February 1, 2013, - 4:17 pm

Remembering Ed Koch, Proud Jew, Briefly Conservative, Of Blessed Memory

By Debbie Schlussel

As you may know, former New York Mayor Edward Koch died today at age 88. While, for much of his career, Koch was an unabashed liberal, for a good amount of time in his later years, Koch was actually a conservative. And he was always a proud Jew. We cannot skip over the fact, however, that he twice endorsed and voted for Barack Obama or that he helped anti-Israel Tony Kushner get an honorary degree from a New York college–actions that were neither good for America nor for the Jews. But prior to that, he actually did and said some good things, including his valiant fight for the freedom of Soviet Jews from the tyranny of Communism and his work in support of Israel and tax reform, while he was in Congress. Like me, he was the son of Polish Jews.


When I was a kid in elementary school, my parents took us to New York for winter vacation. We stayed at The Essex House hotel, which is now called the “Jumeirah” Essex House and is owned by Gulf state Muslim Arabs (but wasn’t then). Our first night there was the first night of Chanukah, and my parents took us to see Ed Koch light the giant Menorah on the edge of New York’s Central Park. That was my first introduction to the then-Mayor of New York.

It was after that, when I was in college, that I heard Ed Koch was coming to speak at the University of Michigan. His speech was sponsored by all the Jewish and liberal groups on campus. When I told my father about it, he said, “Oh, you have to go to his speech and congratulate him for his very conservative review of a book by James Q. Wilson in a recent issue of Commentary Magazine. It will make all the liberals mad because they clearly don’t know that he’s kind of conservative now.” (In those days, Commentary was a very intellectual, excellent publication. Now it’s run by morons for morons and constantly pushes the Arab Spring BS and amnesty for illegal aliens. For that reason, both I and my father stopped reading it years ago.) My dad read me parts of the article over the phone, and I took notes.

When Ed Koch spoke at Michigan, I came prepared. After his speech, I got in line for the question and answer session. I congratulated him for his turn toward conservatism, which he acknowledged, and I praised him for his positive book review on James Q. Wilson’s book supporting getting tough on crime in urban America. I asked him about that, also adding, “Don’t you think Jews should consider conservative thinking and the Republican Party?” He said yes to both, and many in the audience got upset. Afterward, I was yelled at and physically accosted by a liberal, Jewish then-State Senator, a witch by the name of Lana Pollack. She couldn’t handle that Ed Koch actually urged Jews to consider the Republican Party and conservatism and that I was the instigator (I’d worked on her Republican opponent, Dale Appley’s campaign, and she knew me from that and from speaking out against her in other forums).

I also asked Koch about the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters (the Contras) and anti-Semitic, Communist Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, since I know that Koch openly supported the Contras and opposed Ortega, after first having the reverse position. He also responded favorably to my questions. This riled up the liberals because opposing President Reagan and the Contras and appeasing Ortega was a major part of their playbook. Ed Koch was not afraid to oppose them and do the right thing. He also led a fact-finding mission to Central America to play up his anti-Communist views on the matter.

Ed Koch was also not afraid to speak out against his party back in the days of Jesse Jackson’s Presidential runs. He said Jews would be crazy to vote for Jackson and he expressed outrage and embarrassment that Jackson was a major player in the party, something no one would do now. Koch also didn’t hesitate to call out phonies and far-leftists back then (though he wouldn’t call out Obama enough, later on). He called Black and Hispanic activists forever shaking down New York City, “poverty pimps.” He called protesters, “crazies.” And he called far-left nutjob Bella Abzug a “wacko.” Politically correct he was not.

But sometimes, in his last years, I felt Ed Koch wasn’t all there. He was trotted out by the useless Republican Jewish Coalition (a bunch of RINO-JINOs, Republicans and Jews In Name Only) to campaign for George W. Bush against John Kerry. That part was fine.

But when Koch came to Detroit for this, he went on the radio just before his appearance and told a radio host that Hillary Clinton would make a great President, that he’s supporting her, and that she’s great for America and for Israel. Huh? I went to the event, and asked him a question about this. He reaffirmed his support and said that the most pro-Israel President in U.S. history is Bill Clinton, which is delusional to say the least. I guess he never heard of the disastrous Oslo Accords, the pan-Arabist bitch Madeleine Albright, or the disgusting way Bill Clinton forced Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin to shake Yasser Arafat’s hand. That’s not to mention Hillary Clinton’s lack of reaction to Suha Arafat’s statement that Jews poison Arab water with cancer. At the same event, I asked Ed Koch to address President Bush’s tight relationship with jihad supporter and enabler Grover Norquist. Instead of answering the question, he attacked me in an extremely obnoxious manner, calling me nuts and saying it’s ridiculous to ask about this topic. His reaction turned many in the audience off, including me.

Fast forward to four years later. Ed Koch endorsed Barack Obama for President in 2008. He did it again in 2012, while admitting that Obama was terrible for Israel and very heavily on the side of the Muslim extremists. Only an idiot (or a Muslim) admits this and then supports Obama again anyway. He knew better in both 2008 and 2012. Or he was already afflicted with dementia, which is a distinct possibility. The same can be said for Koch’s maneuver to reverse a decision to deny far-left, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel Jew, Tony Kushner (screenwriter of “Lincoln”–read my review) an honorary degree from the City University of New York. This told me that Ed Koch had lost some of his marbles. You don’t speak out against Jesse Jackson and then embrace Tony Kushner, who’s arguably said far worse about the Jews, and give him an honor. His behavior supporting Obama and Kushner can only be described as asinine.

And, so, I will remember Ed Koch as a proud Jew, a proud “How’m I Doing?” New York Mayor, and a proud American, who sometimes got a lot of these things wrong, but had a brief interlude with conservatism and sometimes did the right thing.

Ed Koch, Zichrono LiVrachah [Of Blessed Memory].

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56 Responses

Yes Debbie, it was dementia in his later years. I remember how Koch was back in the late 80s. On a personal level he was very likable. I’d say at times he was a little right of center.

Dilbert Delaney on February 1, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I remember hearing a lot about this guy growing up. It’s a shame he’s gone.

Ghostwriter on February 1, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Hey Ghostwriter: No, It’s not a shame he’s gone.

    Last word on February 2, 2013 at 9:43 am

He was probably the best mayor New York City ever had. He was a colorful, gutsy guy and he was never afraid to stand up for his views unlike most politicians today.

Ed Koch’s passing is truly the end of an era. America doesn’t make people like him anymore, that’s for sure. He will be sadly missed.

NormanF on February 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Norman, you can’t believe he was superior to Giuliani…

    skzion on February 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

Very well-rounded obituary. The ones that I’ve read online seem to focus on dumb stuff, like what Al Sharpton thought about him. Sharpton said he didn’t agree with Koch but he respected him and that Koch was not deceptive. Can’t say the same about Sharpton.

Koch had a very funny line that is very appropriate for the obituary that Debbie has written, that tells us she’s on the mark:

“If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, vote for me. If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, see a psychiatrist.”

In spite of Koch’s flaws, as discussed in this obituary, one thing is certain: the guy really loved New York:

“I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone. This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.” —After purchasing a burial plot in Manhattan’s Trinity Cemetery in 2008.

Ralph Adamo on February 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Ed Koch was interviewed on 60 minutes about the sad shape of welfare housing in NYC. The interviewer showed Ed a picture of a bathroom with the toilet smashed and tub overflowing. Instead of apologizing for the disaster Mayor Koch asked how a toilet could have possibly been smashed when it was in fine shape when the apartment was initially rented. No liberal apologies for Ed Koch.

wes on February 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Thank you for this article. I was waiting for this after I heard that he passed.

I always appreciate how you give tribute to those who were generally good guys, but maintain a principled even-handed approach rather than get sucked into saccharine banalities and applying a needless cult of personality to our political figures. It does far more honor to one’s memory to remember them as they were, particularly when the good outweighs the bad as it does here, rather than creating a lie by entirely editing out the less pleasant parts.

Don’t know if it was dementia that sent him astray in his final years, or if age made him tired enough that he finally just let himself be cowed by the party bosses, but he was a great anti-Communist for much of his life. For that he will certainly be missed. Sadly this nation is losing the last of those who fought Communism in favor of those who openly embrace it.

Brian R. on February 1, 2013 at 11:03 pm

He pushed gun control, didn’t he?

RT on February 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Well I was too young to know much about Ed Koch on television. When I finally started to scrutinizing politicians in general, the NYC mayor in power was Mr. Giuliani. The closest I even knew about Mr. Koch was how a look alike actor portrayed him in the fictional Gotham City in the Batman movie starring Micheal Keaton. Wish I could seen more him on television now that Debbie mentioned his conservatism of long ago.

Mario on February 1, 2013 at 11:43 pm

The “most pro-Israel President in U.S. history” was Richard Nixon, or maybe Harry S Truman. Definitely not Clinton.

“Ed Koch has an incredible knack of telling the great majority of people what they want to hear by telling a few people what they don’t want to hear. I mean, he’ll go to a small group and bawl them out about something that he knows the mass of the voters will then jump for joy about. It’s a brilliant political ploy. It makes him appear as a man of total candor, of courage, of devotion to truth and principle. When in fact, he’s totally duplicitous.”

– Roy Cohn

St a tus MoNkey on February 2, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Nixon was far better than Truman on Israel. Truman didn’t send a bullet; Nixon did Operation Nickel Grass. George Marshall was an antisemitic asshole.

    Occam's Tool on February 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm


    Thanks for the Cohn quote. Exactly right.

    Red Ryder on February 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I remember Ed Koch. He was a typical liberal towing the democrat line. However, I never found him to be totally offensive and I always loved his pro-Israel stance, even if I thought it was only slightly lukewarm. I hated his politics and especially, I hate his party but I kind of liked the guy and at 88 he lived a truly rich and full life. RIP Ed.

Mark Hammond on February 2, 2013 at 2:35 am


As much as I liked Ed Koch, I was disappointed when he supported the biggest fraud that ever became President. I’m a Conservative Jewish American JFK Democrat. So Debbie, you’re my hero. Bless you. There are no more JFK Dems anymore, just as there are no more Barry Goldwater Republicans. That’s why this country is in such deep morass.

NormCBS on February 2, 2013 at 6:58 am

I grew up in a Connecticut suburb of NYC and although I could tell that Koch was liberal on some things, he was definitely an independent thinker and a great man. It’s unfortunate and sad that he backed Hillary and Obama. I winder if NYC would be better off with Koch at the helm again instead of Michael “The Nanny” Bloomberg?

Sean M on February 2, 2013 at 8:10 am

I grew up in a Connecticut suburb of NYC and although I could tell that Koch was liberal on some things, he was definitely an independent thinker and a great man. It’s unfortunate and sad that he backed Hillary and Obama. I wonder if NYC would be better off with Koch at the helm again instead of Michael “The Nanny” Bloomberg?

Sean M on February 2, 2013 at 8:11 am

I’m not psyched about this America First theme.Chris Hayes, MSNBC

Percy Kittens Reloaded on February 2, 2013 at 10:14 am

Also, Ed Koch served in the infantry in WWII and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. Yes, he was a lib on some issues but he did believe in America First.

Percy Kittens Reloaded on February 2, 2013 at 10:17 am


    He was drafted, along with thousands of others. Does that make him a hero?

    Red Ryder on February 2, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Who said anything about being a hero? Can’t you guys give him a little slack in rememberance? WTH? I liked Koch’s personality. Not all his policies. And yes, he did say his greatest loves were America and the people of NYC.

      Percy Kittens Reloaded on February 2, 2013 at 2:47 pm


        Why do I have to cut him any slack? He was nothing more than a two-faced phony. The fact that he occasionally said things you agree with, big deal.

        You would be hard-pressed to find anyone at all who didn’t say *something* that you liked, including Adolf Hitler, himself.

        Red Ryder on February 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Percy, here is a better pic of extreme liberal Chris Hayes before makeup…

Dilbert Delaney on February 2, 2013 at 11:00 am

I moved to NYC when Ed crouch was mayor. He did do some good rhings but he put his support for blacks ahead of his support for Jews and Israel even as mayor, as his administration chose affirmative action over competence.

Further his support for Obama helped sway those moronic Jews sitting on the fence to vote democratic. He carried Florida and maybe even Nevada and Ohio for obama. In the end his efforts to prove that he was not a racist overwhelmed his devotion to America and his devotion to Judaism and Israel. Put more bluntly, he was full of crap and he did a lot of damage to both nations by supporting president erkle.

Jonathan e grant on February 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

Also while screaming about crime, he opposed individuals like Bernie goetz defending themselves.

Jonathan E Grant on February 2, 2013 at 11:27 am


    Thanks for mentioning that, since it absolutely sums up this dead phony.

    Red Ryder on February 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I wonder where Koch’s soul is today? Jesus says that if people reject Jesus, our Savior, then they will spend all eternity in that very horribly ‘hot place’! Folks, Jesus tells us that Salvation in Jesus is FREE! It makes no sense that 90%+ people choose to go to hell to burn there forever. You can even read that in the Jewish Torah in Isaiah chapter 53. God says that 100% of all people ever born will have no excuse when God
‘sentences’ them to an eternal hell to burn there forever.

God says that all you need to do is to pray like this:”Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and please come into my heart and save me. Dear Jesus, please take your blood and wash away all my sins and make me white as snow as you have said in the Jewish Bible, the Torah. Thank you Jesus for saving me from eternal hellfire. Amen.

Last word on February 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

What about people who have never heard about Jesus? Like those in the Amazon jungle who have had no contact with the outside world?

My belief is that these people, Jews, and others will be judged on their works while here on earth who have the Laws of Gd written on their hearts. Not through the gift of salvation. A much more difficult path to be sure as no person is perfect.

Fred Mertz on February 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    What about you Fred Mertz? Where will decide to spend eternity?
    It’s your decision. Go back to my comment and read that short “prayer” that I wrote as an example of what you need to pray. If you DECIDE to pray that prayer in all sincerity, then God will accept you into Heaven when you die. It will cost you nothing.

    Here is the “Prayer” again:

    God says that all you need to do is to pray like this:”Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and please come into my heart and save me. Dear Jesus, please take your blood and wash away all my sins and make me white as snow as you have said in the Jewish Bible, the Torah. Thank you Jesus for saving me from eternal hellfire. Amen.

    Last word on February 2, 2013 at 8:04 pm

      Last word, if only.

      Debbie should simply ban you and delete your proselytizing crap. There is no way to appeal to you to be polite and on-topic here.

      It may be that your false messiah Jesus is in Gehinnom (translated “Hell” but more like the Purgatory that the current Pope has ruled imaginary). However, in Dante’s more colorful schema, Jesus’s early spokesmen can be found in a very low circle of Hell, where the false counselors are.

      You were supposed to be a Noahide; you were never intended to be a replacement for Jews. Judaism would never be a majority religion. You needed a way to believe that would be correct but also encompass a majority.


      skzion on February 3, 2013 at 10:20 am


        Purgatory imaginary? A pope said that? What were you smoking when you wrote that posting?

        Red Ryder on February 3, 2013 at 11:59 am

Sorry that he fooled you, Deb (along with many others). He was never anything other than an opportunist.

Jewish when he had to be, conservative when he had to be, etc etc. Oh yeah–hetero when he had to be courtesy of Bess Myerson–another huge phony.

Typical scumbag politician who may have said the right thing by random chance.

Not sure how he was a “proud Jew.” You are a proud Jew, and he was no Debbie Schlussel.

Red Ryder on February 2, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Darell, kindly burn in hell. Won’t you?

Debbie, you need to have someone watching your site on Saturdays to keep vomit like Dar-ell from posting.

Fred Mertz on February 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    a Shabbos Web-Goy!

    Retribution on February 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I like it, because it brings the traditional into the space-age. Brilliant idea.

    Retribution on February 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I recall a story Koch related about a knife wielding naked black man in the park who was out of control as “New York’s finest” began to surround him protectively. A black woman in the crowd yelled “police brutality” and one officer replied, “Hey, lady, he’s all yours. Take him home for lunch.”

Rochelle on February 2, 2013 at 2:05 pm

…. And no, Koch was not a homer. Debbie has never been married either.

Percy Kittens Reloaded on February 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

ed Koch was for gun control which made him an enemy of the constitution just like mayor Rosenberg who should be tried for treason and hung from a lamp pole.that he was drafted into the infantry like millions of other americans shows he did his duty to America by fighting the germans but so did strom thurmond who quit congress at the age of 40 to join the paratroopers.try that at age 40.

bruce on February 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm


    Let’s not forget about Robert Byrd, who wrote that he would NEVER serve in a desegregated military. “I would rather see Old Glory trampled in the dirt, never to rise again …”

    It’s probably the only promise that cockroach ever kept.

    St a tus MoNkey on February 2, 2013 at 5:29 pm

What about you Fred Mertz? Where will decide to spend eternity?
It’s your decision. Go back to my comment and read that short “prayer” that I wrote as an example of what you need to pray. If you DECIDE to pray that prayer in all sincerity, then God will accept you into Heaven when you die. It will cost you nothing.

Here is the “Prayer” again:

God says that all you need to do is to pray like this:”Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and please come into my heart and save me. Dear Jesus, please take your blood and wash away all my sins and make me white as snow as you have said in the Jewish Bible, the Torah. Thank you Jesus for saving me from eternal hellfire. Amen.

Last word on February 2, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Hey last word, you don’t know a single thing about Jesus. Jesus did not say all you had to do was believe. In Revelations, he specifically slammed those who claimed to “believe” but failed to be kind, or act fairly to others. In other words, according to Christian (any denomination) beliefs, one has to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk.

    I believe in one G-d. Everything Joshua (Jesus’ non-latinized name) preached came from the Old Testament.

    A shout out to all of Israel’s Christian supporters! We Jews are truly grateful for your support.

    Jonathan E. Grant on February 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm

A complex man who lived in complex times.

He definitely had strengths and weaknesses as discussed in the post and by the commenters. But I wonder what would have happened if the Republicans had been able to provide leadership after 1988 on the level (or even close to it) of Reagan. Maybe people like Koch might have evolved further to the right. Bush I was hardly a beacon to people like Koch, but you never know what would have happened if things had been different.

The post contained a number of interesting observations. Too much of the press about Koch just dwells on his ‘eccentricities’ without a serious attempt at political analysis. Typical. One of his strengths was that he rejected the idea of ‘partnership’ with the greedy municipal unions of takers/moochers. He pointed out that the City and the unions were not equal partners, but that municipal employees worked for the City and that the City set the conditions of employment.

It might have been harder for Koch to vote for Obama and Clinton if the Republicans had run decent candidates. This is part of the wider cost of running mediocre liberals like McCain, etc. as Presidential candidates.

Little Al on February 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I can’t share Debbie’s partial appreciation for Koch. Whatever else he did, Koch’s most important role was as mayor. In his many years as mayor one can only say that he was better than his predecessor and his immediate successor.

He failed very clearly in two respects: crime and AIDS. It was Giuliani who got crime under control, not Koch. It was under Koch, who refused to deal with AIDS, that this disease spread so rapidly. There was speculation at the time that Koch feared AIDS involvement because his own closet would be highlighted by his association with a “gay disease.” One can’t blame either failure on senility.

As others have pointed out, he was also a strong booster of Barry. His nuanced pose doesn’t matter, nor was it very convincing. All that matters was that he backed a Jew-hating, white-hating, third-world-loving, Marxoid. One can’t blame this on Koch’s political unsophistication.

skzion on February 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm


    We agree on Koch. As to purgatory, the link is hardly a rejection of the notion of purgatory, but refers to it as a process. Moreover, the pope is quoting a saint, and we know nothing of his opinion, so the headline is misleading.

    For what it’s worth, National Catholic Reporter is one of the more “liberal” Catholic papers.

    Here is a citation from the Catechism…


    Red Ryder on February 3, 2013 at 5:21 pm

      Red Ryder, I am happy to be corrected. While I saw many stories about the end of purgatory as an actual place (being analogous to the two other places), I did not research it further. We all know how multiple media sources can parrot the same line but be dead wrong.

      I’ll take a look at the link. Thanks again.

      skzion on February 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm

        @Gay Obama,

        You aren’t “happy to be corrected.” If you were, you’d stop begging Schlussel to delete my posts every time I laid some knowledge on you.


        Sta t us MoNkey on February 3, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I always enjoy reading your posts Skzion and you seem to be so open minded. I wonder why you find last word’s posts so offensive. Personally, I have made that prayer and know my life is so much richer knowing the love of Jesus. None of us know for sure where we will go after here that is why it is called faith. I just hope you will keep an open mind and try it sometime and not be offended when others share their joy and testimony. Our precious Lord and our Savior loves us all.

cj on February 4, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for your comment, cj. One of the great things about politeness is that it allows us to work with people who have different faiths. We can know that we differ on X and Y, but that we needn’t fight about it. What I did with Last word was to reply without politeness because I have told him several times already that his proselytizing was an attack on every Jew here. I realize that sharing Christianity is part of Christian doctrine. But opposing such efforts from Christians is part of Jewish doctrine.

    Anyway, thanks again for your kind wishes, and you have mine as well.

    skzion on February 4, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I’m not sure if you’re still reading this blog entry, cj, but I just had an idea.

Consider this. We all know that Jesus was a Jew. He may well have been a Temple priest (we only have rabbis now, as there is no Temple). If he was, he would have known that he could not have been the Messiah. For him to have been the Messiah all sorts of events would have had to have occurred that had not occurred. In addition, he would have had to be of the line of David. Significantly, the Four Gospels do not describe Jesus as actually saying he was the Messiah, if I can trust my memory from 30 years back, when I read them for a course on western civilization.

Ah, but what if the historical Jesus was really trying to convert non-Jews to what is now called the Noahide faith? In fact, that faith is fully as valid as Judaism, according to Torah. Most people were never supposed to be Jews.

Now if you are still with me, one implication is that the joy you feel from Christianity derives from the great overlap between it and the Noahide faith. Of course you feel that joy!

Anyway, I put this out respectfully for your consideration. We may not agree on the divinity of Jesus, but the lion’s share of his message could still have been divine.

skzion on February 4, 2013 at 11:31 pm

My imaginary “god” is better than your imaginary “god”. Blah blah blah. Religion is a cancer of human race. All and any of it.

AlexR on February 6, 2013 at 1:35 am

    And then there are morons like AlexR.

    skzion on February 6, 2013 at 1:57 am

Oh nooeeesss.. I have just been called “a moron” by a pseudo intellectual pontificating torah-thumping rightwing mouth breather. What will I do now??

AlexR on February 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    AlexR, I’d suggest suicide.

    skzion on February 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

A very good mayor but not nearly as good as Rudy Giuliani.

Repeat on February 6, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I don’t know that it’s really accurate to call him the son of “Polish” Jews. He was the son of Jews from Galicia, an area that is now part of the Ukraine, but at various times part of Poland, but also, later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My family was from the same area as Ed Koch, and I understood from older relatives (now deceased) that there were likely some family connections between his family and ours. Galician Jews were known as Galitzianers. I believe we had a different identity then that of true Polish Jews. We may have had some different customs and perhaps there were some differences in the Yiddish of the Polish Jews as compared to the Galician Jews. Some of my relatives from Galicia ended up living in Vienna. They fled during WW II, and actually returned afterwards.

BethesdaDog on February 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm

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