to prevent another partial federal shutdown ahead of Friday's deadline. Trump has not definitively said whether he’ll sign the bill if it passes the legislature. The bill would fund several departments, including Agriculture, Justice and State, until Sept. 30 but it includes only $1.4 billion to build new barriers on the border. Trump had asked Congress to provide $5.7 billion in funding. Update 9:55 a.m. EST Feb. 14: The more than 1,600-page compromise, made up of seven different funding bills, was unveiled early Thursday. It includes $1.4 billion to build new barriers on the border and over $1 billion to fund other border security measures. If passed, the bill would prevent a partial government shutdown like the 35-day closure that started after lawmakers failed to reach a compromise in December.  >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Five tidbits from the border security funding deal in Congress President Donald Trump has given mixed signals in recent days over whether he plans to sign the bill or not. He’s told reporters in recent days that a second government shutdown as federal workers continue to dig out from the last closure “would be a terrible thing.” However, Adam Kennedy, the deputy director of White House communications, told NPR that the president “doesn’t want his hands tied on border security.” 'I think the president is going to fully review the bill,' Kennedy said. 'I think he wants to review it before he signs it.' Original report: President Donald Trump is expected to sign the deal lawmakers have hammered out to avoid a second shutdown, CNN is reporting. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Trump hints at ‘national emergency’ to funnel money to border wall On Tuesday, Trump said he was “not happy” with the spending plan negotiators came up with Monday night, CNN reported. That deal includes $1.375 billion in funding for border barriers, but not a concrete wall, according to Cox Media Group Washington correspondent Jamie Dupree. “It’s not doing the trick,” Trump said, adding that he is “considering everything” when asked whether a national emergency declaration was on the table. He said that if there is another shutdown, it would be “the Democrats’ fault.” Trump also took to Twitter later Tuesday, claiming that the wall is already being built. >> See the tweet here The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • As President Donald Trump on Friday announced a pair of executive actions and declared a national emergency to funnel more money into border security, lawmakers in both parties in Congress were left in the dark on how the Pentagon would deal with the largest part of the President’s declaration, carving $3.6 billion out of military construction projects authorized and funded by the U.S. House and Senate. “I strongly believe securing our border should not be done at the expense of previously funded military construction projects,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), whose district is home to Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which received $116 million in 2019 for construction of a new building for the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. “We certainly cannot allow him to rob our military of $3.5 billion for critical construction projects that serve our troops, support our allies, and deter our adversaries,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). Congress approved $10.3 billion for military construction for Fiscal Year 2019, doling out money to dozens of domestic and overseas military facilities, projects which are often prized as bring-home-the-bacon items for Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress. The list of military construction projects in each year’s budget runs the gamut of military needs – from an F-35 maintenance hangar at Camp Pendleton in California, to a training facility at the Mayport Naval Base near Jacksonville, Florida, to a reserve training center at Fort Benning in Georgia, to a dry dock facility at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and much more. In all, military construction money was approved last fall by lawmakers for defense installations in 38 different states, and at least 14 overseas locations, some of those U.S. possessions. You can read through the list of projects from the bill here. A quick look at the list of military facilities with 2019 funding shows that many of them are located in House districts held by Republican lawmakers – who could find money for their local military project in jeopardy, as the President tries to funnel more money to his signature border wall. Democrats from around the country were quick to issue statements asking that their home state military construction projects be spared from any cuts, and challenging their GOP colleagues to do the same. Trump’s “National Emergency” strips billlions of dollars from base housing construction. Martha will you join me in opposing this farce? Who is more important the military spouses or your obedience to the President? https://t.co/Z56pZ9VRYr — Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) February 15, 2019 The President's unconstitutional action threatens to take money away from construction at Nellis Air Force Base, and local national security activities that keep Nevada families safe. I will support the House’s actions to restore order and protect Nevadans. — Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) February 15, 2019 Since Trump reportedly plans to take money from existing military construction projects for his #nationalemergency, this could steal millions in approved & necessary funding away from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. #mepolitics My full statement on his authoritarian power grab pic.twitter.com/djQdIcHmub — Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) February 15, 2019 The Pentagon and the White House had no answers for reporters on Friday on which military construction projects would be put on hold, whether from the 2019 budget, or from money approved by Congress, but not yet spent from previous years. “We would be looking at lower priority military construction projects,” a senior administration official told reporters on a Friday conference call before the President’s announcement. That official – and another senior White House official on the call – both downplayed the amount of money being taken from military construction, with one saying the budget was ‘substantially’ more than the $3.6 billion being diverted by the President. But that’s not the case. “I sit on the committee that funds Military Construction,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) tweeted on Friday. “Trump is taking $3.5 billion out of the $10 billion that’s in the account. That’s 35%.” Earlier this month, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee specifically said his biggest concern about an emergency would be taking money out of military construction, a point Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) emphasized again this week. “As I heard in a hearing yesterday, military housing and all military installations are facing disrepair and poor conditions,” Inhofe said. “We cannot afford to allow them to be further impacted.”
  • Can President Donald Trump declare a national emergency in order to fund the wall?  >> Read more trending news Here is a look at the powers that come into play when a president declares a national emergency and just what the law allows him to do. Can he do that? The president, at his or her discretion, has the authority to declare a national emergency. Historically, that authority comes from Congress, which by 1973 had enacted more than 470 statutes pertaining to the president’s authority during a national emergency.  In 1976, Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act that limited the scope of response to declared states of emergency.The act: Revoked the powers that had been granted to the president under the four states of emergency that were still active in 1976. Prescribed procedures for invoking any powers in the future. Declared that states of emergency would automatically end one year after their declaration unless the president publishes a notice of renewal in the Federal Register within 90 days of the termination date. He or she must also officially notify Congress of the renewal. Required each house of Congress meet every six months to consider a vote to end the state of emergency. The incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, D-Washington, agreed that Trump has the authority to declare an emergency and have the U.S. military build the wall. He said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that while Trump can do it, such an action would likely be challenged in court. >> National emergency likely to be blocked by courts, DOJ tells White House: reports “Unfortunately, the short answer is yes,” Smith said when asked if Trump has the authority to declare a national emergency and build the wall.“I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, ‘Where is the emergency?’ You have to establish that in order to do this,” Smith continued. “But beyond that, this would be a terrible use of Department of Defense dollars.”What is considered a national emergency?What constitutes a national emergency is open to interpretation, but generally, it is seen as an event that threatens the security of the people of the United States. According to the Congressional Review Service, a 1934 Supreme Court majority opinion characterized an emergency in terms of “urgency and relative infrequency of occurrence as well as equivalence to a public calamity resulting from fire, flood, or like disaster not reasonably subject to anticipation.”  What powers does a president have when a national emergency is declared?Through federal law, when an emergency is declared, a variety of powers are available to the president to use. Some of those powers require very little qualification from the president for their use. The Brennan Center for Justice lists 136 special provisions that become available to a president when he declares a national emergency. A CRS report states, 'Under the powers delegated by such statutes, the president may seize property, organize and control the means of production, seize commodities, assign military forces abroad, institute martial law, seize and control all transportation and communication, regulate the operation of private enterprise, restrict travel, and, in a variety of ways, control the lives of United States citizens.” However, under the National Emergencies Act, the president must name the specific emergency power he is invoking. How can he get funds for a wall by declaring a national emergency? Where does the money come from? According to U.S. law, a president can divert funds to a federal construction project during a declared national emergency. In the case of the border wall, the money could come from the budget for the Department of Defense under something called “un-obligated” money. Under federal law, un-obligated money in the Department of Defense's budget may be used by the military to fund construction projects during war or emergencies. Department of Defense spokesman Jamie Davis said in a statement that, “To date, there is no plan to build sections of the wall. However, Congress has provided options under Title 10 U.S. Code that could permit the Department of Defense to fund border barrier projects, such as in support of counter drug operations or national emergencies.” Can Congress get around it? Congress can end a president’s call of a national emergency with a joint resolution. A joint resolution is a legislative measure that requires the approval of both the House and the Senate. The resolution is submitted, just as a bill is, to the president for his or her signature, making it a law. 

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