Arlington, VA

The year is nearly at an end, and so is our countdown of 2018’s top stories.

Our list of the year’s biggest news included plenty of crime stories, and a bevy of popular restaurant openings and closings.

But our top five contains a bit of TMZ-related drama, Amazon and (of course) cheesecake.

5. TMZ Publishes Video of NBA Star Cheating on Khloe Kardashian at Darna Lounge (25,512 views)

Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson brought a bit of national attention to Virginia Square’s Darna Lounge when he was caught on tape at the night spot. His relationship with Kardashian remains a bit rocky, but things are looking up for Darna after a tough year, at least — the lounge earned the full blessing of county officials to stay in business this fall, after inspectors briefly closed it earlier this year.

4. Elementary School Principal Dies Unexpectedly (25,938 views)

Patrick Henry Elementary School Principal Annie Turner’s sudden passing shocked parents and students alike back in April. The school system subsequently named assistant principal Cameron Snyder to take over on an interim basis. Many, if not all, of the school’s students will move to the new Alice West Fleet Elementary School next year.

3. Hazmat Situation at Marine Corps Headquarters (26,842 views)

Employees at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall got a bit of a scare in late February, when a certified letter was opened in one of its buildings and containing some sort of potentially hazardous substance. Several people began feeling ill shortly after the letter arrived, prompting the full evacuation of the base. 

2. EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Employees Are Very Interested in a Particular Article About Arlington (49,287 views)

It’s rare that a trip through our Google Analytics dashboard yields much more than a few interesting curiosities, but those readership figures helped us break one of the biggest stories of the year back in February. Amazon employees seemed awful interested in a seemingly obscure piece of environmental news about Arlington, providing perhaps the clearest indication yet that Jeff Bezos’ firm was eyeing the county for a new headquarters. Of course, the frenzied speculation proved to be correct in the end, with Amazon tabbing Arlington for half of its vaunted “HQ2,” and 2019 is sure to see plenty more stories as the county braces for the tech giant’s impact.

1. Large Crowd Reported at Clarendon Cheesecake Factory Amid Free Cheesecake Promotion (211,741 views)

Who would’ve ever predicted that ARLnow’s most popular story of 2018 would be about cheesecake? Surprising though it may be, our story describing the frenzied scene at the Clarendon Cheesecake Factory during a particularly poorly managed Doordash giveaway truly went viral, with everyone from cable TV networks to national newspapers picking up the story. 

With nearly 212,000 views, the story stands as one of our most popular stories of all time. But it couldn’t quite beat out last year’s “Public Fornication Leads to Police Altercation,” which remains our leader with more than 253,000 page views.

Here’s to hoping that 2019 helps us top it.

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Our first look at ARLnow’s most popular stories of 2018 had everything from restaurant closings and openings to the arrival of the Stanley Cup in Clarendon.

For the next five stories in our countdown, we’ve got some more of the same, plus a smattering of our most popular crime stories too.

Here’s stories #6-10 on our countdown of the year’s biggest hits.

10. SWAT Team Arrests Man in Crystal City Parking Lot (18,777 views)

A heavily armed police SWAT team surprised onlookers by descending on a Crystal City parking lot one January afternoon. Police later revealed that the arrest involved a Fairfax man facing a litany of drug charges.

9. Mike Isabella’s Three Ballston Restaurants Have Shut Down, As ‘Top Chef’ Star Dissolves Company (21,303 views)

It was a difficult year for former “Top Chef” star Mike Isabella, as allegations of sexual harassment and a toxic work culture at his company upended the restaurateur’s burgeoning empire. The impact was particularly acute for one Ballston office building that played host to three of his eateries: Kapnos Taverna, Yona and Pepita Cantina. The restaurants were originally rumored to shut down at the end of December, but they suddenly closed their doors 10 days ago instead.

8. A-Town Bar and Grill Closing (23,348 views)

Prolific Arlington businessowner Scott Parker’s original foray into the county’s nightlife announced plans to shut down in early December, ending its long run in Ballston. However, Parker isn’t abandoning the restaurant’s space on Fairfax Drive, merely working with his landlord to spruce up and rebrand the space.

7. Body Found in Four Mile Run (23,703 views)

First responders from Arlington and D.C. alike converged on the Four Mile Run one September Sunday. Police subsequently pulled an adult man’s body from the water, and did not end up discovering any foul play involved.

6. Clarendon Gym Owner Charged with Buying $50,000 in Cocaine from Undercover Agents (24,963 views)

A tipster alerted ARLnow to the fact that the owner of the Clarendon Fitness gym on Wilson Blvd was facing legal trouble, and court documents revealed that Pascal Laporte allegedly tried to buy $50,000 worth of cocaine from undercover police officers. Federal officials claim Laporte tried to buy two kilograms of cocaine from officers posing as Mexican gang members, and even struck a deal for drugs with an informant in the parking lot of the Arlington Traditional School.

Check back tomorrow for a look at what made the cut for our top five stories of 2018.

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We’re nearly at the end of another eventful year in Arlington, and that means it’s time to look back at our top stories of the past 12 months.

From Amazon’s arrival to a momentous local election, the county has not lacked for big stories this year. But a few stand out above all the rest to form our list of most-read articles.

We kick off our countdown with #11-15, and check back all week long for the rest of the list.

15. Longtime Nightlife Venue Clarendon Grill to Close (16,330 views)

2018 was a difficult year for some of Arlington’s longest-tenured bars and restaurants, and Clarendon Grill was among the year’s casualties. First opened in 1996, the popular live music venue was initially listed for lease in August and its owners announced it would shutter a few months later. The bar held its last parties on Halloween weekend.

14. Caps Stop in Clarendon, With Stanley Cup in Tow (16,712 views)

Clarendon’s Don Tito played host to the newly crowned Stanley Cup champs the day after the Caps’ big victory over the Las Vegas Golden Knights. An anxious crowd of dozens of fans awaited the team’s arrival at the bar, and everyone from Tom Wilson to T.J. Oshie were spotted kicking off the celebrations. Even Alex Ovechkin eventually swung through for the opening round of what turned into several weeks worth of aggressive partying in the wake of the Caps’ long-awaited win. 

13. Yorktown High School Student Rushed to Hospital (16,799 views)

In early February, a student was found collapsed in the high school’s restroom with self-inflicted wounds and subsequently rushed to the hospital. The girl died several days later. 

12. Original Bob and Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike Listed for Sale (16,997 views)

Fans of the diner were shocked and alarmed to discover that the original restaurant was listed on a realtor’s website in late September. However, its owner subsequently told ARLnow that he has no plans to shutter the popular restaurant any time soon, and is even eyeing an expansion on Lee Highway in 2019. Nevertheless, the property is still listed for sale online.

11. Ballston Quarter Unveils 12 New Restaurants, Including the Return of Chick-Fil-A (17,516 views)

Few new developments around Arlington have attracted as much attention as Ballston Quarter, the overhaul of the old Ballston Common mall. The news that Chick-fil-A would be a part of the new development seemed to garner a particularly large audience, and the chain’s new location opened for diners earlier this month (though many other stores at the mall are still a work in progress). 

Check back for #6-10 on the countdown tomorrow.

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We’ve reached the end of our countdown of the most-read Arlington stories of 2017.

Read on for the top five, including our most-read story of the year.

  1. Dozens of Dirt Bikes, ATV Rumbled Past Crystal City Last Night (23,996 views)

In at least the fourth such incident in Arlington County since 2015, dozens of dirt bike and ATV riders rumbled through Crystal City one Sunday evening in June. The riders followed Route 1, and that day were spotted in various parts of D.C., including downtown. A similar instance of ATV and dirt bike riders in Arlington occurred in April. In the aftermath of the April joy ride, D.C. resident Stephon Williams, 24, received a four-year jail sentence. 

  1. BREAKING: Yorktown High Teacher Charged with Indecent Exposure (24,512 views)

Yorktown High School history teacher Thomas Lenihan was charged in January with indecent exposure after allegedly exposing himself to two teenagers in the locker room of the Sport & Health Club on Greensboro Drive in Tysons Corner. Lenihan was placed on administrative leave.

  1. Arlington Resident Surprised to Find Anaconda in Toilet (32,175 views)

A Shirlington resident found a snake — a juvenile Yellow Anaconda, to be exact — in an apartment toilet in January. An Animal Welfare League of Arlington spokeswoman said the snake was likely someone’s pet that was either abandoned or escaped. No one was injured and the snake, named Sir Hiss, was safely removed from the apartment and taken to AWLA’s shelter. In September, the Arlington County Board banned residents from keeping various “wild and exotic” animals as pets, although they could keep non-venomous snakes.

  1. Police Tase Suspect in Pikachu Onesie During Brawl Outside A-Town Bar & Grill (37,116 views)

A wild fight outside A-Town Bar & Grill one Sunday night in March resulted in two suspects being tased by police, including one man who was brawling while wearing a Pikachu onesie. According to police, it started when the man in the Pikachu costume, Steven Goodwine, Jr., tried to pick a fight with the bouncers at A-Town after being kicked out. The incident came just days before a regular review of the bar’s permit by the County Board, and resulted in more regular Board reviews and more stringent regulations. But in June, things appeared to have calmed down at A-Town in its latest review, with no major incidents reported since.

  1. Public Fornication Leads to Police Altercation (261,530 views)

Our most popular story of the year came on March 24, as two homeless people were arrested after police interrupted their (allegedly) very public lovemaking in Rosslyn Highlands Park. Nicole Faircloth, 42, was arrested and charged with assault and battery on police and performing a sexual act in a public place, according to a crime report. Petko Ubiparipovic, 42, was arrested and charged with performing a sexual act in a public place. 

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that this article had more than 200,000 views more than No. 2 in our list.

That spike in traffic came after the article was picked up by the Drudge Report, a news aggregation website, and shared with its more-than 1 million Twitter followers.

In just a few months, it has become the most viewed article of all time on ARLnow.com, surpassing a 2015 morning poll asking if towing had become too predatory in the county and a 2014 piece on an Ebola scare at the Pentagon.

It’s been quite a year.

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Our countdown of our most-read stories of 2017 continues with #6-10.

  1. IOTA Club Closing This Month (20,432 views)

The owners of the IOTA Club and Cafe in Clarendon announced in September that the live music venue would shutter at the end of the month, after more than 23 years in business. Despite a campaign to “Save IOTA” earlier this year, Market Common Clarendon owner Regency Centers’ plan to revamp the retail and office development caused uncertainty about its future. In a press release, IOTA owners Jane Negrey Inge and Stephen V. Negrey said they chose to close the club rather than temporarily relocate during renovations and pay higher rents upon moving back. 

  1. Sehkraft Brewing to Close (21,069 views)

Brewpub Sehkraft Brewing closed its doors in early January after about a year in business in Clarendon. Its opening had been stymied by months of delays and what its owner described as regulatory wrangling with the county’s permitting office. It brewed its own beer and had wine on tap, as well as three separate food menus for lunch, dinner and the bar. The space at 925 N. Garfield Street was vacant for much of the year, before The Board Room opened in late November. 

  1. ‘Trash Raccoon’ Rides Garbage Truck From Rosslyn to Falls Church (21,415 views)

Politico reporter Helena B. Evich first spotted an adventurous animal hitching a ride on the back of an American Disposal Services trash truck in Rosslyn a little after 11 a.m. one February morning. By the time the driver pulled over, the truck had traveled all the way from Rosslyn to Falls Church, when the Falls Church Police Department’s animal control team safely rescued the raccoon without harm. 

  1. Suspect Shot and Killed, Officers Hurt on I-395 Off-Ramp (22,106 views)

Police shot a man dead on the Glebe Road exit of I-395 in May after he pinned an officer against another vehicle with his black pick-up truck. Police had attempted a traffic stop after a “hit” from a police license plate reader. Officers on the scene attempted life-saving measures on the suspect, 28-year-old Daniel George Boak of Centreville, but he later died in the hospital. In September, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos found in a report on the incident that officers were justified in shooting Boak as they were in “imminent danger of serious injury or death.” 

  1. WJLA Anchor Charged With Trespassing at Clarendon Bar (22,914 views)

Autria Godfrey a morning news anchor on WJLA (ABC 7), was charged with trespassing and being drunk in public in late February in Clarendon. The incident happened early Saturday morning, on February 18, at Clarendon Grill. Godfrey was suspended and taken off the air by station owner Sinclair, but returned to the airwaves the following week.

Which story was our most-read this year? Find out in the final part of our countdown tomorrow.

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Yesterday, we began our countdown of our most-read stories this year.

The list continues today with #11-15.

  1. Is Clarendon’s Oz Restaurant in Trouble? (14,671 views)

A teaser clip from the second season of Bravo reality series Real Housewives of Potomac showed Michael and Ashley Darby, co-owners of Clarendon restaurant Oz, discussing whether their venture would survive. But contrary to its portrayal in the show, Michael Darby said in an interview with ARLnow that the restaurant is doing just fine after some “significant” changes.

  1. SPOTTED: ‘Driverless’ Vehicle Cruising the Streets of Clarendon (15,035 views)

On a Thursday evening in early August, a car that appeared to be self-driving was spotted cruising around Clarendon and Courthouse. It drove cautiously but kept up with traffic, and had a light bar that blinked when it stopped at a red light. After further investigation by NBC 4’s Adam Tuss (which gave rise to the catchphrase “I’m with the news, dude!“), it was revealed that a driver was in the car disguised as a car seat. The following month, Ford said it was behind the tests in conjunction with Virginia Tech to test how driverless cars interact with other road users and the reactions of those nearby.

  1. UPDATED: Police Investigating House Party Homicide (15,308 views)

An apparent housewarming party in February turned deadly after a 23-year-old man, Michael Gray of Manassas, was shot by 37-year-old D.C. resident Jason Allen Johnson. After a long search, Johnson was arrested in October for shoplifting in New York City and extradited to Virginia.

  1. Naked Man Walking Down the Middle of Columbia Pike Arrested (17,044 views)

Police arrested a man who walked naked down Columbia Pike in late July. Officer said the man might have been suffering from mental health issues, and was arrested “without incident” before being transported to Virginia Hospital Center.

  1. Homeless Population Decreasing Thanks to ‘Housing-First’ Approach (19,753 views)

Arlington County’s chronic homeless rate has dropped 64 percent since 2013, thanks to what officials describe as a “housing first” model. Despite a jump to 232 homeless people in 2017 from 174 in 2016, county staff and nonprofits said they look to move people into housing and then help them stabilize their lives with a job and help with challenges like substance abuse or mental illness.

Look out for #6-10 on the countdown tomorrow.

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It’s been quite a year in Arlington County, filled with local stories both serious and not-so-serious.

This week we’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2017.

Kicking off the list today is #16-20.

  1. Arlington Man Charged With Murdering Roommate (13,440 views)

Police charged Heber Amaya-Gallo, 28, with murder after a death investigation in late January on 7th Road S. in the Arlington Mill neighborhood. It was Arlington’s first reported homicide of 2017. Police said Amaya-Gallo killed 55-year-old Michael Wiggins after a “verbal altercation between roommates became physical” in an apartment.

  1. Crime Report: Someone Broke into a Rosslyn Apartment and Cleaned It (13,655 views)

A Rosslyn resident called police in early August to report that someone broke into their apartment and cleaned it. The resident had been on a trip when the alleged break-in occurred. There was nothing reported missing from the apartment.

  1. Couple Searches For Answers After Dog Disappears in Arlington Under Mysterious Circumstances (14,035 views)

A Falls Church couple searched frantically for their missing dog, Sookie, which went missing in Waycroft-Woodlawn after they left her with a dog-sitter. Someone allegedly put the dog into his car and drove away, and owners Solange and Craig Bone put up fliers to try and find Sookie. Days later, Sookie was reported as returned.

  1. Police Investigating Stabbing in Courthouse (14,262 views)

Police investigated a double stabbing in Courthouse in mid-August that left both victims in a critical but stable condition. The suspect was later identified as 37-year-old Sharon E. Uwandu of no fixed address, who was charged with two counts of Aggravated Malicious Wounding and was held in the Arlington County jail without bond.

  1. Williamsburg Middle School Principal Gordon Laurie Resigns (14,349 views)

After his whereabouts became a source of gossip among parents, Arlington Public Schools announced in early March that Gordon Laurie, principal of Williamsburg Middle School, has resigned. Tipsters reported that Laurie had not been seen in school since February 24, and rumors were swirling about the reason for his departure. Superintendent Patrick Murphy said Laurie has resigned for personal reasons after 15 years with APS. Bryan Boykin succeeded Laurie in July.

Look out for #11-15 on the countdown tomorrow.

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Police activity at Gaslight Square in Rosslyn, related to the Cafe Aficionado fraud case

In Arlington, 2016 was a year that was filled with local stories that were tragic, triumphant or just plain weird.

We’ve been counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2016 this week. Today it’s time to look back at #1-5.

5. Search Underway for Missing Elementary School Student (23,485 views)
A missing Taylor Elementary student was thankfully found unharmed, near the school, but not before police called in a helicopter and a bloodhound to help search for him.

Fire at Market Common Clarendon4. Major Electrical Fire at Market Common Clarendon (23,569 views)
When an underground electrical fire shoots flames and thick black smoke into the air at a shopping center in Arlington’s most prominent business district, it’s a big story. This story has lingered well beyond the flames being extinguished due to the extensive repairs that were needed and the disruption to Market Common residents and businesses.

3. Rosslyn’s Caffe Aficionado Shut Down After Police Raid (28,248 views)
Very few saw this one coming: a well-loved little independent cafe in Rosslyn, run by a pair of friendly middle-aged coffee aficionados, was allegedly ripping off customers by cloning their credit cards and using them to buy pricy gift cards. A person who might have seen it coming: one of our employees, who had her credit card used fraudulently after a visit to the cafe.

A car flipped during a test drive at the Mercedes dealership in Ballston2. Test Driver Flips Mercedes In Dealership Parking Lot (32,493 views)
It’s still hard to understand how it could have happened, but just seconds into a test drive someone managed to flip a brand new Mercedes — while striking four other vehicles in the process — in the dealership’s parking lot in Ballston.

1. Swim Instructor’s Man Boobs Should Be Covered Around My Daughter (84,614 views)
“I took my daughter to this [swim] class yesterday. Unfortunately the male instructor’s breasts were flopping on the water and we felt extremely uncomfortable with her… in such close proximity to his intimate space.” Thus began an Arlington mom’s now-legendary complaint letter to the county’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation. The unusual letter would turn into an international “weird news” story after ARLnow.com first reported on it. 

The most-viewed ARLnow post of all time remains this Morning Poll from 2015 about towing in Arlington. It has received nearly 200,000 views due to its role in another news story that started in Arlington before blowing up and spreading around the world: the Britt McHenry/Advanced Towing drama.

Earlier this month McHenry, an Arlington resident and ESPN reporter, wrote about the incident in Marie Claire magazine, discussing the lessons she has learned and its lingering effects on her.

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Cafe Asia

(Updated at 4 p.m.) In Arlington, 2016 was a year that was filled with local stories that were tragic, triumphant or just plain weird.

We’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2016 this week. Today it’s time to look back at #6-10.

10. ACPD Announces Major Clarendon Drug Bust (20,968 views)
Ten people were charged after police uncovered what they described as a drug network that distributed marijuana, MDMA and cocaine in Clarendon.

Shooting on Columbia Pike (Photo courtesy @gr33ncI0ud)9. Shooting on Columbia Pike (21,448 views)
Three people were arrested following a shooting in front of the Burger King on Columbia Pike, including the man who was shot. Police say the incident stemmed from a dispute over the sale of a car.

8. Ballston Mall Demolition on Track for May or June Start (21,504 views)
People just couldn’t wait for the wrecking ball to start swinging at Ballston Common Mall, heralding the start of major construction on the Ballston Quarter renovation, which is expected to wrap up in 2018.

7. Arlington Ranked ‘Best City to Live in America’ (22,749 views)
Never mind that Arlington is a county and not a city, its inclusion at the top of this Niche.com list was a source of civic pride. Take that, runners up Cambridge, Massachusetts and Columbia, Maryland!

6. Cafe Asia Closing in Rosslyn (23,109 views)
Beloved by many, including a number of Rosslyn-based journalists, Cafe Asia died an untimely death in June. The restaurant’s cavernous interior belied its very reasonable entree prices. Its bar was also a thoroughly decent place to hang out after work.

Look for the much-anticipated #1-5 on the countdown tomorrow.

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SUV crash on Clarendon sidewalk

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) In Arlington, 2016 was a year that was filled with local stories that were tragic, triumphant or just plain weird.

We’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2016 this week. Today it’s time to look back at #11-15.

15. RIP Lenny B. Robinson, the Maryland Batman (17,682 views)
The Maryland man who brought joy to children while dressed as Batman was tragically struck and killed by a car after his Batmobile broke down on I-70 in 2015. Robinson had previously stopped by an Arlington YMCA and cruised the streets of Clarendon. Even in 2016, his kindness was inspiring to thousands. 

Carpool (photo via Facebook)14. Carpool Expected to Close (18,134 views)
Carpool was expected to close at some point this fall. Then it was granted a reprieve. At last check, the Ballston watering hole was expected to remain open through March, if not longer.

13. Congressional Candidate’s Apparent Porn Post Going Viral (18,390 views)
Today brought the news that prolific press release publisher and porn tab screenshot promoter Mike Webb has his sights set on the Arlington School Board race. Despite our commenters’ love of all things Webb, we’ve tried to temper our coverage of his candidacy in reasonable proportion to his base of support. While running as a write-in candidate for Congress this fall, the total write-in vote for the Eighth District of Virginia race was 0.3 percent.

12. Social Media Clown Threats Target Arlington Middle Schools (19,656 views)
Some clown wrote threatening messages against local schools on Instagram and, despite it being a fairly obvious — and lazy — hoax, police and school officials had to take it seriously.

11. SUV Drives Down Sidewalk in Clarendon, One Trapped (20,011 views)
Almost miraculously the restaurant worker who was run over by an allegedly intoxicated driver in an SUV is on the road to recovery. ARLnow.com was on the scene just a couple of minutes after this crash happened on the sidewalk below our office.

Look for #5-10 on the countdown tomorrow.

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Ballston Common Mall demolition

(Updated at 4 p.m.) In Arlington, 2016 was a year that was filled with local stories that were tragic, triumphant or just plain weird.

We’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2016 this week.

Kicking off the list today is #16-20.

20. Creepy Clown Sighting Reported in Arlington (15,531 views)
Arlington’s version of the international “creepy clown” hysteria, which unsurprisingly died down shortly after Halloween, reached its peak when “a caller told police that her child saw a clown emerge from some woods in the Arlington Mill neighborhood.”

19. Demolition Underway at Ballston Common Mall (15,867 views)
There is apparently something satisfying about seeing an outdated shopping mall get torn to pieces. Especially when what’s taking its place looks pretty cool.

18. Washington Blvd Shut Down After Man Shoots Self in Car (16,255 views)
This story was tragic for the man and his family. Also, the way in which he chose to end his life disrupted the evening commute of thousands and traumatized first responders.

Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon Closing17. Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon is Closing (16,667 views)
This long-time Clarendon staple only gave customers a one-day heads up that it was closing for good. We have been unable to substantiate rumors as to the exact reason for its closing, though a combination of high rent and sluggish business seems likely. A replacement — G.O.A.T Sports Bar — was recently announced.

16. Teen Charged With Murder in Fatal Stabbing (17,181 views)
A 17-year-old was arrested and charged with murder in the fatal Friday night stabbing of a 46-year-old family member.

Look for #11-15 on the countdown tomorrow.

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