ADX Florence

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U.S. Penitentiary, Florence ADX
Florence ADMAX.jpg
LocationFremont County, near Florence, Colorado
Security classSupermax with adjacent minimum security camp
Population927 (408 supermax, 519 camp)[1]
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons
WardenRobert Wiley
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Coordinates: 38°21′23″N 105°05′41″W / 38.35630°N 105.09482°W / 38.35630; -105.09482

U.S. Penitentiary, Florence ADX
Florence ADMAX.jpg
LocationFremont County, near Florence, Colorado
Security classSupermax with adjacent minimum security camp
Population927 (408 supermax, 519 camp)[1]
Managed byFederal Bureau of Prisons
WardenRobert Wiley

The United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) is an American federal supermax prison for male inmates located in Fremont County, Colorado.[2][3] It is unofficially known as ADX Florence, Florence ADMAX, Supermax, or the Alcatraz of the Rockies.[4] Part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex, which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), a division of the United States Department of Justice, it houses the male inmates in the federal prison system who are deemed the most dangerous and in need of the tightest control. ADX also includes an adjacent minimum-security camp that, as of March 2014, houses more prisoners than the supermax unit.

The BOP has not designated a "supermax" facility for women. Women in the BOP system who are classified as "special management concerns" due to violence and/or escape attempts are confined in the administrative unit of Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.[5]


ADX Florence was constructed as a response to several serious security breaches at federal prisons, including those that occurred at the United States Penitentiary, Marion, a high security facility in Marion, Illinois, on October 22, 1983, in which Correction Officers Merle Clutts and Robert Hoffman were stabbed to death in two separate incidents. Relatively relaxed security procedures allowed an inmate, while walking down a hall, to turn to the side and approach another cell so an accomplice could unlock his handcuffs with a stolen key and provide him with a knife. Both officers were killed using this tactic. Clutts's killer, Thomas Silverstein, is serving three life sentences at ADX. Hoffman's killer, Clayton Fountain, died in prison of natural causes in 2004.[6]

As a response, USP Marion went into "permanent lockdown" and transformed itself into a "control unit" prison for the next 23 years, requiring inmates to remain in solitary confinement for 22 to 23 hours each day, and prohibiting communal dining, exercise, and religious services.[7]

Following the killings, Norman Carlson, then director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, argued that a more secure type of prison needed to be designed, where uncontrollable inmates could be isolated from correction officers and other prisoners for the sake of security and safety. Marion became a model for the subsequent construction of ADX, a facility designed from the ground up as a control unit prison.[8] Years later, Carlson said that building such a prison was the only way to handle inmates who "show absolutely no concern for human life." He pointed out that since Silverstein and Fountain were already serving multiple life sentences in a maximum security facility, simply adding another life sentence would have had no real effect or enhanced safety.[6]

ADX opened in November 1994.[9] The residents of Fremont County welcomed the prison as a source of employment. At the time, the county was already home to nine existing prisons. However, the lure of between 750 and 900 permanent jobs, in addition to another 1,000 temporary jobs during the prison's construction, led residents in the area to raise $160,000 to purchase 600 acres (240 ha) for the new prison. Hundreds of people attended the groundbreaking for the facility, which was designed jointly by two leading architecture firms in Colorado Springs, DLR Group and LKA Partners, and cost $60 million to build.[10]

Inmate population[edit]

The supermax unit at ADX Florence houses about 410 male inmates, each assigned to one of six security levels.[11]

The facility is best known for housing inmates who have been deemed too dangerous, too high-profile or too great a national security risk for even a maximum-security prison. These include the leaders of violent gangs who continued to issue orders to their members from lower security facilities, including Larry Hoover of the Gangster Disciples, and Barry Mills and Tyler Bingham of the Aryan Brotherhood. ADX also houses foreign terrorists, including the only person convicted in civilian court of the September 11 attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, the perpetrator of the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt, Faisal Shahzad,[12] and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef; as well as domestic terrorists, including serial bombers Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph. Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was housed at ADX before he was sentenced to death in 1997 and transferred to the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, which houses federal death row inmates. McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, is serving a life sentence at ADX. Robert Hanssen, the former FBI agent who betrayed several spies to the Soviet Union and Russia, is serving 15 life sentences at ADX for his crimes. The prison also houses inmates who are a high escape risk, including Richard McNair, who escaped from a county jail and two other prisons before being sent to ADX.

However, the majority of inmates have been sent there because they have an extensive history of committing violent crimes against corrections officers and fellow inmates in other prisons, up to and including murder. These inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for at least the first year. Depending on their conduct, inmates are then gradually allowed out for longer periods. The long-term goal is to keep them at ADX for three years, then transfer them to a less restrictive prison to serve out the remainder of their sentences. According to a 1998 report in the San Francisco Chronicle, ADX Florence's main purpose is to "try and extract reasonably peaceful behavior from extremely violent career prisoners".[6]

Prison facility[edit]

Design of a cell at ADX Florence

ADX Florence is a 37-acre (15 ha), 490-bed complex at 5880 Highway 67, Florence, Colorado, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Denver and 40 miles (60 km) south of Colorado Springs.[13] It is one part of the Florence Federal Correctional Complex (FFCC), which comprises three correctional facilities, each with a different security rating.[14]

The majority of the facility is above ground. The only part that is underground is a subterranean corridor that links cellblocks to the lobby. Inmates spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells and are escorted by a minimum of three officers for their five hours of private recreation per week.[15] Each cell has a desk, a stool, and a bed, which are almost entirely made out of poured concrete, as well as a toilet that shuts off if blocked, a shower that runs on a timer to prevent flooding, and a sink lacking a potentially dangerous tap. Rooms may also be fitted with polished steel mirrors bolted to the wall, an electric light, a radio, and a black and white television that shows recreational, educational, and religious programming.[16]

The 4 in (10 cm) by 4 ft (120 cm) windows are designed to prevent inmates from knowing their specific location within the complex because they can see only the sky and roof through them, making it virtually impossible to plan an escape. Inmates exercise in a concrete pit resembling an empty swimming pool, also designed to prevent them from knowing their location in the facility.[17] Telecommunication with the outside world is forbidden, and food is hand-delivered by correction officers. However, inmates sent here from other prisons can potentially be allowed to eat in a shared dining room.[6] The prison as a whole contains a multitude of motion detectors and cameras, and 1,400 remote-controlled steel doors. Pressure pads and 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) razor wire fences surround the perimeter.

Cheri Nolan, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General under President George W. Bush, toured ADX Florence in 2004 while a member of the advisory board for the National Institute of Corrections, a federal agency that supports correctional programs. Nolan stated, "I've never seen anything like it as far as the technology and physical set up. Once you're inside you really can't tell where you are - what's north, south, east or west. The way it's designed, it's an interesting kind of setup," Nolan said. "Because of the high value of targets they have there - on a world scale, whether it be a drug cartel or terrorists - they are as concerned with someone trying to get in to break someone out as much as they are about inmates trying to escape. The protection around the prison is pretty remarkable."[18]

The Federal Bureau of Prisons allowed the media to take a guided tour of ADX on September 14, 2007. Attending reporters remarked on "an astonishing and eerie quiet" within the prison as well as a sense of safety due to the rigorous security measures in place within the facility.[19] One journalist who took the tour, 60 Minutes producer Henry Schuster, said: "A few minutes inside that cell and two hours inside Supermax were enough to remind me why I left high school a year early. The walls close in very fast."[20]


Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber, stated in a series of 2006 letters to a Colorado Springs newspaper that the ADX is meant to "inflict misery and pain."[21] A former ADX warden described the place as "a cleaner version of Hell".[22] As of 2007, there have been hundreds of "involuntary feedings" and four suicides.[22] In June 2009 Richard Reid, the al-Qaida terrorist commonly known as the "shoe bomber" (who attempted to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 with explosives concealed in his shoes) went on a religious hunger strike and was force-fed as a result.[23] Nonetheless, the prison has come under far less scorn than comparable facilities at the state level, which tend to suffer heavily from overpopulation, low staff-to-inmate ratios and security issues inherent to attempting to enforce a supermax system in a non-purpose-built facility. Jamie Fellner of Human Rights Watch said after a tour of the facility, "The Bureau of Prisons has taken a harsh punitive model and implemented it as well as anybody I know."[6] Notorious escape artist Richard Lee McNair wrote to a journalist from his cell in 2009 to say "Thank God for prisons [...] There are some very sick people in here... Animals you would never want living near your family or the public in general. I don't know how corrections staff deal with it. They get spit on, shit on, abused and I have seen them risk their own lives and save a prisoner many times."[24]

In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and officials who run ADX Florence (Bacote v. Federal Bureau of Prisons[25]). This suit alleged chronic abuse, failure to properly diagnose and neglect of prisoners who are seriously mentally ill.[26]

In May 2013, ADX Florence ranked as one of the ten worst prisons in the United States, based on reporting in Mother Jones magazine.[27]

Notable current inmates[edit]

This section is about notable inmates who are currently held at Florence ADX. For a list of notable former inmates, see List of former inmates of US Penitentiary, Florence ADX.

Foreign terrorists[edit]

Mugshot of Zacarias Moussaoui

This list contains foreign citizens who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests.

Inmate NameRegister NumberStatusDetails
Moussaoui, ZacariasZacarias Moussaoui51427-0549999-99-99Serving life sentences without parole.Self-professed Al-Qaeda senior member, pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges in 2005 for playing a key role in planning the September 11 attacks by helping the hijackers obtain flight lessons, money and material used in the attacks.[28]
Ramzi Yousef
Mahmud Abouhalima
Mohammed Salameh
Eyad Ismoil
9999-99-99Serving life sentences without parole.Al-Qaeda operatives; convicted in 1994 of terrorism conspiracy and other charges in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six people and injured over 1000. Yousef was also convicted in 1996 of planning Project Bojinka, a foiled plot conceived by senior Al-Qaeda member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to bomb twelve planes in a 48-hour period.[29]
Mohamed Al-Owhali
Wadih el-Hage
Khalfan Mohamed
Mohammed Odeh
Ahmed Ghailani
9999-99-99Serving life sentences without parole.Al-Qaeda operatives; convicted in connection with the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, which were conceived by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden; the bombings killed 224 people and injured over 4000.[30][31][32][33]
Reid, RichardRichard Reid24079-0389999-99-99Serving 3 life sentences plus 110 years without parole.Al-Qaeda operative; pleaded guilty in 2002 to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his 2001 attempt to detonate explosive devices hidden in his shoes on a plane traveling from Paris to Miami; known as the "Shoe Bomber."[34]
Abdulmutallab, UmarUmar Abdulmutallab44107-0399999-99-99Serving 4 life sentences plus 50 years without the possibility of parole.Al-Qaeda supporter and follower of the late militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki; pleaded guilty in 2011 to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for trying to detonate an explosive sewn into his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009; known as the "Underwear Bomber."[35]
Faris, IymanIyman Faris46680-0832020-99-99Serving a 20-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2020.Al-Qaeda operative; pleaded guilty in 2003 to terrorism conspiracy for researching potential targets, including the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and obtaining equipment to be used in attacks at the behest of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.[36]
Ressam, AhmedAhmed Ressam29638-0862032-99-99Serving a 37-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2032.[37]Al-Qaeda operative; convicted in 2001 of terrorism conspiracy for planning to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999 in what is known as one of the 2000 millennium attack plots.[38][39]
Trinidad, SimónSimón Trinidad27896-0162056-99-99Serving a 60-year sentence under the name Juvenal Ovidio Palmera Pineda; scheduled for release in 2056.Member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a guerrilla group on the U.S. State Department list of Terrorist Organizations; convicted in 2007 of terrorism conspiracy for his involvement in the 2003 kidnapping of three American military contractors.[40][41][42]
Adis Medunjanin65114-053Serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.Al-Qaeda supporter; convicted in 2012 of plotting to conduct coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system in September 2009; co-conspirators Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty.[43][44]

Domestic terrorists[edit]

Prison photo of Joseph Konopka

This list contains American citizens who committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks against United States citizens and interests.

Inmate NameRegister NumberStatusDetails
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali70250-0839999-99-99Serving life sentence.Al-Qaeda operative; convicted in 2005 of plotting to assassinate U.S. President George W. Bush; federal prosecutors based their case on a confession Abu Ali provided to Saudi Arabian intelligence officials, which Abu Ali claimed was motivated by torture.[45][46]
Kaczynski, TheodoreTheodore Kaczynski04475-0469999-99-99Serving 8 life sentences without parole.Known as the Unabomber; pleaded guilty in 1998 to building, transporting, and mailing explosives to carry out 16 bombings from 1978 to 1995 in a mail bombing campaign aimed at destroying modern technology, which killed three people and injured 23 others.[47][48]
Nichols, TerryTerry Nichols08157-0319999-99-99Serving 161 consecutive life sentences.Convicted of carrying out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people. Co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh was executed in Indiana in 2001.[49]
Rudolph, EricEric Rudolph18282-0589999-99-99Serving 4 consecutive life sentences.Member of the extremist group Army of God; pleaded guilty in 2005 to carrying out four bombings between 1996 and 1998, including the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta; three people were killed during the bombing spree.[50][51]
Shahzad, FaisalFaisal Shahzad63510-0549999-99-99Serving a life sentence.Al-Qaeda supporter; pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges in connection with the 2010 Times Square car bombing attempt; received explosives training in 2009 from the terrorist organization Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan.[52][53]
Naser Jason Abdo80882-2809999-99-99Serving 2 life sentences plus 60 years.U.S. Army private who refused to deploy to Afghanistan and went AWOL; convicted in 2012 of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction for plotting to detonate a bomb at a restaurant near Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas when it was filled with soldiers in 2011.[54][55]
Joseph Konopka20749-4249999-99-99Serving a 13-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2019.Pleaded guilty in 2002 to causing blackouts in Wisconsin by damaging power substations and utility facilities, as well as storing cyanide in the Chicago subway system; also known as "Dr. Chaos."[56][57]


FBI spy Robert Hanssen
Inmate NameRegister NumberStatusDetails
Gowadia, NoshirNoshir Gowadia95518-0222033-99-99Serving a 32-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2033.Former engineer for the U.S. Defense Department and principal designer of the B-2 stealth bomber; convicted in 2011 of using classified information to assist the People's Republic of China in producing cruise missiles with stealth technology.[58]
Hanssen, RobertRobert Hanssen48551-0839999-99-99Serving 15 consecutive life sentences.Former senior FBI agent assigned to counterintelligence; pleaded guilty in 2002 to espionage for passing classified information to the Soviet Union and later to Russia over a 20-year period; perpetrated what was regarded at the time as the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history, betraying dozens of Russian intelligence agents, several of whom were executed directly due to Hanssen's betrayal.[59][60]
Myers, WalterWalter Myers29796-0169999-99-99Serving a life sentence.Former intelligence analyst for the US State Department; pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to commit espionage for providing classified US national defense information to Cuba; his wife, Gwendolyn Myers, was sentenced to 6 years.[61][62]
Nicholson, HaroldHarold Nicholson49535-0832024-99-99Serving a 23-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2024.Highest-ranking CIA officer to be convicted of espionage; pleaded guilty in 1997 to passing classified information to Russia from 1994 to 1996; pleaded guilty in 2010 to attempting to collect payments from Russian agents for his past espionage activities.[63][64][65]

Cartel leaders[edit]

Mugshot of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén
Inmate NameRegister NumberStatusDetails
Haji Bagcho29820-0169999-99-99Serving a life sentence.Afghan national and one of the largest heroin traffickers in the world; convicted in 2012 of conspiracy and narco-terrorism for using drug trafficking profits to assist high-level members of the Taliban further their insurgency in Afghanistan.[66][67]
Garcia Abrego, JuanJuan Garcia Abrego09935-0009999-99-99Serving 11 consecutive life sentences.Convicted in 1996 of operating the Gulf Cartel, a criminal enterprise that smuggled thousands of tons of cocaine and marijuana into the US from Mexico over a 16-year period.[68]
Cárdenas Guillén, OsielOsiel Cárdenas Guillén62604-0792025-99-99Serving a 25-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2025.Succeeded Juan Abrego as leader of the Gulf Cartel; extradited to the US from Mexico in 2007 and pleaded guilty to threatening to murder U.S. law enforcement agents, drug trafficking and money laundering.[69][70]

Organized crime figures[edit]

Undated prison photograph of Thomas Silverstein, considered one of the most dangerous inmates in the federal prison system
Inmate NameRegister NumberStatusDetails
Basciano, VincentVincent Basciano30694-0549999-99-99Serving a life sentence.Served as Acting Boss of the Bonanno Crime Family in 2004 after Boss Joseph Massino was arrested; convicted in 2006 of murder, murder conspiracy, and racketeering charges; convicted in 2011 of ordering the 2004 murder of Bonanno associate Randolph Pizzolo.[71][72]
James Marcello99076-012Serving a life sentence.Reputed "Front Boss" of the Chicago Outfit; convicted of racketeering conspiracy for participating in or ordering 18 murders and directing criminal activities including extortion, illegal gambling, loansharking, and bribery.[73] [74]
Luis Felipe
Gustavo Colon
9999-99-99Serving life sentences.Leaders of the Latin Kings gang; convicted in 1996 and 2000 of murder conspiracy and racketeering for running a criminal enterprise whose members engage in murder, assault, armed robbery, and drug trafficking; Felipe is known as "King Blood," Colon as "La Corona."[75][76][77]
Ruben Castro
Raul Leon
Francisco Martinez
9999-99-99Serving life sentences.Leaders of the Mexican Mafia; convicted of racketeering and murder conspiracy for running violent drug trafficking operations.[78][79][80][81]
Joseph Hernandez
Tex Hernandez
James Morado
Gerald Rubalcaba
Cornelio Tristan
9999-99-99Serving life sentences.Leaders of the Nuestra Familia gang, which engages in drug trafficking, extortion and murder inside and outside of prisons in California; arrested as part of Operation Black Widow in 2001; pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in 2004.[82]
Tyler Bingham
Barry Mills
9999-99-99Serving life sentences.Aryan Brotherhood prison gang founders; transferred to ADX in 2006 after being connected to violent gang activities in prison; convicted of murder, murder conspiracy, and racketeering for ordering the killing of two African-American inmates at USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania.[83][84]
Silverstein, ThomasThomas Silverstein14634-1162095-99-99Serving a 90-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2095.Aryan Brotherhood prison gang leader; transferred to ADX after murdering Correction Officer Merle Clutts at USP Marion in 1983 while serving a sentence for bank robbery. Silverstein's crime was the impetus for the construction of ADX.[85]
Hoover, LarryLarry Hoover86063-0249999-99-99Serving 6 life sentences.Leader of the Gangster Disciples in Chicago; sentenced to life in state prison in 1973 for murder; convicted in 1997 of drug conspiracy, extortion, money laundering, and running a continuing criminal enterprise for leading the gang from state prison.[86][87]
Fort, JeffJeff Fort92298-0242038-99-99Serving an 80-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2038.Founder of the El-Rukn (Black P. Stones) gang in Chicago; convicted of drug trafficking charges in 1983; convicted of terrorism conspiracy in 1987 for plotting to commit attacks inside the U.S. in exchange for weapons and $2.5 million from Libya.[88][89]
Mason, HowardHoward Mason24651-0539999-99-99 Serving a life sentence.Convicted in 1989 of racketeering charges in connection with his leadership of "The Bebos," a violent drug gang in Queens, NY; ordered the 1988 murder of New York City Police Officer Edward Byrne.[90]
Mack, O. G.O. G. Mack30063-0372044-99-99Serving a 50-year sentence under his actual name, Omar Portee; scheduled for release in 2044.Founder of the United Blood Nation gang; convicted in 2002 of racketeering and murder conspiracy, as well as narcotics and weapons charges.[91]
Kaboni Savage58232-066Sentenced to death on June 3, 2013, Savage is the only death row inmate at ADX Florence.Philadelphia drug kingpin; convicted in 2013 of 12 counts of murder in aid of racketeering for ordering six drug-related homicides, as well as the firebombing of the home of a federal witness which killed two adults and four children.[92][93]

Other crimes[edit]

Escape artist Richard McNair
Inmate NameRegister NumberStatusDetails
York, DwightDwight York17911-0549999-99-99Serving a 135-year sentence.Founder of the black separatist cult Nuwaubian Nation of Moors; made millions of dollars from the forced labor of cult members; convicted in 2004 of racketeering and child molestation for having sex with underage members; known by supporters as Dr. Malachi York.[94][95]
Hale, MatthewMatthew Hale15177-4242037-99-99Serving a 40-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2037.Founder of the neo-nazi group World Church of the Creator; convicted in 2004 of soliciting the murder of Federal Judge Joan Lefkow for ruling against him in a copyright lawsuit brought by a mainstream church with the same name.[96][97]
McNair, RichardRichard McNair13829-0459999-99-99Serving 2 life sentences on a state murder charge from North Dakota in 1987.Held at ADX due to multiple prison escapes; escaped from the Ward County Jail in Minot, ND in 1987 by using lip balm to slip out of handcuffs, from the ND State Penitentiary in Bismarck in 1992 by crawling through a ventilator duct, and from USP Pollock in Louisiana in 2006 by mailing himself out of prison in a crate.[98][99]
Swango, MichaelMichael Swango08352-4249999-99-99Serving 3 life sentences.Physician and serial killer; pleaded guilty in 2000 to fatally poisoning four patients; has been linked to scores of other deaths.[100][101]
Michael Rudkin17133-0142099-99-99Serving a 90-year sentence; scheduled for release in 2099.Former correction officer at FCI Danbury in CT; sentenced to prison in 2008 for having sex with an inmate; convicted in 2010 of trying to hire a hitman to kill the inmate, his ex-wife, his ex-wife's boyfriend and a federal agent while incarcerated at USP Coleman in Florida.[102][103]

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ "Zoning Map." (Archive) City of Florence, Colorado. Retrieved on December 30, 2009.
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  40. ^ "#07-494: 07-11-07 Senior Member of FARC Narco-Terrorist Organization Found Guilty of Hostage-Taking Conspiracy". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
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External links[edit]