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The Odd Truth, June 28, 2003

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

Chicken Sent Skyward

SAN FRANCISCO - A chicken that was strapped to 100 helium balloons and sent skyward last weekend in a stunt is resting these days at the city's animal shelter as people vie to adopt it.

The chicken, nicknamed Amelia, was rescued Saturday after getting tangled in power lines. A police marksman shot the balloons with a pellet gun to bring Amelia down to safety.

Authorities said they have yet to identify the prankster, who was apparently imitating an ad that recently aired on a local TV station. The ad has since been pulled.

"This is a great chicken, a friendly chicken, a chicken that is ready for a relationship," said Kat Brown, deputy director of the shelter.

Man Survives Bear Attack

LIVINGSTON, Mont. - A retired Montana railroader-turned-mountain man knew the odds were good he'd have a close encounter with a grizzly bear someday while alone in the back country.

"It finally happened," Bob Johnson said Thursday from his hospital bed in Livingston. "She tried to kill me."

Johnson said he was attacked by the grizzly in the Tom Miner Basin, north of Yellowstone National Park.

He said he couldn't remember how big the bear was. "How can you tell, when the (bear) is trying to give you dental work?" he said.

Johnson, 55, remembers grabbing the bear by the nose with both hands as it tried to bite his face and throat. And he remembers taking an incredibly hard blow to the head. Doctors used 75 staples to reattach his scalp to his skull.

He also has a deep gash under his right arm, claw marks on his chest and back, bruises all over his body and some deep teeth punctures on his left forearm.

Johnson still hobbled several miles to his truck and drove to a guest Ranch for help.

"He was not a pretty sight," said Aaron Davis, the chef at the ranch. "That scalp wound was downright gruesome."

Johnson said he was moving quietly through the woods, looking for petrified rock and believes he probably awakened the napping female grizzly with a cub.

He said he heard a sound, looked up and the bear was coming at him in full charge.

"I thought, I'm gonna fight until I die," he said.

Pigeon Smuggler Nabbed At The Border

REGINA, Saskatchewan - A former Montana man has been fined $2,500 in a smuggling case fit for the birds.

Richard Colson, a former resident of Turner, Mont., who now lives in Calgary, pleaded guilty in provincial court this week to smuggling after he was caught at a Saskatchewan border crossing with four live pigeons tucked under his shirt.

Customs officials said Colson, 56, was caught in January at the Climax, Sask., crossing during a move north. He stopped and was being referred to an inspection bay for further questioning when an agent noticed he was having trouble driving.

Another agent saw bulges under Colson's shirt and thought he might have weapons. When he was told that he was going to be frisked, Colson admitted the bulges were birds.

Debbie Johnson, a spokeswoman with Canada Customs, said his original story was that the pigeons were cold. It was later discovered that he had no health certificates for the animals.

"I'm sure there was a great deal of relief in the examination bay when they discovered they were pigeons, not guns," Johnson said.

The birds had been placed upside-down in individual lunch bags to keep from flapping around, Johnson said.

Johnson said she believes there was a similar case a few years ago in which a man tried to smuggle parrots across the border in a brief case.

That man was caught when the birds made noise.

Mummified Infant Discovered In Locker

TORONTO - Police say the mummified remains of an infant found in Toronto are about 18 years old.

The remains of a baby girl were found in a storage locker in a downtown condominium in June 2001.

Police are now revealing that the infant has been dead since 1985.

An autopsy has been was unable to provide a conclusive cause of death because of the mummification.

However, DNA has confirmed the infant's mother was Joanne Patterson, the owner of the locker.

Patterson died in June 2001 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The infant was later found by relatives cleaning out her storage locker.

She was wrapped in a brown wool blanket and then a green garbage bag.

Police have also used DNA to find the baby's father in England, who was unaware Patterson had been pregnant.

Maternity Company Sued For Pregnany Discrimination

BOSTON - A woman suing one of the world's biggest sellers of maternity clothing says the company discriminated against her because she was pregnant.

Cynthia Papageorge says she was stunned when a vice president with Mothers Work allegedly expressed doubts about whether she could fulfill her job duties because of her "condition." Papageorge says she was ultimately fired after returning from maternity leave.

A supervisor who allegedly refused to fire Papageorge says she's also been fired after taking maternity leave. She's suing, too.

The company says it's sure it will win. Mothers Work has created an empire out of maternity clothes bearing the labels Motherhood Maternity, A Pea in the Pod and Mimi Maternity.

Courts On Wheels Target Delhi Litterers

NEW DELHI, India - The next time a picnicker in India's capital carelessly tosses a food wrapper in the park, he could be hauled into a mobile courtroom parked behind the next tree.

Under orders from the Supreme Court to start enforcing antilitter laws and clean up New Delhi, the city dispatched 21 magistrates in mobile vans on Friday to catch offenders in the act.

"They can hold court in open places like parks or markets," said Ramesh Negi, one of the city's sanitation commissioners.

For years it's been illegal to spit on the sidewalk and discard plastic bags and other trash in the street or in green areas.

But the laws are widely disregarded in New Delhi, where it's common for residents to toss trash, expecting the municipal cleaners to sweep up with their brooms each morning.

Stray cows, pigs and dogs pick through mounds of garbage, hindering the movement of cars and buses, especially in congested districts.

Some businessmen and householders simply dump their trash outside the door each night.

The normal process of issuing tickets for litter offenders didn't work, the sanitation department said. Either policemen didn't bother to give citations, or those who received them never showed up to pay their fines.

The Supreme Court order to stop the littering was issued in response to a public interest lawsuit filed by environmentalists.

Magistrates, who will be accompanied by police officers to prevent defiance, will issue an on-the-spot fine of 50 rupees ($1.04) to first time offenders, Uttam Vaswani, a city officer, said. Repeat offenders can be fined 5,000 rupees ($105), he said.

60-Year-Old Wallet Returned

CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. - Willard R. Growth had forgotten his wallet was stolen during basic training in World War II, so it came as a shock when officials at Camp Roberts told him nearly 60 years later that they had found it.

"I was very surprised," said Growth, 79, of Hoyt Lakes, Minn. "I'd forgotten all about it."

At least 25 wallets have turned up in heating ducts and floor boards of old barracks since a demolition project got under way five years ago. Many are found with driver's licenses and family photos, but no money, inside.

"They would swipe your wallet, take all the cash out and ditch the wallet in a heating duct," said Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake. "It wasn't common, but it was a fairly easy crime."

Other mementos found in the wallets include laundry slips, discharge papers, letters from sweethearts and receipts for jewelry.

Growth, who trained in 1944 before a tour in Italy, said his wallet contained an American Legion card and a combination to his locker. The $20 bill, of course, was missing.

All but a handful of the recovered wallets have been returned to their owners. Some may end up in the camp's museum if the veterans who lost them can't be located.

City Officials Miss The Bus, So To Speak

MESA, Ariz. - City officials in Mesa have mistakenly installed two bus shelters where no buses run.

The installation cost $32,000 at a time when the city is cutting its public transit budget to save money.

Both are on Broadway Road and were installed as part of a $7.7 million improvement project finished about a year ago.

Although there is bus service on part of the road, buses turn before reaching the shelters.

"It slipped through all of us and didn't get caught until after the fact," said Jeff Kramer, Mesa's deputy engineer for design.

Kramer told the East Valley Tribune that the shelter locations weren't reviewed in advance by the transportation department because they were a small part of a complex road project.

And although the shelters have signs posted saying no buses pass by, people still wait.

"We see people there daily waiting for a bus until they notice the sign is there and they realize it's not a working bus stop," said Rene Scharber.

Politics Just Got Sexier

NEWTON, N.J. - County Democratic officials want a state Senate candidate to quit the race over a nude photo contest he entered, but Jim Morrison says he's in to stay.

"If people want to know about it, they should know I won the contest," the 32-year-old attorney said.

Sussex County Democratic Party Chairman Charles Cart said Morrison does not reflect northwestern New Jersey's conservative values, and the party already has a hard enough time competing in an area where Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-to-1.

"It's not like you do it when you're an adolescent and you feel like you did something wrong. It's like, `Hey, I won that contest and it's cool,"' Cart said.

Morrison, a partner in his parents' law firm, has gotten national attention in the past. He was a runner-up on ABC-TV's reality show "The Mole" in early 2001. That same year, Morrison was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Eligible Bachelors."

He posed for nude pictures while he was a law school student, and in 1996 twice entered a photo contest in New York City that featured nudity.

He called the photo contest about "as bad as a wet T-shirt contest."

"I don't shy away or back away from who I am, because I think that's the kind of person voters want," Morrison said.

Peeping In The Digital Age

PALO ALTO - A Redwood City man with a sophisticated camera system built into a shoelace is facing a charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filming up women's skirts.

Police say James Rich filmed the underwear of a number of women at Sunday's annual classic car show in Palo Alto.

Investigators say a camera lens was hidden in the laces of a shoe, with wires running up Rich's leg to a camera.

A man attending the show told police he saw Rich following a woman around. He says Rich stood very close to the women — and he wasn't looking at cars.

Rich apparently saw police watching him and walked over to an officer. He let police look at his camera and tapes. A review showed under-skirt pictures of women at the show.

Shh! The Noise Police Will Get You!

SINGAPORE - After telling people how to behave on the Internet and introducing fines for those who don't flush toilets, Singapore now has noise police to keep volumes down in its public libraries.

Lee Siew Hoon, a National Library Board spokeswoman, said Thursday more than 10 people now patrol six of the island's libraries urging users to pipe down and switch off their cell phones as part of a "library etiquette campaign."

"The volunteers go around the library during the noisiest times and speak to people who are talking on their cell phones, kids who are shouting or those who are chatting away," Lee said.

They do not have the power to fine or ask people to leave the library, she said. The noise police can only ask them to stop talking, sometimes just slipping a note to the noisemakers asking them to "spare a thought for others."

Lee said people asked to keep quiet tend to be "genuinely apologetic."

The campaign would be reviewed in October and likely rolled out to other libraries, she said.

The National Library Board's Web site lists rules of etiquette, including requests for library users to queue for services and limit newspaper reading to half and hour.

Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state of 4 million people, organizes several public service campaigns each year.

Past campaigns have encouraged residents to smile, to wave to fellow road users, and to turn mobile phones off during movies. A campaign in February, coinciding with Valentine's Day, told people how to act on a date.

Finally, X-Ray Vision's Big Break

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, New Jersey - Supporters say an X-ray machine that shows airport screeners everything there is to see under people's clothes is the safe way to go.

Congressman John Mica says it's crucial to keeping a terrorist from bombing a plane someday. The government is considering using the technology at airports because the machines used now can't detect plastic weapons or substances used in explosives.

A spokesman for the Electronic Privacy Information Center says people are likely to object. He says something that invasive is hard to justify.

"Backscatter" technology scatters X-rays to show people absolutely naked under their clothing. Rays deflecting off dense material like metal and plastic produce a darker image than flesh. Backscatter machines are used for everything from screening prison visitors to inspecting diamond miners.

Something Smells Fishy Around Here

SUPERIOR, Colo. - An 11-year-old fisherman reeled in a big catch that had nothing to do with the crayfish he was looking for.

Devonte Martinez hooked a stolen bank bag holding nearly $2,000 in soaked checks written to the Imagine Foundation charity. He noticed two other bank bags in Coal Creek and reeled them in, too. They were empty.

"I thought someone accidentally lost the bags out the window of a car," Devonte said Tuesday. "I know what it feels like; I once lost $2 when I was riding to the video game store."

The June 9 catch was taken to Boulder County authorities, who said the bags had been stolen the night before from a Boulder restaurant where Imagine had held a fund-raiser. The thief apparently took the cash — about $2,600 — and threw away the rest.

Members of the foundation, which provides services and housing for people with developmental disabilities, thanked Devonte with a fleece vest and food and entertainment coupons, and the restaurant gave him Martinez a gift certificate as well.

Investigators say they have no suspects in the theft.

Hulk Fanatic Pleads Guilty To Bootlegging

NEW YORK - He's a true-green fan. A Hamilton, New Jersey, man has pleaded guilty to making a bootleg copy of the just-released film "The Hulk" and posting it on the Internet. Kerry Gonzalez showed his true colors when appeared at federal court in Manhattan yesterday. Gonzalez wore a dark green suit and green necktie. The six-foot, two-inch defendant faces six months to a year in prison plus fines when he's sentenced in September. He pleaded guilty to a single count of copyright infringement. Prosecutors say the insurance underwriter obtained a promotional videotape of "The Hulk," copied it onto his computer and made it available in a chat room.

Naked Trek Across Britain Cut Short By Court

LONDON - Rambling buff Steve Gough started a trek across Britain wearing only socks, boots and a hat - and ended up in court.

But the case was abandoned Thursday after magistrates at Truro in southern England found he had not committed a criminal offense.

Gough, 44, was arrested last week while doing a TV interview at the start of his walk from Land's End in southwest England to John O'Groats in the far north of Scotland.

He had decided to undertake the 847-mile trek wearing only a hat, socks, boots and a rucksack to publicize his campaign for a relaxation of the laws on public nudity.

The campaigner from Eastleigh in southern England was originally charged with breaching the peace.

But prosecutor Simon Jones asked for the case to be withdrawn, saying Gough had committed no offense.

7-Year-Old Girl Ditched In Shoplifting Fiasco

SUGAR LAND, Texas - Police have arrested a woman accused of abandoning a 7-year-old girl at a suburban Houston supermarket when a shoplifting scheme unraveled.

Miroslava Espinoza, 21, was arrested before dawn Wednesday for child abandonment, a charge that carries a possible sentence of two to 10 years in prison. The little girl's mother, Neira Isabel Flores, 32, remains wanted.

Little Elvia Reyes has been in the care of Children's Protective Services since June 9, when police believe Espinoza and Flores sent the girl into a Randalls store to retrieve about $95 worth of goods the women had gathered in a handheld basket and left near the door.

When a manager who recognized the women as repeat thieves chased down the girl and grabbed her as she tried to get into a car with the women, police said, the car sped off. The girl said the driver was her mother.

No relatives of the girl, who authorities say was involved in a similar shoplifting attempt at a Wal-Mart in nearby Stafford last month, have come forward since she was taken into custody.

Let's Play Stick 'Em Up!

NEILLSVILLE, Wisconsin - Police in Neillsville, Wisconsin, say he wasn't the brightest robbery suspect they've ever captured.

A masked man tried to rob a pharmacy armed only with his fingers.

Police say the man formed his gloved hand into the shape of a gun during the alleged stickup.

A witness says the suspect didn't bother to hide his pointed finger under a jacket or anything.

A pharmacy owner wasn't going to stand for it and wrestled with the suspect and ripped off his mask.

The would-be robber ran away and was arrested a short time later at a friend's house.

Slobodan Milosevic In Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. - He's a sewing machine operator at a Lebanon boot factory, not the notorious former Yugoslav president of the same name, but the federal government still wants to deport Slobodan Milosevic.

There is no relation between the two Serbs, said York lawyer Daniel Pell, who filed suit in federal court in Harrisburg last week in an attempt to forestall deportation proceedings against his client, now being held in the York County Prison.

The 45-year-old Milosevic entered the United States in 1992 in an attempt to avoid service with the Yugoslav army in Kosovo, according to court records. His claim that he could face persecution for dodging the military has previously been rejected by immigration officials.

His wife of nine months, American citizen Robin Milosevic, said someone involved in his case — she believes it was a government official — suggested his case might fare better if he changed his name.

"My husband is not guilty by association with his name," said Robin Milosevic, who described her husband as a staunch anti-communist and politically opposed to the former Yugoslav president, who is on trial for war crimes.

Escaped Monkeys Attack Woman, Child In China

BEIJING - Four monkeys escaped from a zoo in northeastern China and attacked a woman and her baby before three of the animals were shot to death by police, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday.

The three adult monkeys and one baby escaped Monday from a zoo in Changtu county in Liaoning province, Xinhua said. It did not say what species they were.

The monkeys took refuge in a grove of trees and resisted attempts to recapture them, the report said.

"One of the monkeys pounced on a woman holding a child, biting her arm before leaping back into the tree," Xinhua said. It said police shot the adult monkeys "to prevent further attacks."

The baby monkey escaped and is still at large, Xinhua said.

As If Having A Stroke Wasn't Bad Enough ...

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A Swedish police officer convicted of assaulting a motorist, reckless driving and handcuffing a man he thought was drunk but was actually suffering a stroke, has returned to the force.

The officer, who wasn't identified in line with Swedish privacy rules, was convicted in 2000 of assaulting the rider of a mo-ped after he ran into the scooter with his police cruiser.

He was also arrested and convicted for breach of duty after he handcuffed a man he said was drunk, but was actually in the midst of suffering from a stroke. In each case, he was fined and given a suspended sentence.

Instead of being dismissed, he was transferred to Sweden's police academy to teach recruits how to handle personal conflict and fire guns.

But he's expected to be back on the force with the police in western Stockholm later this month.

Per Sandell, a member of the Swedish police disciplinary board, said the officer won't be fired because his convictions haven't run counter to the rules.

"To have a police officer fired, he must have grossly neglected his commitments to his employer, which is not the case," Sandell told The Associated Press Wednesday.

He added that just because the policeman had been sentenced for several different crimes, it wasn't enough to merit his dismissal.

The Lord's Perk

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey - It's not just pennies from heaven.

A former nun has hit the jackpot at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Catherine Foy of Philadelphia won $1.5 million playing a slot machine. She had played just nine quarters when the bells started ringing on Sunday.

Foy says, "I always knew that the Lord was going to help me pay my bills, I just didn't know that it would be so soon."

The 56-year-old former nun took home a check for $78,000 and will receive an equal amount for the next 19 years.

Foy told the Press of Atlantic City that she'll pay off her debts and share the winnings with her family and her former order — the Sister Servants of the Holy Heart of Mary.

Hubby Wants To Stand For Wife's Feeding Fine

RAVENNA, Ohio - A husband thinks he should be prosecuted for his wife's failure to stop driving while she breastfed their baby on the Ohio Turnpike.

Catherine Nicole Donkers, 29, of suburban Pittsburgh, is to go on trial Aug. 6 on misdemeanor charges of child endangering, failure to comply with the order of a police officer and several other driving infractions.

Her husband, Brad L. Barnhill, said he wants to be tried instead, citing religious beliefs.

"I'm responsible for what she does, and no one can punish her except me," said Barnhill, 46, a minister in the First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, an organization founded by Christopher Hansen of Henderson, Nev., in the late 1990s.

"That's a fantasy," prosecutor Victor V. Vigluicci said Tuesday. "I've never heard such a thing."

The couple has not yet hired an attorney, according to court records.

A truck driver called 911 on May 8 to report that he had seen a woman driving her car with a baby in her lap.

Asked why his wife did not stop to nurse the child, Barnhill said she didn't want to turn "a five-hour trip to Michigan into a seven-hour trip."

A conviction for misdemeanor child endangering carries maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Holy Hospital!

MILTON, Mass. - Two weeks after people began flocking to Milton Hospital to look at an image in a window that they say looks like the Virgin Mary, some are seeing another image on the building's chimney.

Some see a cross, others say it's a second image of the Madonna.

"It's another sign ... there is hope for all of us, with all that is going on in the world," Soraya Rentas told The Boston Globe.

Believers say the image can be seen in the bright red brick, surrounded by soot, about five feet from the top of the chimney. The chimney is about 30 yards from the third-floor window where the Madonna was first spotted in condensation caused by a broken seal.

Tens of thousands of people have swarmed to the hospital in recent weeks, prompting hospital officials to request people visit only between 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Timing Is Everything

BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Prosecutors want a judge to add 24 more hours to a drug convict's sentence.

The extra day would mean that Terry Dale Owen, 37, of State College, would have to serve his time in a state prison rather than in a county lockup.

Owen was sentenced to spend between three years and four years and 364 days in Centre County Prison after his April conviction for manufacturing and possessing marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sentencing guidelines call for a three- to five-year prison term, but under Pennsylvania law anyone receiving a five-year sentence must serve it in a state correctional facility. Prosecutor Karen Kuebler said that Judge David Grine erred when he gave Owen a shorter sentence than called for by the guidelines.

Owen's attorney, Leslie Dutchcot, said the judge was right to deviate from the sentencing guidelines because Owen was never "a target of an investigation or a violent criminal."

Owen, who has Crohn's disease, said he was growing and using the marijuana for medicinal purposes. He is free on bail while he appeals his conviction.

Man On Hold For 27 Years

DHAKA, Bangladesh - After being kept on hold for 27 years, Mohammad Ismail has finally got his dream — a telephone connection to his home in the Bangladeshi capital, a newspaper reported Monday.

Now 60 and retired, Ismail applied and paid the connection fee for a telephone line in May 1976, Manabzamin reported.

But the state-run monopoly Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board lost his application and over the years his repeated requests for a line to be connected fell on deaf ears.

The telephone company suddenly "found" his application after Bengali-tabloid Manabzamin reported his plight last week. The company promptly connected his line on Saturday and even threw in a free telephone set.

"I am so happy. But I am a bit sad, also. When I applied, I was a young man of 33 and had dreams about owning my own telephone. Now all those dreams are gone. My children will use the phone now," Ismail told the newspaper.

A phone company official told the Manabzamin they had not previously been able to give Ismail a telephone connection because of "technical reasons."

Less than 10 percent of Bangladesh's 130 million people have telephones, mostly due to insufficient phone lines, costly fees and often cumbersome connection procedures.

Cherry Bandits Pluck Japan, Stump Police

TOKYO - Japan's finest cherries are ripe for the plucking and the plundering.

A group of midnight fruit bandits has stumped police by making off with 1.4 tons of the juicy sweets in stealthy pick-and-run raids across northern orchards in recent days.

Nine growers were hit from June 9 through Saturday, for a total haul of 2,719 pounds, according to Masashi Suzuki, police spokesman for Yamagata state. The fresh pickings had a market value of 3.7 million yen ($31,355).

Police have no leads in the confounding cherry caper, but say it looks like the work of experts. Only perfectly ripe cherries were daintily plucked from the trees under cover of darkness, then hauled away in bulk before dawn.

On the night of June 16 alone, the culprits collected 1,496 pounds.

Police suspect much of the haul, good for only three to four days after picking, has already been sold on the black market.

"I don't think they are going to be eating all those cherries themselves," Suzuki said.

Yamagata, a mountainous area of northern Japan, is renowned for its succulent cherries. But the stolen variety, dubbed "Sugar Brocades," are among the most prized.

Better Late Than Never?

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa - A letter posted with a 10-cent stamp in San Francisco has arrived in Council Bluffs — 35 years after it was sent.

Postal workers were unsure why it took so long to arrive. Workers at a local clinic opened the letter Friday.

"The letter had come unsealed at the flap and it wasn't for any of the doctors," said receptionist Tammy Welch.

The letter dated June 11, 1968, was sent to Donald E. Gallagher at the clinic's address, where the Gallagher home had been located. It was written by son Chet Gallagher, who decided to leave Council Bluffs in 1968 to make a new start in California.

Clinic workers tracked down Chet's brother, Tom Gallagher, in Council Bluffs. He said Chet had been stationed with the military in California before deciding to move.

In the letter, Chet made it clear he was determined to succeed and he wished that he could have his father's encouragement.

Postmaster Jerry Keller said it is unusual for a letter to be lost this long before it's delivered.

Defense Lawyer Nabbed Delivering Weed To Inmates

CHICAGO - A Chicago defense attorney is facing charges after authorities say he tried to slip marijuana to clients in the Cook County Jail.

Alerted by a drug-sniffing dog, searchers found a quarter-pound of pot taped to the lawyer's thighs.

A sheriff's spokesman says Barry Alan Mattes admitted intending to pass the drug to the inmates.

If convicted of smuggling contraband to a penal institution he could face up to five years in the slammer himself.

None of the inmates received any of the weed, so they weren't charged with a crime.

Meetings between attorneys and their clients aren't monitored, and inmates typically aren't searched after meeting with their lawyers.

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