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Damn Yankees! Corbett Spends $20 Million On Yanks’ AAA Stadium

There’s good news and bad news for the New York Yankees.

The bad news is that their payroll — always the biggest in baseball — hasn’t produced.  Hey, they haven’t won a World Series in over a year.  Remember, these are the Yankees — the most well-known, most loved (by some), most hated (by many), and wealthiest sports franchise in America. They are the only team on the planet whose season is a complete failure if they don’t win a world championship.

Maybe the recession is finally taking such a toll that even the Yanks are too cash-strapped to bring in new talent. But that’s where the good news comes in.  Turns out they will have extra money to spend after all, now that they won’t be shelling out big bucks to renovate the stadium of their AAA minor league team in Scranton/Wilkes Barre. 

It is not without irony, though, that the Bronx Bombers’ financial home run comes at the expense of Phillies fans.

Literally.

You see, the Yanks’ windfall is courtesy of Pennsylvania taxpayers, who are on the hook for $20 million to upgrade the stadium. And who authorized such an expenditure at a time when the state is facing a $4.2 billion deficit?

Republican Governor Tom Corbett.

The same person who, during his campaign last year. championed fiscal restraint and the need for government to return to its core functions.

And the same person, who, a day after announcing the deal, talked about why the state is in such a fiscal mess:

“(Ed Rendell) said yes, yes, yes,” Corbett said of his predecessor, “and that’s why we are where we are…. in the times we are in we have to be able to say no.”

Come again?

He just spent money on something taxpayers shouldn’t be funding in good times, let alone in a recession when the state’s finances are in really bad shape.

So Corbett’s curveball will keep his approval rating at 30 percent — a great percentage for a hitter but not so good for a politician — and a far cry from the 55 percent he received just six months ago.

Here’s a look at why the stadium giveaway is such bad policy — and bad politics:

1)      People are “stadium fatigued,” having put up money to construct arenas across the state, including facilities for the Eagles, Phillies, Steelers, Pirates and soccer franchise Philadelphia Union.  All told, $1 billion in taxpayer money was used to finance stadium construction since 1999.  And here’s the kicker: the real amount will be almost three times that, because the money usually comes from bonds, which, like mortgages, are paid back over time (20 or 30 years) with interest. Millionaire owners increasing their fortunes on the backs of taxpayers just isn’t right.

Corbett gets the worst of both worlds.  Not only is he viewed as hypocritical for spending money on a stadium, but he loses the game by doing it for the benefit of the richest of the rich, and the victor over the Phillies in the 2009 World Series (not to mention 1950). Don’t underestimate that sentiment come election time.

2)      Blaming Rendell for the state’s fiscal mess is certainly on target, as spending under his eight year watch skyrocketed.  But Corbett’s message increasingly rings hollow since his rhetoric doesn’t meet his actions.

Rendell attempted to bail out the Philadelphia Shipyard (a private entity) so that it could build ships with no buyers, but left office before completing the deal.  Corbett bailed it out anyway. So much for fiscal restraint and getting government out of the private sector.

And it was Rendell who initially wanted to fund the Yankees’ stadium, but again, it was Corbett who came in from the bullpen to get the taxpayer-funded “win.”

Corbett continues to pursue a policy perceived as “spending cuts for you, but not me.” He raised the salaries of his executive staff (who now average $13,000 per year more than their counterparts under Rendell), and increased the budget of the Lt. Governor’s office by 46 percent.

Cuts are inherently unpopular, but people will support a leader who leads by example and mandates that “everybody feels the pain — no exceptions.” That hasn’t happened in Pennsylvania.  Hence the basement-dwelling approval rating.

3)      The stadium funds, which local officials say could actually end up being $25 million, come from a bond used to fund building projects.  In a state as large as Pennsylvania, there are an infinite number of possibilities that would provide a better return to the state and its taxpayers.

Pre-eminent among them would be building natural gas fueling stations for the state fleet of vehicles that will — hopefully — soon be powered by that fuel. (The management of these stations could then be leased to private companies to maximize private-sector efficiencies). Additionally, state buildings should be converted to run on natural gas (with gas being mandated in all new construction), since Pennsylvania is sitting atop the Marcellus Shale — second-largest gas field in the world.  It is clean (virtually no emissions); extremely cost effective (currently one-seventh the cost of gasoline); limitless; creates jobs; and sets the national model for how to achieve energy independence (bolstering national security).

And here’s an added bonus: it can solve a looming problem no one wants to discuss: keeping the gas industry in Pennsylvania.  Despite all the advantages of natural gas, demand is so low that gas companies are finding it extremely difficult to be profitable.  It’s to the point that companies may start capping their wells and rolling out of state to pursue other interests (as it is a very mobile industry).  Such a situation would be catastrophic to all Pennsylvanians.

Bottom line: Tom Corbett is giving Democrats all the ammunition they need to wage effective campaigns against Republican legislators next year. The Governor’s increasing lack of credibility could potentially endanger the GOP majorities in both chambers, particularly in a presidential election year which always generates a significant Democratic turnout.

Core, common sense and consistency are the hallmarks of effective leadership, and all have been in short supply from the Governor’s office.

Just this week, the Governor underwent successful back surgery. We wish him well in that regard, but now it’s time to get his head in the game.

 

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

 Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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May 20, 2011 at 3:54 am Comments (0)

DRPA Vice Chair Jeff Nash: Conflict With Wife’s Company?

In a February, 2008 media report, Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) Vice Chairman Jeff Nash, also an elected Camden County Freeholder, ominously warned that “…the deck of the Walt Whitman (Bridge) HAD a 50-year life span….We’re at 50 years, two months.”

Two and a half years later, the decking project of the Walt Whitman has not yet begun.  Why?  Lack of money, we are told, which is in part why the Port Authority just went further into debt by borrowing $320 million.

Of course, as with all things DRPA, that’s not the whole story.

The money was there.  They just chose to ignore the bridges, instead channeling huge bucks to perks and political patronage deals.

The DRPA has squandered nearly $400 million in so-called “economic development” projects that have nothing to do with the bridges, and now finds itself more than $1.5 billion in debt.

Due to intense media scrutiny, a series of reforms have been suggested by Ed Rendell, who, as Pennsylvania Governor, appoints the DRPA Chairman.  After his election in 2002, Rendell appointed himself Chairman, and last year made his former Chief of Staff and longtime political fundraiser and confidante John Estey —a partner at Ballard Spahr, the Governor’s former firm — the Chairman.

The reforms, while noteworthy, do not resolve the immense conflicts of interest which have gone unchecked for years and still permeate the entire Authority.

Like the fox being given oversight to “guard” the henhouse, Rendell and the DRPA audaciously expect the forgotten tollpayers — on whose back the DRPA has trodden — to believe that the reforms will be effectively implemented by the very people who are knee deep in all the conflicts.

For an example, let’s look at a conflict involving Vice Chairman Nash….

Read the rest at Philly Mag:

http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2010/08/03/more-questions-and-conflicts-at-drpa/

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August 3, 2010 at 11:06 am Comments (0)

Phils Fans Beware: Bankrupt Rangers’ Trade For Cliff Lee Should’ve Been A Strikeout

The cries are getting louder.                                   

Despite their sweep of the Reds before the All Star break, the Phillies are still in third place, 4 1/2 games behind the Braves, with the trade of Cliff Lee last year looking more dubious by the day.

The criticism of that decision continues to grow.

After all, Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason games last fall, including winning two against the Yankees in the World Series.  He was also a major reason the Phils were playing October baseball at all. 

After the season, fans salivated at the prospect of having Lee and Roy Halladay as the team’s top two starters, an unbeatable combination that all but guaranteed another deep playoff run.

But it was not to be.  Instead, Lee went to Seattle. 

And last week, the big news was that he was traded to the first place Texas Rangers, bolstering a team that always seems to fade in the second half of the season.  Now, they’re a legitimate threat to go all the way.

There’s only one problem.  That was a trade that should never have happened. 

The fact that it did is a direct affront to every Major League team owner, every player and every fan.

All except the Texas Rangers, that is.

Why?

Because the Rangers are in bankruptcy.

So instead of getting their financial house in order and doing the right thing — paying the people to whom they owe money —, Texas just pulled out the most improbable victory of the season.

But unlike most games, when there is one winner and one loser, the Rangers’ achievement came at the expense of the other 29 teams.

*****

How did a team in bankruptcy hit this home run?

That bastion of corruption, Major League baseball, came in as the relief pitcher.

Last year, it loaned the Rangers $18.5 million. That wasn’t enough, however, as the company of the team owner defaulted on its $525 million debt.  So MLB came through again in May with another $21.5 million.

So let’s get this straight.

A team that can’t pay its bills or meet payroll receives a loan from the League — whose money comes from the teams themselves, directly and indirectly — and then uses that money to acquire arguably the best pitcher in the game.

Hmmm.  Something with that picture just doesn’t seem right.

The result is similar to what happens when the U.S. government subsidizes companies, such as the GM bailout, in that it victimizes those who have done nothing wrong.  In effect, companies like Honda are punished for their efficient operations, fiscal responsibility and turning a profit. Why should they now have to compete against the unlimited resources of the United States government?

But here’s the difference. GM still makes a vastly inferior product, so Honda will continue to rule the day, although its road to success will be substantially hampered.

Not the case with the Rangers.  The “product” they acquired — with OTM (Other Teams’ Money) — happens to be superior to virtually all others on the market. And that will lead to a tougher road for a number of other teams.

How many millions in additional revenue is a playoff appearance worth to a given team?  Win the League Pennant and it’s even more.  Throw in a World Series showing, let alone a Championship, and the number skyrockets.

So if the Los Angeles Angels, second in the division behind Texas, lose out on a Division Title because of Lee’s prowess, or if, say, Detroit misses the Wildcard slot for the same reason, that’s millions down the drain because of what amounts to an illegitimate trade.

Competitors have given the Rangers the rope — in this case money — to hang the rest of the League.

And should we even mention the riot potential in Philadelphia if the Phils meet Texas in the World Series, only to lose Game 7 to Cliff Lee?

*****

Perhaps the most disturbing, but least surprising, aspect of this debacle is the lack of on-the-record displeasure from the other baseball teams.

Unfortunately, too many business “leaders” in this country, if that’s what they can be called, exhibit more cowardice than guts. And since baseball is a business, team owners, presidents and general managers are no exception.

Two things are certain:

1)  Most, if not all, of the other owners are furious that the Lee trade was permitted to occur, especially those vying for playoff spots.

2)  You will not see any of them publicly voice their opinion — with attribution —on the matter.

Oh, we’ll see anonymous quotes from owners and other executives deriding the decision, but none will dare cross the biggest hypocrite of all, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

(It was Selig, after all, who looked the other way during baseball’s Steroid Era, raking in billions while hallowed records fell, but feigned outrage when Barry Bonds broke the Big One — Hank Aaron’s home run record.  But hey, under Selig’s disgraceful reign, baseball finally —FINALLY — got around to outlawing steroids —in 2005, thirty-two years after the Olympics! Welcome to the party, Bud!)

Just look at Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels’ quote, as reported by the Associated Press, when asked if he anticipated any backlash from other clubs:

“I’d guess they’ll be some unnamed sources, but I don’t expect a lot of phone calls.”

Or another  “unnamed” baseball executive, as reported in the New York Times: “The Rangers are acting as if they can go out and spend money….They’re attempting to try and spend money they don’t have for players.”

How typical.  And pathetic. 

Not only does Selig know he won’t be opposed, he counts on it.  So the arrogance only grows.

Need proof?  Consider the following:

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 protection in May, intending to pay creditors $75 million.  They would then sell the team to an investor group led by Hall of Fame pitcher and team President Nolan Ryan.  But after creditors’ objected to that plan, the Rangers agreed to an auction.

Here’s the part that defies comprehension:

According to the AP, the team’s auction proposal specified that “Major League Baseball would decide who was eligible to bid and set strict guidelines, including a $1.5 million deposit and an opening bid of more than $500 million. The league could have rejected the highest bidder and selected the runner-up instead.”

The motion also included paying a $15 million ‘break-up’ fee to the Ryan group if it was not chosen as the buyer.”

Disgusting as the thought is, Nolan Ryan being in bed with Bud Selig clearly has its advantages: bid on a Major League Baseball team, and if you’re not successful, you receive a $15 million payment anyway.

One could say that such a consolation prize smacks of insider-trading corruption.

Thankfully, though in no way due to owners, that auction plan is in limbo.  For now.

Bankruptcy experts think the MLB bidding suggestions were a “clever maneuver” to push the sale toward Ryan’s group. 

But let’s call a spade a spade. It’s business as usual.  And because it continues unchecked, all of baseball suffers.

Do we really think it’s a good idea to have a 2010 Texas Rangers’ World Series Championship blemished with an “asterisk” next to it?  That’s a definite possibility.

Asterisks in the baseball record books — delineating that a particular feat was flawed — are becoming commonplace. How many more will it take before the whole sport implodes?

For once, Baseball’s owners would be wise to come in from the cheap seats and step up to the plate.

The integrity — what’s left of it — of America’s favorite pastime depends on it.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes frequent television and other radio appearances.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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July 15, 2010 at 8:09 am Comments (0)

Phils Fans Beware: Bankrupt Rangers’ Trade For Cliff Lee Should’ve Been A Strikeout

The cries are getting louder.                                   

Despite their sweep of the Reds before the All Star break, the Phillies are still in third place, 4 1/2 games behind the Braves, with the trade of Cliff Lee last year looking more dubious by the day.

The criticism of that decision continues to grow.

After all, Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason games last fall, including winning two against the Yankees in the World Series.  He was also a major reason the Phils were playing October baseball at all. 

After the season, fans salivated at the prospect of having Lee and Roy Halladay as the team’s top two starters, an unbeatable combination that all but guaranteed another deep playoff run.

But it was not to be.  Instead, Lee went to Seattle. 

And last week, the big news was that he was traded to the first place Texas Rangers, bolstering a team that always seems to fade in the second half of the season.  Now, they’re a legitimate threat to go all the way.

There’s only one problem.  That was a trade that should never have happened. 

The fact that it did is a direct affront to every Major League team owner, every player and every fan.

All except the Texas Rangers, that is.

Why?

Because the Rangers are in bankruptcy.

So instead of getting their financial house in order and doing the right thing — paying the people to whom they owe money —, Texas just pulled out the most improbable victory of the season.

But unlike most games, when there is one winner and one loser, the Rangers’ achievement came at the expense of the other 29 teams.

*****

How did a team in bankruptcy hit this home run?

That bastion of corruption, Major League baseball, came in as the relief pitcher.

Last year, it loaned the Rangers $18.5 million. That wasn’t enough, however, as the company of the team owner defaulted on its $525 million debt.  So MLB came through again in May with another $21.5 million.

So let’s get this straight.

A team that can’t pay its bills or meet payroll receives a loan from the League — whose money comes from the teams themselves, directly and indirectly — and then uses that money to acquire arguably the best pitcher in the game.

Hmmm.  Something with that picture just doesn’t seem right.

The result is similar to what happens when the U.S. government subsidizes companies, such as the GM bailout, in that it victimizes those who have done nothing wrong.  In effect, companies like Honda are punished for their efficient operations, fiscal responsibility and turning a profit. Why should they now have to compete against the unlimited resources of the United States government?

But here’s the difference. GM still makes a vastly inferior product, so Honda will continue to rule the day, although its road to success will be substantially hampered.

Not the case with the Rangers.  The “product” they acquired — with OTM (Other Teams’ Money) — happens to be superior to virtually all others on the market. And that will lead to a tougher road for a number of other teams.

How many millions in additional revenue is a playoff appearance worth to a given team?  Win the League Pennant and it’s even more.  Throw in a World Series showing, let alone a Championship, and the number skyrockets.

So if the Los Angeles Angels, second in the division behind Texas, lose out on a Division Title because of Lee’s prowess, or if, say, Detroit misses the Wildcard slot for the same reason, that’s millions down the drain because of what amounts to an illegitimate trade.

Competitors have given the Rangers the rope — in this case money — to hang the rest of the League.

And should we even mention the riot potential in Philadelphia if the Phils meet Texas in the World Series, only to lose Game 7 to Cliff Lee?

*****

Perhaps the most disturbing, but least surprising, aspect of this debacle is the lack of on-the-record displeasure from the other baseball teams.

Unfortunately, too many business “leaders” in this country, if that’s what they can be called, exhibit more cowardice than guts. And since baseball is a business, team owners, presidents and general managers are no exception.

Two things are certain:

1)  Most, if not all, of the other owners are furious that the Lee trade was permitted to occur, especially those vying for playoff spots.

2)  You will not see any of them publicly voice their opinion — with attribution —on the matter.

Oh, we’ll see anonymous quotes from owners and other executives deriding the decision, but none will dare cross the biggest hypocrite of all, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

(It was Selig, after all, who looked the other way during baseball’s Steroid Era, raking in billions while hallowed records fell, but feigned outrage when Barry Bonds broke the Big One — Hank Aaron’s home run record.  But hey, under Selig’s disgraceful reign, baseball finally —FINALLY — got around to outlawing steroids —in 2005, thirty-two years after the Olympics! Welcome to the party, Bud!)

Just look at Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels’ quote, as reported by the Associated Press, when asked if he anticipated any backlash from other clubs:

“I’d guess they’ll be some unnamed sources, but I don’t expect a lot of phone calls.”

Or another  “unnamed” baseball executive, as reported in the New York Times: “The Rangers are acting as if they can go out and spend money….They’re attempting to try and spend money they don’t have for players.”

How typical.  And pathetic. 

Not only does Selig know he won’t be opposed, he counts on it.  So the arrogance only grows.

Need proof?  Consider the following:

The Rangers filed for Chapter 11 protection in May, intending to pay creditors $75 million.  They would then sell the team to an investor group led by Hall of Fame pitcher and team President Nolan Ryan.  But after creditors’ objected to that plan, the Rangers agreed to an auction.

Here’s the part that defies comprehension:

According to the AP, the team’s auction proposal specified that “Major League Baseball would decide who was eligible to bid and set strict guidelines, including a $1.5 million deposit and an opening bid of more than $500 million. The league could have rejected the highest bidder and selected the runner-up instead.”

The motion also included paying a $15 million ‘break-up’ fee to the Ryan group if it was not chosen as the buyer.”

Disgusting as the thought is, Nolan Ryan being in bed with Bud Selig clearly has its advantages: bid on a Major League Baseball team, and if you’re not successful, you receive a $15 million payment anyway.

One could say that such a consolation prize smacks of insider-trading corruption.

Thankfully, though in no way due to owners, that auction plan is in limbo.  For now.

Bankruptcy experts think the MLB bidding suggestions were a “clever maneuver” to push the sale toward Ryan’s group. 

But let’s call a spade a spade. It’s business as usual.  And because it continues unchecked, all of baseball suffers.

Do we really think it’s a good idea to have a 2010 Texas Rangers’ World Series Championship blemished with an “asterisk” next to it?  That’s a definite possibility.

Asterisks in the baseball record books — delineating that a particular feat was flawed — are becoming commonplace. How many more will it take before the whole sport implodes?

For once, Baseball’s owners would be wise to come in from the cheap seats and step up to the plate.

The integrity — what’s left of it — of America’s favorite pastime depends on it.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind also serves as a weekly guest commentator on the Philadelphia-area talk radio show, Political Talk (WCHE 1520), and makes frequent television and other radio appearances.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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July 15, 2010 at 7:50 am Comments (0)

BP And U.S. Government: No Common Sense

Teaching a child how to ride a bike always involves certain lessons.

How to pedal, how to balance yourself, how to steer.

We teach these things because they are common sense.

But we also teach—stress, actually — the most important aspect of bike riding: how to stop.

Why? Because it defies common sense not to do so.  After all, it would be irresponsible and dangerous to engage in an activity which we couldn’t control.

Teaching someone how to stop a bike can’t guarantee an accident won’t happen, but it certainly lessens the likelihood.

After watching the Gulf oil spill, it’s apparent that common sense is in short supply from both oil companies and the U.S. Government.

*****

So many aspects of British Petroleum’s unmitigated disaster have been discussed.

Why the initial explosion occurred, who is responsible, how much oil is rocketing into the sea, and how to effectively clean the oil-drenched beaches and wetlands, are all still unanswered questions.

By far, though, the issue that continues to dominate headlines, congressional hearings and kitchen tables is how to stop the gushing leak.

Virtually no progress has been made in this area — hence the description “unmitigated” disaster.

We’ve been watching the drama unfold live, as method after method is tried.  Top kill and junk kill. Domes. Caps. Hats.

All failures.

But here’s the kicker in the oil-recovery efforts:

While each new attempt seems to capture a bit more oil than the one prior, we keep learning that the amount of oil gushing from the well is much larger than previously thought.

By a lot.

So for every one step forward, we are taking five back.

Since we are two months into this saga, that’s quite a bit of back-tracking. And oil.

How desperate has the situation become?

Put it this way: anytime Hollywood celebrities start taking center stage in an attempt to offer real-world solutions, you know you have problems.

First it was Director James Cameron, whose oil-recovery credentials include taking a few submarine rides while filming Titanic and, possibly, being told of a magical solution by his Avatar friends from another planet.  Hey, they were space miners in the movie, and we are mining oil, so Cameron is a perfect fit.

And now we have Kevin Costner, who recently testified before Congress on the spill and is now trumpeting his own oil-water separator contraption as an answer.  And why not? He is uniquely qualified after spending lots of time on the ocean filming the epic flopWaterworld, in which he chased down an oil tanker, which, if you look closely, is really the Exxon Valdez.

Fitting.

But wholly unhelpful.

Maybe it’s time to stop masquerading with two-bit “solutions” that don’t have a prayer of succeeding and Hollywood do-gooders who just need an ego-boost.

Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and admit that there’s only one solution to this problem.

Common sense.

*****

There is nothing more devastating to business than over-regulation. It stifles creativity, kills innovation and results in significant job-loss.

In too many cases, bureaucrats and politicians justify their existence by inventing costly and counter-productive new regulations, often so burdensome that American companies are forced to close their doors and move overseas.

But that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be smart, commonsense regulations on companies doing business in America.

True capitalism is the best economic system the world has ever known, but without common sense protections in place —with adequate enforcement to ensure that they are actually followed—, capitalism gives way to greed and corruption very quickly.  Just look at Wall Street.

The oil industry is no different.

While some regulations on deepwater offshore oil rigs are…

Read the rest at Philadelphia Magazine’s Philly Post:

http://www.freindlyfirezone.com/index.php/national-news/item/72-bp-and-us-government-no-common-sense

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June 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm Comment (1)