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The Debate: Talking Pedophilia

"Jack McClellan blogs openly about where best to meet girls under the age of 12. The local authorities are watching him, warily. Should just talking about such matters be enough to get him locked up?" That's the lead-in to an article this week on Newsweek.com entitled: A Law-Abiding Pedophile?

McClellan admits to getting kicks from being around girls as young as 3. And he has published an on-again, off-again Web page that charts his trips to parks, fairs and bowling alleys. His writings are protected by the First Amendment and he hasn't acted on his desires. And so, he's free to write.

Newsweek's site goes on to ask readers whether McClellan should be jailed for blogging about pedophilia. Seventy percent of the 81,000 folks who answered the survey question answered yes.

While I'm all for the First Amendment (it's hard not to be when you're a journalist by profession), this just gives me the creeps. Should he be jailed for letting parents into the mind of one of their worst fears? According to the Constitution, no. But what about if other pedophiles read his work and act on his information?

What do you think is the right course of action?

Toy Recall Follow-Up: Recalls of Toys Pressure Agency | At Toy Stores, Recall Casts Doubt on Troubled Friends

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 3, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
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Comments


FIRST! Since anyone who has ever read any of my posts about this, knows how I feel, I will just say- HELL YES. That's it from me.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 3, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

FIRST! Since anyone who knows me and has read my posts on this, knows how I feel, I will just say-HELL YES and leave it at that.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 3, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

That darned pesky Constitution...

Posted by: flag burnin' tax payer | August 3, 2007 8:08 AM | Report abuse

This is one of those issues where the mom-side of my brain says one thing and my professional brain, lawyer, says another. Mom-side says arrest him. Lawyer-side says it is First Amendment protected. It's disgusting and sad and hopefully will not lead to other pedophiles following his instructions.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | August 3, 2007 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Can't the authorities do something like charge him for conspiracy?

Yes, I know conspiracy involves at least two people. What if this SOB can be caught talking about illegal acts with another? If ever there was a case needing a sting operation or Dateline, this is it!

Posted by: nonamehere | August 3, 2007 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Is this disgusting? Yes. But I don't really think it's putting any more children at risk. Anyone who goes to his site (seriously, rather than out of media-buzz curiousity) is probably already a pedophile or well down the road to it.

Sadly, I think pedophilia, like many other perversions, is something that can't be helped - people are born with it or the propensity to it, so to speak. I don't think rational adults would come across his blog, and think to themselves: "WOW! Molesting children sounds like great fun. I think I'll try it." I think his site is preaching to choir, nothing more, and that doesn't make this country any more or less safe for your kids.

One thing everyone should keep in mind is that the vast majority, something like 90 percent, of molestation and sexual abuse is committed by parties known to the victim. The same with kidnapping - that's why stranger cases get so much media attention, because they're rare and they scare the crap out of parents. If something is going to happen to your kid, the odds of it being some freak in the park are practically zero. Statistically speaking, it's going to be a parent, sibling, friend, relative, or caregiver. The best thing you can do for your kids is to educate them so they know inappropriate touching is wrong and who to tell, and make sure you truly trust everyone around your child.

Posted by: Not Too Bothered | August 3, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Why not use his writing as educational material -- forewarning -- about where these pervs hang out, what they're looking for, how they make contact with children. Remember "The Silence of the Lambs" when Clarisse used Hannibal Lechter to find the weirdo Buffalo Bill? If these people hang out at arcades and parks, warn your kids. If they're looking for young tweens dressed like the Spice Girls, don't let your kids out of the house dressed like that.

Sure, it's disgusting (I guess, I've not read his blogs) but it gives you a heads up on how to keep your kids safe. I'm sure he's no more nuts than some of the bloggers on the Washington Post. I'd be willing to bet some Post bloggers are locked up in asylums somewhere.

Posted by: Steamed | August 3, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Should he be jailed? Abso-frickin'-lutely NOT.

The 1st amendment several of the most important rights that citizens of a FREE country need to have, including and especially, freedom of speech.

As a parent, I want my children grow up in a country where people can speak without fear of being locked in a cage if they say something that is unpopular.

Posted by: Bob | August 3, 2007 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the majority of the commenters here. Yes, the guy is creepy and disgusting, but the First Amendment protects creeoy and disgusting speech, too. As long as he isn't breaking the law, he shouldn't be arrested.

Which is not to say that his blog should be able to fly under the rader with no attention paid. There's nothing wrong with monitoring it to make sure he doesn't cross the line.

Posted by: newsahm | August 3, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

As with the others - he hasn't taken action, so he shouldn't be arrested. We all have illegal thoughts now and then.

However, it doesn't make it any less scary or downright icky though. But at least everyone knows *this* guy is basically a pedophile now - who needs the cops when you're going to have a bunch parents watching out for this guy like a hawk?

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | August 3, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

I simply cannot BELIEVE this guy is protected by any laws. He gets to put his disgusting, immoral thoughts out there for the world to see, he gets off on seeing little children -- maybe your kids -- in public. It makes me sick to my stomach. I will not be surprised or sad to hear that some vigilante parent has taken matters into his or her own hands.

I am a liberal in many ways, but I am uber Conservative when it comes to anyone who harms children in any way. I think a pedophile should get ONE chance to reform and if they offend again, should be put to death. Sorry, but that's what I think.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Back when I was in grad school in a small oatsy-crunch town, there was a psychotic homeless guy who used to push a shopping cart around town while muttering dangerous, violent things. At one point, I passed him on the street and noticed that his shopping cart contained a large number of shiny, sharp butcher knives. (I swear I am not making this up!)

I actually called the police and was told that he hadn't actually threatened a specific person nor had he threatened to hurt himself -- so apparently it's within your rights to wheel a shopping cart full of knives through town while muttering curses and so forth. I remember thinking at the time that by the time they actually CAUGHT him hurting someone, it would, of course, be too late.

I found myself thinking about that story as I followed the other story on the news this week.

Posted by: justlurking | August 3, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

" I will not be surprised or sad to hear that some vigilante parent has taken matters into his or her own hands."
--And what the hell can that parent do? He has done absolutely NOTHING wrong or illegal. So he likes little kiddies. So what? As long as he doesn't act on it, he should be free to see the light of day.

(And yes, this is coming from a [young] mother of an almost 4 year old daughter.)

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 3, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I disagree that he's done nothing wrong. He's providing a resource that other pedophiles can get to in order to find out where the kids are, he's admitted he's a pedophile, etc. How can you say that was he's doing is right? Obviously, it's not against the law, but maybe the law is bass-ackwards in this case.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 09:42 AM


A woman after my own heart, well said!

Posted by: pATRICK | August 3, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Not everyone can be reformed, and pedophiles have an extremely high rate of recidivism -- in fact, I'm pretty sure it's among the highest of all the categories of criminals. Why we have to waste resources and money to try to treat people who are not treatable is beyond me. What is more important? That someone who has an incurable illness that makes them prey on children be allowed more time on this planet to harm/kill more children, or that we protect the kids? For those of you who would have us try, try and try again with pedophiles, ask yourself where all the reformed pedophiles are? Why aren't they speaking out and talking about how they deserve a fair shot? Because there really aren't ANY.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

When I read things like this I flash back to the scene in "American President" where Michael Douglas says "Democracy isn't easy..." Living here isn't easy, you have to accept the ugly side of our rights in order to enjoy the priveledges they provide for everyone else.

I would rather live in a world where perverts such as these are protected (yet publicly rebuked) than in a world where the mere expression of evil is punishable by death.

Posted by: Circle Pines | August 3, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

WORKINGMOMX, whenever i had the same arguments on OB, i was always given pushback as an overprotective nut. I could care less, these people are like rabid dogs, they could bite at any time and can NEVER be trusted.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 3, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Circle Pines, I'm not for punishing mere expressions of evil. I'm for punishing acts. And for the record, I think the death penalty should be reserved for those who prey on children.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX, why should the death penalty be reserved for people who've hurt children? Are children inherently more valuable than adults? As soon as you hit 18 you're not as important? That logic has never made sense to me....

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

I know, anon, and I don't know if it makes sense to anyone who knows me that I feel so strongly about this. I have toyed with the idea that castration and a lifetime of seclusion punctuated by frequent periods of extremely heavy and preferably very dangerous labor might suffice, but I just don't know. There is no reforming this particular kind of criminal. Why should we incarcerate them for life at such massive expense?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

pATRICK

"A woman after my own heart, well said!"

You've broken word twice today:

"I will just say- HELL YES. That's it from me"

"I will just say-HELL YES and leave it at that."

Posted by: anonforthis | August 3, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: anonforthis | August 3, 2007 10:37 AM

Guilty, but I am just sticking my toes in the water. Lighten up, it's friday. WORKINGMOMX is doing the heavy lifting, I am just cheering her on.

Posted by: pATRICK | August 3, 2007 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Free speech means free speech. We can't say we protect free speech until we don't like what the speaker has to say. I think this person's writing gives cause to watch him carefully in case he breaks the law; however, if he hasn't broken the law yet, he should not be punished.

Also, I think the poster who said he isn't giving new ideas to people who aren't pedophiles has a good point.

Posted by: Raia | August 3, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

WMx, I think you'd run into that danged Constitution again, protecting us against cruel and unusal punishments like the ones you describe.

Posted by: fbtp | August 3, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

But this guy hasn't actually comitted an "act" - just as the person who posted the recipe for a bomb didn't do anything illegal. Is he sick? You bet! If he lived next to me would I be on the phone organizing a neighborhood watch? Absolutely!

While the long (albiet restricted) arm of the law can't do anything about him right now, he has made such a spectacle of himself that his community will most likely find another way to shut him down before he does any harm.

Posted by: Circle Pines | August 3, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

if the constitution doesn't protect children against the cruel and unusual punishments of pedophiles, why should pedophiles be protected?

Posted by: wtf | August 3, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

No matter how disguting it is, we have rights, including the right to say disgusting things (or put them on the internet.)

As a few previous posters have said, the guy isn't going to create pedophiles...and I kind of doubt the pedophiles out there haven't figured out where kids tend to be (parks, arcades, etc.)

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

There are limits to every amendment, including the First Amendment. You cannot yell fire in a crowded theater. You cannot defamate someone. You cannot hurl racial/ethnic/religous slurs without it being part of a hate crime. The Supreme Court has even upheld sedition-speech as something that can be prevented. Incitement to a crime is another exception - and I'm sure that many people feel that the blog falls in this category.

Posted by: StudentMom | August 3, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, child molesters and pedophiles don't last very long when they are sentenced to jail. Even if they don't get a death sentence from judge and jury, they'll be eliminated very quickly by the other inmates. What's to stop them?

Posted by: Steamed | August 3, 2007 11:19 AM | Report abuse

There is the possibility that he is just a frustrated screenwriter or twisted performance artist.

Setting that aside, I understand the ick factor, but if he is indeed being honest that he has pedophile desires, then the creepy blog strikes me as unquestionably a good thing. It provides parents with insight into his thinking and information as to his whereabouts. It's not like if he stops writing the blog he's going to stop being a pedophile. Instead, he would just be another pedophile operating in secret. And to the extent that the blog can function as an outlet for him, it may help him avoid committing real crimes.

I don't think there should be a major concern about the blog inspiring other pedophiles. From everything I've read, pedophilia is a sickness/evil that comes from deep inside. One either already is or is not a pedophile; it's not something one chooses to explore.

Posted by: Tom T. | August 3, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Let the guy have his forum. I want to know what he thinks and where he goes. I can use that information to prepare and protect my kids.

Posted by: Sue | August 3, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I think it is important to note that this guy has also taken pictures of children in these parks and posted them on the net. How would you feel if someone took a picture of your daughter and posted it on a pedophilia web site? Should that be protected too? Currently I belive it is not illegal for a man to take pictures up a woman's skirt either. Times have changed and I think some of the laws should change as well.

Posted by: Moxiemom | August 3, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Here is another thing: the internet has given all these freaks a forum for realizing that there are others out there like them and that on some level there are people who approve of what they do. Where in the past, pedophiles would not be able to find others who share their disgusting proclivities, now they can, and they can talk about it, and get off on it, and encourage each other, and really create an environment in which people who might have gone all their lives without actually acting on their impulses now will actually go out to find a child to molest. Why should we stand by and allow it to happen? Someone else pointed out that the right to free speech has been restricted in some ways. This needs to be one of them.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I think it depends on what, exactly, the blog includes- I agree with Studentmom who pointed out that even the First Amendment has limits. Is he actually aiding people in committing crimes? If so, to me, that crosses the line. Or is he speaking in general, if disgusting, terms?

Also- for the poster who claims that 90% of child molesters are people the family knows, I feel compelled to point out that included as "known" in these statistics are people like "Joe Something-or-other who goes to our church" or a neighbor two blocks away who you hardly ever interract with and would never normally think of as a threat. To me, this is an important distinction in terms of how to approach protecting your kids. Parents simply are not going to be able to screen out every predator from our midsts by being vigilant. The tougher thing, for me, is accepting that my daughter is likely to run into these predators when I'm not around and teaching her to trust her instincts and recognize unsafe situations.

Posted by: Rock Creek | August 3, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

If kiddie porn is illegal, I don't understand why it is legal to discuss pedophilic fantasies and/or where to find children to prey on. Not all forms of speech are protected- when your speech harms others (see above example), it is quite illegal. What I *really* don't understand is why he is allowed to post photos of children taken without parental permission.

Personally, I would like to see all pedophiles lined up against a wall and shot. In fact, I would be happy to help out. And I don't even kill spiders.

Posted by: Reston, VA | August 3, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

"if the constitution doesn't protect children against the cruel and unusual punishments of pedophiles, why should pedophiles be protected?"

The rights enumerated in the constitution are meant to protect the people against governmental abuses, not by other citizens. If there were a federal bureau of pedophilia, your argument would have merit. Otherwise, you're comparing apples and oranges.

As far as this guy posting photos of children online, we have invasion of privacy laws to deal with it.

Posted by: NewSAHM | August 3, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I side with the constitution on this one, and I was an abused kid myself.

But besides the free speech issues, I think having him out in the open and under surveillance is a good thing. He is probably a lot less likely to act out, and to be caught if he does. It is the underground pedophiles I would worry about!

Posted by: CJB | August 3, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Free speech is exactly that. We have to protect all of it, regardless of how vile it is. Once you ban something that's easy to rally against, it becomes easier and easier restrict more and more expressions. Ban one thing, and soon enough they'll ban something that you do care about. The best way to combat speech you find reprehensible (and this blog applies) is through opposing/better speech.

Re: Reston's comment, I'm no lawyer, and I haven't looked at the blog in question, but I think difference is that in kiddie porn there's an actual victim.

Posted by: Alexandria, VA | August 3, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Pedophillia is, of course, abhorrent.

I would just like to say, however, there is a bright side to his blogging for law enforcement (if they choose to use it). It clearly demonstrates the potential to be used as an intelligence tool, and law enforcement officers could gain valuable information that could be used to prevent child predators. Mr. McClellen may not realize, but he might just be helping put other pedophiles behind bars.

Posted by: David S | August 3, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"As far as this guy posting photos of children online, we have invasion of privacy laws to deal with it. "

There is no law against taking someone's picture in public and posting it online. Invasion of privacy laws do not cover that. Anyone can take a picture of you or your children at the pool and post it wherever they like. Scary stuff.

Posted by: Moxiemom | August 3, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I challenged a couple of student photographers at a playground once. They were working on some sort of class assignment, but the cameras were pointed at my autistic at-the-time-10-y-o. I don't think it had occurred to them that some parents might not want their children photographed.

Posted by: sue | August 3, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Several years ago, I worked at a woman's magazine and took a call from someone who took great offense at all the ads of babies in diapers, etc.

She was with an anti-pedophelia group, and made the point that a pedophile can get off on even seeing diapered (but not shirted) babies in print and TV ads. So, do we ban all of those as well? What about parents who let their kids be in those ads? Are they somehow contributing to pedophilia, and should they be punished for it?

It's a slippery slope. Frankly, I'd prefer (as one poster said) to know about this guy and his methodologies. Banning his writing will only drive him underground. The thought of him lurking like that is much scarier to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Steamed in that we really can use this as a great resource to educate ourselves and our kids on what to look for, what to avoid, and what's REALLY going on with predators.

While it's understandable to want to take action to prevent wrongdoing- there's nothing we can or should do about people describing their personal fantasies.

What's next? We can't talk about having threesomes? We can't talk about using dildos? We can't talk about lingerie? We can't talk about leather?

What about movies or books? Will those authors/actors/directors be considered criminals for dealing with this topic directly?

Words and pictures are powerful things, no doubt about it. But we must stay true to the underlying principle that we respect others rights to be able to speak their own voice- no matter how much we hate it and want them to stop.

Because there's always someone who will hate what YOU say and want to try and make YOU stop.

Posted by: Liz D | August 3, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

"What's next? We can't talk about having threesomes? We can't talk about using dildos? We can't talk about lingerie? We can't talk about leather? "

LizD- with all due respect, treating these (legal) things as equivalent to pedophilia is very offensive. None of those things you mention hurt other people. Pedophilia does.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 3, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

"What's next? We can't talk about having threesomes? We can't talk about using dildos? We can't talk about lingerie? We can't talk about leather? "

LizD- with all due respect, treating these (legal) things as equivalent to pedophilia is very offensive. None of those things you mention hurt other people. Pedophilia does.

Posted by: | August 3, 2007 05:28 PM

Sorry, but at least one of these things, dildos, is illegal in some states. The slippery slope argument is valid.

Oh, and I know people who've had issues/problems/hurt from two of the legal items mentioned. Being forced or coerced into a 3-way didn't help one couple's relationship. And finding out that her fiance couldn't perform in the bedroom unless he was wearing a woman's slip was a difficult and hurtful situation for another friend.

(Yeah, I've had some very personal conversations over the years! It goes with being clergy.)

Just so that no one comes up with any ugly accusations about condoning child molesting, I want to be clear that *talking*, or blogging, about it isn't a crime. Acting on the desire is.

Posted by: Sue | August 3, 2007 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

In theory, I think that inhibiting speech will only drive these people underground. At least this way if one of these children pictured on his site disappears, the police can go after him first. Hhowever, if this were my child, I certainly would not want them pictured on his site, and I think there is an argument to be made that having them pictured on a pedophile's site makes them a target for other pedophiles. As such, I think showing these children on this site amounts to a threat, or perhaps to child endangerment. I wish he could be prosecuted for endangering these children, but I am sure he can't be, under the law. It is really too bad.

Posted by: m | August 6, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

There is a very strong argument that this speech is not protected by the First Amendment. There are at least two recognized exceptions it may fall under. One, it may constitute incitement to commit a crime. Two, it may constitute a clear and present danger to public safety. In either instance, the state is within the Constitution to punish the conduct. Both examples are consistent with the "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater" example with which we are all familiar, and which constitutes the bedrock exception to the First Amendment that has been around forever.

I am a lawyer (and a lefty ACLU donor at that), but there is nothing in the Constitution that compels absurd results. Speech that is designed to do harm is generally not protected, and is actually pretty easily distinguished from speech that is merely unpopular.

Posted by: New dad | August 6, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Some parent will just end up killing the freak and that will be the end of that.

Posted by: Irishgirl74 | August 6, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

it is interesting that people worry rightfully about harmful free speech that might induce folks to pedophilia - yet my children must dance untold bezillion more dangers on the net from consenting adults blasting away selfmade porn and chat and joyfully flashing to be watched by anonymous potential partners, gay or straight, old or young, same species or not, and the old weapon of self-defense - the community standard of decency - is now tossed to the wind of international lowest common denominator (one reason conservative Muslim cultures must love us). Some cultural progress! And why should I as a parent have to PAY to protect my children with a crappy workaroundable filter rather than not have the right to go and SUE internet providers who mirror accessible adult-rated junk not behind a credit-card only accessible firewalled site? Even liberal Holland has their red light district marked on the ground with, uh, red lights. Here, the net showcases the best and with glaring equanimity the worst of ourselves with little warning (Google, why not default filter your images and require a credit card for proof of age to see unfiltered searches, since my 12 yr old knows how to toggle your filter?). My tv has a v chip, the net doesn't; yet they have to use it for schools. We have built tomorrow's learning tools on an infrastructure of pornography, and are shocked that some become predatory? It's a miracle more don't.

Posted by: thunderdad | August 6, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

RE:Here is another thing: the internet has given all these freaks a forum for realizing that there are others out there like them and that on some level there are people who approve of what they do. Where in the past, pedophiles would not be able to find others who share their disgusting proclivities, now they can, and they can talk about it, and get off on it, and encourage each other, and really create an environment in which people who might have gone all their lives without actually acting on their impulses now will actually go out to find a child to molest. Why should we stand by and allow it to happen? Someone else pointed out that the right to free speech has been restricted in some ways. This needs to be one of them.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 3, 2007 12:01 PM


This reminds me of the episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where Gordon Jump starts getting programming advice from guest, Jerry Falwell. And, he doesn't see anything wrong with the restrictions initially. Then the boss asks Falwell what about this song: "imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try..." Falwell says of course it can not be played and finally the boss sees the errors of his ways...
All that to say that it's a slippery slope indeed that we are on when we start restricting speech because we disagree with it.

Posted by: momof3boys | August 6, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

momof3boys,

This person's conduct could be prohibited without going any further down the "slippery slope" than we have already been for decades.

We live with exceptions to the first amendment every day, and this website fits within them. It's no different from prohibiting dissemination of classified material, or criminalizing incitement to riot.

You don't have to defend this maniac in order to defend the bill of rights. The first amendment doesn't protect him, any more than it protects false advertisers or makers of snuff films.

Posted by: New dad | August 6, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The publisher of the book Hitman were held legally liable for the deaths of a family at the hands of a killer who used the book as a guide (it was essentially a how-to manual). If a pedophile reads that website and uses the info to gain access to children, perhaps a similar case can be made.

Posted by: terra | August 7, 2007 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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