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Iloilo pedestrian overpass ‘not friendly’ to elderly, PWDs

“The world worries about disability more than disabled people do.” Warwick Davis

By Alex P. Vidal

If we follow the law, contractors of the old pedestrian overpass in front of a giant mall at the Iloilo City Diversion Road in Mandurriao district should have been charged in court for violation of Republic Act 7277 or “An act providing for the rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes.”
For several years since it was built, the old pedestrian overpass, which has been replaced by a new one that will be operational this year, did not have elevators.
It’s mind-boggling how engineers managed to pursue the project without anticipating some loopholes that would give them legal headache.
The structure was not friendly to elderly and persons with disabilities (PWD). And nobody cared; not until a new and better-equipped pedestrian overpass was built early this year to replace it.
The late House sectoral Rep. Art Borjal, a many-time Iloilo and Negros visitor, once told us he would file charges against building owners, public structures and their contractors who did not follow the law on Republic Act 7277.
“Even hotels and malls are mandated by law to build a special area for their customers and clients that are PWDs,” Borjal told us then.
He would have protested the contractors’ negligence in the old Diversion Road pedestrian overpass.

BARRIER-FREE

Section 25 on barrier-free environment of Chapter 6 on accessibility, states that “The State shall ensure the attainment of a barrier-free environment that will enable disabled persons to have access in public and private buildings and establishments and such other places mentioned in Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, otherwise known as the Accessibility Law’. The national and local government shall allocate funds for the provision of architectural or structural features for disabled persons in government buildings and facilities.”
Section 26 on Mobility states further that “The State promotes the mobility of disabled persons. Disabled persons shall be allowed to drive motor vehicles, subject to the rules and regulations issued by the Land Transportation Office pertinent to the nature of their disability and the appropriate adaptations or modifications made on such vehicles; and Section 27 on Access to Public Transport Facilities states that “The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall develop a program to assist marginalized disabled persons gain access in the use of public transport facilities. Such assistance may be in the form of subsidized transportation fare. The said department shall also allocate such funds as may be necessary for the effective implementation of the public transport program for the disabled persons. The Accessibility Law,’ as amended, shall be made supplementary to this Act.”

DPWH

In a related development, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has decided to put up elevators at the new pedestrian overpass in the same area which would cost some P20 million.
DPWH Regional Director Edilberto Tayao said
the new pedestrian overpass has its footbridge designed for the ease and convenience of PWDs and senior citizens.
“This is in keeping with the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons and Batas Pambansa 344,” the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Iloilo quoted Tayao as saying over the weekend.
PIA said Batas Pambansa 344 seeks to enhance the mobility of PWDs by requiring buildings, institutions, establishments and public utilities to install facilities and other devices.
Tayao described the new overpass, 50.235 meters long and three meters wide and costing P19,302, 321 as “PWD-friendly and the only biggest project so far that the agency has built for the sector.”

REDUCE

The structure intends to reduce traffic congestion in the area so that mall goers do not have to use the roads in crossing, according to the DPWH.
Tayao further said: “The city government is encouraging the private sector to contribute to the development and maintenance of the project, through public-private partnership.”
We are happy that the DPWH has finally realized the need and importance of building elevators in the new pedestrian overpass.
The new structure connects the giant mall to the other side of the road where the state-of-the-art Injap Tower is located.
It’s not yet too late to correct the past mistake. As the saying goes, “better late than never.”

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Rome wasn’t built in a day; LRT dream should live on

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”Eleanor Roosevelt

By Alex P. Vidal

WHEN former Guimaras Governor Emily Relucio- Lopez dreamed of building a bridge between Guimaras and Iloilo in the early 90’s, she was hailed as a “visionary” leader by both the media and fellow leaders in Western Visayas.
Relucio-Lopez toyed with the quixotic idea after President FVR appointed her OIC governor when Guimaras’ became a full-fledged island province on May 22, 1992, after a plebiscite was conducted to ratify the approval of its conversion pursuant to Section 462 of R.A. 7160.
When then senatorial candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago thought about the same project, excited fellow Ilonggos absolved her from her “sin” of waltzing with ousted President and now Manila Mayor Erap Estrada.
The list of dreamers for a Guimaras bridge hiked every political season: Nikki Coseteng, Manny Villar, Tito Guingona, and all the gadflies and political adventurists queuing for Ilonggo votes.

SERVICE

Relucio-Lopez did not pay a lip service to her grandiose proposal; she brought the matter seriously before the Regional Development Council (RDC) headed then by former Negros Governor Rafael Coscolluela.
Relucio-Lopez was probably imagining an extra dosed cable-stayed bridge similar to the four-lane, 1,237-meter (4,058 feet)-long Marcelo Fernan Bridge in Cebu, one of the widest and longest bridge spans in the country today.
Lack of investors and interested parties in the private sector as well as commitment from foreign-based financial institutions like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) stalled the proposed project. Not a single serious feasibility study was ever conducted.
Years have passed and FVR, Relucio-Lopez, Coscolluela, among other proponents of the Guimaras bridge, were no longer in power. Politicians come and go. No one was talking about the bridge anymore. It was a dream that turned into a nightmare, so to speak.
Although the construction of the bridge never materialized, nobody faulted Relucio-Lopez, et al. For trying their best, they didn’t suffer the thought of what might have been; the rest was simply beyond their control and capacity.

LRT

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, for his part, has his own big dream: a proposed Light Railways Transport (LRT) in Panay Island “that would boost the local tourism industry.”
Per the advice of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), he has requested for a feasibility study from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), and is optimistic to get a positive response.
The city council has backed Mabilog’s proposal for a feasibility study in a resolution. The mayor is eyeing passengers and tourists to have easy access from Iloilo to Boracay, Aklan in particular and shorten their travel time from six to at least two hours.
Among the four governors in Panay Island, only Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. has expressed pessimism saying the proposed project is “too ambitious.”
Let us hope that the proposed LRT project will not end up as another proposed Guimaras bridge project. Like what we said here earlier, politicians just come and go; times change and circumstances change with them. The dream lives on.

LUCK

Even if, by a stroke of luck, the proposed LRT project would push through, Mabilog, et al won’t be there anymore at city hall to share the limelight.
But we must credit Mabilog, though, at least for thinking what others haven’t thought. Leaders have the right to dream big and dream higher for their constituents.
Dreaming is good, especially if it redounds to the benefit of the majority. It is in not doing anything when opportunity presents itself that is bad.
After all, it is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.
Constructed by hand, stone by stone, conquest by conquest, Rome, a great empire as well as a great city, wasn’t built in one day. Founded by Romulus, Rome’s history spans more than two and a half thousand years, since its legendary founding in 753 BC.
The proposed Guimaras bridge and the LRT projects must live on. There’s no harm in trying—and dreaming!

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

NO POLITICIAN WILL DECLARE WAR VS SIDEWALK VENDORS

“Illegality will never solve the problem of political lawlessness.” Emanuel Celler

By Alex P. Vidal

EFFORTS to clear the sidewalks of Calle Real in downtown, City Proper with vendors almost succeeded in 1989 and in the early 90’s when no less than then Mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon led the campaign to eradicate the “eye sores” that blocked the way and occupied almost 80 percent of the space intended for shoppers and pedestrians.
Ganzon created a city hall task force to deal with the problem, but when the task force failed to totally drive away the vendors, the mayor personally settled the matters by his own self by literally kicking the fruits and other items displayed in the sidewalks by recalcitrant vendors.
He was like Hercules cleaning the Augean stables. The only difference was the king of Elis did not retaliate against Hercules, while the vendors hauled Ganzon, touted as the “prince of the Timawa”, to court for “harassment and abuse of authority.”
Ganzon was so decisive and ruthless that even in the sidewalks of Iloilo central market and Iloilo terminal market, he kicked the obstacles and fruit stands like a FIFA World Cup ball and toppled the grapes, oranges, apples and mangoes to the ground.

DEFIANT

For awhile, defiant vendors, who had earlier tried to resist by firing diatribes against Ganzon in radio interviews, decided to cool down and stayed away from Calle Real sidewalks for fear of another wrath from the city hall soccer player.
“The law must be applied to everyone—rich or poor,” boomed Ganzon, then the No. 1 enemy of the late President Cory Aquino.
Ganzon, whose favorite quote was Abraham Lincoln’s “God must love the poor, He created many of them,” justified his gung-ho approach on the problems with illegal vendors by insisting that they destructed the flow of business in Calle Real because aside from blocking the sidewalks, they also paralyzed businesses in nearby and adjacent shops that paid taxes and operated with valid business permits.
Ganzon had neither fear nor hesitation to deal with illegal vendors with iron hands because “I wanted to be fair with everyone, including the Filipino-Chinese traders who operated legitimate businesses in Calle Real.”

CRITIC

His number one radio critic, the late former city councilor Melchor Nava, called him “Iloilo City’s Hitler.”
Ganzon, with all pun intended, replied by ribbing Nava: “Akig lang ining si Melchor Nava sa akon kay pati ang baligya sang kirida ya sa sidewalk gin pakakas ko man (Melchor Nava is just mad at me because I removed from the sidewalks the items sold by his mistress).”
Nava said he had no mistress who was an illegal vendor. Irked, he challenged Ganzon to a fistfight in his blocktime program over the defunct DYRP Radio Tagring.
When Ganzon and Nava accidentally met in the demolition area of squatters at Brgy. Rizal Estanzuela, City Proper several weeks later, Ganzon, surrounded by bodyguards that included his tough son, Freeman, loudly confronted Nava about his braggadocio: “Oh, ano?” (What now?)
“Wala na to meyor ah. Politika lang ni ang aton ya hehe (Forget about it, mayor. This is only politics),” Nava quickly replied smiling.
When Ganzon was suspended from office for 60 days, Vice Mayor Mansueto “Mansing” Malabor, took over the reigns of the city hall and pampered the sidewalk vendors.

‘STAY PUT’

Egged by then Cory’s executive secretary and now Senate President Frank Drilon to “stay put” during a tense city hall standoff after Ganzon refused to step down and defied the suspension order meted out by then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Luis T. Santos, Malabor was supported by vendors with ax to grind against Ganzon, tagged during his heydays as senator as “the stormy petrel of the south.”
In Malabor’s three full terms as city mayor after Ganzon, sidewalk vendors were back with a vengeance! They mushroomed with alacrity in every nook and cranny in downtown, City Proper; many of them built shanties and wooden stalls to store their unsold items. They became unstoppable.
When the Filipino-Chinese community called his attention to the “growing” number of illegal sidewalk vendors in Calle Real, Malabor refused to touch the vendors, a powerhouse sector of voters, with a ten-foot pole.
In others words, he pampered and tolerated them. They were mostly “poor” and they delivered votes that gave him overwhelming mandates in every mayoral contest.
Pro-sidewalk vendor Malabor massacred the “elitists” Nene Consing and Victor Facultad in two successive mayoral jousts. Malabor’s populist stand on the sidewalk vendors issue bore fruits.
The “victorious” sidewalks vendors remain to be the kings and queens of Calle Real until today under Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tell us who are your friends

“Neutral men are the devil’s allies.”
Edwin Hubbel Chapin

By Alex P. Vidal

The front pages of all the newspapers, headline news of all TV and radio networks yesterday said it all!
The judiciary is hell-bent not to genuflect before the executive branch, its co-equal in government, as manifested by the gallant stand of the majority of the judges, prosecutors, and other hall of justice employees all over the country who wore black last Monday to assert judicial independence.
The move was precipitated by President Benigno Aquino III’s astonishing brickbats against the Supreme Court, which had torpedoed the Palace’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) or pork barrel.
Mr. Aquino’s unprecedented tirades against the higher court initially failed to catch fire among lawmakers and local government executives.
They, too, were caught by surprise by the President’s boldness and, to some extent, stubbornness. Many mayors and governors were made to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

SUPPORT

But lately, some tong-gressmen, city and municipal mayors and governors started to voice their support for their embattled chief executive in Malacanang.
They were even undaunted and willing to engage in a slugfest the church’s top prelates who denounced the DAP in the pulpits.
These tong-gressmen and some local chief executives must have realized they would be accused by Malacanang as “ingrates” for abandoning the cause that benefited their districts, cities, municipalities and provinces if they did not take a stand and come to the President’s defense at this crucial moment.
A common cause that benefited their favorite contractors and, what else, their own pockets!
DAP funded most local infrastructure and public works projects through the tong-gressmen and sin-nators bribed by Malacanang to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

UNITY

In unity there is strength. United we stand, united we fall.
This must be the battlecry of the local chief executives, tong-gressmen and sin-nators who are now singing hallelujah to President Aquino.
In Negros and Iloilo, many mayors and governors have started to show their true colors by joining the Palace in justifying why DAP should not have been shot down by the Supreme Court like the Malaysian Airlines jet.
They knew that if they abandoned the king, they would be isolated politically and made to face the Commission on Audit’s wrath like condemned and captured enemies facing the firing squad.
The Supreme Court has ordered those who had feasted on the P137.3 billion worth of DAP to return the people’s money. Unable to do so would be tantamount to stealing and the act is punishable by law.
Hence, local chief executives, tong-gressmen and sin-nators are frantically moving heaven and earth in the propaganda and publicity department to reverse the storm by coming out in public and risk their reelection to defend the “good side” of DAP.

MONDAY

The court’s black Monday onslaught was a curt message to the executive branch: we are co-equal and, therefore, will not succumb to any dictatorial fulmination and display of absolute power and attempt to force us on our knees.
We will know if President Aquino’s rah-rah boys and girls in the local government units are really determined to swim and sink with their king if the League of Provinces and League of Cities and Municipalities will pass resolutions defending the president and the DAP.
Tell us who your friends are and we will tell you who you are!

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tax increase zugzwang

“The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.” Lao Tzu

By Alex P. Vidal

When people are hungry and desperate, they steal foods, commit crimes like robbery and holdup, and vandalize government offices.
Poverty breeds lawlessness. A hungry stomach fears no authority.
Survival instinct means food is a hungry man’s only god; which explains why during calamities, victims resort to lawlessness, storm and empty padlocked supermarkets and grocery stores despite the presence of cops.
But why vandalize or destroy government properties? There are two reasons for this: 1.The hungry are outraged and blame the government for their woes; and 2.They think the government is rich and awash with cash, thus they target the treasurer’s offices like what happened recently in Escalante City, Negros Occidental and Concepcion, Iloilo.

CASH

Thieves carted away some P2 million cash from the vault of the Escalante city hall last July 11 when the janitor reportedly failed to lock the office, police said.
Police also reported that robbers ransacked the vault of the Concepcion municipal treasurer’s office and ran away with P490,000 cash by forcibly opening the office’s sliding window last July 19.
Probers led by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are eyeing an inside job in both heists, but are not ruling out the involvement of other civilians not connected in the two offices.
Although the two robberies occurred in a span of only one week, police found no reason to connect them as the offices were located miles away separately in two islands.

PATTERN

But the twin robbery incidents could be used as patterns for those intending to rob government offices like the capitol, city hall and municipal hall.
Thieves now have an idea that some treasurer’s offices, just like some of the pawnshops, money lending corporations and money transfer outlets, do not actually deposit all their cash in the bank after office hours.
The burglaries in Escalante and Concepcion should send alarm signals to other treasurer’s offices in Western Visayas.

-o0o-

We expected a zugzwang in the public hearing conducted by the Iloilo city council’s committee on ways and means headed by Councilor Plaridel Nava on the proposed increase in real property taxes (RPT) at the City Hall penthouse area last July 18.
The Iloilo Business Club and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Iloilo opposed the measure put forward by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog who dangled a proposed 50 percent to 100 percent RPT increase.
It’s good that both sides have agreed to confer with City Hall’s local finance committee to address the concerns aired by the private sector groups determined to protect the interests of their members as well as those of the incoming investors.

DISCUSSION

Any discussion about proposed increases in taxes—real property and otherwise–is always chaotic and bloody, to say the least.
The cons, or those against it, will always outnumber the pros, or those who support it which includes the proponents.
Since the time of the Roman Empire, residents have struggled against all forms of taxation; opposition has been vigorous and passionate.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” Jesus was quoted by historians as saying.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

2 Passi men also arrested like Vargas in Texas border

“The word nobody wants to use, but you see if you are here illegally, that’s the punishment, deportation.” Tom Tancredo

By Alex P. Vidal

What happened to immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas last July 15 (July 16 in Iloilo) also happened to two residents of Passi City, Iloilo, who were deported to the Philippines sometime in 2009.
While trying to board a flight to Los Angeles, California after reporting on the rising numbers of unaccompanied Central American children crossing the US-Mexico border, Vargas, 33, was arrested by Texas Border Patrol and detained at the McAllen-Miller International Airport in southern Texas for being an undocumented alien.
But unlike Vargas, who was released the same day after being processed by Border Patrol agents and provided with a notice to appear in immigration court, the two Passi residents were reportedly deported back to the Philippines as they lacked the proper papers to be in the United States.

INFORMATION

The information was relayed to me personally when I went to Dallas in 2011 by some of their companions who remained in Texas until today.
They and several others had been working in the U.S. without legal documents for several years before their arrest in the Texas-Mexico border, it was learned.
The batch of Passi visitors were reportedly recruited by a prominent US-based Passi City politician after the 2004 elections in the Philippines.
“We helped him (the politician) during the elections and, in return, he brought us to the US as he had promised,” said Biboy (not his real name), the deportees’ US companion who refused to be named for security reasons. “It was a mistake (for the two) to try to board an LA-bound flight using their Philippine passports with expired tourist visas. We had warned them (against taking that flight).”
Biboy said when the duration of their tourist visa had expired, they decided not to return to the Philippines and went TNT (Tago Ng Tago), a term for Filipinos in the US without legal papers.

VISIT

The two deportees, both males, wanted to visit relatives at La Mirada and Anaheim, California, Biboy revealed.
Biboy and the remaining Ilonggo TNTs said they transferred from one city to another in Texas and never attempted to travel and cross the state.
They are scattered in San Antonio, Arlington, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, Galveston and Corpus Christi.
“We have plenty of relatives in California, especially in San Diego, but the problem is most of us are afraid to travel there because of what happened to (names of the deportees),” he lamented.
We learned that when they arrived together with other Filipino deportees in a special flight via Clark International Airport in Pampanga, they were handcuffed like criminals, Biboy narrated.
Trained as a journalist and worked for The Washington Post, where he was part of the team that won a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings, Vargas was not deported immediately.
Fellow immigrant activists staged a rally outside the detention facility to demand for his immediate release.

SPOTLIGHT

Vargas found himself in the national spotlight in 2011, when he narrated about his undocumented status in the New York Times Magazine which became a hit among all the TNTs including those from Latin countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, and Ecuador.
Vargas was able to Tweet that “the only IDs I have for security: Philippine passport and my pocketbook US Constitution.”
Vargas is a prominent figure in the crusade for comprehensive US immigration reform. They are hoping that the Obama administration will legalize the status of more than 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US.
White House deputy press secretary, Shawn Turner, said Vargas’ arrest was a “law enforcement issue involving a specific case, so it would not be appropriate for the White House to comment.”

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Mario, Glenda, Benigno

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” John F. Kennedy

By Alex P. Vidal

During moments of euphoria, sadness, tragedy, defeat and victory, we remember not only events but names.
We remember three names that are currently synonymous to heroism, destruction and stubbornness: Mario, Glenda, and Benigno.
Mario is now the toast of the soccer community when he sank that lone goal for Germany’s fourth FIFA World Cup in the recent championship match against Argentina at the Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last July 14.
Because of that come-from-behind date with fame in Rio, a mere mention of Mario Gotze’s name evokes sweet moments of heroism and victory.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup produced not only a soccer hero, but also a new inspiration for Filipinos who are pinning their football hopes only on the overfed and over fancied Azkals XI, a team not even rated among the top 100 in the world and can never represent the Philippines in the next FIFA World Cup in 2018.
If he were a Filipino, Mario would be a shoo-in for senator under the pork barrel’s Liberal Party.
Filipinos love sports superstars like they love their childhood super heroes. And they won’t hesitate to elect them into public office like what they did to former senators Ambrosio Padilla, Freddie Webb, and Robert Jaworski. Two years from now, a boxing champion will also be called as “Senator Manny Pacquiao.”
Glenda, the name of a mysterious college student who borrowed from me P3,000 cash and disappeared like a comet several years ago, is now remembered as a storm that terrorized Luzon last July 15 and 16.

RAMPAGE

Glenda’s murderous rampage left scores of deaths and sent some 200,000 families packing to evacuation centers.
Glenda lashed at Metro Manila and flooded the main highways and avenues. She brought only monsoon rains in Iloilo, but most parts of the region were also affected in one way or the other.
Hell hath no fury like a typhoon named after a woman. Glenda came, saw and conquered.
Like Yolanda, Glenda represented sadness, mayhem and death. Weather forecasters coined the names of incoming typhoons based on alphabetical order, so let’s not feel bad if Glenda happens to be the name of our mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, or debtor.
Benigno is the leader of the 90 million Filipinos now up in arms against the “pork barrel” fund deodorized as Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The Supreme Court has declared DAP as unconstitutional and asked Benigno’s lawmaker allies who have availed of the controversial appropriations, to return the taxpayers money worth P137.3 billion to the national treasury.
But the funds are reportedly nowhere to be found now. All of a sudden, no one has come forward to defend Bengino except himself. No one has volunteered to make a gallant sacrifice for the king. When the going gets tough, it’s only Benigno now by his lonesome self defending the port in the attic.
Lawmakers and their local government partners claimed they spent the money “wisely” to finance infrastructure and public works projects in their respective cities and provinces.

SUSPICIOUS

But people were suspicious that a bulk of the funds may have gone to the pockets of corrupt politicians allied with Benigno in the form of kickbacks via fake nongovernment organizations, the same trick that sent P10-billion pork barrel scam accused Janet Lim-Napoles to the calaboose.
Benigno’s popularity suffered a sharp decline since 2010 according to the recent Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys.
The negative impact on Benigno’s popularity must have something to do with his refusal to let go of Harvard-educated budget secretary Butch Abad, DAP’s chief collaborator, and for defending the DAP and engaging the Supreme Court in a power play that could provoke a constitutional crisis.
Because of this, the once supremely popular president and son of the late former President Cory and the late brave Marcos opposition leader Ninoy, has earned the reputation as a “stubborn” president.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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