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OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:31 AM EDT

I have just heard from the OpenDocument Foundation's Gary Edwards, with news about a plugin the Foundation is offering the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in response to the Commonwealth's request for information on any plugin that could "allow Microsoft Office to easily open, render, and save to ODF files, and also allow translation of documents between Microsoft's binary (.doc, .xls, .ppt) or XML formats and ODF."

The Foundation says it has such a plugin, it has finished testing it, and it is good to go.

Edwards tells me the following:

The OpenDocument Foundation has notified the Massachusetts ITD that we have completed testing on an ODF Plugin for all versions of MS Office dating back to MS Office 97. The ODF Plugin installs on the file menu as a natural and transparent part of the open, save, and save as sequences. As far as end users and other application add-ons are concerned, ODF plugin renders ODF documents as if it were native to MS Office.

The testing has been extensive and thorough. As far as we can tell there isn't a problem, even with Accessibility add ons, which as you know is a major concern for Massachusetts.

Now that we've had a chance to fully review their RFI document, we expect to submit a formal line by line reply, offering the ODF Plugin for immediate testing, review and implementation.

Some people might wonder why the Foundation would be interested in "extending" the life and vested value of these Win32 bound desktops?

Our reply is that this isn't about "Windows" or MS Office. It's about people, business units, existing workflows and business processes, and vested legacy information systems begging to be connected, coordinated, and re engineered to reach new levels of productivity and service. It's also about the extraordinary value of ODF and its importance to the next generation of collaborative computing. And it's about ODF rising to meet the needs of key information domains as they are represented by desktop productivity environments; publishing, content and archive management systems; SOA efforts; and the Open Internet.

So, to Microsoft: never mind. You don't need to lift a finger.


OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin | 466 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: Dogeron on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:45 AM EDT
Please post any corrections here.


[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Typo - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 06:44 AM EDT
OT Here
Authored by: Dogeron on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:46 AM EDT
Please post any off topic items here - so we have in one place :-)


[ Reply to This | # ]

Seven hours
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:49 AM EDT
From posting of the problem to posting of the solution.

Simply incredible.

...though I imagine they've been working on this for longer than that...

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:54 AM EDT
Does anybody have a link to this? I would be very interested in trying this

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 03:42 AM EDT

Where can I get it?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 03:52 AM EDT
From 0 to 0wned in 7 hours.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

[ Reply to This | # ]

every version of Office "so far"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 04:08 AM EDT
I wonder... this puts the burden on Microsoft NOW to make sure that newer
versions of Office also work with this plug-in. If not, it would be SO clear
that they want what they want, when the want it, and aren't going to play if
it's not by their rules. If this plug-in works as promised, that pretty much
kills the so-called "Office Open XML."

[ Reply to This | # ]

The ODF Plugin isn't available as a download
Authored by: gary.edwards on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 04:15 AM EDT
Don't bother hunting for a download. It's not available. The ODF Plugin came
out of testing last week. I wish i could say we did this last night, but it's
been at least a year in development.

The first stop for the ODF Plugin will be Massachusetts, followed by the EU and

We were not aware of the RFi until this past Friday when we notified
Massachusetts tha tthe ODF Plugin has been competed. Hard as it is to believe,
it's completely coincidental that Massachusettes decided on the RFi route the
day before we notified them that the ODF Plugin had completed testing. It just
looks like we did this overnight.

Hey, maybe that's not a bad thing :)

Unless you're completely caught up in Win32 bound business processes, legacy
systems dependencies, and shared collaborations, i would suggest you forego the
ODF Plugin and immediately download and GooglePack. The ODF
Plugin was developed for workgroups and individuals caught between a rock and a
hard place, unable to get their information into ODF any other way. Unable to
move forward into the age of collaborative computing until Chairman Bill decides
how he wants to do it, decides when his solution will be available, and
determines what it will cost.

So please, consider the ODF Plugin as an important part of that wave of desktop,
server, and device applications moving to ODF everywhere, all the time, for
every purpose.

Let no application be left behind,

--- volunteer serving on the OASIS OpenDocument TC

[ Reply to This | # ]

This sucks the wind out of Microsofts Sails
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 04:17 AM EDT
I like this plugin, it effectively calls the Microsoft bluff "MS Office don't not doing no OpenDocumentFormat".

Because NOW it does!

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • not for long - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 01:48 PM EDT
OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: pointwood on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 04:52 AM EDT
Really really cool!


[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: cybervegan on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 05:17 AM EDT
I wouldn't like to be an executive chair in Redmond today ;-D


Software source code is a bit like underwear - you only want to show it off in
public if it's clean and tidy. Refusal could be due to embarrassment or shame...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Lifting fingers?
Authored by: jmc on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 05:52 AM EDT

So, to Microsoft: never mind. You don't need to lift a finger.

I thought it was chairs that Ballmer lifted?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Hygrocybe on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 06:05 AM EDT
Churchill once stated: This is not the beginning of the end, but it is the end
of the beginning.

We now have the same thing but in the world of software and the fight to force
Microsoft to use open, international standards that are not of their own
proprietary interest and development. This plug-in obliterates problems with
version read from Office97 to current release in all Microsoft formats - and all
are transcribed to an ISO standard.

From where I stand, my perception is that this incredible plug-in has just
completely taken the initiative away from Microsoft......and Microsoft has no
choice but to follow. Indeed, it has other ramifications: If all Microsoft
Office suites can now be translated into ISO ODF formats, why bother purchasing
any update of Office ?

This is almost a software version of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

My sincere congratulations to the programmers who worked on this amazing bit of

Blackbutt, Australia

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wonder if this plugin is legal....
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 06:51 AM EDT
i.e. how many microsoft patents it had to break to get inside the various
office programs.

Just because you can technologically get data out of proprietary systems doesn't
necessarily mean it's legal to do so. (Isn't that one of the whole themes of
this open document debate?)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wet blanket
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 07:09 AM EDT
The plug-in is great news, however...converting Microsoft Word documents to ODF
word type documents is only one piece of the landscape. We also need
conversions for Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc., etc., etc. It's convenient
that most government documents are likely word processing but I would bet that
there are also a lot of databases and spreadsheets that need to be shared as

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: GreatDrok on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 07:33 AM EDT
I know it says it works with every version of Office to date but does that
Mac Office? It would be a real boon to me to be able to use MS Office on my
Macs to work with ODF. The current version of NeoOffice won't run on my Intel
Mac, OpenOffice 2 X11 is clunky and I keep closing it by hitting AppleQ and
Pages 2 (good though it is) doesn't talk ODF at the moment either. A solution
for Mac Office would be a great help, especially in converting MS Office docs to

ODF although from my experience the compatiblilty of Mac Office with Windows
Office is only a little better than OpenOffice manages and sometimes I use
OpenOffice because Mac Office mangles stuff from a PC.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Document Export but for How Long?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 07:36 AM EDT
I'm sure MS can update Office/Windows such that the plug-ing breaks. Remember:
"Windows isn't done until Lotus won't run."

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Office XML vs Office Open XML
Authored by: beserker on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 08:48 AM EDT
It looks to me like the name Office Open XML was deliberately chosen to cause
confusion between the two formats. Is "OpenOffice" trademarked? IANAL
but if so then this might make a good trademark infringment case. If not could
it still be trademarked since "Open Office" has a few years of history
using the name?


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend,
Inside of a dog, its too dark to read."
- Groucho Marx

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 08:52 AM EDT
M$ has just lost a big piece of their monopoly because
of this. I'll bet you "dollars to doughnuts" that BG
is loosing sleep trying to figure out how to put a stop
to this. It will be interesting to see what happens.
I don't think it will be pretty.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A game of monopoly
Authored by: thorpie on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 09:09 AM EDT

It all reminds me of the last game of monopoly I ever played many years ago. I was adult, had a couple of young kids & was around at a friends place who had older children.

It was an adults game, and silly me I read the rules. I found one that I had never ever noticed before and built 4 houses on the cheap blocks, used all the houses and refused to change them to hotels. No-one else can build houses.

To put it in proper english parlance, it just ain’t cricket, old chap. The ructions caused by a friendly game of Monopoly showed me that – there’s rules and there’s rules. Missus didn’t have a civil word for a month, I was the world’s biggest ----, etc etc, and the missus still don’t let me forget, 20 years later.

Well Bill, I do believe that you have just done the same, only big time. I believe that you have now gone beyond what is considered acceptable in cricket, baseball or soccer and that the big boys, the old money and still the power, will now have a good hard look at reviewing and codifying what is acceptable. I don’t think the big boys will be impressed or happy that they have to get involved. I believe that they will start playing your game back. And I do believe you have aggravated them enough so they will play back hard.

Ah - the sweet sound of monopolies starting to crack.

The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime - Floyd, Pink

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 09:24 AM EDT
Microsoft will rapidly develop their own support for ODF in MS Office 12, and
block provision of alternative support. There will be mysterious issues with
the generated ODF documents that Microsoft will blame on deficiencies in the ODF
standard itself.

[ Reply to This | # ]

New ISO Standard approved -- OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 10:22 AM EDT

Make sure your are not drinking any beverage, or have any liquid within thirty feet of your keyboard before you read this!!! ,10801,111130,00.html

[ Reply to This | # ]

I don't get it - why isn't it available?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 10:27 AM EDT
Every post here I read says you can't download it.
and the guy from Openoffice or whatever even posted that its just for people
between a rock and a hard place.

but if you can't download it, what good does it do?

I need a tool like this, but apparently I can't get it.
so, what's the point?

Is it available or not?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 10:33 AM EDT
Thanks Gary for your hard work. I work in local government and one of the
problems I've faced moving to ODF is that we have a Police Department
application that links to MS Word. The plugin would be helpful to me as well. If
there's a place we could sign up for using the plugin that would be helpful.


[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: jsusanka on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 10:54 AM EDT
great news

let the migrations and savings begin!!!

now is good time to clean out all your doc files and save
the important ones as odf with this plugin and then go get
get openoffice and never pay another microsoft office
license fee again and never have to worry about the bsa
coming to your door for office license fees. now you can
get your real work done instead of counting licenses.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: tknarr on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 11:07 AM EDT

I notice this plug-in'll also undercut one of Microsoft's big bogeymen: accessibility functions for the disabled. If the plug-in works and all the accessibility features of MSWord work just fine, MS will be left to explain just why they made such a fuss about accessibility not working right except with native Word documents. I think the community's position should be "But why wouldn't accessiblity work just fine in MSWord? It works when Word reads a Word95 document, or an HTMl document or a plain text document, why would it stop working just because it's reading an ODF document?".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Software equivilent
Authored by: kozmcrae on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 11:10 AM EDT
This is the software equivilent of a pie in Bill's face.


Darl, have you been lying to us? I'm a frayed knot.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 11:55 AM EDT
I didn't give you permission to write software to interface into Office, using
my published controls.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Does this hurt adoption of OpenOffice?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 12:42 PM EDT
In one way, it seems like this will really hurt adoption of OpenOffice because
people can now use ODF with Microsoft Office. In another way it seems like it
could help OpenOffice, as people could start using ODF now with Microsoft Office
and switch over to OpenOffice whenever convenient. However, I think inertia
makes the former much more likely than the latter...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why hasn't the plugin been open sourced?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:27 PM EDT
I'm totally confused about this. People are jumping around but over what? Over
another piece of proprietary software? I believe that by not releasing this as
open source, Mr. Edwards has viciously abused the public trust as well as the
good will. Are you with us or against us, Mr. Edwards? If you *are* with us,
then go ahead and open source it in a GPL-compatible way.

All this PR you have received is infuriating until and unless the plugin becomes
free (as in freedom) and does not just stand to benefit the government but the
society as a whole.

The way things stand now, I strongly believe that the credit PJ gave you is a
HUGE HUGE overcredit.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Principle of Leverage
Authored by: Erbo on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 02:52 PM EDT
This is a fine example of what I refer to as "The Principle of Leverage" in action:

If you create leverage within your product and make people aware of it, they will eventually exploit this leverage to the betterment of your product.

Microsoft has long been aware of the Principle of Leverage. The "plugin" APIs into Office create just this sort of leverage for people to exploit, as do macros, VBA, and similar "programmability" features. And now these developers have just exploited this leverage to make Microsoft's products more useful, by supporting a set of document formats not otherwise supported in these products. Everybody benefits...yes, even Microsoft, counter to their own goals though it may be.

(Just so you know: No, I didn't come up with this principle myself. I originally read it somewhere, though I can't remember where right now.)

Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This Isn't A Troll, but...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 03:05 PM EDT
... may possibly read like one.

Just reading through this story again [and I've been following this since PJ
brought the story to our attention] one nagging doubt refuses to go away.

The Commonwealth of Massechussetts [hereunder CoM] have expressed a wish to have
a file format that is completely open and free of restrictions, in order to
permit any member of the public of the Commonwealth to be able to access that
information, now and in the future, by a means of their choice.

So at this point we start a wonderful and interesting debate that introduces us
to ODF and the Microsoft alternative, but one perhaps self-evident and possibly
even trivial question remains un-answered. What is it about the file formats of
Microsoft Office 95, 97, 2000 and XP, etc, that their owning Company, Microsoft,
believes gives them such an incredible competitive advantage as to render them
precious intellectual property?

About 10 days ago a friend of mine asked me to help rebuild their PC after a
hardware failure [HDD crashed] and after installing a new disc we re-installed
their OS [Windows 2000] and their software stack [including Office 2000]. I
noticed from the list of supported file formats that Office can be configured to
read and write in something like 15 or 20 different file formats [including
those of numerous competitors]. What, then, is so special about ODF that
Microsoft believes that it *can* support WordPerfect but *cannot* support ODF?

More importantly, what is it about Microsoft's own "Word" file format
that contains such cutting edge technological advances? It's a file format,

Now, I could accept their argument if an MSWord file occupied significantly less
disc space than something I save under OpenOfficeWriter2.x. I might be pursuaded
if the file could be opened in significantly less time than a similar file
loaded into KWord. You might even tempt me if you could demonstrate that the
file could be text-searchable and/or securely encrypted in a better manner than
comparable competitors. Unfortunately, the reality is that none of the above
assertions are true.

So I return to my original question [with profound apologies to all if this
topic has been "done to death" elsewhere...]

What, exactly, do Microsoft believe that they have in their expansive,
slow-loading, insecure and not spider-friendly file format that makes it so
special? OK, I think you realise that this is a rhetorical question asked with
tongue firmly placed in cheek... The answer, of course, is that Microsoft owns
the "proprietary" nature of the file format, the format is in use in
probably the majority of PCs in use on the planet today and, by keeping the
format closed, they have the ability to insert hidden tweaks that keep the
Office clones [KOffice, OpenOffice, StarOffice, etc] one jump behind.

We still don't have a valid or reasonable answer to my question, however. If
this were a piece of software that we were talking about, I could understand
Microsoft wishing to assert copyright or claim that the content was their
intellectual property. [Frankly, they would be welcome to it]. What I can't see
the logic of, however, is how this extends to a file format. Unless of course
your motives are other than those publicly stated.

As a 20-year veteran of the IT Industry, I spend a lot of my time dealing with
vendors who want to demonstrate leading or cutting edge software to my employer.
[I work for a very large multinational organisation]. It is common practise
under these circumstances for us to put in place an NDA [Non-Disclosure
Agreement] to allow the company to discuss the details of their technology in
advance of a formal, public launch. It helps my employer with purchasing
decisions and helps vendors sell technology.

If Microsoft believe that their technology is so special and so superior to ODF
or others and yet has content that is so super-secret that they cannot simply
publish Word2000 format to the public, perhaps the CoM could enter in to an NDA
with Microsoft so that the software company can explain in detail exactly what
is so special about the Word2000 .doc format?

What makes it so super-secret that noone else could be allowed to know about.
Perhaps Microsoft could even specify all the patents that they have relating to
the Word2000 or WordXP file format? Because of course, if Word2000 or WordXP
file formats contain such valuable IP, it would of course be patented, wouldn't
it? After all, don't Microsoft support the use of patents to protect valuable

You don't suppose - just a wild guess here - that any such patent, written in
appropriate language, would run foul of so many protests of prior written art
[dating from the days before MS produced a Word Processor, that is] that any
attempt to patent the Word file format would fall at the first hurdle?

And of course, if MS tried to engineer it into the next release of their
product, it would break compatability with older software versions, thus
rendering them entirely vulnerable to the argument given by the CoM to go with a
common standard in the first place ....

Nope, the more I think about this, the more I suspect we've somehow missed
asking the obvious question of Microsoft. It's a bit like the one we've been
asking The SCO Group all these years? What's so special about Word's .doc
format? Where is your evidence of IBM's infringement?

Just on the off-chance that this line of thinking hasn't convinced you yet,
here's another example to consider. A few years ago a company called Iomega
produced a "Zip" Drive with the capacity of 100Mb [later versions went
to 250 and even 750Mb]. It was designed to replace the floppy disc. Iomega
designed to hold back [or use restrictive licence deals] that made it very
difficult for competitors to enter that market with them. The PC industry
desperately needed a new medium to transport the ever-expanding bloatware,
sorry, software packages, used by Windows PCs. Compare and contrast Iomega's
approach with that of Phillips, inventor of the Compact Disc. In the space of
months CD Drives had become a de-facto standard in PC hardware specifications -
and as an industry we haven't looked back.

In the ODF and CoM debate, Microsoft are behaving like Iomega, while the rest of
the world are cosying up to Phillips.

In the latest round of advertisements, Microsoft are using actors dressed up as
dinosaurs. Do you think this is a coincidence? If Microsoft are dinosaurs, I
think Open Source might be the comet...


[who seems to be having account problems and can't log in...]

[ Reply to This | # ]

How dose the plug in help anyone but Microsoft?
Authored by: Kilz on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 03:24 PM EDT
I asked a similar question yesterday. I read a lot of people saying this is a
win for open formats and it will lead to use of open source programs. How? You
have just given anyone who wants to continue to use M$ Office a way to do it.
What about the comfort factor? Do you really believe that people are going to
change the program they are used to because a plug in allows them to write files
in another format? Microsoft knows about the comfort factor, thats why they
bundle things. Once someone is used to a program it takes a lot to get them to
Second, whats to stop state governments to continue to license M$ office and
spend our tax dollars? All it will take is a little cash under the table and a
few paid for fud studies. The politicians will be listening to state workers who
do not want to change because of the comfort factor. Next it will be time to
raise taxes because of the costs involved.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Vapor ware
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 04:53 PM EDT
Any software which is not available for download, purchase, or via source is
considered vaporware in my book.

If their is a beta, it should be open to the public for testing. Otherwise, it
is just smoke coming from the OpenDocument Foundation.

Call me a troll or not, but its the truth.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 10:10 PM EDT
Astounding! That last paragraph, starting with "Our
reply"... Wow! I haven't read anything like that since a
billion-dollar business plan in Palo Alto in 1999!

[ Reply to This | # ]

OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 04 2006 @ 10:48 PM EDT
While waiting for my account to be set up.

It's nice to see that Office:Mac users don't need this feature. Thank god we
be burdened by an open format, and can stay in the warm, loving embrace of
proprietary file formats. Go ODF!

[ Reply to This | # ]

So where is the MS Office for Mac plugin?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, May 09 2006 @ 10:22 AM EDT

The article states that the plugin supports every version of Microsoft Office back to...., but there seem to be a total disregard for the fact that Microsoft Office also have lived on the Mac for as long as there has been such a product. (MS Excel 1.0 in 1986 on the Mac Plus and Word 1.05 even earlier.)

The concept of open format gets a pretty strange ring to it, if the openness is just available for Windows and Linux users. In my estimates there must be 25 + million Mac Office users out there with documents that could benefit from this plugin.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Act now!
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, May 15 2006 @ 02:17 PM EDT
The big idea behind ODF and especially the ODF plug-in is that it gives users a choice. And that is fantastic!

As soon as the plug-in is released _everybody_ should start using it and saving all newly created documents in ODF format. (Even if they currently plan to keep using MS Office).

Why? Because, if in 2 years time you decide to adopt, say, OpenOffice then all the documents created in the 2 years will be immediately readable.

(OpenOffice does, of course, have the ability to open and save in MS Word format, however this will not always give 100% fidelity.)

There are 2 important points contained here:
1) The importance of any document will decrease with age.
2) The one-off process of conversion will always be less accurate than if the document is stored in just one format from the time it is created.

If, on the other hand, you wait 2 years and then decide to evaluate OpenOffice you are bound to find instances of documents that are not converted 100% accurately.

Sod's law says that this would be the case with the Financial Director's monthly spreadsheet. As likely as not this would immediately kill the project despite the fact that you could have saved ten of thousands of dollars in MS licensing fees.

So remember this is all about choice. About giving yourself the option of moving between almost every Office suite on the market depending on your needs. Maximize your choice by acting now!

[from Felix_the_Mac not logged in - originally posted as a comment to this story< /a>.]

[ Reply to This | # ]

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