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Law Enforcement: Jacksonville Narcs Kill Two Men in Separate Incidents Eight Days Apart

Undercover narcotics officers in Jacksonville, Florida, killed two people in separate incidents in late January. Both men were black, and neither is alleged to be a drug dealer. Now, local black leaders are calling for a federal investigation, and the local prosecutor is questioning the value of such operations.

On January 20, undercover officers posing as drug dealers during a drug sting shot and killed 18-year-old Douglas Woods on January 20. Police claimed that Woods was armed with a pistol and attempted to rob what he thought were drug dealers. But family members and witnesses said Woods had no weapon and was holding only a cell phone.

"He was standing in the parking lot, like they always do, and the police pulled up on them. Everybody ran away except my child, and he threw his hands up. They said they shot him about eight times," Woods' mother, Machealle Woods said. "Why? I want to know why."

Witness Tyronnie Dennis, who was sitting on her steps smoking a cigarette when Woods was shot in her apartment complex courtyard, said Woods was holding a cell phone, not a gun. "I heard the shots ring out, and the boy hit the ground. There was only one gun fired. He didn't shoot back. He had a cell phone. He did not have a gun," said Dennis.

"We want a thorough investigation on this from the federal side to make sure that this is done fair and justly. We do not condone criminals. We do not condone drugs dealers and we never will," said Rev. RL Gundy of the Jacksonville Leadership Coalition. "We just want to make sure. Too many stories have been told too many different ways, and we want to make sure that the mother and the father get a thorough investigation about this."

Jacksonville County Sheriff John Rutherford was defending the shooting early last week. "At this point in the investigation, I am confident that the officer fired in self-defense after being approached by someone who was trying to rob him with a gun," Rutherford said. "I can tell you that we have statements from witnesses who were at the scene and are telling us one thing -- that told us one thing the night it occurred -- and the next afternoon were telling the electronic media something else." Rutherford said his office wouldn't put out a statement unless it was confident it was true. "We are not going to put that out there until we know -- it was gun, and I can tell you that it was a gun that was lying beside that individual not a cell phone," Rutherford said.

Then, on the day that Woods was buried, undercover narcotics officers shot and killed 81-year-old Isaac Singletary in his yard after the neighborhood fixture apparently mistook them for drug dealers and confronted them. "An individual approached from between two houses brandishing a handgun. The officers gave several commands to drop the gun, he did not, so they exchanged gunfire," said Chief Dwain Senterfitt.

"The man came out three times and said move out of my yard. So after the third time he came out with a 357 and started shooting at the individuals," one witness who did not want to be identified told local media.

Singletary's nephew, Gary Evans, said his uncle was a respected man in the neighborhood. "He got his enjoyment from sitting under a tree and watching his collard greens and cabbages grow," said Evans. "The only time anybody would hear anything out of my uncle is if they stopped in front of his house and tried to do whatever deals they wanted to do," Evans added.

"I never would have thought he would have gotten shot by a police officer," said niece Sheree Bea. "I thought if he ever got shot it would have been in a confrontation with a drug dealer."

Now, it isn't only community organizations raising questions about police practices. Jacksonville County States Attorney Harry Shorstein said in the wake of the two killings he questioned the value of undercover narcotics stings. "If we're just selling drugs to addicts, I don't know what we're accomplishing," Shorstein said. "This could wind up being the tragic death of one kid -- arguably a bad kid -- and a gentleman who had the right to protect his property."

Methamphetamine: Epidemic, What Epidemic? Meth Use Down, SAMHSA Says

Despite the methamphetamine mania rampant among the media and law enforcement officials, annual national drug use surveys show that meth use levels were stagnant between 2002 and 2004, and declined dramatically in 2005. According to an analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), first-time meth users declined from 318,000 in 2004 to 192,000 in 2005.

The number of people who admitted using methamphetamine within the last year was also on the decline during the years between 2002 and 2005. In 2002, 0.7% of the population above age 12 admitted past year use; in 2005, that figure had declined to 0.5%. Past year use was highest in the West (1.2%), followed by the South and Midwest (0.5%), with the Northeast trailing with 0.1%.

According to the study, about 1.3 million people used meth during 2005. Some 500,000 used it at least once a month. Despite all the hoopla about meth addiction, methamphetamine users accounted for only 8% of all drug treatment admissions.

"Methamphetamine is a very destructive drug that can do serious harm to families and entire communities," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D. "We are pleased to see these decreases in use, and SAMHSA is continuing to provide funding opportunities so that communities can fight the use of this insidious drug and provide treatment to those who need it."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Here's a new twist for you: This week, we have a prison guard charged with smuggling drugs OUT of a prison. Of course, there are several more charged with smuggling drugs in, as well as a teenage military policeman gone bad, a retirement age former cop gone bad, and yet another Nashville officer found guilty of drug corruption. Let's get to it:

In White Plains, New York, a Yonkers Police Department jail guard was arrested January 25 for helping an inmate smuggle drugs out of the Alexander Street Jail. Patricia Streams-Correa, 39, is charged with sale and possession of drugs and promoting prison contraband in the first degree. When a new prisoner was brought to the jail for possessing eight bags of heroin, she allegedly had another 36 bags hidden on her. A friend brought a change of clothes to the jail, and Streams-Correa is accused of helping hide the 36 bags of smack in the prisoner's dirty clothing and letting the friend take the clothes and heroin from the jail. Streams-Correa was popped after the department's Narcotics Unit and Internal Affairs Division "developed information" about the incident. The heroin was recovered. Streams-Correa now faces nine years in prison.

In Phoenix, a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detention officer is accused of smuggling drugs to two prisoners with whom she had a personal relationship. Officer Michele Samaniego, 27, faces charges of promoting prison contraband and possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia after Sheriff's officers found her with suspected marijuana, methamphetamine, and a needle and syringe. Detectives also searched Samaniego's home and arrested her roommate on related drug conspiracy charges.

In Darlington, South Carolina, a state Department of Corrections employee was arrested Saturday on drugs, contraband, and misconduct charges. Adrian Concepcion, 20, allegedly told an undercover agent he would bring marijuana to an inmate at the Lee Correctional Institution, where he worked. He is now being held at a different jail.

In Stateline, Nevada, a 17-year-old military police officer was arrested in a casino parking lot January 25 on charges he sold cocaine. Nevada National Guardsman Elliot Paul Liebowitz had his military uniform in his car at the time of his arrest. The Douglas County Sheriff Street Enforcement Team says Liebowitz sold at least 83 grams of cocaine during its month-long investigation of him. Authorities say they will seek to try him as an adult, and if convicted, he could face 25 years to life in prison. Meanwhile, he has been booked into a juvenile detention facility.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, a former Long Beach (now Oak Island) police officer was arrested last Friday on drug sales charges after police executed a search warrant at his home. William Sisk Sr., 71, is charged with possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver cocaine and other controlled substances as well as maintaining a dwelling to keep a controlled substance. He was raided after a year-long investigation, and police found crack cocaine, 109 hydrocodone tablets, 57 alprazolam tablets, 28 diazepam tablets, a .410-gauge shotgun and $6,277 in cash, as well as drug paraphernalia. Sisk, who retired in 1996, is a former candidate for sheriff and registrar of deeds in Brunswick County. He was out on bail as of last Saturday and denied any wrongdoing.

In Nashville, a Nashville Metropolitan Police officer who failed to report a fellow officer's involvement in a cocaine heist was found guilty in federal court January 29. Officer Charles Williams III, a 16-year veteran of the force, was convicted of misprision of a felony for conspiring with fellow officer Ernest Cecil and Cecil's nephew Corey to arrest a man carrying three kilograms of cocaine and allow Corey Cecil to get away with the stash. Officer Cecil is currently awaiting trial on drug trafficking and false arrest charges. Williams, who resigned from the force Wednesday, faces up to three years in prison.

Canada: Vancouver Mayor Calls for Large-Scale Methamphetamine, Cocaine Maintenance Trials

According to a Monday press release, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan wants the Canadian federal government to grant the city an exemption from the country's drug laws so he can pursue a plan to provide at least 700 hard-core cocaine and methamphetamine users with maintenance doses of stimulant drugs. The idea, commonly known as substitution therapy, is similar to that of providing heroin addicts with maintenance doses of other opiates.

While researchers led by John Grabowski at the University of Texas at Houston have had success with small-scale methamphetamine substitution trials, the proposed Vancouver trials would be the largest ever. Mayor Sullivan is ready to take the plunge.

"Prescribing legally available medications provides people an opportunity to regain stability in their lives and ultimately a path to abstinence," he said. "Recognizing that drug addiction is one of the root causes of property crime and public disorder, I believe that this new approach will also help to reduce harm to the community."

It comes as part of a broader package of initiatives aimed at cleaning up homelessness, panhandling, and drug dealing before the 2010 Winter Olympics. Known as Project Civil City, the initiative sets out goals of a 50% reduction in the three areas by then.

HEA: UC Berkeley Student Senate Approves Bill to Provide Scholarships for Students Denied Aid Because of Drug Convictions

The student senate at the University of California at Berkeley is not waiting for Congress to get around to repealing the Higher Education Act's drug provision. Under that provision, students who are convicted of drug offenses lose access to federal financial aid for specified periods of time. While the measure has been amended by its author, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), to only count offenses committed while a student was in school and receiving financial aid, hopes are high that the new Democratic Congress will repeal the measure in its entirety.

Wednesday night, the UC Berkeley student senate approved a measure that will grant $400 scholarships to students who cannot receive financial aid because of the drug provision. The ASUC Removing Impediments to Students' Education scholarship bill passed without objection and could come into effect this semester. To receive the scholarships, students must have a 2.5 Grade Point Average and commit to doing 20 hours of community service.

Berkeley's student government joins a number who have taken such "direct action" to reduce the consequences of the drug provision. In 2000, the year the drug provision first took effect, Hampshire College students voted in a referendum organized by one of the first Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters to make up federal aid lost because of drug convictions out of the student activities fund. Yale University's administration adopted a similar policy in 2002 after being lobbied by student activists, as did the Western Washington University student government. Swarthmore College followed suit shortly thereafter. Also, since 2002 the John W. Perry Fund, sponsored by DRCNet Foundation (the publisher of this newsletter), has provided scholarships to students losing aid because of drug convictions nationally.

Students seeking Berkeley's scholarship must write a personal statement to be evaluated by a selection committee consisting of four student senators and the university's vice-president for student affairs. Scholarship recipients must pledge to donate back to the scholarship program when financially able. The bill also mandates that the student senate will write a letter to the university chancellor, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and President Bush, urging them to repeal the HEA drug provision.

The measure was introduced by student Sen. David Wasserman. According to the student newspaper The Daily Californian, Wasserman argued successfully that the HEA drug provision is counterproductive. "It is a poor way to fight the war on drugs. It's not right for the federal government to find the means to deprive students with a drug conviction of an education," Wasserman said.

Even the campus Republicans were on board. "Education is a means to success, it's a means to a future, it's a means to a goal in life. Denying that is truly not fair," said Berkeley College Republicans Sen. Victoria Mitchell.

"There was concern (among some senators) that the bill might encourage drug use," said Sen. Taylor Allbright. "But it encourages education. It encourages people who may have had difficulties to pick a better future through education."

UC Berkeley has long been in the vanguard of progressive change, and with this move, the student senate helps keep that reputation intact. "UC Berkeley is a beacon in the education community," Mitchell said. "Legislators pay attention to what happens. We're spearheading a movement."

Law Enforcement: SWAT Team Flash-Burn Grenade Assault Injures Drug Suspect

In yet another example of over-the-top, drug war-related SWAT-style policing,
the Gary, Indiana, SWAT team fired a flash-burn grenade into the home of a drug suspect, leaving him hospitalized with serious burns
. It was just business as usual, according to the SWAT unit commander.

Detectives from the department's Narcotics-Vice Unit had obtained a search warrant for the home of Darrell Newburn after making a number of drug buys there. Police surrounded the house, and a member of the SWAT team, led by Commander Anthony Stanley, threw a flash-bang grenade into the house. The devices are designed to explode with a loud bang and a burst of bright light, distracting police targets.

Newburn was hit in the back and received a burn about 12 inches in diameter. He is hospitalized under police guard at a local hospital.

"How it happened, I'm not certain," Sgt. John Jelks, drug unit commander said a day later. "It's normal practice for them to throw the distraction device in first."

Police recovered a relatively small haul: $400 in cash, an ounce of marijuana, and a little more than a half ounce of crack cocaine, along with a pistol.

"We knew he was in there and he was armed," Jelks said.

Rather than investigating whether the use of SWAT teams and the firing of flash-bang grenades is appropriate police behavior in low-level drug raids, the local newspaper limited itself to making smart remarks about the injured man's name. "With a little help from the Gary police SWAT team, Darrell Newburn had a most appropriate name Monday," is how Post-Tribune reporter Lori Caldwell opened her story on the incident.

Europe: British Cannabis Confusion Continues as Policing Policies Evolve

Britain's Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) last week issued new guidelines for arresting or issuing warnings to marijuana possessors that would create a "three-strikes" rule for repeat offenders, but give officers discretion on whether or not to arrest teenage offenders. The move comes nearly four years after Britain reclassified marijuana as a less-serious Class C drug, giving officers the discretion to either arrest or issue warnings.
Members of European Parliament Chris Davies (UK) and Marco Cappato (Italy) after cannabis civil disobedience arrest, Manchester police station, December 2001 (
According to ACPO, "These guidelines do not encourage the same offender being repeatedly warned for possession of cannabis. Where it can be verified that an offender has received two previous cannabis warnings then a further warning should not be considered."

But for people who have not had two previous cannabis warnings, ACPO said, "A police officer finding a person aged 18 or over in possession of a substance that they can identify as cannabis and who is satisfied that the drug is intended for that person's own use should not normally need to arrest the person."

At the same time, the ACPO guidelines said police could find "less intrusive ways" of dealing with teens caught with marijuana than arresting them. The group suggested that officers take the kid home to his parents and keep a record of the incident.

A similar "three-strikes" policy was considered by ACPO in 2002, but scrapped before the warning system was put in place. This latest guidance from ACPO responds to widespread concerns that the current situation leads to uncertainties among police and the public alike. Police have complained that many people they encounter believe marijuana has been legalized, while marijuana users complain that they are still being arrested.

So, when is someone likely to be arrested instead of warned for marijuana possession? According to the ACPO, an arrest may be warranted when:

  • The name and/or address of the suspect are not known or there are reasonable grounds for doubting whether a name given is a real name.
  • It is necessary to prevent the offender suffering physical injury or causing injury to someone else.
  • If a locality has been identified through the National Intelligence Model as one where there is fear of public disorder associated with the use of cannabis which cannot be effectively dealt with by other means, such as where an open drugs (cannabis) market causes harm to communities.
  • It is necessary to protect a child or vulnerable person from the offender.
  • It is necessary to allow the prompt and effective investigation of the offense.

A report issued this week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's Institute for Criminal Justice Policy Research, "Policing Cannabis as a Class C Drug" , suggests that much of the uncertainty and inconsistency lies with the police themselves. According to that report, in four police areas studied, police arrested marijuana possessors or smokers between 78% and 58% of the time. The decision to arrest or not depended on a variety of factors, including the attitude of the officer, the attitude of the offender, local policies, and the amount of marijuana seized.

"When cannabis was reclassified as a Class C drug, guidelines were issued advising officers to give street warnings for most possession offences, arresting only in aggravating circumstances," the report noted. "We found that street warnings were issued for under half of possession offences. Over half of officers were against the downgrading and many said that cannabis arrests often led to the detection of more serious crimes. In fact, we found that this occurred in less than one percent of cases."

Almost half of police officers complained of the unfairness of having to arrest teenagers -- a policy that has now changed. One police officer interviewed for the study said: "It just seems a bit unfair for a 16-year-old to get nicked for it and an 18-year-old in the same group to get a slap on the wrist and that's it."

The study also found that police seemed to encounter marijuana offenders more often among members of Britain's ethnic minorities. "People from black and minority ethnic groups were heavily over-represented amongst offenders in three of the sites and somewhat over-represented in the remaining site," the study reported. "Whilst the study cannot disentangle the factors that might explain this over-representation, it clearly highlights the need for police forces to monitor trends closely in the disposal of possession offences."

Latin America: Mexican Narco-Saint On the Move

In Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, long a hot-bed of drug cultivation and the drug trade, for decades narco-traffickers have joined common Mexicans in worshipping at the shrine of San Malverde (or San Juan Malverde or San Jesus Malverde). Malverde, a 19th century bandit who may or may not have actually existed and who may or may not have been hung in 1909, is a Robin Hood-like figure in Mexican culture, and is the unofficial patron saint of bandits and drug traffickers.
San Malverde image on sale for $6.95,
When the shrine to Sal Malverde began is unclear, but evidence of its popularity dates back decades. When Culiacan municipal officials moved to tear it down to make way for new city buildings in the 1970s, protests erupted until officials promised to replace it with a new, improved shrine.

As northwest Mexico's "narcoculture" spread -- if globalization exists in any industry, it is the drug trade -- so has the visage of San Malverde. The image of his mustachioed face, bedecked with a neckerchief, a gold chain with a pistol charm around his neck, and a large belt-buckle with a pistol around his waist can now be found for sale in botanicas in the Carolinas and hanging from rear view mirrors in cars pulled over in Utah.

San Malverde's image also appears in prison cells across Mexico, in private shrines in residences, and tattooed on the backs of more than a few men. A second, smaller shrine to him appeared in Tijuana some years ago. Now, the first known public shrine to San Malverde has popped up in Mexico City.

Maria Alicia Pulido Sanchez, a housewife in the city's gritty Doctores neighborhood, has built a glass-encased shrine on a sidewalk near her home. For Pulido Sanchez, it was not San Malverde's succor for the narcos that inspired her, but because he helps poor people.

"He wasn't a drug trafficker. He was what you might call a thief, but he helped his community," she said. Although San Malverde is not recognized by the Catholic Church, Pulido Sanchez was not concerned. "We make our saints by the power of our belief," she said. "We can believe in anyone who fulfills our petitions."

Pulido Sanchez said she decided to build the shrine after her son recovered from injuries in a 2005 car crash in just days after she prayed to a statue of San Malverde belonging to a friend. While Pulido Sanchez may worship San Malverde for his aid to the poor and defenseless, some of the people coming by to pay homage may have other things on their minds. She said lawyers, policemen, and "men with big bunches of jewelry" frequent the shrine, along with housewives, secretaries, and "people from every walk of life."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Jail and prison guards gone bad! Evidence gone missing! Narcs gone to prison! Just another week on the corrupt cop front. Let's get to it:

In Laurel, Mississippi, three former members of the Southeast Mississippi Drug Task Force have been sentenced following guilty pleas in a drug corruption scandal. The task force commander, Roger Williams, and agents Randall Parker and Chris Smith pleaded guilty in August to a variety of crimes including conspiracy to falsely and maliciously arrest another, simple assault, obstruction of justice, and embezzlement. Those charges emerged from a 2006 investigation that led to drug charges being dropped in at least 34 cases. Williams got 15 months, Smith got 12 months, and Parker got house arrest because he was the first to come forward and cooperated with authorities.

In Schenectady, New York, 85 rocks of crack have gone missing from the police department evidence room. Police believe the crack was taken and not mislabeled. The missing rocks came to light after a state judge dismissed felony charges against a Schenectady man when the crack couldn't be produced for his trial. Police are now trying to determine if the drugs were stolen or mistakenly thrown away. While they're at it, they're checking to see if anything else is missing. The investigation could take a week or more, police said.

In Bartlesville, Oklahoma, an investigation is underway into drugs missing from the police department evidence room. The opioid pain reliever hydrocodone and methamphetamine seized in a June 2006 raid in Bartlesville turned up missing in January, when prosecutors prepared to prosecute the case (although police officials maintain they told prosecutors about the missing drugs in September). Prosecutors brought in the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to look around, but the bureau says the investigation could take months. The department is also undertaking an investigation. The Bartlesville Fraternal Order of Police said bravely in a statement last week it welcomed the investigations.

In Texarkana, Texas, a guard at the Bowie County Correctional Center was arrested Sunday after being caught trying to smuggle marijuana, tobacco, and cigars into the jail. James Porter, 18, was a four-month employee of Civigenics, a private company that operates the jail. His supervisor saw him acting nervously as he entered the jail, searched him, and found the contraband items wrapped in three bundles. He faces state charges of bringing prohibited substances into a correctional facility. He was also fired.

In DeKalb, Georgia, a county sheriff's office jail guard was arrested on January 19 for allegedly sneaking drugs and tobacco into the jail for an inmate. Raymond Green is charged with violation of oath by a public officer and drug trafficking by bringing contraband into a correctional facility. He faces up to five years in prison. He was arrested and fired after a three week investigation by the Sheriff's Office of Professional Standards.

In Miami, a Miami-Dade Correction and Rehabilitation officer was arrested on bribery charges for accepting gifts from an accused drug dealer and allowing him to escape. Shynita Townsend, 43, is accused of accepting diamond earrings, video games, and more than $5,000 cash from an accused dealer who was supposed to be wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. As a result, the feds say, the dealer was able to continue dealing and, ultimately, able to flee. He remains a fugitive. Townsend is looking at up to 10 years in federal prison.

In Clovis, New Mexico, a former Curry County jail guard was convicted January 18 of smuggling drugs into the jail. Damian Pardue, 30, got into trouble after an inmate told Clovis Police detectives Pardue was delivering drugs to inmates. The drugs would be left in a crumpled bag near Pardue's vehicle, and Pardue would pick them up, take them into the jail, and then deliver them to inmates. Pardue was convicted of conspiracy to commit trafficking by distribution and bringing contraband into the jail. He will be sentenced in March, when he could get up to 18 months on the other side of the bars.

In Cape Coral, Florida, a guard at the Charlotte Correctional Institution was arrested January 19 for allegedly trying to sell two ounces of marijuana to an undercover sheriff's deputy. Sabrina Rose Brownlee, 24, and her roommate arranged to meet the Lee County Sheriff's Department narc at BA Hustler's Bar and sold him 58 grams of weed in the parking lot for $245. The two were arrested shortly afterward. Brownlee is charged with possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana and selling marijuana within a thousand feet of a school. She posted a $13,000 bond last Friday morning.

In Des Moines, Iowa, a former state prison guard was sentenced last week to nearly six years in federal prison for cooking and selling methamphetamine. Milton Ringgenberg, 50, pleaded guilty to charges of manufacturing five grams or more of meth and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute five grams or more of meth in October. He admitted that he and his wife, Brenda, cooked and sold meth in the Webster County area. Brenda was sentenced earlier to five years in prison. There is no indication the Ringgenbergs sold their speed inside the prison at Fort Dodge, where he had been employed.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A relatively slow week this week. We've got a Garden State cop whose choice of boyfriends wasn't too wise, and the requisite pair of crooked jail guards. Let's get to it:

In Newark, New Jersey, a former Newark police officer was sentenced to seven years in prison last Friday for selling cocaine and helping her drug-dealing boyfriend elude police. Brandy Johnson, 30, a five-year veteran who was fired after she was arrested in July 2004, admitted that she sold 11 grams of cocaine for $400 dollars for her boyfriend and lied to police about the boyfriend's whereabouts after she was arrested. The boyfriend was found hiding in her attic the following month. Johnson pleaded guilty to cocaine distribution and official misconduct last September.

In Hernando, Mississippi, a a DeSoto County jail guard was fired Sunday after a Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics investigation into drug sales at the jail. Guard John Thomas, 29, had worked the night shift at the jail since September. Local officials said the results of the investigation would be turned over to the DEA, and that Thomas would be arrested once he is indicted.

In Chicago, a Cook County jail guard was arrested January 8 after authorities saw him buying two kilograms of cocaine from an informant. The value of the coke was set at $25,000. Guard Frederick Burton had been under surveillance for several months before being arrested, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Burton is in jail with bail set at $750,000 and a trial date set for January 31.

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