The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Monday asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to shut down a facial recognition program used by law enforcement until state officials verify and develop safety protocols that protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy.
DeWine formally announced the program’s existence in a press conference Monday. It allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.
The program has been live for more than two months and so far used for 2,677 searches. In that time span, the program was kept hidden from the public and hasn’t been checked by outside groups for proper safety protocols.
The attorney general’s office is just now putting together an independent panel of judges, public defenders, chiefs of police, sheriffs and other public safety officials to look at the program and gauge whether currently standing protections are adequate.
“The time for press conferences and advisory boards was months ago,” said Gary Daniels, associate director of ACLU of Ohio, in a statement. “This system needs to be shut down until there are meaningful, documented rules in place to keep this information secure, protect the privacy of innocent people and prevent government abuse of this new tool.”
Shortly after unveiling the program at a press conference, DeWine acknowledged it should have been revealed to the public earlier: “In hindsight, if I had to over again, we would have put out a release the day that it went up or before that.”
Still, DeWine defended the program’s ability to connect law enforcement with criminal suspects.
“Historically for, I don’t know, decades, law enforcement has had the ability to pull up the (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) information,” DeWine said, before noting that similar facial recognition programs have been adapted by federal officials and 28 other states.
DeWine also explained that he thinks the current protections for the program are good enough, but he said it’s prudent to have an independent group verify the standards.
Misusing the program qualifies as a fifth-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of six months to one year.
David Pepper, who’s running for attorney general in 2014
against DeWine, criticized the current attorney general for how the program has been handled.
“It is highly irresponsible for the Attorney General of Ohio to launch something this expansive and this intrusive into the lives of law-abiding citizens without ensuring the proper protocols were already in place to protect our privacy,” Pepper said in a statement. “To have kept this a secret for this long only makes it worse.”
DeWine said the independent group will be given 60 days to come up with recommendations. His office intends to announce who will serve on the group in the next few days.
Gov. John Kasich says he wants to slow down Attorney General Mike DeWine’s facial recognition program and work with the Ohio legislature to review if changes are necessary.
“I am concerned about the level of government knowledge about everything about us. I have concerns about the NSA. I have concerns about not using the FISA court. I have concerns about an overzealous group of people that are violating their own rules that have been established,” Kasich told reporters today. “When it comes to this issue, there’s value in it, but I want to slow down and get this right.”
The governor’s comments linked the facial recognition program to federal surveillance programs like the NSA and FISA, which have come under scrutiny in the past few months after leaks unveiled broader snooping and data collection of Americans’ private communications than previously expected.
Kasich said he understands the tools provided by the facial recognition program could be valuable to law enforcement and security, but he added that he wants to ensure people’s rights are being protected.
“When people say I have nothing to hide, that in and of itself, as Peggy Noonan says, begins to erode the First Amendment,” he said. “You begin worrying about what you say because somebody’s watching you.”
The facial recognition program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.
Shortly after the plan was announced, the American Civil Liberties Union asked DeWine to shut down the program until proper protocols were put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy.
The program was in place for more than two months and used for 2,677 searches before it was unveiled to the public. In that time span, the program wasn’t reviewed by an outside group.
On Thursday, DeWine appointed a group of judges, law enforcement and prosecutors to review the program’s protocols. The panel has 60 days to come up with recommendations.
A Republican-proposed bill in the Ohio legislature is drawing criticism from voting rights advocates because they say it would unnecessarily limit absentee voting. The bill would permit the secretary of state to send out absentee-ballot applications on even years, when gubernatorial and presidential elections are held, only if the legislature funds the mailings, and it would prevent county election boards from mailing out additional ballot applications beyond what the state sends out. Previously, some counties mailed unsolicited ballot applications to all voters to potentially reduce lines on Election Day. Voting rights advocates say the bill will dampen and reduce voter participation, but State Sen. Bill Coley, the bill’s sponsor, argues it’s necessary to bring uniformity to county-by-county absentee voting.
A nine-member panel of criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access and improving oversight of Ohio’s controversial facial recognition program, following a two-month review of the system and public criticisms over the program’s secrecy and alleged lack of oversight. The facial recognition program, which is part of a state database of criminal justice records known as the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Ky. Gov. Steve Beshear debated Obamacare on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Beshear pointed to his state’s successful rollout of Kynect, a Kentucky-operated online marketplace for state-based health insurance plans. The Kentucky marketplace has already enrolled 26,000 Kentuckians, although 21,000 are Medicaid enrollees. Meanwhile, Kasich criticized the rocky launch of the federal portal HealthCare.gov, which only applies to states, like Ohio, that declined to run their own online marketplaces. The federal portal has been practically unworkable for a huge majority of Americans since it launched on Oct. 1. Kasich also claimed Obamacare will increase health insurance costs in Ohio — a claim that goes against findings in a national premium model developed by Avik Roy, a conservative health care expert who is typically critical of Obamacare. CityBeat covered Obamacare’s Ohio rollout in further detail here.
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson is questioning why WCPO used a man named Jim Kiefer as a source after he posted racist insults aimed at her on social media. WCPO quoted Kiefer in a story as a John Cranley supporter, but the Cranley campaign quickly distanced itself from Kiefer upon learning of his history of bigoted posts on his Facebook wall, which was public at the time but is now private. Kiefer told CityBeat the posts were supposed to be jokes.
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Early voting is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days are extended. Check out CityBeat’s coverage and endorsements for the 2013 election here.
A panel of nine criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access to Ohio’s facial recognition program and establishing protocols that would seek to make the program less prone to abuse.
The panel’s recommendations follow a nearly two-month review of current procedures and public criticisms over the program’s secrecy and alleged lack of oversight.
The panel broadly looked at the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), a state database of criminal justice histories and records, but largely focused on the controversial facial recognition program, which was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.The panel recommends limiting access of the facial recognition program to law enforcement, meaning police departments, sheriff’s offices, state highway patrol, county prosecuting attorneys and other local, state or federal bodies that enforce criminal laws or have employees who have the legal authority to carry out an arrest. Anyone else who wants to tap into the system would need to do so with written permission from the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
For those who would retain access, the panel says written policies and protocols should be developed and implemented. The recommendations extend from written rules for out-of-state officials to a training program that better establishes clear penalties for misuse and guidelines for reporting and prosecuting infractions.
The report calls for improved monitoring of the system, which it states is “perhaps the most effective measure of whether the system is being properly implemented for its intended criminal justice purpose.” The oversight should include random audits of OHLEG, one person in charge of monitoring OHLEG’s use in each local agency and a model for ideal use, according to the report.
The panel says the attorney general should also establish a steering committee comprised of criminal justice officials, along with an advisory group. The committee would be in charge of OHLEG training, monitoring and policy review, among other oversight functions.
The panel also advises the attorney general’s office to launch an education campaign that tells the public of the potential benefits of OHLEG’s programs.
Separately, the Ohio Public Defender’s Office recommends allowing citizens to access their own criminal history records through a secure Internet portal with a social security number, similar to AnnualCreditReport.com.
The panel included former Ohio Supreme Court justices, judges and law enforcement officials, among other criminal justice leaders from around Ohio.
DeWine, a Republican, says the facial recognition program is a vital tool for law enforcement to more easily identify and catch potential criminals. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper, say the program was allowed to operate for far too long without public knowledge or proper checks in place.When asked if DeWine will implement the recommendations, Lisa Hackley, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an email, “The Attorney General has committed to implementing the recommendations. Some are already in progress. Others, such as those requiring new computer programming, may take longer.”
The full report:
Updated at 10:04 p.m. with comment from the attorney general’s office.
Former Gov. John Gilligan, a Cincinnati Democrat best known for winning the creation of the state income tax, died at 92 yesterday. Gilligan’s most lasting accomplishment was also what doomed his career; the state income tax was unpopular when it passed, even though it allowed Gilligan to boost funding for education, mental health and law enforcement programs. Gilligan’s political career began in Cincinnati Council. From there, he rose to U.S. representative and then governor.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio yesterday asked Attorney General Mike DeWine to shut down a facial recognition program
used by law enforcement until state officials verify and develop safety
protocols that protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. DeWine formally
unveiled the program in a press conference yesterday. It allows police
officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for
names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials
needed a name or address to search such databases. The program has been
live for more than two months and so far used for 2,677 searches, but until now it was kept hidden from the public and hasn’t
been checked by outside groups for proper safety protocols.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stepped down as Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter’s attorney and called her handling of the court a “judicial circus.” Hunter has been mired in controversy ever since she took the bench: She was found in contempt by a higher court, and she’s been sued multiple times by media, including four times by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Deters, who under state law had to legally represent Hunter, said the legal troubles were too much, but his stepping down also complies with Hunter’s wishes to find her own hand-picked attorney.
The University of Cincinnati is one of the top colleges where students can get the most out of their money, according to PolicyMic. UC performs better than average in the graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, percentage of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants and starting salary after graduation, yet the school manages to stay only slightly above the national average for tuition and board and room costs.
Mayor Mark Mallory previously approved eliminating city parking requirements, which should allow residential development projects to greatly reduce or completely toss out parking space mandates downtown. “The goal of the ordinance is to encourage development in the urban core by permitting developers to determine their own parking needs for downtown developments,” said Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. “I firmly believe that the market will work to meet parking demands better than government minimum parking requirements.”
The tax changes passed in the state budget earlier this year, including an income tax cut and sales tax hike, will go into effect on Sept. 1. The changes have been criticized for favoring the wealthiest Ohioans, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Gov. John Kasich approved tax credits that are expected to create more than 591 jobs statewide, with at least 40 of the jobs being created at the Benjamin Steel Company in Cincinnati.
Nearly one in five workers at Ohio casinos has quit or been fired. High turnover isn’t unusual in the casino business, but the numbers give a clearer glimpse at the volatility.
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With the backing of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, law enforcement around the state have been secretly using facial recognition software for the past two months that scans driver’s licenses and mug shots to identify crime suspects. In emails and documents obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer, DeWine and other state officials apparently couldn’t agree whether the program is in beta testing or full launch and when they should tell the public about it. The program went live without the attorney general’s initial approval and many protocols that protect Ohioans’ security and privacy, raising concerns about whether law enforcement have been able to abuse the new tool.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority on Friday acknowledged it will ramp up enforcement and tickets once it takes over Cincinnati’s parking meters, lots and garages, but it claimed the move is meant to encourage people to pay up, not raise revenue that will make the parking lease more profitable for the Port or the private operators it’s hiring. The Port also said it had taken steps to make the parking lease a better deal for locals, including a reduction in operation hours in neighborhoods and some downtown areas. The city is leasing its parking assets to the Port for a one-time injection of revenue and annual installments that are supposed to go to development projects that will grow the city’s tax base. But opponents of the lease say it will take away too much control of the city’s parking services and hurt businesses and residents by raising parking rates and hours.
Vacant buildings at the corner of Henry and Race streets will be demolished today to make room for a maintenance facility for Cincinnati’s streetcars — just the latest sign the project is moving forward. Mayor Mark Mallory, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and John Deatrick, streetcar project executive director, will attend the demolition and a press event preceding it, which will take place at 1 p.m.
A new video from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) shows how bad traffic will get if the Brent Spence Bridge isn’t replaced. In the video, OKI claims the current state of the bridge is dangerous and damages the economy. The bridge project is currently estimated at $2.5 billion. At least part of that sum will be paid with tolling if state officials get their way.
Qualls and Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan will today discuss a district-wide travel plan that intends to provide safe routes for students walking and biking to school. The plan, which would use Ohio Department of Transportation funds, makes improvements to crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals, among other changes. Qualls’ office says the plan is timely as CPS today begins its first week back to school.
Cuts in all levels of government, which Republican state officials call “right-sizing,” might be hindering Ohio’s economic recovery. Only California, New York and Florida have cut more public jobs than Ohio. At the same time, Ohio’s job growth over the past year has stagnated at 0.7 percent. The state has cut local government funding by half since Kasich took office, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Ohio gas prices once again increased this week, but they still remain below the national average.
The USS Cincinnati, a Cold War era submarine, is coming to the city. Some locals have been working on getting the submarine’s sail installed along the riverfront as a memorial.
NASA put up a video explaining how it would land on an asteroid.
CAF USA yesterday unveiled new renderings for Cincinnati’s $133 million streetcar project. The city has hired CAF to supply five cars, which will have four doors on each side and be capable of moving in both directions on a track. The cars are also completely low-floor, which should make boarding, disembarking and moving around the streetcar easier. John Deatrick, the streetcar project’s executive director, told CityBeat on Thursday that he’s been in regular contact with CAF USA since he joined the project in August, and he expects to really test out the cars once the Over-the-Rhine loop is completed in June 2015.
Hamilton County commissioners unanimously agreed the 2014 budget won’t include tax increases. It’s also the first budget in six years that won’t require major cuts. Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman’s budget proposal doesn’t explicitly suggest a tax hike, but it does explain how a sales tax hike could be used to offset other expenditures, such as a cut in property taxes. But commissioners all said they’re opposed to a sales tax hike. Commissioners will likely retool the budget and pass the final version in November.
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper called on Ohio to restrict access of the state’s facial recognition system to a small group of a couple dozen specially trained law enforcement officers, which would take calls for the system 24/7. Under Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio in June secretly launched a facial recognition program that allows law enforcement to use a photo to search state databases and connect suspects with contact information; previously, searching the databases required a name or address. In his defense, DeWine claimed the system is vital for law enforcement and widely used across the country. But an investigation from The Cincinnati Enquirer found Ohio’s system grants access to thousands more officials than other states’ systems.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections began a hearing yesterday on whether Randy Simes, owner of UrbanCincy.com, can vote in Cincinnati after living in Chicago and moving to South Korea. Simes registered to vote in the mayoral primary election through Travis Estell’s address, where Simes says he stays when he’s in town. Simes’ supporters say the conservative groups behind the hearing are attacking him for political purposes because he supports the streetcar project and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls for mayor, both of which the groups oppose. The attorney for the conservative groups said that he doesn’t want voting “treated as a game.” Some members of the board of elections said they were disturbed by the political undertones of the hearing and a request for emails between Simes and Estell.
Gov. John Kasich yesterday announced voluntary guidelines urging doctors to use caution when prescribing high levels of opioid painkillers for long-term use to patients. The restrictions are in response to a rise in prescription drug abuse and overdoses across the country. Some members of the medical community say they’re concerned the guidelines will lead to temporary disruption in pain care, but others say the kinks should work themselves out in the long term.
Letters from State Treasurer Josh Mandel show he lobbied for Suarez Corp. to seek relief from litigation for the company. The two letters were obtained on Jan. 2 by a federal grand jury that later indicted Benjamin Suarez, owner of Suarez Corp., and Michael Giorgo, chief financial officer of the company, on charges of illegally funneling about $200,000 to Mandel and a Republican congressman’s campaigns in 2011.
Among states and the District of Columbia, WalletHub estimates Ohio is No. 32 most affected by the federal government shutdown. CityBeat covered the shutdown and the local leaders involved in greater detail here.
Ohio gave 23 communities $8 million for local infrastructure improvements, but Cincinnati and Hamilton County were not among the recipients.
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Enrollment to Cincinnati State increased despite a statewide decline. The university also received a $2.75 million manufacturing training grant.
Science confirmed that political extremists think they’re always right and everyone else is wrong.
Watch coffee shop customers freak out at a real-life Carrie:
Early voting for the 2013 City Council and mayoral elections is now underway. Find your voting location here. Normal voting hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although some days will be extended.
The federal government announced yesterday that same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal tax and Medicare purposes even if the marriage is considered illegal in the state where the couple resides. That means gay Ohioans could get married in a state where it’s legal, such as Massachusetts or California, and have their marriages recognized by the federal government even if the couple lives in Ohio. The change does not apply to Social Security, which will continue basing benefits on where couples live, not where they got married. The changes also won’t apply to taxes at the local and state level until those governments legalize same-sex marriage for themselves. Freedom Ohio is currently working to get same-sex marriage on Ohio’s ballot in 2014, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday appointed the panel that will review the state’s facial recognition program. It includes Democrats, Republicans, judges, law enforcement and prosecutors, but not civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, that asked to be involved. Shortly after the program was formally unveiled on Monday, the ACLU asked DeWine to shut it down until proper protocols are put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.
A Republican state senator is introducing legislation that would attach drug testing to welfare benefits in Ohio, but similar measures have failed in other states. Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties would be required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire to using drugs in the past six months. In Utah, the state government spent more than $30,000 screening welfare applicants, but only 12 people tested positive, according to Deseret News. The policy has also faced legal troubles, particularly in Florida, but since the Ohio proposal only requires drug testing after information is solicited through a questionnaire, it’s unclear whether privacy concerns will hold up in court.
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, is speaking out against a $300 million light rail project that would run from downtown Cincinnati to Milford, Ohio. Hartmann says he’s concerned ridership numbers will be low and costs will be too high. County commissioners are involved with the project through the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District.
Ex-Councilman John Cranley continues to outraise and outspend Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race. But money rarely matters in political campaigns, according to research and Cincinnati’s mayoral history.
The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is asking the city solicitor to force Councilman Chris Seelbach to repay the city for his trip to Washington, D.C., where Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, received the White House’s Champion of Change Award. Seelbach says the trip served a public purpose; mainly, the trip allowed him and his staff to spend time with other award recipients to learn how to better deal with LGBT issues.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble announced it backs legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio currently has no such law.
Ohio’s prison population is growing again, which has spurred further calls from state officials to continue pursuing sentencing reform. The state government in 2012 passed some reform that weakened sentences and made it easier for convicts to have their records expunged, but Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr says more needs to be done.
Ohio gun owners are gathering in Columbus today to call on Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to support comprehensive background checks for firearms, according to a press release from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Polling data released by the group found 83 percent of Ohioans support comprehensive background checks.
A Democratic state representative is asking Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to explain why he’s accused of forcing the Ohio EPA’s top water watchdog to resign, but Kasich’s people don’t seem to be taking the concern too seriously. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded to the demands by telling The Columbus Dispatch, “If she had her way, we’d all be living on a collective farm cooking organic quinoa over a dung fire. So I think we’ll take her views in context.” George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s surface-water division, was allegedly asked to step down by Kasich after Elmaraghy claimed Ohio coal companies want water-pollution permits “that may have a negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.” Republican lawmakers are notoriously friendly with oil, gas and coal companies.
Two more are being investigated by the Hamilton County Board of Elections for illegally voting in Ohio while living in other states.
Gas prices are rising in time for Labor Day weekend, but they should be cheaper than last year.
The famous “47 percent” is now down to 43 percent. The Tax Policy Center says the change is driven by the recovering economy, rising incomes and cuts to federal assistance programs.
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Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office is taking steps to secure Ohio’s facial recognition program against hackers after potential problems were found. The program allows law enforcement and other public officials to use a simple photo to search driver’s license and mugshot databases to get contact information. In the past, officials needed a name or address to search such databases. But the program apparently wasn’t following proper security protocols and lacked typical requirements for passwords, including a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. Previously, Gov. John Kasich compared the program’s potential for abuse to breaches of privacy made through federal surveillance programs such as the National Security Agency and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Tomorrow is the day of the mayoral primary, in which voters will decide between Democrat Roxanne Qualls, Democrat John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns and Independent Sandra “Queen” Noble. The two winners will move on to a head-to-head face-off on Nov. 5. Currently, Qualls and Cranley are widely seen as the frontrunners. It’s difficult to predict how many people will turn out to vote, but only 21 percent of Cincinnati voters participated in the mayoral primary in 2005.
A Cincinnati entrepreneur is aiming to innovate solar energy through his GoSun solar cooker, which will use solar collectors traditionally seen on solar panels to cook food. Patrick Sherwin launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project on Sept. 5. He says his original interest in solar energy came from a desire to move away from harmful fossil fuels that are warming the planet, and this project gives him a chance to inspire a small cultural shift.
Councilman Chris Seelbach will today introduce new legislation that will help crack down on cellphone theft by making it more difficult to sell stolen devices. The initiative will require the hundreds of dealers who currently buy cellphones second-hand to get licensed with the city and keep full records of the transaction, including a serial number of the device, a photocopy of the seller’s ID and other contact information. Seelbach has likened the requirements to existing regulations for pawn shops. The hope is that cracking down on dealers will make stolen cellphones more difficult to sell and less lucrative to potential thieves.
Four finalists remain in the search for Cincinnati’s new police chief: acting Chief Paul Humphries; Jeffrey Blackwell, deputy chief of the Columbus, Ohio, Police Department; Michael Dvorak, deputy chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department; and Jerry Speziale, deputy superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police.
Butler County turns away more veterans seeking aid than any county in Ohio. In 2012, veterans asked for help 432 times; they were turned away nearly 40 percent of the time.
Although tax receipts are up, they’re coming in below estimate for the first two months of the new fiscal year. The lower-than-expected revenue could cause deficits in the state budget.
Ohio gas prices are rising toward the national average.
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If you’re job searching, remember that a job interview can almost always go much worse: