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Reality Round-Up: Let Justice Prevail

Where is the love? (Infosecurity)

Where is the love? (Infosecurity)

As Valentine’s Day weekend officially comes to an end and people return to work, so do the hands of justice, which seem to be working overtime based on some of the headlines I’ve read. Some criminals await trial for their transgressions; some face their day in court; and some continue to victimize innocent people while law enforcement closes in on them. Take a gander at some of the stories that show how the love of the weekend has been overshadowed once again by the hate and fear of crime in America.

Some things never change, I suppose.

SUNBURY, PENNSYLVANIA

Elytte and Miranda Barbour were married in October 2013 and had one very dark desire in common: they wanted to kill someone. And three weeks later—after placing a companionship ad on Craigslist—the couple got what they wanted.

Based on the promise of sex for $100, 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara responded to the ad and met Miranda in a mall parking lot on November 11, 2013. He jumped into her Honda CR-V and headed for Sunbury, presumably for the aforementioned sexual relations, but instead found death waiting for him. Elytte was hidden in the back seat and quickly wrapped a cable cord around LaFerrara’s neck while his wife stabbed him 20 times. His body was discovered the next day in the backyard of a Sunbury home.

The Barbours wanted to kill (AP)

The Barbours wanted to kill (AP)

Fortunately, the last number dialed on LaFerrara’s cell phone led authorities to the Barbours, who were arrested and charged with criminal homicide, among other things. They both pleaded not guilty and currently reside behind bars, but things took a dramatic—and more disturbing—turn on Friday when Miranda granted an interview to a reporter from Sunbury’s Daily Item.

According to Miranda—who said she joined a satanic cult in Alaska when she was only 13—LaFerrara wasn’t her only victim. In the past six years, she claimed to have participated in as many as 22 murders in Alaska, North Carolina, Texas and California.

“When I hit 22, I stopped counting,” she told the reporter. “I can pinpoint on a map where you can find them.”

As you might expect, authorities are taking her claims very seriously and have been working with law enforcement officials in some of the states mentioned to determine whether or not they could be true. A source close to the investigation did call Barbour’s claims “conceivable” and said they could be “the real deal.” Only time will tell if this is indeed the case, though.

In response to this horrifying situation, I offer only one piece of advice to readers: stay the hell away from Craigslist. You may be able to find some good bargains there, but given all the criminals who target visitors to this popular website, spending a little more at a brick-and-mortar store seems like a much safer alternative.

WORCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

On Wednesday, Julie Corey of Worcester was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2009 slaying of her friend Darlene Haynes, who was eight months pregnant at the time. Haynes’ strangled and beaten body was found in her apartment on July 27, 2009—with her unborn child cut from her womb, no less.

Corey was arrested in New Hampshire, along with the baby she stole (WMUR-TV)

Corey was arrested in New Hampshire, along with the baby she stole (WMUR-TV)

Thanks to DNA evidence collected at the scene—as well as a fingerprint left on a bottle—police were able to connect Corey to the killing and found her several days later in New Hampshire… with the baby. She claimed to have given birth to the child at a Massachusetts hospital, but some of her friends became suspicious and contacted the authorities, who quickly caught up with and arrested Corey. She now faces a maximum sentence of life without parole and will appear in court on Tuesday to receive her punishment.

“This woman was killed for her baby,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said recently. “It’s probably the most horrific case this office has seen.”

Horrific doesn’t even scratch the surface of this one, I’m afraid. There certainly are some sick people in the world.

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI

Another woman heading to jail for a long time is Natasha Stewart—also known as Pebbelz Da Model—who was convicted of culpable negligence manslaughter on January 31st and sentenced to seven years in prison late last week. She was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit manslaughter in the death of Atlanta’s Karima Gordon.

Pebbelz Da Model, as her friends know her (MS News Now)

Pebbelz Da Model, as her friends know her (MS News Now)

Stewart apparently took $200 from Gordon in exchange for referring her to a “nurse” who provided silicone buttocks injections—injections she herself claimed to have gotten more than 20 times. Sadly, the injector was not a nurse and Gordon died a few days after getting the shots. The official cause of death was silicone in her lungs.

I guess this goes to show you that when it comes to medical procedures—even ones that may cost and arm-and-a-leg to get done—the best place to go is to a licensed professional, preferably at a hospital or private practice. Have we learned nothing from the back alley, coat-hanger abortions of old?

WENTZVILLE, MISSOURI

On a lighter note—as light as criminal activity can be, I mean—we end in Missouri, where police are currently hunting a serial flasher. The man described by witnesses as a white male in his mid-twenties with short hair—who drives a dark blue or black truck—has exposed himself to a number of women. And police fear that his crimes may escalate if he isn’t apprehended soon.

The most serious incident happened in a Walmart parking lot on February 6th as a woman was leaving the store. She got into her car and seconds later, the door flew open and she came face-to-face with the flasher’s junk. When she screamed, the man shoved her back into the car and fled. Unfortunately for him, placing hands on his victim changed an indecent exposure charge to assault. And since surveillance footage provided police with a clear shot of his license plate, it’s only a matter of time before the cops catch up with him.

Then he can expose his genitals to his cell mate, who may be more responsive than his female victims.

Do victims of a serial flasher even look at his face? (Wentzville PD)

Do victims of a serial flasher even look at his face? (Wentzville PD)

Yes, the love of Valentine’s Day is a wonderful thing, but now it’s back to reality and the evil that men do. And when the Reality Round-Up returns, I hope it’s for stories much more positive and uplifting than these.

Chalk it up to the “Monday blues” since I’m in the throes of them as we speak!

A Dangerous Future

Could Terminators exist someday? (Halcyon/IMDB)

Could Terminators exist someday? (Halcyon/IMDB)

I often find myself thinking about what the future will bring, especially with regard to technology. And I have written about my vision of the future a number of times: houses built with their own custom-made computer systems that control everything from climate to grocery shopping; vehicles that operate themselves and have the capability to travel in any situation, including underwater and through the air; and home appliances that manipulate molecules to create any product or food imaginable, to name a few.

These ideas are not unique, of course. They are merely my “take” on things that already exist—like Microsoft’s model home of the future, which has kitchen counters that tell you what dishes can be made from the items sitting on it—or are currently in development—like the Ford Prius and Lexus RX automobiles being transformed into self-driving cars by Google.

Need a recipe? Check the counter (Microsoft)

Need a recipe? Check the counter (Microsoft)

Hell, I even read an article about 3D printers using cellulose-based materials to create foodstuffs out of thin air. Just type in what you want—a delicious cheeseburger or a juicy slice of watermelon—hit “start” and sit back while the machine delivers the tastiest version possible, essentially the ideal programmed version of whatever you order.

Yes, the future will likely be an amazing place. And I certainly hope that I live to see all the technological advances currently housed in the far reaches of my imagination. But you better believe that not all these advances will be designed to help human beings; some will be used to wreak havoc and destruction upon the world, and innocent people will undoubtedly suffer—and even die—as a result.

The Google car drives itself! (Google)

The Google car drives itself! (Google)

Take the recent evolution of the 3D printer—and I don’t mean the one that may someday satisfy your nutritional needs, either.

In May, an anarchist-led nonprofit group from Texas—Defense Distributed—manufactured a plastic handgun using a 3D printer and posted a video online of it being fired successfully. DD member Cody Wilson also posted instructions about how to create the gun on the group’s website, but it was eventually removed and the site was shut down by the U.S. State Department.

As if the thought of someone creating their own functioning weapon at home and using it to kill people wasn’t disturbing enough, it now appears that another Texas company has “upped the ante,” so to speak.

Solid Concepts, a specialty manufacturing company out of Austin, recently created another working pistol using a 3D printer, only this one was not made of plastic; it was made of metal (with the exception of its handgrips, which were carved from carbon-fiber using a laser). And yes, it functions like any other pistol. More than 50 shots were fired from the prototype at 30 yards, several of which hit the bull’s eye.

An anarchist with a plastic pistol... bad idea (Defense Distributed/YouTube)

An anarchist with a plastic pistol… bad idea (Defense Distributed/YouTube)

Fortunately, this metal pistol was manufactured using an industrial 3D printer, one that cost upwards of $100,000—and this doesn’t even include the materials needed to actually build the thing, just the machinery itself.

Some may find this comforting since it will be years or even decades before “normal” people have access to such advanced technology, but not me. I see it more as a harbinger of the bad things to come. Call me pessimistic or paranoid if you must, but we all know the evil that dwells within some of our brethren—evil that will certainly be unleashed once the delivery method becomes so streamlined and accessible.

I hope that I’m wrong, of course. I just don’t think that I am. Only time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, I plan to keep a very close eye on developing technologies, at least those revealed to the public. Of course, it’s the secret technology hidden deep inside some government bunker—like Area 51—that concerns me the most.

Who the hell knows what kind of crazy shit they have down there!

Please Stay Tuned

Computer problems always appear at the most inopportune times (Maki)

Computer problems always appear at the most inopportune times (Maki)

Due to some unforeseen technical difficulties, a new post on Gnostic Bent may be unavailable today. Please stay tuned as we hope to return bug-free tomorrow.

It’s also a pretty nice Saturday. Who wants to spend it writing or reading blogs anyway?

Points at self with both thumbs.

Not this guy!

Catch you on the flip side, folks…

YouTube Confession Leads to Indictment

Cordle confesses to killing Canzini in a video confession (YouTube)

On June 22nd—somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 a.m.—61-year-old Vincent Canzini was travelling down Interstate 670 in Columbus, Ohio when he was suddenly struck by a drunk driver going in the wrong direction. He was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.

The primary suspect in this case was Matthew Cordle, a 22-year-old Franklin County man whose conscience apparently got the best of him. Rather than attempting to escape responsibility for Canzini’s death, he took a different approach.

Cordle taped a video confession and posted it to YouTube. Check it out HERE.

Thus far, his video has been viewed more than a million times, even by law enforcement officials in his area. As a result, Cordle has now been indicted on charges of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and aggravated vehicular homicide. If he is convicted, then he could face as many as eight years in prison.

Of course, this doesn’t seem to shake Cordle because in his video, he accepts full responsibility for his actions and indicates that he will “take what’s coming” to him. In fact, his plan is to plead guilty and to hand the prosecution “everything they need to put [him] away for a very long time.”

Prosecutor Ron O’Brien told reporters he would not be influenced by Cordle’s video—the case against him was set long before his video was released—but Cordle’s lawyer George S. Breitmayer III claims leniency was never his client’s goal:

“Despite any speculation of his intentions, the video was meant to raise awareness related to the serious issues surrounding drinking and driving. In addition, [Cordle] hopes his confession will offer the Canzanis some level of closure by avoiding any lengthy, drawn out legal proceedings.”

Vincent Canzini (Facebook)

Although Cordle and his lawyer claim not to be interested in a reduced sentence or undue sympathy, some still believe his motive for posting the video confession was blatantly self-serving. However, Canzini’s ex-wife Cheryl Oates disagrees.

“He said, ‘I made a huge mistake, and I’m going to take what’s coming to me,'” Oates explained. “You’ve got to respect him for that.”

That’s certainly good enough for me.

Yes, Cordle made a terrible mistake and, as a result, an innocent person died. Maybe he’s being sincere in his video confession and maybe he isn’t, but the fact he was willing to post it—knowing full well the potential consequences of his actions—should count for something.

We’ll just have to see what the courts decide when he is arraigned tomorrow, I suppose. Stay tuned to your favorite news source for more as this tragic story develops…

IPhone 5 Users Beware!

Chargers can kill, so watch out! (courtesy of App Advice)

According to a number of news sources—including Xinhua, the state-run news agency in China—a flight attendant aboard a China South Airlines flight last Thursday was shocked and killed by her iPhone 5. Police are currently investigating her death and Apple has vowed to cooperate fully with authorities.

23-year-old Ma Ailun—who bought her new iPhone 5 in December from one of Apple’s official stores—was charging it and picked it up to make a call when the phone produced a shock strong enough to drop her to the floor. She was pronounced dead a short time later and, in the opinion of her father, had clear signs of electrocution on her body. And if her death wasn’t bad enough, Ailun was also preparing to marry. What a heartbreaking turn of events.

On average—and according to a number of experts—cellular phones output between 3-4 volts of electricity, far less than would be necessary to cause someone bodily harm. It takes at least 35 or more volts for someone to really feel a shock.

However, if there were some problem with the phone, the charger or even the electrical system in the plane, it would be possible for a whopping 220 volts to surge through the phone. And yes, that would be more than enough to kill someone.

At this point, no one knows exactly what killed Ma Ailun, but one thing is certain: under no circumstances should anyone with a cell phone try to use it while it is charging. Chalk this up as “better safe than sorry” and, by all means, do not take any unnecessary chances.

After all, whoever tries to call while your phone is charging can surely be reached once the power cord is disconnected. At least this way the only shocking thing will be what they have to say… and regardless of the news, at least you will be alive to hear it!

The Future is Coming

Coruscant or the city of the future? (courtesy of Screen Themes)

Coruscant or the city of the future? (courtesy of Screen Themes)

This may seem obvious since we all know that each passing second brings the future one step closer. What I am referring to instead is that ideal vision of the future each of us experience at one time or another—the technological future.

Whether we dream about owning our own spaceship, long for the day when household chores are performed by robots or fancy a car that does the driving for us, we have all pondered what the future might bring and how advances in technology might improve our lives. And honestly, we have come a long way so far, even in the last twenty or thirty years. Take computers, for instance.

When I was eleven or twelve—somewhere in the neighborhood of 1983—I was the “big man on the block” because my dad bought me a Commodore 64 home computer. It had a whopping 64 kilobytes of RAM, 16-color graphics and an external drive with floppy disks the size of those old CD jewel cases. For the time, however, it was cutting edge. And despite having a number of useful functions, I used it primarily for one thing: gaming.

Maniac Mansion was fun while it lasted (courtesy of Lucasfilms)

Maniac Mansion was fun while it lasted (courtesy of Lucasfilms)

With titles like Maniac Mansion, Ultima, Winter Games, Legacy of the Ancients and Raid on Bungeling Bay, C64 games revolutionized laziness and produced thousands—maybe even millions—of sun-deprived and socially awkward nerds, myself included. Sure, the graphics were basic and the interface was simple—a number of my games were even text-only, which can be challenging—but it was great because there was nothing else like it… at least for a time.

Now—thirty years after I first popped that Leather Goddesses of Phobos floppy into my Commodore 64—I carry a computer small enough to fit in my pocket: my cell phone. RAM has gone through the roof, laptops and tablets are everywhere and Google even has Google Glass, a wearable computer with a head-mounted display that looks like eyeglasses. Thirty years and the entire face of computer technology changed dramatically.

Get ready, people, because it looks like computers and, more importantly, technology in general, is getting ready to evolve again, only at a much faster pace. And it is all because of a material created in 2010 by Andrei Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who incidentally won the Nobel Prize in Physics that year: graphene.

The future is coming, and this is the space-age material that is going to take us there at light speed.

The disk drive for the Commodore 64 (courtesy of NathanBeach)

The disk drive for the Commodore 64 (courtesy of NathanBeach)

I am not a science guy and apologize if this is confusing, but as I understand it, graphene is a two-dimensional, one-molecule-thick material formed of carbon atoms that are linked together in a hexagonal structure, much like a honeycomb. This makes it incredibly strong—supposedly a hundred times stronger than steel—and really, that’s only the beginning. Graphene is the thinnest, most flexible and most conductive substance ever “created.” And its implications for science and technology have me and millions of other people around the world wondering exactly when this major innovation will finally hit.

Trust me. It won’t be long.

The list of potential uses for graphene—as well as materials created in hybrid with the amazing substance—is exciting, to say the least. I did a little research and here are the “big ones” I found in no particular order:

  • Salt be gone. Lack of water is a huge problem for millions of people all over the world. Even those who live along the shore with an ocean of water before them cannot partake. Ingesting salt water can kill you, as we all know. The good news is that technology giant Lockheed Martin has plans to complete a prototype graphene water filter by the end of the year. The chicken-wire mesh of graphene filters even the smallest salt molecules, but can also be engineered to allow only water molecules to pass through it. And since graphene can be manufactured cheaply—carbon is everywhere—the cost would be minimal, too. Thirsty people everywhere could have filters and, more importantly, water. Just don’t tell anyone that the same technology could be used to distill vodka and other liquor much faster, would you?
  • I’ve got the power. Every time I engage in a discussion about energy and suggest more widespread use of solar power, someone inevitably points out that it is far too expensive to be a viable option. I did some checking and they’re right. Solar cells rely on some elements that are rare—including Tellurium, which has only two known deposits in the world—so creating them depletes the supply enough to continue driving up the price. Fortunately, graphene can be used to solve this problem because, as I mentioned, it’s made from carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the known universe and the 15th most abundant on Earth. And since researchers in Taiwan recently created a working phototransistor by combining graphene—which conducts electricity better than copper—with chlorophyll—the organic molecule plants use to convert sunlight into energy—everyone could have them eventually. Some even think graphene could be used in roofing materials and paint, meaning your house could one day power itself!
  • Out of batteries. Dead batteries suck. And batteries that die quickly are the worst of all. But a day without batteries—or at least batteries that won’t disappoint you—may be coming. And yes, it’s all because of graphene. Supercapacitors made with this technological wonder can power batteries that charge quickly and last much longer. Imagine charging your cell phone in five minutes or even five seconds, and having to recharge it less often. That alone would be a huge convenience for many of us. But just as these batteries could extend our laptop power for several days, they could also extend power for emergency medical equipment and, theoretically, save lives. And that is always worth the trouble, if you ask me.
  • Daddy, I want a supercomputer for Christmas. My Commodore 64 was nice, but it was nothing compared to today’s computers. And today’s computers will be nothing compared to those coming in the future. Many believe that graphene could replace silicon in computer chips, making computers as much as a hundred times faster. It also produces less heat and could make cooling fans obsolete in both desktops and laptops someday. Combine this with glass and other components made with graphene-based materials and you end up with something I long for: a blisteringly fast computer that stays cool and is relatively impervious to damage or harm. And since the same technology can be used in cell phones, we may finally have touch screens that won’t shatter when we drop them. The sooner, the better, right?
  • Flex your muscles. Using graphene in things like cell phones, tablets, computers and the like could add flexibility and make smart devices even smarter. Consider touch screens which, like solar cells, have a key ingredient that is in short supply. The indium used to make indium-tin-oxide—the conductive coating on the screen that transmits electrical impulses from your finger when you scroll across it—is disappearing with each new iPhone or similar product that hits the market. Graphene can do the same thing while keeping costs down—and who isn’t interested in saving a little money? Another possibility is a flexible, stretchable computer. Since graphene is strong and transparent, it could someday be used to create a computer you unroll, use and then roll back up… maybe even a computer you can wear around your wrist. Who knows? On a related note—in terms of “muscles,” that is—graphene could someday be implemented into the design of artificial muscles—think bionic man—or utilized in bioengineering—perhaps as a spine-fusing material with the ability to connect to neurons and help paralyzed people walk again!
Graphene's honeycomb structure makes it stronger than steel (courtesy of A-Pakistan News)

Graphene’s honeycomb structure makes it stronger than steel (courtesy of A-Pakistan News)

There are plenty of other potential uses for graphene, of course—from coatings that prevent steel from rusting and clumping materials to make nuclear waste clean up easier, to stronger body armor for law enforcement and more efficient bomb-detecting devices (all of which could be produced on 3D printers that use graphene)—but it will be at least five to ten years before the first products finally reach consumers. When they do, though, brace yourselves.

In the same way that plastic dominated the 20th century and changed the lives of humans everywhere, graphene will be the 21st century “substance of choice” when it kicks our technological evolution into high gear. And when it does, even the most far-fetched dreams of science fiction have the potential to come true.

I can hardly wait!

Quiet Commercials

Television

Finally some peace and quiet for televisions (Photo credit: Medhi)

Television junkies like me finally got some great news Thursday. And no, the new season of “The Walking Dead” isn’t starting early.

Effective today, television commercials will no longer be able to blare more loudly than the shows they sponsor. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act just went into effect and prevents both cable and satellite providers from killing your ears any time your show breaks for advertisers.

I once saw an ad for a television that automatically reduced the sounds of  commercials, as well as another that completely blacked out commercials and came back on when the show began again.

It’s nice to know that I won’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars for one of these “special” televisions since CALM will handle the business of shutting up advertisers for me. Thank goodness human evolution applies to the “boob tube,” too!

Shoplifting by Request

Ronald Murrell (Source: Louisville Metro Corrections)

Ron Murrell, the brains of the operation (courtesy of Louisville Metro Corrections)

Police in Louisville, Kentucky just arrested two shoplifters who attempted to steal more than $2000 worth of clothing and other merchandise from the Jefferson Mall.

Not much of a story, I know. But it gets better.

After 48-year-old Ronald Murrell and 29-year-old Kim Starks left the mall with their hands full of stolen goods, cops pursued them and eventually pulled them over for speeding. Upon approaching the car they smelled marijuana, which was all the probably cause they needed to search the vehicle.

Inside, police found two bags of weed, more than $600 in cash and a bunch of stolen stuff. They also found Murrell’s cell phone, which wasn’t difficult because it barely stopped ringing, and decided to search it as well.

What they found was shocking.

Kimberly Starks (Source: Louisville Metro Corrections)

His partner in crime, Kim Starks (courtesy of Louisville Metro Corrections)

Apparently there were conversations or text messages where people were asking Murrell to steal certain things for them, like designer clothing and specific brands of other items.

This shoplifter was taking requests!

I would like to say that I also found this shocking, but that would be a lie. Technology has always been used for evil, and cell phones are no different. I mean, there are kids who knock over banks, record themselves doing it and get busted after they post the videos to their Facebook accounts.

Funny how the smarter our technology gets, the dumber we get as a result. Present company excluded, of course.

An End to Bullying

Victim of bullying Amanda Todd

When I was a kid, and despite the fact that I was larger than most children my age, I sometimes fell victim to bullies. Granted, this mistreatment never lasted long because I always fought back, but such is not the case these days. The technology boom of the internet, webcams and cell phones have opened up a whole new world in which bullies may operate, and sometimes the results can be fatal.

Two years ago, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly broadcast his gay tryst with another student on the web. While this may not seem like bullying, at least not in the traditional sense, it did cause irreparable harm to Clementi. And in his mind, the only solution was to commit suicide.

Something similar happened recently to 15-year-old Amanda Todd of Coquitlam, British Columbia, a beautiful young lady with potential that will never be realized.

In the seventh grade, Todd flashed a man online while using a webcam. A year later, the same man tracked her down on Facebook and sent the topless photo to all her friends. No matter where Amanda went, and regardless of which school she attended, she was persistently bullied and teased by her peers. Last month, Todd posted a powerful and thought-provoking video to YouTube detailing her struggles with bullying.

And last Wednesday, Amanda took her own life.

Suicide of Tyler Clementi

The public outrage generated by Todd’s death has brought new and much-needed attention to bullying in all of its forms, particularly cyber-bullying. Fortunately, the man involved in Amanda’s case has been identified as a 30-year-old man from New Westminster, B.C. He now faces charges of sexual interference with a minor and sexual assault, which is little consolation to Amanda’s parents.

To make matters worse, and to further insult a young girl who already paid the ultimate price, autopsy photographs of Todd’s nude body were leaked on the internet. There are even people making jokes about her and saying things so lewd and disrespectful that I dare not reproduce them here.

The time for bullying to end is NOW. Our young people are the future, but only if they live long enough to see it. And personally, I hope Amanda Todd’s bully burns in Hell for what he did.

Shopping on Facebook?

Facebook buy button

Buy it on Facebook (courtesy of socialfresh)

As if Facebook weren’t enough of a powerhouse, everywhere except on the New York Stock Exchange that is, it now appears that users of the popular social networking site may be able to purchase products  there, too.

USA Today reported that Facebook will begin testing a new “Collections” system with seven major retailers. Products advertised on the site will include a “buy” button that allows users to make purchases immediately. Additional buttons might include “collect” or “want,” both of which are being considered.

I know what you’re thinking: as if we need another button after “like” has gotten so annoying.

Well, brace yourselves, people. It looks like the Facebook button universe is going to get even bigger.

And if I can eventually buy groceries through Facebook, I may never leave the house again!

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