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Brown Confronts Nickles Over Tone of Hartsock Debate

D.C. Council Kwame Brown (D-At large) confronted Attorney General Peter Nickles on the steps of city hall this evening and accused him of needlessly fanning racial tensions surrounding the council's decision not to confirm Ximena Hartsock as the director of Parks and Recreation.

"You should be ashamed of yourself," Brown shouted after he went up to Nickles on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building during a rally in support of Hartsock. Brown also accused Nickles of "inciting people."

The tension stems from comments Nickles made after the council voted 7 to 5 on Oct. 6 to oust Hartsock, a native of Chile, as the director. The Washington Examiner quoted Nickles calling the vote a "shameless act." Nickles also referred to Hartsock's confirmation hearing Oct. 2 as "a misogynist, racist hearing."

During that hearing, Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) reportedly implied that Hartsock wasn't qualified for the position of parks director because she didn't understand African-American culture. But the council members who voted not to confirm Hartsock, including Brown, say her ethnicity had nothing to do with their decision. The council members say Hartsock wasn't qualified and had not been following the law on the privatization of daycare centers.

Hispanic activists mounted their second protest in less than a week Wednesday evening in front of the Wilson Building. About three-dozen protestors demanded that the council issue a written apology for its treatments of Hartsock as well as review its standards on racial and gender sensitivity.

"We are here because the D.C. Council chose to discriminate against Dr. Hartsock because she is a woman, she is a Latino and because English is not her first language," said Rodrigo B. Leiva, executive director of the Latino Federation of Greater Washington. "We as the Latino community will not stand for it."

During the rally, Brown emerged from the Wilson Building and asked if he could address the crowd to explain his vote against Ximena.

Although Brown told the crowd the council vote against had nothing to with her ethnicity, he said he wanted to "personally apologize" on behalf of the council "for every Latino that was offended."

Brown, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor in 2010, told the crowd that it was wrong for them to try to make it a racial issue.

'For the people who say this is racist, you are wrong," Brown said.

After his remarks, Brown spotted Nickles, who was also getting ready to address the crowd. Brown bolted to the railing, leaned over, and told him he's "wrong."

"The stuff about it being racist is wrong," Brown said. "That really incites the community."

Nickels responded, "You voted against her...There is no law she violated."

In an interview after his remarks, Nickles said he never argued that the council vote was racist. But Nickles said the council made a major legal error by arguing that Hartsock had violated the law in helping Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) push to privatize the daycare centers.

"To use the excuse that she had violated the law...I speak for the law," Nickles said. "I continue to support Ximena. She is a great symbol for this whole city, not just the Latino community."

By Tim Craig  |  October 14, 2009; 6:42 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig  
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Please visit and find the DC code and look up the following.
Nickles is wrong, and he knows it. The laws of the District have been broken....

1) DC §2-301.05b - Privatization contracts and procedures requirements.

2) DC ST § 1-204.51 - Special rules regarding certain contracts.

Posted by: winston61 | October 14, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Someone ought to be him before the Bar association for a misrepresentation of facts.

Posted by: 411Tibby | October 14, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

What kind of person joins a protest who is holding the title of "Attorney General"? This is absoutely crazy. In fact, he should not make any comments at all. Anyone who saw the hearings would have seen that Hartsock was not qualified and she gave hefty pay raises to the staff she brought in while firing veterans. She acted in the Fenty/Rhee/Nickles fashion(lawless) and she got busted. It was clear that her expertise was not in Parks and recreation. Plain and simple.

On the other hand, I have to remind Mr. Brown that on that most important evening, if he had been a little more than "present" and if Gray hadn't been tripping over his own ego, we wouldn't be in this situation today of having this maniac as an Attorney General. Everytime Nickles does something stupid, Brown should be saying to himself, "I could have done something about that. I messed up big time."

Posted by: candycane1 | October 15, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

This is likely to get deleted but I would love to know what the WaPo thinks about this:

Posted by: missboo | October 15, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

AG Nickels speaking at a rally in support of Ximena Hartsock and a Council decision that could end up in litigation is unethical.

Warning to the City Council:
The members of the DC City Council better step up and regain control of the legislative process and hold Fenty and his Administrators accountable for any and all laws broken. If necessary take it to the Courts.

If Council members do not exercise discretion over this Mayor than they can expect the voters to exercise their displeasure in the very next election. That's a promise.

Posted by: 2belinda | October 15, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

The fact that Peter Nickles was addressing the crowd at all over this issue is proof positive that he is unable to separate himself from his official position as the District's Corporate Counsel (States have Attorney General's) and his previous position as the Legal Counsel of the Mayor. He was there to defend the Mayor and his defeated appointee.

It is unforgivable for Mr. Nickles to have made such a false statement to the media specifically designed to incite the Latino community. Ms. Hartsock's record and experience does not qualify her to lead up the cities Parks & Regulation Department. It is just that simple. I don't care if she were white, black, American or Samoan, she was NOT qualified for the job and it is the Council's RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that the city is getting the best candidate vs. cronyism appointments from the Mayor.

To Mr. Nickles suggestion that she, as the acting executive representative of the Mayor for Parks & Recreation, has broken no laws he is dead wrong. You would think that he who, "speaks for the law" would know what the "law" was.

Ms. Hartsock ignored two laws unanimously passed by the Council: the “Day Care and Senior Services Emergency and Temporary Acts of 2008,” passed in December 2008, and the “Daycare Facility Emergency and Temporary Act of 2009,” passed in May 2009. The laws require the day care sites to remain open until September 30, 2009 and directed the Mayor to rescind any solicitations to third party vendors to
take over the DPR day care program. The laws also prohibit closure of the DPR day care sites until the Council received from the Mayor a comprehensive analysis of the city’s day care program, a determination as to whether the District’s laws on privatization have been followed, and a detailed report on the future of special
needs/developmental programs and care in the Department of Parks and Recreation and the District.

So, my friends, the Mayor yet again, like when he stole money from that old man's estate when serving as the estate's trustee, just doesn't believe that the law applies to him and his administration. And the District's Corporate Counsel appears to agree with that assertion.

Get rid of them both in 2010.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 15, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

candycane1 you are right about Brown. He could have avoided this entire situation. It was in his power. They should have voted against Nickles in the way the voted against Hartsock.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 15, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

What is unethical is Michael Brown using the rally as a platform for his political pursuits. He made his stance clear when he chose to vote against Dr. Hartsock. It is far too late for him to try and win the support of the Latino community. Too little, too late, Michael Brown.

It is illegal to knowingly run programs that will put an agency into a deficit. Mr. Thomas should know that since he oversees the DPR budget, yes? Did he take the time to review the budget and see that the childcare services would do just that. I doubt it. He was too busy checking out women's shoes and winking at them from across the dais.

While Dr. Hartsock does not have formal education in parks and recreation, she does have a sharp acumen in management. The amount of accomplishments and improvements that were made in her short tenure as Director proves that. Anyone who argues that she is uncapable needs to really look into the facts.

When was the last time all of the pools opened successfully and on time? When was the last time close to two dozen construction projects completed on time? When was the last time that the programming at rec centers were reexamined? When was the last time field and grass maintenance ran in a tight schedule? Can you recall? Because I certainly cannot.

Posted by: disenchanted1 | October 15, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

If Barry wasn't speaking the truth when he stated Dr. Hartsock needs to understand African American culture, than why does the D.C. government require all employees to attend mandatory diversity training every year! Was it required of Dr. Hartsock?

As a native Washingtonian, I recall what ignited the required "diversity training"--the Mt. Pleasant riots sparked by a D.C. police officer not understanding the Latino culture!

Peter Nichols doesn’t represent citizens of the District and he’ll do whatever it takes to jockey votes for Fenty, including dividing the city! There needs to be a petition to RECALL Peter Nichols !

Posted by: dcnatives | October 15, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

dcnatives - start the petition, i'd be happy to sign it.

If getting the swimming pools open on time is a good enough excuse to select someone as Director of DPR then give me the keys!!!

concernedaboutdc - I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Posted by: missboo | October 15, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I finally got to watch the hearing and the only person to blame is Hartsock! What makes her think that she doesn't have to give FULL & COMPLETE answers at a confirmation hearing! See she is may work for the mayor...but the Council allows you to have the job!

I saw in watching the hearing a woman who was in WAY over her head. I also saw a confused woan at best.

The FACT that she is not a CITIZEN.....COME ON...don't we have enough people who are that need jobs before we start giving jobs to those who are not??? She herself admitted to being here for over 13yrs. and is not a register VOTER???Doesn't have a car register in DC????? Watch the complete hearing for yourself! The council vote was fact more should have voted against her.

Posted by: | October 15, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

WOW- some of these comments are amazing. Dr. Hartsock is not the one the Council should be grilling. It is the Mayor if they disagree with his policies. Continuing the instability at Parks and Recreation will only hurt those people who use the services provided by the agency and the staff that provide them. If the Council felt that Dr. Hartsock didn't have all the multiple talents they require in an agency head then Harry Thomas could have gone to the Mayor and ask that a Deputy be appointed with the paricular expertise he felt Dr. Hartsock didn't have. We have come to sad time in government when these situations are handled the way they were and a good woman is turned away from serving the people of the District with the kind of rhetoric used in the hearing. We need to get beyond that if our city is to move forward in a united way. Both the Mayor and the Council should be embarrassed about this situation and they should both do something to see it doesn't happen again.

Posted by: peterdc | October 15, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Peter DC, you clearly don't know how this Mayor and his administration works. I invite you to read today's Washington City Paper's piece entitled "Parks and Wreck" to bring yourself up to speed on how this most horrific Mayor works.

Article link:

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | October 15, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Hartsock was not confirmed by the Council because of some mistakes she has made while interim director. She also demonstrated at the hearing that she is in way over her head, not answering questions completely. She is not an American citizen but she has had thirteen years to make a decision to that end. She did not. And all jokes and cruelty aside, she can't even communicate in English clearly. I had to decipher what she was saying which was a feat to do with incomplete responses.

What amuses me is Peter Nickles saying that she was discriminated against because she is a Latina. First of all, he needs to sit down somewhere and shut up as a result of all of the genuinely illegal things he has condoned and possibly coordinated in the District. Second, if what happened to her racist and anti-woman then all of the Black and Latina women Rhee terminated or whatever semantics she is applying to the maneuver from DCPS were also wronged on the same basis. So thanks, AG Nickles, for stating publicly that these other people were as wronged as you and the mayor's most recent appointee. You set a precedent by running your mouth and speaking out of turn and unethically at a public forum. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Posted by: southyrndiva | October 15, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't know enough to judge whether Dr. Hartsock deserved her job or not. What I do know is that many Latinos feel that they are discriminated against by the African-American community. If we do not recognize this problem and deal with it constructively, it will lead to more serious problems later on. This Hartsock situation is just a small example of the kind of uproar that can emerge later on.

When I hear that Marion Barry, a former mayor, says Hartsock doesn't understand African-American culture and uses that as an excuse to reject a Hispanic candidate I cringe. It makes me wonder whether Mr. Barry would find any Hispanic candidate acceptable. It also makes me wonder whether Marion Barry only cares about African-Americans.

When I hear people criticize Dr. Hartsock for not being a US Citizen (she's a legal US resident) and using that as an excuse to oppose her candidacy, I get upset. It makes me wonder whether such people really have a problem with the fact that she's Latina. The message I get from such statements is "You'll never belong here no matter how long you live here." It makes me wonder such people would view me as a foreigner, even though I'm a US Citizen, just because I'm Latino. Feeling like an outsider in your own country is not a good thing.

Some of you may think that I'm overreacting, that I'm making a big deal out of nothing. But I'm telling you, a lot of Latinos feel this way. The Latino community is here to stay and it is growing. The city council and local area governments should take care to respect the sentiments of this population. Otherwise, racial tensions will only get worse. If that happens, we all lose.

Posted by: TheIgg | October 15, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

TheIgg, yes the Latino community is growing thanks to illegal alien Hispanic women breeding babies in the thousands daily in the United States. You are right something will happen soon. It will be a civil war, because both white and black U.S. citizens are fed up with illegal alien Hispanics and their supporters wanting to take over this country and allow all their relatives to come here from El Salvador, Mexico, etc.

It was blacks and whites who help built this country and I don't recall any Salvadorans/Central Americans helping.

Posted by: CaptainKangaroo | October 15, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

P.S. Most Hispanics in D.C. cannot vote because they are illegal aliens or non citizens.

Posted by: CaptainKangaroo | October 15, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Let me say this, all Hispanics are not criminals or illegal aliens. Many are productive United States citizens. I feel that it is wrong for Latinos/Hispanics "NOT" to be against illegal immigration, cracking down on illegal aliens, and enforcing our immigration laws. If these were millions of blacks or whites coming from the Caribbean, Africa, or Europe, the majority of Hispanics would be for enforcing immigration laws. I am a black citizen with over 400 years of ancestry back to slavery in South Carolina. If these were millions of black Africans or black Caribbeans who broke U.S. laws by crossing our porous borders, I would want their behinds deported and U.S. immigration laws enforced. I am a citizen of the United States of America, not some foreign country on the continent of Africa or in the Caribbean.

Posted by: Ward4DC | October 15, 2009 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Ximena Hartsock made amazing changes for DPR in the few months she was there. And those changes are not summed up by stating that all the pools opened on time, as some snidely remarked. These changes include launching tennis programs across the city; starting a new program which brought young athletes to college campuses to go on campus tours and watch college athletes play; and most importantly demanding a level of responsiveness and accountability from DPR staff that I, as a resident of this city, have never seen in my time living here.
Remarks of her being "way in over her head" are substantiated by no evidence; someone here actually mentioned that she "can't even communicate in English clearly"....are you kidding me? Since when did someone's accent play into whether or not she or he is qualified for a job?
The focus should have been on the quality of work done while Hartsock held her position. Instead, ego and arrogance ruled the day, as certain council members allowed their personal distaste for the mayor to direct their decision making. If we are talking about judging someone for their work, Hartsock did more good in DPR in a few months, during the agency's busiest season, than those who held the position prior to her did in the much longer time they were allowed to hold the spot.
Concerns that she broke the law are unfounded as well. While council did pass an emergency act to keep daycare services going, both federal and DC law states that no agency can operate and provide services if doing so with deficient funds. And according to the DPR's numbers in the past, the services Hartsock was required to cut were selected because they consistently created a deficiency within the agency budget. So while council did pass the emergency act, to keep running those services would violate previous council law and federal law.
Council, specifically K. Brown, Barry, Thomas, Cheh, and Alexander, should have made their decisions based on the results of Hartsock's leadership prior to the hearing. And pretty much every council member stated she was one of the hardest working and most responsive directors they had dealt with. The vast majority of those who testified at the hearings were overwhelmingly in support of her-- and several of these testimonies came from residents, community groups, and major athletic organizations who met Hartsock through her work at DPR.
The council's decision is a HUGE loss for the city. I am embarrassed for them and sad for residents like me, who were excited about the substantive and positive changes taking place.

Posted by: dcresident801 | October 16, 2009 12:13 AM | Report abuse

The white liberal media has given Fenty a pass and they think he's the best thing since white bread. Mayor Fenty closed and privatized the D. C. Department of Mental Health which services the most vulnerable D.C. residents. Why people don't discuss mental health or fight for better mental health programs? The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a big advocate for the mentally ill. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty could careless about people suffering from a mental illness. Fenty has lost his popularity amongst black voters and some white D.C. voters are opening their eyes by seeing, Fenty is not the man of the people. Adrian Fenty only care about himself. I foresee his kingdom will fall in the near future as the former Hip Hop mayor of Detroit. Once King Fenty is no longer in power, let's see how many people will be kissing his behind.

Posted by: RushLimbaurg | October 16, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

If she was not voted in because she is Latina and a women, please ask her why she "terminated" black women managers who are over forty, tenured recreation professionals, with the DPR system for 25+ years, with recreation backgrounds. If that is not racist and sexist I don't know what is.

Get over yourself Ms. Hartsock and the unqualified, unprofessional DCPS plants to recreation. GOODBYE and god speed.

Posted by: reddog19 | October 16, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Race had absolutely NOTHING to do with the city council disapproval of Dr. Hartsock. Mind you, one-third of the councilmembers that voted against Dr. Hartsock are Caucasian.

Dr. Hartsock’s flagrant disregard for laws and policies that govern the District of Columbia is the only reason she is an ex-interim and not the director of D.C. Parks and Recreations (DPR). She was entrusted with taxpayers’ dollars to provide services for the good of all DC residents, but yet she chose to accommodate the more affluent Wards, while cutting needed services—that were federally funded—for the city’s less fortunate, which also includes Hispanics.

Case in point— Dr. Hartsock violated two laws passed by the Council: the "Day Care and Senior Services Emergency and Temporary Acts of 2008," and the "Daycare Facility Emergency and Temporary Act of 2009,"that were created solely to prevent her from closing daycare and senior facilities. Dr. Hartsock refused to adhere to the law and closed the daycare and senior facilities in contempt of the Council.

Mind you, although she defied the law and closed the daycare and senior facilities that provided a needed service to low-income residents, she expanded a program called “Cooperative Play” which is a part-time, play-time program sponsored by DPR that caters to affluent, stay-at-home moms with toddlers in Wards 3, 2 and 1.

Over 100 daycare workers & DPR employees—some with more than 20 years of service—lost their jobs, while many of Dr. Hartsock’s delegation of unqualified, former DCPS employees were rewarded with pay that exceeded the salary limits by as much as 40 percent.

If Dr. Hartsock, Fenty, Peter Nickels, and others wants to play the “race card” and infer that the Council’s vote against Dr. Hartsock was based on her being a Latina, they need to watch the hearings (July 27, October 2 & 6, 2009) before making such an inflammatory statement in defense of a mayoral appointee whose actions can be construed as being bias, and most importantly, detrimental to low-income constituents.

If the “race card” is played, let the lawsuits begin and hold the District of Columbia liable for Dr. Hartsock’s mass firing of African American employees without cause or performance evaluations to justify their dismissals and replacing them with inexperienced, Caucasians at much higher pay rate that exceeds the salary limits set by D.C. Department of Human Resources.

Dr. Hartsock’s rude awakening should be a warning to all mayoral appointees; the District of Columbia IS NOT a lawless plutocracy and the majority of the duty-bound councilmembers uphold laws that govern the city and are not Mayor Fenty’s mindless janissaries.

Posted by: dcnatives | October 16, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Some of the comments I'm hearing about Latinos are just plain racist. Saying Latinos haven't done anything for this country is just plain wrong. I recommend you go to the Vietnam War Memorial. If you look closely you'll find a lot of Hispanic names. Even today, Latino families send their sons and daughters to fight for our country (We're Americans too you know) in Iraq and Afghanistan. You dishonor their sacrifices with such cruel, ignorant statements.

And just for some added food for thought: don't you think its strange that some descendants of Europeans (Whites) and Africans (Black) treat Latinos as foreigners despite the fact that many Latinos carry indigenous blood? People easily forget their history and the term native is used too loosely if you ask me.

Posted by: TheIgg | October 16, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I loathe Nickles and I like Kwame Brown. That said, Nickles is more right than Brown in this case.

I have read the statutes in question. While you can argue that Fenty flouted the law, it's very clear that Hartsock didn't. She didn't issue requests for offers to privatize day care. She kept the daycare centers open. DPR staff weren't RIF'd until September 25th, after having been notified 5 months previously that DPR's childcare program would be terminated and encouraged to apply for other jobs in DPR or childcare jobs in DCPS for which they were eligible.

It was really short-sighted of the Council to reject the first effective DPR head I've seen in 20+ years of living in the District. Residents lose on this one -- not Fenty. He'll keep doing what he's doing because the Council refuses to confront the real issues head-on. The Council contents itself with the occasional symbolic gesture ("you are not the boss of me") -- most often in cases where the CMs own egos (or perks) are at stake -- not public resources or public policy.

The only difference made here is a negative one. DPR loses a good manager with no replacement in sight and the instability at that agency persists. DPR is already out of the daycare business and it's not going back. The workers who were RIF'd remain RIF'd. Their lawsuit is a loser, so they won't be reinstated that way. Nothing's fixed; just one more thing broken. WTG, Council!

Posted by: smithhemb | October 16, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Effective DPR head....please!!! On whose backs, the persons she "terminated", not just daycare workers but managers that were bonafide DC residents, United States citizens, QUALIFIED for their posts, abide by US and District laws, rules and regulations. GET OVER IT, she should have NEVER been nomonated.

Posted by: reddog19 | October 16, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

TheIgg, are you Salvadoran? Not all Latinos have made contributions to this country. The term Latino is a very broad term including over 20 Spanish speaking countries. Yes, many Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans have fought in the Vietnam war, not Salvadorans and other Latino groups.

Posted by: RushLimbaurg | October 16, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I think of DPR more as a service provider than a jobs program. So, to me, effectiveness is primarily a matter of providing good public services at a reasonable cost. Reorganizing DC government's childcare provision so that the kids served get more educationally-oriented programs that are eligible for more federal subsidization strikes me as good management. I'd rather have Head Start than daycare because that's an investment that pays off long-term if it increases the odds of success in school. And if the feds are more willing to pay for Head Start (or pay more for Head Start) than childcare, so much the better. That seems to be the situation.

Posted by: smithhemb | October 16, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Smithhemb, I 100 percent agree with you. DPR should be dedicated to provide good programs and services for people of all ages, but child care should remain in schools. Also, DPR has been a warehouse of deadweight for years, I am sure that some of the push back this Director has is due to the fact that many of these workers had it easy for years. Harry Thomas, Marion Barry, K. Brown and now Mary Cheh enable the lazy to remain on government payroll at expense of tax payers wallets. I am tired of this crap.

Posted by: billybobcoconut | October 16, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

This is so sad. I met Ms. Hartsock several years ago, she was my Assistant Principal and she is a fine lady, fair, honest, hardworking...she does not deserve this.

Posted by: raunder23 | October 16, 2009 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Hartsock she wants to play the race card—ok, how many Latinos did she hire as a part of her Transition Team—-ZERO, ZILCH, NOT ONE LATINO!

Dr. Hartsock fired over 100 African American employees and didn’t consider hiring ANY Latinos to work directly with her at DPR headquarters.

I can only assume that Dr. Hartsock believes Caucasians are the only competent candidates for managerial positions since she fired all African American managers and hired CERO Latinos to replace them!

Posted by: dcnatives | October 17, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Hartsock didn't introduce race and gender into this discussion; she reacted to comments made at the hearing -- including comments made by Councilmembers.

As for firing African-Americans, she implemented a decision made by the previous director and the Fenty Administration to close a particular office/program within DPR. That decision was made because better services could be provided at less local expense if childcare administration was consolidated in another agency. Under the circumstances, the fact that many of the DPR employees who were RIF'd as a result of the closure of DPR's Office of Educational Services were African American doesn't suggest that Hartsock is racist.

There's a reason that the union's lawsuit isn't going anywhere (well, actually, a couple of reasons). What DPR did wasn't illegal. Yes, it really sucks to lose a high-paying job you've had for years, especially when you are unlikely to find similar work at so high a salary. But it doesn't follow from that that you're legally entitled to keep that job for life.

Posted by: smithhemb | October 18, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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