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Yale president’s office was involved from the gitgo in blowup over Yale chaplain’s letter

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Good news: Journalists are writing up the Rev. Bruce Shipman case at Yale in a sympathetic manner. Was it really necessary for the Episcopal chaplain to lose his job at the school because of a three-sentence letter to the New York Times saying Israel’s “carnage” in Gaza is a factor in growing anti-Semitism in Europe? After that letter came out August 26 (full text at the link) Shipman says he experienced an “avalanche” of criticism and hate mail almost instantaneously, and that calls for his termination went to the Yale President’s office from angry alumni– calls that were promptly conveyed to him by the university chaplain, per one of these news accounts.

The two pieces of reporting raise questions about whether a prestige university can field a debate over Israel/Palestine without requiring red lines that prevent open discussion. And Shipman says straightforwardly, “I will not be silenced.”

Elizabeth Dias at Time Magazine spoke to Shipman, and he cited other great controversial causes as models for him. And notice the importance of donors:

For Shipman, the controversy raises a number of “troubling questions” about free speech on campus. In addition to the hate mail, Shipman says he has also received letters of support from people thanking him for taking a courageous stand for Palestinian rights. University chaplains, he adds, have a long history advocating unpopular cultural positions. William Sloane Coffin Jr., a chaplain at Yale during the 1960s, gained fame for practicing civil disobedience in prostest of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Clergy today, he continues, need to know what protections they do and don’t have when it comes to taking unpopular positions. “I think of abolitionism and the role the church played in that, I think of the civil rights movement, I think of the anti-war movement and the role the chaplains played in that, often incurring the wrath of big givers and donors of the university, but they were protected and they were respected,” he says. “That seems not to be the case now.”

As to what’s next for him, Shipman isn’t yet sure, but he doesn’t plan on remaining silent. “I think the truth must be brought out and it must be discussed on campus by people of goodwill without labeling anti-Semitic anyone who raises these questions,” he says. “Surely this debate should take place on the campuses of the leading universities across the country. If not there, where?”

The same themes are present in Deborah Straszheim’s excellent report on the case in The Day, in Connecticut. My headline comes from this account:

Within two hours of the publication of the letter [on August 26], which included a line at the end identifying him as the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, Shipman said, “there was an avalanche of hate mail calling me every name imaginable, and an anti-Semite, (saying) I was a disgrace to my calling and I ought not to be in any public office.”
He received an email from Yale University Chaplain Sharon M.D. Kugler, who also lives in Groton, saying she was certain he had no clue how her office and its work had been affected by what he’d done.
“Confused students, angry alumni, staff and random people from across the country have been in touch with me and with President (Peter) Salovey’s office all day,” she wrote in the Aug. 26 email. “Some calling for your termination and others calling for mine. Even our Hindu Life Advisor who shares your last name has had to field some very inflamed emails.”…

Shipman is talking about official pressure here. Kugler was obviously incensed. And President Salovey’s office wasn’t just twiddling its thumbs. Yale quickly sought to distance itself. “Yale pointed out that Shipman was not on staff but was rather employed by the Episcopal Church.” But the controversy raged.

Shipman said the executive committee of the Board of Governors of the Episcopal Church of Yale called a special meeting on Sept. 2 to discuss his letter.

“The executive committee made it clear that I should resign or be fired,” Shipman said. Members said his actions damaged the church’s relations with the university and generated bad publicity, he said….

But he’s not backing down on his witnessing for Palestine (Shipman has been there several times):

“They have got to move together to share the land,” he said. “They both have compelling claims to the land. You hear the stories and you weep. And the stories are real and true, the suffering is real, and there’s got to be some hope. Otherwise, you’re locked in this tragic struggle for the land that seems to be to the death.”
He said he didn’t think he had to discuss his views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the chaplain first before airing them.
“If it can’t be discussed in good faith on a university campus, why not?” Shipman said. He said he’s not anti-Semitic and he should be able to discuss the conflict without being labeled. “That is the last thing that I am, and I will not be silenced.”

I believe this controversy stems from the fear on the part of the lobby that criticism of Israel is moving from the grassroots to the inside, and that lines must be drawn at prestigious institutions. It’s clear that Shipman’s letter was a 9 on the Richter scale at Yale within a couple of hours and that Yale was being called on to excommunicate him in a hurry. The Episcopal Church did so within days. And tomorrow night a Yale program on anti-Semitism at the school will be holding a panel on Shipman’s letter and the piece it responded to without Shipman’s inclusion. It is very much like Steve Walt’s bastinado at Harvard — within hours of the publication of the groundbreaking Israel lobby paper in 2006, there were demands that Harvard’s name be taken off the paper, that leading funders withdraw their gifts, that Walt lose his chaired professorship and deanship. Walt said last spring:

[I]t’s made it impossible for me to serve in the U.S. government, because it would be just too politically controversial. Even if someone wanted me, say, to work on U.S. policy in Asia, it would just be not worth it. I’m not so valuable that a president or a secretary of state would want to deal with the political fallout. It has probably had some impact on my upward mobility in academia – if I wanted to be a dean or something like that. –

The great thing is that Walt didn’t go away, but worked harder at elaborating his ideas, and Shipman isn’t either.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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40 Responses

  1. lysias on September 16, 2014, 1:49 pm

    How Yale has fallen. Once upon a time, Yale President Kingman Brewster supported William Sloan Coffin in his controversial stands.

    • MRW on September 17, 2014, 4:03 pm

      Moreover, it speaks strongly to the Israeli Lobby corruption of American life, values, and intellectual freedom over the last 30 years. We’re nearing a tipping point, I fear. How can the Lobby not see that everyone is taking note of this piling on, and that one day it’s going to explode? As Andy Dufresne said to the Warden in The Shawshank Redemption, “How can you be so obtuse?”

      • michtom on September 17, 2014, 11:13 pm

        There is one significant problem with defending Shipman’s letter:

        “Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.

        “The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.”

        One, anti-Semitism has nothing to do with actions by Jews other than to use them as an excuse for its bigotry. To make the criminal behavior of the state of Israel a justification for anti-Semitism is to make clear that one has no idea that bigotry is not rational.

        Two, the second paragraph is a classic example of confusing correlation with causation. Israel’s behavior has been going on for over 60 years. That another rise in European anti-Semitism (and we’ve never seen THAT before, have we?) has paralleled the past five years of Israel’s continued criminality in no way justifies that rise.

        This does not, in any way, mean that Shipman should have been fired, but he was, at best, clumsy and unthinking in his view and, as Israel’s behavior gave anti-Semites an excuse, Zionists took their illegitimate justification in the same bigoted way.

      • Talkback on September 18, 2014, 8:44 am

        michtom: To make the criminal behavior of the state of Israel a justification for anti-Semitism is to make clear that one has no idea that bigotry is not rational.

        True. But what’s missing in most cases is a rational definition of antisemitism. Most attacks against Jews – verbal or physical – are not direct at them as being Jews, but for their (support of) criminal behaviour against Palestinians.

      • James Canning on September 18, 2014, 1:52 pm

        Too many “supporters” of Israel try to facilitate Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, by branding opposition to such oppression as being “anti-Semitic”.

      • marc b. on September 18, 2014, 9:32 am


        your own analysis is error-laden.

        1. It was an error on Shipman’s part to tie Israel’s policies to ‘growing anti-Semitism’, without attempting to sort out which reactions to Israel’s conduct are anti-Semitic, and which are unflinching criticisms of a state’s policies. You just compound the error as your comment continues after the quote.

        2. No, anti-Semitic attitudes or conduct are not a legitimate reaction to Israeli conduct, but, assuming that anti-Semitism is part of the reaction to Israeli conduct, Israel/Zionism has intentionally confused the issue. By casting itself as the arbiter of authentic Jewishness, it has ensured that criticism of Israel and ‘the Jews’ is necessarily muddied. See Dershowitz, “Many Jewish leaders, both religious and secular, have argued that Jews need enemies—that without anti-Semitism, Judaism cannot survive.”

        3. Yes, Israel’s behavior has been going on for 60 years. Awareness of that behavior has evolved however. Unfortunately, or fortunately, for Israel, it has gone from a bit player in the Cold War, to a focal point of the indefensible US/European policies in the ME. That, and the myth of the plucky David facing off against the undifferentiated mass of the Arab Goliath, is dead. Its treatment of Gaza, in particular, killed it.

        4. I don’t know how any objective person can conclude that there is a rise of ‘New anti-Semitism’ in Europe or elsewhere. Since you’re so blasé about the flat, homogenous history of Israeli behavior, how is what is occurring in Europe now worse than Black September, the running gun and ideological battles going on between Israel and ‘Arabs’ in Europe in the 70s, for example? Moreover, those defining the ‘New anti-Semitism’ have ensured that anti-Israel activism and sentiment is indistinguishable from ‘real’ anti-Semitism, at least as far as it is recorded by those who record such things.

        5. Please, enough of the ‘but’ defenses of Salaita, Shipman, etc. If he shouldn’t have been fired, he shouldn’t have been fired. ‘He shouldn’t have been fired, but . . .’, he was clumsy, obnoxious, has bad breath, and on, is dishonest. it’s a non-defense, defense, with a justification of the firing built in.

      • eGuard on September 21, 2014, 8:54 am

        michtom, you are barking up the wrong tree. Shipman responded to the “anti-Semitism” that Deborah Lipstadt had mentioned.

        Lipstadt mentions: “And a pro-Hamas marcher in Berlin broke away from the crowd and assaulted an older man who was quietly standing on a corner holding an Israeli flag.” An Israeli flag stands for Israel, and making that “anti-Semitism” is false.

        “a group of Parisian Jews were trapped in a synagogue by pro-Palestinian rioters and had to be rescued by the police.” But those Synagogue de la Roquette riots have been debunked as being opposite: no jew was threatened or had to hide in the synagogue (the rabbi stated), and it were the pro-Israel supporters that, with police cooperation, attacked. No attacks on jews then.

        She deliberately confuses “Israeli goods” (to boycott) with “kosher food”, introducing anti-Semitism herself.

        (Lipstadt also writes: “youths of Arab or African descent. Many of these Muslims …”. Why can the professor not tell the difference?)

        And of course, the very first examples she mentions occurred during a pro-Gaza protest march. How is that not related to Gaza? And then, how is a “rise” not related to Gaza?

        Shipman only referred to Lipstadt’s redefinition of “anti-Semitism” (a crippled one, with substandard logic), and so the problems you see with that should be discussed with Lipstadt.

  2. lysias on September 16, 2014, 1:52 pm

    Is Shipman not participating in the panel because he chose not to participare or because he was not invited? A failure to invite him would demonstrate a shocking lack of commitment to intellectual honesty in an academic setting.

    • HarryLaw on September 16, 2014, 2:15 pm

      Lysias – If he was not invited surely this would breach the rules of natural justice?…..

      The Rules of natural justice are derived from Roman law.

      The Romans believed certain basic fundamental legal principles to be self evident truths.
      Simply put the rules of natural justice relate to fairness: they exist to protect the fair dealing with individuals who find themselves before a court, tribunal or any hearing to whose judgement an individual is subject. In any instance of anyone being before a hearing the individual has a right to be heard. This is often called audi alteram partem. Thus, if a student is being subjected to a plagiarism hearing for example then the student has a right to make representations. Linked To this Right is the right to be informed beforehand of the allegations against him or her. The Other key rule from which the others are derived is nemo judex in parte sua (no ‐ One can judge their own case).

  3. HarryLaw on September 16, 2014, 1:52 pm

    To assert that the Israeli Government’s policies in occupied Palestine over the past 47 years, particularly its recent aggression, has contributed to a rise in antisemitism in Europe is surely just stating a fact, although most people would say it has nothing to do with antisemitism but anti Zionism, conflating the two are used by dishonest people to tar people like the good Chaplain Shipman.

    • MHughes976 on September 16, 2014, 3:26 pm

      Not sure that I’d call the response to recent aggression ‘anti-Semitic’ or ‘anti-Jewish’ – it’s just anti-atrocity even when atrocities are committed by Jewish people. Maybe worth mentioning that comparatively few of history’s atrocities have been committed by Jewish people, even though this one has been.

      • RoHa on September 16, 2014, 6:53 pm

        The OT has plenty of stories of Jews committing atrocities. Probably mostly fiction, though. There are also the Kitos war, the forcible conversion of Galilee under the Maccabees, the Bar Kokhba revolt, and the attack on the Christians of Alexandria to add to the mix. You might find a few more atrocities there.

      • MHughes976 on September 17, 2014, 6:35 am

        A good point from RoHa (below) – maybe my ‘comparatively few’ would just about survive those counterexamples?

  4. just on September 16, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Yale has disgraced itself, and it appears that many in the various administrations are part of the scurrilous mob.

    Reverend Shipman stands tall, with his grace and dignity intact.

    Thanks Phil. Both UIUC and Yale are testament to the fact that the fish rots from the head.

    • MHughes976 on September 16, 2014, 3:27 pm

      The Episcopal/Anglican Church seems to have disgraced itself even more profoundly. I’m used to that but this episode may be touching new depths.

      • just on September 16, 2014, 6:02 pm

        That is why I wrote administrationS.

      • just on September 16, 2014, 6:06 pm

        I don’t think I can assign blame to the entire Episcopalian Church…

      • MHughes976 on September 17, 2014, 6:33 am

        You’re a model of fairness – nice to meet someone who really lives up to his/her screen name! It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal Church can find another job for him.

  5. RoHa on September 16, 2014, 7:02 pm

    I suspect this continual hounding of those who speak out against Israel will eventually cause such revulsion that the general public will turn against the Zionists, but many careers will be destroyed before that happens.

  6. Nevada Ned on September 16, 2014, 11:27 pm

    What do Walt&Mearsheimer have in common with Rev. Bruce Shipman?
    They are speaking out and condemning in public Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

    Many Americans involved in the I/P struggle are either Jewish or Arab-American.

    The Israelis and their US supporters and defenders are losing the previously near-monolithic support they once enjoy among American Jews. Mondoweiss is a valuable narrative of the conflict among American Jews on the I/P issue.

    Meanwhile, the Israelis and their supporters are resigned to opposition from Arab-American.

    But 95% of the US population is neither Jewish or Arab-American.
    Walt/Mearsheimer and Bruce Shipman reached out to that 95%.
    That’s why the Israelis and their supporters reacted so quickly the Shipman case. The battle for pubic opinion will be won or lost among the 95%.

  7. adele on September 16, 2014, 11:31 pm

    Shipman and Salaita should go on speaking tours together. More people to those who have been harmed by the tyranny of zionism.

  8. eGuard on September 17, 2014, 8:40 am

    So Yale Chaplain Sharon Kugler complains about what it did to her office and her work (bolding added):

    “Confused students, angry alumni, staff and random people […] have been in touch with me [Isn’t that your job?] … all day”. “Some calling for your termination and others calling for mine. Even our Hindu Life Advisor who shares your last name has had to field some very inflamed emails.” (Incidentally, is Kugler slamming him because someone else has a similar name?

    Thanks, Kugler. Your crying for yourself has been noticed. We know where you stand, and whose words you speak. Doesn’t your religion or your academic connection tell you anything? Ever considered standing up, speaking for yourself, and take a stand?

  9. marc b. on September 17, 2014, 12:09 pm

    saying she was certain he had no clue how her office and its work had been affected by what he’d done.

    I’d like to know what ‘work’ she’s referring to. And Shipman’s responsible somehow for frothing idiots erroneously haranguing the Hindu Life Advisor? Poor things. Presumably they’re advocates of the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi, yet they fold like cheap beach chairs at the slightest discomfort. My gosh, what would Christ do if his 401k was threatened? Why, he’d fire one of his disciples.

  10. EliStern on September 17, 2014, 12:16 pm

    Let’s not forget that Yale was founded on Judeo-Christian Enlightenment values.

    • eGuard on September 17, 2014, 5:46 pm

      Judeo-Christian Enlightenment? These religios always opposed enlightenment. Just give me one (only one) case where these religions actually advanced enlightenment.

      • joecatron on September 20, 2014, 4:15 pm

        The founding of Europe’s first general hospitals under the patronage of cathedrals?

  11. Edward Q on September 17, 2014, 1:01 pm

    Salaita made a similar statement in one of the tweets that was used to justify his firing. As I recall, some years ago Yale was considering hiring Prof. Juan Cole but then got cold feet over his politics.

  12. hophmi on September 17, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Again, what proof do you have that this is about donors? Yale’s endowment is over $20 billion. The notion that a few big donors could make any difference is not likely. Show me your evidence that Shipman was asked to step down over donations.

    • philweiss on September 17, 2014, 3:51 pm

      “I think of abolitionism and the role the church played in that, I think of the civil rights movement, I think of the anti-war movement and the role the chaplains played in that, often incurring the wrath of big givers and donors of the university, but they were protected and they were respected,” he says. “That seems not to be the case now.”

      Shipman said that. I believe he knows what he’s talking about Hophmi. Donors were of course mobilized by Marty Peretz over Walt and Mearsheimer. I believe you’re obfuscating?

      • hophmi on September 17, 2014, 4:05 pm

        “Shipman said that.”

        Based on what? Seems like he made an unwarranted assumption for which he offered no proof.

        The problem with this thesis is that there are lots and lots of people in academia who hold a pro-Palestinian perspective, and do it publicly.

        And as far as Yale, the argument that a few donors can influence hiring and firing at a school with a $20 billion endowment doesn’t hold much water unless you can produce hard proof of it, which you clearly can’t.

        It’s no different with Salaita. You guys pulled a couple of emails from a cache of 70 that were from donors, and you decided, despite the fact that every member of the Board of Trustees denied it, including James Montgomery, that it must have been donors.

        So I’m asking for the proof. Because it seems as though you make the assumption that there must be some nefarious Jewish money conspiracy behind every one of these cases.

      • eGuard on September 17, 2014, 5:32 pm

        hophmi: it seems as though you make the assumption that there must be some … behind every …

        Sure you are the right person to ask for “proof” “hard proof”.

  13. James Canning on September 17, 2014, 2:02 pm

    The Rev. Bruce Shipman’s brief comment in New York Times was not a bad thing for Israel’s true best interests.

  14. justicewillprevail on September 17, 2014, 4:15 pm

    This whole thing is an object lesson about how the zionist mob works. Within two hours Shipman was receiving an ‘avalanche’ of email, while Kugman had her email hijacked by the same mob. She is either extremely naive or disingenuous to claim that students were confused, or that the complainants were ‘random’. If students are so easily confused by an inoffensive letter with uncontroversial content, then Yale is doing a terrible job at educating them. If I was a parent I would ask for my money back.
    It is obvious how it works – the email is sent out suggesting that zionist supporters bombard Yale officials with angry emails (random – not) – a whole day is wasted dealing with this nonsense, Klugman gets intimidated, which is the point, and vents at Shipman.
    There is no ‘storm’ or ‘crisis’. There is, though, an organised siege of Yale by the mob. This is, like others, an entirely confected furore, with the object of getting Shipman sacked – job done – and intimidating anyone else from discussing Israel and Palestine in any way of which the mob disapproves. And they have powerful backers who can threaten to withhold funds and generally make life difficult for faculty and staff. Exactly what happened to Salaita.
    Shipman is entirely innocent, but he has dared discuss Israel and Palestine from the point of view of someone without a zionist ideological zeal. The lobby knows that open, dispassionate discussion of Palestine and israel will be the end of the israel myth factory they have assiduously cultivated for years. They clearly think they cannot afford such discussion, and will attack anyone threatening to bring it out into the open. They know they are losers when the facts are presented, so the facts must be buried, and those who discuss them, particularly in institutions will be subject to this kind of ugly mob hate speech and action. Had they ignored Shipmans mild letter, nothing of any note would have happened, it would have been forgotten quickly enough. But the fact that they react so viciously with their rapid reaction goon squad says everything about how vulnerable they are, and how scared they are of daylight breaking into the discussion. It won’t work, time will expose them and their paranoid, unAmerican activities. They are already causing revulsion with their attempts at intimidation and smearing, it can only get worse for them and their McCarthy-ite tactics.

  15. DaBakr on September 17, 2014, 8:21 pm

    on a side note…Ali Hirsii was met with a standing ovation at Yale on monday. Apparently, her ideas were not ill received at all despite attempts to shut her out.

    • annie on September 17, 2014, 9:57 pm

      no one expected them to be ill received by the conservative (islamophobic) group who invited her and their conservative (islamophobic)friends.meanwhile, back in relity: Ayaan Hirsi Ali Draws Criticism From Fellow Atheists At Yale

      Ali will speak at the invitation of the William F. Buckley Jr. Program, a student organization that describes itself as committed to diversity. Thirty-five other Yale groups have expressed concern over the invitation.

  16. bryan on September 18, 2014, 4:41 am

    What an utterly disgraceful episode. I do not have a great deal of time for preachers, but surely if they have any rationale it is to speak uncomfortable truths and to demand justice. To refer to the linkage between Israel’s Gaza policy and apparently rising “antisemitism” is an incontrovertible truth. Mark Gardner spokesman for the Community Security Trust, a British support helpline for Jews, reporting that the charity “has received more than 240 calls in July alone – up from around 50 a month for the rest of 2014… The actual data is bad enough but cannot convey the mood of the Jewish community, with many people telling us that they have never felt so bad, have been under such pressure, nor worried so much about what the future may hold. British Jews, like those elsewhere, will continue to suffer local anti-Semitic impacts from overseas events and global ideological trends.”

    Nor is Operation Protective Edge the first time that Israeli policies have had blow-back for European Jews; “July [2014] was the second-worst month ever recorded by the charity, established in 1994, after 289 incidents were seen in January 2009”. [Operation Cast Lead]. On that occasion British Muslim leaders called on their followers “to remain vigilant against attempts to bring our faith and community into disrepute. British Jews should not be held responsible for the actions of the Israeli government”. Responding, and clearly acknowledging the elephant in the room, the Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed “the moral clarity, courage and vision shown by many leading British Muslims in their statement condemning the wave of anti-Semitic hatred that British Jews have suffered during the course of the terrible conflict in Gaza”.

    Nor should there be any objection to Shipman’s use of such moderate terminology as “carnage”. With hundreds of dead civilians, including women and children, thousands seriously wounded or disabled, hundreds of thousands displaced and tens of thousands losing their homes “carnage” is almost too mild and “bestiality”, “barbarism”, “obscenity”, “hooliganism” or even “holocaust” would be more apt descriptors. In fact Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni referred to the earlier (and milder) outrage that was Operation Cast Lead, expressed her pride in the Israeli achievement, explaining “Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent incident, which I demanded”. (quoted by Max Blumenthal in ‘Goliath’, Chapter 4, “Hill of Shame”)


    It seems to me that in order to combat Zionist dissimulation it would be invaluable to have real authoritative statistical analysis in three particular areas:
    (1) Number of authenticated incidents of anti-Semitism in the diaspora, mapped against formative events in Israel/Palestine;
    (2) Number of rockets fired from Gaza chronologically correlated with Israeli assassinations and other atrocities;
    (3) Numbers of conflict-related confirmed civilian deaths within the Palestinian and Israeli populations, clearly identifying whether these occurred inside or outside the 1967 borders.
    I have seen various attempts to collate such data, but nothing that I would describe as authoritative. Can any of the learned scholars on this site point me in the right direction?

  17. bilal a on September 26, 2014, 9:46 pm

    At Unz review, ethnocentrists K. MacDonal and Steve Sailer are now discussing the validity of calling attention to the foreign miitary IDF connections of David Brooks and other american commentators, evidently following Mondoweiss

    Ethnic Extremist Leaves U.S. to Fight in Middle Eastern Tribal War
    By Steve Sailer • September 25, 2014

    From the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A. (via MondoWeiss):
    David Brooks’ Son Is In the Israeli Army: Does It Matter?
    by Rob Eshman

    Steve Sailer on the need for criticism of Jewish loyalty
    Kevin MacDonald on September 26, 2014 — Leave a Comment

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