Thursday, March 01, 2007
Bomb's impact still felt two years later
Editor's note: CNN Correspondent Tom Foreman uncovers the "The Lion in the Village" tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360," 11 p.m. ET.

A wounded soldier is carried from the mess hall in Mosul, Iraq, after the December, 2004, attack that killed 22.

Suicide bombings, once virtually unknown in Afghanistan, are happening with increasing frequency. In Iraq, the supply of men willing to blow themselves up to hurt the Coalition troops seems almost endless.

And now, I am convinced, one terrible event may have been a critical catalyst for all the suicide bombings that have followed.

For the past couple of months, producer Amanda Townsend and I have been investigating the suicide bombing that rocked a military mess hall tent in Mosul, Iraq, just over two years ago. That blast killed 22 people and injured 69 people, among them soldiers and civilians, Americans and Iraqis. But just as important, it may have shown the insurgents just how hard they could hit the Americans if they were cunning and patient enough.

Our investigation unearthed parts of the still secret military investigation, and among the findings:
  • Military Intelligence had discovered not one single clue before the bombing to suggest an attack was in the works, even though the insurgent group behind it, Ansar Al-Sunna, was well-known, and extremely active in the area.

  • More than two years after the blast, investigators say they still don't know for sure who the bomber was, or how he got through guards at the base gate, past hundreds of soldiers on the base, and into the heart of mess tent undetected.
My desk and shelves and the floor of my office here a few blocks from the Capitol are covered with the record of this bombing. Endless, shifting piles of interviews, soldiers' notes, letters, diary entries, photos, satellite images and official reports. And for weeks I have gone through them over and over again, often until four or five in the morning.

It is not just a matter of looking for facts. It is a matter of looking for the complete story of a terrible day. In the process, we have uncovered never before seen video and accounts of courage that show American soldiers doing their best while faced with the worst. We are calling our story, "The Lion in the Village." (Watch soldiers describe what happened that day)

With the help of TAPS, a wonderful and compassionate organization for military families who have suffered a fatality, I have been visiting with the families of one particular group hit very hard in the blast: The Strykers from Ft. Lewis, Washington.

They were, and are, one of the great success stories of the war. The Strykers, who use a new state of the art vehicle made for urban combat, have proven remarkably skilled at pursuing and punishing the insurgents. And six of them were lost in that one terrible moment: William Jacobsen, Julian Melo, Jonathan Castro, Lionel Ayro, Robert Johnson, and Darren VanKomen.

And I hope, through all the sad, late nights; the tearful talks with their loved ones; and the somber visits to their graves, we have found a sense of who they were, why they served, and how they came to die.

As I noted in our previous special, "Ambush at the River of Secrets," perhaps one day we will really know all the goods and bads, the rights and wrongs of this war. What I know right now is this: courageous Americans are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan every day, every moment, doing what asked of them. It would be unforgiveable to forget these brave souls. I wish we could tell all their stories.

For now, however, I hope you'll join me for an hour to remember and honor at least a few.
Posted By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent: 12:33 PM ET
  38 Comments
Tom,
Thank you for making it personal rather than just a TV war to watch on the news.

Thanks for honoring those who have served and are serving.

Thank you for giving us the face and words of those who had to face the worse of this bombings.
Posted By Anonymous Liz, Milwaukee, Wisconsin : 1:24 PM ET
Hi Tom,
So well said as usual. Our military, in my opinion, can never be thanked enough. History will judge the wars, the conflicts, the aftermaths of it all. But our troops service and sacrifice will in my mind be the one thing of clarity...I'm grateful, thankful and proud of each and every single one of them. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 1:48 PM ET
Dear Tom,
You are doing the soldiers and our country a deep favor by investigating the truths of the war, and showing us the bravery and the heroism of our soldiers over there.

Personally, I do not find it all that shocking that intelligence did not have a single clue that an attack was in the works. If the intelligence had found out about what was going on, that would have taken away the element of suprise. I wished that intelligence had found out about the attack. If they had, many lives would have been saved.

There are many young people in Iraq who feel that they are doing a service to their country by blowing themselves up. This is a crisis. It seems that it would be hard to infiltrate the origins of these plans because they originate in the homes of Iraqis away from the outside mayhem of war. Through their own social circles, they convince themselves that blowing themselves up is right for themselves and their future. This has to be true because of the footage of the young people creating their own bombs to end their own lives in total peace.
People in their own communities, who young people respect, are convincing these young people to extinguish their lives and take as many people as they can with them.
It is terrible.

We have to expose and congratualate those soldiers who are trying to make a difference in this war torn country. No matter what the politics is surrounding the war. The stories of the successful, the passionate, and the brave need to be recorded and told again and again. The stories of the fallen and the mamed need to be recorded and told.

Most importantly that story of the irrationality of war needs to be told. The quest for peace never needs to be forgotten. The push for peace over war is the greatest story. Maybe one day we will get there.
M. Bolden
Posted By Anonymous Madeliene Bolden, Atlanta, Georgia : 1:49 PM ET
I can't believe that with the great military that we have and the intellegence agency that the US couldn't even predict that the terrorist were planning this attack! It kind of makes you wonder how well this country is really protected!! As well as our soilders out there in the field fighting!!
Posted By Anonymous Cynthia, Covington, Ga. : 2:32 PM ET
Mr. Foreman:

If this is anything like your last special, I know I am going to need to have the tissues handy.

We really need to see more stories about the impact of the war.

Any chance you can apply the humanity of your reporting to showing what it is like for the families of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people from Iraq and Afghanistan who have died or been seriously wounded? We need to not only see our grief, but all of the grief in order to more fully understand what war has done to so many people.

Pray for peace. But "pray with your feet" -- or at least your fingertips-- and dial your representatives (www.congress.org for contact info) to tell them what you hope we can have happen.

What would be the difference in these countries if we were building rather than destroying? Doing good with all those billions of unaccounted dollars rather than simply misplacing a billion here and there? Treating the local people with respect rather than simply pointing a gun at them? Any chance you guys can re-run that story about the American who had people in his command knock on doors rather than break them down when they wanted to do a search and actually completed the imfrastructure projects they worked on?
Posted By Anonymous Norah, West Chester, PA : 2:37 PM ET
Tom, I admire the way you report stories. To you the men lost that day aren't just names on a sheet of paper, and for that I'm sure their families will be forever grateful. I look forward to your report tonight.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 2:53 PM ET
Hi Tom,
As usual, great work. History will judge our wars, our conflicts, our decisions and all that's inbetween. But the respect I have for our troops is of complete clarity to me. I'm thankful, beholdened and grateful for each and every one of them. No words can even capture what their service and sacrifice has given us. Thank you past, present and future servicemen and women. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif : 2:56 PM ET
As a wife of a Viet Nam vet, I totally support our troops over seas; however, let them come back heroes, not "baby killers." Let them not witness hatred from their own people! They are there because they were told to go. If we want to bring them home don't hesitate to call your congressmen. It is not our troops' war, it is a political war, and we need to stop it in Washington!
Posted By Anonymous Diane Hayward, WI : 3:49 PM ET
"But just as important, it may have shown the insurgents just how hard they could hit the Americans if they were cunning and patient enough"...

Here we go again. Not "our troops", "our boys" or "our forces" but "the Americans" like they are some sort of foreign force we don't want to associate ourselves to closely with. Sorry I won't be watching.
Posted By Anonymous Kevin Normile - Binghamton NY : 3:55 PM ET
Did the idea of this bombing being a "false flag" attack against our own troops by our own forces cross your mind? It would explain how this was carried out. (see Operation Northwoods)
Posted By Anonymous Antoine, New York, NY : 4:19 PM ET
A correction to Kevin Normile...it's not OUR BOYS. You are aware that there are women losing their lives alongside of their male compatriots. I think you're being far too critical and worrying about semantics too much. The overall article would and should be gut wrenching for any one on the right or left. By the way, the Americans and the coalition are all foreign forces in Iraq.
Posted By Anonymous David Norman, Bronx, NY : 4:21 PM ET
Tom,

I hope you cover the civilian employees of Halliburton that were there and killed alongside their military brothers and sisters as they have been all along all over Iraq with hundreds wounded and nearly a hundred killed. I also hope you highlight some of their actions that day side by side with the soldiers they serve. Putting politics aside, the employees don�t set policy or control the negative press. They do trudge through every day in the ever so delicate powder keg known as Iraq at all the locations with a dedicated service, unprecedented in our lifetime. A few positive words for our folks would not be wasted. Thanks for listening.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Houston Texas : 4:27 PM ET
Its sad how many soldiers are dieing in this war, but its even sadder when people begin to think that the American soldier isn't well protected, in the best possible way, or that the Intelligence Agencies can predict ever little thing that will happen. This is a war, that means people lose lives on both sides, that means that when you sign up for the Armed Services, whatever branch you might be, that its not going to be a free ride. Your expected to fight, and die for your country if needs be. Its tiring to hear of every single coward that will go AWOL just because they saw some ruff stuff in Iraq. They should be gratefull that they can even go home. In Vietnam tons more lives were lost, and even more lives in WW2. They never got to go home either, and they had to sit in foxholes through some of the worst conditions. The equipment handed to them wasn't even half of what our soldiers get today. For every man that has fought hard and never spoken out against the war they were in, for every man who never left the soldier next to them's side until the war was over for there country or for them, and for every soldier who has made the untilmate sacrifice I bow my head. It sounds like you praise the insurgents for there ability to be so discreet with there ability to attack our soldiers, and thats wrong. News medias are filled with cowards who find every small little thing that occurs and blows it up to be bigger then it really is. You intensify situations so you can make money for your own benifit, because only big news sells. Then I read about how much you say you actually care about the soldiers and civilians who died in that blast. Saying how there names will "be forever carved into your memory" in a sense, but I wonder if in two months will you even remember their names? I doubt this comment will get posted, and if you do you only will so your viewers will think your a fair organization that will print both sides of an opinion, just so that they are more inclined to buy or read your news. I'm sure after it is posted the people who read this will look down upon my opinion saying I am ignorant and am incapable of holding any common sense.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle Seelig, New York City, New York : 4:28 PM ET
It also needs to be understood that not all of this is being done for ideology or to support insurgencies. When unemployed or underpaid people are offered what to them are large sums of money, their ideology is more interested in supporting their families, even if it means that they do it by dying. Don't always label suicide bombers as insurgents. Sometimes, they are just people that care very much for their families.

It is good that Americans ARE separating the warriors from the war. The war has lost popularity, but the soldiers are still supported. Of course, many of the people who protest and criticize the war have never spent a day in Iraq, let alone a year. Before you criticize something that you don't really understand, take a rifle, go to Iraq and spend a year with the majority of Iraqis who are pleased that we are there and if you feel the same way about the war when you come back, THEN you have the right to criticize it. Your words provide strength and support to our enemies. And yet you will drive your vehicle around with the stickers that say "Support Our Troops". Your words should match your actions.

Tom, you're right, courageous soldiers risk their lives every day for their country. Just like they have all throughout American history, in popular as well as unpopular wars. They don't get to chosse their fights, they just go and fight them. They do deserve to be recognized. Thank you for giving them that recognition.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Escondido, CA : 4:50 PM ET
Thank you for telling these stories; we need to continue to see these brave men and women as individuals: husbands, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers. As the mother of a Soldier now home from a tour in Iraq, let me encourage you also to remember that those who have lived through the war to face a potential future tour are also no less brave, courageous and heroic than those we have lost. They all know that "there but for the grace of God go they." And, in spite of that, they stand ready to do it again when asked.
Posted By Anonymous Debi, Vancouver, Washington : 4:55 PM ET
The stryker unit was not the only one that lost people that day. We may not have lost as many but it still hit us just the same. My husbands unit was there that day eating along with the stryker unit. Please don't forget the 133rd engineer battalion of Maine. We lost two great soldiers that day, Lynn Poulin and Thomas Dostie. They were two great guys that has alot going and I know the families personally and they and all the families of the 133rd were also victims of that fateful day.
Posted By Anonymous Tracy Smith Hampden Maine : 5:24 PM ET
As a former Navy Nurse, I know what it means to serve. I believe it would be a great idea to find everyone of those soldiers and sailors' families affected who have lost a loved one to the war and tell our nation of their stories. I believe this would be a wonderful way to show them our gratitude and for society to help some of those families who may need a little help and support.
Posted By Anonymous Tracy S. Orlando, Florida : 5:53 PM ET
You credit the perpetrators of the bombing too much by entitleing your piece "Lions in the Village." It should be something more lke "Snake in the grass."
Posted By Anonymous John, West Windsor, NJ : 5:54 PM ET
I was one of the soldiers that helped with treating the casualties during lunch that day. I still remember the screaming and the crying.
It was another hot day in mosul Iraq it was our first deployment for our finance unit from California, and even though we were desk jockies, we still saw the heart of the fighting. we were heading to lunch on one of our Finance support mission's (FST's) when we decided to go to one of the local shops when we heard the explosion and quickly turned around to find out what happen. thats when we headed to the chowhall to help out after hearing what happened on our radios. Not a day goes by thinking that i should be among the dead. I think i will never have forecloser. It hurts and i wish i could say something to the families of my commrades. We'll never forget you!

SGT Wilcox OIF III 2004-2005
Posted By Anonymous scott wilcox santa maria ca : 6:04 PM ET
I read this website everyday. This particular story was definately hard to read. My husband too is with the 133rd ECB. I remember all the feelings of pain and sorrow of that day. Too many lives lost too many service members injured and changed for the rest of their lives.

The men and women of our armed fores are in my thoughts and prayers always.
Posted By Anonymous Robin Walsh Gorham Maine : 6:15 PM ET
The stories of the men and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan need to be told as they are tonight, as they have been in the past. I have worried and prayed my first cousin and several friends through various tours over there and dealt with a childhood friend's death as a result of injuries sustained as a soldier in Iraq. The lives and losses need to be honored, and the soldiers need to continue to be supported whether the politics are liked or not. These are real people whose voices deserve to be heard until this thing is resolved.

At least CNN is telling stories of the soldiers and not exploiting their own reporter who almost died in Iraq to boost ratings...
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 6:15 PM ET
Tom,
Thanks so much for remembering these young heros. We must never forget.
To all those men and women who have stepped up to the plate and asked to serve their country I say, Thank you for our freedom and for your sacrifice. Somehow "Thank you" seems a little weak. It is difficult find the right words to describe my indebtedness. I don't think even Michaelangelo could paint my appreciation. May God be with each and every courageous soldier and keep them safe.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 6:27 PM ET
Dear Mr. Foreman,

With due respect, my perspective differs from yours. These men and women whom you extol as "brave" and "courageous" are mercenaries who were paid to kill.

As per their job description, they follow the order to kill without asking if doing so is morally justified. It is their job to follow orders without question. I cannot imagine a more dishonorable occupation than this.

These men and women were used to invade and obliterate a sovereign nation in violation of International law, not to mention the norms of civilized behavior. Moreover, they've been fulfilling their task with obvious zest, relishing the use of racist epithets such as "hajis" to refer to the Iraqi people.

The estimates of the numbers of Iraqis who have died as a result of their "courage" run anywhere from 60,000 to half a million. In addition, over a million Iraqis are now refugees. The entire country has been looted and destroyed. The educated class in Iraq has left the country. And these "brave" men and women share responsibility with the US government for the perpetration of these crimes.

To be a balanced reporter, the amount of coverage you give to the Iraqi victims of violence should be proportionate to the amount of suffering on the Iraqi side.

With regards,
Benjamin Makdis
Posted By Anonymous Benjamin Makdis : 6:29 PM ET
I am sick and tired of all the rethoric about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I served in the US Army during the height of the cold war and was stationed in Germany. I did not think myself of others in the Military as particularly brave or hereos. It was my job and I volunteered for the service. I did what I was ordered to do and that what that. In the same way a fire fighter, Police officer or Nurse performes his or her duties I did what needed to be done and that was it. There was nothing heroic or particularly patriotic about it. I was obligated to do it.

If anyone does not agree with the war, Bush and the suffering of the troops, the easiest way to end it is to demand a Draft immediately starting with the the sons, daughters and grandchildren of Bush, his lap dogs and all the politicians in government positions. I would be very suprise if the war does not end within a month after the Draft is put in placed.
Posted By Anonymous Ken, San Jose, CA : 6:50 PM ET
Hello to all-
Many of the blogs make interesting points.
Some of you though need to evaluate your credibility on critizing a war you never experienced personally. Unless you served, or have a near by friend or relative who has served, all you know is what the media puts out in writing and on the air.
You dont see the good the troops and civilians of all branches, and genders, from all units are doing everyday.
You all see a small percentage of cowards who have a death grip on our nation and its politics (terrorists).
It disturbs me that this would be titled Lions in a Village though.
A lion is one of the most respected animals in the wild. These people blowing themselves up for a misconstrued interpretation of Islam are respected only by those who agree with their ideology.
But for everyone to place the reponsibility on the media to honor these men and women is pushing the responsibility off.
America and Americans have the responsibility of honoring all men and women who have served and are serving: life lost or not. Thank you.
Jared Musante
Cpl USMC
2002-2006
Posted By Anonymous Jared Musante, Raleigh, NC : 6:58 PM ET
As a wife of one of the Stryker soldiers serving along those brave that died, I am glad to see that these men and their loved ones are not forgotten. I thank you from the bottom of my heart that you let people know how brave these men were/are and how much they need and deserve every ounce of support!!! They are true heroes of our time!!!
Posted By Anonymous Katharine, Lakewood, Washington : 7:03 PM ET
I am sitting in my family room in Oro Valley, Arizona, looking out over a beautiful landscape of Pusch Ridge and pondering the pros and cons of imbedded correspondents and coverage of our current 'conflicts'. I am in the United States Air Force, but my husband is in Baghdad as a defense contractor. He actually believes this 'opportunity' to serve is a blessing. Never before, was Tim, my husband able to 'serve' his country and for that he is grateful. I would much rather that I was in his place and (I have volunteered multiple times), allowed to served, but as we have had multiple 'losses' in our family (our daughter and my dad), my deployments were curtailed. It would be an honor to serve.

Wars have changed dramatically, in part because we once depended on an element of surprise to engender success, because our 'world is so much smaller' with the advent of the internet and reporters on site, reporting occurs even before plans have been implemented and as action takes place. Fact of life. I only wish we still had a 'draft' that wasn't so 'selective', so that a majority, would someday be cognitive of the 'liberties' we truly have and the sacrifices that have supported this 'luxury' we call freedom. As someone said before, FREEDOM isn't FREE.
Posted By Anonymous Sandy Featherston, Tucson, Arizona : 7:11 PM ET
Thank you for reminding us that there's more to this war than just politics, campaigning, resolutions, and funding. The stories of those who serve are often hard to watch, but so important to see.
Posted By Anonymous Bridget Ann, Baltimore, Maryland : 12:18 AM ET
I would like to thank CNN for doing this piece. CPT William Jacobsen was my company commander, I was in the mess hall that day and remember it like it was yesterday. I heard about the segment, and I didn't think I would be able to watch it, As tough as it was....I'm glad I did. I STILL have nightmares about that day and probably will the rest of my life. The word "carnage" doesn't even describe it, and to see your best friends holding there own guts in and screaming in agony laying in a pool of there own blood and brain matter is not something you ever forget.

A.J FT LEWIS. 1-24INF (Deuce four)
Posted By Anonymous SSG Holt FT LEWIS. 1-24INF (Deuce four) : 12:33 AM ET
The special last night on the attack in that mess hall on the day of December 21, 2004 was especially riveting and much of it was enough to render a person speechless with a hard lump in the throat. However the strength of those families of the men lost on that day of ambiguity by the ravenous motives of misanthropists, leaves the lingering sense of the impenetrable fortitude of the human spirit, and a hope that such seemingly trivial security measures such as mending a broken fence as one mother of a deceased vet put it, will not be overlooked, nor any other protective measure when our remarkably courageous troops are ever again faced with the threats of their place of solace and sanctuary would be permeated by enemy forces.
Posted By Anonymous Ana A, Ocala FL : 12:53 AM ET
Difficult as it is to attain good intelligence, when it is accomplished and a successful engagement results, i have a problem. A civilian may be credited or an infiltrator credited or the source of the information is reported. This puts frendlies at risk. In the early days of Iraq war, I recall a newspaper photo of a piolet just returned from a succesful mission standing beside his plane with his name applied. This puts him and or his family at risk. We don't need to know the source of beneficial info.
Posted By Anonymous David Jennings, marina del rey, CA : 1:46 AM ET
Tom-
Your last report brought me to tears and this one did as well. You've done an incredible job of showing us just how heroic these men and women are, and how much they and their families sacrifice for us all. Thank you for putting in the late nights and bringing us this story; it shows us the real side of the war- the human side. You realize that whether or not our soldiers get hurt they�re heroes simply for going and doing what we�ve asked them too- regardless of the mission or their opinions. It�s something that I cannot imagine doing. I hope we see more of these reports in the future!
Again you've done an amazing job, Thank You.
Posted By Anonymous Claire, Marquette, MI : 2:21 AM ET
Sir,
I'm an IRAQI Vet who served with the Army Corps of Engineers during the time of your story. Forgive me for taken up any of your time but I would like to get a copy of this story if I can. You see I remember myself what it's like especially because I attending the memorials not only for these fellow soldiers but a few others as well. I will pay for it.

Signed, MSG De La GARZA
Posted By Anonymous MSG De La GARZA, Petronilo, 15115 Lamphere, Detroit MI 48223 : 2:56 AM ET
My husband of 35 years was killed in that bombing. He was a contractor for Halliburton but, he served as a soldier in Viet Nam on river boats. He knew all about war. He used to tell me that he worried more about me driving home in Houston at night than about himself because "he was on a military base." He knew about the mortars but I can tell you, he never thought he was living with the suicide bomber. They should have not been sleeping and eating with the enemy. They should be separated at all times except for the training they are there to give the Iraqis. Ever ask what the criteria is to get into their military? I believe it is "Are you a good guy or a bad guy?" I was told the suicide bomber had been living among them for 4 months and that he did not sneak through the gate that day. I was also told they were all caught. Do any of you who were there remember seeing a lot of the Iraqis gone from the area where they normally sat at lunch? My husband's contract stated Halliburton would protect him but, if the suicide bomber was living among them, what kind of protection is that? For whatever reason each of them are over there, they are all heroes!
Posted By Anonymous DD, MAGNOLIA, TX : 4:37 AM ET
I really enjoyed this story. It was sad toward the end when the mothers and wives were talking about their loss. I liked it alot. It tuched me.
Posted By Anonymous Gabrielle, Denver : 2:51 PM ET
Once again you've brought tears to my eyes. Your stories help to place some sort of human connection to all of the statistics we see on the CNN crawl. I see the numbers for those hurt and killed, but I really don't know anyone serving. These stories place personalities with names and then connect them to the families, friends and co-workers they've left behind. The local Barrington paper has a new local marine recruit on the cover. I will have to see if my kids went to school with him. We are so lucky to have all of these brave men and women defending our country. We need to support them any way that we can. I will continue to pray for them and watch your stories. As always, thanks for all of your hard work. Have a great week-end!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 4:56 PM ET
Thank you so much for caring and investigating what happened on that horrible day at FOB Marez in Mosul. My stepson, MSG Paul Karpowich, was among those who lost their lives. He worked closely with the soldiers from Stryker. Paul was deployed with the 98th Division (Institutional Training) headquarted in Rochester, NY. Paul was 30 and was trained as a Drill Instuctor at Fort Dix, NJ. He is included in an article by Medic Sid Dacquel in the December 2005 issue of Stars and Stripes. Paul grew up in a small NE Pennsylvania town, where there have been many tributes to his heroic memory. Please learn about his charitable foundation at www.karpmfm.com. It will do your heart good to learn that so many cared and still care.
Thanks again. It means so much.
Posted By Anonymous Claire Karpowich, Freeland, PA : 5:08 PM ET
Dear Tom,
Thank you for a poignant look at how war affects individual people, and isn't just about politics and battle statistics.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada : 5:23 PM ET
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• 12/16/2007 - 12/23/2007
• 12/23/2007 - 12/30/2007
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