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    As California's catastrophic wildfires recede and people rebuild after two hurricanes, a massive new federal report warns that these types of extreme weather disasters are worsening in the United States.

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- As California's catastrophic wildfires recede and people rebuild after two hurricanes, a massive new federal report warns that these types of extreme weather disasters are worsening in the United States. The White House report quietly issued Friday also frequently contradicts President Donald Trump.

    The National Climate Assessment was written long before the deadly fires in California this month and Hurricanes Florence and Michael raked the East Coast and Florida. It says warming-charged extremes "have already become more frequent, intense, widespread or of long duration."

    The federal report says the last few years have smashed records for damaging weather in the U.S., costing nearly $400 billion since 2015. "Warmer and drier conditions have contributed to an increase in large forest fires in the western United States and interior Alaska," according to the report.

    "We are seeing the things we said would be happening, happen now in real life," said report co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. "As a climate scientist it is almost surreal."

    And report co-author Donald Wuebbles, a University of Illinois climate scientist, said, "We're going to continue to see severe weather events get stronger and more intense."

    The air pollution from wildfires combined with heat waves is a major future health risk for the West, the report says. During the fires in northern California, air quality hit "hazardous" levels, according to government air monitoring agencies.

    "There's real concern about how the West will be able to manage this increasing occurrence," said report co-author Kristie Ebi, a University of Washington public health professor. She said global warming is already harming people's health, but it will only get worse.

    The report is mandated by law every few years and is based on hundreds of previously research studies. It details how global warming from the burning of coal, oil and gas is hurting each region of United States and how it impacts different sectors of the economy, including energy and agriculture.

    Rising sea levels threatening historic lighthouses

    "Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us," the report says.

    That includes worsening air pollution causing heart and lung problems, more diseases from insects, the potential for a jump in deaths during heat waves, and nastier allergies.

    What makes the report different from others is that it focuses on the United States, then goes more local and granular.

    "All climate change is local," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Richard Alley, who wasn't part of the report but praised it.

    While scientists talk of average global temperatures, people feel extremes more, he said.

    "We live in our drought, our floods and our heat waves. That means we have to focus on us," he said.

    The Lower 48 states have warmed 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) since 1900 with 1.2 degrees in the last few decades, according to the repot. By the end of the century, the U.S. will be 3 to 12 degrees (1.6 to 6.6 degrees Celsius) hotter depending on how much greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, the report warns.

    These 14 maps show how Boston plans to fight climate change, sea level rise with 'resilient' design

    Outside scientists and officials from 13 federal agencies wrote the report, which was released on the afternoon following Thanksgiving. It was originally scheduled for December. The report often clashes with the president's past statements and tweets on the legitimacy of climate change science, how much of it is caused by humans, how cyclical it is and what's causing increases in recent wildfires.

    Trump tweeted this week about the cold weather hitting the East including: "Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?"

    Friday's report seemed to anticipate such comments, saying: "Over shorter timescales and smaller geographic regions, the influence of natural variability can be larger than the influence of human activity ... Over climate timescales of multiple decades, however, global temperature continues to steadily increase."

    Releasing the report on Black Friday "is a transparent attempt by the Trump Administration to bury this report and continue the campaign of not only denying but suppressing the best of climate science," said study co-author Andrew Light, an international policy expert at the World Resources Institute.

    Trump, administration officials and elected Republicans frequently say they can't tell how much of climate change is caused by humans and how much is natural.

    Citing numerous studies, the new climate report says more than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans. Without greenhouse gases, natural forces -- such as changes in energy from the sun -- would be slightly cooling Earth.

    "There are no credible alternative human or natural explanations supported by the observational evidence," the report says.

    For 8th year, Mass. named most energy-efficient state in the nation


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    Harlow opened as W.L. Chilson in 1875. it took on the Harlow name when a Chilson daughter married a Harlow and the son-in-law came into the business. The shop changed hands a few more times over the decades.

    NORTHAMPTON -- Owner Robert Burdick says he'll close Harlow Leather & Luggage, which he believes to be the oldest continuously operated retailer in downtown Northampton, at the end of this year if he can't find a suitable buyer.

    But don't despair, he said to fans and longtime customers. He's gotten some "nibbles" from prospective buyers recently. And after all, he and his wife Jessica were, in his words, "11th-hour" buyers back in 2004 when they saved the store from closing then.

    And business has been good, Burdick said, having rebounded from the 2008 Great Recession.

    "It would be a real nice shop for someone who is interested in leather goods and travel goods," he said.

    Burdick, 68, of North Adams, said he is ready for retirement. A former banker in northern Berkshire County, he bought the shop after being told he'd be a natural at retail.

    He's not disclosing the asking price and the sale doesn't include the real estate. Burdick said landlord Peter Seterdahl is amenable to working out a lease with a new owner, however. Harlow is located at 196 Main St. Interested parties should contact Burdick at the shop, he said.

    Harlow opened as W.L. Chilson in 1875. It took on the Harlow name when a Chilson daughter married a Harlow and the son-in-law came into the business. The shop changed hands a few more times over the decades.

    As for the claim of being the oldest retailer on the city's bustling Main Street, Burdick said, "Well, I can't think of anyplace that's older."

    In recent years he's added jewelry and other items to the luggage, handbags, belts, wallets and other leather goods the store sells. Wares include gloves and mittens, hats, toiletry cases and travel accessories like electrical adapters, eye masks, sleep pillows and TSA-approved bottles so folks can bring liquids in their carry-on baggage.

    "Gee whiz, you name it," Burdick said.

    A big seller is a line of luggage, Briggs & Riley, known for its warranty.

    And most of the products sold at Harlow can't be found cheaper on the internet.

    "And if something goes wrong, you want to be dealing with someone local," he said.

    Harlow would be the latest in a stream of longtime Northampton businesses to close in recent years as owners retired, such as Don Gleason's Camping Supply on Pearl Street and the F.J. Rogers bicycle and sporting goods shop in the Florence section of the city.

    Other longtime businesses have been sold and reinvigorated, like Faces novelty shop in 2015.


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    INSA is poised to begin selling marijuana for recreational use at its Easthampton.

    EASTHAMPTON -- The INSA Inc. company that operates medical marijuana dispensaries here and in Springfield gave over 80 winter coats donated by patients and staff to the Springfield Rescue Mission this month.

    "We understand the added burden that the cold winter months put on shelters in the area. We're here to give back to a community that means so much to so many of the people here at INSA," company CEO Mark Zatyrka said Friday.

    INSA collected coats of "all sizes and colors" at its dispensaries Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, he said.

    INSA opened a dispensary here at 122 Cottage St. in February. An INSA dispensary in East Springfield at 506 Cottage St. began operating in May.

    INSA is poised to begin selling marijuana for recreational use at the Easthampton facility thanks to recent approval granted by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. 

    "We don't have a specific date at this time, but we are hopeful we will be open in the next two to three weeks," Zartyka said.

    INSA's would be the second facility authorized to sell marijuana for recreational use in Western Massachusetts and the third in the state. Recreational pot sales began Tuesday at New England Treatment Access (NETA) at 118 Conz St. in Northampton and at  Cultivate Holdings LLC in Leicester, which is in Worcester County.

    History made with 1st purchases of recreational marijuana in Northampton, Massachusetts

    The Springfield Rescue Mission is a private, nonprofit organization that serves the poor and homeless on Mill Street in Springfield.

    "The goal of the Springfield Rescue Mission, since 1892, is to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the hungry, homeless, addicted and poor by introducing them to Christ and helping them apply the word of God to every area of their lives," the organization's website said.


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    Families such as the Kaylynn Renaud family in Palmer, picked "Black Friday" to visit the Dakin Humane Society, adopting two guinea pigs on a special annual adoption sale for small animals.

    SPRINGFIELD -- For Kaylynn Renaud of Palmer, Friday was a perfect day to adopt two new family members -- guinea pigs named Joni Mitchell and Grace Slick.

    Renaud and her children, Willow Laboy, 6, and Sophia Laboy, 3, were among the many visitors at Dakin Humane Society on Union Street taking part in the annual adoption sale for small pets called "Black Friday: It's a Small World."

    "They've been waiting," Renaud said, regarding the girls. "We already built the guinea pig cage and everything."

    Dakin cut the adoption fees in half for small (non-cat and non-dog) animals for the one-day event coinciding with Black Friday sales in many department stores and shops.

    The pets were in assorted cages in one large sunny room, including parakeets and other birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, chinchillas, hamsters, mice and one rat.

    "It just makes us feel good to be able to do this," Dakin spokeswoman Lee Chambers said. "We love to see it happen and we're never disappointed. Folks are coming in here and leaving with a pet and a lot of excited children are here today."

    The timing of the event is great because of families being home for the long Thanksgiving weekend, Chambers said.

    "Pets are an incredibly important part of families," Chambers said. "This is really a wonderful twist to the Black Friday activity -- sales everywhere and discounted this and that. We want to give folks a chance to adopt and add a new family member and by discounting the adoption fee, it just enables us to do that for more folks,"

    Allie Thorpe, a Dakin staff member, said the small pets are popular with many families because they generally are lower maintenance than larger pets and a little bit quieter.

    Dakin's two centers in Springfield and Leverett opened at 12:30 p.m., and by 4 p.m. had found homes for 14 small animals and 28 cats not connected to the discount sale.

    Carmine DiCenso, executive director of Dakin, said animals are often an important part of families during the holiday season.

    "They provide a great deal of love and comfort to people, and help everyone have a sense of family," DiCenso said.

    The Black Friday events are intended to make adoption available to as many people as possible, DiCenso said.

    Adoption fees vary, depending on the species, and can be found on the Dakin website.

    Dakin shelters, treats and fosters more than 12,000 animals each year and has performed more than 77,000 spay/neuter surgeries since 2009, the organization said.


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    The shows continue Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Better Living Center, the Young Building and Mallary North on the grounds of The Big E. And it's free.

    WEST SPRINGFIELD -- How much time do you spend in front of the mirror before you head to work each day? Ten minutes? Twenty minutes? Thirty minutes?

    If you are a miniature poodle or a miniature wire-haired dachshund getting ready for the Thanksgiving Classic Cluster Dog Shows, it can be as long as four or five hours.

    Trainers and handlers armed with combs, brushes, clippers, pH-balanced shampoo, dog toothpaste, nail clippers and hair dryers worked tirelessly Friday on the grounds of the Eastern States Exposition to prepare their dogs for the canine competition. Some of them looked, well, dog-tired by the end of the day. 

    Heather Rife of Guilford, Connecticut, brought Leena, an Australian terrier, to Classic Cluster competition. "This is her first show so it's important she have a good show," she said.

    The shows continue Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Better Living Center, the Young Building and Mallary North on the grounds of The Big E. And it's free. More than 2,000 dogs compete each day in breed, agility and obedience trials.    

    The all-breed shows are sponsored by the Holyoke, South Windsor, Springfield and Windham County kennel clubs. There are small dogs and large dogs, short-haired dogs and long-haired dogs as well as breeds not commonly know in the U.S.

    Kelly Amsaldo of Northampton brought her Danish-Swedish farm dog. And, yes, there is such a breed.

    "Her mom came here pregnant from Sweden. There are not very many of them here in the U.S.," Amsaldo said Friday. "It's an up and coming breed."

    The American Kennel Club describes the dog as energetic, trainable and attentive, and as a companion dog that loves to work and enjoys a challenge.   

    The public is encouraged to attend the shows and watch the dogs compete with their handlers.


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    Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Here are the obituaries published Friday in The Republican:

    Obituaries from The Republican, Nov. 23, 2018

     

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    The Springfield Museums threw the switch on its Christmas tree in the center of the Quadrangle Friday afternoon, one of several downtown events scheduled for the day. Museum President Kay Simpson said the event kicks off holiday-themed displays and exhibits in the Museum of Science and the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts.

    Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, Springfield Museums President Kim Simpson, the Clauses-Santa and Mrs., and a repentant Grinch joined about 150 people for the eighth-annual tree lighting in the center of the Quadrangle Friday evening. 

    Sarno led the countdown to the 5 p.m. lighting that brought hundreds of multicolored lights to life on the 8 to 10-foot tall locally-grown tree. 

    Simpson said this tree is a little smaller than years in past but the drama of so many lights on the shorter tree is worth it.

    The celebration kicks off a holiday-themed promotion of the Smithsonian Institute Pop Culture exhibit at the Michele and Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts.  In the Museum of Science, pop culture icons are on exhibit.  The difference is, these are all made from gingerbread.

    Imagine a gingerbread tribute to the Muppets with Kermit the Frog, the ruby slippers Dorothy wore in the Wizard of Oz or the MTV television logo, all in three-dimensions and all edible. 

    The exhibits are free to the public and include cookies and hot chocolate.

    "We decided to give the tree lighting and the special exhibit in celebration of the holiday and in the spirit of giving," Simpson said.

    Sarno said he had a busy presiding over about half a dozen events in the downtown Friday alone.

    He started his day serving as marshal for the Parade of Big Balloons featuring huge helium-inflated effigies of the Cat in the Hat, the MGM Lion and Curious George among others.

    Then over to the MGM Casino and Resort in the South End where he and Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan dedicated an ice skating rink, something Sarno said was in his list of must-haves.

    "I always wanted a skating rink in the downtown," he said.

    Then up the hill to the Quadrangle for the tree lighting ceremony and finally, he ended his day joining officials back at MGM lighting the resort's first Christmas tree in the central plaza of the resort.

    It was a long day for the mayor but a valuable one for the city.  The events brought large crowds to the downtown that translated into the second highest attendance at the Springfield museums, Simpson said.

    "With so much happening in downtown Springfield people are here and making the quadrangle an important part of their visit," she said.     


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    Here are the winning numbers in Friday's Mega Millions lottery drawing.

    The latest Mega Millions drawing offers another hefty jackpot for players with the right lottery numbers.

    megamillions.jpg

    Here are the winning numbers in Friday's drawing:

    07-10-30-33-59; Mega Ball: 23; Megaplier: 4X

    The estimated jackpot for the drawing is $155 million. The cash option is about $89 million. If no one wins, the Mega Millions jackpot will get bigger for the next drawing.

    According to the game's official website, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 302,575,350.

    Players pick six numbers from two separate pools of numbers -- five different numbers from 1 to 70 and one number from 1 to 25 -- or select Easy Pick. A player wins the jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.

    Jackpot winners choose whether to receive 30 annual payments, each five percent higher than the last, or a lump-sum payment.

    Mega Millions drawings are Tuesdays and Fridays and are offered in 44 states, Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tickets cost $2 each.

    Mega Millions and Powerball winners should do these 5 things


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    Warmer winters and a shorter ski season as temperatures climb. Increased emergency room visits and deaths. Higher risk of tick-related Lyme disease and mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus. A new report says those are some of the potential impacts of climate change.

    Warmer winters and a shorter ski season as temperatures climb. Increased emergency room visits and deaths. Higher risk of tick-related Lyme disease and mosquito-transmitted West Nile virus.

    Those are some of the likely economic impacts and health effects of climate change in the Northeast region, according to a new US government report, which adds that humans caused most of the warming.

    Due to the Northeast's high population density, historic areas like Rhode Island's Newport, and old housing and infrastructure, the region and its urban centers are "particularly vulnerable to climate shifts and extreme weather," the report adds. 

    "The changing climate of the Northeast threatens the health and well-being of residents through environmental changes that lead to health-related impacts and costs, including additional deaths, emergency room visits and hospitalizations, higher risk of infectious diseases, lower quality of life, and increased costs associated with healthcare utilization," the report says.

    While northeastern cities and states are strategizing to combat some of the likely climate effects, changes to people's way of life in the region are unavoidable, according to the federally mandated report.

    US disasters will get worse, government climate report warns

    Winters are warming "three times faster" than summers, the report says, and around 2050, there'll be a fewer cold extremes and a "longer transition out of winter."

    Pointing to the region's winter recreational industry, which now sees up to $2.7 billion in annual revenue, the report says climate change is likely to cause a delay in the ski season in the southern part of the region, and in one potential scenario, the industry will become "economically viable in only far northern parts of the region by end of century."

    Historic districts in cities and towns with low elevations, like Newport and Maryland's Annapolis, are threatened by rising sea levels.

    "Historical settlement patterns and ongoing development combine to increase the regional vulnerability of coastal communities to sea level rise, coastal storms, and increased inundation during high tides and minor storms," the government report says. "For example, estimates of coastal property losses and protective investments through 2100 due to sea level rise and storm surge vary from less than $15 billion for southeastern Massachusetts to in excess of $30 billion for coastal New Jersey and Delaware."

    Health impacts will vary depending on people's locations and ages, but the report expresses high confidence that "extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality, and sea level rise threaten the health and well-being of people in the Northeast."

    The climate changes will lead to "additional adverse health-related impacts and costs, including premature deaths, more emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and lower quality of life," the report adds.

    The warmer climate will affect the timeline for diseases and viruses transmitted by ticks and mosquitos, according to the report. Under one scenario, the second half of the century will see a "period of elevated risk" of Lyme disease in the Northeast that will start weeks earlier than usual, and hundreds of additional cases of West Nile virus.

    These 14 maps show how Boston plans to fight climate change, sea level rise with 'resilient' design

    US Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, criticized the Trump administration for releasing the government report on Black Friday, when many people are traveling or shopping after the Thanksgiving holiday.

    "The Trump administration may want to bury this report so that it doesn't get attention, but we can't bury our heads in the sand to the threat of climate change," Markey, chair of the Senate Climate Change Task Force, said in a statement. "We need to take action now to reduce carbon pollution and implement the clean energy solutions that will help save our planet."

    Markey noted the report's worst-case scenario of sea levels in the Northeast possibly rising by more than 11 feet by the end of the century.

    He also pointed to the more-recent warming ocean's effect on fisheries in 2012, where a temperature rise caused a glut in the lobster supply and led to a price collapse.

    "Climate change remains the most critical challenge that human civilization faces, and today's report affirms that conclusion," Markey said. "In this National Climate Assessment, our best scientists are sending up an emergency flare - we need to take action now to mitigate carbon emissions or ignore the risks posed by climate change at our peril."

    Signing $2.4 billion environmental bill, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says climate change will keep intense weather coming


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    The Sept. 13 explosions killed a man, injured over two dozen people, leveled homes, and drove people out of their residences and businesses in the Greater Lawrence area.

    Service has been restored to 80 percent of residential gas meters affected by the Sept. 13 explosions and fires, Columbia Gas said Saturday.

    The explosions killed a man, injured over two dozen people, leveled homes, and drove people out of their residences and businesses in the Greater Lawrence area.

    Restored gas service to business meters stands at 90 percent out of a total of 685 meters.

    Columbia released an update Saturday morning that also said they've paid out $63.8 million in claims.

    The company, which is owned by NiSource, added they provided 23,000 Thanksgiving meals to customers.

    Roughly 1,400 families remain in temporary housing.

    The company is facing scrutiny and investigations for its role in the Sept. 13 disaster, which was preventable, according to a federal agency's report earlier this month.

    'People have remembered Lawrence;' Still without heat, Merrimack Valley residents pull together for Thanksgiving

    The natural gas pipeline explosions will be the focus of a US Senate Commerce Committee hearing federal lawmakers are holding Nov. 26 inside the South Lawrence East Middle School gym.

    Steve Bryan, Columbia Gas president, and NiSource CEO Joe Hamrock are slated to testify.

    Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey will join US Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Reps. Niki Tsongas and Seth Moulton at the hearing, titled "Pipeline Safety in the Merrimack Valley: Incident Prevention and Response."

    Other expected witnesses include Gov. Charlie Baker's energy and environmental affairs chief Matt Beaton; Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera; Wine Connextion owner Tina Messina; National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt; and Paul Roberti, chief counsel for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

    The hearing starts at 9 a.m. and will be streamed on the Commerce Committee's website.

    National safety officials lay out 'urgent' gas safety recommendations after massive Greater Lawrence explosions, fires


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    A Tyngsborough Police officer two weeks out of academy had his marked cruiser totaled by an alleged suspect's vehicle during a traffic stop, Chief Richard Howe said Saturday.

    A Tyngsborough Police officer two weeks out of the academy had his marked cruiser totaled by an alleged suspect's vehicle during a traffic stop, authorities said Saturday.

    Officer Daniel Campbell was injured after the suspect's vehicle quickly went into reverse and hit the cruiser, a 2018 Dodge Charger.

    Campbell then stepped out and arrested the two people at gunpoint. The incident occurred just before 6 a.m. Saturday.

    Tyngsborough police say Camilo Cruz, a 27-year-old man from Newton, was the driver. Cruz was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, malicious destruction of property, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

    One of two passengers in Cruz's car had multiple arrest warrants, according to police: Jose Reyes, a 49-year-old Roxbury man.

    Police said he has warrants out for larceny and drug possession.

    Both Cruz and Reyes are being held and are slated to be arraigned on Monday in Lowell District Court.

    "The rigorous and effective academy training programs were on full display this morning, but at the end of the day, it was Officer Campbell himself, with less than a month as a full-time officer, who remained calm and used restraint in the face of an imminent threat," Tyngsborough Chief Richard Howe said in a statement. "As a result, a dangerous incident was resolved without further escalation."


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    A Bernardston man will go to trial next year for allegedly having sex with an underage girl.

    phelps.rape_.raymond.police-254x300.jpgRaymond Phelps.  

    BERNARDSTON - A Bernardston man accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl will stand trial early next year. 

    Raymond Phelps, 27, is facing charges for rape of a child and enticement of a child under 16 after an alleged sexual encounter with a minor that occurred last year.

    His trial will begin in Middlesex District Court in Woburn on January 18, according to The Recorder

    Court documents say that Phelps allegedly met the underage girl online through the anonymous chatting website Omegle. They later met for a date and eventually had sex, according to police. 

    Phelps was arrested last February and pleaded not guilty to initial charges of statutory rape and child enticement in Framingham District Court.

    Phelps is being represented by attorney Daniel Cappetta of Cappetta Law Offices in Framingham.   

    In the past, Capetta has claimed that Phelps did not know he was going out with an underage girl and that he simply thought he was going on a date after having broken up with his fiance during the previous weekend. 


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    In the last two years alone, storms and natural disasters have killed scores of people, damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes and cost tens of billions of dollars.

    Governors have a wide range of priorities they want to tackle in the coming year, from tax reform to education. Yet it's a topic that receives less attention on the campaign trail and in their speeches that could determine their success -- natural disasters.

    In the last two years alone, storms and natural disasters have killed scores of people, damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes and cost tens of billions of dollars.

    Wildfires in the West and hurricanes in the South have been especially destructive, and scientists say climate change is making this more common. As the severity escalates, governors are finding they have to make disaster planning a priority or risk the consequences of inaction defining their terms and enraging voters.

    Handling disasters and emergencies was a prime topic last week when the National Governors Association held a three-day seminar in Colorado that most of the nation's 19 governors-elect attended.

    "As California's wildfires, a spate of hurricanes, and unfortunate acts of mass violence have demonstrated, such events can occur at any time," Scott Pattison, the nonpartisan association's chief executive, said in a statement, "including a governor's first day in office."

    For many Democratic governors especially, the main concern is how climate change appears to be worsening the effects of natural disasters.

    Signing $2.4 billion environmental bill, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says climate change will keep intense weather coming

    In California, half of the 10 most destructive wildfires in state history have occurred since 2017, and the costliest have been in each of the past three years, according to the state firefighting agency. The state has spent $500 million from its emergency firefighting fund just since July 1, putting this wildfire season on pace to be among the costliest yet.

    The state is dealing with its most destructive wildfire ever, a Northern California blaze that leveled a town of 27,000 this month, killed at least 80 people and left thousands homeless. That blaze, and another that roared through Malibu at the same time and left at least three dead, are the latest in a string of catastrophic wildfires that have put the state in what seems like a perpetual state of emergency.

    Outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown has called California's mega fires "the new abnormal" as climate change turns the state warmer and drier.

    The escalating destruction prompted state lawmakers to pass a series of wildfire-related bills this year. Among other provisions, they provide millions of dollars to cut trees and brush, make it easier for property owners to clear their land and require the state's utilities to step up their fire-prevention efforts.

    During his campaign, incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom said wildfire planning would be a priority for his administration and outlined a number of steps he wants to take. Among them is a more aggressive approach to clearing trees and brush, particularly the state's millions of dead trees.

    "I'd rather see our National Guard working on those kinds of emergencies than being on the border," Newsom told the nonprofit news organization CALmatters over the summer.

    He also proposed deploying a network of infrared cameras to detect wildfires early, improving the emergency alert system and boosting funding for fire departments throughout the state.

    A spokesman, Nathan Click, said Newsom is putting together a comprehensive wildfire strategy as he prepares to take office in early January. But the governor-elect also has been clear that the long-term goal must be reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Trump tours California wildfire damage, pledges help in aftermath of 'total devastation'

    California's fire season has been especially severe, yet other Western states also have experienced ever-intensifying wildland blazes in recent years.

    In Colorado, the two most destructive wildfires in state history erupted within the last six years, killed a total of four people and destroyed more than 850 homes combined. Both are believed to be caused by humans, leading Democrat Jared Polis, Colorado's governor-elect, to call for a public education campaign to reduce the possibility of manmade wildfires.

    He also said the state should invest in programs to remove flammable debris and help communities and private landowners take steps to prevent the spread of wildfires.

    Nearly 1 million people in Colorado live in areas considered to have at least some risk of a devastating fire.

    Florida has been hit with two deadly and destructive hurricanes in roughly a year's time. Hurricanes Irma last year and Michael in October caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.

    Even without hurricanes, many coastal communities are dealing with flooding from high tides and storm surges. Incoming Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has already said he will work with local governments to address rising sea levels, but has been criticized by Democrats for avoiding any mention of climate change in his environmental plan.

    DeSantis has said he is neither a climate change "denier" nor a "believer." That could be a problem for identifying long-term solutions to keep coastal communities safe, said Jen Hensley, the director of state lobbying and advocacy at the Sierra Club.

    She said one reason Hurricane Michael was so devastating was a lack of strong statewide coastal development standards.

    "We're going to have to change zoning rules in coastal areas," Hensley said. "The reality is that those areas are more flood prone than they've ever been."

    It's similar in Texas, which has seen widespread destruction from hurricanes and where Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been noncommittal about whether he thinks human activity is affecting the climate.

    Texas has sought $12 billion from the federal government for a 60-mile coastal "spine" of concrete seawalls, floating gates and steel levees as a defense against future hurricanes and higher tides expected from climate change. That's just a fraction of the work the state estimates need to be done over the next decade to reduce the impact of flooding.

    In 2017, Hurricane Harvey left Houston underwater, killed dozens and left an estimated $125 billion in damage. Abbott named a recovery czar after the storm and wants to "future-proof" the Texas coast, but attention on the issue has faded.

    Governors in New York and New Jersey pushed for changes after Superstorm Sandy devastated the region in 2012.

    In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed a law requiring sea level rise projections to be used whenever the state considers approvals or funding for projects. Then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, pushed policies to buy homes in some flood-prone areas, although environmentalists criticized him for not addressing climate change.

    US Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey offer bill to help hurricane evacuees, other disaster survivors find stable housing

    Those groups cheered last year when Democrat Phil Murphy was elected to replace Christie, but they have been critical of him too since, saying he's not taking action to address global warming.

    Earlier this month, Murphy experienced the perils of falling short on the basics of emergency preparedness when an early season snowstorm hit without plows at the ready, bringing roads and the transit system to a standstill and stranding thousands of commuters.

    He was hit with waves of criticism, and his transportation commissioner was forced to apologize.

    Murphy said it was too simplistic to say his administration "dropped the ball." But he added, "The buck stops with me, period."

    ___

    Associated Press writers Dan Elliott in Denver; Tom Verdin in Sacramento, California; David Warren in Dallas; and Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this article, which was written by Geoff Mulvihill.


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    Police are investigating after a string of break-ins in downtown Northampton.

    NORTHAMPTON - Police are investigating after a string of break-ins in downtown Northampton. 

    Police Chief Jody Kasper said that the police department received multiple reports of break-ins on Main Street Saturday morning. 

    Police will temporarily increase their presence downtown while investigators process the scene, Kasper added.

    The city's Main Street is mostly home to a large number of local businesses. It is unclear which, if any, were broken into.  

    No further information has been released at this time. 


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    Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the eighth day of deadly demonstrations. Watch video

    PARIS -- French police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse violent demonstrators in Paris on Saturday, as thousands gathered in the capital and beyond and staged road blockades to vent anger against rising fuel taxes.

    Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the eighth day of deadly demonstrations that started as protests against tax but morphed into a rebuke of President Emmanuel Macron and the perceived elitism of France's ruling class. Two people have been killed since Nov. 17 in protest-related tragedies.

    Tense clashes on the Champs-Elysees that ended by dusk Saturday saw police face off with demonstrators who burned plywood, wielded placards reading "Death to Taxes" and upturned a large vehicle.

    At least 19 people, including four police officers, were slightly hurt and one person had more serious injuries in the day of unrest in Paris, according to police.

    Macron responded in a strongly worded tweet: "Shame on those who attacked (police). Shame on those who were violent against other citizens ... No place for this violence in the Republic."

    Police said that dozens of protesters were detained for "throwing projectiles," among other acts. By nightfall the Champs-Elysees was smoldering and in the Place de la Madeleine, burned scooters lay on the sidewalk like blackened shells.

    "It's going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we're all ready," said Benjamin Vrignaud, a 21-year-old protester from Chartres.

    "They take everything from us. They steal everything from us," said 21-year-old Laura Cordonnier.

    The famed avenue was speckled with plumes of smoke and neon -- owing to the color of the vests the self-styled "yellow jacket" protesters don. French drivers are required to keep neon security vests in their vehicles.

    Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 8,000 protesters flooded the Champs-Elysees at the demonstration's peak and there were nearly 106,000 protesters and 130 arrests in total nationwide.

    Castaner denounced protesters from the far-right whom he called "rebellious," as he accused National Assembly leader Marine Le Pen of encouraging them.

    But the Interior Ministry played down the scale of Saturday's demonstrations by highlighting that up to 280,000 people took part in last Saturday's protest.

    The unrest is proving a major challenge for embattled Macron, who's suffering in the polls.

    The leader, who swept to power only last year, is the focus of rage for the "yellow jacket" demonstrators who accuse the pro-business centrist of elitism and indifference to the struggles of ordinary French.

    Macron has so far held strong and insisted the fuel tax rises are a necessary pain to reduce France's dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments -- a cornerstone of his reforms of the nation. He will defend fresh plans to make the "energy transition" easier next week.

    Paris deployed some 3,000 security forces on Saturday, notably around tourist-frequented areas, after an unauthorized attempt last week to march on the presidential Elysee Palace.

    Police officials said that a no-go zone, set up around key areas including the presidential palace and the National Assembly on the Left Bank of the Seine River, has not been breached.

    But authorities are struggling because the movement has no clear leader and has attracted a motley group of people with broadly varying demands.

    The anger is mainly over a hike in the diesel fuel tax, which has gone up seven euro cents per liter (nearly 30 U.S. cents per gallon) and will keep climbing in coming years, according to Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne. The tax on gasoline is also to increase four euro cents. Gasoline currently costs about 1.64 euros a liter in Paris ($7.06 a gallon), slightly more than diesel.

    Far left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon explained to BFMTV the historical importance of this issue in the Gallic mindset: "When tax is no longer agreed to, it's the start of revolutions in France."

    By Thomas Adamson. Chris Den Hond and Patrick Hermensen contributed to this report.


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    These are the winning numbers in the Powerball lottery drawing Saturday. Watch video

    Got lottery fever? The latest Powerball drawing offers a very healthy payout for someone holding a ticket with the right numbers.

    powerballlogo.jpg

    Here are Saturday's winning numbers:

    11-33-51-56-58, Powerball: 18, PowerPlay: 2X

    The estimated jackpot is $153 million. The lump sum payment before taxes would be about $88 million. If there is no jackpot winner, the amount grows larger for the next drawing.

    The last time someone won the Powerball jackpot was Oct. 27 when tickets sold in New York and Iowa split a $687.7 million payout.

    Powerball is held in 44 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

    A $2 ticket gives you a one in 292.2 million chance at joining the hall of Powerball champions.

    The drawings are held at 10:59 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays and Saturdays. Deadline to purchase tickets is 9:45 p.m.


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    Solurge Inc. would make and sell medicinal and recreational marijuana at the Holyoke site.

    HOLYOKE -- A proposal to open a facility that would make and dispense medical and recreational marijuana at 650 Beaulieu St. will be considered Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. by a City Council committee at City Hall.

    The Ordinance Committee will discuss Solurge Inc.'s application for a special permit, the local approval needed for a marijuana company to open.

    Such establishments also need licenses from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.

    Solurge CEO Andy Arens said in a phone interview Friday the company would occupy 28,000 square feet in an industrial building and employ 25 to 30 people in the first year.

    The company is proposing a multifaceted enterprise of marijuana commerce, including delivery. The state currently permits delivery of marijuana for medicinal use but has yet to grant approval for home delivery of recreational marijuana.

    Solurge is seeking licenses for a medical marijuana establishment, medical marijuana dispensary, recreational marijuana retail establishment, recreational marijuana cultivation establishment and delivery, according to the Ordinance Committee meeting posting.

    The City Council has considered proposals for marijuana establishments at several locations and granted special permits to:

    • Canna Provisions, which wants to open a recreational marijuana dispensary at 380R Dwight St.;
    • East Coast Pharms, which wants to operate a dispensary for medical and recreational marijuana at 630 Beaulieu St.;
    • RISE Holdings Inc., formerly GTI Massachusetts NP Corp., which has been operating a medical marijuana facility at 28 Appleton St. since April and is seeking permission to add cultivation of plants for recreational marijuana sales on Race Street.
    • Holyoke Gardens LLC, which wants to run a recreational marijuana facility at 5 Appleton St.

    A security plan, vehicle traffic, jobs and hours of operation are issues councilors discuss with proponents of marijuana projects.

    Solurge is leasing 650 Beaulieu St. from Solurge Realty Holyoke LLC, address for which is in Saco, Maine, according to the special permit application.

    Solurge Realty Holyoke LLC is a domestic limited liability company. It is managed by Adam S. Arens, father of Andy Arens, he said.

    The property at 650 Beaulieu St. is valued at $648,300, according to the Holyoke Board of Assessors. 


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    Businesses say the EMAC is hurting their bottom line and having unintended consequences, with certain types of businesses being hit far harder than others.

    Judy Herrell, the owner of Herrell's Ice Cream in Northampton, offers her employees health insurance.

    But premiums are expensive, and many of the workers are students who are on their parents' plans or can buy cheaper and better insurance through MassHealth or the state-subsidized Health Connector.

    Herrell has been hit by a new fee that the state is charging businesses whose employees use taxpayer-subsidized insurance.

    "We don't know if they're on MassHealth, the Connector, their parents' plan ... (so) we can't plan for it," Herrell said. "It's costing us between $4,000 and $5,000 a year extra that we didn't budget for."

    Herrell's shop is among the 48,248 Massachusetts businesses that have had to pay the fee, referred to as EMAC, in 2018. The fee raised $287.9 million for the state as of Nov. 5, according to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. Businesses say it is hurting their bottom line and having unintended consequences, with certain types of businesses being hit far harder than others.

    Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said small businesses tend to have high insurance premiums, so their employees will logically buy publicly subsidized insurance, which is often cheaper and better, if they meet the income eligibility guidelines.

    "Small business disproportionally ended up getting whacked with EMAC through no fault of their own," Hurst said.

    The EMAC contribution, officially called the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution Supplement, is a payment of up to $750 per employee that businesses must pay when their employees get state-subsidized health care coverage through MassHealth or the Health Connector.

    The extra payment will be in place for two years, from January 2018 through December 2019.

    The assessment was signed into law in August 2017 after back-and-forth between Gov. Charlie Baker and the Legislature about how to address rising MassHealth costs. The goal was to stop the migration of people from commercial insurance to MassHealth, which was shifting the burden of paying for insurance from employers to state taxpayers.

    So far, the assessment has raised more than anticipated. Lawmakers assumed it would raise $200 million in fiscal 2018, which ended June 30, 2018. Instead, it raised $229.4 million.

    This fiscal year, state officials expect to collect another $273 million. 

    Certain types of businesses, like those that experience high turnover, are disproportionately bearing the costs.

    Tricia Canavan is president of the Springfield-based staffing agency United Personnel, which employs around 1,000 people in any given week. Canavan offers health insurance, but many of her employees earn low enough wages that they are eligible for MassHealth or the Health Connector. 

    Canavan said the nature of staffing work is people use it temporarily as a bridge to another full-time job or to school, so employees are constantly moving on. Because the fee is charged quarterly for each employee who uses public insurance, capped at $750 a year, Canavan might pay $750 for an employee one quarter, then another $750 the next quarter for that person's replacement.

    "Our workforce can turn over multiple times during the year, so we pay and pay and pay," Canavan said.

    Canavan said she paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in EMAC assessments this year.

    "Health care is a human right ... but it needs to be a different formula to figure out how we're going to provide health care for everybody," Canavan said. "It cannot be on the back of employers solely."

    This July, the Legislature and Baker agreed to create a hardship waiver, which was implemented in October. The waiver allows certain small businesses to avoid the fee if paying it would result in the company going out of business or laying off staff. Types of businesses that could be eligible include seasonal businesses, staffing agencies with high turnover, and human services agencies that get most of their money from government contracts. 

    But only a small number of businesses are getting waivers. So far, 246 businesses applied for a waiver. Only 99 of those applications were approved, 144 were denied and three were withdrawn.

    "In those particular cases, it helps, but we'd obviously rather see a comprehensive approach to the issue rather than a one-off," said Chris Geehern, a spokesman for the business trade group Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

    Applying for a waiver requires significant financial documentation. "It basically requires you to do your end-of-year accounting, which takes weeks, and is in such detail that it's prohibitive to do," Herrell said.

    Kevin Smith, president of the Quincy-based Best of Care home care agency and president of the Home Care Aide Council, also said the hardship waiver is difficult to apply for due to the documentation required, even though agencies like his are eligible.

    Smith said home care agencies, which get most of their money from state contracts, are in a difficult situation when it comes to EMAC. Smith said the amount he pays in wages to home care workers is based on the reimbursements he gets from MassHealth to take care of MassHealth patients. Because those reimbursements are low, nearly half his employees -- often low-income, immigrant women -- are eligible for MassHealth or Connector coverage themselves.

    He has no way to offset the cost of the assessment, which cost Best of Care $80,000 in the first three quarters of 2018.

    Smith said it is common for home health workers to work part-time for multiple agencies. That means multiple agencies are paying the EMAC fee to cover the same employee.

    "It's a weird cycle that this money is following," Smith said. "You're using money from MassHealth to pay providers to deliver services to MassHealth recipients and then you're imposing a fee upon that employer because they employ MassHealth recipients, and then that money essentially is going back to MassHealth." 

    The fee was proposed as part of a package of reforms to lower the cost of MassHealth, but lawmakers last year did not make any other reforms. The fee is supposed to sunset automatically, but some employers worry about what's next.

    "This was implemented with the promise that there would be some sort of structural reforms to the Medicaid program, and those have not taken place," Geehern said.

    Sen. Don Humason, R-Westfield, sat on a Senate task force on strengthening local retail, which issued its report in May. That report noted that the cost and unpredictability of the assessment creates problems for small businesses.

    "It's just one more complaint we heard from businesses about the cost of doing business in Massachusetts and how expensive it is to insure their employees," Humason said.


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    Last year Pride Stores and its customers donated $8,050 to the toy campaign.

    Robert Bolduc, CEO and owner of Pride Stores, has been helping out neighbors in need for decades.


    Charitable giving for him and his wife, Roberta, is an integral part of their lives.
    For the third year in a row, Pride Stores will be partnering with the Toy for Joy campaign to provide gifts to as many children as possible across Western Massachusetts on Christmas Day.


    Bolduc is hoping Pride's many faithful customers will join him in supporting the 96th annual Toy for Joy campaign, a collaborative effort by the Salvation Army, The Republican and MassLive. The goal is to raise $150,000 by Christmas Eve.


    Toy for Joy is also partnering with the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative of the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation for a second year to help ensure each child receives a new book.


    "We are once again offering our customers an opportunity to contribute to Toy for Joy this year," said Bolduc. "There will be cards in $1, $5  and $10 increments for people to choose from. We hope that everyone who can help will help as much as possible."


    Pride locations in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut are participating in the collection effort. Last year, Pride and its customers donated $8,050 to Toy for Joy.

    Danielle LaTaille, social services director for the Salvation Army in Springfield, said Pride has been a generous donor over the years.

    "We are so excited that Pride Stores are on board again this year," she said. "We are so grateful for their continued support of the Toy for Joy program."

    Added Cynthia G. Simison, managing editor of The Republican, "The Bolducs embody all it means to be good corporate citizens. They share their good fortune with so many organizations, too many to mention, which help children and families. We are grateful for their continuing generosity to Toy for Joy."


    Registration for families to benefit from Toy for Joy begins tomorrow at the Springfield citadel of the Salvation Army and will continue this coming week at Salvation Army centers in Greenfield and Holyoke. In Springfield, there will be an initial list of 1,500 families and a waiting list established for additional families. The limit had to be imposed due to last year's shortfall of more than $40,000.

    To make a contribution to the Toy for Joy fund, write to Toy for Joy, 1860 Main St., Springfield, MA 01101. Contributions may also be dropped off with the coupon that accompanies this story to The Republican, 1860 Main St., Springfield, weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. through noon on Dec. 21.


    TOY FOR JOY REGISTRATION

    Here are the times for families to register at Salvation Army sites for the 96th annual Toy for Joy campaign. The Springfield citadel will assist families whose communities are not listed below:

    Greater Springfield Citadel: 170 Pearl St., Springfield; Registration: November 26, 27, 28. 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., for info, call (413) 733-1518, serves Agawam, East Longmeadow, Easthampton, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Northampton, Palmer, Monson, Springfield, Ware, West Springfield, Wilbraham, Westfield, Southwick, Russell and Belchertown;

    Holyoke: 271 Appleton St., Holyoke; Registration: November 27 and 28, 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. - 3 p.m., for info, call (413) 532-6312, serves Holyoke, South Hadley, Granby and Chicopee;

    Greenfield: 72 Chapman St., Greenfield; Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. until December 8th, for info, call (413) 773-3154, serves all Franklin County communities;

    Required documentation: Photo ID for parent/guardian, proof of address dated within last 30 days, birth certificates or passports for each child 16 years and younger and proof of financial need (MassHealth, WIC card, EBT card, current pay stub, or other acceptable documentation)

    Today's contributions Amount
    In memory of Ted Dutkiewicz, Jr. and his parents Ted Sr. and Jeannette 20
    In loving memory of the victims of the California fires from Tim and Anita 100
    To honor Ben, Hannah and Alexandra 100
    James and Nancy 10
    In memory of Hazel and Athos Ross and their children Peter, Nola, Susan and Tina 20
    William 250
    Loy and Colleen 200
    Joe 30
    In memory of Bob and Gloria Kemple who always made Christmas a special time, love Kathy and Bob Kemple Jr. 500
    Erwin and Rita 30
    In loving memory of Cuz Bill, Geno and Jean Marc, every child should have a toy or book for Christmas 25
    The Ludlow Chapter of The American Veterans in Prison walk-a-thon 350
    In thanksgiving for and in loving memory of my late wife Ann O'Brien, my late son Steve O'Brien III, my children, grandchildren and great grandson Tyde O'Brien 700
    No child should be left without a smile upon their face, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno 200
    RECEIVED $2,535
    TOTAL TO DATE $2,535
    STILL NEEDED $147,465

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    Former New England Patriots star Kevin Faulk, the now-director of player development for LSU, was involved in an on-field postgame scuffle after the team lost to Texas A&M Saturday, according to NOLA.com.

    Former New England Patriots star Kevin Faulk, the now-director of player development for LSU, was involved in an on-field postgame scuffle after the team lost to Texas A&M Saturday, according to NOLA.com

    Faulk was involved in what appeared to be a fight with a member of Texas A&M's football organization, NOLA.com reports. 

    The all-time leader rusher for LSU and was photographed on the field in a confrontation. NOLA.com reports Faulk was in a dispute with a person who is believed to have thrown a punch at LSU analyst Steve Kragthorpe, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2011. 

    Faulk, a three time Super Bowl champion and member of the Patriots' Hall of Fame, was hired by LSU at the beginning of the year. 

    LSU lost to Texas A&M Saturday in a seven-overtime game. 

    After the on-field altercation, the man with the Texas A&M bench credential is seen speaking with Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher.


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