Florida expected to be hotbed for wildfires in early 2023

The ingredients are aligning for parts of Florida to be active for wildfires in 2023, despite two hurricanes making landfall in 2022, leading to torrential rainfall.

Outlooks recently released by the National Interagency Fire Center show the probability of above-normal wildfire potential to grow in the new year along the Interstate 10 corridor and include the northern Peninsula and Southwest coast in the spring.

The threat of active wildfire weather is also expected to expand northward along the I-95 corridor and impact the coastal plains of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Around 80 percent of the country is experiencing either abnormally dry or drought conditions, but due to long-range climate outlooks, forecasters are able to hone in on areas where the upcoming months do not look promising for drought relief.

The Sunshine State is no stranger to droughts or the problems they cause.

Emergency management reports the state sees around 4,000 wildfires every year that destroy about 200,000 acres.

Drought currently expanding

Severe drought conditions currently exist throughout much of the Florida Panhandle and is expanding each week.

During a severe drought, the US Drought Monitor says crop losses are likely, water shortages are common and water restrictions are imposed.

Fire potential outlook for December 2022.

Fire potential outlook for January 2023.
Fire potential outlook for January 2023.

Fire potential outlook for February 2023.
Fire potential outlook for February 2023.

Fire potential outlook for March 2023.
Fire potential outlook for March 2023.

Communities experiencing these conditions include Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee.

With the state entering its normally driest months, drought conditions will undoubtedly expand and include parts of the Peninsula and nearby southern states.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center has highlighted these areas to see additional drought development through at least February 2023.

Drought monitor.
As Florida enters its normally driest months, drought conditions will undoubtedly expand.
FOX Weather
Drought forecast.
The NOAA predicts parts of the Peninsula and nearby southern states will see additional drought development.

La Niña to make situation worse

The world is currently experiencing a rare “triple-dip” La Niña, which is expected to continue well into 2023.

During a La Niña, periods of abnormally warm and dry conditions are common across the Deep South during the winter and the spring.

The combination of already dry conditions and an expected lack of rainfall is expected to exacerbate fire threat levels until a significant weather pattern change allows enhanced rainfall opportunities in the Southeast. 

La Nina Weather Impacts.
La Niña is expected to exacerbate fire threat levels.
FOX Weather

Residual impacts from Hurricane Ian

The Sunshine State did see heavy rainfall during Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, but the precipitation occurred in brief periods, and the entire state did not reap the benefits.

Tropical rainfall was just enough in some communities to send rain gauges back to normal and keep cities from experiencing drought conditions.

Florida rainfall through October 2022.
Florida saw heavy rainfall during Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, but the entire state did not reap the benefits.
FOX Weather

As the evaporation continues and the storms become a memory of the distant past, the National Interagency Fire Center is concerned that impacts on vegetation could play in an active fire season.

“Several agencies have expressed concern that salt-cured fuels associated with Ian’s historic storm surge could easily burn at any moment. Because of this and the likelihood of drought development this winter, southwest Florida is included in above normal potential for February and March,” authors of the NIFC outlook wrote.

Tropical cyclones are known to have lasting impacts on fire weather in the Southeast.

Wildfire safety tips.
Take precaution during heavy drought periods.

Around 80 percent of the country is experiencing either abnormally dry or drought conditions.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 2018 and toppled millions of trees.

The dead vegetation, in combination with drought conditions, caused the perfect storm for rapidly spreading wildfires in 2022.

Numerous large fires broke out between Pensacola and Tallahassee, and firefighters said they had a tough time controlling the flames due to the dry brush.

While the terrain where the most recent hurricanes struck is different than in the Panhandle, the lasting impacts from the storms will be an element firefighters will be monitoring throughout the fire season.

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House Republicans to investigate Vijaya Gadde role in Twitter censorship

Twitter’s chief censor Vijaya Gadde will come under scrutiny from the Judiciary Committee when Republicans take control of the House in January, The Post has learned.

“We’re tracking Vijaya Gadde’s role in the suppression of the New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop. We absolutely plan to investigate this more. Stay tuned,” a committee spokesperson said Saturday.

Gadde, 48, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust played a “key role” in censoring The Post’s Hunter Biden coverage, journalist Matt Taibbi wrote after his review of the social media company’s internal communications for a report he called “The Twitter Files.”

Gadde also played an instrumental role in the company’s decision to ban former President Trump from the platform, and was fired by Elon Musk in October shortly after he purchased the company for $44 billion. Gadde — who openly wept during a meeting after Musk bought Twitter — reportedly earned $17 million in 2021.

Vijaya Gadde is Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
James Comer.
Rep. James Comer said anyone at Twitter who was involved in censoring The Post’s story would be hauled in.
Getty Images

“Elon Musk has revealed to the world what most have known all along — Twitter helped the Biden campaign & Democratic lawmakers to conceal information days before a presidential election. This type of suppression of free speech and information sharing is indefensible,” added GOP Staten Island Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. “House Republicans must thoroughly investigate this matter to ensure big tech is reigned in.”

Catch up on Twitter’s censorship of the Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky) — the incoming Chairman of the House Oversight committee said late Friday night that anyone at Twitter who was involved in censoring The Post’s story would be hauled in.

“In January, when I become chairman of the House Oversight Committee, I can promise you this: every employee at Twitter that was involved in suppressing the Hunter Biden laptop story will have an opportunity to come before Congress and explain their actions to the American people,” he said on “Hannity” on Fox News.

NYPost cover on Hunter Biden censorship.
The Post’s exposé on Hunter Biden was suppressed on Twitter.

Matt Taibbi tweet.
Vijaya Gadde played a “key role” in censoring The Post’s Hunter Biden coverage, according to Matt Taibbi’s tweets.

Matt Taibbi tweet.
Matt Taibbi shared Twitter documents released to him by Elon Musk.

Elon Musk at Twitter headquarters coffee bar speaking to Twitter employees.
Elon Musk at Twitter headquarters’ coffee bar speaking to employees.

While still employed at Twitter, Gadde landed an influential administration post in an advisory committee to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Intercept reported.

A December 2021 press release announcing her appointment noted that she would provide advice and recommendations to the agency director about how the government could better “combat misinformation and disinformation.”

In June, Gadde and her colleagues on the Cybersecurity Advisory Committee drafted a reported which called for an expanded government role influencing the “information ecosystem” and urged the agency to keep an eye on “social media platforms of all sizes, mainstream media, cable news, hyper partisan media, talk radio and other online resources.”

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Danari Peer’s parents blame John Chisholm bail push for his death

A Milwaukee couple whose son was killed while riding with a speed demon and repeat felon ripped the county’s DA, who has fought for relaxing bail laws.

Danari Peer, 20, was killed on Oct. 5 while riding in the passenger seat of a car driven by Jai’Quann McMurtry, who was flying down the street at 109 miles per hour when he hit a tree, ABC7 reported.

Jai’Quann McMurty pleaded not guilty to second-degree reckless homicide.

McMurtry, who was previously arrested for three felonies related to cocaine and gun possession, was out on bail when the crash occurred, the station reported. He received a $1,000 signature bond and $500 cash bond.

This week, McMurtry pleaded not guilty to three counts of felony bail jumping, cocaine possession and driving without a license, along with second-degree reckless homicide of Danari Peer. Bail was set at $50,000.

Peer’s parents, Jackie Peer and Nicole Byrd, slammed Milwaukee County’s Democratic District Attorney John T. Chisholm, who was elected in 2007 and has pursued setting lower cash bail for criminals, as the reason behind their son’s death.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm
Milwaukee County’s Democratic District Attorney John T. Chisholm has pursued setting lower cash bail for criminals.

“This is so unnecessary and could be prevented,” Jackie Peer told the station. “We don’t want other families to have to experience this pain.”

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Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor on administrative leave after bodycam footage surfaces

A Florida police chief has been placed on administrative leave after she flashed her badge when she was pulled over during a traffic stop.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor and her husband were driving a golf cart without a license plate in Oldsmar, Fla, nearly 20 miles outside of Tampa, when Pinellas County stopped the couple.

After confirming that the officer’s body-worn camera was recording, O’Connor pulls out her badge.

“I’m the police chief of Tampa,” O’Connor said through a smirk. “I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight.”

“You look familiar,” the deputy responded before letting the couple drive away.

“If you ever need anything, call me,” O’Connor said as she handed the officer a card. “Serious. Thank you.”

In a statement released Friday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation of the traffic stop.

O’Connor has also expressed remorse for her actions, calling the incident a result of “poor judgment,” and that she has personally reached out and offered to pay any potential citation.

O’Connor’s husband (right) explained to the officer that they were driving the cart on a public road to go get food.

O'Connor has since expressed remorse for her choice to use her badge during a traffic stop.
O’Connor has since expressed remorse for her choice to use her badge during a traffic stop.

“It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags,” O’Connor said.

“This was the first time we had exited the golf-cart friendly community in which we own property with this vehicle, prompting the need for a license plate. In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent.”

O’Connor was named Tampa’s police chief in February and has served in law enforcement for 22 years.

Mary O'Connor
O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.
Tampa Police Department

“I knew my conversation was on video, and my motive was not to put the deputy in an uncomfortable position,” O’Connor said. “I have personally called the Pinellas County Sheriff offering to pay for any potential citation.”

“I have expressed great remorse to the mayor, and I apologize to the residents of Tampa who have a reasonable expectation of better judgment from their chief of police. As someone who has dealt with, taken ownership of and grown from my past mistakes, I know that no one is above the law, including me.”

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw has stepped in as acting chief in Tampa during the investigation.

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Massachusetts man Christopher Keeley who allegedly killed couple over barking dog found in Florida

The fugitive accused of stabbing an elderly Massachusetts couple to death after an argument over a barking dog was captured in Florida, cops announced.

Christopher Keeley, 27, was arrested Thursday at 8:20 p.m. in Miami Beach, over 1,500 miles from where he allegedly bludgeoned Carl and Vicki Mattson, both 70, in their Marshfield home, the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office said.

Police believe Keeley killed the couple after an argument over a barking dog.

The alleged brute had been living in the Mattson’s Gotham Hill Drive home as a favor to a family member but was recently asked to leave, court documents obtained by CBS state.

Keeley was apparently afraid he’d be left without a home after began after a woman in nearby Weymouth considered letting him stay with her but decided against it, according to CBS.

Keeley had been living with the couple, officials said.
CBS Boston

Keeley admitted to a friend he attacked the couple after the three argued over a barking dog, the filings state. Keeley also admitted to harboring violent urges, including toward the Mattsons. The friend, who asked police to conduct a wellness check on the couple, told police Keeleky was acting “psychotic” and was known to carry knives.

Police found the couple stabbed to death inside their home Tuesday night, though officials believe they were attacked the prior week. Vicki Mattson would have turned 71 Wednesday.

A dog, previously reported missing, was also found dead inside the house, the DA said. It is not clear who the dog belonged to or how it died.

The murder would not be the first time Keeley resorted to violence following an argument.

When he was 18, Keeley smashed his grandmother’s car window after they fought over a phone charger, The Patriot Ledger reported. He was charged with malicious damage to a motor vehicle.

An ambulance drives to the scene.
Keeley allegedly told a friend he attacked the couple following an argument over a barking dog.
CBS Boston

Keeley had at least two other serious run-ins with the law. He was arrested in 2016 at age 21 for planning and carrying out a group beatdown of a man with autism before stealing his cellphone and wallet, according to the newspaper. A Massachusetts judge reportedly found Keeley “to be dangerous” and he was later sentenced to 18 months at a house of corrections.

Recently, Keeley was hit with drug charges after he was allegedly pulled over with Xanax and marijuana in his car. He was slapped with drug charges, court documents obtained by the Ledger show.

Keeley now faces an extradition hearing in Florida before facing charges in Massachusetts.

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Harry and Meghan Netflix series to be ‘explosive’: report

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s much-anticipated Netflix series, which will be released Thursday, is expected to be highly critical of the Royal Family and even the British public, reports said.

Before the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, The Duke of Sussex told a friend to expect the interview to be “quite shocking,” adding that “those Brits need to learn a lesson,” a senior source revealed to The Sun on Saturday. 

In the interview, Harry and Markle accused the Royal family of racism and said they ignored Markle’s depression, which had pushed her to the brink of suicide while pregnant.

The Prince’s inflammatory remarks were exposed just days before the premiere of “Harry & Meghan,” which sources say will be as explosive as the Oprah interview.

Sources told Page Six that the couple will claim that they were bullied by palace officials.

“The narrative is that Harry had to be removed from his family, in which he felt neglected. Mental health features too, and discussion about Harry having therapy over the loss of his mother and his father’s relationship with Camilla,” a senior source told The Sun.

Markle is expected to make new allegations of racism against the royal family in the series, The Sun reported.

Markle is expected to make new allegations of racism in the series.

“Some of the comments made by Harry and Meghan are fiery,” the source said. “If aired, they will be absolutely explosive. The topic of racism is discussed — plus claims that some royals opposed the marriage. The whole TV project is very driven by Meghan.”

The dramatic trailer for the docu-series was released on Thursday – right in the middle of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ US visit

Many critics blasted the minute-long preview, which shows clips of Markle in tears, as a “victimhood fest.”

According to Netflix, the docuseries contains “Commentary from friends and family, most of whom have never spoken publicly before about what they witnessed.”

The series is set to be released on Thursday.
The series is set to be released on Thursday.
Catherine, Princess of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales, Prince George of Wales  stand near Wellington Arch
A source shared that Harry had to have therapy over his father’s relationship with Camilla.
Mirrorpix / MEGA

Harry and Markle have been on the outs with the family since stepping down from royal duties and facing the fallout from the Oprah interview. Prince William has reportedly barely been in contact with his brother since and for a year, King Charles allegedly refused to take Harry’s phone calls.

Charles and William tried to reconcile with Harry, but were blindsided when he revealed their attempt in another interview with Markle’s friend, CBS’ Gayle King.

“Big families always go through drama, always go through turmoil,” Markle said in the “Extra” interview. “It remains to be seen — are they going to be drawn closer together or are they going to be drawn apart?”

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University of Idaho students had locks fixed weekend before murders

One of the four slain University of Idaho students had her father visit and fix a lock in the house the weekend before she and her friends were brutally murdered, her mother said in a new interview.

Xana Kernodle’s father had visited and fixed a lock on the house during a visit the first week of November, her mom Cara Denise Northington told NewsNation Friday.

The distraught mother wasn’t sure whether the updated lock was on the Moscow home’s front door or on Kernodle’s bedroom — each of the six bedrooms has its own coded lock — but was certain Kernodle’s father had tinkered with one just before the quadruple murder.

A knife-wielding mystery killer brutally stabbed to death Kernodle, Ethan Chapin, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves early Nov. 13.

The locks may be a clue as to who the killer could be, Northington said.

“I think they knew them,” Northington said of her daughter’s killer. “I think they may have even been friends with them. I think it had to have been somebody close to them to have been able to get away with it like this.”

Idaho murder victims Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle.

“It just doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense. It had to have been somebody they trusted.”

Police have theorized that a stalker chasing Goncalves may be the culprit, but Northington believes the crime goes “much deeper.”

Officials recently walked back on their theory that the victims were targeted, but Northington remains confident that the four students were picked by their murderer because of their close relationship to one another.

The grieving mother fought back tears during the nearly 20-minute interview, where she made several complaints that police were withholding information.

A memorial outside the off-campus home
A memorial outside the off-campus home where four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022 in Moscow, Idaho.

Xana Kernodle Ethan Chapin victims of the University of Idaho murder.
Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin victims of the University of Idaho murder.

A memorial outside Mad Greek restaurant
A memorial outside Mad Greek restaurant for four University of Idaho students who were stabbed to death on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022 in Moscow, Idaho.

Here’s the latest coverage on the brutal killings of four college friends:

“I learned more on the news and on TV than they have said to me,” Northington said.

“I think they have information that they’re not giving us. And it’s real fishy. That’s what I will say.”

Goncalves’ family also complained to NewsNation Friday that police were not being forthcoming with the families of the victims. Goncalves’ mother raised concern that officials are clearing people connected to the killings too quickly.

“A few of the names that have been circulating around, I think it’s hard not to dig into this and I don’t know how much of that is we have so little information from law enforcement, and how much of it is really a sister or a father’s intuition,” said Alivea Goncalves, Kaylee’s sister. 

Goncalves' family has expressed that the state police haven't been open with them about the ongoing investigation into the murders.
Goncalves’ family has expressed that the state police haven’t been open with them about the ongoing investigation into the murders.
James Keivom

“I just feel like there’s been a couple individuals that were cleared very fast that maybe should not have been,” said Kristi Goncalves, Kaylee’s mother. 

Police have said they cleared several people, including the person who made the 911 call, two roommates who lived in the house but were unharmed and another whose name is on the lease.

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Fighting conflict-related sexual violence in Ukraine

As the Russian invasion erodes the security of Ukrainians across the country, the risk to women and girls is two-fold. “There’s no doubt that no one feels safe because of Russia’s war against Ukraine,” says Ms. Kit, “And women and girls have become even less protected from gender-based violence. Rape—usually gang rape—sexual torture, forced nudity, and other forms of abuse have been documented by journalists, human rights organizations and law enforcement agencies.”

The true scale of this violence is not yet known, Ms. Kit adds, but what’s clear is that its impacts will be lasting: “We will have to work with the consequences of conflict-related sexual violence for many years to come.”

At the same time, women are still contending with the endemic violence of their own society. “Cases of domestic or sexual violence against women, in particular in public places, haven’t disappeared,” she notes. “People who were abusive and violent within the family continue to commit acts of violence.”

The ongoing conflict has made progress that much harder, emphasizes Ms. Kit: “It’s difficult to move forward in the fight against violence against women when you live in a state of war and fight for your life and the lives of your children every day.”

Bridging the gaps

Starting her law career in 2007, Ms. Kit saw a critical gap in legal assistance for survivors of domestic violence. “There were not many lawyers willing to work with such cases, because these are often latent crimes,” she says. Domestic violence is typically considered a private matter, and the legal system tends to shift responsibility for handling such cases onto the victims themselves.

Ms. Kit set out to change this. “I want myself, as well as other women and girls in Ukraine, to feel safe and to know that if their rights are violated, they [will] receive effective protection, without prejudice, discrimination, or stigma,” she says. 

In 2017, she took a major step towards this goal with the founding of JurFem. The organization’s recent work has been shaped by the unfolding crisis: collaborating with partners to ensure conflict-related sexual violence survivors receive protection and support from law enforcement and service providers. They’ve also been providing legal assistance directly to survivors, launching a legal aid hotline in April.

“It is possible to change our approach to investigating cases related to sexual violence only through experience and practice,” Ms. Kit says. Even the strongest legal protections can’t convince police or judges to believe a survivor. But by communicating with law enforcement agencies and the courts, “JurFem lawyers can break existing stereotypes and ensure access to justice for the victims.”

Though her own advocacy work relies on her legal training and decades of experience, Ms. Kit emphasizes that you don’t need special skills or knowledge to get involved in a cause: “Each and every one of us should work to change something for the better.”

What activism does require, she says, is community and care: “unite, enlist the support of like-minded people and forces,” she advises. “Take care of your safety and mental health and do what you feel is right, take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of others.”

© UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson

Never again  

“Today, it’s especially hard to imagine a world without gender-based violence,” says Ms. Kit. “After all, if we weren’t able to prevent this war, would we be able to eradicate gender-based violence?”


She does believe that we can reduce its prevalence by creating better response mechanisms and bringing perpetrators to justice. And she believes in a better future for Ukrainian women and girls: “Justice must be restored,” she says, “so this never happens again.”

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Georgia sheepdog fights off, kills 8 coyotes after pack attacks his sheep

A Georgia sheepdog is recovering from injuries after squaring off against a pack of coyotes, killing eight of them, while protecting his herd.

Casper, a sheepdog who works on John Wierwiller’s Georgia farm, fought off more than half a dozen coyotes in a fight that lasted over half an hour, WAGA-TV reported.

Wierwiller says that Casper disappeared for two days after the brutal fight.

“We knew he was hurt because we found parts of his tail and blood and other things, so we were worried,” Wierwiller said. 

Casper eventually returned to the farm with visible injuries.

“He was kinda looking at me like, ‘Boss, stop looking at how bad I look, just take care of me,’” Wierwiller said.

Wierwiller said it “looked like a coyote grabbed his skin and peeled it right off.”

The LifeLine Animal Project, an organization with a mission to end euthanasia of healthy animals, has stepped in to help raise money for Casper’s hospital bills.

The group launched a GoFundMe to cover the $15,000 hospital bill and has already exceeded its goal and will use remaining funds to help save future animal lives.

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Massachusetts driver John Sullivan plows car into Asian man in racially motivated attack

A Massachusetts driver slammed his car into an Asian man — and allegedly drove about 200 yards with him on the hood — in what the victim’s family says was a racially motivated attack.

Driver John Sullivan, 77, flew into a rage and shouted “go back to China” after the victim confronted him for driving too fast with children nearby, WVCB reported.

The victim was standing outside of the post office in Quincy with his sister and her three children shortly before 11 a.m. Friday morning when they spotted Sullivan barreling down the street, according to WCVB.

Sullivan unlashed a racial tirade after the victim made a comment about his dangerous driving.

“He said: ‘Go back to China. I’m going to go into the post office and come back out in five minutes. If you’re still here, I’m going to kill all of you,’” said the victim’s sister, Desiree Thien.

Thien and her brother remained in front of Sullivan’s vehicle and collected his information before he came out and got in his car.

Desiree Thien’s brother was hit by Sullivan in front of her and her three children.

“He rammed into my brother. My brother rolled onto the hood and he clung onto the hood. He went for about a good 200 yards, then he brakes so my brother fell off,” Thien said. “When (my brother) was trying to balance, he hit my brother again, continuing his racial slurs.”

Quincy police said Thien’s brother was tossed into a 10 to 15-foot ditch at a construction site. Sullivan fled the scene.

A witness followed Sullivan and provided police with updates on his location, which was then relayed to the police department in neighboring Braintree, where he was arrested.

“He needs to know not everyone can be picked on and not everyone will be silenced by intimidation,” Thien said. 

Quincy, MA post office
Sullivan allegedly told Thien and her family to “go back to China” and threatened to kill them.

Sullivan is charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of a crash with personal injury and a civil rights violation, according to WCVB.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment on Friday in Quincy District Court, according to the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office.

He is being held without bail until a dangerousness hearing that is scheduled for Wednesday.

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