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Iran Requiring Religious Badges?
May 19, 2006 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Canada's National Post says "Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims." (Sound familiar?) CTV says "Prime Minister Stephen Harper says news reports that Iran could require Jews and Christians to wear coloured labels in public might be true." Hmm...might be true? Montreal's AM 940 says "But independent reporter Meir Javedanfar [who runs a Middle East analysis site], an Israeli Middle East expert who was born and raised in Tehran, says the report is false." Which is it: truth or fiction? And if it's fiction, is it a malicious disinformation campaign or just incompetent journalism? Malcompetence?
posted by scottreynen (60 comments total)

 
This was linked to already in the thread on Israel (I'm not sure why). Anyway, the Nation Post is a piece of shit right-wing paper; I could see it being good old fashioned fear-mongering.
posted by chunking express at 1:47 PM on May 19, 2006


Ahmadinejad does seem to be following in the footsteps of the Nazis.
posted by caddis at 1:53 PM on May 19, 2006


Oh, Canada.
posted by trondant at 1:56 PM on May 19, 2006


UPI has picked up the story
posted by caddis at 1:56 PM on May 19, 2006


Ahmadinejad's an anti-Semetic, Holocaust-denying bastard who wants Israel turned into a glass parking lot; I'm hardly going to trust Jewish leaders as unbiased news sources in this case, especially when the only corroboration comes from Iranian exiles.

Not to say I'll be surprised if this story's true, really, but as presented, it smells like bullshit.
posted by Zozo at 1:57 PM on May 19, 2006


It's the National Post. I'd bet on incompetent journalism.
posted by dobbs at 2:00 PM on May 19, 2006


Will the badges really be barcodes?
posted by IronLizard at 2:02 PM on May 19, 2006


Didn't the Taliban do something like this? Badges for Hindus, I think....
posted by mr_roboto at 2:03 PM on May 19, 2006


Information war. Hate mongering. Demonization.
posted by the Real Dan at 2:04 PM on May 19, 2006


Did the Post pull the story? Page is blank.
posted by btwillig at 2:06 PM on May 19, 2006


Race badges are the new WMD. Bend over and get used to it, sheep.
posted by bardic at 2:09 PM on May 19, 2006


So can't a reporter just pick up the phone and call somebody to verify this in about 15 minutes or so? It's not like Iran is loacated on one of Saturn's moons ir something.
posted by 2sheets at 2:15 PM on May 19, 2006


I'm not sure how much of Ahmadinejad's rhetoric Ahmadinejad really believes ... he certainly knows how to play to his audience, I have to grant him that. To us in the United States, he sounds absolutely batshit insane, but there's a lot of cultural perspective going on here. A lot of what we consider reasonable plays as batshit insane in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern regimes have found that the rule medieval Christian kings stumbled upon still holds: Jews make for great scapegoats when you're a maniacal, despotic bastard. When you take a group of people and only allow them to work in entertainment and commerce, yes, they develop a certain tradition in those fields. Combine the fact that they succeeded in the narrow niche we exiled them to with strong communities made even stronger by the natural instinct to stick together under pressure, and the equally natural tendency of outsiders to not trust such tight communities as "cliquish," with a little bit of Second Temple sectarian rhetoric gotten completely out of hand, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Middle Eastern despots have been maintaining their power by keeping their populations angry at Israel for fifty years now. Israel's own policies towards the Palestinians is either cultural blindness of the highest order, or deliberately playing the role they've been given; either way, the government of Israel has done nothing to undermine the perception the despots have created, and much to reinforce it.

Do that for fifty years, add in a long history of Western lies and manipulation, and you get to the point where Holocaust denial becomes not only widely believed, but begins to take on the aura of sense.

Ahmadinejad knows how to exploit that to good effect. I get mixed signals on whether or not he actually believes any of it, though. I'm not so sure he's the crazy madman we all think he is, or whether he's just playing the part (which plays in the West as "crazy madman," but plays more as "strong leader with good morals" to your average Iranian). I have no doubt that Iranian hegemony is his ultimate ambition, but I'm not sure how much is true and how much is rhetoric yet. Either way, the idea of armbands is deeply unsettling (and I'm not sure I believe it entirely just yet--there seems some good reason to think it's just yellow journalism for a bit of saber-rattling right now), but I'd be very surprised if he followed through to full-blown Hitlerian genocide.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:15 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh, a major element I forgot in why Holocaust denial seems so "reasonable" in the Middle East: at the time, much of the region was under British rule. The Ba'ath Party got started around this same time opposing the British. Many Arabs sided with Germany--not because they knew (or even cared) about Nazi ideology, but because they were fighting Britain. They didn't understand, and largely didn't care about, the pecularities of European politics. So, when the Middle East looks back at World War II, from their perspective they see a struggle for independence from foreign domination, and they see the Nazis as an ally that helped them, rather the same as France for the American Revolution.
posted by jefgodesky at 2:20 PM on May 19, 2006


jefgodesky writes "I have no doubt that Iranian hegemony is his ultimate ambition, but I'm not sure how much is true and how much is rhetoric yet."

I'm not sure he's so interested in Iran's international standing. I think the man is playing almost exclusively to a domestic audience. It seems his true great ambition might be to take real power from the Ayatollahs. The clerical leadership of Iran is certainly very, very suspicious of him.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:22 PM on May 19, 2006



We would never do anything like that.

A dose of enlightenment from modern-day nativists: Colbert's profile of the Minutemen vigilantes.
posted by bukharin at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2006


It's bullshit. Even Debka is saying it's bullshit.

Coming up next: Iranians throw babies out of Christian incubators ... and rape the dead babies with WMDs!

UPI: Moonie. Nat'l Post: Neocon Looney. Iranian Expatriates as single sources for outrageous Iran=Nazi Germany articles: See Ahmed Chalabi. Publicity agent for accompanying Nat'l Post fear piece by neocon propagandist Amir Taheri: the one & only Eleana Benador, PR agent of the neocon all-stars (including Judith Miller!)

Unless you can read Farsi (and I can't), you're best off ignoring all English-language news & White House/State Dept./MEMRI translations regarding Iran.
posted by kenlayne at 2:44 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Why would anyone believe any of this?

Next up:
Iranians are poisoning the village well.
Ahmadinejad on shoplifting spree.
Iranian MPs hold satanistic ritual, allegations of child abuse.
Iranians are taking our jobs!
Etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Puhleeze.
Bushco should try finding those WMDs if they want anyone to believe their tall tales.
posted by spazzm at 2:53 PM on May 19, 2006


I don't believe anything I read in the press or on the internets, especially regarding the Middle East. My view of the world is modelled entirely in hindsight.
posted by slatternus at 3:03 PM on May 19, 2006


I tend to view National Post articles in the same light as those from the Weekly World News.
posted by antifreez_ at 3:09 PM on May 19, 2006


spazzm: Ha!
posted by kenlayne at 3:11 PM on May 19, 2006


A Persian told me that this is the report that started the whole thing, though I can't read Farsi, so I can't confirm -- apparently the story playing the media is a misinterpretation.
posted by camcgee at 3:28 PM on May 19, 2006


The National Post is owned by CanWest, which is owned by Israel Asper, a fervent Zionist. It was industry scuttlebut at the time of the sale of the Post and other former Hollinger properties that fellow ultra Zionist Conrad Black would only sell his holdings to someone with similar views.

In any case, you really can't trust anything that comes from a CanWest publication when it comes to the middle east and Israel. Wikipedia says:

Veteran Montreal Gazette reporter Bill Marsden has said that the Aspers "do not want any criticism of Israel. We do not run in our newspaper op-ed pieces that express criticism of Israel and what it is doing." [2] In 2004, the Reuters news agency protested after CanWest altered newswire stories about the Iraq war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such that Reuters felt it had inserted CanWest's own bias under Reuters bylines.
posted by cell divide at 3:35 PM on May 19, 2006


"A dose of enlightenment from modern-day nativists: Colbert's profile of the Minutemen vigilantes."

WTF do the Minutemen have to do with a, most likely bogus, story about Iran??? And since when does enlightment come from a show hosted by the "Mr. Goodwrench" commercial guy? Man, some of you people try really hard to work a "Oh yeah? Well America is just as bad if not worse" into every single thread.
posted by MikeMc at 3:41 PM on May 19, 2006



Why would anyone believe any of this?

Because they want to.
posted by Zinger at 3:43 PM on May 19, 2006


In defense of the National Post, I'd just like to say that it fits most standard kitty litter boxes really well.
posted by zarah at 3:46 PM on May 19, 2006


Hey Iranians please hurry up and get the Bomb and maybe Those bastards will let you in peace!!!
posted by zouhair at 3:49 PM on May 19, 2006


rfid
posted by nervousfritz at 4:01 PM on May 19, 2006


Of course the usual neocon fucktards get it wrong again, and immediately start spinning:

"it may just be a case of the telephone game, or understandably pissed-off Iranian exiles attempting a little propaganda against a regime that, in a better world, would need no propagadizing against. (In a perfect world, of course, it simply wouldn't exist.)"

See, it may not be true, but it's understandable because the LIEbrals are keeping the truth from the rest of the word.
posted by 2sheets at 4:08 PM on May 19, 2006


I sort-of feel bad for the National Post because they're such a pathetic excuse for a newspaper. Zarah has a point, although some cats won't even go near the litter box when it's in there. But that may be just the left wingers.

Harper, on the other hand, has got to be a complete *moron* for wading into this and offering an opinion. How about you wait until it's confirmed? As 2sheets says, how hard can it be to check this out? Maybe call someone or something.

You know, everyone says "Steven Harper is so smart" but I'm just not seeing it. Deceptive, yes. Manipulative, sure. But he's done some really boneheaded things lately. Maybe he should have extended the MP gag order to himself.

I hope he's raked over the coals for this.
posted by exon at 4:18 PM on May 19, 2006


s/Steven/Stephen/
posted by exon at 4:30 PM on May 19, 2006


jefgodesky says: A lot of what we consider reasonable plays as batshit insane in the Middle East.

Examples please?
posted by Caviar at 6:35 PM on May 19, 2006


2sheets, that's something I'd point to next time I have to define or explain "truthiness."
posted by bardic at 7:15 PM on May 19, 2006


Frankly, I can't believe the Post is still around. They give the thing away for free and still no one's interested. And that hypocritical cover story last week about how sex is used in animal rights campaigning (replete of course with many front page semi-nudie pics)? Just terrible, terrible stuff - and zarah, your pets' urine is too good to be wasted thus.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:43 PM on May 19, 2006


Examples please?

Well, for example, the seperation of church and state is a much-cherished ideal in certain segments of Western society, but throughout most of the Middle East, it's a radical proposal. While there is a growing secular movement in the Middle East, we should appreciate just how radical such a move is in that culture. Most people in the Middle East would continue to believe that any attempt at seperating church and state is mere pretense; no true seperation is possible, and pretending otherwise is foolhardy. Given the current direction of U.S. politics, I'm not entirely sure they're wrong....

Perhaps a better example, though, might be nationalism. We consider it simple common sense to think of people as divided into nations, with subdivisions into various religions. It is just as difficult for the average Middle Easterner to understand this concept as it is for us to understand theirs: a religion subdivided into nations. The implications, of course, are far-reaching, but where many of us go so far as to think nationalism is some inherent part of the human condition (a concept which, like "art for art's sake" goes all the way back to--well, just the Romantic period, really), in the Middle East this is a rather absurd idea, as most of them see their "nations" as bizarre impositions, and continue to see themselves as Muslims first, and Iranians/Iraqis/Saudis/Jordanians/etc., second.

Globalization is always two-way, but it's never quite even, and the Middle East has had much more exposure to our culture than we have had to its, but none of these concepts are self-evident or necessary. All of them are culturally specific, all of them are deeply held by their believers but just as culturally constructed--leading us to think they're batshit insane for not understanding all the "obvious" things our culture teachers, and for them to think much the same of us, for the same reason.
posted by jefgodesky at 7:47 PM on May 19, 2006


I'm extremely skeptical, but I'm withholding judgement until more evidence (in support or in contrary) comes forward. The post is a neoconservative newspaper, and it hand-picks news to flatter its readership, but it's disingenuous to suggest it's a tabloid. Their articles are generally well-written, if slanted. They have written unflattering articles about Israel, and they've criticized Harper when he has played games with the press. The journalist who penned the op-ed that accompanied the front page article is Amir Taheri, an extremely accomplished journalist who is Tehran-born and holds many impressive credentials. You should read about him. I don't think he would put his weight behind this article without some good cause. The appropriate thing to do right now is to withhold judgment and hope that we are all right in being skeptical. This kitty litter nonsense is unbecoming of metafilter.
posted by ori at 8:09 PM on May 19, 2006


Well, for example, the seperation of church and state is a much-cherished ideal in certain segments of Western society, but throughout most of the Middle East, it's a radical proposal.

jefgodesky, you sound like some Oxford anthropologist going yonder to mingle "with the natives", pluming yourself with an "enlightened" brand of cultural relativism that is, in actuality, the grossest kind of racism. What is this nonsense? The Pan-Arabist movement called for a secular and socialist Arab world, and their failure to achieve that has much to do with the US having other plans for the region. There is also Mossagdeh's communist government in Iran, which enjoyed popular support until the CIA brought it crashing down. The success of radical Islamists in gaining popular support in Iran and the Arab world has much to do with the frustration and anger of the local populations feel over the failure of secular nationalism. Astonishing as this may sound to you, the desire for transparent governance, public participation, free governance and religious freedoms is not unique to white people.
posted by ori at 8:21 PM on May 19, 2006


I'm no fan of Middle Eastern governments and their strongman leaders, but I dunno that church/state separation "throughout most of the Middle East, [is] a radical proposal."

Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Libya, morocco & Algeria [and Iraq, before '03) come to mind as basically secular governments that have been quite brutal when it comes to religious nuts even when the Islamic fundamentalist parties have lots of popular support.

Anyway, the Nat'l Post story was propaganda to rile up America for a war against Iran, plain & simple. The good part is that -- unlike the Iraqis throw babies out of incubators in Kuwait tale -- it only takes a few hours these days to poke enough holes in the story to keep it out of "mainstream" American media.

The radio talk shows and "Nuke Iran!" blogs will do what they like with it, of course.
posted by kenlayne at 8:59 PM on May 19, 2006


While the National Post _was_ owned by Izzy Asper, he has since passed on, and I don't think he owns anything anymore...
posted by sporb at 9:44 PM on May 19, 2006


jefgodesky: the seperation of church and state is a much-cherished ideal in certain segments of Western society


which ones? The brits and french have a state religion and the US has fundies running the place. if it's an ideal, it's one that no longer corresponds to reality.

nationalism in the west was, at its best, a tradition invented by elites to get others to die in wars for more territory, cash, etc. At its worst, it was a justification for empire building and spawned the first and second world wars. And one could say that it was precisely in response to these empire builders that people in the middle east began promoting Pan-Arabism (just as there was and in some places still is a push for Pan-African unity.) Niether of these was all that prevalent except in opposition to the west. On the other hand, many people in the states would like a pan-christian unity, seeing the war in Iraq (despite it's secular state) and Afghanistan (despite it's pitiful state) as being against "Jihadistan."

In other words, these two sides are now playing off of each other. It isn't an issue of cultural relativism it's a something we're all about to get fucked over by. As several people have already pointed out, this article is case in point as it is likely propaganda planted by an Iranian exile group pushing for the overthrow so they can get installed as the new fucked up fundie crowd only this time funded and supported by the US. It's like we have to live the last fifty, hundred or five hundred (depending on how you look at it) all over again before people figure out it's a bad idea.
posted by sandrew3 at 10:35 PM on May 19, 2006


My perception of Iran's behavior ('Iran' being easier to spell than whats-his-name), admittedly, gleaned from sources that are likely questionable, is deliberately provocative, rather like Al-Q. To the extent that he/they may see value in being provocative, I could believe the story.
posted by Goofyy at 12:05 AM on May 20, 2006


The National Post is now backing off the story. But I'm sure they've managed to provide the war-with-Iran crowd a wonderful new source of misinformation.
posted by Makoto at 1:51 AM on May 20, 2006


Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias has quite a bit on this story in her blog. "The National Post today sank about as low as a newspaper can go, essentially constructing a sensational and emotionally-charged story out of little or nothing, upsetting millions all over the world and probably making it much harder for a peaceful outcome with Iran to be achieved." Focuses particularly on Taheri's role.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:12 AM on May 20, 2006


The journalist who penned the op-ed that accompanied the front page article is Amir Taheri, an extremely accomplished journalist who is Tehran-born and holds many impressive credentials. You should read about him. I don't think he would put his weight behind this article without some good cause. The appropriate thing to do right now is to withhold judgment and hope that we are all right in being skeptical. This kitty litter nonsense is unbecoming of metafilter.
posted by ori at 8:09 PM PST on May 19 [+fave] [!]


Taheri has definitely jumped the shark here.
posted by mek at 3:24 AM on May 20, 2006


I'm surprised jenleigh didn't post about this
posted by matteo at 6:04 AM on May 20, 2006


Hoder has written about this as well: The real story behind the 'badges for Iranian Jews'. The Post retracted their story online
posted by chunking express at 8:14 AM on May 20, 2006


Information war. Hate mongering. Demonization.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:14 AM on May 20, 2006



Juan Cole has a good post refuting the claim today (May 20th).

Maurice Motamed, the representative of the Iranian Jewish community in Iran's parliament, has strongly denied the rumors started by Canada's National Post that the Iranian legislature has passed a law requiring members of religious communities to wear identifying badges.

The report was also denied on Montreal radio by Meir Javedanfar, Middle East Analyst and the Director for the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company.

The National Post was founded by Conrad Black and has been owned by CanWest since 2003,* is not a repository of expertise about Iran. It is typical of black psychological operations campaigns that they begin with a plant in an out of the way* newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press. Once the Jerusalem Post picks it up, then reporters can source it there, even though the Post has done no original reporting and has just depended on the National Post article, which is extremely vague in its own sourcing (to "human rights groups").

posted by bukharin at 10:23 AM on May 20, 2006


I wrote: The appropriate thing to do right now is to withhold judgment and hope that we are all right in being skeptical.

Well, I guess it looks pretty safe to say that the post fucked up big time.
posted by ori at 11:43 AM on May 20, 2006


But note that Stephen Harper & co. have had no qualms about pumping up/out the story:
"Harper chides Iran for non-existent racist bill it doesn't have"

That's an article in the London Free Press, my hometown paper and part of the same Asper morass. To wit:
"And Iranian politicians -- including a Jewish legislator in Tehran -- were infuriated by the Post report, which they called false."
posted by Flashman at 2:20 PM on May 20, 2006


D'oh, I see that was brought up right on the FPP - I'd read this article earlier and just jumped right into these comments. With disastrous results.
posted by Flashman at 2:30 PM on May 20, 2006


There's no doubt in my mind that Ahmadinejad is batshit crazy. But this story was run without any verification. Even Harper (who is really not the brightest bulb on the tree) reacted to the story as a hypothetical.

I don't read the National Post; it still smells of Conrad Black and his vampire wife. Usually it's just right wing, but quality-wise it's in a nose dive. Even if there turns out to be a shred of truth to this story, I think the Post should be ashamed about publishing this story without minimal verification of the facts.

No doubt this really upset a lot of holocaust survivors.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2006


what's really tragic is that they're actually PUBLICLY HANGING gays and lesbians there but it's these old canards that get people in an uproar. Aren't most if not all the schoolbooks in the region still full of stuff from the Protocols too?

... documents expose the state-sanctioned torture and murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people by the Iranian clerical regime. Mr. Forbes's pioneering investigation is based on information from credible, verified sources inside Iran. It provides clear evidence of homophobic honor killings, arrests, torture and executions.” ...
posted by amberglow at 10:32 PM on May 20, 2006


Amberglow, Iran tortures all sorts of people. I don't think the homosexuals are getting special treatment. They're right up there with the pro-democracy voice and the communists and etc etc etc.
posted by chunking express at 12:45 AM on May 21, 2006


I mean, they are planning on hanging a girl for defending herself from rapists.
posted by chunking express at 12:47 AM on May 21, 2006


PsyOps: Walking Back the Cat ---...So here's how it works. Taheri is in cahoots with Ledeen, Perle and Frum and is even a columnist for the National Review, their organ for warmongering swill. Taheri writes the incendiary op-ed piece "A color code for Iran's infidels" and himself sends it to the Simon Weisenthal Center. When someone there makes a fuss, it becomes news in a Likudite-linked paper where David Frum got his start as a columnist and where he is coincidentally publishing a weekly column again today. Viola! Effective psy ops delivery of a nasty calumny which makes Ahmadinejad look like Hitler!

This cannot be allowed to keep happening day after day, creating a stronger hysteria for another destructive and dangerous war plunging the world into chaos. ...

posted by amberglow at 9:34 AM on May 21, 2006


The Pan-Arabist movement called for a secular and socialist Arab world, and their failure to achieve that has much to do with the US having other plans for the region. There is also Mossagdeh's communist government in Iran, which enjoyed popular support until the CIA brought it crashing down. The success of radical Islamists in gaining popular support in Iran and the Arab world has much to do with the frustration and anger of the local populations feel over the failure of secular nationalism. Astonishing as this may sound to you, the desire for transparent governance, public participation, free governance and religious freedoms is not unique to white people.

Unique, no, but it is not universal. Our ways are not necessarily the best, and I think it's far more racist to suggest that all peoples are "intelligent" enough to recognize the superiority of our ways, than it is to suggest that they might have values and priorities of their own that are just as valid.

But speaking to the specific situation, yes, I'm aware of all that. I didn't see the need to get into that much detail for a single example. I'm also aware of the similar failures of fascism and Communism in the Middle East, and of the frustration that has brought about, leading to the wide-spread adoption of Islamic fundamentalism. In the early part of the twentieth century, European empires said that Islam was irrelevant to Middle Eastern politics. Today, it is Middle Eastern politics. The secular post-colonial regimes are widely seen as failed, and in need of replacement with theocracy. Turkey is probably the most secular Muslim country in the world--even there, there is a significant and increasing movement to turn it into a theocracy.

The historical process by which that came to be the case is one centered around European domination (only recently has the United States been the imperial oppressor du jour), but it does not change the fact that today, even the most revolutionary segments of Iranian society* are calling for things that we'd generally think of as only modest reforms, and think that our style of democracy is insane and dehumanizing. Iran isn't a place I'd like to live, but there are a good many Iranians who do. People are different; cultures are different; priorities are different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the world's problems, and as insane as Ahmadinejad sounds to us, to most Iranians, he makes a lot of sense.

* The student revolutionaries in Iran are far less radical, far less numerous, and far less influential than they are portrayed in the U.S. media, because Europeans are interested in hearing the Enlightenment fairy tale of constant, unchecked progress as all peoples everywhere embrace the European values of republican government and secular humanism as basic, fundamental truths on par with the laws of physics.
posted by jefgodesky at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2006


The National Post has officially appologized.
"It is now clear the story is not true," National Post editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly wrote in a long editorial on page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."
[...]
Asked about the Post story last Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Iran "is very capable of this kind of action." He added: "It boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the Earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany."

A spokesman for Harper said the prime minister had started off his comments with the words "If this is true."
posted by Chuckles at 3:19 PM on May 24, 2006


Apologized, actually. They probably should have apologised though..
posted by Chuckles at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2006


Guess who was invited to the White House as an expert?

... The man who fabricated the whole story was invited to the White House as an "expert" yesterday. You just can't make this stuff up.

I'd heard about the meeting yesterday, which included Wayne Downing, Barry McCaffrey, Michael Vickers and Fouad Ajami, but I wasn't told about Taheri until today. ...

posted by amberglow at 9:07 AM on May 31, 2006


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