Chariho School Parents’ Forum

February 10, 2008

NEA to the taxpayers, “**** You!”

Filed under: 1,contract negotiations,transparency,Unions — Editor @ 1:37 pm


First of all, I apologize for the crud title and picture – but it is important to know who we are dealing with.

Meet Pat Crowley – the $84,000 per year Assistant Executive Director of the RI affiliate of the National Education Association – and Pat is also the Lincoln Democrat Party chairman.  Here you see him with bull horn in hand telling RI taxpayers what he thinks of them at the recent Tiverton teacher contract negotiation.

Crowley and the NEA published in the Westerly Sun recently, trying to tell us that RI’s welfare system is just fine and we should continue business as usual.  First you may ask why is an organization that represents public school employees lobbying for the welfare industry.  For that answer you should know that the SIEU (another union) is very hard at work trying to unionize welfare workers, including day care providers.  And who could forget the connection between the NEA and the AFL-CIO.  Frank Montanaro is the President of the AFL-CIO and also the Chairman of the Board for Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).  Could that be the reason that most teacher contracts in RI are REQUIRED to only provide BCBS insurance for teachers?  Chariho even gives a bonus to employees if they use that carrier. 

Anyway, now that we know why the unions are working together – lets get to the real facts.  Here is my response to the NEA’s letter:

“Mr. Crowley’s ‘facts’ bear close scrutiny”
(my suggested title was, “The NEA – a bad example for our children”)
Westerly Sun, February 10, 2008

I tend not to respond to misguided rhetoric such as those provided by Pat Crowley, the Assistant Executive Director of the RI affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), but his latest attempt to con parents and taxpayers provides too much opportunity to show what the NEA has become (Peoples’ Forum, Governor unfair in comments about families in the welfare system, February 8, 2008).   

Mr. Crowley represents the teachers and employees of our public schools.  The dubious nature of his “facts” have been exposed before (Providence Journal, Justin Katz: Correcting NEA guy’s ‘facts’, February 6, 2008) and now the National Education Association is attempting to counsel us on Governor Carieri’s proposed welfare reforms. 

First they claim that RI is not a welfare magnet and cite data from the Department of Humans Services (DHS) to convince us that people are not moving to RI for our welfare benefits.  Can we trust this data? 

In 2006, Governor Carcieri changed welfare eligibility so that people exhausting 5 years of welfare in other states could no longer come to RI and receive another 5 years of benefits (or more). 

In response to this change, Heidi Collins, from the Poverty Institute located at Rhode Island College, lobbyied the DHS to implement an investigative system called the Declarative Method.  This means that when a welfare recipient applies for benefits, and we want to find out if they came from another state, we rely solely on the applicant for that information.  

This method of gathering information made possible Rhode Island’s first baby of 2008 – the third child to a 19 year old girl whose boyfriend was an illegal immigrant (Providence Journal, Celebrity father now facing deportation, January 7, 2008).  Do you think this arrangement was accurately declared?   

The Declarative Method also makes it possible for people like Rosa Gonzalez to conceal a drug dealing operation that was managed completely by welfare recipients.  The social workers asked Rosa and her management team about their income and assets, but they all forgot to mention things like the Porsche SUV, Harley Davidsons and other “luxury vehicles” that they owned (Providence Journal, Luxury Wheels while on welfare, July 13, 2007).  Somehow our welfare system is empowering fraud and the special interest groups play the enabler. 

Next, Mr. Crowley (representing another special interest group) tells us about the amazing accomplishments of our welfare program – how we reduced the welfare roles by 11 percent in a year and by 43 percent over a longer period.  Aren’t you impressed? 

What they neglected to tell you was that when we compare Rhode Island’s performance to the other states, we see that RI consistently ranks near the bottom.  By saying RI reduced the welfare roles by 43 percent but omitting the fact that the national average is closer to 60 percent and some states have achieved rates approaching 80 percent, the NEA is playing the same game as Rosa Gonzalez. 

The question to ask is why do welfare programs in other states result in populations that are self sufficient when the welfare program in Rhode Island results in a population that cannot take care of it’s own children?  In RI, childhood poverty grew by 26.6% between the 1990 and 2000 census, the absolute worst trend in the nation. 

Rhode Island provides a disservice to the poor by not supporting them with a proven welfare system and Mr. Crowley is doing the once-proud profession of teaching a disservice by playing the role of a propagandist.   

I didn’t want to respond to this nonsense, but what he said is not as important as who is saying it.  Mr. Crowley represents those educating our children.  What example does union management set for its membership?  Would you accept this kind of data manipulation when reporting student achievement?   

To distort and manipulate data for political gain is the mechanism of corruption.  And knowing that tax-funded salaries are levied for union dues to pay for this type of political activity – well that’s beyond acceptable.  The NEA should be ashamed of itself and honest people who pay union dues should be outraged. 

One of the duties in my “day job” is to research welfare programs and as such I am not hesitant to say that Mr. Crowley’s adoration of RI’s welfare program was an incomplete representation of the facts, at best.  I also research education policy and am a member of the Chariho Regional School Committee and in those roles I can also speak to the nature and motives of the present day teacher’s union.  His actions do not surprise me.  Who could forget his one finger salute to the taxpayers of Tiverton during their contract negotiations. 

If there is one good thing that could come from this NEA letter it is this:  I have tried to get all public contract negotiations into the public eye – but I have failed.  The majority of the school committee will not even release all of the meeting minutes.  Perhaps, now that everyone can see what has become of the National Education Association, my fellow committee members will join me in insisting that the public be allowed to watch when we negotiate away their money.  Or will they continue to protect the NEA from public scrutiny? 

William Felkner is the President of the Rhode Island Association of Scholars, President and Fellow on Education and Welfare Policy at the Ocean State Policy Research Institute and is also a member of the Chariho Regional School Committee representing Hopkinton 


So, now you know the tactics and agenda of the NEA – for readers of this blog, this will come as no surprise.  Who could forget our own local NEA rep, Pete Gingras.  He posts crude comments on this website and has also filed a “slap” complaint with the Labor Relations Board about this blog.  And, of course, Ricci falls right into line by telling a reporter that I will be costing the school a lot of money.  Did Ricci acknowledge that it is the NEA who is causing the school to spend money on legal fees – they were the ones that filed the complaint and refused to submit evidence.  Is Ricci working to help the union or did he misspeak and will he publicly apologize for this error?



  1. If you live in Rhode Island and don’t believe the welfare system and the government unions are largely responsible for our miserable economic conditions, then you are most likely benefitting from the corruption. Those of us paying the bill know intuitively that Mr. Felkner is right on in his assessment of Mr. Crowley’s propaganda.

    There is small percentage of human beings incapable of being productive and responsible for themselves, everyone else is gaming the system. In Rhode Island, we not only have the “victims” who need us to shoulder their responsibilities, we also have the leeches who live off the “victims”. Union and welfare advocates such as Mr. Crowley and Mr. Gringas fall into the latter category. Special Education advocates are another group that create “victims” for their own enrichment. In Rhode Island there are as many leeches as victims it seems.

    As for Mr. Ricci, he is a waste as superintendent. He spends more time conniving to expand his Chariho empire than worrying about the failing education Chariho delivers to our children. Mr. Ricci will climb into bed with anyone who can help him maintain his throne.

    Mr. Felkner is a threat because he shares information with the public. The union also sees Mr. Felkner as an obstacle, so it makes total sense for Mr. Ricci to join with the union. It is up to the rest of us to recognize the malevolent nature of Chariho’s administration and the NEA. Mr. Felkner has shown incredible determination, but if we in the public do not support Mr. Felkner’s efforts, then eventually the bad guys will wear him down like all who have ocme before.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 10, 2008 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  2. While I agree with a lot being said here, I find it peculiar that Bill Felkner is the “President of the Rhode Island Association of Scholars”. While I realize that scholarship is not an activity limited to those in higher education, it does often imply such. So my question is, what are Mr. Felkner’s (not Dr. or Professor or Teacher Felkner’s) academic credentials? Where is his CV documenting a track record of scholarly research, publication and academic achievement?

    I think your goals are worthy, however, the NAS sounds just like the NEA: a narrowly focused lobbying effort using deception and misdirection to achieve their goals. Association of Scholars? Why not call yourself the “Rhode Island Association of High School Superintendents”? It seems to me you have as much claim to do that organizational title (which would be none at all, if you missed the sarcasm). For all the transparency that Mr. Felkner clamors for, this seems like his own personal little stretch to achieve legitimacy and credibility. Are you playing games? It looks like you are playing the same ones that your opponents do.

    Where is your CV Mr. Felkner? I find nothing about you anywhere. Curious. Any thoughts on this CR?

    Comment by Joe Schwartz — February 12, 2008 @ 7:08 am | Reply

  3. I’d be happy to share, Joe. First of all, it should have read “interim” although there are no current plans to change that distinction.

    There has never been a RI chapter of the Association of Scholars. I worked with the National chapter when developing the paper “The Scandal of Social Work” (which you can find at or over at OSPRI).

    A professor at RWU contacted me about starting the chapter and asked me to take the position. My first response was the same as your – why me – the terminal degree for social work is a masters – and while my psychology degree was with honors, 4.0, summa cum laude (with an offered fellowship) – it was not at the level of achievement that the other members of the group held (Brown, RWU and Naval College professor types). But considering other achievements, etc… they asked me to do it. So I did (would you say no?). If they are comfortable with it – for those who put a lot of stock in letters after a name – they are probably assured by those recommendations.

    But I have not gotten the “MSW” – but not for lack of trying. But I have to be weary of speaking too much about that as there is a lawsuit filed.

    No conspiracy – nothing hidden. Normally I don’t even put it in – but I wanted the NEA to understand that they aren’t dealing with a bunch of “wood cutters” or whatever the phrase is – while we may have some people on the board barely out of high school – and maybe even one without a HS degree – there are a few of us that do qualitative research or have relevant experience that matters.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — February 12, 2008 @ 11:33 am | Reply

  4. I have absolutely no idea what the RI Association of Scholars is or does?

    I am not a person impressed by letters either. I’ve been around my fair share of PhD’s and frankly haven’t found them any smarter than the rest of us. They typically have more knowledge about a very specific subject. They had the perserverance and financial means to stay in school a very long time, but from a raw intelligence standpoint, they vary greatly. Mostly I give them credit for being able to put up with professors. I liken their graduate horror stories to military boot camp for academics.

    Speaking of boot camp, I’ll take a military man or woman over a scholar any day of the week. Personal sacrifice and honor have it all over the ability to stay in college for 8 years or more.

    I am surprised you weren’t able to find any information about Mr. Felkner. You must not be much of a researcher yourself? Mr. Felkner is kind of famous. His academic experiences have been in numerous columns and stories on academic freedoms and rights. He even was mentioned in a George Will column a few months ago.

    Recently he was responsible for Grover Norquist coming to Rhode Island for a dinner presentation. I also believe Mr. Felkner worked for Governor Carcieri at one time (although I could be wrong?).

    Sorry Mr. Schwartz, but I checked out Mr. Felkner is my usual way when he first started making noise at Charho. What I have found has led me to admire the man even more than I already do based on his willingness to fight for children, parents, and taxpayers.

    Ultimately, I judge a person based on their actions as I experience them. For instance, I was told that Mr. Ricci was an excellent Middle School principal, but in action as a district superintendent he is horribly incompetent. That is my experience and I what I use to form my opinions. If Mr. Felkner’s background was as an illiterate wood cutter, but his actions were the same as we’ve experienced, then I would respect him just as much as I do now. Actions speak louder than awards.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 12, 2008 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  5. I don’t think the other towns have much room to talk. Charlestown elects a kid right out of high school and Bill Day didn’t even graduate high school. And I’m from Richmond.

    Comment by Another Richmond parent — February 12, 2008 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

  6. It’s not that I can’t find Mr. Felkner’s name on Google. It is certainly out there and easy enough to track down. It’s not that I can’t get the gist of his arguments. These are documented. The problem, however, is that there is no record of his background, education, work experience, publication record, etc, etc. Whether you like Ph.D.’s, M.S.’s or M.F.A.’s, all of these people have been certified by some institution of higher education and that institution has attested to their training. Would you hire an electrician simply because he called himself a electrician? Obviously, without ensuring he was licensed, that would be foolish. Would you go to see a “doctor” because the local homeless person opened up a clinic under the nearest bridge?

    My point should be obvious, it seems that a person that calls him or herself a scholar should have some legitimate claim to that title, as opposed to simply a handful of opinions. When someone with a Ph.D. walks into a court room, the court makes few assumptions about his or her appropriateness as an expert. It is up to counsel to convince the bench that said individual is an expert. The Ph.D. just gets the “expert” in the door, so to speak.

    It appears to me that claiming “scholarship” is a means to legitimizing yourself among peers to which you do not quite belong, to get yourself in the door. You’ve admitted this much already, you said so that the NEA now knows they aren’t dealing with “woodcutters”. The unfortunate part is that a regular blue collar person, doing what you have attempted, would probably gain more respect from the masses than someone either belonging to or claiming to belong to the intellectual classes. So why claim the title? It looks a little unseemly and frankly, like there is some ax to grind. The more I find on Google, the more I think I have identified your particular ax.
    If actions do speak louder than awards, why grasp so desperately for those accolades?

    For CR to make the statement that he has researched Mr. Felkner and is comfortable with what he is found is somewhat ironic when one considers that he seems to take no one’s opinion at its face. Should I just believe it because you say it is so? Where, CR have you found your information? Please provide the link to Mr. Felkner’s CV.

    It’s not that I don’t agree with much of what Mr. Felkner has said and done. The problem is one of credibility. When a person claims credentials that are false or misleading, it becomes difficult to identify their motive and it casts doubt on their actions. I don’t believe everything I’m told, it’s just a fault I have. And in the context of NAS, Mr. Felkner looks a little fishy. Does he truly believe that the Chariho administration is the problem and needs to be changed to solve the problem (which I think is probably the case) or is the ax being ground?

    Comment by Joe Schwartz — February 12, 2008 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  7. Mr. Schwartz you obviously hold academia in reverence. The disconnect seems to be that you assume I also hold academic credentials in high regard. I do not. I put far more trust in experience than education.

    As I noted, I have no clue about the RI Scholars group. I don’t know how they define “scholar”, nor to I particularly value scholars simply because someone calls them scholars. I do respect education if it is then applied in useful ways. Whatever Mr. Felkner’s level of education, he clearly uses his intellect to the benefit of the community.

    If I am in need of electrical work, I look at my past experiences with electricians or I ask trusted friends and family for recommendations. I might even check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints. It wouldn’t occur to me to ask the government if an electrician is any good. I don’t think that way.

    Richmond Parent tells us Mr. Day does not have a high school diploma. At his age, this matters little to me. I believe Mr. Day is an idiot because he acts like an idiot. He’d be an idiot even if he had scholarly credentials.

    Same with Mr. McQuaide. He is currently in college from what I understand. He is probably an excellent student. He strikes me as someone college professors would especially like. I don’t know his curriculum, but if he avoids the hard stuff (math, science), and goes to college for things like poliitics or social policy, I’m sure he will be well taken care of grade-wise by his professors. So of what value is his education? He conforms. He is politically correct. He gets rewarded.

    Mr. Felkner proves himself for all the world to see. He doesn’t hide behind credentials and expect the public to have blind faith because he is a “scholar”. Nope…he puts it all out there and we don’t need to rely on professors and academics to tell us he is the real thing. I don’t trust them anyway, but I do trust what I see.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 12, 2008 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  8. Regardless of whether you value academia or education, claiming to be something you are not is a no-no. CR, if your ability to grasp an analogy continues to fail you, at least this much should be comprehensible.

    Although you may not share the same opinion, I am of the belief that the means we use to achieve a specific end are often as important as the end in itself. Do you approve of random wiretaps in the faint hope that a single terrorist might be caught in a haystack of 300 million law abiding citizens? This does not sound like liberty or freedom to me. And most Americans agree. Consequently, pretending to be a “scholar” in the hopes of scaring or intimidating the NEA is an unfortunate means to what may be a desirable end. This is where many a politician has run afoul, in bending the truth to suit his or her needs of the day.

    You can defend Mr. Felkner all you want. But I want a little bit of proof that someone is a scholar if they make that claim. And I also want a bit of proof that someone is a qualified and state licensed electrician before I hire them (Despite what my sister might say about the electrical experience of your brother’s nephew’s friend.) If you start making unqualified statements, particularly about credentials, it is a very easy way to all of your legitimacy very quickly. And it is tantamout to lying.

    Comment by Joe Schwartz — February 12, 2008 @ 9:57 pm | Reply

  9. Well Mr. Schwartz, you can depend on the government to tell you who is qualified to meet your electric needs. I’ll continue to depend on people I know and trust for guidance. Please don’t ask me to pay for your government guidance and I won’t ask you to pay by friends and relatives. It seems it is matter of where one wishes to put their trust.

    As for Mr. Felkner’s status as a scholar, you continue to miss my point. I do not know what makes one a scholar. The dictionary definition I found is as follows:

    1: a person who attends a school or studies under a teacher : pupil
    2 a: a person who has done advanced study in a special field

    Definition 1 is pretty clear. Definition 2 is subjective.

    You seem to want some sort of government certificate? I’m not sure what exactly? I believe Mr. Felkner is a scholar. From his academic work to his work post academia, it is my impression that he is a great thinker and a scholar. If there is a certifying agency for scholars, then you’ll have to tell us who that is, but either way, using the dictionary definition above, I’m satisfied that Mr. Felkner is a scholar.

    Most importantly, he was appointed or elected president of a scholar association. Unless you can tell me that he took the presidency in a violent coup, I would think that the “scholarly” group not only certifies Mr. Felkner to be a scholar in their group opinion, but they take it even further and allow him to be the president. Who am I to argue with a bunch of scholars?

    As for wiretapping, I’d be surprise if any American favored random wiretapping. No need to do it, and a waste of everyone’s time…although with the inefficiencies of government, if someone has a job randomly wiretapping I’m sure there’s a union that would find an excuse to defend it.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 12, 2008 @ 11:21 pm | Reply

  10. Joe, I don’t have a problem with your request – it is reasonable. My bio will be posted on the ospri website as will the others (still missing 2-3). But I did just mention the educatuon. BA @ ric in psy (acalades cited) and completed the work for an MSW but was denied completition when I tried to research welfare when an intern at the govewrnors office. The school operates the Poverty Institute and as such were in conflict with our proposals – this lead to a6orementioned lawsuit.but all is google-able

    Comment by bill felkner — February 12, 2008 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  11. PS excuse brevity using blkbrry

    Comment by bill felkner — February 12, 2008 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  12. Is there specific requirement to be labeled a “scholar” Mr. Felkner? I don’t want to spend much time researching criteria because it is of minimal interest to me, but Mr. Schwartz implies there is a certain level of credentials required?

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 12, 2008 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  13. The National Association of Scholars defines it’s membership and mission below. It seems pretty clear who they define as a scholar. And Mr. Felkner is not a scholar. Mr. Felkner, as defined by their web site, is a lay person, allowed to join under “other affiliation”. It seems strange, therefore, that he should be given the position of President of the Rhode Island Chapter. Curious Resident, you can be as ridiculously pedantic and contrary as you want, but this is a bizarre turn of events and it is more likely to damage Mr. Felkner’s credibility (as someone working distinctly on the fringe) than to instill credibility and the NEA people are not going to be fooled.

    The National Association of Scholars
    Who We Are

    NAS is an independent membership association of academics working to foster intellectual freedom and to sustain the tradition of reasoned scholarship and civil debate in America’s colleges and universities.


    NAS was founded in 1987, soon after Allan Bloom’s surprise best-seller, The Closing of the American Mind, alerted Americans to the ravages wrought by illiberal ideologies on campus. The founders of NAS summoned faculty members from across the political spectrum to help defend the core values of liberal education.

    The NAS today is higher education’s most vigilant watchdog. We stand for intellectual integrity in the curriculum, in the classroom, and across the campus—and we respond when colleges and universities fall short of the mark. We uphold the principle of individual merit and oppose racial, gender, and other group preferences. And we regard the Western intellectual heritage as the indispensable foundation of American higher education.

    Our board of advisors brings together distinguished scholars from every field of higher education.

    Who May Join?

    NAS membership is open to current and former college and university faculty members, administrators, and trustees; current graduate students; and independent scholars who share our basic principles. NAS also offers other forms of affiliation for individuals primarily interested in K-12 education and for laymen interested in higher education reform.

    Comment by Joe Schwartz — February 13, 2008 @ 7:37 am | Reply

  14. I can’t really figure out where this thread is going or trying to prove. I am getting the feeling that the debate can’t be won, so one attacks the debater. I guess if one can’t win on the merits of the facts, then we will discredit and personally attack the fact finder. Confused.

    Comment by RS — February 13, 2008 @ 10:01 am | Reply

  15. It’s of little consequence to me whether NEA considers Mr. Felkner a scholar or not. I hardly think it should be a worry for Mr. Felkner. From my perspective, based on his work here and with OPSRI, Mr. Felkner is an independent scholar. Apparently the National Association of Scholars agrees with me and disagrees with you. Sorry, but it is you Mr. Schwartz who is being “ridiculously pedantic”.

    With certainty Mr. Felkner was a graduate student. Graduate students are membership eligible. One visit to Mr. Felkner’s OSPRI website, or even this website for that matter, demonstrates Mr. Felkner’s ongoing research into social policy and the implications of these policies. As a self defined “watchdog” group, NAS surely recognizes Mr. Felkner tenacious efforts on behalf of academic freedom.

    You’re entitled to be in a snit because the NEA may question Mr. Felkner’s status as a scholar. I suppose it will be only you and the NEA frothing at the mouth about the topic. The rest of us will continue to judge Mr. Felkner based on his very public efforts to keep us informed on matters or importance to our fmmilies, our towns, and our country.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 13, 2008 @ 10:22 am | Reply

  16. Mr. Schwartz is excited because he thinks he found a “gotcha” moment. I’ve yet to figure out his point.

    He claims that being president of NAS diminishes Mr. Felkner’s credibility. Mr. Schwartz doesn’t consider Mr. Felkner a scholar. I think most of the world could care less. If an association of scholars thinks enough of Mr. Felkner to make him a president, then that’s good enough for me. Who am I to argue with “scholars”?

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 13, 2008 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  17. Please consider joining the drive for national legislation dubbed the Civil Rights Act for Equal Educational Opportunity to require states to provide equitable educational funding for children in public and non public schools, while respecting the liberty of schools in hiring and provision of services. See more on this at

    Comment by Israel Teitelbaum — February 13, 2008 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  18. I guess I gotcha then!

    Comment by Joe Schwartz — February 13, 2008 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

  19. Sounds like the NAS is a club of like minded people who said lets give each other titles and awards and impress the world with letters by our name. We can pat each other on the back.
    I say get out in the real world and get a life membership.

    Comment by RS — February 13, 2008 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  20. I’m with you RS. Give me real life experiences over classroom theory every time. I respect education, but if you stop there, then what’s the point? I have more trust in a Roads Scholar than a Rhodes Scholar.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 14, 2008 @ 12:28 am | Reply

  21. Mr. Teitlebaum, I’m honored you have visited our site and I appreciate the information. i will make contact – we are starting to get some traction on this subject. Best regards,

    Comment by Bill Felkner — February 14, 2008 @ 4:12 pm | Reply

  22. The chariho times article did not report accurately. The board did not agree to the deal.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — February 14, 2008 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  23. Why was the unions proposal supposed to be secret? I don’t see anything that would justify the public being kept in the dark.

    Comment by Curious Resident — February 14, 2008 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  24. Keep up the good work.
    Nice site.


    Comment by John — February 15, 2008 @ 5:22 am | Reply

  25. Dear Joe, RE: Felkner education

    I think that if you review his record, you will find that Mr. Felkner has AT LEAST as many college credits as Mr. Ricci.

    Comment by Dorothy Gardiner — February 15, 2008 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

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    Comment by Mark Thompson — February 17, 2008 @ 9:14 am | Reply

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