E-Crime Doesn’t Pay

As devotees of detective novels know, experienced lawbreakers will carefully wipe away all fingerprints at the scene of a crime. If the same individuals try to get rid of incriminating electronic data by deleting it, the information may still be accessible to computer experts.

Yet lawyers are often unaware that they should be locating this electronic evidence and using it. "Electronic data often doesn’t make its way to paper and is traditionally overlooked by attorneys," observes Gail M. Cookson, general counsel at PG Lewis & Associates, a Whitehouse Station-based firm that specializes in extracting E-data, including spreadsheets, word documents, E-mail, and any data that resides on a computer. It also includes websites, and information sent to printers, voicemails, and PDAs.

Cookson, PG Lewis’s only attorney, will be speaking at a seminar on "Legal, Technical and Ethical Aspects of E-discovery and Data Forensics," Friday, July 29, at 9 a.m. at the Clarion Hotel in Edison, sponsored by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education. Cost: $169. Call 732-214-8504.

Just as fingerprints uniquely identify a particular individual, so is E-data a unique record of an individual’s transactions. The process of gaining access to all electronic information that may be relevant to a case is called E-discovery. "E-discovery is like gathering the haystack," says Cookson, and continuing with the same metaphor, she explains that data forensics is "the science of finding the needle in the haystack." It hones in on particular electronic information, being able to fingerprint it and follow its origins, its modifications, who has access to it, who has viewed it, and who has tried to hide it. Data forensics may include the recovery of deleted files, analyses of computer use, metadata analysis, and tracking data from one computer to the next or between users, called data trailing.

"Sleuthing in a computer is done with state-of-the-art forensic tools, to high standards, where, like DNA, we can fingerprint that this person viewed this website at this time and was doing this at the same time," says Cookson. To access this kind of evidence, attorneys hire firms with expertise in E-discovery and data forensics like PG Lewis. Most of its staff are forensic experts who are certified to FBI standards in forensic tools.

Sometime attorneys will describe a "smoking gun" document that they hope data forensics can locate, but other times they are fishing for relevant information and need forensic tools to sort the wheat from the chaff. PG Lewis’s experts will help lawyers design the architecture of what they are looking for and suggest strategies for investigating electronic data. If a lawyer is defending a case on theft of property, for example, PG Lewis’s experts might inspect spreadsheets with certain keywords within certain date ranges.

E-discovery and data forensics can be useful in litigation about issues as varied as theft of intellectual property and trade secrets, sexual discrimination and harassment, child pornography, white-collar fraud, employment law, and divorce. One example would be a case where a resigning employee steals a customer database either to take along to a competitor or to open a business. Another is a divorce case in which a client suspects that a computer is being used to hide assets or an affair. Yet another is in the case of breach of contract.

"In sophisticated business deals nowadays, drafts of sophisticated commercial documents may never make their way to paper," observes Cookson. "There may be 20 different versions as people negotiate changes to a document with ‘track changes’." Years later the company may get into a breach of contract situation where something in those negotiations that is not on paper is critical to the breach of contract.

Collecting forensic data evidence is a relatively new activity, and it has had to prove its scientific mettle. Its path to admissibility in the courtroom has been similar to that of DNA evidence. "In the old days of DNA, it took courts a while to approve the science behind it," says Cookson. "It used to be anecdotal and not admissible. Then they said it had a reliable scientific basis." In fact, because of the metadata that accompanies forensic evidence like a word processing document, it may be more admissible than an unidentified printout of the same file.

Because E-discovery often involves taking a "snapshot" of everything in a computer, "it can be a dicey area" with regard to privacy issues, according to Cookson. Imaging a computer is "like doing a dual cassette recording," she explains, and forensic experts often record "every 0 and 1 that resides on that computer," including items like deleted E-mails.

But forensic tools allow Cookson and her colleagues to focus on what is relevant and exclude what is not. For example, if someone has private medical history on a computer, they might exclude anything where the words "Dr. Jones" appear. "We can forensically excise it from view," says Cookson.

"But lawyers recognize that it is difficult at times to bracket out privileged or private agreements," she observes, and, consequently, forensic experts will often sign confidentiality agreements. If they uncover confidential information that is relevant to the litigation, but sensitive to competitors, the judge might review the evidence in private and then seal it. If, however, they come across something patently illegal like child pornography, even if it is not related to what they were hired to do, they have to report it.

Cookson graduated from Bucknell University in 1976 with a degree in philosophy, and after receiving her law degree from Rutgers she clerked for a federal judge and taught at a law school. She spent a good part of her professional career as deputy attorney general of NJ in environmental and fraud work and moved to private practice in 1999. She developed a relationship with PG Lewis & Associates through her own use of electronic discovery and eventually joined the firm as general counsel. Cookson does presentations to bar groups and trade groups, "educating people on electronic discovery, because sooner or later they will have circumstances that require it."

Cookson suggests security policies to help protect confidential electronic data and files:

Make signing nondisclosure agreements a requirement for all employees.

Limit access to computers by creating different levels of clearance, depending on an individual’s needs and responsibilities.

Prohibit using web-based E-mail, like Yahoo, at work, because these systems are usually not accessible for company monitoring.

Disable USB ports on certain computers. "It sounds James Bond-like, but someone can walk in with something that looks like a pen, put it in a USB port, and walk out of a company with sensitive information," warns Cookson.

Proactively image employees’ computers at random, maybe 4 out of 100 each month. This image freezes the computer in time, and companies may then look at items like whether the person is downloading porn, distributing secrets, or even simply wasting time IMing their friends.

Train employees in computer use and security.

PG Lewis’s website tells of one case in which a woman claimed that her company’s CEO had harassed her sexually. PG Lewis found that not only had the woman performed substantial research on sexual harassment, but also had created, in one hour, a file that she alleged was a compilation of entries over three months recording encounters with her alleged harasser. The woman was terminated.

"Computers are powerful tools for a company, but they are very dangerous," warns Cookson. "They can get a company in trouble, and expose it to liability or the loss of valuable information." But those same powerful computers, in the hands of trained data forensics experts, can often save the day.

– Michele Alperin

Give Blood, Get Ice Cream, Hats, and Gasoline

Madeline Lightman, blood donor recruiter at Princeton Hospital, says that, nationwide, only five percent of those eligible to donate blood do so. Shockingly enough, the number is even lower in New Jersey. "Only two to three percent of New Jersey residents who are able to donate blood do so," she says.

Princeton Hospital, with a big assist from Thomas Sweet, is offering a sweet inducement to up that percentage. "From now until January 31, 2006, anyone who donates blood will get a coupon for a pint of Thomas Sweet ice cream," Lightman says. It’s the healthcare facility’s Pint for a Pint promotion. "So far the ice cream store has hand packed more than 100 pints, and its owners, Thomas Grim and Thomas Block, are fully cognizant," says Lightman, "that the number could escalate sharply."

"We need about 3,500 pints of blood a year," says Lightman, "and we get about half of them through donations."

Grim says that the idea for the promotion came from his sister, Ellen Abernathy, a real estate broker with Weidel’s West Windsor office. She had seen that blood donations from her group, the Board of Mercer County Realtors, had fallen short of potential, and thought that a little sweet inducement – and the buzz it would create – could bring in more donors. A long-time, part-time Thomas Sweet employee, she took the idea to her brother, and he and his partner readily agreed to help out.

The Board of Realtors is having a "day at the donor room" on Thursday, August 11. Other area groups planning similar group donations include the Princeton Regional Chamber, which has scheduled Thursday, August 4, and the Mercer Chamber, which donated on Thursday, July 21.

Lightman says that the general public is welcome to give blood on any of those dates, too. Or anyone can call 609-497-4366 to schedule an appointment at any other time. Walk-ins are welcome, too, but Lightman says that it’s a good idea to call ahead. This avoids the possibility that the donation room will be closed or that it will be full of other donors.

The entire procedure – start to finish – takes only about half an hour, says Lightman. Anyone who is over 17 and who weighs at least 110 pounds is eligible to donate. Everyone is given a mini-check-up to determine general health and to discover any diseases that could be spread through blood. Potential donors over the age of 71 need a doctor’s note attesting to their good health.

Stressing the need for more donations, Lightman described the state of the current supply as "bad, poor, not good, low." With luck, a spoonful of home-made Thomas Sweet ice cream will make the medicine of acting on good intentions and taking the time to make an appointment to give blood go down a little more easily.

American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region offers Route 56, a scratch and win game for blood donors to receive prizes including tee shirts, visors, and mugs. One lucky donor will receive a year’s supply of gas. Donors also receive a limited edition "Route 56" keychain.

In an effort to boost blood collections last summer "Route 56" began to encourage people to donate blood every 56 days. The campaign was embraced by businesses, community organizations, and places of worship – over 1,400 blood drive sponsors – whose volunteer blood donors helped to provide more than 73,000 units of blood to patients in need during June through September, 2004.

This summer, the campaign has its sights set on asking over 85,000 people to donate blood during the campaign timeframe from June 6 through September 18. The goal is to increase blood collections in order to support patients in the area including trauma victims, surgery patients, individuals living with sickle cell disease, cancer patients, and premature infants.

Each week the Penn-Jersey Region operates over 200 blood drives and nine community donor centers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call 800-448-3543 or visit www.pleasegiveblood.org to schedule an appointment.

In another twist on the promotional theme, during the month of June the Community Blood Council gave donors chocolate truffles in tea cups as a post-donation snack. Created by Lee Gelfond Chocolates in Beverly Hills, California, they were donated by Bruce and Donna Isenberg of Culver City, California, to Sue Robbins, public relations officer of CBC and a friend of the Isenbergs.

"We still have a drastic blood shortage in the area," says Robbins. "Our donors always receive a nice gift including mugs or a T-shirt (designed by Robbins). Platelet donors receive a $10 gas card in the mail following donation."

CBC is the primary supplier of blood and blood products to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospitals. Visit www.givebloodnj.org or call 609-883-9750 for an appointment.

Speed of Light Business Networking

Faster than the speed of light you rocket around the room, making contacts with 60 other area professionals and business owners in record time. That’s the vision of Krisztina Samu and Mark Cunningham, originators of the area’s newest networking event: Speed of Light Networking.

Their first event is set for Thursday, August 4, at the Westin Princeton in Forrestal Village. Cost: $35. Register at www.speedoflightnetworking.com.

Why Speed of Light? Other than the obvious reference to Princeton’s most famous name, Albert Einstein, Speed of Light also describes the event. Based on speed dating, it will follow a schedule of both structured and unstructured networking, says Samu. Open networking and a happy hour, with a cash bar and hors d’oeuvres, is planned from 5 to 6 p.m. This is an optional part of the program. From 6 to 8:30 p.m. there will be structured networking, with a short, unstructured period to end the event from 8:30 to 9 p.m.

The structured event is the feature of the evening, says Samu. Like speed dating, each person sits a starting point, across a table from another participant. They will then have three minutes to hear about each other’s businesses. When time is up, each switches to the next table, and continues moving around the room until he has met everyone at the event. During the final half hour each person has an opportunity to reconnect with anyone he found interesting and to make further contact.

"At most networking events you are on your own to meet people," says Samu. It is easy to get "stuck" speaking too long with one person or, if you are shy, you might only meet a handful of people. Speed Networking, on the other hand, "allows you to meet dozens of like-minded business people in only a few hours."

Samu and Cunningham are both networking enthusiasts. Cunningham’s two-year-old company, MJM Technologies, is located in New Brunswick. He "fulfills clients’ unmet computer systems needs," he says, and has found that networking through BNI (Business Network International) and other groups "is a sure fire way to improve my chances for success. It has helped me open doors to new clients in a short period of time. Networking definitely breaks down barriers and builds those bridges that allow a new business owner to increase his or her client base."

Samu, whose company, Appleseed Inc., is located in Lawrenceville, is a graphic designer with a specialty niche in "bridging the gap between conventional design and foreign language services." Her company offers translation into 40 languages. She credits networking with helping her business take off.

"For 10 years, I was what you call a solo-preneur. Appleseed was a one-woman show," she says. Once she decided to "stop doing it all myself," she not only hired an employee but joined two business groups, BNI (Business Network International) and NJAWBO (New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners).

She also realized that while the foreign language part of her business was doing well, the design segment needed those "face-to-face contacts" to grow. "Now, rather than being glued to my computer, I am meeting potential clients face-to-face," she says, and her business has expanded to three employees. "I could not have done it without taking that step and getting out there!"

In fact, it is Cunningham and Samu’s experience in other networking groups that gave them the idea for Speed of Light. There are a variety of business groups in every area, says Samu, such as BNI, NJAWBO, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary. Unfortunately, no one person has the time or money to belong to all of them, even though there are "people they should meet" in each group. She and Cunningham decided the best way to bring these varied people together was to set up their own event.

One of Speed of Light’s big advantages, she says, is that there are no yearly dues or membership fees. It is strictly, "pay as you go," for the events you want to attend. Speed of Light is not a "business." Proceeds from the event will be given to Homefront, "a local organization that is working to help people right in our own neighborhood."

It has been easy to put the program together, she says, because not only are she and Cunningham enthusiastic about the idea, but they’ve also found other networking enthusiasts to help them. The master of ceremonies will be Adam J. Kovitz, a Levittown, PA, businessman who publishes the NetWorker, a newsletter, and who is the "self-proclaimed King of Business Networking," says Samu.

Their goal for the August event is 60 people, "and the way the reservations are coming in we are going to have that easily," says Samu. They plan to offer future events either quarterly or monthly. "We are offering participant-driven events. It depends on the feedback we get as to what types of events we plan in the future," she says. They are considering specialized networking events for particular industries, such as real estate or the medical industry.

Speed networking requires some special techniques, says Samu.

Prepare your speech. The format of speed networking requires that each participant describes his business in a just a few minutes. To be prepared, Samu suggests preparing and practicing a "memorable elevator speech." While you may need to improvise throughout the evening, "the time you invest in formulating a catchy 90-second ad for yourself will pay off in the long run."

Focus on your partner’s needs. Make sure you don’t spend your time talking about your credentials and experience, instead, focus on how you can help the other person’s business. Ask yourself, "What would the listener immediately identify with?"

Add a memory hook. Use a "memory hook" to help others remember who you are. "BNI has taught me to use a catchy phrase to help people remember my business," she says. To follow through on her company’s name, she always uses, "Grow your marketing image with Appleseed."

Add a call-to-action. Not only tell people what you can do for them, tell them what you want them to do. Ask them to call you for an appointment.

Think outside the box. "Due to the accelerated format of the event, you will have to think outside the box to be effective," says Samu. "What will make others remember you? What is it about you that will carry you? Will you try a witty approach? Do you want to give your listener something to take home, like a handout or a free gift? Use your imagination."

-Karen Hodges Miller

How to Safely Get Rid of Unwanted PCs

There are some 315 million obsolete computers stuffed into office closets and storerooms, piled in corners, and used as foot rests and end tables. Their former pals – the mice and keyboards – sit in a jumble nearby, while their masters, the servers, expensive investments when they were new, tend to be given a tad more respect, perhaps by being warehoused upright near their replacements.

It’s wrenching to toss the multi-thousand-dollar devices into the trash – but there comes time when it becomes awfully tempting, when room has to be made for an office refrigerator, or a new employee, for instance.

But the impulse to end a computer’s days by putting it on the curb is a poor one. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) frowns on the practice because the machines – and the monitors that once proudly displayed their works – are loaded with lead, mercury, cadmium, and many other toxic bioaccumulative compounds. Placed in a landfill, the devices will leach out their poisons, over many generations.

In light of this fact, the EPA requires that companies not only dispose of their computers, servers, and peripherals properly, but also that they maintain records of doing so. Fines for non-compliance can reach to over $100,000. Information on said non-compliance often makes its way to the EPA by way of what it calls "conscientious" workers, also sometimes called "disgruntled employees." When the urge to clean out those storerooms produces a truck-load full of ancient computers, help from eye witnesses is rarely necessary. The resulting mound is often detected, and traced by EPA investigators.

There are a number of legal ways to dispose of computers, including selling them on auction sites such as eBay. An even easier route, albeit somewhat more expensive, is to take advantage of a program like that being offered by the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Dynamic Strategies, an Exit 8A-based company (www.ds-inc.com), that is just getting into the business of disposing of unwanted computers.

Rose Quinn of Dynamic Strategies, whose main businesses are network security, systems integration, and help desk support, explains why the company is getting involved in disposal. "Everywhere I go," says Quinn, "people are saying ‘What am I going to do with my old computers? How can I get rid of them?’" One of the places she goes – and listens to tales of old computer angst – is Middlesex Chamber meetings, so pairing with the organization was a natural.

The two entities have come up with a pilot computer disposal event. It takes place from Monday, through Thursday, August 8 through 11. Here is how it works: Companies bring their computers, monitors, servers, printers, copy machines, keyboards, and mice to the chamber’s offices at 1 Distribution Way, Suite 101, in Monmouth Junction. If there is too much stuff to haul over, a chamber member with a truck will pick up for a fee. Disposal services are available to all, but appointments are required. Call 973-214-0374 for the appointment. For more information, call the chamber at 732-821-1700, ext. 202.

The companies pay a fee of $23 per device, but nothing for the keyboards and mice. This fee, however, will be mitigated in some cases, because Dynamic Strategies will try to sell computers that anyone would still want. To be eligible for resale "the computers can’t be broken," says Quinn. She also says that old computers will not be sold. She has a hard time defining "old," though. Would a computer without a CD drive be considered irredeemably old? she is asked. "Not necessarily," she replies. "It’s hard to say what’s ‘old,’" she says. "It changes every month."

Companies will be given a spreadsheet documenting the devices they have dumped, and the price, if any, that they fetched. Quinn says that if a computer is sold for $15 its former owner would probably get something like $5. No matter what becomes of the computers, Dynamic Systems will issue a certificate of idemnification indicating that the company disposed of its computers properly.

Dynamic Systems also offers to wipe clean hard drives for $15 apiece. "People erase their hard drives and think that no one can read them, but that is not true," says Quinn. She contends that sophisticated geeks can fairly easily reconstruct data that was on "cleaned" hard drives. The software her company uses, she claims, does such a good job that no such reconstruction is possible.

Quinn says that the computer disposal event is likely to be repeated once a quarter.

MBA at Middlesex

This fall Fairleigh Dickinson University launches MBA courses at Middlesex County College in Edison. The first offering will be a graduate course in financial accounting, a core course for the MBA degree. Also scheduled for the Edison location is a graduate course in pharmaceutical marketing and product development.

Fairleigh Dickinson, which is based in Madison, will hold an open house for prospective MBA students on Tuesday, August 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at MCCC’s Edison Hall, Room 151. For reservations call Bonnie Diehl at 201-692-7204. For MCC admissions, call 732-906-4243.

Career coach Eli Amdur will speak on career management skills for pharmaceutical professionals, and FDU business faculty will be available to answer questions.

The new program builds on the partnership between the two institutions, according to Donald Zimmerman, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Management Studies in FDU’s Silberman College of Business.

Grants Awarded

The state chapter of the March of Dimes gave a $75,000 grant to Jonathan Todd Eggenschwiler, a molecular biologist at Princeton University who is doing research on the role of a newly identified gene in causing spina bifida ("open spine") and related birth defects.

Of the more than 2,000 researchers who received Basil O’Connor grants over the past 33 years, three have won a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, and one is the Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, says Richard Gittleman, representing the board of directors of March of Dimes New Jersey.

Shirley M. Tilghman, a molecular biologist who is now the university’s presidnet, had been the recipient of a similar Basil O’Connor grant between 1979 and 1981.

The Princeton Area Community Foundation (PACF) has awarded nearly $127,000 to 17 organizations. This public nonprofit community foundation PACF collaborates with local donors including the Harbourton Foundation and various charitable funds, including the Blair Family Fund, three funds from the Smoyer family, the Frank E. Taplin, Jr. Fund, and the Myra and Van Zandt Williams, Jr. Fund.

One grant went to the American Institute for Social Justice, a financial literacy initiative to help low and moderate-income women achieve financial security and buy their first homes.

Other recipients: Boys & Girls Club of Trenton & Mercer County, CONTACT of Mercer County for services to seniors, Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, Girl Scouts of Delaware-Raritan (for an arts education and playground improvement project at Princeton Nursery School), Lawrence NonProfit Housing, LifeTies, Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, Millhill Child & Family Development Corp., Mount Carmel Guild.

Additional recipients were the Newgrange School of Princeton for an early literacy program in Trenton elementary schools, Princeton Young Achievers, Trenton After School Program, Trinity Counseling Service, Young Audiences of New Jersey, Young Scholars Institute, and YWCA of Princeton for English as a Second Language literacy initiatives.

"Each of the funded organizations presented a compelling case for support, whether to provide food, housing, education or health services to those in need," says Joan Hollendonner, vice president for programs. "We are pleased that the list contains organizations receiving their first grant from us, as well as those with whom we have longer-term funding relationships."

For more information on applying for a Greater Mercer Grant or attending an Grant Information Session, call 609-219-1800 (www.pacf.org).

Carpool for Free Gas

It’s the talk of the town, a largely harmless source of out-of-proportion angst – and something of a game too. The escalating price of gas has everyone talking. Friends report sightings of regular for $2.19. Relatives chide the profligate for not driving to Burlington County for gas bargains, calculating that, even with the extra miles to the pump, there are savings to be had. Meanwhile, the sounds of summer are punctuated by the cries of SUV owners: "I just paid $53.42 to fill up my car!" is the call by which they can be identified.

Meanwhile, New Jersey, its Transportation Trust Fund drier than a gas tank with a needle stuck below empty, is seriously considering adding a tax – of perhaps 14 cents a gallon – to already inflated prices.

What’s a driver to do?

Sandra Brillhart, executive director of the Greater Mercer TMA, has an idea. Starting in September, her organization, which promotes energy-saving, smooth-running transportation through everything from bike-to-work programs to convenient bus routes, is kicking off a car pooling program with a sweet incentive.

Every new carpool that registers with Greater Mercer TMA will receive free gas – $50 worth. The only requirement is that participants work for companies that are members of Greater Mercer TMA and that they carpool at least 30 days between September and November.

Brillhart says that the TMA in Hunterdon County tried the program last winter and signed up 40 new carpools, a big number in suburbia, where the right to a solo ride is considered sacred. What’s more, she adds, "retention was excellent." Those who didn’t like sharing the front seat dropped out right away, but those who stuck with the program long enough to earn the $50 gas certificate, which is funded by member company dues, were hooked on commuting and continued to do so.

Greater Mercer TMA has approximately 2,000 potential carpoolers registered with its database, and some 20 to 30 percent of them actually pair up with a partner for the ride to work. Brillhart acknowledges that there are hurdles to carpooling, and says that the fear of not being able to leave work in an emergency is the biggest. Her organization has gone a long way toward quieting that fear by offering free rides home when a child has to be picked up from the nurse’s office, when a project unexpectedly demands overtime, or for any other good reason.

There is a hope that employees, infuriated by rising gas prices, will ask their companies to join Greater Mercer TMA so that they can reap the rewards that go along with organized carpooling. Most large employers already belong to the organization, says Brillhart.

She thinks that the timing of the new program is good. "Everbody is talking about gas prices," she points out. The tipping point, where commuters, en masse, will give serious thought to gas-saving measures may not have been reached yet, but it may be coming soon.

Brillhart says that a national survey has found that most people will put energy into saving gas when the price at the pump hits $3. Greater Mercer TMA has conducted its own modest survey, through its newsletter, and has found that the tipping point in our area is somewhere between $3 and $5 a gallon.

At the upper range of that level, a great many commuters may start to clear the stacks of newspapers from their front seats, cede some control of the radio dial, and welcome another commuter or two into their cars. Those who are ready by September will reap the additional reward of that $50 gas certificate.

For more information, call Greater Mercer TMA at 609-452-1491.

Corporate Angels

Assist America has donated insurance for 27 participants in scuba diver programs run by the Diveheart Foundation, a non-profit volunteer organization that introduces scuba diving and related water activities to individuals with disabilities (www.diveheart.org).

With headquarters at the Carnegie Center, Assist America is the largest provider of global emergency services through employee benefit plans, and it donates the coverage in conjunction with Vicencia & Buckley Insurance Services, Inc., an insurance agency for the scuba diving industry. Trips for disabled youth to the Florida Keys are an extension of therapy programs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Shriners Children’s Hospital, and Fox Valley Special Recreation Association.

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