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Armed Robbery at Apartment Complex in LaPorte

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Police in LaPorte are seeking the public's help regarding an armed robbery at an apartment complex. Police report the victim had arrived home from work just after 4pm Sunday, in the 12-hundred block of L Street, when he was confronted by two black males displaying handguns who ordered him into his apartment, and once inside, they reportedly stole a laptop computer, a cellphone, car keys and cash. Authorities say the suspects were seen leaving the area in a blck or silver Dodge station wagon, heading towards Lincolnway. Anyone with any information regarding this crime is asked to please contact LaPorte Police.
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NWI Native Drives Tractor to Raise Funds

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A native of northwest Indiana is driving a farm tractor from Florida to the Michigan state line – about a-thousand mile journey -- to raise money for Riley Children's Foundation and Ronald McDonald House. Darren Hayes, who grew up in LaCrosse and went to LaCrosse High School, started his trip August 26 in Chiefland, Florida, and his destination is New Buffalo, Michigan, just over the Indiana state line.
tractor
His 1952 John Deere 60 tractor is named after a little girl who died of brain cancer last year. He's also riding in honor of his friend who has been diagnosed with the same cancer.  You can hear Annie Fox's interview with Hayes here online at News Audio on Demand.
There's also more info at this website:  www.trackthetractor.com.  
Photos/ www.trackthetractor.com

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La Porte PD Welcomes New K9

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La Porte Police are sharing the first pictures of their new police K9, Rambo. They were taken during Rambo's  trip home from Shallow Creek Kennels in western Pennsylvania.
Rambo is a 13-month-old German Shepherd trained as dual-purpose police service dog who hails from the country of Belgium.   Both Rambo and his handler, Specialist Matt Drangmeister, will begin a six-week handler training course in early October.
rambo two
[Photos/La Porte Police]...

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Region Man Home Safe

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A northwest Indiana man reported missing Friday returned home safely Friday night. Porter County Sheriffs Police say 80-year-old Frank Bush, Jr., drove home by himself. Authorities say his disappearance prompted a Silver Alert after the man, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, left home that morning and didn't return.
[Photo provided/Porter County Sheriffs Police]
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Two Hurt in Rail Collapse

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Two football fans were injured when a rail collapsed at Lucas Oil Stadium after the Indianapolis-Oakland game Sunday. No word on the extent of their injuries. The two were said to be leaning against a railing above a tunnel when it gave way, and the fans fell onto a walkway that led to the Raiders locker rooms.
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ISTEP Results Expected

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The Indiana Department of Education is expected to release ISTEP-Plus results today. Results have been delayed after testing, which took place last Spring, was interrupted for students here in the Region and around the state due to computer problems. State officials continue to talk to vendor CTB McGraw Hill about a possible settlement.
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1933 'Century of Progress' Homes Featured

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1933 'Century of Progress' Homes Featured
A ranger-led tour at the Florida Tropical house. /Edwin Alcox
 
INDIANA DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE: Join a National Park Service ranger at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for a tour of five historic homes from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair on Saturday, October 19 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Each tour will last approximately two hours and includes a ranger-narrated shuttle ride from the parking area of the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center to the Century of Progress Homes Site. There is no on-site parking available at the homes. Once on site, your ranger will lead you on an inside look at the Cypress Log House, House of Tomorrow, Florida House, Armco- Ferro House, and the Rostone House. Reservations are required and there is a $20per person fee to cover the cost of the shuttle buses and other program expenses.
These tours are offered in partnership with the Dunes National Park Association (DNPA), who will take tour reservations through the DNPA website, www.dunesnationalpark.org starting at 8:00 a.m. Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2013. The DNPA is a nonprofit organization that supports the protection, preservation, and promotion of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The original 1933 “Century of Progress” houses featured innovative building materials, modern home appliances, and new construction techniques. The houses were moved to northwest Indiana in 1935 to promote a new housing community and were included in the national lakeshore boundary in the early 1970’s. Today, the historic homes are undergoing rehabilitation with private funds through a partnership with Indiana Landmarks and private citizens.
If you have additional questions about the tours or reservations, please call the national lakeshore information desk at 219-395-1882 or contact the DNPA at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.nps.gov/indu
Photo/ http://www.nps.gov/indu/historyculture/centuryofprogress.htm
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Gov Pence Announces Japan Center

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Governor Mike Pence greets Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda and commemorates the 14-year sister-state relationship between Tochigi Prefecture and Indiana. [Photo/Governor's Office]
The Japan-America Society of Indiana will establish a Japan Center and Gardens in the state of Indiana. Governor Mike Pence made the announcement as his first trade mission to Japan got underway a couple days ago. The project is expected to serve as a cultural gateway to Japan, providing the Hoosier State with a culturally appropriate venue for events and meetings relating to Japan, gardens and nature. With an authentic Japanese architectural design, the new facility will house offices and also serve as a community center.
Governor Mike Pence began his first trade mission to Japan Saturday by traveling to Tochigi Prefecture, Indiana’s sister-state, where he met with Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda and commemorated the 14-year sister-state relationship.
“The Japan Center and Gardens will symbolize the friendship between Indiana and Japan that has been cultivated, thrived and bloomed,” said Pence. “Upon its completion, I look forward to welcoming Hoosiers and visitors alike to this beautiful venue and promoting the history, tradition and strength of Indiana’s bond with Japan.”
The center, which will be located in a natural, park-like setting, will showcase formal gardens, trails, water features and wooded areas with the goal of promoting an understanding of nature and the environment through the Japanese aesthetic. JASI is actively considering possible sites and welcomes proposals.
“While the project is still in its early stages, the center promises to showcase the substantial commitment of Hoosiers to attract, welcome and partner with Japanese visitors in Indiana, and to enhance the cultural and economic cooperation between the state and Japan,” said Theresa Kulczak, executive director of JASI. “As both a learning center and quiet retreat, this will be one more shining beacon of Indiana’s vibrant, long-standing relationship with Japan.”
Pence made the announcement during a luncheon meeting with Tochigi city officials hosted by Fukuda at the Tochigi Prefectural Hall.
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AG Freezes Assets of Former LaPorte Co Dep Auditor

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LaPORTE, Ind. – Using the state’s new public accountability law, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office today took legal action to freeze the assets of a former LaPorte County deputy auditor who is accused of embezzling approximately $150,000 in county funds. 
In LaPorte County Circuit Court today, Zoeller’s office sought and obtained a temporary restraining order freezing the financial assets – including bank accounts, a home and four vehicles – of Mary C. Ray of LaPorte, Ind., until a full audit can be completed. Ray is retired from her position as deputy auditor in the LaPorte County Auditor’s Office. 
The Attorney General’s motions for a temporary restraining order and prejudgment attachment were filed under a state law the Legislature passed in 2009 at Zoeller’s urging: House Enrolled Act 1514-2009, the public accountability law. 
“It is always disheartening when a government employee is accused of violating the public trust by pocketing taxpayers’ money that does not belong to them.  The public accountability law allows the State to identify fraud on public funds earlier in the process and freeze defendants’ assets in the event we must recover them later to reimburse the public treasury,” Zoeller said. 
The investigation of missing funds began with a report to State Police that a bank deposit bag the Auditor’s Office used had been stolen. It was later recovered with checks inside but $3,200 in cash was missing. Also, within a two-day period, there was a $1,800 discrepancy between receipts and deposits. Examiners from the State Board of Accounts then launched a preliminary audit. 
That audit of the auditor’s office receipts and deposits found that approximately $150,000 had been shorted through check kiting between May 2012 and December 2012, the final months before Ray’s retirement. As deputy auditor, Ray’s duties included collecting payments from other county departments, receiving various payments to the Auditor’s Office such as permit fees made to the county, in both cash and checks, and depositing them into the county’s bank accounts. 
The preliminary audit found that certain checks paid to the county were not recorded or deposited but instead were held for weeks, and then substituted for unrelated cash payments to the county.  Swapping the unrecorded checks for cash allowed the deposits to still balance with the amount of funds receipted.  Prior to May 2012, county records show that cash and checks collected were equal to cash and checks deposited; but after May 2012, on nearly every business day there was less cash deposited than received and more checks deposited than were received, the audit found. 
The current amount of restitution the SBoA seeks from Ray is $150,000, but that amount is subject to change pending the release of the final audit report. 
The State Board of Accounts conducts regularly scheduled audits of government units and, when completed, routinely certifies them to the Attorney General’s Office for collection if audits discover misappropriation of public funds. The 2009 state law allows the SBoA and Attorney General to take action earlier in the process based on a preliminary audit, when public funds would be at risk if the State waited for the regularly scheduled final audit to be completed. 
In the motions filed today, the Attorney General’s Office asked the LaPorte County Circuit Court to freeze Ray’s assets, including real estate, vehicles and any bank or retirement accounts. The Attorney General’s Office asked the court to order that Ray’s assets not be transferred, concealed or distributed, so that funds would be available to reimburse the county if the court were to enter a judgment later. 
Based on the eventual final audit report, the Attorney General’s Office could file a complaint to recover public funds at a later date, to seek civil collection of the final amount from Ray in order to reimburse the county treasury. 
LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Alevisos granted the temporary restraining order today against Ray and set the hearing on the motion for prejudgment attachment and garnishment for 11 a.m. September 16. 
The final audit will review whether there was any surety bond coverage on Ray that the State could obtain to reimburse the county treasury for the shortage.  Any amount not covered by bonds would be Ray’s personal responsibility to repay. 
The Attorney General’s jurisdiction is civil only, to collect misappropriated public funds that have been misappropriated. Criminal charges, if any, would fall under the jurisdiction of the county prosecutor or U.S. Attorney and police agencies.
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Man Working on School Roof Falls 30 Feet Through Hole

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A man was injured this morning after falling through the roof and onto the stage of the gymnasium at Elston Middle School. The Times reports the man, whose name has not been released, was doing installation work on the new roof when he fell about 30 feet through a ventilation hole. According to the article, the man was taken from the scene by ambulance for treatment and school officials report no children or staff were near the incident when it took place around 7:30am.
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P3 Committee Selects Two Teams to Invest in Gary Airport

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GARY, IN, September 6, 2013 – An ad hoc committee of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority evaluating 10 public-private partnership (P3) proposals to invest in the airport and the surrounding area, today announced it will initiate negotiations with two highly-qualified proposal teams.
The committee will report details about the teams – Aviation Facilities Company LLC/AvPorts Management LLC and The GCIA Group, LLC – to the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority board at its meeting next week.
“Of the 10 proposals the committee evaluated, these two teams stand out in numerous categories,” said Carrie J. Hightman, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee and executive vice president and chief legal officer of NiSource Inc. “We are initiating negotiations with the two teams that offer the most comprehensive opportunity to unlock value for good jobs and sustainable development.” 
            Hightman also said the committee expects negotiations will result in a final proposal to be presented the Airport Authority board in October.
The 10 proposals evaluated by the committee include firms and organizations with a wide range of expertise in many sectors such as aviation, finance and real estate management as well as urban and environmental planning and public art.
“Each of the 10 proposals has something to offer and we’ll be taking that into our negotiations with the leading teams,” said Hightman. “Every P3 airport model in the U.S. is unique so we have a tremendous opportunity to shape a successful P3 that encompasses many facets for the long-term benefit of Gary and the region.”
The committee evaluated each proposal using criteria included in six categories: general qualifications, development of regional assets, airport management, investment of capital, business/financial strength, and creativity and innovation.
            In addition to Hightman, Ad Hoc committee members include:
·         Marion Johnson – Pastor Mt. Moriah Baptist Church
·         Bo Kemp – Managing Director, J Gari and Associates, Advisor to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
·         Harley Snyder – Chief Executive Officer, HSC, Inc. Board Member of the Regional Development Authority

Advising the committee in the evaluation of proposals is Michael Zonsius, Chief Financial Officer of the Chicago Department of Aviation. 
Tasked by the airport authority in February to explore a P3 to accelerate job creation and long-term investment in Gary and the Northwest Indiana region, the Ad Hoc committee is pursuing a P3 model that retains public ownership of the airport and benefits from private sector innovation and access to capital.  In addition to the P3 exploration, major construction at the airport of a $166 million runway extending the main 7,000-foot runway by 1,900 continues. 
The deadline for submissions for proposals was 5 p.m. (CDT) Monday August 26, 2013. 
The Gary/Chicago International Airport is less than 30 minutes from the heart of the tri-state region – Chicago. The airport is directly connected to Chicago's transportation network through freight, interstate and mass-transit and has close proximity to multiple Lake Michigan ports.
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Chicago Man Charged for Illegally Selling Firearms

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(Photo Courtesy of the Cook County Sheriff's Office)
A 24 year old Chicago man was taken into custody Wednesday and charged Thursday with illegally selling four guns, at least one of which reportedly ended up in the hands of a convicted felon. The Cook County Sheriff's Office reports Jevon Standback allegedly sold four guns he originally purchased in Florida to four people in March of 2012. Authorities say an investigation began after a MAC-11 semi-automatic pistol, which later found to be registered to Standback, was recovered in Harvey from the vehicle of a convicted felon who was injured in a crash after attempting to flee a traffic stop on July 24th.
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Governor Pence Names Three New Directors

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Indianapolis – Governor Mike Pence today named Sean Keefer as his Legislative Director, Sarah Taylor as the Executive Director of Hoosier Lottery, and Tristan Vance as Director of the Office of Energy Development.
Sean Keefer will serve as Legislative Director in the Office of the Governor. He will join the Governor’s legislative team that includes former State Representative Jeff Espich, who serves as Senior Legislative Advisor. With extensive public service experience, Keefer currently serves as Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor. Under the Daniels administration, he served as Deputy Commissioner of Labor, as well as Legislative Director and Public Information Officer. Previously,  Keefer served as Chief of Staff in the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and Deputy Secretary of State and Chief of Staff in the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office. Prior to joining state government, Keefer worked as the Director of Global Health & Science Policy for the American College of Sports Medicine and in the public affairs division of Bose Public Affairs. Keefer, of Fishers, earned his undergraduate degree from Hillsdale College and his graduate degree from Indiana University. He will begin his new role on September 18, 2013.
Sarah Taylor will serve as Executive Director of the Hoosier Lottery beginning October 1, 2013. Taylor is the current Director of Constituent Services for the 48th Mayor of Indianapolis, Gregory A. Ballard. Twice elected as the Marion County Clerk, where she served for eight years, she acted as the chief financial officer for court receipts including child support monies and as chief election official for Indianapolis/Marion County.  An Indiana native, Taylor, of Indianapolis, earned her undergraduate degree from Indiana University.
Tristan Vance will continue to lead the state’s energy efforts as Director of the Office of Energy Development (OED). Vance was first appointed to lead OED in February of 2012.  He previously worked as special assistant to Lt. Governor Skillman starting in 2005 and later joined the Government Efficiency and Financial Planning group in the Office of Management and Budget in 2007. There, he monitored efficiency at several state agencies, including OED. Vance is from Paoli and is a graduate of Hanover College.

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Hammond PD's Recent Traffic Safety Campaign Results

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The Hammond Police Department recently participated in the nationwide "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" traffic safety campaign.  During the course of this campaign, officers performed a sobriety checkpoint and roving DUI patrols.  Officers made a total of 12 operating while intoxicated arrests and issued a total of 784 other citations for such things as speeding, driving while suspended, equipment violations, and seat belt violations.  Thirteen criminal arrests were also made including arrests for possession of marijuana, and outstanding arrest warrants.  Funding for this campaign was provided by NHTSA through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
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LaPorte PD's Wanted Person of the Week Surrenders

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(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte Police Department)
A man named earlier this week as the LaPorte Police Department's Wanted Person of the Week, has reported surrendered himself to law enforcement. The LaPorte Police Department reports Edward Holman turned himself in on Thursday without incident. Holman was wanted on a warrant out of LaPorte Circuit Court for the charge of felony criminal sexual deviate conduct and was considered armed and dangerous. Police thank the public for their assistance with tips.
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Report: Grade Change Adjustments Plausible, Fair

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A report out today conducted at the request of top Republican state lawmakers on Indiana's A-to-F grading system concludes former State School Superintendent Tony Bennett adjusted the rules fairly when he changed the grade for a charter school run by a G-O-P donor... and that the “treatment afforded to the school was consistently applied to other schools with similar circumstances.” The office of current school superintendent Democrat Glenda Ritz has also ordered a review of the grading system.
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Skilled Nursing Facility to Close

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The operators of Towne Centre Health Care have notified the state that their 120-bed skilled nursing facility on Arthur Boulevard in Merrillville will close November 4th, resulting in the loss of about 121 full and part-time jobs. Capital Senior Living ILM-B said in their WARN, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, notice to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that they will continue to operate the assisted living and independent living facilities at Towne Centre.
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Anonymous Pledge of $1M Toward Shelter

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A surprise announcement at last night's Porter County Park Board meeting... County Commissioners John Evans and Laura Blaney told the panel an anonymous donor has pledged one-million dollars toward a new animal shelter... as the commissioners also put forth a proposal to build the facility on three to five acres of Sunset Hill Farm County Park. Blaney told our Steve Zana today the donation is not predicated on a new shelter being built at the park,"but the donor would like to see it built at a good spot," Blaney said, "like that one."
The park is at US 6 and Meridian Road; the proposed site is 16-hundred feet east of Meridian. The current shelter on State Road 2 south of US 30 has been described as old, outdated and overcrowded. Porter County Sheriff David Lain,whose department is responsible for animal control, told the Region News Team earlier this week a developing situation with Hobart's Humane Society saying the Hobart shelter will have to stop taking in animals from Portage is also affecting the Porter County Animal Shelter.
You can hear our interviews with Commissioner Blaney and Sheriff Lain at News Audio on Demand here at our website.
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Popcorn Fest Traffic Alert

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Detours in and around Valparaiso begin early this evening for the 35th annual Popcorn Fest Saturday (Sept 7). Valparaiso Police Sgt. Michael Grennes says many road closures start around 6-o'clock tonight (Friday Sept 6). Valparaiso Police also say there's a slight route change that takes this year's Popcorn Panic run/walk a litte further north, and it'll end a little closer to Central Park in downtown Valpo.  Police also remind festival goers that skateboards and bicycles are not allowed at the fest, and all dogs must be on a leash, though police strongly encourage visitors to not bring dogs to the fest. Here's more info from Valparaiso Police:
The Valparaiso Police Department is issuing a traffic alert for Saturday due to the annual Popcorn Festival downtown Valparaiso. Many roadways throughout the city will have heavier than normal traffic and many roadways especially in the morning will be closed for the Popcorn Panic Run and Popcorn Parade.
Downtown roadways will begin closing Friday evening. Starting at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, Lincolnway from downtown west to Campbell St. then north on Campbell to Glendale will be completely closed to traffic for the Popcorn Panic race/walk. Roadways will re-open shortly after the race/walk concludes and then re-close just prior to the parade starting at 10 a.m.  The parade route includes Calumet from Evans south bound on Morgan Blvd. to Lincolnway then west bound to Campbell St and northbound to Park Ave.
Bicycles and skateboards are not permitted in the downtown area during the festival. Individuals with these items will be asked to leave the festival by police. All dogs must be on a leash and individuals are strongly encouraged not to bring dogs to the festival.
Residents should expect traffic delays during the morning hours and plan alternate routes of travel on Saturday.
[Photo courtesy Valpo Parks Department]
For more info about the Popcorn Fest: http://www.valparaisoevents.com/popcorn%20festival/
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Underwater Preserve Proposed

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Plans are in the works for the state's first underwater nature preserve off the Lake Michigan shoreline in Northwest Indiana. The Natural Resource Commission is scheduled to vote on the “J.D. Marshall Preserve” September 17, and if approved, an official dedication ceremony would happen at the end of the month. The J.D. Marshall, a 154-foot wooden commercial vessel built for the lumber trade then converted to a sand barge, capsized in a storm, killing four crew members. The site of the June 1911 shipwreck is north of the Indiana Dunes State Park. The preserve would be marked by buoys to protect the remains of ship and keep boats from dropping anchor there. The Marshall's huge cast-iron propeller is at the park, and other artifacts are on display at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center.
Photo/http://www.in.gov/dnr/shipwreck/shipwrecks.html
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