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    Seth Frotman, the former top student loan official at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on Wednesday announced the launch of the Student Borrower Protection Center.

    State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, is joining the board of a newly launched nonprofit aimed at protecting student loan borrowers.

    Seth Frotman, the former top student loan official at the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on Wednesday announced the launch of the Student Borrower Protection Center.

    The center will advocate for more oversight of the student loan industry and more protections for student borrowers.

    "Tens of millions of American families are trapped in a broken student loan system, squeezed by rising debt and widespread abuses by a predatory industry," Frotman said in a statement. 

    Frotman, who was appointed to the CFPB under President Barack Obama and quit with scathing criticism of President Donald Trump, said under Trump, "The federal government hasn't just walked away from the fight on behalf of borrowers, it is actually arming the other side." 

    The center is also partnering with University of California, Irvine School of Law to launch a research foundation related to student loans.

    Other advisory board members include former U.S. Representative and Undersecretary of the U.S. Army Patrick Murphy, founder of the Center for American Progress John Podesta, former assistant director of the CFPB Holly Petraeus, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, former deputy treasury secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, and leaders of various consumer and student rights groups.

    Part of the initiative involves working with states and cities to put in place their own laws to regulate student lenders. The center will also sponsor a class of fellows - attorneys, researchers and advocates - working on student loan issues.

    In Massachusetts, Lesser sponsored and advocated for a bill that would regulate and license student loan servicers on a state level. Today, companies that service student loans are only subject to federal regulations. 


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    Southwick Select Board cannot deem dogs dangerous after they moved out of town

    SOUTHWICK - Two dogs that attacked and killed another dog cannot be deemed dangerous now that they have moved out of Southwick.

    The two Belgian Malinois dogs, Levi and Luna, were owned by David and Kaitlin Massai and lived on Klaus Anderson Road. On Oct. 8, Kaitlin Massai let the dogs out in their fenced yard and they escaped and attacked Clyde, a Jack Russell-chihuahua mixed owned by neighbor Alyssa McGuire. Clyde died several days later and while the Massais said they felt terrible and paid for Clyde's veterinary bills, they said their dogs were not vicious.

    However, the Massais chose to remove Levi and Luna from their home. As a result, the Southwick Select Board said the dogs could not be deemed dangerous.

    The Select Board held a dangerous dog hearing early in November and a decision as on the Nov. 27 agenda. Board members discussed how to proceed this week.

    Southwick Select Board holds dog dangerousness hearing

    "I have three versions of what's been done with dog hearings in the past," said Select Board Chairman Joseph Deedy, asking fellow members Douglas Moglin and Russell Fox for suggestions.

    Moglin noted that he sought advice from legal counsel on whether or not the board could act on the issue because David Massai is a town police officer.

    "On advice of counsel the dog issue has nothing to do with Mr. Massai's employment with the town, so we can proceed," said Moglin.

    During the public comment portion of the meeting several residents spoke in support of the Massais and their dogs. One person noted that her German shepard was a K-9 and after her husband passed, the dog took on the role of the "alpha of the household."

    "Dogs are fickle and I don't know if we can judge them from their first offenses," she said. "When my husband died our dog bit everyone who came up to the front door. Once there was a question upon that dog I was able to institute a plan of action. I called a K-9 handler and he ,told me how to re-train that dog to not be a menace to society and since then we've had no issues."

    A resident of Klein Road said the Massai family has brought the dogs to his property on numerous occasions.

    "I've had dogs and kids there and never had a problem," he said.

    A babysitter for the Massais said she had "never once seen the dogs show aggression."

    Kaitlin Massai said since the public heard about the incident following the dog hearing, her family has been targeted, especially her husband.

    "Masslive had to shut down comments (on the story) because of the disgusting comments made about a police officer," she said. "I'm extremely disappointed with how this has been handled and we've had no support whatsoever. People need to stand down. People drive by my house, I don't go out in public, I won't bring my kids out. We had to get rid of our dogs. We lost two puppies. (My husband) is being bashed and I'm asking the town to do something."

    Fox said he thought there was only one choice in moving forward.

    "The dogs have left. It's unfortunate. There's friction with the neighbors, and that's unfortunate," Fox said. "We have a recommendation from the dog officer and if for some reason the dogs should come back to Southwick, they'd have to meet the recommendations of the dog officer."

    Southwick Animal Control Officer Tracy Root suggested Levi and Luna be enclosed in 12-foot by 12-foot pens for each dog and when off property they should be leashed and wearing muzzles.

    "The dogs aren't here, so we can't tell the Massais to muzzle or cage the dogs," said Moglin. "You could have a legal agreement that says if they do (return to Southwick), this is what happens."

    "I don't think we want to beat this issue," said Fox. "It's tragic. We have neighbors not getting along, two dogs out of town and one dog deceased."

    "There's no good outcome here," said Moglin.

    Deedy said he would review the animal control officer's recommendations and draft a document outlining requirements in case the dogs return to town.


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    The blaze, which broke out in the basement of a Pleasant Street home in the Palmer section, was reported about 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

    PALMER - No injuries were reported Wednesday morning after a fire broke out in the basement of a home on Pleasant Street in the Thorndike section.

    The blaze was reported about 7:30 a.m.

    Western Mass News reported the fire was located in the basement and there was minimal damage.

    Firefighters from a number of area departments responded. Information on the cause was not immediately available.

    Western Mass News is television partner to The Republican and MassLive.com.

    This is a developing story. Additional information will be posted as soon as it is available.


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    The organization has been providing services to homeless youth since 1977.

    GREENFIELD -- Mark Rodriguez says his happiest years were his time as a student at Amherst Regional Middle School.

    But then his mother got involved in drugs again and wanted to be closer to Holyoke and a supply, so the family moved to Chicopee.

    Rodriguez ended up homeless -- one of an estimated 1.7 to 4.2 million youth nationwide who've struggled with homelessness.

    Philip Ringwood, director of the Greenfield based DIAL/SELF, said the reasons people like Rodriguez call the streets home vary. Ringwood was homeless himself for a time; his agency provides a variety of services for 18- to 24-year-olds. 

    Family problems, young people who grow out of the foster care systems, drugs issues, and lesbian, gay and transgender youth who get kicked out of their homes can end up homeless. 

    For Rodriguez, it was drug abuse at home and other family issues. And he, too, ended up using drugs.

    Yet there are few emergency resources for this age group.

    Shelters don't always work for young people because they often are reluctant to seek beds where most of the residents are older.  

    There are no emergency shelters exclusively for youth, although they can stay adult shelters if they are 18 or older.

    DIAL/SELF provides emergency housing through the NightOwl program, an overnight teen warming center.

    The Gandara Center in Springfield hopes to open such a shelter in January. 

    Springfield Housing Director Gerry McCafferty said young adults often avoid shelters, and "may be more likely to put themselves in risky situations" to have a place to stay inside.   

    In addition to risk factors such as identifying as LGBTQ or having been in the foster system or juvenile justice systems, she said, many homeless youth have "experienced significant trauma and do not have families to fall back on." 

    "Unaccompanied homeless young adults are some of the hardest to house individuals," Ringwood said. They are typically without rental histories, have higher school drop-out rates, have limited job skills and employment histories, and are unlikely to have enough income to pay for market rate housing.

    Also, he explained that "many have insufficient life skills to successfully maintain health, housing and employment stability without flexibly intensive supports."

    That's where Ringwood's agency, which has been providing services to homeless youth since 1977, comes in. The program currently provides housing to 32. 

    Rodriguez, 23, has been on his own since he was about 15. After his family moved from Amherst to Chicopee, he dropped out of school. "It was frustrating," he said, explaining that he'd already learned the things in Amherst that he was being taught at his new school.

    He also struggled with drug addiction and eventually got treatment. He then learned about DIAL/SELF. 

    He has an efficiency apartment at the organization's 10-room house on Federal Street in Greenfield. He is now working at McDonalds, is able to pay rent and is learning how to live on his own. He eventually hopes to return to college.

    He took classes at Springfield Technical Community College after he dropped out of school in Chicopee. He wants to study computers.

    DIAL/SELF, meanwhile, recently renovated and opened a building in Northampton that offers two, two-bedroom apartments. It is now raising money to build a four single-room occupancy efficiency apartments in Northampton with the help of the Friends of Hampshire County Homeless.

    Ringwood said the fundraising goal is $400,000 and they have raised just under $40,000 in the last few months. He said they have a matching gift challenge for the next $25,000.

    But a place to sleep is only part of what the organization offers. Staff also provide support and guidance. 

    They are currently working with about 54 young people between the ages of 17 and 24. About half of those receiving case management support live in housing provided directly by DIAL/SELF, Ringwood said.

    Support is key. Rodriquez learned about cleaning his house weekly, and how to manage living on his own. 

    Having the support "gives them the chance to fall down and make mistakes in places where they can come back from," Ringwood said. 

    "As a kid you don't get to choose where you want to live," Rodriguez said. But now he does, and having a home "is such a big weight" lifted off of him.

    Rodrigues said he is "one of those grateful and lucky people to get into a program like this." 


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    A businessman proposing to open a marijuana store in the South End, across from MGM Springfield, told residents on Tuesday night, in response to their questions and some concerns, that he is committed to a strong security plan

    SPRINGFIELD -- A businessman proposing to open a marijuana store in the South End, across from MGM Springfield, told residents on Tuesday night, in response to their questions and some concerns, that he is committed to a strong security plan.

    David Mech of Springfield is proposing a retail marijuana business at 1021 Main St., in the South End, in the same building as Raices Restaurant in an adjacent storefront.

    Approximately 20 people attended the community meeting.

    "You have my word," Mech said, regarding questions if he will provide a safe and secure business. "I live here. I have to see everyone every day. I'm here to protect and not exploit."

    He lives on Crescent Hill within the neighborhood, is a lawyer and owns the Potco store on Sumner Avenue at "The X."

    His security plan will include a multitude of cameras inside and outside the business, a security person posted outside during business hours for safety and to deter loitering, strict state-mandated delivery procedures, and a scanning system for identification cards.

    "No one gets in the store without a valid ID, scanned," Mech said.

    His responses came both before and after Yolanda Cancel, a neighborhood resident and activist, asked him about safety for residents and their children: "Why should we trust our neighborhood to you?"

    "I think that with all the hard questions, I think he held his own," Cancel said after the meeting. "I think he seems very humble and he seems like he would work well with the community."

    Mech said he does not believe there will be any significant increase in traffic after the initial opening influx, and believes parking will not be an issue.

    He will have parking at a nearby lot, and would anticipate having valet parking as needed.

    The City Council recently approved an ordinance that will allow up to 15 recreational marijuana stores in Springfield, that must be in business and industrial zones and only on 58 designated streets in those zones.

    In a six-page summary provided to residents, Mech provided an overview of his proposed business, his operating experience in this state and other states, details of site security, his management plan, community safety and employment.

    The project, if approved, would create between 8 and 10 full time jobs and 4 to 6 part-time workers, he said.

    The new corporate name for ownership is Cannaworld Inc. Mech is president and other officers and directors are Luiselis Hernandez of East Longmeadow, Lisa Santaniello of East Longmeadow, and John E. Maslar of Agawam.

    Mech has been involved in the medical marijuana industry in Arizona including that he co-founded what is now called Level Up Dispensary, in Scottsdale. In Massachusetts, he founded one of the original medical marijuana certification facilities, Community Health Clinics.

    Potco sells products including fertilizers, grow lamps, indoor growing tents and hydroponic and aquaponic setups. The business also sells cannabidiol, or CBD -- an extract of hemp that lacks marijuana's psychoactive properties.

    He is also proposing a marijuana store at Potco, at 522 Sumner Ave., with a community meeting not yet scheduled.

    Mech, in his summary and in comments Tuesday, repeatedly referred to his plans for the sale of "medical marijuana," although his business will not be licensed as such. He said his choice of the word "medical" is because of his knowledge about the medical benefits of marijuana.

    "We anticipate, given our commitment to being model community members and our world-class operating standards, our medical marijuana establishment will contribute positively to the safety and security of the area surrounding our facility," the summary stated.

    Mech said that studies have shown that marijuana businesses do not lead to an increase in crime.


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    John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and civil rights leader, called on House Democrats Wednesday to support U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark's bid to join the chamber's leadership as the caucus meets behind closed doors this week.

    John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and civil rights leader, called on House Democrats Wednesday to support U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark's bid to join the chamber's leadership as the caucus meets behind closed doors this week.

    Lewis, who joined Clark in leading a 2016 sit-in protest over gun laws in the U.S. House chamber, sent a letter to colleagues Wednesday asking them to elect the Melrose Democrat as the caucus' next vice chair -- the fifth-highest leadership position.

    Massachusetts lawmakers eye high-profile positions in new Congress

    Pointing to Clark's efforts to highlight gun violence, the opioid epidemic and other issues, as well as her push to elect Democrats in 2018, Lewis said he has "no doubt that the qualities that Katherine has displayed since joining Congress are the same that she will bring to the position of vice chair."

    US Rep. Katherine Clark blasts GOP plan to fine lawmakers who live-stream from floor

    Lewis, for example, argued that while Republicans marked the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub with a moment of silence, Clark approached him about taking action.

    "Rather than sit back and accept that we were helpless in the minority, Katherine approached me with her conviction that we had to act. I agreed that we must do something dramatic, and the idea of a sit-in was formed," he wrote in the letter Clark's office released Wednesday. "Katherine then approached several of our colleagues for their ideas and advice, we formulated a plan, and through our action, we ensured that the American people knew that they had representatives who would fight for them."

    2018 election: Massachusetts lawmakers stump for Democrats across US

    The congressman added that he has also been impressed by Clark's leadership in recruiting and mentoring Democratic candidates ahead of the 2018 election. 

    "Over the last two years she has worked tirelessly to ensure that talented candidates across the country were empowered to run, that our colleagues enthusiastically supported them and that, especially during the hard times, our new representatives-elect found a sympathetic ear, meaningful guidance, and the resources they needed to be successful," he said.

    Lewis argued that if named the Democratic caucus' vice chair, Clark "will meaningfully engage with each member of our caucus, listen to our concerns, seek opportunities for members to voice the unique needs of our districts, and ensure we have the resources to accomplish our goals on behalf of the American people."

    "She will be brave enough to cause a little good trouble along the way," he added. "I enthusiastically endorse Katherine Clark for caucus vice chair, and I hope you will join me."

    Clark, the House Democratic caucus' senior whip and a member of the Steering and Policy Committee, announced her candidacy for the leadership position in a July letter.

    The congresswoman, who is expected to go up against U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar for the position, has pledged to focus on growing accessibility and inclusivity within the party, if elected.

    House Democrats began meeting Wednesday morning to elect the positions of caucus chair, speaker of the House nominee, Democratic leader, Democratic whip, assistant Democratic leader, caucus vice chair and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair.

    They are also expected to select three Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chairs, a caucus leadership representative and a freshman leadership representative in the deliberations, which could continue into Thursday.


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    ISO New England, which manages the power grid for the region, detailed changes it's made incorporating lessons it learned during a historic two-week cold snap last year.

    HOLYOKE -- New England will have enough electricity to meet peak winter demands, ISO New England, which manages the power grid for the region, said Wednesday.

    ISO New England also detailed changes it's made incorporating lessons it learned during a historic two-week cold snap last year that had utilities here depending on power from plants fueled with oil stored in onsite tanks.

    Generally, New England's power comes from natural gas-fired plants and renewable energy. But peak demand for electricity and gas strains available gas supplies, according to a news release issued Wednesday. Starting this winter, ISO New England will maintain a forecast of the region's energy needs looking out 21 days.

    And it will use market incentives, so energy providers are paid more for sending gas to where ISO New England believes the gas will do the most good. ISO said it's also working with utilities to reduce demand when the grid is under stress.

    "Last winter demonstrated just how much the weather can impact power system operations, not just in terms of consumer demand for electricity, but in the ability of generators to access fuel," said Peter Brandien, ISO New England's vice president for system operations, in a prepared statement. "The ISO has learned lessons from this experience and made near-term improvements to help address these energy security concerns."

    The New England power grid reached peak demand of 20,631 megawatts last winter from 5 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 5.

    Temperatures that day reached a high of 19 degrees and a low of 4, according to records on AccuWeather.com.

    This winter, power demand is expected to peak at 20,357 megawatts under normal weather conditions or 21,057 megawatts at extreme temperatures, according to the release.

    The all-time winter peak demand in New England was 22,818 megawatts on Jan. 15, 2004. All-time peak demand for any season was 28,130 megawatts on Aug. 2, 2006, during a hot spell that had air conditioners running heavily.


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    Sources tell MassLive the audit of 2015 overtime shifts is complete, but State Police officials say the audit is not done yet.

    An audit of overtime patrols conducted in 2015 by Massachusetts State Police troopers shows more possible overtime abuse for that year, sources told MassLive.

    WCVB reports the 2015 audit of overtime patrols by members of the now-former Troop E had been completed. Sources also told MassLive the audit for 2015 is finished, but State Police officials continue to say the audit is not done.

    WCVB reports more than 30 troopers were flagged in the 2015 audit for possible overtime abuse. MassLive learned the troopers flagged in the 2015 audit are also among the group of troopers flagged for alleged overtime abuse after a 2016 audit of patrols along the Massachusetts Turnpike and Metropolitan tunnel system.

    In all, more than 40 troopers, some who were suspended or resigned, have been flagged in the overtime investigation. Federal and state authorities both conducted separate investigations.  

    A total of nine troopers have been charged in either state or federal court in connection with the overtime scandal. Five troopers have entered into plea agreements in federal court. 

    The audits were for patrols known as Accident Injury Reduction Effort patrols, and X-Team patrols. State Police audited the patrols for 2016 and discovered discrepancies between overtime pay and hours worked. 

    The 2015 audit results will be turned over to state Attorney General Maura Healey's office and to federal investigators. 

    In some of the federal cases, authorities used figures from patrols conducted in 2015 as part of the charges. 

    The troopers facing charges in state and federal court are accused of skipping out on the specialized patrols completely or working partial shifts.


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    Multiple executives of Insys Therapeutics were indicted on racketeering charges in 2016 and 2017.

    BOSTON -- A former pharmaceutical company executive pleaded guilty in federal court to charges accusing him of bribing medical practitioners to prescribe and overprescribe a highly-addictive and dangerous fentanyl-based pain medication.

    Alec Burlakoff, 44, the former vice president of sales for Insys Therapeutics, pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy in U.S. District Court, Wednesday. He faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, said Christina DiLorio-Sterling, spokeswoman for Attorney General Andrew Lelling.

    The West Palm Beach, Florida resident and multiple other Isys Therapeutics executives and managers were indicted in October 2016 and a second superseding indictment was filed a year later.

    Under Burlakoff's scheme, medical practitioners in multiple states, many of whom operated pain clinics, were given incentives to prescribe Subsys, a powerful fentanyl-based pain medication designed to treat cancer patients suffering intense breakthrough pain, she said.

    The employees offered practitioners perks to prescribe the drug including offering them paid speaking opportunities which turned out to simply be free dinners and drinks, Dilorio-Sterling said.

    In other cases, employees of the practitioner's office were moved onto the Insys payroll or relatives and girlfriends of the medical professionals who were high volume prescribers were also hired, she said.

    Involved in the investigation were U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Phillip Coyne, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Mark A. McCormack, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations' Metro Washington Field Office; Carol S. Hamilton, Acting Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration, Boston Regional Office; Brian D. Boyle, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New England Field Division; Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office; Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Matthew Modafferi, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Area Field Office; and Sean Smith, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Field Office.

    Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathaniel K. Yeager, Fred M. Wyshak, Jr., and David G. Lazarus, of Lelling's Office, are prosecuting the case.


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    Springfield's Toy for Joy program has a registration limit this year, but the event's organizers still want to provide a potential option for families who are interested.

    "Please give so every child may have a gift" reads the message from an anonymous donor of $200 to the Toy for Joy campaign.

    The members of the vehicle maintenance unit of the Air National Guard's 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield joined forces to send another $200 gift.

    From the staff and faculty at Agawam High School came a gift of $125.

    It's contributions large and small which are arriving daily to help the 96th annual Toy for Joy campaign slowly make its way in hopes of reaching a $150,000 goal by Christmas eve. To date, $5,970 in donations have been received, leaving $144,030 to be raised.

    "No gift is too small. It's the feeling and sentiments that they share which are most important this time of year," said Cynthia G. Simison, assistant to the publisher of The Republican, who works with the Salvation Army to help oversee Toy for Joy. "We began our campaign a week earlier this year in hopes we can engage our readers and the greater community to join the effort."

    "Sometimes," added Simison, "the messages mean far more than the contribution they deliver. Take the case of one that arrived this week with this message: 'With thanks to Ben for stopping to help a stranger shovel snow.' That says a lot about the spirit of giving in our communities."

    For the first time in its 96-year run, the Salvation Army in Springfield set an initial limit of 1,500 families to benefit from the Toy for Joy and established a waiting list for all others. The move was taken in the wake of last year's shortfall of more than $40,000 which eroded funds which had been carried over from years that the goal had been exceeded. Each year's funds cover the costs of the toys being distributed.

    A collaborative effort by the Salvation Army, The Republican and MassLive, Toy for Joy annually helps families in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.

    "This year, with the limited funding to purchase toys, we really had to see how many families we could feasibly serve," said Danielle LaTaille, social services director for the Salvation Army. "Fifteen-hundred was our number based on statistics from previous years, and the toys we had been able to purchase this year."

    The waiting list was established as a means to help as many families as possible if significant funds are received this year. "I would just suggest they give us a call," said LaTaille. Interested families can contact the Salvation Army, say they missed registration and make it known that they want to be put on the waiting list.  

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

    For the third year in a row, Pride Stores is partnering with Toy for Joy. Pride locations in Western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut will rally its customers in November and December to help contribute to Toy for Joy. Customers can go into any Pride in the area and purchase a $1, $5 or $10 donation card for Toy for Joy.

    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.


    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 loving memory of Jackie Johnson, Bill and the kids 25  
    In memory of Charles Cleary with love from his family 15  
    Merry Christmas to all the children from Anthony, EJ and Kaitlyn 20  
    Honoring Charlie, Carrie, Will, AJay and Brin 200  
    Mike, Katie and Allasa 25  
    In loving memory of my husband Richard Burrage 25  
    Please give so every child may have a gift 200  
    In memory of my brother Chris, love Pam 10  
    Merry Christmas from 104 Fighter Wing Vehicle Maintenance ANG 200  
    In memory of Louis, Ella and Linda, love Mark and Debby 50  
    In loving memory of Lynn and her dogs 100  
    In loving memory of my Nonna Norina and Nonno Frank Mancuso by grandson Frankie 20  
    Have a Merry Christmas from Peggy and Frank 25  
    In memory of Dwight and Elva Viggers from Ron and Sandy 25  
    Paul and Mary Perron 100  
    In memory of Larry Cavanaugh 25  
    In memory of Maureen and Donald J Milbier, Sr 100  
    In memory of Elinore and Michael Dunphy and Elizabeth Dunphy 100  
    In memory of Big H and John 30  
    For our many blessings and the health of my husband 100  
    In memory of our loving Pepa, Sophie and Lilah 25  
    In memory of Robert, Shirley and Robert Jr Pummel 20  
    In loving memory of Sonny and Danny Boy 100  
    In memory of my husband Bob who loved Christmas, Dee 25  
    Be kind 10  
    William Herchuck Sr, miss you, Sheila, Susan, Julie, Billy, Lyn and family 100  
    Memory of Agafia Tokarsky 50  
    Never stop believing in Santa Claus 300  
    In honor of Mom's 100th birthday from Don and Sue 50  
    In loving memory of my John from wife 10  
    To my family, love FAB 35  
    To Pat, special love and hugs at Christmas, love Charley 50  
    Merry Christmas, peace and love, Nora, Dubsie and Aran 20  
    In memory of my loved ones from Susan 25  
    In honor of grandkids, Sarah, Parker, Alex, Sophie, Stella from Grandma and Pa Burns 25  
    In memory of Enis and Lester MacLeod, Hank and Ann Prunckun, Dick, Carol 45  
    In memory of family and friends no longer with us 20  
    In loving memory of my parents Rena and Mike Panetta and the love they had for all children 100  
    In loving memory of my husband Ed Martin, Mary 20  
    In Littles memory 10  
    With thanks to Ben for stopping to help a stranger shovel snow 25  
    With loving memory of Arch who epitomized the giving spirit 100  
    For Mom and Dad from Carol and Betty 10  
    In loving memory of my husband from Carol 25  
    In memory of my life long friend Barb 25  
    M and B 50  
    The faculty and staff of the Agawam Junior High School 125  
    In memory of Paul who we miss and Grandma and Grandpa Donaldson 25  
    Memory of Brenda (Nichols) Trant and Sharleen (Nichols) Mcabe 10  
    In memory of the Harpins and the Bernards 20  
    In memory of Hope, Joanne, Gus, Maddog, Pojke and Jerry 25  
    Memory of Aunt Marg 20  
    Golden sunset wishes for Christopher Bizilj (Woopa) 20  
    Merry Christmas kids from Phil and Carolynn 200  
    Linda 20  
    In loving memory of Edward J Bolow from his family 50  
    In loving memory of our son Stephen Phaneuf 200  
    Judianne 25  
    In memory of Dr. Warren Morgan 25  
         
    RECEIVED $3,435  
    TOTAL TO DATE $5,970  
    STILL NEEDED $144,030  

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    Police in Central Massachusetts are searching for an armed carjacking suspect following a police chase through multiple communities.

    Update: Search continues for armed suspect who led police on chase from Webster to Worcester and carjacked driver on I-290, State Police say

    Police in Central Massachusetts are searching for an armed carjacking suspect following a police chase through multiple communities. 

    The driver of a Dodge pickup truck fled from a motor vehicle stop in Webster shortly before midnight Wednesday. The truck attempted to evade police by traveling northbound on Interstate 395 at Exit 3 where Massachusetts State Police joined the pursuit. 

    Troopers deployed stop sticks against the truck, causing damage to the vehicle's tires. The driver continued driving the vehicle up the ramp to Interstate 290 eastbound, traveling the wrong way and crashed on the roadway. 

    He abandoned the vehicle and brandished a handgun on the roadway, forcing the driver of a silver Buick Enclave with Connecticut plates out of the vehicle. 

    Police located the carjacked vehicle in Worcester and re-initiated the pursuit, which was terminated as the vehicle entered the Kelley Square area. 

    At the start of the chase, there were two female passengers in the vehicle, who remained in the truck following the initial crash. Massachusetts State Police say they are being interviewed to determine whether they will face charges. Investigators are working to determine the driver's identity. 

     

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    The city of Chicopee's $140,000 settling of a gender discrimination case plays a key part in a new lawsuit filed by former public works superintendent Jeffrey Neece.

    CHICOPEE -- Jeffrey A. Neece seeks restoration of his job as superintendent of the city Department of Public Works in a lawsuit filed Nov. 2 in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield.

    "Mr. Neece has suffered emotional distress, physical harm and pecuniary harm due to the city's actions/omissions," the suit said. (see below)

    Neece also seeks payment of wages since his contract wasn't renewed in June and payment for damages, interest and legal fees in the suit. 

    According to the lawsuit:

    • Neece claims that in a meeting with Mayor Richard J. Kos, Neece objected to the city rescinding a job offer as a mechanic to a woman who wound up suing the city over gender-discrimination and won a $140,000 settlement.
    • Kos threatened to give Neece a poor job performance review, which ultimately didn't transpire.
    • Kos refused to communicate with Neece in the final four months of Neece's tenure despite Neece being a department head.
    • Kos filled two positions it was the public works superintendent's authority to appoint in violation of city codes.
    • A city lawyer told a city employee that she should feel free in her deposition in the lawsuit of the woman whose job offer was rescinded to make damaging statements against Neece.

    The Republican emailed questions to Kos and City Solicitor Marshall T. Moriarty. Only Moriarty responded, saying Wednesday the city had yet to be served with a copy of the Neece lawsuit and he was unable to comment in detail beyond saying the city would fight the suit.

    "I can only tell you that the complaint is just mere allegations and that the city will defend it at this point, and as far as my understanding, you know, everyone's comported themselves with the utmost professionalism with all employees, including Mr. Neece, and I think at the end, this matter will be firmly decided for the city," Moriarty said in a phone interview.

    Defendants in the Neece lawsuit are the city of Chicopee and City Auditor Sharyn Riley.

    Neece had been DPW superintendent for five years when he was told on June 28 that Kos wasn't renewing his contract.

    "During the March 7 meeting, Mayor Kos threatened Mr. Neece that he had already instructed (Evelyn Rivera-Riffenburg, Chicopee's director of human resources) to post a job ad for the superintendent position and that Mr. Neece should prepare himself to apply for the position," the lawsuit said.

    In that same meeting, according to the lawsuit, Kos told Neece "that he intended to do a job performance review of Mr. Neece in which he would 'pick apart' his description and give him a 'bad review.'"

    That was the first Neece heard that the mayor had any issues with his job performance, the lawsuit said.

    "Mayor Kos actually never did a negative performance review of Mr. Neece," the lawsuit said.

    In a story by The Republican on Oct. 15, in response to questions about why Kos didn't renew Neece's contract, Moriarty cited a city ordinance that sets a five-year term for appointment as DPW superintendent and noted the five years was up. Beyond that, Moriarty said in an email, "personnel information about current and former employees" could be withheld because of privacy concerns.

    Questions linger about Jeffrey Neece's ouster after 5 years as Chicopee DPW superintendent

    But Neece's lawsuit asserts that the terms of his contract as Chicopee DPW superintendent automatically extend beyond June 30, 2018, "due to the city not having approved a subsequent contract for the position of superintendent of the city's Department of Public Works ..."

    "As of the date of the filing of this complaint, the City Council has not approved any subsequent contract for the position of superintendent of the city's Department of Public Works," the lawsuit said.

    Under Neece's contract, any termination of his employment required "documented just cause" by the mayor with approval by seven city councilors after a public hearing.

    The City Council took no vote in relation to Neece's discharge.

    The Republican obtained more than 30 documents in a public records request in relation to Neece's departure. Records show that Chicopee officials conferred with an unemployment consultant and discussed whether to declare that Neece's discharge was for performance or cause -- both of which are loaded terms in unemployment law -- despite Kos saying Neece was out merely because his contract was up.

    Neece's contract set his salary at $90,000 in the first year, increasing in ensuing years to $92,000, $94,000, $96,000 and $98,000. He was paid $44,523 in severance.

    In the first part of 2016, the city was trying to fill a mechanic's job at the Central Maintenance Garage, 677 Meadow St. According to court documents, it was the agreement of Alan Ryczek, maintenance garage superintendent, Amy Berube-Rivera, former assistant DPW superintendent, and Neece that Nicholle Huber was the most qualified candidate and offered her the job.

    "However, at the same time, Mr. Rycek told Mr. Neece and Ms. Berube-Rivera that he was concerned about hiring a female in the CMG (central maintenance garage) because he was scared to death of hiring a female and scared of a sexual harassment lawsuit," according to court documents.

    On March 22, Raisa Riggott, who was then the city's director of human resources, emailed Huber. There had been a "a lot of discussion" about her coming to work in the central maintenance garage. The city had decided to hire someone, instead of Huber, who could lift 100 pounds on a regular basis, Riggott said, according to court documents.

    Neece objected and told Kos that he felt that rescinding the job offer was a "discriminatory" action by the city and that he wouldn't give his recommendation for anyone but Huber for the job, the lawsuit said.

    In emails, according to previous court documents The Republican obtained, Neece reminded Riggott that Huber was told in both job interviews that the 100-pound-lifting issue wasn't a requirement -- and anyway, mechanics normally were paired for such lifting.

    The city in May paid Huber $140,000 to settle a federal gender discrimination lawsuit.

    Neece vs. city of Chicopee: by Mike Plaisance on Scribd


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    The lot, just more than an acre in size, is part of the neighborhood heavily damaged in the June 2011 tornado.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Developers Davenport Companies is in discussions with a retail tenant who might take up most of the Main Street-fronting space in its long-planned Davenport Square project near MGM Springfield.

    Charles Irving, principal with Boston-based Davenport, said recently that he expects to make a public announcement of the deal sometime before January.

    Davenport has long proposed an 11,000-square-foot multi-tenant building with parking to the rear on the site. The MGM Square One daycare facility is currently the only business on the property, occupying a section to the rear away from Main Street.

    The property would also have it's own parking.

    Irving said the prospective tenant, he can't yet say who it is, would mean there would be fewer small tenants than is shown in artist renderings.

    Davenport Companies, which was MGM's real estate partner on the nearly $1-billion casino project, bought the acre-and-a-quarter property at 991-959 Main St. and 155 Union St., for $1.6 million from a number of owners. This is according to deeds on file at the Hampden Registry of Deeds.

    Davenport also owns property across Hubbard Avenue to the south of the proposed Davenport Square site. The lot across Hubbard Avenue was once the site the Square One day care center headquarters that was also destroyed by the tornado.

    Davenport owns the Springfield Plaza shopping center, the old Registry of Motor Vehicles Building on Liberty Street and the former Willys-Overland Building at 151 Chestnut St.

    Davenport says it plans to renovate the Willys Building into apartments and has publicized plans to build a retail center at the old RMV site.


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    After firefighters extinguished the fire, a person was found dead inside the car, David Procopio, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police said.

     

    Massachusetts State Police are investigating after a person died in a fiery car crash early Thursday morning.

    At 3 a.m. state police received a call about a car on fire on Route 25 eastbound in Wareham. The vehicle was in the median stopped against a tree, fully engulfed in flames, according to David Procopio, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police.

    After firefighters extinguished the fire, a person was found dead inside the car, Procopio said.

    The investigation is ongoing.


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    Six women alleged to journalist Ronan Farrow in an article published in The New Yorker in August that Moonves had harassed them decades ago.

    Ousted CBS network boss Les Moonves forced an aspiring actress to perform a sex act sex on him during a 1995 meeting -- and his efforts to cover it up may cost him a $120 million severance package.

    Bobbie Phillips, then 25, told The New York Times that she went to Moonves' office at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank at the direction of her manager.

    While discussing a role on "E.R." on March 7, 1995, Moonves allegedly exposed himself, grabbed Phillips by the neck, pushed her to her knees and forced her to perform a sex act.

    When Moonves was interrupted by a phone call, Phillips told the newspaper she picked up a baseball bat that was leaning against Moonves' desk, made up an excuse to leave and ran out.

    "All I could think was that I wanted to use the baseball bat to knock his head off," she told the newspaper.

    Her manager at the time, Marv Dauer, told The New York Times that Moonves confided in him in April, "If Bobbie talks, I'm finished."

    The two men also exchanged a series of text messages about the incident that Dauer says Moonves later asked him to delete -- and which Dauer says he did not.

    CBS lawyers recently found out that Moonves deleted from his iPad many of his texts with Dauer, which could breach a clause in his contract requiring him to cooperate fully with any company investigation, the newspaper reported.

    Six women alleged to journalist Ronan Farrow in an article published in The New Yorker in August that Moonves had harassed them decades ago.

    In a statement to The New Yorker at the time, Moonves said, "I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected--and abided by the principle--that 'no' means 'no,' and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career."


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    The fire reportedly broke out about 6 a.m. in a second floor apartment at 32 Masonic St. No injuries were reported.

    NORTHAMPTON - A fire reportedly displaced residents from a Masonic Street apartment early Thursday.

    Western Mass News reported the fire broke out about 6 a.m. in a second floor apartment at 32 Masonic St. No injuries were reported.

    Firefighters from Easthampton and Amherst provided mutual aid. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

    Western Mass News is television partner to The Republican and MassLive.com.

    This is a developing story. Additional information will be posted as soon as it is available.


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    After allegedly assaulting two police officers with pepper spay, Ronald Siegert was stun-gunned in the groin and shoulder in return, according to the arrest report.

    AGAWAM - Ronald Siegert probably wasn't aching for a reunion with Agawam police officers any more than they wanted to see him again.

    But there he was, standing in a hallway of the River Vista Apartments, shouting at neighbors on the floor above him, according to a police report from the Nov. 17 encounter.

    "Why is everybody f------ with me," he allegedly asked as two officers approached him in the hallway.  

    Police made multiple visits to Siegert's apartment in recent weeks, most notably on Nov. 6 when he allegedly assaulted two officers with grizzly bear-strength pepper spay and was stun-gunned in the groin and shoulder in return, according to court documents.

    The encounter on Nov. 17 ended peacefully enough, with Siegert being handcuffed, placed under arrest, and charged with disorderly conduct. It was the fourth time officers responded that day to complaints involving Siegert's "tumultuous behavior" toward other tenants, police said.

    He was booked at Westfield police headquarters and eventually released on $200 bail.

    On Nov. 20, Sigert, 62, pleaded not guilty in Westfield District Court to one count of disorderly conduct, and later paid a $150 fine to settle the case after the charge was reduced to a civil infraction.

    He is due back in court next month for a pretrial hearing on the pepper spray-related charges.


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    Dunkin' is advising customers who have a DD Perks account to change their passwords after a security breach last month may have compromised their data.

     

    Dunkin' is advising customers who have a DD Perks account to change their passwords after a security breach last month may have compromised their data.

    The company said one of its security vendors determined users email addresses and passwords may have been obtained on or about Oct. 31.

    "These individuals then used the usernames and passwords to try to break in to various online accounts across the Internet," Dunkin' said in a statement. "Our security vendor was successful in stopping most of these attempts, but it is possible that these third-parties may have succeeded in logging in to your DD Perks account if you used your DD Perks username and password for accounts unrelated to Dunkin'."

    The brand said exposed information may have included customers' first and last names, email addresses and 16-digit DD Perks account numbers.

    Dunkin' forced a password reset that required all of its DD Perks account holders to log back into their accounts using a new password. The brand is also working to replace account numbers while keeping the same balance on those accounts.


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    Westfield's history is brought to life on the pages of "The City of Westfield, Massachusetts, Celebrates 350 Years - 1669-2019," a 240-page book published by The Republican for the Westfield 350 organization that is celebrating the city's 350th anniversary. The book is edited by Wayne E. Phaneuf, executive editor of The Republican, and Joseph Carvalho III.

    Did you know it was the Woronoco Indians who first inhabited the land known today as Westfield, taking advantage of the freshwater sources and the rich agricultural lands?

    Did you know Westfield was a key stop in history in 1776 when Henry Knox rolled through the city with his train of cannon, oxen and men from Fort Ticonderoga in New York en route to Boston to take on the British?

    Did you know that a Wright Brothers biplane touched down in 1914 on a strip of land off Southampton Road?

    Do you remember the team of 14- and 15-year-old boys who played in the Babe Ruth World Series in California in 1992?

    Stories of these and many more chapters in Westfield's history are brought to life on the pages of "The City of Westfield, Massachusetts, Celebrates 350 Years - 1669-2019," a 240-page book published by The Republican for the Westfield 350 organization that is celebrating the city's 350th anniversary. The book is edited by Wayne E. Phaneuf, executive editor of The Republican, and Joseph Carvalho III.

    Said Harry Rock, president of Westfield 350, "I am excited to present this book as a legacy gift to the residents of the city of Westfield to read and enjoy a journey through time from our roots and humble beginnings in 1669 to the present."

    The book debuts as a prelude to a historical lecture series that launched this week and a First Night celebration on Dec. 31 which kicks off the 350th celebration.

    "It is important to remind ourselves of where we have come from to appreciate where we currently are, in anticipation of an exciting and inspired vision of the future for where we are yet to go," Rock said. "Special thanks to the partnership and support of The Republican in the writing and producing of this book as an important outcome of the Westfield 350th celebration!"

    Added Mayor Brian P. Sullivan, "As mayor, I am always interested in picking up history books of Westfield and our surrounding area. With the help and support of The Republican, Westfield now has a legacy book to celebrate our past, enjoy the present and look forward to our future. Our residents and the business community have stepped up to make our 350th celebration a very special occasion."

    Phaneuf and Carvalho have teamed as editors and writers for numerous other books produced as part of The Republican's Heritage book series, including the recent, "The Power of Women," which looks at notable women from across Western and Central Massachusetts, including many from Westfield, including Mayor Alice Burke.

    "The history of Westfield is a microcosm of what has happened in this country," said Phaneuf. "It was a pleasure digging into the past of this wonderful community from the time it was a fur trading post in the wilderness to a 21st century city on the cutting edge of the latest manufacturing trends."

    For Carvalho, the experience of working on the Westfield history book was special.

    "As a graduate of Westfield State University and an associate editor of the university's Historical Journal of Massachusetts for many years, it was an honor to serve as one of the editors and writers of this publication," he said. "As one of this nation's oldest communities, Westfield has been the home of important institutions, famous individuals, significant events, and internationally noted industries and their products."

    Carvalho added, "An integral part of the Pioneer Valley, the city of Westfield also serves as a gateway to the West through the neighboring Berkshires. We have tried to capture that important historical narrative and convey it to a new generation of readers celebrating Westfield's 350th year."

    Said Michelle Johnson, manager of niche and advertising-marketing sales opportunities, who served as lead designer for the book, "It was an honor to be part of the design of such a memorable keepsake for the city and people of Westfield. The overall design of this book was intended to reflect back upon the 350th celebratory logo for the city."

    She added, "By incorporating elements from the city's logo and keeping the typography for each chapter clean and readable, it allowed for the many, many photographs and illustrations of past and present Westfield to come alive on the pages of the book."

    Phaneuf and Carvalho assembled a team of writers for this book that includes Cynthia G. Simison, assistant to the publisher and managing editor of The Republican who covered the city of Westfield for about 20 years, and current freelance writer and Westfield native Hope E. Tremblay. Freelance photographer Frederick Gore, whose professional career has centered on Westfield for several decades, also contributed to the book.

    "Westfield is truly a second home for me. It's where I learned my craft as a reporter and made friendships that are lasting a lifetime," said Simison. "For me, sharing these stories of Westfield is an opportunity to give back to the city which gave me so much in both my professional and personal life."

    Along with photos by Gore and many of the staff photographers for The Republican over the years, Phaneuf and Carvalho also worked closely with the Westfield Athenaeum which shared its vast and rich collection of photographs documenting the city's history to illustrate the book. The Wood Museum of Springfield History also shared photographs from the Ross Conner Collection, and Westfield State University also played a key role in bringing the story of Westfield to the printed page.

    Westfield Bank is the lead sponsor of the book. Additional community sponsors include Advance Manufacturing, Air Compressor Engineering, BankESB, Baystate Noble Hospital, Berkshire Bank, Beveridge Foundation, Butler Insurance, C & S Wholesalers, Columbia Manufacturing, Commercial Distributing Co., Edward Jones, Hampden Village, the Glaze and Harding Families, Firtion-Adams Funeral Home, Forish Construction, Green Meadow Lumber, state Sen. Donald F. Humason Jr., Industrial Technical Service, Jerome's Party Plus, attorney Tom Keenan, Lane & Son, Lyon & Fitzpatrick, Mestek, Morin & O'Shea, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, Polish National Credit Union, Puffer's Salon & Day Spa, R. Levesque Associates, The Republican, Specialty Bolt & Screw, state Rep. John Velis, Westfield Emergency Physicians, Westfield Eye Center, Westfield Gas & Electric, Westfield Kiwanis, Westfield News Group, Westfield Rotary Club, Westfield State University and Wilcox Insurance.


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    Cohen made a surprise appearance Thursday in a New York courtroom at around 9 p.m. and began entering the plea.

     

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, is pleading guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on a Trump real estate deal in Russia.

    Cohen made a surprise appearance Thursday in a New York courtroom at around 9 p.m. and began entering the plea.

    He admitted to making false statements in 2017 to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

    In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to other federal charges involving his taxi businesses, bank fraud and his campaign work for Trump.

    The court appearance is ongoing.


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