National News

An Auburn student vanished in 1976. Now his car has been found

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(ALABAMA)  -- Forty-five years after an Auburn University student vanished on his way to school, his car -- and possibly his remains -- have been recovered.

Kyle Clinkscales and his white 1974 Ford Pinto Runabout went missing on Jan. 27, 1976, when Clinkscales was on his way from LaGrange, Georgia, to Auburn University, about 45 miles away, said James Woodruff, the sheriff of Troup County, Georgia.

The 22-year-old never returned to school and his parents filed a missing persons report, Woodruff said.

The sheriff's office has searched for Clinkscales and his car for 45 years, following hundreds of leads, though nothing substantial ever developed, Woodruff said.

On Tuesday, a man called 911 when he spotted the car in a creek in Chambers County, Alabama, Woodruff said at a news conference Wednesday.

Apparent human bones were found in the car, Woodruff said. The bones have not yet been identified, he noted, adding that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is examining them.

Clinkscales' ID and credit cards were found in a wallet in the car, Woodruff said.

The creek runs under a well-traveled road, officials said. The car was about three miles from the interstate Clinkscales would have taken to school, officials said.

Police said they don't know what the 911 caller was doing by the creek, adding that his contact information has been provided to investigators.

The sheriff said he hopes the remains will help determine if this was foul play or a car crash.

Clinkscales' father died in 2007 and his mother died in January of this year, Woodruff said. While the sheriff said he wished Clinkscales' mother was alive to see this development, "just the fact that we have hopefully found him and the car brings me a big sigh of relief."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Riverside County official expresses 'horror' over abuse of Turpin siblings, pledging 'full' investigation

ABC

(CALIFORNIA) -- The top elected official in Riverside County, California, said Tuesday that she was appalled by the abuse endured by the 13 Turpin children over the years, stressing that the county is determined to investigate allegations that the siblings continued to be mistreated after they were placed under the county's care nearly four years ago.

Karen Spiegel, chairwoman of the Riverside Board of Supervisors, offered her first public comments since the plight of many of the Turpin children was detailed during ABC's "20/20" Diane Sawyer special event, "Escape From A House Of Horror," which aired on Nov. 19.

"I, like many of you, watched the recent '20/20' special on the Turpin children. The reaction for most of us was horror, disgust. What happened to those children during that time was something none of us would want ourselves or our children to ever live through," said Karen Spiegel, chairwoman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, during a public meeting.

Spiegel underscored that the county remains committed to supporting its independent investigation of the Riverside County care of the Turpin children, as well as that of all the vulnerable children and adults in the county's care.

"It's of utmost importance to complete a full and independent evaluation of our county systems, and in the way that we provide care and deliver services," Spiegel said.

In 2018, the Turpin children escaped from their Riverside County home, where they were subjected to violence and deprived of food, sleep, hygiene, education and health care at the hands of their parents.

An ABC investigation explored allegations that the county's social services systems, for dependent children and adults, had failed the Turpin children, then aged 2 to 29, following their rescue.

Many of the siblings were still "living in squalor," Mike Hestrin, the Riverside County District Attorney, told ABC News this summer.

"That is unimaginable to me -- that we could have the very worst case of child abuse that I've ever seen, and then that we would then not be able to get it together to give them basic needs," Hestrin told Sawyer.

Despite an initial outpouring of support in the weeks after their parents' 2018 arrest, some of the Turpin siblings and their advocates told ABC News that the siblings are still struggling to access basic living necessities, including food and housing.

"Right now, I don't really have a way to get food right now," Jordan Turpin, 21, told Sawyer at the time of the interview in July.

However, at Tuesday's meeting, Spiegel suggested there was "always more to a story."

"Like many things we see on the media and the internet, I also had to step back and caution myself not to make total judgment from some of the facts. There's always more to a story. And sometimes you get what they want you to hear, and only that, nothing with the backup," Spiegel said.

When approached by ABC News about the allegations after a Nov. 9 meeting of the county's Board of Supervisors, Spiegel declined to discuss specifics about what has transpired with the Turpin children since they were rescued.

"Well I am not -- I don't have the information you're looking for," Spiegel told ABC News at the county meeting last month. "We're still in investigation stages, so I don't have anything to share with you."

The accusations ultimately prompted the county to initiate an independent probe into the care of the Turpin siblings, as well as that of other vulnerable children and adults, who are all under the supervision of the court.

In late October, the county appointed former U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson to lead the investigation, which is set to be completed by March 31, 2022.

Larson served nearly 10 years on the bench in California, including three years in district court after being appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, according to his biography.

"My firm and I are fully committed to conducting a thorough and transparent examination of these matters, as expected by this board, and the residents and citizens of Riverside County," Larson told the supervisors during an introductory presentation on Tuesday.

The law firm's investigation has two primary objectives, according to Larson.

The first is "identifying and scrutinizing" the services provided to 13 siblings while under the care and supervision of the county. The second is to assess the quality of the Riverside County services for all children in foster care and dependent adults.

"We have to care about all of our children," Spiegel said.

Larson commended the county for initiating the investigation, telling the board that "the fact that the county promptly sought an independent review and that you are demanding swift and meaningful action underscores for me in this county, your commitment to addressing these critical issues directly, openly and effectively."

Larson reported that his team has "complete autonomy to pursue all relevant lines of inquiry to answer the critical questions that our investigation will uncover."

"I want you to know that the board stands ready to provide the full resources and not to leave a stone unturned," Spiegel said, adding that she expects Larson to act as a neutral party in the investigation.

During the meeting on Tuesday, the board also approved the creation of an ad-hoc committee to assess inter-departmental systems improvement for the protection of vulnerable children and adults.

According to a county representative, the committee will receive regular status reports and updates from Larson LLP, ensure full and complete access to any and all relevant information to support the inquiry, and make recommendations to the full Board of Supervisors regarding policy directives, systems changes and service delivery improvements.

ABC News' Michelle Mendez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Epstein accuser on Ghislaine Maxwell: She was his 'chief orchestrator'

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(NEW YORK)  -- Sarah Ransome, a woman who has accused notorious serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault, opened up on "The View" on Tuesday about how Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s longtime companion, allegedly aided in her abuse.

In her new memoir "Silenced No More: Surviving My Journey to Hell and Back," Ransome, who grew up in both South Africa and the United Kingdom, describes meeting Epstein when she was 22 years old shortly after arriving in New York City as an aspiring fashion student. She was “befriended” by another young woman at a nightclub, Ransome said, who called her just days later to arrange her introduction to a "fantastic" philanthropist who, she was told, believed in supporting young talent.

During their first meeting, she said, Epstein promised Ransome to help her gain admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology. It wasn’t long, Ransome said, before she was invited to stay on Epstein’s private island in the Caribbean. It was during that trip, she said, that Epstein raped her for the first time, trapping her in a cycle of abuse that, she said, would last for the next nine months.

"I was just completely traumatized by the rape," Ransome said. "I was very quickly told by Jeffrey that after he raped me if I ever went to the authorities, if I ever told my parents, if I ever told my friends, and if I ever tried to escape, he would kill me … and take out my entire family."

Ghislaine Maxwell -- Epstein's former girlfriend and longtime associate -- faces a six-count indictment for allegedly conspiring with and aiding Epstein in the recruitment, enticement and trafficking of underage girls between 1994 and 2004. Ransome, as well as other alleged victims of Epstein, have accused Maxwell of orchestrating Epstein's alleged sex trafficking scheme and recruiting young women and girls for him to assault.

Ransome sued Epstein and Maxwell in 2017 for alleged sex trafficking. The suit was settled in 2018 with no admission of wrongdoing. In court papers, Maxwell denied being responsible for Epstein’s actions and argued that as a 22-year-old, Ransome could not be a victim of sex trafficking, but was a sophisticated, college-educated young woman engaged in a consensual relationship.

In a case that does not include Ransome, federal prosecutors say Maxwell played a "key role" in a multi-state sex trafficking ring, in which she allegedly "befriended" and later "enticed and groomed multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein," allegedly being "present for and involved" in the abuse herself on occasion. Maxwell has denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein's abuse and has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.

"It makes me sick to my stomach that Ghislaine is claiming to be innocent and claiming to be a victim, because she was the chief orchestrater. She was the engineer," Ransome said.

Ransome said she was "led by complete fear” as she remained in Epstein’s orbit, visiting him both in New York and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As soon as Ransome felt it was safe to escape, she said, she boarded a plane to the United Kingdom to reunite with her mother.

In August 2019, one month after Epstein was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy in New York, he died by apparent suicide while being held in federal custody at the now-shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan.

Now, as Maxwell stands trial, Ransome hopes Maxwell will face consequences for her alleged actions as well.

"She broke the sisterhood bond," Ransome said of Maxwell.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Omicron live updates: New study suggests Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may only partially protect against variant

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As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 791,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 60.1% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 08, 2:03 pm

Work from home advised in England

England will move to "plan B" ahead of Christmas, with the government advising people to work from home if they can beginning on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a press conference Wednesday at 10 Downing Street.

Johnson warned, "It's become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous delta variant and is spreading rapidly around the world."

He said there's evidence that omicron cases in the U.K. could double in two or three days.

-ABC News' Ibtissem Guenfoud

Dec 08, 1:42 pm

US sees highest daily case average since September  

The U.S. is now reporting more than 117,000 new cases each day -- marking the nation's highest daily average since September, according to federal data. Just in the last week, the daily case average has surged by 46%.

New Hampshire currently holds the nation's highest case rate followed by Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Indiana.

On average, more than 1,100 new COVID-19 related deaths are being reported each day in the U.S. -- up by 38% in the last week, according to federal data.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 08, 12:54 pm

Cases surging in South Africa

South Africa reported 19,842 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday -- a 50% increase from Tuesday and a 131% increase from one week ago.

South Africa now has 360 confirmed omicron cases.

Just 24.41% of the country's population is fully vaccinated, according to Africa CDC.

-ABC News' Christine Theodorou

Dec 08, 11:41 am

WHO on omicron: Emerging data suggests increased risk of re-infection

Emerging data from South Africa suggest an increased risk of re-infection with omicron, though more data's needed to draw firmer conclusion, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Wednesday press conference.

He also said there's some evidence omicron causes milder symptoms than delta, though that is not yet definitive.

Omicron has now been reported in 57 countries. The director-general said, "we expect that number to continue growing."

-ABC News' Christine Theodorou

Dec 08, 11:07 am

Pfizer CEO: Don't wait for omicron-specific booster

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla agrees with experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci who have been vocal in saying Americans shouldn't wait for an omicron-specific booster.

"People should go get their third dose now, and not wait,” Bourla told ABC News on Wednesday.

However, he stressed the importance of developing a variant-specific booster in case it is needed.

"The reason why we are doing a specific omicron vaccine is because you never know. We can't take a chance. It's not the first time that we do it. We have already created a vaccine for beta, and we have already created a vaccine for delta, we never used them. But we used the resources to develop them, because the scenario that eventually we need it, and we didn't have it in hand, would be very bad. So we will continue doing that for every variant," he said.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 08, 8:50 am
New study suggests Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may only partially protect against omicron variant

Results from an initial laboratory study show that the omicron variant can partially dodge protection from two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

The companies announced the findings in a joint press release Wednesday. The study, which was not peer-reviewed, found that omicron likely reduces efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but does not render it ineffective and that a third dose offers even greater protection against the new variant.

"Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it's clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine," Pfizer chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement Wednesday. "Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

The study was conducted in a laboratory by exposing a vaccinated individual's blood to omicron to see whether the vaccine would neutralise the variant. Some of the participants included in the study had received two doses of the vaccine, while others had gotten a third booster dose.

For those with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, researchers found there was a 25-fold less antibody neutralization ability of omicron compared to the original virus variant. But within a month after getting a booster shot, researchers found that antibodies were restored to a high level, even against omicron. Giving a third dose of the vaccine appeared to boost antibody levels 25-fold -- roughly equivalent to a level seen after two doses against the original virus variant.

"Our preliminary, first dataset indicate that a third dose could still offer a sufficient level of protection from disease of any severity caused by the Omicron variant," BioNTech co-founder and CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement Wednesday. "Broad vaccination and booster campaigns around the world could help us to better protect people everywhere and to get through the winter season. We continue to work on an adapted vaccine which, we believe, will help to induce a high level of protection against Omicron-induced COVID-19 disease as well as a prolonged protection compared to the current vaccine."

The study measured antibody levels, which are only one part of a person's overall protection. The exact percentage of vaccine efficacy against the omicron variant remains unclear.

-Sony Salzman

Dec 07, 1:50 pm
Fauci: Omicron 'almost certainly' not more severe than delta

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday told news agency Agence France-Presse that the omicron variant is "almost certainly" not more severe than delta.

He stressed, however, that it is important to not overinterpret early data, as the patients being followed skew younger and are less likely to become hospitalized. Severe illness can take weeks to develop.

"There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe, because when you look at some of the cohorts that are being followed in South Africa, the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations seems to be less than with delta," Fauci said.

He also reiterated that it would take at least several more weeks to understand key questions surrounding omicron's severity.

Results from labs testing current vaccines against omicron should come in the "next few days to a week," Fauci said.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 07, 11:05 pm
US daily death average surges

The daily death average in the U.S. has increased to more than 1,150 -- up by 57% in the last week, according to federal data.

The U.S. is about 10,000 deaths away from reaching yet another grim milestone of 800,000 Americans lost to COVID-19.

The U.S. is now averaging approximately 103,000 new cases per day, which is a 19% increase in the last week and a 62% jump since late-October, according to federal data.

Minnesota currently holds the country's highest case rate followed by Vermont and Wisconsin. Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Louisiana have the nation's lowest infection rate.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 07, 10:27 am
Near pre-pandemic travel volumes expected to continue through December holidays

The TSA screened nearly 21 million travelers during the 10-day Thanksgiving holiday period. Despite new concerns over omicron, the agency expects to see the near pre-pandemic travel volumes continue through the December holidays.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Twelve major US cities top annual homicide records

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(NEW YORK) -- At least 12 major U.S. cities have broken annual homicide records in 2021 -- and there's still three weeks to go in the year.

Of the dozen cities that have already surpassed the grim milestones for killings, five topped records that were set or tied just last year.

"It's terrible to every morning get up and have to go look at the numbers and then look at the news and see the stories. It's just crazy. It's just crazy and this needs to stop," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said after his city surpassed its annual homicide record of 500, which stood since 1990.

Philadelphia, a city of roughly 1.5 million people, has had more homicides this year (521 as of Dec. 6) than the nation's two largest cities, New York (443 as of Dec. 5) and Los Angeles (352 as of Nov. 27). That's an increase of 13% from 2020, a year that nearly broke the 1990 record.

Chicago, the nation's third-largest city, leads the nation with 739 homicides as of the end of November, up 3% from 2020, according to Chicago Police Department crime data. Chicago's deadliest year remains 1970 when there were 974 homicides.

Philadelphia's homicide record was broken in the same week that Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville eclipsed records for slayings.

Experts say there are a number of reasons possibly connected to the jump in homicides, including strained law enforcement staffing, a pronounced decline in arrests and continuing hardships from the pandemic, but that there is no clear answer across the board.

Five cities surpass records set in 2020

Other major cities that have surpassed yearly homicide records are St. Paul, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; Toledo, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Austin, Texas; Rochester, New York; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, which broke its record back in August.

"The community has to get fed up," Capt. Frank Umbrino, of the Rochester Police Department, said at a news conference after the city of just over 200,000 people broke its 30-year-old record on Nov. 11. "We're extremely frustrated. It has to stop. I mean, it's worse than a war zone around here lately."

Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, Toledo and Baton Rouge broke records set in 2020, while St. Paul surpassed a record set in 1992.

Among the major cities on the brink of setting new homicide records are Milwaukee, which has 178 homicides, 12 short of a record set in 2020; and Minneapolis, which has 91 homicides, six shy of a record set in 1995.

According to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report released in September, the nation saw a 30% increase in murder in 2020, the largest single-year jump since the bureau began recording crime statistics 60 years ago.

'Nobody's getting arrested'

Robert Boyce, retired chief of detectives for the New York Police Department and an ABC News contributor, said that while there is no single reason for the jump in slayings, one national crime statistic stands out to him.

“Nobody’s getting arrested anymore," Boyce said. "People are getting picked up for gun possession and they're just let out over and over again."

The FBI crime data shows that the number of arrests nationwide plummeted 24% in 2020, from the more than 10 million arrests made in 2019. The number of 2020 arrests -- 7.63 million -- is the lowest 25 years, according to the data. FBI crime data is not yet available for 2021.

Christopher Herrmann, an assistant professor in the Department of Law & Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said the decrease in arrests could be attributed to the large number of police officers who retired or resigned in 2020 and 2021.

A workforce survey released in June by the Police Executive Research Forum found the retirement rate in police departments nationwide jumped 45% over 2020 and 2021. And another 18% of officers resigned, the survey found, a development with nationwide social justice protests and calls to defund law enforcement agencies following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

On average, the survey found that law enforcement agencies are currently filling only 93% of the authorized number of positions available and Herrmann said many departments have been hampered in hiring because of an inability to get large classes into police academies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think, unfortunately, police departments are just losing a lot of their best and experienced officers and then because of the economic crisis, because of COVID, are having difficulties in hiring or just delays in hirings," Herrmann said.

Herrmann said he suspects that a confluence of other factors has also contributed to the spike in lethal violence over the last two years. He said the COVID-19 pandemic not only prompted a shutdown of courts and reduction in jail population to slow the spread of the virus but also derailed after-school programs and violence disruption programs.

Confluence of factors

"I wish there was one good solid reason that I could give you for the increases, but the reality is there is none," Herrmann, a former crime analyst supervisor for the New York City Police Department, told ABC News.

Herrmann said he was surprised to see the number of homicides going up in major cities across the United States after an overall 30% jump last year. He said the COVID-19 pandemic not only prompted a shutdown of courts and reduction in jail population to slow the spread of the virus, but it also derailed after-school programs and violence disruption indirectly led to the homicide spike in 2020.

“I knew 2020 was going to be a bad year because of the (COVID-19) pandemic but I really thought that a lot of these numbers would come down in 2021 just because a lot of society reopened and reopened pretty quickly," Herrmann said. “We don’t have the unemployment problem, we don’t have a lot of the economic stresses, housing and food insecurities aren't as much of an issue. A lot of those things were leading to the mental health stressors that were plaguing the country."

As part of a recent ABC News series "Rethinking Gun Violence," Dr. Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said 2020 was the "perfect storm" of conditions where "everything bad happened at the same time -- you had the COVID outbreak, huge economic disruption, people were scared."

Webster added, "It's particularly challenging to know with certainty which of these things independently is associated with the increased violence. Rather it was the 'cascade' of events all unfolding in a similar time frame."

Chief LeRonne Armstrong of the Oakland, California, Police Department told ABC News recently that the lack of resources to fight crime is one of the reasons he suspects is why his city is seeing the highest number of homicides in decades. Oakland police have investigated at least 127 homicides in 2021, up from 102 in all of 2020. The Bay Area city's all-time high for homicides is 175 set in 1992.

Armstrong said his department's 676 officers is the smallest staff his agency has had in years, nearly 70 fewer officers than in 2020.

"To have 70, nearly 70 less officers a year later," Armstrong said, "is definitely going to have an impact on our ability to address public safety."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kim Potter trial updates: Jury less diverse than in Derek Chauvin trial

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(MINNEAPOLIS) -- The trial of former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter charged in the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot during a traffic stop, begins Wednesday.

Opening statements will take place in the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Potter, 49, is charged with first-degree and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 incident. She has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Potter has said she meant to grab her stun gun, but accidentally shot her firearm instead when she and other officers were attempting to arrest Wright, who had escaped the officers' grip and was scuffling with them when he was shot.

Wright was initially pulled over for an expired registration tag on his car, but officers discovered he had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge and tried to detain him, according to former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon.

Potter was first indicted on a second-degree manslaughter charge, which alleges that she acted with "culpable negligence" in Wright's death. A first-degree manslaughter count was later added. Prosecutors say that Potter caused Wright's death while recklessly handling a gun, causing the death to be reasonably foreseeable.

An intent to kill is not required in either charge.

The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years and a $30,000 fine and for second-degree manslaughter, it's 10 years and a $20,000 fine.

Potter resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department two days after the incident.

The jury of 12 jurors and two alternates in the racially charged case is composed of 11 white jurors, one Black juror and two jurors of Asian descent.

Wright's death reignited protests against racism and police brutality across the U.S., as the killing took place just outside of Minneapolis, where the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, was taking place.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Dec 08, 1:26 pm

Potter wanted to help domestic abuse victims, her defense says about her career

Defense attorney Paul Engh told the jury details about former Brooklyn Center officer Kim Potter, who has pursued a career in law enforcement since she was a teenager in high school.

Engh said that Potter got a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and sociology, and started her career in 1995 as a patrol officer for Brooklyn Center Police Department.

The 26-year veteran to the BCPD, Engh said, "always wanted to be on the streets."

"She'll tell you one of the proudest days of her life was to have her dad pin the badge on her so that she can be a police officer," Engh said.

In particular, Engh said Potter wanted to help domestic abuse victims.

"As she became a part of Brooklyn Center domestic abuse task force … she shepherded women through the court system, became mentors, and made sure they were treated fairly," Engh said.

Dec 08, 12:25 pm

Prosecution focuses on Daunte Wright, may introduce 'spark of life' witness

Prosecutor Erin Eldridge told the jury more about 20-year-old Daunte Wright.

"Daunte Wright himself was just 20 years old -- just out of his teens -- still had a close relationship with his mother, had a new baby boy, a loving family and his whole adult life ahead of him," said Eldridge.

She told the jury that he had a large family that he loved, dreams of being a professional basketball player and plans to enroll in a trade school.

The prosecution is expected to have a "spark of life" witness, a Minnesota legal allowance that lets prosecutors present evidence about a murder victim that paints them in a nuanced light, legal experts say.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik contributed to this report.

Dec 08, 11:57 am

Prosecution hammers Potter's training 

Erin Eldridge, a prosecutor with the Minnesota assistant attorney general's office, is presenting the state's case against former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter.

In an opening statement, Eldridge read for the jury the oath that Brooklyn Center officers take: "I will never betray my badge, my integrity. my character, or the public interest. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions."

Eldridge told jurors that police officers "have the responsibility to be mindful and attentive and acutely aware of the weapons that they carry and the risks associated with those weapons," targeting Potter's defense that claims Potter had meant to grab her stun gun instead of her firearm when she fatally shot Daunte Wright.

"When it comes to those weapons, they have the responsibility to carry those weapons, and use those weapons appropriately," Eldridge added.

Eldridge told the jury that they'll hear evidence regarding stun gun and firearm training that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center police department, would have had.

Potter carried her weapons on her belt in the same way every day on the job, Eldridge told the jury, and that she wore her firearm on her dominant, right-hand side and her stun gun on her non-dominant, left side.

"She was also trained about the risks of pulling the wrong weapon and that drawing and firing the wrong weapon could kill someone," Eldridge said. "She was trained to carry her weapons in this way. And she was trained on how to use them and how not to use them."

Dec 08, 10:56 am

Daunte Wright's family enters courtroom 

Daunte Wright's siblings -- Damik, Diamond and Dallas -- have arrived at the Hennepin County Government Center ahead of opening statements.

Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daunte's family wants him to be remembered not through the tragedy of his death, but as a brother, son and father who was close with his family.

"On Thanksgiving, we sat there and we watched so many videos of my nephew," Wright's aunt Naisha Wright said tearfully in a past interview with ABC News. "It was just such a beautiful thing, because everybody had a memory of him either cracking jokes or trying to dance -- because he could not dance, but he tried."

She added: "He just had his whole life taken away from him. We had our hearts pulled out of our chests. He was my baby."

Dec 08, 10:13 am

Names prominent in the trial

The state is expected to deliver its opening statement first, represented by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank.

Judge Chu will call the case, and hand it to the prosecution. Depending on how long each side takes, it is entirely possible the state call its first witness today also.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Dec 08, 9:47 am
A look at the jury as trial begins

Opening statements in the trial of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter will begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET at the Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis.

Proceedings will take place in the same courtroom where Derek Chauvin was convicted in the murder of George Floyd.

Potter, 49, is charged with felony first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man. She has pleaded not guilty.

Potter's jury is less diverse than the one that decided Chauvin's case: nine of the 12 deliberating jurors are white, alongside one Black juror, and two Asian jurors. The two alternate jurors are also white.

The deliberating jury is 75% white -- which is aligned with the racial demographics of Hennepin County, according to Census information.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Thirteen-year-old boy killed, 9-year-old girl wounded in Los Angeles triple shooting

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(LOS ANGELES) -- A shooting outside a Los Angeles elementary school left a 13-year-old boy dead and two people critically wounded, including a 9-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet while on a playground, authorities said.

The violent episode marked the latest in an escalating number of shootings in Los Angeles, which has seen a 12% increase in homicides and a nearly 14% jump in shooting incidents this year as compared to 2020, according to Los Angeles Police Department crime statistics.

Gunfire erupted shortly before 5 p.m. on Monday outside the Wilmington Park Elementary School when at least two gunmen walked up to an occupied vehicle stopped near the school and opened fire, according to police.

The boy who was killed and a 20-year-old woman were inside the apparently targeted Dodge Durango, police said. The wounded woman drove several blocks from the shooting scene and called 911, police said.

The gravely wounded child was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Los Angeles Fire Department officials told ABC station KABC in Los Angeles. The female driver was in critical condition at a hospital Monday night, officials said.

The 9-year-old girl, a fourth grader, was on the playground at Wilmington Park Elementary School as part of an after-school program when she was struck by a stray bullet and critically injured, school officials said.

"She was in the schoolyard just playing, just doing what a 9-year-old is supposed to do," LAPD Capt. Adrian Gonzalez told reporters at the scene.

Police officials said officers initially suspected two separate shootings occurred but after speaking to witnesses determined the shootings were connected.

No arrests have been made and a motive was under investigation, police said.

The shooting left parents of students at the school shocked and frightened for their own children.

"It's sad and scary," Maria Garcia, whose daughter attends the school, told KABC. "I'm always paranoid. I'm always scared. I'm always checking on her, always calling her, always making sure she's OK and safe."

Los Angeles has had at least 352 homicides through the end of November, up from 314 at this time last year, according to police department crime statistics. The city has also recorded 1,328 shooting victims, up from 1,168 at this time last year, the statistics show.

"This is such a tragedy. Gun violence has destroyed too many lives in this country and tonight it has terrorized another community," Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents the Wilmington area, wrote on Twitter Monday night. "I am praying for the family of this little boy and for the recovery of the little girl and young woman."

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Hawaii governor declares state of emergency over 'catastrophic' weather

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(HONOLULU) -- Following a forecast of "catastrophic" rainfall, flash floods and landslides, Hawaii Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency for the tropical state.

“Now is the time to make sure you have an emergency plan in place and supplies ready should you need to move away from rising water,” Ige said in a press conference Monday night.

The city of Honolulu recorded its wettest December day on Monday after receiving 8 inches of rainfall. It also recorded the most single-day rainfall since 1958, when it received 15.32 inches.

"A kona low northwest of the islands will continue to bring the threat of heavy rain and a few thunderstorms with gusty winds to Kauai County and Oahu today, and potentially tonight," the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Honolulu said.

While Monday's flash flood warning for Oahu has since expired, there is still an active flood watch for the island.

Due to the heavy downpour, the Oahu Department of Emergency Management reported cases of vehicle rescues, water evacuation requests, inundated homes and road closures.

"The H-1 freeway and several roads in town are experiencing considerable flooding, so limit travel wherever possible," the department said.

Images and videos from Twitter showed indoor flooding and cars and buses driving in and stranded in floodwater.

ABC News' Daniel Peck contributed to this report.

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Omicron live updates: US daily death average surges

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(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 790,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 60% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latest headlines:
-US daily death average surges
-NYC mandating vaccines for all private sector employees
-Man who became one of the 1st omicron cases in US speaks out

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Dec 07, 1:50 pm
Fauci: Omicron 'almost certainly' not more severe than delta

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday told news agency Agence France-Presse that the omicron variant is "almost certainly" not more severe than delta.

He stressed, however, that it is important to not overinterpret early data, as the patients being followed skew younger and are less likely to become hospitalized. Severe illness can take weeks to develop.

"There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe, because when you look at some of the cohorts that are being followed in South Africa, the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalizations seems to be less than with delta," Fauci said.

He also reiterated that it would take at least several more weeks to understand key questions surrounding omicron's severity.

Results from labs testing current vaccines against omicron should come in the "next few days to a week," Fauci said.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 07, 1:30 pm
US daily death average surges

The daily death average in the U.S. has increased to more than 1,150 -- up by 57% in the last week, according to federal data.

The U.S. is about 10,000 deaths away from reaching yet another grim milestone of 800,000 Americans lost to COVID-19.

The U.S. is now averaging approximately 103,000 new cases per day, which is a 19% increase in the last week and a 62% jump since late-October, according to federal data.

Minnesota currently holds the country's highest case rate followed by Vermont and Wisconsin. Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Louisiana have the nation's lowest infection rate.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Dec 07, 10:27 am
Near pre-pandemic travel volumes expected to continue through December holidays

The TSA screened nearly 21 million travelers during the 10-day Thanksgiving holiday period. Despite new concerns over omicron, the agency expects to see the near pre-pandemic travel volumes continue through the December holidays.

ABC News' Mina Kaji

Dec 06, 10:26 pm
Omicron detected in Houston’s wastewater, Houston Health Department reports

The omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in Houston’s wastewater, the Houston Health Department announced Monday night. "The detection is the first indication the new variant is in Houston, although a case has not yet been confirmed in the city," the department said.

Wastewater samples collected between Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 showed omicron at eight of the city’s 39 wastewater treatment plants, and the genomic sequencing results confirming the variant were received Monday evening.

"The Houston Health Department and Houston Water continue to do an exceptional job tracking the impact of the virus in our community. While no specific case of the Omicron variant has been confirmed in an individual in the city of Houston, we should use this information as a reminder to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. "Vaccines help protect us, our loved ones, friends, and colleagues in the work environment. As the holidays approach, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant about their health and safety."

The health department said it routinely tests the city’s wastewater for COVID-19, including variants, and recently started testing samples for omicron, as "people infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their feces."

"The wastewater data helps to more quickly identify emerging outbreaks and hotspots needing interventions to help stop the spread of the virus," the health department added.

 

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Delphi murders: Police investigating fake model profile who contacted underage girls

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(NEW YORK) -- Police investigating the mysterious Delphi, Indiana, murders are looking for the person who, they said, created fake Snapchat and Instagram profiles, posed as a wealthy male model and contacted underage girls.

Delphi eighth-graders Abby Williams, 13, and Libby German, 14, were killed on Feb. 13, 2017 while walking on a local hiking trail. The girls had documented some of their walk on Snapchat. Years later, no arrests have been made.

While investigating the double killing, authorities found a fake online profile called "anthony_shots," which used photos of a known male model and communicated with underage girls "to solicit nude images, obtain their addresses, and attempt to meet them," Indiana State Police said in a news release Monday.

Anthony_shots "portrayed himself as being extremely wealthy and owning numerous sports cars," police said.

Authorities are now looking for information about the person who created the anthony_shots profile, which was used in 2016 and 2017 on Snapchat and Instagram, police said.

The male model in the photos has been identified and isn't a person of interest, police said.

Police asked anyone who communicated with, met with or tried to meet the anthony_shots profile to contact law enforcement at abbyandlibbytip@cacoshrf.com or 765-822-3535. Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Jeremy Piers wouldn't say if Abby and Libby communicated with the fake profile.

The Delphi case has been a mystery for years.

Soon after Abby and Libby were killed, authorities released a grainy image of the suspect, who they say was on the hiking trail the day the girls went missing. State police in 2019 released video footage from Libby's phone; the brief video clip showed a grainy image of the suspect walking on the bridge near where the girls were last seen.

Police also publicized the suspect's voice -- a recording of him saying "down the hill" -- which was recovered from Libby's phone.

Police in 2019 released a new suspect sketch that officials said was based on a witness' recollection of what he or she saw.

 

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Football player, 16, slain in Michigan school shooting to be mourned at funeral

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(OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich.) -- Family and friends are gathering Tuesday to remember 16-year-old football player Tate Myre, who was killed one week ago in a shooting at his Michigan high school.

Myre, a junior, was one of four students killed in the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township. The suspected gunman and his parents have been charged.

Myre died in a patrol car while deputies were taking him from his school to a hospital, authorities said.

Myre, an honors student, was "beloved by all" and had a "bright future," the Oxford football team said. Myre had been on the school's varsity football team since he was a freshman, the team said.

The teen loved Christmas, his family dog and spending time with his family, friends and girlfriend, his obituary said.

The funeral begins at noon.

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Four family members dead after small plane crashes in California

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(VISALIA, Calif.) -- All four people on board a small plane that crashed in California Saturday are dead, according to the Tulare County Sheriff's Office. They were all related.

It is unknown what led to the crash.

Around 6:35 p.m. Saturday, deputies were called to the area of Road 68 and Avenue 288 near the Visalia Airport in Visalia, California, for a possible downed plane, authorities said.

When deputies arrived, they found a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza had crashed, killing all on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board ​said Sunday it is investigating the crash.

ABC News California affiliate KFSN reported the plane crashed just a few seconds after taking off.

Late Monday night, the Tulare County Sheriff's Office identified the victims as 78-year-old David Chelini, his 58-year-old nephew, Steven Chelini, and his two daughters, 46-year-old Karen Baker and 48-year-old Donna Chelini.

All of the victims were from the Sacramento area.

"Sheriff Boudreaux asks that you keep the Chelini family in your prayers during this incredibly difficult time," the sheriff's office said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Government witness ‘Kate’ testifies Ghislaine Maxwell groomed her for sex acts with Jeffrey Epstein

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(NEW YORK) -- As the criminal trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime companion of serial sex offense Jeffrey Epstein, entered its second week, a woman identified by the pseudonym "Kate" testified that Maxwell recruited and groomed her for sexual activity with Epstein when she was a young woman, under the pretense that they were "friends."

"Kate" said she was approximately 17 years old and living in London when she met Maxwell during a trip to Paris. "Kate" gave Maxwell her phone number, she said, and Maxwell called her a few weeks later to invite her over for tea. "Kate" was excited, she said, to have made such a "sophisticated and elegant" connection.

"She seemed to be everything I wanted to be," she said. "She seemed as excited as I was to have a new friend."

Within a few weeks, "Kate" said," she was engaging in sexually explicit massages with Epstein at Maxwell's London townhouse, which was in the same neighborhood where "Kate" then lived with her mother.

Prior to her testimony, Judge Alison Nathan read to the jury a "limiting instruction" informing them that "Kate" was over the legal age of consent at all relevant times and locations, and therefore the jury cannot convict Maxwell of any charges in the indictment based on her testimony. The government is thus only permitted to describe her as a "witness" but not a "victim."

Prosecutors argued that "Kate's" testimony was relevant to show Maxwell's modus operandi and that Maxwell knew that massages with Epstein would be sexualized.

During her first trip to Maxwell's home in London, "Kate" said she noticed lots of photographs of Maxwell with an older man with peppered hair. The man in the pictures, she learned later, was Epstein, and Maxwell introduced "Kate" to him as "the girl I told you about" on her next visit.

Maxwell, "Kate" said, encouraged her to massage Epstein's feet and shoulders. Epstein was "very approving," she said, but then he took a phone call, "Kate" said, and Maxwell ushered her out. A few weeks later, "Kate" said, Maxwell called again, claiming a massage therapist had cancelled at the last minute, and she asked if "Kate" could "do her a favor" by coming over to massage Epstein again.

This time, "Kate" said Maxwell led her upstairs to a small, dimly-lit room with a massage table. Epstein was wearing a robe, but he took it off after Kate entered. Maxwell, she said, closed the door. Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz if Epstein initiated sexual conduct with her during the massage, Kate answered, "Yes."

On her way out, "Kate" said Maxwell asked, "How did it go? Did you have fun? Was it good? She seemed very excited and happy and thanked me again."

Two days later, "Kate" said, she returned to give Epstein another massage, and Maxwell lead her to the same room where further sexual contact with Epstein occurred. Afterwards, "Kate" said, Maxwell told her, "You're such a good girl. … He really likes you."

"Kate" traveled with Epstein and Maxwell occasionally over the next several years, she said, visiting them in Florida, New York and the Virgin Islands. Kate said she understood Maxwell's role to be "to take care of Jeffrey's needs" and noted that she seemed very involved in managing the properties and staff.

Maxwell's attorney have sought through the case to distance her from Epstein, suggesting in their opening statements that Epstein hid his prurient activities from others, including Maxwell.

"Jeffrey Epstein manipulated the world around him and the people around him," Maxwell attorney Bobbi Sternheim said last week. "He compartmentalized his life, showing only what he wanted to show to the people around him, including Ghislaine."

During one visit to Epstein's Palm Beach estate, "Kate" said she arrived at her guest room to find a "schoolgirl outfit" laid out on her bed. When she asked Maxwell why it was there, "Kate" said Maxwell told her she "thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit."

Asked why she continued to spend time Epstein and Maxwell despite what she alleges was happening, "Kate" said she "wanted to maintain a relationship with Ghislaine."

"I thought," "Kate said, "she was going to be my friend."

During cross examination by Sternheim, "Kate" acknowledged she was in contact with Epstein through 2012 -- including emails before, during and after he was incarcerated in Palm Beach. And in one email correspondence in 2011, "Kate" was the one who initiated contact with Epstein to say she wanted to visit him in New York.

"Kate" said was not in contact with Maxwell during that same period.

During her testimony, "Kate" acknowledged that she had abused alcohol, cocaine and sleeping pills in her teens and young adulthood but she denied that substance abuse could have impacted her memories of Epstein and Maxwell.

"The memories I have of significant events in my life have never changed," she said.

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man arrested for threatening to attack LGBTQ community with guns, bombs

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(NEW YORK) -- A suburban New York man threatened to attack the 2021 New York City Pride March with "firepower" that would "make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk," federal prosecutors said Monday.

Robert Fehring, 74, of Bayport, New York, allegedly sent at least 60 letters threatening to assault, shoot and bomb LGBTQ-affiliated individuals, organizations and businesses. He was arrested Monday morning and was released later that day on a $100,000 bond.

Fehring was placed on home detention with location monitoring, and he is not permitted to have firearms or other destructive devices. He is also not permitted to have contact with any victims and may not go to certain locations he threatened.

A search of Fehring's home last month turned up photographs from a 2021 Pride event in East Meadow, New York, two loaded shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns and a stamped envelope addressed to an LGBTQ-affiliated attorney containing the remains of a dead bird, federal prosecutors said.

"As alleged, the defendant's hate-filled invective and threats of violence directed at members of the LGBTQ community have no place in our society and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," United States Attorney Breon Peace said.

Forty-nine people were killed, and dozens were injured in the mass shooting Fehring reportedly referenced at Pulse nightclub, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016.

Fehring has reportedly been sending these kinds of threatening letters since at least 2013, according to the unsealed criminal complaint. In them, he threatened the use of firearms and explosives.

Along with the letter threatening the New York City Pride March -- in which he wrote there would "be radio-cont[r]olled devices placed at numerous strategic places" -- the criminal complaint also quoted from a letter Fehring allegedly sent to the organizer of the Pride event in East Meadow.

"[W]e were right there you…FREAK!!! They couldn’t get a shot off at you, slithering around the back stage area like a snake. Too many cops. Very disappointed. But your time has come. ... They are out to KILL you….and your boyfriend. You are being watched. No matter how long it takes, you will be taken out…. high-powered bullet…. bomb….knife…. whatever it takes," the letter said.

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Family of Emmett Till reacts to DOJ closing investigation into his murder

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(NEW YORK) -- In a report shared with the family of Emmett Till, the Justice Department said that it had concluded that the investigation into the 14-year-old’s murder and decided the case should be closed without a new federal prosecution.

While the department and the FBI called Till’s murder "one of the most horrific examples of the violence routinely inflicted upon Black residents," in a letter to Till's family, they said that the new investigation did not uncover new facts that differed from those found in the previous investigation.

Officials from the Department of Justice and the FBI, including Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, met privately with Till’s family to share the findings of the report.

"Today is a day that we’ll never forget," Rev. Wheeler Parker, Till’s cousin who was in the house the night Till was kidnapped, said at a press conference Monday.

"Officially, the Emmett Till case has been closed after 66 years," Parker said. "For 66 years we have suffered pain for his loss, and I suffered tremendously because of the way that they painted him."

Till, 14, was killed in 1955 while visiting family in Mississippi after he was accused of whistling at and making sexual advances toward a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. He was kidnapped, badly beaten and found in the Tallahatchie River several days later.

Carolyn Bryant's husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam were charged with Till's murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. The two men later confessed to the killing in a paid magazine interview months later.

Till's cousin Parker -- who was 16 at the time -- was in the house when Roy Bryant and Milam came looking for Till.

"I'm waiting to be shot, and I close my eyes," Parker recalled in an interview with ABC News for an upcoming documentary series "Let the World See." "I wasn't shot, I opened my eyes and they're passing by me. The guy said we're looking for fat boy, the fat boy from Chicago."

"They left with him, and that's the last time we saw him alive," he added.

Till's murder came at a time of intense racial unrest and animosity. When his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, demanded an open casket at his funeral, it helped spark the civil rights movement.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into Till's killing in 2004 but determined that there was no federal jurisdiction due to the statute of limitations. The investigation was originally closed in 2007 after a local grand jury declined to indict anyone on state charges.

It was reopened in 2018, following the publication of Timothy Tyson's book "The Blood of Emmett Till," in which Carolyn Bryant revealed she had not been telling the truth when she testified that Till had grabbed her and uttered obscenities. The Bryant family now deny that she had recanted her allegations.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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