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Pastor's mosque bluff transfixes media

Terry Jones did it again--jerked the media's chain, as he's done since the start of this bizarre little episode.

It was almost like blackmail: move the Manhattan mosque or I'll burn all these books!

Suddenly he was the savior: he had a deal, the Islamic center would be moved, he'd call off the Koran bonfire and everyone would be happy.

Except there was no deal, and the preening pastor with a few dozen followers had bamboozled all the networks into hours of live coverage.

This whole thing was covered like the Balloon Boy hoax, but with potentially deadly consequences.

And like the mosque mess, the Florida controversy was brewing for a while before getting big-time coverage.

President Obama lent his voice, telling George Stephanopoulos in an interview that aired Thursday that Jones's scheme would be "a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda."

But how did we get to this point? The first national report I found was carried by Religion News Service on July 21. On Aug. 26, the New York Times reported that Jones planned a bonfire of Korans because, he said, it is "full of lies." The story ran on Page 14. Not much happened.

But the story continued to bubble. On Monday, ABC's "Good Morning America" and "World News" aired pieces on the controversy. On Tuesday, David Petraeus said in a statement the Gainesville stunt could endanger American troops. That lit the fuse. The story exploded, especially on cable.

A brief reminder of the stakes. In 2005, Newsweek reported in a "Periscope" item that American interrogators at Gitmo had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet. There were riots in Afghanistan and other countries that killed 15 people, and the magazine later apologized for what it said was an inaccurate report.

On "NBC Nightly News" last night, Petraeus said: "Our concern, Brian, is that such an act would jeopardize the safety of our soldiers and our civilians, even of our Afghan partners because it's the police and soldiers of the Afghan forces who would have to confront the kind of demonstrations that we're afraid would erupt in the wake of such an action."

Fair enough; the question had to be asked. But should MSNBC have provided live coverage of Jones's rambling remarks at his church yesterday afternoon?

And how mainstream is Jones's Dove World Outreach Center? Last year the church posted a sign saying "ISLAM IS OF THE DEVIL." Now its tax-exempt status is in jeopardy for posting a sign this year, attacking a gay mayoral candidate: "No homo Mayor."

Why does the world need to follow the antics of one obscure book-burner in Florida? You can say we're just covering the story, but our combined megaphone has made it into an international story. And this isn't like over-covering Lindsay Lohan's jail sentence. This is a tinderbox right now.

The BBC provides a roundup of how this is playing around the world, beginning with pan-Arab television:

In its Wednesday morning bulletin, al-Jazeera described the plan as an unprecedented" and "ferocious" attack on Islam and Muslims.

The channel mentioned the official and religious condemnation in the US, highlighting criticism of the move by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington DC.

Al-Jazeera's correspondent said the cancellation by US Muslims of several events marking the Eid ul Fitr holiday, which coincides with the 9/11 anniversary, reflected growing Muslim fears in a nation 'where reports are written to assess freedom of religion in other countries.


Here's part of the AP memo:

Memo to AP staff from Standards Center: Guidance -- planned Sept. 11 Quran burning


As you know, a group known as the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has announced that it intends to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.

In the runup to this event, we've seen a rush of stories, photos and video from points around the world. Let's keep our coverage in proportion. Although many are speculating on the effect the Quran burning could conceivably have, at the moment it's a proposal by a tiny group that may or may not even happen.

We plan ONE main spot story on this issue a day. The News Center will coordinate where this story will originate from. Routine spot news -- for instance, comments about the plan by political or other public figures -- should be funneled to the point handling the main story. We should avoid a profusion of separates beyond what any newspaper, website or broadcaster would actually use. This includes stories, photos, audio and video that repeatedly make the same point, for or against the burning. Consult the News Center if you have questions on this.

The concept of this planned event is offensive to many Muslims worldwide. National leaders and spokesmen for other religious denominations have also found the plan repugnant.

Should the event happen on Saturday, the AP will not distribute images or audio that specifically show Qurans being burned, and will not provide detailed text descriptions of the burning. With the exception of these specific images and descriptions, we expect to cover the Gainesville event, in all media, placing the actions of this group of about 50 people in a clear and balanced context.

AP policy is not to provide coverage of events that are gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend.

By Howard Kurtz  |  September 9, 2010; 7:23 PM ET
Categories:  Latest stories , Top story  
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We can't legally prohibit this idiotic man from doing what he feels is his Constitutional right to do so, despite the dire consequences to INNOCENT people. However, we, the viewing public CAN CEASE to pay any attention to this act. I hope ALL media will follow the actions of AP and restrict ANY coverage of this non-American and non-religious event!

Posted by: american17 | September 9, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

This is exactly the reason why democracy is difficult. Jones is a huckster, promoting mostly himself, finding the biggest, noisiest way to do it. Yet he has the right to express himself, and many soldiers have died defending that right. It's a subtle distinction lost on a lot of world citizens, but it shouldn't be a uniquely American view. If Jones goes through with his self-aggrandizement, can't we have competing bonfires and torch a few Bibles, Books of Mormon, etc.? Just for equal time?

Posted by: barbarian_horde | September 9, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I hope religious people of all persuasions visit Terry Jones' church these next couple days and speak with him personally about religious tolerance, about loving your enemy, about forgiveness, about personal redemption.

And if a few dozen soldiers in dress uniform also befriended this man tomorrow night, telling him sincerely of their concern for their brothers in harms way, and he still chooses an incendiary path the next morning, then the rest of us will have done and said all we could...

Posted by: thanksforfish | September 9, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter if we (Americans) pay attention to it or not or whether the media covers the Koran burning or not. One way or another the images of the Koran burning will find their way into the Muslim world and they will pay attention to it...a lot of attention. This act of ignorance is going to cause great damage to the United States of America.

Posted by: dcbny | September 9, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

This is the Muhammed comic all over again. As the TV show South Park suggested in 2006, why not bury our heads in the sand to show the Muslim world we all weren't watching and there should be no reprisals as a result?

Posted by: Grice | September 9, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

This is yet another example of religious self-immolation that is manifesting itself as a micro-infection among the world's 35,000+ creeds that have manufactured a true HELL for people living on earth. The definition of religion and HELL are synonymous in this world, with advocates intellectually unable to see the similarity of how deceptive they are.

Posted by: vicsoir1 | September 9, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

This guy wanted nothing more than all this attention. I wish 'the media' had never given him the publicity he so craves but no that the story's been picked up, it's both unrealistic and undesirable to drop it.

Unrealistic because where there's controversy, there's money to be had by the news organizations.

Undesirable because, despite starting over a back-water hick's plan to burn some books, it has spiraled into a national discussion about the freedom of speech and expression in the face of likely terrorist reprisal. I believe that it is important for Americans to have these discussion, even if they start over relatively trivial thing, because it both helps us to better define and understand ourselves as a nation and because it forces us to think about the value of these liberties, the responsibilities that go with them and the importance of defending them against all those who would enslave free people!

Posted by: andrew23boyle | September 9, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

This crazy pastor needs to be arrested for national security reasons. He is putting lives of soldiers and all Americans around the world in danger. Media should stop giving him coverage. He was even asked by his own church in Germany to leave because it was all about him not christianity.

Posted by: Sally6 | September 9, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

So the AP policy is not to show images that offend Muslims. What an interesting memo. I can't imagine that similar consideration would be shown to any other religious group.

No one stepping forward to defend the pastors's freedom of speech? ACLU silent? I guess all it takes is the threat of violence to silence someone these days. And so even though our freedom is degraded, everyone breaths a sign of relief. It is obvious that in America 2010, our freedom of speech remains intact so long as no one dares -- on threat of violence -- to draw a picture of mohamad or burn a Quran. It's OK though for Muslims to celebrate the destruction of the twin towers, burn the American flag and sell copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in airport bookstores in the middle east.

Posted by: mediabiasdoesntexist | September 9, 2010 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Hey, let's give credit where credit is due. A big thanks to the hate mongers like liz cheney, fred gaffney, pamela geller and the fox crew who, without their constant hate mongering, this crackpot would have gone unnoticed. Of course cheney, gaffney et al all scattered like cockroaches when the consequences of their efforts came to fruition. Nice job folks, let's hope some innocent isn't harmed because of your cowardly words and deeds.

Posted by: JilliB | September 9, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

This story got big because too many lazy media people didn't do any research into the subject that would have helped decide how much coverage to give it. A small church is holding the world hostage because a whole lot of cameras came to it. Paying less attention won't make it go away, but putting it into some kind of perspective and balance would have made it a more accurately smaller story. In the same way the Tea Party is not that big an influence, yet, the lazy media chose not go get up from their mimosa and laptops to actually investigate facts. Why don't we have a news gathering media? When did everyone in hairdresser media (cable news, and lately major print publications) become a parrot for Sarah Palin and Terry Jones?

Posted by: kravitzkravitz | September 9, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse


Media laziness works in both directions, as rev. Wright benefited from flying under the radar as did Ayers in '08 and even today, the outrageous stuff Sunstein & Floyd as "czars" never gets reported. The US press is a stenographic agency for the DNC most of the time, but as paid circ disappears and nobody watches Couric, et al., even the Mess-NBC crowd and CNN are starting to elongate their attention span & getting beyond the kumbayeh pablum on foreign policy that fakes like Zakaria & Amanpour are feeding us.

Posted by: djman1141 | September 10, 2010 4:22 AM | Report abuse

I also think the "Ground Zero mosque"/crazy pastor kerfuffle has served a useful purpose, if only because it's generated polls that have statistically confirmed what the world suspected about the American people.

If anybody still believed the Americans' schtick about wanting the best for Afghans and Iraqis, they'll be disabused of those silly illusions now. Americans don't like Muslims, and the ones who hate Muslims the most are precisely those who most supported the attack on Iraq.

So Americans can now spare us their BS about bringing freedom to Muslims in Iraq/Afghanistan. They don't even want to extend basic constitutional freedoms to American Muslims in America.

And perhaps, from more liberal Americans, we'll be hearing less of the insulting meme where the qualities of basic human goodness are described as "American values", while racist and ignorant people are labelled "unAmerican" (what, like me?).

I think it's time to stop calling liberty and tolerance "American values". We have statistical proof that the real values of the American people are intolerance, ignorance, and fear.
Suddenly their 21st Century history makes sense.

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 10, 2010 4:37 AM | Report abuse

The fact that most Americans want to deny NY Muslims their 1st Amendment rights reminded me that the US constitution, that much-touted document, was never in fact designed to be extended to darker-skinned people.

After all, the men who wrote it mostly owned slaves. They didn't intend the human rights they guaranteed should extend to blacks, did they?

The past week's events have blown away the soft-focus haze around America's
"historic freedoms", and reminded us of the starker reality. The American people aren't really rejecting their Constitution - they remain true to the spirit of their slaver founders.

Posted by: bourassa1 | September 10, 2010 4:44 AM | Report abuse

This fuss has opened the door to others to follow, and I note this morning that a Baptist minister is picking up on the burning Koran idea. The MSM created this mess by promoting the agenda of this Gainesville, Fl. pastor, and I find it ironic now that AP says it won't publish pictures of the burning. Why do they make this announcement, if not to generate publicity for an ailing and financially troubled wire service. Bloomberg didn't make any such announcement. And what if AP doesn't publish pictures, it will appear on U-Tube or some other Internet vehicle.
We have preachers who believe the end of the world is coming, and some have specific dates for the event. Do we now publicize their rants?
The overall treachery of the MSM in this debacle needs to be more closely examined.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | September 10, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to Howard Kurtz for calling out the media on its saturation coverage of this Bible hustler and his 50-person church. A cursory Internet search yesterday revealed that "pastor" Jones spent about 20 years in Germany, building up a congregation/cult and using its members as unpaid workers in various business enterprises. He was essentially run out of the country and landed in Florida, which since the 1920s has been a haven for every cheap operator in the U.S. because, as a friend of mine once said, "Hey, you can sleep outside all year around."

And the news biz , thanks to the likes of Katie Couric who actually interviewed this bozo, blew this Koran-burning publicity stunt up into a firestorm. To paraphrase HL Mencken, "No one ever went broke underestimating the gullibility of the American media."

Posted by: jhpurdy | September 10, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

WE have found a new method to raise funds for public projects!

So here in Naples Fl we need to raise $130 million to get a branch of Jackson Labs to be built to create a bio-med cluster.

It seems that if we announce a giant Koran book burning party for January 1 ( a bonfire for the books in the middle of Nales) BUT we will be happy to cancel it if we can raise the $130 million we need -- then the Arab world will support Naples desire for a gentics research lab.

Perhaps people who cannot afford their mortgages should announce Koran burnings which will be cancelled if someone (anyone) will pay off their mortgage.

The possibilities are endless!

Posted by: NaplesJacksonLabMouse | September 10, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The Post, like every other media organization, let their profession down when they put this story on page A1 instead of in the comics section.

Posted by: Keesvan | September 10, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I agree that this has been blown out of porportion by the media. I agree that Jones is a megalomaniac who promotes nothing but hate. Unfortunately in America we can burn anything from the Quaran to the Bible to the American flag. Yes, we are extremely tolerant doormats.
Any violent reaction, however should be viewed as such; violence and should be met with the appropriate response. If one a$$h^*$ is going to cause many Muslims to engage in violence against Americans, then by that rationale, violence against American by a few should be met with violence. TWO WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT.
Jones' proposed actions, though idiotic in the extreme, are not "unprecedent" or "ferocious". Burning a book is not ferocious and is nothing new.
Perhaps if we could all avoid giving credence and political support to Religion in general, ie grow up, then we might be able to discuss actual relevant issues with each other and the world. Religion has always been the bain of humanity. Seriously, we go to war and die for a select group of peoples' varying beliefs in the same god. It is fundamentally ridiculous.

Posted by: hebe1 | September 10, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Let's not hear any BS from th' media that they were just doing their job. The wildfire created by the news media's voracious appetite for controversy could've been avoided altogether if that otherwise insignificant Florida pastor had not been given all of this sensationalized publicity.

The Islamists/Muslims have an equally hair-trigger response time to any percieved opportunity for violent agitation.

We Americas will reap whatever tragedy is generated by these media sown seeds.

All of this is disgusting and alarming.

Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | September 10, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Neither Islam nor Nazism are religions.

Both are hateful, violent, intolerant totalitarian ideologies.

Posted by: Jerzy | September 10, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't Lord Cheney's "Patriot Act" cover giving the enemy a propaganda video for widespread use against our troops in time of war?

Could there be a double standard for right-wing "Christians" that allows them to practice Cheney's favorite arrogance: "getting around the law"?

Posted by: areyousaying | September 10, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I am writing this plea as a very concerned citizen of the United States of America.
The recent media attention given to the individual in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Koran is extremely alarming.
The situation can become explosive. Any rational person can see the potential risk of such an act.
I have intentionally not named the individual behind this senseless act because I believe the media has already yielded too much power to this individual.
In today’s world the media as a whole has succumb to the cries of shareholders and has become irresponsible and reckless in covering “the news”.
I am trying to appeal to the sensibility that must still live somewhere amid the thousands of media executives.
Are the advertising dollars really more important than maintaining our relatively safe way of life here in the United States?
Think about it.
Act responsibly.
Do the right thing.

Posted by: DELORESRUBIN | September 10, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I am writing this plea as a very concerned citizen of the United States of America.
The recent media attention given to the individual in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Koran is extremely alarming.
The situation can become explosive. Any rational person can see the potential risk of such an act.
I have intentionally not named the individual behind this senseless act because I believe the media has already yielded too much power to this individual.
In today’s world the media as a whole has succumb to the cries of shareholders and has become irresponsible and reckless in covering “the news”.
I am trying to appeal to the sensibility that must still live somewhere amid the thousands of media executives.
Are the advertising dollars really more important than maintaining our relatively safe way of life here in the United States?
Think about it.
Act responsibly.
Do the right thing.

Posted by: DELORESRUBIN | September 10, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Terry Jones's idea of exchanging his not
burning Korans for the NY mosque being
moved is an intriguing one: I would add
that it might be a good idea to burn a
Koran every time a Muslim burns an
American Flag (which are as sacred to
Americans as Korans are to Muslims).
This way we could wage a (literally) "hot"
war with Islam in which (like the "cold"
war we waged with the communists...
a minimum of actual human beings might
be killed. Yes: Some are still going to be
killed--after all, hot or cold, war is war!

S D Rodran

Posted by: sdr1 | September 10, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

It's amazing and disturbing that the pathetic excuse for news media that exists in this country would exploit this farce. How is a deluded clown like Terry Jones any different from some other schizo standing on a soapbox in Lafayette Park while raving about his "beliefs"? The only coverage the latter would ever get is maybe on some tongue in cheek evening local news spoof. But yet an obvious mental case like the "Reverend" Jones and his cult, people like Wolf Blitzer and the "24 hour news cycle" invokes some sort of sacrosant Constitutional crisis of First Amendment "religious rights" versis "the national security". Who is really the bigger fool here? The pop "news" media that just can't pass up an opportunity to sensationalize some loony bunch of religious wackos and their phony "leader" for the sake of ratings, or the wackos themselves? If the Fourth Estate in this country instead acted responsibly and maturely, rather than like a bunch of punk high jounalism twits reporting on the the fight at the "homecoming bonfire", no one would pay a rats ass bit of attention to the the "Dove Church" in Gainsville, Florida and its bat $hit "pastor". As long as "news reporting" in this society remains dominated by infantile adrenalin addicts intent on creating the next hyp fix, every obscure creep like the "Reverend" Terry Jones will continue to count on getting their "fifteen minutes of fame" on the cheap. What a laugh!

Posted by: Doowadiddy | September 10, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Absent from your remarks is any mention of mainstream Republicans like Newt Gingrich attacking Islam. THEY are the ones that have made this nutcase "pastor" a news story. THEY are the ones with blood on their hands.

Posted by: cllr | September 10, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"AP policy is not to provide coverage of events that are gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend."

So the AP will no longer cover statements from people like Sara Palin, Glen Beck, John Boehner, or Jim DeMint?

Posted by: jp1954 | September 10, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

You gots to let Republicans be Republicans...

This clown is not a Christian - he's an Arsonist.

Posted by: alfa73 | September 10, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse


GAINESVILLE — Long before his church's planned Koran burning drew fire from national leaders, the Rev. Terry Jones was known locally as an intolerant radical and fringe leader at odds with this college town's progressive reputation.
Jones, senior pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in northwest Gainesville, has led the 50-member congregation since 2001. But much of the infamy surrounding Jones' Islamophobic message seems to have ignited within the last year, when members planted a wooden sign stenciled with red paint on church grounds that read, "Islam is of the devil."
Though protesters picketed, spray-painted and destroyed the sign, the message became Jones' controversial calling card. The slogan adorned Jones' $12.99 book and the church's $15.99 T-shirts and $14.99 coffee mugs. "Have some truth with your coffee," a church advertisement read.
The message earned even more headlines when church members sent their children to public schools wearing the shirts, the Gainesville Sun reported. School officials asked the children to change their shirts or leave.
In March, the church posted another sign that read, "No homo mayor," aimed at openly gay mayoral candidate Craig Lowe. The attack earned sharp rebukes from civil rights' organizations and led to a government investigation into the tax-exempt church's political slant. Lowe, who was elected, later issued a statement calling the church an "embarrassment to our community."
Born in Missouri, Jones, 58, reportedly was employed in the hospitality industry before turning to missionary work about 30 years ago. In 1981, the founder of the Dove World Outreach Center sent Jones and his wife, Sylvia, to set up a church in Cologne, Germany. Jones was expelled by members angered at his "climate of fear and control," according to European media reports.
Critics of Jones, including his adult daughter, Emma Jones, told the Sun that Jones enticed former German parishioners and their children to move overseas to the Gainesville church, then forced them to work long hours for no pay for his family's used furniture business.
The business, listed on eBay as "TS and Co.," operated on church property, took money from tithes and used the church's tax exemption to skimp on the corporate tax bill, the Sun reported. Alachua County officials determined last month that the exemptions did not extend to the business and said the church would be billed $3,200 in corporate taxes.
The center, which sits on 20 acres five miles north of the University of Florida campus, includes two buildings, a baptismal area, six private offices and 1,500 square feet of "luxury quarters," according to a realty listing. It is listed for sale for $2.9 million.

Copyright 2010 St. Petersburg Times

Posted by: postnews1 | September 10, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

clir wrote: "Absent from your remarks is any mention of mainstream Republicans like Newt Gingrich attacking Islam.... THEY are the ones with blood on their hands"

Blood on their hands??? Munich 1972 12 dead - Lockerbie 1988 270 dead - Mumbai 1973 257 dead - African embassies 1998 253 dead - 9/11 2976 dead - Bali 2002 202 dead - Madrid 2004 191 dead - London 2005 52 dead - Mumbai 2006 209 dead - Karachi 2007 136 dead - Fort Hood 2009 13 dead.

If words, cartoons or any slight, real or imagined, can provoke Muslims into violence and killing, then responsibility rests with those Muslims - not anyone else. Islam claims to be a "religion of peace" - PROVE IT!

Posted by: pilsener | September 10, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Pilsner says:

"Blood on their hands??? Munich 1972 12 dead - Lockerbie 1988 270 dead - Mumbai 1973 257 dead - African embassies 1998 253 dead - 9/11 2976 dead - Bali 2002 202 dead - Madrid 2004 191 dead - London 2005 52 dead - Mumbai 2006 209 dead - Karachi 2007 136 dead - Fort Hood 2009 13 dead."

Are you guys ever going to learn history or just slant it to fit your agenda.

Munich was the Palestinians not Islam, Lockerbie was the Libyans not Islam. Any more false information you would care to supply to the rest of the educated?

Posted by: rharring | September 10, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I could give a rip if anyone wants to burn the Koran, Bible, or a bra. The real loons are those that react with violence to such things. And, presumably, I don't need to point out there are a lot of dead people because a significant number of those peaceful Muslims aren't terribly fond of non-Muslims, whether they burn the Koran or not. But I guess that's not a big story.

Posted by: go_figure77221 | September 10, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that some feel strongly that Pastor Jones should cease his activities because Muslims will be offended while at the same time arguing passionately that Muslims have a right to build their mosque at ground zero and those who are offended by it should just take it.

Posted by: luminouscarl | September 10, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

"the question had to be asked" ..

The real question that has to be asked is what will happen to the West if it continues to cower and grovel to Islam.

America and some other countries panic because a small town preacher threatens to burn some Korans?!

The President begs him not to do it?!

Several months ago Swedish police watched while Muslims attached their vehicles and broke off their antennas; French cafe owners cower inside their cafes when passing Muslims kick over their tables and chairs and the police hide; the UK is adding squat toilets to the regular ones in public toilets so that Muslims will feel better catered for etc etc - the list goes on and on.

Holland expects Sharia and the UK already has some Sharia courts.

The list goes on and on but what is clear is that Islam wants a world Caliphate.

Why is it clear?

Because leading Muslims openly say so and it is the only good thing that I have to say about them.

Will Islam achieve its stated goal?

Definitely, if the West continues to cower and appease.

Posted by: redmike | September 11, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

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