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D.C. Pols Snipe at Nats

The rabble-rousers and cynics who populate the D.C. Council have never quite gotten their minds around the deal they made to bring Major League Baseball back to Washington. Now the city's politicians have gotten themselves in a snit over the fact that the Washington Nationals are staging some promotional events--gasp!--outside the city's boundaries, in the--avert your eyes!--suburbs.

The Nats, who struggled last season to attract fans from the Maryland suburbs--the Virginia and D.C. contingents were quite strong in attendance at RFK, thank you--are trying to address that gap in the emerging fan base by holding a FanFest in Bethesda and a gala social event at the new National Harbor development in Prince George's County. These horrific acts have caused members of the D.C. Council to cry foul. Even the council's responsible and thoughtful members are busy issuing idle threats and rending their garments: "The Nationals have an obligation to hold their gala here," Ward 2 member Jack Evans said, according to Nikita Stewart's story in today's Post. Evans was perhaps the most fervent supporter of the baseball deal.

Staging the gala across the Anacostia River in Maryland is "like taking a stick and poking your eye," said Jim Graham, the Ward 1 council member.

But of course the most appalling words came from Marion Barry Himself: "They haven't even gotten into the stadium yet and they are taking their events elsewhere. We would hope that the Lerners would rethink this decision. After all, this is not the Maryland Nationals. They are the Washington Nationals, and they should be holding any event concerning Washington in Washington."

This from the man who as mayor couldn't manage to cut a deal with the Washington Redskins to keep the football team in the District.

Where, exactly, do the D.C. politicians think the fans who will fill the new Nationals Park are going to come from? More than 80 percent of the region's population lives in the suburbs. More than 90 percent of the jobs are in the suburbs. The entire economic structure of the baseball deal, the single reason it made any sense for the city to put up $611 million to build a stadium, depends on luring suburbanites into the District to spend time and money, leaving behind the tax dollars that would repay D.C. taxpayers several times over for their investment in a ballpark. That's the strategy the Council bought into, yet when the team now tries to assure that that payoff occurs, the city officials play wounded doggie.

The more suburban the crowd at the new stadium, the better the deal for the District. The D.C. Council should be shoving Nats executives over the border to get them rustling up business in Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties.

There's no dissing of the District going on here: To the contrary, the gala event in Maryland is a charity fundraiser the receipts from which will go to support D.C. children, in part through the Nationals' Youth Baseball Academy, which was set up at the behest of the D.C. Council to teach the game to city schoolchildren. The Nats have regularly staged all manner of events at D.C. schools and at other sites around the city. But to be the regional attraction that they must be to make the city its money back--and to make big bucks for themselves--the franchise has to be aggressive about promoting itself everywhere from Baltimore to Richmond.

Small-minded, provincial hysterics from D.C. politicians are anything but helpful.

By Marc Fisher |  November 7, 2007; 8:49 AM ET
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Comments

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The council is grandstanding, but they have a point. It would be a good-faith move by the Nats (who haven't made enough) to have events like the Dream Gala in the District in future years. Ownership should acknowledge that it willingly bought into a highly political and sometimes petty relationship with the District. If they don't like the politics, they can buy the ballpark or sell the team to any number of other groups who were interested.

Although I live in Alexandria, I buy all my Nats merchandise in the District because I appreciate the city building ballpark.

Posted by: WFY | November 7, 2007 9:26 AM

Yes the pols should be disapointed in the Nats but this is much ado about nothing. With so many issues facing DC, schools, crime, etc., this issue should be well down the list of priorities.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 7, 2007 9:28 AM

The Orioles don't have their Fan Fest in Annapolis nor do they have their big gala events in Reisterstown. These events belong in DC. The Fan Fest should be the grand opening celebration for the new stadium, not in Bethesda. The O's had their Fest at the Yard this year and it worked great. Next year they're probably back at the Convention Center, but they're still in Baltimore.

Bethesda is perfectly nice and the team should definately have promotional events in the burbs, but not these two events. There are at least 4 if not 5 or 6 hotels in DC that coudl host the big gala event. They can't all be booked up.

Posted by: EricS | November 7, 2007 10:39 AM

According to *the article*, they

1) Tried to schedule the FanFest in DC but the late-Jan. dates they wanted weren't available

and

2) Picked the PG county hotel for the Gala b/c it was offered for FREE. And since all the money raised after costs goes to Nationals charities which work in the District, that means *more money for programs in the District*.

So it seems to me like the Nats are acting quite appropriately. And I *still* think we shouldn't have bought them a stadium.

Posted by: mrm0to | November 7, 2007 11:27 AM

"Small-minded, provincial hysterics from D.C. politicians are anything but helpful."

But, isn't that par for the course?

"Staging the gala across the Anacostia River in Maryland is "like taking a stick and poking your eye," said Jim Graham, the Ward 1 council member."

I will have to take your word for that sir. I haven't been stupid enough to actually try it.

EricS: Actually, they CAN all be booked up. That is the annual corporate DrunkFest season.

Are Bethesda and PG County too far to drive for the DC pol.'s to party? That would mean it is also too far for us to drive to the games.

If we are all equals, that is.

Posted by: VoiceofReason | November 7, 2007 11:43 AM

Anytime Marion Barry is against something, your probably doing something right. The more the city council opens its mouth, the more I am convinced that a true home rule would be a disaster for the city residents.

Posted by: Jon | November 7, 2007 12:16 PM

Mark, you don't have one single point here. Unless MD residents pony up tax dollars to fund the stadium, the events belong in the city.

That's all this is about and any attempts to twist the arguments into some fantasy (such as it being too far to drive to a game) is like complaining about the lack of avocado farms in the area. It makes the writer look silly.

Posted by: DCer | November 7, 2007 12:26 PM

With so many issues facing DC, schools, crime, etc., this issue should be well down the list of priorities.
-------

you are correct, it is and the council is treating it low down on a list of priorities- you're confusing Marc Fisher's article for council priorities which is comical when you think about your lack of logic.

Posted by: DCer | November 7, 2007 12:28 PM

"The more the city council opens its mouth, the more I am convinced that a true home rule would be a disaster for the city residents"

The more that people post crap like this, I am convinced we need home rule to shut them up.

Signed,
Lifelong DC resident

Posted by: the cheat | November 7, 2007 12:28 PM

Mark, you don't have one single point here. Unless MD residents pony up tax dollars to fund the stadium, the events belong in the city.

That's all this is about and any attempts to twist the arguments into some fantasy (such as it being too far to drive to a game) is like complaining about the lack of avocado farms in the area. It makes the writer look silly.

Posted by: DCer | November 7, 2007 12:26 PM

------------------

Um, that's exactly what the Nationals are trying to do - get Maryland residents to pony up some of the tax dollars to fund the stadium. Lest you forget, much of the stadium financing will come from taxes assessed on sales of tickets, concessions, and other ballpark expenses.

The Nationals, by holding events in Suburban Maryland (long considered part of the DC Metro area), the Nationals are trying to attract fans from Maryland to come into DC and spend their money - helping to fund, among lots of other things (as fans will likely also spend money in areas proximate to the stadium), the stadium financing.

I live in DC, I am a Nats fan, and I like to go to games. I do not feel slighted in the least that the Nationals are holding some of their events outside the 10 x 10 square miles of the District. The Council is being obtuse.

Posted by: DE | November 7, 2007 12:40 PM

I DO pay taxes in DC everytime I go to school, work, lunch, dinner, out for drinks, baseball, hockey, soccer, a concert, play, musical, museum, get a hotel for family, or do anything else in Washington. If you want me to pay taxes in the District, then MAKE ME WANT TO COME TO THE DISTRICT!

Posted by: MD | November 7, 2007 12:43 PM

Off the top of my head there's the Grand Hayat, the Wardman, the Omni, the Mandarin, the Sheraton Metro Center and the Hinckley Hilton that should all eb able to handle an event like the Gala, plus the convention center if it's open. heck, they could event rent one of the Smithsonian museums. They are open for that kind of thing in the evening, as is the Bulding Museum. One of them has to be avilable.

I'm all for building the fan base in the 'burbs, but these events belong in the city that the team is in, DC.

Posted by: EricS | November 7, 2007 12:54 PM

Fisher, you miss the point. The point of the gala is not to attract more fans, it's a black tie celebration. The same fans will go no matter where it is held--the point is to bring that money to dc instead of to a hotel in pgc. The lerners (and kasten, aka StanK) worry me b/c they do not seem to understand the value of appearances. Does any of it matter in the long run? No. So don't look like the ungrateful rich baseball bastards, look like the good guys.

The nats need the fans from the burbs and nobody is arguing that--the fanfests should be held throughout the region. But the big events like this, right before the grand opening of the brand new $611 million dollar stadium, need to be in dc. It just makes sense.

Posted by: wv nats fan | November 7, 2007 1:07 PM

Off the top of my head there's the Grand Hayat, the Wardman, the Omni, the Mandarin, the Sheraton Metro Center and the Hinckley Hilton that should all eb able to handle an event like the Gala, plus the convention center if it's open. heck, they could event rent one of the Smithsonian museums. They are open for that kind of thing in the evening, as is the Bulding Museum. One of them has to be avilable.

I'm all for building the fan base in the 'burbs, but these events belong in the city that the team is in, DC.

Posted by: EricS | November 7, 2007 12:54 PM

_____________________________________

EricS - The point in the article today was that the hotel in MD that they are holding the Gala in was FREE. If the Building Museum or one of your other suggestions offers their space to the Nats for free, then that would be another option. But if they are holding a fundraiser to benefit DC youth, doesn't it make sense to save money on the venue if possible?

Give the Nats a break; they've held many events in the district. I would hate to see the council's reaction if they dared to hold an event in VA.

Posted by: VA Nats fan | November 7, 2007 1:23 PM

Nats made a great business decision, and are going to reap an extra 250K for the kids of DC by using the free venue in PGC. It appears they made a good faith effort to sked the event in DC in Jan, but there wasn't a venue available. Hopefully next year EricS can sked it for them since he's wired into the DC hospitality industry.

This will blow over. Agree with the post on Marion Barry, you typically want to be on the other side of whatever his opinion is!

Posted by: G-town | November 7, 2007 1:25 PM

The more that people post crap like this, I am convinced we need home rule to shut them up.

Signed,
Lifelong DC resident
----------------------------
Sorry my statement is dead on. Stop electing crack addicts to your city council, who run on slogans like the B**** set me up, and maybe your government won't be the laughing stock of the country. There is a reason that 80-90% of the area doesn't live in DC. Who would want to put up with a city council that does so many stupid things.

Back to the topic. I know of no other place in the country who has such a short sighted inferiority complex. DC government can rarely see more than 2 minutes in future. The problem isn't with the Nats, its with the council and some of DC over reactive residents.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 7, 2007 1:26 PM

I think that Kasten and the Lerners can make this go away by announcing the events they intend to have in DC (with some of their more recognizable players), and handing over an oversized check to the city from the gala which includes the 250K they saved. Nothing will win over Jim Graham and Marion Barry, so don't even try.

In the meantime, they can also help by signing Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones to be the face of the team. Ken Rosenthal was just on XM with Charlie Steiner, and they not only talked about the possibility of one of them going to the Nats, but they described both moves as a good idea! They thought Hunter coming to DC would be especially good to endear the team to the city.

Concentrate on winning the hearts of the public- the DC Council and the Washington Post both clearly hold a grudge against the team.

Posted by: Three more months | November 7, 2007 1:36 PM

The Post as a whole, that is. I thank Marc and Barry Svrluga for being about the only people at the paper who can be counted on to say anything good about the team. Even Tom Boswell can't decide whether he is a Nats writer or an O's writer.

Posted by: Three more months | November 7, 2007 1:38 PM

Overpriced tickets, mismanaged parking situation, failing to pay for a competitive team, . . . these things worry me a lot more than disrespecting the District.

Posted by: Ike | November 7, 2007 1:39 PM

Three, Bos is a general sports writer. He's not beholden to any sport at all, let alone a particular team.

VA, come off it. The Nats aren't going to donate an extra 250,000 to their charity fund becasue Gaylord gave them free diggs for the night. It's just 250,000 they don't have to spend out of pocket for the event. And I do know some thing about the hospitality business. It doesn't cost that much to rent a ballroom or two for a few hours. That much buys you almost half a day at the Phone Booth.

They're the WASHINGTON Nationals. Major events like these belong in DC. At the very least the next announcemtn from the team should be for a DC FanFest, and maybe one out in Fairfax to.

Posted by: EricS | November 7, 2007 1:50 PM

Shouldn't the DC basher have written this instead?

"Stop electing alchoholics to your Presidency, who run on slogans like the Bring it On, and maybe your government won't be the laughing stock of the world."

Posted by: Anonymous | November 7, 2007 1:54 PM

My understanding is the Nats brass tried to book the new Convention Center hotel but was unsuccessful.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 7, 2007 2:02 PM

Actually that extra 250 will go to the city. Th way these events generally work is all the proceeds (ie profit) from the event goes to the cause. So if the costs are lower, the amount contributed is more.

Posted by: Jon | November 7, 2007 2:05 PM

If so Jon, that would be great, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Posted by: EricS | November 7, 2007 2:42 PM

I hear they're going to hold CrackFest in Ward 8.

Posted by: Stick | November 7, 2007 2:46 PM

Great article! Well written and speaks to the real problem here, narrow minded politians making rules and regulations with out thinking out the reality of what it might really have attached.
I think Jack Evans is the biggest looser here, since he was so head strong that we had to have this baseball club and this soon to be huge cost over run plagued baseball stadium. He should lose his re-election office easily now, and perhaps to go on to being buried under home plate so everytime a batter comes to bat he can stand over him! How's that for creative thinking?
Where's Marriott here with a contract to finally build the city's Convention Center Hotel? They took their time in getting that finalized and taking the city for millions in tax credits. I think part of the problem is the fact that with had to also have this huge new convention center and it was build with less than the needed amount of hotel rooms to really book the big conventions. The Nationals moved their party to the subburbs for a reason, no doubt there more more to go there too.

Posted by: Keith Jarrell | November 7, 2007 2:50 PM

How come they're not doing some events in NoVA? Don't they want our business too?

Posted by: VA Fan | November 7, 2007 3:05 PM

As a Nats fan in Virgnia, I'd prefer the FanFest be closer to me. I can't believe there's no DC venue available at the preferred time.

As to the free use of a new hotel at a gala for fat cats, who cares as long as the money saved goes to charity?

Posted by: Pedro | November 7, 2007 3:13 PM

DC residents, please for the love of Bob get a grip. It's only a couple of events held outside of the city limits. Have you all forgotten that the Skins play in PG County and FedEx Field was built with PG County Tax dollars. I wonder if in the future, Pretzel Boy decides to move the Skins back to DC, are you and the council going to pitch a fit if they continue holding training camp in Ashburn, Va. The fact is you need suburb money for the Nats to be successful just like the Skins, Wizards, United, Orioles and Ravens.

Posted by: DeJuan | November 7, 2007 3:38 PM

Heh Heh, got you Fisher. You rarely make an error. But if the Mayor for Life had been Mayor when the time to negotiate with the Squire for a new Stadium, the Skin would still be playing in DC. Uh, the Mayor at the time was one Sharon Pratt Kelley who was a Williams lookalike without his political skills which is to say no skills at all!! She so po'd the Squire that he got out of town. His honer for life has much to pay for, but Fedex is not one of them.

Posted by: A Hardwick | November 7, 2007 3:42 PM

Keith Jarrell

"this soon to be huge cost over run plagued baseball stadium"

And you got this "fact" from where?

Posted by: hillnat | November 7, 2007 3:45 PM

The Nats events should be held in the District point blank. The Nationals are saving a whole lot of money seeing as they don't have to pay for a stadium. So if it's about getting a free venue so you can give a 250k, than how about giving some of that stadium money you saved. One more thing Mr. Fisher get your facts straight, Marion Barry was not the reason for the Redskins moving to Maryland. It was Jack Kent Cooke and his dislike for doing business with a women, which at the time was Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon-Kelly who also took a hard line stance upon learning this revelation. Marion Barry has said in the past that there would be no way he would have let the Redskins leave the District.

Posted by: Troy G | November 7, 2007 3:51 PM

The gala (where ever it takes place) will not cause one extra fan to go to a Nationals game, not one. This event is for rich business men and regional bigwigs to network and claim a tax-write off. Marc is being disingenuous at best trying to play this off as a marketing opportunity, at the very least it is a symbolic slight to the city, they could have at least waited until year 2 to have it outside the city. Remember we did gift them over $640 million in a bid against no one and now they won't even have their big event in the city.
It doesn't matter what the Nat's do or how much money they extorted from the City for a single use stadium, Marc Fisher will always support them.

Posted by: 13th St Southeast | November 7, 2007 3:51 PM

Re md:
You do NOT pay any taxes to the city when you go to work in the district because we do not have a commutter tax like almost every other urban area in the country; and since most museums are free I don't see how the city benefits there either.
You use city services but pay nothing for them, if you need more reason to come into the city we residents would rather you stay in Ashburn and eat at Ruby Tuesday's

Posted by: D.C. | November 7, 2007 3:55 PM

I am a native Washingtonian who moved to PG County in 2000 after 38 years in DC. I went to the Senators games at RFK as a child and loved baseball. The Senators were called "The Washington Senators", just as the new team is called "The Washington Nationals". What team is named the Washington Regionals? I live in Maryland, my team is the Baltimore (MD) Orioles. Not regional, just Maryland. Kasten needs to stop blowing smoke up the DC residents' ass and admit that they've been screwed again, just as when the Redskins moved their stadium to PG. Thanks DC, we're lovin' it!!! It's amazing how DC continues to find space for developers to continue to build condos, but you couldn't find space to build your winning football team any space to build a new home within the city limits. That's just sad. We suburbanites thank you for all the benefits. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Gwen, Clinton MD | November 7, 2007 4:02 PM

While these parties don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, symbolic gentures do mean a lot in our society. This decision by the Nats is insensitive ans shows how tone deaf Kasten and the Lehners are. Politics 101 would tell you to hold the events in DC.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 7, 2007 4:03 PM

of course, Marc, one can go across the Anacostia and not be in Maryland, but (gasp!), still in DC. in fact, one must go a ways PAST the river to get to Maryland. I know what you meant by this phrase, but you said it in a rather inelegant way.

Posted by: IMGoph | November 7, 2007 4:06 PM

Actually we all pay for DC infrastructure. Its called our Federal taxes. DC saps tons of cash from the Federal government partially be cause it is to incompetent to manage anything on its own. Also there are a lot of business in DC that pay DC taxes, even if their people do not live in the City.

If you really want to push this taxes issues, lets cut off all the money that the rest of the country gives to DC. If DC wants to charge an idiotic tax to travel into the city, the Burbs can do the same right back.

The bottom line is DC is not self-sufficient. The City needs people to commute from suburbs (even if it hates them) to create revenue, while the same is not really true for the suburbs, because most of the people live outside of DC.

Back off DC, or your going to bite the hand that feeds you.

Posted by: Jon | November 7, 2007 4:25 PM

When asked to recommend venues for the event, Marion Barry did not recommend the Westin on M St...aka "The Vista Hotel"...

Posted by: SWDC | November 7, 2007 4:34 PM

Re Jon: You are ignorant and are just spewing the same tired old clueless statements.
The tax is not for driving into the city, the tax is for using city infrastructure and city services but paying nothing out of your paycheck for it, it actually doesn't change your taxes at all as your home state refunds what is paid to the district. It is actually a vary common thing around the country.
The whole "we pay for it through our federal taxes" thing is asinine. The federal payment is to offset the fact that the Feds own most of the taxable land in the city therefore making it nontaxable, it is also to offset the many state-like functions the city has to take care of, ie. Medicare payments, schools, etc. And don't forget D.C. residents pay billions in federal taxes but get no say in Congress.
As for the contention that D.C. "needs people to commute from the suburbs while the same is not true...." I would counter that without D.C. those people in the soul-killing suburbs wouldn't have jobs and therefore would be living elsewhere.

Posted by: D.C. | November 7, 2007 4:37 PM

"If so Jon, that would be great, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Posted by: EricS | November 7, 2007 02:42 PM"

Dude, Stan Kasten is quoted as saying just as much in the FREAKING ARTICLE. Read it.

This stuff is nonsense. It's about maximizing the return from each individual event and free space for a fundraiser is a no-brainer.

According to Kasten they tried to book fanfest in the district and couldn't find a suitable place. Again, it's in the article. Maybe they miscalculated how far in advance they'd have to book something but it's not an issue worth getting mad over unless/until it becomes a repeated and obvious snubbing.

Posted by: mrm0to | November 7, 2007 5:52 PM

This is not the same old tired argument. THe argument may be old, but its dead on. There is no reason for me or my state to give one extra cent to DC. When DC starts doing something decent with the money its got, then maybe we will consider giving you something extra.
Much like the DC Council, the DC Wanna be elitist are stuck in a time when the Metro area revolved around DC. The reality is with teleworking, we don't really need the capital to be 10 minutes away. Nova is a consulting / tech superpower and the vast majority of what it does can be done for any part of the country right out of Tysons. We don't need the city anymore, and we sure as hell aren't going to take its crap.

Posted by: Jon | November 7, 2007 10:58 PM

Hardwick and Troy question whether Barry was in charge when Jack Kent Cooke decided to leave Washington and put his team in Maryland. Here's the relevant passage from former Post reporter Michael Powell's excellent look (12/22/96 in the Post) at the Redskins' departure from the city:

"In late 1987, Cooke began lobbying for a larger, more modern home, with 78,000 seats and a raft of lucrative luxury boxes. His first choice, he said repeatedly, was to erect a new stadium alongside the old one. And he set the first of many deadlines for D.C. officials to get him a deal.

Mayor Barry embraced the challenge. "The Redskins are ours," he proclaimed in 1988. "We're going to keep them."

Barry's optimism appeared justified. Prince George's and Montgomery County officials expressed no interest in the team, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments said the team should remain in the District. In September 1988, Barry told business leaders that he and Cooke had "reached an agreement."

Weeks later, the deal evaporated, establishing a years-long pattern. Cooke would flirt with Virginia and Baltimore and suburban Maryland -- and each time return to the District. In August 1990, The Washington Post reported that the District and Cooke had "all but finalized an agreement." A year later, Cooke was quoted as saying a deal with the District was "almost a given."

It never happened. From Cooke's point of view, the negotiations presented a never-ending series of hurdles. The land he desired belonged to the federal government, and acquiring it required time-consuming permits, approvals and environmental impact statements. Discussions over easements, roads and new highway ramps inevitably turned on the availability of federal highway dollars because the fiscally besieged District had little wiggle room."

End of quotation.

The final move to Maryland indeed occurred under Sharon Pratt Dixon's watch, but the talks between the District and Cooke crumbled during the Barry administration.

Posted by: Fisher | November 8, 2007 12:07 AM

Who cares??? I don't!! I care about 20 million dollars being stolen at the D.C. Tax and Revenue office by former D.C. Government employees.

Posted by: Ward4DC | November 8, 2007 12:30 AM

Interesting news last night "D.C." - good ol' DC government employees stealing $16 million. Not the best way to use the money the Federal Govt. gives you, is it?

Looks like "Jon" wins, you lose, argument over because the failure of DC to manage itself was just proven.

Posted by: VoiceofReason | November 8, 2007 8:15 AM

The only reason NoVa is a tech hq is because of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, without D.C. none of you people get to live in your soul-killing suburbs.

Posted by: 13th St Southeast | November 8, 2007 11:19 AM

"soul-killing suburbs"

Just out of curiosity how is my soul being killed by living in the suburbs? I was born in the District and lived there for 40 of my 45 years. Does the fact that I now reside in Arlington make me less of a person?

Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 11:28 AM

"The only reason NoVa is a tech hq is because of the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, without D.C. none of you people get to live in your soul-killing suburbs."

Good use of your DC education.


Posted by: Anonymous | November 8, 2007 12:49 PM


The truth about the Fan-fest is that it will be in Bethesda, which is very Metro access. I am certain the Nats will also have a caravan and have a fanfest in DC and Va. Please everyone: Stop all the whining, chill-out and enjoy our baseeball team.

Posted by: dcnatfan | November 8, 2007 1:03 PM

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