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Tag Archive | "Flint water crisis"

MDHHS Director and four others charged in Flint Water death


 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on Wednesday, June 14, that he has charged Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith, and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch, with involuntary manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in the Flint Water Crisis.

Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or a $7,500 fine.

In addition to the involuntary manslaughter charges, Schuette also charged Lyon with Misconduct in Office, a felony, subject to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells has also been charged with lying to a peace officer and obstruction of justice related to an alleged attempt to stop an investigation into the health crisis in Flint and later misleading investigators as to her actions.

INVESTIGATION INTERIM REPORT

With more than a dozen people now having been charged, and pre-trial hearings and other legal proceedings occurring, Schuette released the initial results of the more than yearlong investigation. Included in the report is a look at today’s and past charges made, as well as a review of the facts and evidence in the case. (You can find the report by clicking on this link – Flint-Water-Interim-Report.pdf)

DEFENDANTS 

Multiple Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires’ disease in the time immediately following the switch from Detroit Water and Sewer Department to the Flint River. All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Michigan. Skidmore died of Legionnaires’ disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system.

NICK LYON – As the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a position whose duties are outlined in the Michigan Constitution, Lyon has a duty to protect public health. The investigation has shown that Lyon allegedly received notice of a deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Genesee County nearly one year before he informed the public.  After being informed about a potentially fatal health risk, Lyon allegedly deliberately failed to inform the public of a deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak, which resulted in the death of Robert Skidmore.  Furthermore, Lyon allegedly participated in covering up the source of Genesee County’s Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak by repeatedly attempting to prevent an independent researcher from looking into the cause of the outbreak.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

COUNT 2 – MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE Did between February 2015 and May 2017, commit misconduct in office, an indictable offense at common law, in violation of his duty to protect the health of the citizens of the County of Genesee, State of Michigan and to protect the public health enjoined upon him by the Michigan Public Health Code, MCL 333.5111(1); MCL 333.5111(2)(f);MCL 333.2251(1): MCL 333.2251(3); and MCL 333.20531 and the Critical Health Problems Reporting Act; contrary to MCL 750.505. [750.505] FELONY: 5 Years and/or $10,000.00.

EDEN WELLS – As the Chief Medical Executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eden Wells has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of Michigan residents. During the course of the investigation of the Flint Water Crisis, it is alleged that Wells attempted to withhold funding for programs designed to help the victims of the crisis, and then lied to an investigator about material facts related to the investigation.

Charges: COUNT 1 – OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE Did commit the common law offense of obstruction of justice by knowingly providing false testimony to a Special Agent and by threatening to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if the partnership did not cease its investigation into the source of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan; contrary to MCL 750.505. FELONY: 5 Years or $10,000.  DNA to be taken upon arrest.

COUNT 2 – LYING TO A PEACE OFFICER – 4 YEAR OR MORE CRIME INVESTIGATION After being informed by Special Counsel Todd Flood, in the presence of Special Agent Arthur Wimmer, that they were conducting a criminal investigation, did knowingly and willfully make a statement or statements to the officer that he or she knew was false or misleading regarding the following material fact or facts relating to the investigation: the date she knew of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan, and the officer was conducting a criminal investigation regarding involuntary manslaughter; contrary to MCL 750.479c(2)(c). [750.470C2C]. HIGH COURT MISDEMEANOR: 2 Years and/or $5,000.00.

STEPHEN BUSCH – Stephen Busch served as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District 8 Water Supervisor, a position which would have allowed him to order the Flint Water Treatment Plant be shut down because it was not producing safe water. In January of 2015, Busch was made aware of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak, yet he allegedly represented to the public that Flint’s drinking water was safe.

Busch was previously charged with felony Misconduct in Office, Tampering with Evidence, Conspiracy to Tamper with Evidence, and two misdemeanor counts for both a treatment and monitoring violation of the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

LIANE SHEKTER-SMITH  – As the Chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance at the Department of Environmental Quality, Shekter-Smith had the ability to order the Flint Water Treatment Plant shut down for failure to produce safe water.

Shekter-Smith was previously charged with a felony of Misconduct in Office and a misdemeanor charge of Willful Neglect of Duty.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

HOWARD CROFT – As Director of Public Works for the City of Flint, Croft had the ability to mandate changes to the treatment processes at the WTP to ensure proper disinfection was occurring, or switch back to DWSD. Mike Glasgow, former Flint Water Treatment Plant Operator, was allegedly pressured by Croft to start using the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Croft’s alleged failure to treat the water properly contributed to the bacterial outbreaks found in Flint, including the legionella in the spring of 2015.

Croft was previously charged with felony False Pretenses and Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

DARNELL EARLEY – As an appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Flint, Earley was tasked with ensuring the health and welfare of the City. During his terms as Emergency Manager, Earley contributed to the decisions that allegedly caused the death of Robert Skidmore by keeping the City on the water source even as it became obvious the source should be switched back to Detroit Water & Sewer.

Earley was previously charged with felony False Pretenses, Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Misconduct in Office and a misdemeanor charge of Willful Neglect of Duty.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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More officials charged in Flint water crisis investigation


 

Schuette files criminal charges against two former emergency managers, two         ex-Flint employees; investigation now totals 43 criminal charges against 13 defendants

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed charges this week against two former State of Michigan Emergency Managers—Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose—with multiple 20-year felonies for their failure to protect the citizens of Flint from health hazards caused by contaminated drinking water.

“All too prevalent in this Flint Water Investigation was a priority on balance sheets and finances rather than health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” said Schuette.

Additionally, Schuette announced that Earley and Ambrose, along with ex-City of Flint executives Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson, also face felony charges of false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretenses related to their roles in a process that led to the issuance bonds to pay for a portion of the KWA water project.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Flint Water Investigation Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, and Chief Investigator Andy Arena joined Schuette in the announcement, the third round of criminal charges brought by Schuette in the Flint Water Investigation. Schuette has also filed a round of civil law suits against water supply engineering firms.

What Went Wrong

The false pretenses and conspiracy to commit false pretense charges against Earley and Amborse are based on the Defendants gaining authorization to borrow millions using the alleged reason of an environmental calamity.

Without the funds from Flint, the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Pipeline would have to be mothballed. However, as a bankrupt city, Flint needed the Michigan Department of Treasury’s approval to get loans.

Emergency Manager Earley’s attempts to get funds in January and February of 2014 were rejected because the City was in receivership, had a $13-million deficit and no credit rating. State law banned the City from accumulating any more debt.

However, the Defendants allegedly used the Home Rule City Act emergency bond clause, created to deal with cases of “fire, flood, or other calamity,” to borrow the tens of millions required to pay for Flint’s portion of the KWA. The clean-up of a troublesome lime sludge lagoon—holding by-products of water treatment—became the vehicle to get a state waiver for the bonds.

To make the situation even worse, tucked inside the 15-page Statement of Purpose for an upgrade of Flint’s Water Treatment Plant system was a one-paragraph requirement that bound the city to use the Flint River as an interim water source, and the Flint Water Treatment Plant as the sanitizing and distribution center.

The Flint Water Treatment Plant, however, was not ready to produce safe, clean water to the citizens of Flint. Regardless, the Defendants mandated the City to use the Flint Water Treatment Plant as part of the deal to get the ability to issue bonds.

Defendants Croft and Johnson allegedly pressured employees of the Flint Water Treatment Plant to get the plant in working order before April of 2014, the scheduled date for re-start. When the deadline closed in, rather than sound the alarm, the defendants allegedly ignored warnings and test results and shut off the pipes pulling clean water from Detroit, and turned on the Flint River valves.

Defendants and Charges

Darnell Earley: Earley, of Lansing, was appointed as Flint’s Emergency Manager by Gov. Rick Snyder, serving from September 2013 until January 2015.  He is charged with the following:

*False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

He allegedly participated in a process that allowed the use bonds to fund the construction of the KWA pipeline despite the City’s problem with its high debt level. The City of Flint, with MDEQ approval, used an exception to state law by claiming the bonds were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond, when in fact the funds were intended to pay for the KWA. During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

*Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

*Misconduct in Office, Felony, 5 Years and/or $10,000.00

He allegedly allowed the Flint Water Treatment Plant to produce water despite knowledge the plant was not ready for use, allowed Flint to enter into a contract requiring use of the Flint Water Treatment Plant during that time, and authorized false and misleading public statements that the water was safe to drink.

*Willful Neglect of Duty in Office, Misdemeanor: 1 Year and/or $1,000.00

He allegedly failed to perform his duty of protecting the public health.

Gerald Ambrose: Ambrose, of Wyoming, Michigan, began working for the City of Flint in January 2012, first as finance director for three emergency managers and then succeeded Earley when he was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder as emergency manager from January 2015 to April of 2015. He is charged with the following:

*False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

He allegedly participated in a process that allowed the use bonds to fund the construction of the KWA pipeline despite the City’s problem with its high debt level. The City of Flint, with MDEQ approval, used an exception to state law by claiming the bonds were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond, when in fact the funds were intended to pay for the KWA. During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

*Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

*Misconduct in Office, Felony, 5 Years and/or $10,000.00

He allegedly obstructed and hindered a healthcare investigation conducted by the Genesee County Health Department with regard to the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

*Willful Neglect of Duty in Office, Misdemeanor: 1 Year and/or $1,000.00

Allegedly failed to perform his duty of protecting the public health.

Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson: Croft was the City of Flint’s Director of the Department of Public Works from December 2011 to November 17, 2015. Johnson served as the City of Flint’s Utilities Director for the Department of Public Works. They are charged with the following:

*False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

Croft and Johnson are alleged to have aided and abetted Defendants Ambrose and Earley in in a process that allowed the use bonds to fund the construction of the KWA pipeline despite the City’s problem with its high debt level. The City of Flint, with MDEQ approval, used an exception to state law by claiming the bonds were needed to fund an emergency cleanup of a retention pond, when in fact the funds were intended to pay for the KWA. During that time, the defendants actively worked in various fashions to discourage a return to using water produced by the Detroit Water and Sewer Department, require the use of Flint River water through a Flint Water Treatment Plant, that was deemed unready for service by several people involved with its management, and to ensure the construction of the KWA.

*Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Felony: 20 Years and/or $35,000, or 3 times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

13 Defendants in Flint Water Case so Far 

As of today, in total, Schuette has filed 43 criminal charges against 13 current and former state and local officials since the start of the Flint Water Investigation, which has included interviews with approximately 200 witnesses.

The first round of criminal charges from Schuette’s Flint Water Investigation were filed on April 20, 2016 against two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) employees and one City of Flint employee. Schuette’s second legal action took place on June 22, 2016, when he filed a civil suit against water infrastructure firms Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam for their roles in the Flint water poisoning crisis. In July, Schuette filed 18 criminal charges against four current and two former employees from two state departments.

“The crisis in Flint was a casualty of arrogance, disdain and a failure of management.  An absence of accountability. We will proceed to deliver justice and hold those accountable who broke the law,” commented Schuette.

Schuette’s investigation remains ongoing and the charges filed do not preclude additional charges later.  A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Schuette charges six more in Flint water crisis


State attorney general sealIn the third legal action of his Flint Water Investigation, Schuette files 18 criminal charges against six current and former state officials from MDEQ and MDHHS

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on Friday, July 29, the third legal action of his Flint Water Investigation, filing 18 criminal charges against four current and two former employees from two state departments. The charges are a result of actions taken by officials at the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services that Schuette says contributed to the Flint water-poisoning crisis by withholding vital information from the public about ongoing lead poisoning and allowing the continued distribution of corrosive water from the Flint Water Treatment Plant.

“Some may wish or worry that the story of Flint will be slowly absorbed by other world events or lost in the noise and clatter of the 24-hour news cycle and short attention span of posts and tweets,” remarked Schuette. “Not on our watch.”

Schuette was joined at the announcement by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Flint Water Investigation Special Prosecutor Todd Flood, and Chief Investigator Andy Arena.

A total of nine defendants so far

As of today, Schuette has filed criminal charges against nine current and former state and local officials since the start of the investigation, which has included interviews with nearly 180 witnesses.

In the third legal action of the investigation, today a total of 18 criminal charges (12 felonies and 6 misdemeanors) were filed in Genesee County’s 67th District Court in Flint against six individuals, three from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and three from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

“The families of Flint will not be forgotten. We will provide the justice they deserve. And in Michigan, the justice system is not rigged,” noted Schuette. “There is one system of justice. The laws apply to everyone, equally, no matter who you are. Period. Providing justice to families of Flint means accountability. Those who committed crimes will be held accountable.”

MDEQ Employee Charges:

The new charges include high-ranking officials at the MDEQ who failed in their duties to ensure the provision of safe drinking water and worked to make sure the Flint Water Treatment Plant stayed up and running regardless of the outcome or warning signs its operation was resulting in water poisoned with lead.

Liane Shekter-Smith: Charges allege that former high-ranking MDEQ official Liane Shekter-Smith, then-Chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, held key responsibilities for ensuring the provision of clean, safe drinking water for the citizens of Flint. Despite receiving notice of citizen complaints about water quality and knowledge of a Legionnaires outbreak and issues with lead levels, Shekter-Smith, in her high-ranking position that included supervision of key MDEQ employees, not only allegedly failed to take corrective action or notify public health officials but, in fact took steps to mislead and conceal evidence from health officials in phone calls revealed by the investigation.

Liane Shekter-Smith, former Chief of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance: 1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $1,000)

Adam Rosenthal: Charges allege that current MDEQ employee Adam Rosenthal, who worked in Shekter-Smith’s section, was warned by Flint Water Treatment Plant officials that they were not ready for operations and was later warned by the EPA that high levels of lead is usually due to particulate lead, signaling a corrosion problem. Charges allege that in 2015, Rosenthal willfully participated in the manipulation of lead testing results and falsely reported that the 90th percentile of the results for lead water testing was below the federal action level.  Eventually, a July 28, 2015 report was altered to exclude some high lead tests and Rosenthal forwarded the altered report on. Previously charged MDEQ employees Busch and Prsyby were also allegedly involved.

Adam Rosenthal, Water Quality Analyst
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $1,000)

1 count, Tampering with Evidence (Felony: 4 years and/or $5,000)

1 count, Conspiracy—Tampering with Evidence (Felony: 4 years and/or $10,000)

Patrick Cook: Charges allege that Cook, who is the current MDEQ official responsible for compliance with lead and copper monitoring, signed a permit in 2014 that was the last approval necessary for the use of the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Cook subsequently was aware of problems with the water in Flint but allegedly took no corrective action in his duty to ensure the provision of clean, safe drinking water in Flint. Cook allegedly mislead the EPA regarding the necessity of using corrosion control in Flint after the switch when he allegedly forwarded information he knew to be false to the EPA in response to its inquire.

Patrick Cook, Specialist for Community Drinking Water Unit


1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor: 1 year and/or $1,000)

1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Conspiracy (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

MDHHS Employee Charges:

New charges allege that these MDHHS defendants discovered that Flint children were being poisoned by lead but suppressed that information, keeping it from reaching doctors and health officials who sought to protect the welfare of the children and citizens of Flint.

Nancy Peeler, Robert Scott and Corinne Miller: In July of 2015, Nancy Peeler, Director of the MDHHS Program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, requested an internal report on blood lead level data in Flint children.  That report, created on July 28, 2015 using sound scientific principles, showed a significant spike— higher than usual— in blood lead tests for Flint children for the summer of 2014.  However, the charges allege that that report was buried, never forwarded by Peeler or others to appropriate health officials.

Peeler then joined with a different MDHHS employee, Robert Scott, the Data Manager for the Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program, and created a second report, issued two days after the initial report.  The second report falsely indicated no statistically significant rise in blood lead levels of children in the summer of 2014.

Meanwhile, Corinne Miller, the then-Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and State Epidemiologist, received the first report but instructed others not to take action, rebuffing other employees who asked about next steps of action. The charges allege that Miller later instructed another MDHHS employee to delete emails concerning the original blood lead data report from July 28, 2015.

The investigation also revealed that on day the first blood lead level report was created, July 28, 2015, there was communication between MDEQ Defendant Liane Shekter-Smith and MDHHS.  This was the same time that MDEQ defendants allegedly were manipulating lead water results to conceal unsafe lead levels.  Despite knowledge to the contrary, the investigation showed that Shekter-Smith allegedly told MDHHS that there were no lead issues with Flint’s drinking water.

Nancy Peeler, Director, Program for Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Conspiracy, (Felony, 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000)

Robert Scott, Data Manager for the Healthy Homes and Lead Prevention program
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Conspiracy, (Felony, 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000)

Corinne Miller, Former Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and State Epidemiologist
1 count, Misconduct in Office (Felony: 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Conspiracy, (Felony, 5 years and/or $10,000)

1 count, Willful Neglect of Duty (Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000

The DEQ and MDHHS released a joint statement saying that based upon the filing of the charges, their departments would each be suspending two current employees (Rosenthal and Cook from the DEQ and Peeler and Scott from MDHHS) without pay until further review of the charges can be conducted. “The other two state employees charged are no longer with DEQ or MDHHS,” they said. “DEQ and MDHHS will continue to monitor the legal proceedings and evaluate next steps as appropriate.”

The first round of criminal charges from Schuette’s Flint Water Investigation were filed on April 20, 2016 against two Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) employees and one City of Flint employee.   Schuette’s second legal action took place on June 22, 2016, when he filed a civil suit against water infrastructure firms Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam for their roles in the Flint water poisoning crisis. Schuette’s investigation remains ongoing and the charges filed today do not preclude additional charges at a later date.

“The victims are real people, families who have been lied to by government officials and been treated as expendable. But when our investigation is completed and our prosecutions are successful—and we believe they will be—then accountability and justice will be delivered to families of Flint and families of Michigan,” said Schuette.

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