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UMD officials want to be ready for a campus shooting. Here’s what they’re doing. – The Diamondback

In a safety video produced by the University of Maryland last fall, shots ring out through Knight Hall as a gunman — clad in a gray sweatshirt and dark aviator sunglasses — goes room-to-room.

While the scenario is only theatrical, officials say they’re still preparing for the worst.

“This is what keeps me up at night,” said University Police chief David Mitchell.

According to the FBI, there were 27 active shooter situations in 16 states in 2018, killing 85 people.

With two more school shootings in recent weeks — one on April 30 at the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte campus, which killed two students and wounded four others, and another on May 7 at a Colorado STEM school that killed one student and injured eight — the possibility of a shooting on this campus is one officials won’t dismiss.

In working to address threats early, keep a close eye on other tragedies and implement state-of-the-art law enforcement tools and training, officials say they’re doing what they can to be prepared.

“Attempting to connect the dots”

Two years before the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 — in which 33 people were killed, including the gunman — this university established the Behavior Evaluation and Threat Assessment Team.

The team takes reports from faculty and staff, aiming to identify and support students who exhibit concerning behaviors — whether it be not showing up for class, a drop in their performance or a substantial change in their attitude.  

Students who seem to be struggling with mental health issues, for example, are often referred to the Counseling Center, and those who make threatening statements or talk about using weapons or violence are referred to University Police.

“We encourage more interaction, not less,” said John Zacker, chair of the seven-member team and the university’s assistant student affairs vice president. “The worst thing that we can do is to isolate individuals who are acting in a manner that causes others concern, and to not reach out and talk with them.”

Zacker said the program — which is made up of officials from across the campus — relies mostly on faculty members to observe concerning behavior with students. The team often works to identify patterns in the reports it receives about an individual student, he added. If he hears multiple stories about a single student, he said, the level of concern rises.

“Part of our job is, in essence, attempting to connect the dots,” he said.

From July 2017 through June 2018, the team received and documented 185 cases of students of concern, according to data provided by Zacker. While these are mostly “less-serious” concerns, he said, they represent an 85 percent increase in the number of cases from the same fiscal period in 2014.

Although Zacker didn’t know why the numbers were increasing, he said increased knowledge of gun violence could play a role.

“We certainly see a spike in reports after an incident of violence — particularly in a college or university — and people’s awareness spikes at that point,” he said.

Ted Pickett, interim associate director of the Counseling Center, said current wait times for an intake appointment in the center range from same day to two weeks. The wait for a subsequent appointment could be longer.

But Pickett said a student identified by the BETA Team could be pushed to the front of the line to be seen, depending on the urgency.

In addition, University Police are using new legislation to help prevent acts of violence before they happen.

The state’s Extreme Risk Protective Order — a temporary court-issued civil order which requires a person surrender any firearms and ammunition and prevents them from purchasing new ones — took effect Oct. 1. Often known as “red flag laws,” the orders aim to keep guns out of the hands of people who seem at risk of hurting themselves or others.

University Police made use of one in February, when the department received a call from a father who said his son was having difficulties and texted him a picture of a rifle, Mitchell said.

Police applied for and received an ERPO against the son, who was not affiliated with this university at the time. They didn’t find a gun on him — and the order would have prevented him from purchasing one if he had wanted to — but they did determine that he needed an immediate psychiatric evaluation, Mitchell said. He was taken to the hospital.

Mitchell said the legislation could prevent other potential shooters from having access to firearms during a difficult time.

“They’re not necessarily bad people before they do it,” he said. “[They] make a bad choice on how to handle a situation, and they take lives.”

“Game changer”

University Police continue to learn from mass shootings across the country — and implement lessons from many into their work.

“The game changer was Columbine,” Mitchell said.

The 1999 shooting killed 15 people at a Colorado high school, including the gunmen. While the average active shooter situation lasts about 12 minutes, Mitchell said, the Columbine shooting lasted more than 40.

“That set off alarm bells in our profession that we have to change our approach, we have to change our training. There is no more ‘contain and negotiate’ on active shooters like this,” Mitchell said. “People aren’t going to stop until you stop them.”

After the Virginia Tech shooting — in which the gunman chained doors shut to keep people from entering and exiting — the department equipped every vehicle with large bolt cutters and “go bags” with smaller bolt cutters, duct tape, rope, medical supplies and tourniquets.

Mitchell also said the department has several specially-trained rifle operators dispersed throughout every shift who can assist in the event of an active shooter situation.

And about three years ago, University Police began using ShotSpotter gunshot detection sensors — the first department in the Big Ten to do so, Mitchell said.

The sensors, located in certain open areas of the campus, can detect a gunshot and notify police in seconds as to the exact location, type of gun used and number of shots, Mitchell said. The department wants to expand it to the entire campus as well as inside buildings, he added, but cost is an issue.

The department also continually monitors about 400 cameras around the campus and the city from its Security Operations Center and can tap into more than 1,000 at any time.

From the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada — which killed 59 people and wounded hundreds — Mitchell said law enforcement learned it needed to prepare for high-angle threats.

He conducted security surveys of the buildings that overlook Maryland Stadium, and found access to the rooftops were not as secure as they should be — a problem the department fixed, he said.

The department now monitors rooftops throughout sporting events and has a rapid response team ready to go.

“It’s always staying one step ahead of the threat matrix,” Mitchell said. “And the threat matrix is constantly changing.”

“How safe do you want to be?”

Tom Kapsidelis, a 1977 graduate of this university, was working for The Richmond Times-Dispatch during the Virginia Tech shooting.

Last month, Kapsidelis published a book called After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety, and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings. It’s an in-depth look at the events that led up to and followed the shooting, still the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history.

“It’s important for people to realize that it’s not only one piece of legislation, or one reform, or one act that can make everyone safer. I think it has to be a number of things, all taken together,” Kapsidelis said. “All the people who are involved in safety on campuses [need] to be totally committed and communicating with one another.”

Based on his research on the Virginia Tech shooting, Kapsidelis said said it sounds to him like the university is taking good steps toward preventing another tragedy.

But educators should be careful, he said, not to traumatize people in the process of making them aware.

“I think that kind of preparedness needs to be shown in a way that really gets people’s attention, that doesn’t make them scared, or doesn’t make them want to turn away because it’s an unpleasant topic,” he said. “I think they need to reach those people who might turn away from those types of stories.”

Mitchell said the most frequent question he receives from parents during orientation is asking how prepared the university is for an active shooter. He said it’s a fine line the university must walk — keeping the campus as safe as possible while trying not to encroach on privacy or freedoms.

“How safe do you want to be? Yeah, I can make it real safe,” Mitchell said. “But you know, how much freedom do you want? How much security do you want? Because sometimes, they’re at odds.”

Mitchell said that the department needs the help of faculty members to help educate the large student population about how to respond to an active shooter situation.

He plans to ask university President Wallace Loh to make it mandatory for teachers to show students the safety video on the first day of classes.

The issue is one that the department — like departments across the Big Ten — has been “wrestling with for years,” Mitchell said, and will continue to address.

“It’s scary,” he said. “How do you prepare for that?”

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Mourners pass by a beam with a message left before the burial of Kendrick Castillo on May 17 in Littleton, Colo. Castillo was killed while trying to stop a gunman in his school last week. (David Zalubowski/AP)

In the two decades since the massacre at Columbine High School, digging into the psychology of mass shooters has sadly become an all-too-familiar habit — now something we seem to do almost weekly.

After the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, media coverage pointed to the shooter’s odd behavior as a child and his near-mutism as a college student. After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, newspapers described the shooter as “withdrawn and meek” and suggested that he might have had Asperger syndrome. The two people responsible for the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado on May 7 are already the subjects of forensic investigation of their presumed troubled pasts.

This practice is not just a phenomenon of the post-Columbine era of mass shootings. It has its roots in the early 20th century, and it represents an effort to shift blame and find an area of consensus after massacres that could otherwise force uncomfortable conversations. In the process, this practice fosters stigma against one of the most vulnerable groups of Americans: the mentally ill.

In the late 19th century, reports of mass shootings were typically very brief. But by the turn of the century, coverage grew more detailed, often describing how the shooter had gone “suddenly insane” as a result of financial losses or a romantic mishap.

Starting in the 1930s, newspaper coverage of shootings expanded. Journalists and those affected by the shootings searched for clues in the shooter’s past that might explain why the tragedy took place. They used the Freudian language of “complexes” that had become a part of daily conversation and the psychiatric language of diagnostic categories to offer an answer.

The first case dissected in this way was the murder of two professors and the wounding of a third at the Columbia University dental school by technician Victor Koussow in 1935. The New York Herald Tribune and the New York Times immediately speculated on the shooter’s mindset. Koussow was a Russian immigrant who claimed to have served in numerous lofty positions and been awarded medals for military bravery while in Russia. Colleagues described him as suffering from a “Napoleonic complex” and a “persecution complex,” while journalists concluded that his menial work in light of his (real or imagined) past in Russia contributed to a “superiority complex” and led him to kill colleagues who had not properly respected his achievements.

Five years later, Verlin Spencer, a junior high school principal, killed five colleagues in South Pasadena, Calif., soon after he had learned that his contract was in jeopardy. Immediately, speculation abounded that his attack was caused by a “persecution complex,” because Spencer had frequently blamed his colleagues for gossiping about him and trying to get him fired. Journalists and colleagues noted a medical leave a year prior for a “nervous breakdown,” suggesting that the problem was not new. Over the next several days, the Los Angeles Times continued its investigation of Spencer’s mind. He had been overworked and lacked sleep; he had been dismissed from a previous job because of mysterious “morals charges” involving a female student; he was terrified of failure; he was addicted to bromides for constant headaches and to amphetamines for his fatigue.

In both cases, this analysis mingled with tributes to the victims, but reporting did not include discussions about how to prevent future shootings. This began to change in the 1940s and 1950s. After 14-year-old Billy Prevatte shot and killed one teacher and wounded two others at his junior high school outside Washington, D.C., in 1956, citizens wrote letters to The Washington Post arguing for increased attention and resources, not only to treating emotionally disturbed children, but also to preventing childhood mental illness in the first place.

A sea change occurred with the 1964 release of the Warren Commission report, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Among its findings, the commission determined that Lee Harvey Oswald had been an emotionally disturbed child. Mental health experts and journalists seized on Oswald’s story as a means of fomenting fear about a potential epidemic of childhood mental illness sweeping the nation. This conversation fostered results: In 1969, the presidentially commissioned Joint Commission on the Mental Health of Children announced that 1 million emotionally disturbed children in the United States were going without treatment, declaring a crisis in child mental health and recommending a renewed commitment to offering support to combat this national epidemic.

This newfound focus helped start the now-familiar pattern, where we look to the abnormal psychology at the root of a shooter’s actions when trying to come to grips with senseless violence. Many then conclude that the mental health system is broken, proffering solutions that have all too often not come to fruition.

This psychoanalysis serves several purposes. Fundamentally, it’s an attempt to figure out how someone so dangerous could slip through the cracks. Blaming mental illness, which is increasingly understood as a result of abnormal biology, allows us to avoid tough or uncomfortable questions such as why specific people, like parents or teachers, didn’t see it coming and do something to prevent it. Focusing on mending a broken mental health system also redirects blame from individuals to infrastructure. Blaming mental illness also allows people to sidestep the inflamed and often vitriolic battle over gun control that erupts in these moments. Consensus is often easier to come by on mental health issues.

But we must resist this tendency, sensible though it may seem, to make mass shootings a cautionary tale about our broken mental health system. Although the mentally ill are depicted in the popular imagination as dangerous, unpredictable and violent, decades of research have shown that mental illness accounts for only a small proportion of violent crimes. By linking mass shootings to debates about mental health, we are perpetuating the stereotype of the mentally ill as violent and the stigma that this already vulnerable group of people must contend with on a daily basis. And it’s a stigma with consequences: People with mental illness are less likely to seek out help.

Mental health services undoubtedly need and deserve increased funding. But we should take care not to make this the defining lesson of each mass shooting. Doing so stigmatizes the mentally ill and prevents us from having the sorts of hard conversations that we need to have about what really causes mass shootings and how we can prevent them.

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Brazil: 11 killed in mass shooting at bar

At least 11 people were killed and one other sustained injury in a mass shooting incident at a bar in Brazil’s northern state of Para on Sunday afternoon.

The incident took place at 4 pm (local time), when seven armed gunmen entered a bar in the Guama neighbourhood of Belem city, and open fired, killing six woman and five men, reported New York Post.

One alleged gunman was wounded and taken into the custody, but the others reportedly got away.

The injured was taken to hospital under police protection.

The motive behind the shooting is still unknown. Civil police’s homicide division has opened an investigation into the incident, reported Xinhua.

Further details are awaited.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Sutherland Springs Church Opens New Sanctuary 18 Months After Mass Shooting

Kidnapped 8-Year-Old Girl, Salem Sabatka, Found Safe; Suspect In CustodyEight-year-old Salem Sabatka, who was kidnapped in Fort Worth early Saturday evening, has been found safe, and a suspect is also in custody, police said.

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Amber Alert Issued For Kidnapped 8-Year-Old Girl, Salem Sabatka, In Fort WorthAn Amber Alert has been issued for an 8-year-old girl, Salem Sabatka, after police say a suspect in a vehicle kidnapped her while she was walking with her mother, authorities say.

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Reported Kidnapping In Fort WorthReported Kidnapping In Fort Worth

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CBS 11 News Now: Saturday EveningCheck out what’s making the headlines across North Texas this Saturday evening.

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Jeff Jamison’s Weather UpdateSaturday saw lots of rain, flooding and severe storms. The rest of the evening appears to stay dry. We’re keeping an eye on a small storm developing west of Fort Worth.

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Woman Dead, Another Injured In Shooting At Fort Worth Apartment ComplexOne woman is dead and another is injured after they were shot in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Fort Worth, police say.

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Temple memorial to Florida shooting victims to be burned

A temple built as a memorial to the 17 victims of a Florida high school mass shooting is to be burned to the ground in a symbolic gesture of healing.

The “Temple of Time” public art installation will be set on fire in a Sunday evening ceremony hosted by the cities of Parkland and Coral Springs, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students live.

San Francisco-area artist David Best created the 1,600-square-foot Asian design with a spire roof and traveled with a crew of 26 regular volunteers in February, during the massacre’s anniversary.

Most construction materials and other expenses were paid by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s public arts foundation.

Described by some as “therapeutic,” the ceremonial fire is supposed to symbolize the release of pain left inside.

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The Freedom of Buying & Selling Guns is a Basic Right


The Freedom of Buying & Selling Guns is a Basic Right

Fayetteville, AR – -( I was raised hearing over and over the message that at some point in the not too distant future, people who wish to engage in economic activity will be required to receive the Mark-of-the-Beast. It’s been well over three decades since I believed this, but I do have to express some gratitude for an early introduction to the concept of totalitarianism and to the value of basic rights, be it the religion a person chooses that goes against the majority or the many other expressions of individuality that our nation protects in varying degrees.

And then along comes a petition that I ran across recently that reminds me that some people read books about dystopian futures and think, “that’s a good idea.”

Petition calls on credit card companies to freeze accounts that engage in “excessive, erratic gun and ammo purchases” and report them to law enforcement.

An anonymous person has started a petition on the site, SumOfUs, related to the ability to buy guns and ammunition with credit cards. This petition, which comes with a content warning that the subject of gun violence will be discussed—akin to a peanut warning on a jar of peanuts—calls on credit card companies to freeze accounts that engage in “excessive, erratic gun and ammo purchases” and report them to law enforcement. The belief of the petition’s author is that such purchases indicate preparation to commit a mass shooting.

In my adventures in gun buying, I acquired a Short Magazine Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk.I several years ago and hurried off to the range. I was so pleased with it—including turning a deck of cards that had been left on the table into confetti—that I went back to the gun shop to get another copy of the same model, this one with a decent sporterizing addition of a scope on a rail.

Fortunately, my bank didn’t regard the purchase of two rifles and associated ammunition to be a case of erratic spending. Of course, the Smelly comes with a (currently) California-approved ten-round magazine.

If I had the tools and the time, I’d be tempted to work up a thirty rounder, even though the rimmed .303 cartridge would make that a challenge. But share with me for a moment the nerdy joy of hanging a banana magazine from a Lee Enfield and trying a Mad Minute.

Ignorance Or Contempt

The petition here once again illustrates either the ignorance or the contempt that gun control advocates have for those of us who own and shoot firearms. The logistics of a trip to the range could very well set off alarms among people who get twitchy about ordinary people being armed, since going through a couple hundred rounds is completely normal. And people who participate in competitions will regard that ammo quantity as “so cute”.

This petition isn’t precise about what excessive or erratic purchases might be, but even with carefully defined terms, the call for credit card companies to limit the exercise of a right is a bad idea. Without a clear distinction between preparations for a mass shooting and purchases for legal activities, this approach would result in so many false positives, drawing resources away from sound investigations.

There are good ways to anticipate a mass shooter’s plans. Would-be killers often show a building pattern of threats and violence. Those are much better indicators to use, and unlike buying ammunition in bulk, a person who beats a domestic partner or says he’s going to kill someone has committed an actual crime.

Attacking the ability to participate in economic activity sets a bad precedent. We all have things that we think is bad for society, but when said activity is not categorically wrong, we’d do well to wander away from Revelation to a different passage: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

About Greg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.

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'Gun crazy' Switzerland to vote on EU-aligned firearms control

The Swiss will vote this Sunday to say whether the country should tighten its gun laws and meet EU’s demands. The wealthy Alpine nation is the world’s 16th country in terms of civilian firearms possession, but has rarely seen mass shootings.

Switzerland is heading to polls on Sunday to know whether it should toughen its laws on firearms possession in order to bring it in line with the new European Union legislation on the matter.

When the European Union demanded the Alpine country abide by the bloc’s new legislation, the nation’s legislators approved new laws. But the new restrictions have prompted a national debate in Switzerland, sparkling opposition from the gun lobby and shooting enthusiasts, who managed to gather enough signatures to trigger a referendum.

Switzerland is not an EU member, even though it is linked to the bloc through many bilateral agreements. It is a member of the Schengen Area, which grants open borders between states, and also of the Dublin accords, which regulates Europe’s asylum seeking process.

The new gun legislation is crucial to maintaining warm relations with the EU and a “No” could threaten that, the Swiss government warned.

Nearly 3 guns for every 10 inhabitants

Switzerland has a deeply-rooted gun culture. While the gun-crazy country has no national registry and guns are registered regionally, according to a 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey, there are over 2.3 million firearms in civilian hands for 8 million residents.

With nearly three firearms for every 10 inhabitants, Switzerland has the world’s 16th highest rate of gun ownership, the Geneva-based NGO estimates, but only 791,719 firearms have been registered.

Rare mass shootings

Unlike the United States, which has the world’s highest gun-possession rate, the Swiss have rarely seen the kind of mass shootings that also prompted the EU to change its weapons laws in 2017.

The rate of violent deaths by firearms in Switzerland is 15.5 times lower than in the US, 2016 data shows. The last deadly tragedy dates back from 2001, when 14 people were killed in the central city of Zug.

Such figures astonish many specialists. But Martin Killias, head of the Criminology Institute at the Lausanne University, argues that “what is decisive, instead of the number of firearms, is the number of people who have access to guns. This rate is largely inferior in Switzerland”, when compared to the US, he told the Swiss French-speaking newspaper Le Temps.

Swiss gun-owners “are also more peaceful”, Killias says.

Militia-based army

The strong gun culture in Switzerland is largely tied to the country’s national defence service, a militia-based army. Most men between the ages of 18 and 30 have to undergo mandatory military service consisting of three weeks a year, and they are allowed to keep their assigned weapon once the service has finished.

“The overwhelming majority of people who own a firearm in Switzerland are in such categories: either they are in the army or attached to it, or are shooting enthusiasts and hunters. It is almost unthinkable that someone would buy a gun to protect their family, for instance,” Killias says.

“The Swiss know that guns are not made for people to attack each other with, but rather to defend our country,” 61-year-old gun collector from Zurich Markus Thommen told French newspaper Le Figaro.

High suicide rate by firearms

Although Switzerland has a low level of mass shootings, it has one of the highest suicide rates by firearms in Europe. Its rate is three times superior to the European average, according to the Swiss television RTS, and reportedly half of Swiss young men who commit suicide use a firearm — a record for Europe.

Brigitte Crottaz thinks the new legislation could tackle this sad reality: “Data has proven: the more guns we have, the more suicides there are, mainly,” the Socialist MP told Le Figaro.

Under current Swiss legislation, in order to obtain a firearm, a citizen must be over 18, have an ID card and have no criminal record. Guns are also divided into categories with different restrictions.

The new laws will oblige shooting enthusiasts to prove they attend a shooting range regularly in order to have a gun-possession authorization. As for those who already own guns, they will have three years to declare ownership to the regional authorities. Semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines would also be listed as “banned”.

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse | National Councilor Brigitte Crottaz talks, ahead of a May 19 referendum on proposals to tighten weapon ownership laws in line with EU steps, in Lausanne, Switzerland May 14, 2019. Picture taken May 14, 2019.

‘Completely useless’ legislation, gun-enthusiasts say

Its opponents consider the new laws “completely useless in fighting terrorism”, said the “No” campaign, which has the backing of the country’s biggest political party, the populist right-wing Swiss People’s Party. They also oppose a “EU dictate” which is seen as impinging on Swiss sovereignty.

“This is not a EU diktat,” Philippe Miauton, a Radical-Liberal party member and also a member of the Vaud trade chamber, told FRANCE 24. “Switzerland took part in the negotiations and got everything it wanted. Switzerland obtained a number of exceptions that I believe allow our [gun-culture] tradition to continue… We must stay in the Schengen Area.”

Lisa Mazzone, vice-president of the Green Party, also argued that the new law would grant Swiss authorities more control, with “improvements in the tracing and the marking of firearms,” she told AFP. “In terms of security, it is obviously a good thing to have a better overview of what weapons are in circulation.”

According to the latest opinion polls, 65% of the Swiss support the new legislation, with only 35% opposing to it.

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Colombine shooting survivor found dead, family cites opioid addiction

A survivor of the 1999 Colombine shooting was found dead in his Colorado home at 37, local media reported Saturday.

Austin Eubanks had struggled with an opioid addiction since days after the mass shooting, which claimed the life of his best friend as they cowered together under a table in the library.

In the 20 years since, he had become a professional speaker on the topics of addiction, recovery and drug policy.

Family said in a statement that he “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.”

Eubanks died in his home in Steamboat Springs either late Friday night or early Saturday morning, the Routt County Coroner said.

There was no sign of foul play, and an autopsy will be performed Monday, officials said.

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