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NYC sued over right to shoot video, pictures in public
http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org ^ | 1 13 06 | First Amendment Center Online

Posted on 01/13/2006 12:21:45 PM PST by freepatriot32

NEW YORK — The New York Civil Liberties Union sued the city yesterday, challenging restrictions on people's right to photograph public places after an award-winning filmmaker from India was blocked from videotaping near the MetLife building.

In its lawsuit, the civil rights group highlighted the plight of Rakesh Sharma, who said he was left feeling ashamed and humiliated when he was detained in May 2005 after police saw him use a hand-held video camera on a public street in midtown Manhattan.

Sharma was taping background footage for a documentary examining changes in the lives of ordinary people such as taxi drivers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He was told he needed a permit to film on city streets, then was denied one without explanation when he applied to the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, the lawsuit said. It alleged his constitutional rights were violated.

It said he would like to resume filming but fears further police detention and harassment.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration letting Sharma film in public places and compensatory damages for his May encounter with police.

Gabriel Taussig, chief of the city's administrative law division, said the city had not received the lawsuit but would evaluate it thoroughly.

"Obviously, in this day and age, it's a high priority of New York City to ensure safety on its public streets," he said in a statement.

The NYCLU has received other complaints about people being harassed for taking pictures in public places, Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

"The NYCLU is deeply concerned about what this says about the state of our democracy," she said. "The streets of Manhattan are public spaces, and the public has a right not only to be on the street but to take pictures on the street. Nobody should risk arrest to take out his camera or video camera."

The interference by police was not the first time Sharma has encountered resistance to his work.

State censors in India have banned his award-winning 2003 documentary, "Final Solution," saying it might trigger unrest. It shows the 2002 religious rioting in the western Indian state of Gujarat, which killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. The Hindu-Muslim mayhem began when a Muslim mob set ablaze a train carrying Hindu activists in Godhra, killing nearly 60 passengers.

The NYCLU lawsuit said Sharma's documentaries rely on candid footage of people, places and events, as he does not use actors, sets or crews.

It described Sharma as a conscientious, law-abiding resident of Bombay, India, who had never been arrested or detained by law enforcement officials before his New York experience.

Last May, Sharma was approached by police after he shot footage of traffic emerging from an underpass near Grand Central Terminal for about half an hour, the lawsuit said.

An officer asked him why he was filming the MetLife building, which sits atop the underpass, and he explained he was filming traffic and had only tilted his camera up to capture sunlight hitting buildings, the lawsuit said.

The officer then told him he thought it was suspicious that he was filming a "sensitive building," formerly the Pan Am building, for 30 minutes and that further investigation was necessary, the lawsuit said.

Sharma said he felt stunned and scared after he turned the camera on to show officers what his filming looked like, only to have one of them charge at him, shove him in the chest and grab the camera.

He said he felt ashamed and humiliated when he was kept on the street for about two hours as hundreds of people passed by or gathered to stare. Detectives later apologized after taking him to a police precinct, searching his camera and then returning it scratched and cracked, the lawsuit said.

Security officials have said that preparations for terrorist attacks against sizable buildings and other places may include videotaping for the purpose of studying approaches to the target.

In May 2005, New York police and transit officials abandoned a proposal to ban cameras in subways to prevent terrorism.

Related

NYC abandons plan to ban subway photography


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: New York; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: aclulist; billofright; billofrights; constitutionlist; donutwatch; firstamendmant; govwatch; in; lawsuit; libertarians; newyork; newyorkcity; nyc; nyclu; over; pictures; privacy; public; right; shoot; sued; terrorwar; to; video; waronterror

1 posted on 01/13/2006 12:21:49 PM PST by freepatriot32
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To: albertp; Allosaurs_r_us; Abram; AlexandriaDuke; Americanwolf; Annie03; Baby Bear; bassmaner; ...
Libertarian ping.To be added or removed from my ping list freepmail me or post a message here
2 posted on 01/13/2006 12:24:39 PM PST by freepatriot32 (Holding you head high & voting Libertarian is better then holding your nose and voting republican)
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To: freepatriot32
Sharma said he felt stunned and scared ...... He said he felt ashamed and humiliated

sniff, sniff

3 posted on 01/13/2006 12:24:58 PM PST by stainlessbanner (^W^)
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To: freepatriot32

The ACLU is like a stopped clock, only less frequently.


4 posted on 01/13/2006 12:28:36 PM PST by Sloth (Macromelancholia -- The wistful desire to play those Flash games in advertising banners.)
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To: freepatriot32

I have to agree with the NYCLU...everyone should have the right to photograph in public. A camera, after all, is only an extension of the human eye. ( fellow libertarian )


5 posted on 01/13/2006 12:30:55 PM PST by meandog (FUDU)
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To: meandog

there is no constitutional protection to use a camera.

why can't I legally tap domestic cell phone calls them, after all, its just an extension of my ear. the listening device simply converts the sound waves present in the air at different frequencies, to a frequency I can listen to.

right?


6 posted on 01/13/2006 12:36:34 PM PST by oceanview
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To: freepatriot32

Well, if the civil liberties union is agin' it, then I'm fur it!

Not really, but get ready for that kind of attitude.


7 posted on 01/13/2006 12:38:25 PM PST by JTN ("I came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of bubble gum.")
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To: freepatriot32

The Constitutional right to take photos? Hmmm.... Well, I guess John Adams would have put it in there, if he'd known the camera would someday be invented, so it's only fair to say that it's in there, huh?


8 posted on 01/13/2006 12:41:11 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: meandog
Is it scenery or is it a target?


9 posted on 01/13/2006 12:42:34 PM PST by BenLurkin (O beautiful for patriot dream - that sees beyond the years)
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To: meandog

Not in the constitution, though. Probably the issue is this: Can the NY authorities find any law that was violated by photographing the building?


10 posted on 01/13/2006 12:43:23 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: Brilliant
The Constitutional right to take photos? Hmmm.... Well, I guess John Adams would have put it in there, if he'd known the camera would someday be invented, so it's only fair to say that it's in there, huh?

We still see the phrase "freedom of the press" as applying to newspapers even though they no longer use old-fashioned printing presses. The First Amendment is interpreted as protecting a general freedom of expression, which is why the city will lose this case.

11 posted on 01/13/2006 12:47:09 PM PST by JTN ("I came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of bubble gum.")
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To: freepatriot32

What else should one expect from NYC and its "Republican" mayor? I'm actually not sure what's worse - that the government prevented this guy from filming in a public area, or that the government itself wants to be able to film every public area.

On second thought, I'm pretty sure the government filming is worse.


12 posted on 01/13/2006 12:53:30 PM PST by Turbopilot (Nothing in the above post is or should be construed as legal research, analysis, or advice.)
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To: meandog
Well, I certainly mean no harm, but I'm a photographer who shoots in public because I have no interest in setting up still lifes or posing models in a controlled environment. My work is uplifting and hopeful, or so I think. I know that we have to balance the needs of the artist with the edicts of the State, but this is curious business.
13 posted on 01/13/2006 12:54:14 PM PST by ashtanga
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To: Brilliant

"Can the NY authorities find any law that was violated by photographing the building?"


If they can't, rest assured that it'll magically appear in the next 'Patriot Act'.


14 posted on 01/13/2006 12:54:35 PM PST by Blzbba (Sub sole nihil novi est)
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To: oceanview
why can't I legally tap domestic cell phone calls them, after all, its just an extension of my ear. the listening device simply converts the sound waves present in the air at different frequencies, to a frequency I can listen to.

Well, it's electromagnetic waves, not sound -- but, yes, you should have the freedom to decode publicly emitted signals all you want, as well as taking pictures.

15 posted on 01/13/2006 12:55:05 PM PST by Sloth (Macromelancholia -- The wistful desire to play those Flash games in advertising banners.)
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To: freepatriot32

Good post and interesting web site. Once in a blue moon (pun intended) the ACLU is right it seems.


16 posted on 01/13/2006 12:55:44 PM PST by fullchroma
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To: freepatriot32

Those cameras the British govt. has on London street corners and in the Underground, etc. -- there's been talk of setting up a similar system here. Couldn't you sue and say the state or city was invading your privacy or whatever? Just a thought.


17 posted on 01/13/2006 12:55:50 PM PST by hershey
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... Sharma as a conscientious, law-abiding resident of Bombay, India ...

Don't you need a permit of some type to ply a trade as a visitor to the US?

18 posted on 01/13/2006 12:58:47 PM PST by vollmond (Careful with that axe, Eugene!)
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To: Brilliant
Can the NY authorities find any law that was violated by photographing the building?

Yes. Commercial filmmaking (like what this guy was doing) requires a permit. The law is on the books so that movie, television and commercial makers don't disrupt neighborhood life by turning certain Manhattan neighborhoods into permanent movie sets.

Its New York City - the liberals who live here complain about EVERYTHING. My favorite are those who move to the city and then start complaining about traffic and construction noise.
19 posted on 01/13/2006 1:01:13 PM PST by conservative in nyc
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To: vollmond
Someone please tell me how a conscientious, law-abiding resident of Bombay, India could have his U.S. Constitutional rights violated...?!
20 posted on 01/13/2006 1:02:41 PM PST by pgyanke (The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.)
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To: hershey

only if they aim the cameras to photograph inside your house.


21 posted on 01/13/2006 1:05:21 PM PST by oceanview
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To: freepatriot32
Sharma was taping background footage for a documentary examining changes in the lives of ordinary people such as taxi drivers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Love the irony! He should just incorporate his experience into the documentary, probably making it much more interesting.

22 posted on 01/13/2006 1:06:48 PM PST by fullchroma
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To: oceanview

there is no constitutional protection....on anything these days.


23 posted on 01/13/2006 1:07:23 PM PST by CJ Wolf (BTW can someone add 'zot' to the FR spellchecker?)
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To: conservative in nyc

My complaint: What the hell is a V line. There is no such subway as the V -- yet they insist on putting up signs for te V line. As far as I'm concerned, the V is just a cut rate version of the F! Ban the V line!


24 posted on 01/13/2006 1:09:50 PM PST by durasell (!)
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To: conservative in nyc

The other thing -- I don't like those fancy shamncy new subway cars on the 4,5,6 line. Who are they trying to impress, tourists?

oh yeah, bump...


25 posted on 01/13/2006 1:13:59 PM PST by durasell (!)
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To: Brilliant
The Constitutional right to take photos? Hmmm.... Well, I guess John Adams would have put it in there, if he'd known the camera would someday be invented, so it's only fair to say that it's in there, huh?

John Adams didn't have to specifically name the camera as something the people have a right to use because the constitution doesn't restrict the citizens it restricts what the government can and cannot do and one of the things the government cant do is stop someone from using a camera on city streets because the government doesn't like it

Do you agree with the mayor using the police force to go into every office building in new york and fine any company that has ashtrays in thier office building for providing tobacco paraphernalia?Or do you think that is unconstitutional even though owning an ashtray is not specifically named in those words as something the american people can own?

26 posted on 01/13/2006 1:16:36 PM PST by freepatriot32 (Holding you head high & voting Libertarian is better then holding your nose and voting republican)
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To: CJ Wolf

yes there is, but let's not be guilty of what the left is - saying that some abstract "privacy" right covers a whole bunch of things it doesn't cover.


27 posted on 01/13/2006 1:17:59 PM PST by oceanview
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To: freepatriot32

where does the constitution say the government can't stop someone from photographing a sensitive location, even if its done from a public street? you are interpreting "freedom of expression" much too broadly. can you walk nude down the street? that is certainly more an act of freedom of expression that photography is.


28 posted on 01/13/2006 1:21:51 PM PST by oceanview
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To: freepatriot32

Where in the Constitution does it guaranty the right to own tobacco paraphenalia? If the legislature can identify a rational basis for regulating tobacco paraphenalia, it can do so, just as it can Constitutionally regulate the sale of virtually anything else. It's not the Constitution that protects you from that. It's the ballot box. If your rep votes to ban the sale of something you want to buy, then you vote against him.


29 posted on 01/13/2006 1:29:37 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: oceanview

They closed down the 2nd Ave Deli....


30 posted on 01/13/2006 1:30:37 PM PST by durasell (!)
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Comment #31 Removed by Moderator

To: durasell

I know. it will relocate someplace else, I am sure of it.


32 posted on 01/13/2006 1:37:13 PM PST by oceanview
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To: oceanview

I just want to complain. I need to practice for when I'm an old man sitting in the park.


I also don't like the fact that the Coliseum bookstore moved over to 42nd street or they closed the first floor bathroom in the Strand. I saw William Styron go in and use that bathroom. It was a landmark!


33 posted on 01/13/2006 1:40:29 PM PST by durasell (!)
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To: MarneyK

I have been stopped from photgraphing food displayed at a buffett in las vegas for similar reasons. not by the government of course, since I was inside a privately owned space, so its not a constitutional issue. I imagine the same applies when inside a mall.


34 posted on 01/13/2006 1:41:06 PM PST by oceanview
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To: oceanview
why can't I legally tap domestic cell phone calls them, after all, its just an extension of my ear.

Actually, you can. It's the government that can't. Back when there was only analogue cell phones a lot of people listened to conversations using commercial scanners. Now, you can't pick up phone conversations without very special equipment not commercially available.

35 posted on 01/13/2006 1:44:28 PM PST by Casloy
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To: pgyanke

on US soil, he has the same rights (the legitimate ones) as everyone else (so long as he isn't an agent of a foreign power doing harm to the US).


36 posted on 01/13/2006 1:47:55 PM PST by oceanview
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To: freepatriot32

I don't know what the rules are now, but in Washington DC it used to be that without a permit you could not use a tripod to photograph any federal monuments or buildings. This was to prevent anyone from exploiting those buildings for commercial purposes. The idea being that professionals would need to use a tripod. Obviously, because of tourism DC can't stop people from shooting film or still pictures of anything in DC and it would seem to me they are a more likely target of terrorists than most buildings in NY.


37 posted on 01/13/2006 1:48:30 PM PST by Casloy
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To: Casloy

I don't believe you can legally tap cell phone calls, even as a private citizen.


38 posted on 01/13/2006 1:52:48 PM PST by oceanview
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To: freepatriot32
John Adams didn't have to specifically name the camera as something the people have a right to use because the constitution doesn't restrict the citizens it restricts what the (FEDERAL] government can and cannot do and one of the things the [FEDERAL] government cant do is stop someone from using a camera on city streets because the government doesn't like it

At one time this would be considered a local matter, one that the local citizens would decide upon.

Those days are gone, but please do not confuse the restrictions placed on the Federal Government with restrictions on the state goverments. The Federal Government should have little control over the what happens in the States. This concept is paid lip service when the Federal Government is forced to bribe the states to pass certain laws.

39 posted on 01/13/2006 1:56:18 PM PST by CIB-173RDABN
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To: oceanview
I don't believe you can legally tap cell phone calls, even as a private citizen.

Actually, you are right. Back when cell phones were analogue you could because already available commercial equipment was out there which could do it passively. They have since passed laws making it illegal to do so, even if you have the right equipment.

40 posted on 01/13/2006 1:58:04 PM PST by Casloy
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To: CIB-173RDABN
Those days are gone, but please do not confuse the restrictions placed on the Federal Government with restrictions on the state goverments.

The relevant constitution amendments to this case were incorporated to apply to state and local governments by the 14th amendment.

I know that many freepers feel that the SCOTUS was in error in those incorporation decisions, but the fact of the matter is that it until those decisions are overturned by another SCOTUS ruling or by constitutional amendment the incorporation decisions are binding law - like it or not.

41 posted on 01/13/2006 2:14:16 PM PST by JeffAtlanta
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To: durasell
The V is not the F. The V runs through the 53rd Street tunnel. The F runs through the 63rd Street tunnel. It's not like, say, the C and A, which run the identical route, local and express.

I like the new subway cars on the IRT - although it's not very New York-like when you can actually HEAR the station announcements.
42 posted on 01/13/2006 2:19:20 PM PST by conservative in nyc
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To: freepatriot32
"In its lawsuit, the civil rights group (New York Civil Liberties Union) highlighted the plight of Rakesh Sharma... ...It alleged his constitutional rights were violated."
"...It described Sharma as a conscientious, law-abiding resident of Bombay, India..."

...constitutional rights...??????????


43 posted on 01/13/2006 2:27:31 PM PST by Seadog Bytes (Benedict Arnold was a 'war hero' too... before he became a TRAITOR.)
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To: conservative in nyc

Nothing in NYC should change. Everything should stay exactly the way it was...


44 posted on 01/13/2006 2:28:39 PM PST by durasell (!)
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To: Seadog Bytes
...constitutional rights...??????????

Yeah.

Somewhere in the 19th or early 20th century, the courts decided several absurdities.
First, that the U.S. did (or even could) adopt a constitution that applied to everyone in the world.
Second, that it applies to casual tourists in transit or even enemy agents illegally here!

45 posted on 01/13/2006 2:58:36 PM PST by Publius6961 (The IQ of California voters is about 420........... .............cumulatively)
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Hmm, I too am a (semi-) professional photographer, and I never really thought about this.

Fortunately what I mainly specialize in is remote, lonely landscapes, and the only serious cityscapes and buildings I have done are in Las Vegas and my home town.

It has always been my belief that as long as you are on public property you have a right to photograph anything (of course under many situations you need to get a model release from identifiable people in your shot if for publication).

But to a terrorist, so many things that millions of people have photographed for years may be a 'strategic' target.... Hmm, A thorny issue indeed. I can see where New York City might want to be 'better safe than sorry'... And maybe require a permit for anything but the most casual 'tourist snapshots'.

But I guess I say let them take pictures... And if they are taking photos in a manner that leads one to suspect that they are doing surveillance or planning something nasty, THEN haul them in for questioning.

As to the broader question of 'Constitutionsl Rights' for foreigners I'm a little less generous. As far as I'm concerned, anyone here illegally have NO constitutional rights... They should be treated humanely and sent back where they came from within 24 hours.

And maybe we (Congress) should codify precisely the 'constitutionsl rights' of legal visitors. I don't believe that merely setting foot on American soil should give one the full rights of a citizen.


46 posted on 01/13/2006 3:28:42 PM PST by LegendHasIt
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To: Publius6961
RE: "Somewhere in the 19th or early 20th century, the courts decided several absurdities."

Yes. That, in itself, is ample good reason to pray that Alito is confirmed. ...and it looks like we may not be the ONLY two who think this particular 'absurdity' to be repugnant -- see #46.

"The Court is most vulnerable and comes nearest to illegitimacy when it deals with judge-made constitutional law having little or no cognizable roots in the language or design of the Constitution."--Justice Byron R. White

"In a constitutional democracy the moral content of law must be given by the morality of the framer or legislator, never by the morality of the judge." --Judge Robert Bork

"Judges who take the law into their own hands, who make up constitutional 'rights' in order to strike down laws they oppose, undermine the people's right to have their values shape public policy and define the culture."--Senator Orrin Hatch

47 posted on 01/13/2006 6:14:06 PM PST by Seadog Bytes (Benedict Arnold was a 'war hero' too... before he became a TRAITOR.)
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To: durasell; Cacique; LegendHasIt
"I also don't like the fact that the Coliseum bookstore moved over to 42nd street or they closed the first floor bathroom in the Strand."

Isn't a first floor bathroom at the strand redundant? (after all, aren't the staff almost required to urinate on the customers (:>)

"But I guess I say let them take pictures... And if they are taking photos in a manner that leads one to suspect that they are doing surveillance or planning something nasty, THEN haul them in for questioning."

My two cents: since 9/11, when I want to take more than one / a few amateur pics on the street/SI ferry or at construction sites, I always wait till I see a foreman and/or NYPD and very politely show my id and mention they are for my private use. 9 out of 10 times its no problem.

I have seen leftist scum (wearing anti-US paraphernalia) taking pictures of tunnels and I have called the PD on them. Screw the commies/terrs.

48 posted on 01/14/2006 9:34:34 PM PST by Yehuda ("Land of the free, THANKS TO THE BRAVE!" (Choke on it, pinkos!))
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49 posted on 01/15/2006 2:00:06 PM PST by Responsibility2nd
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