Thursday Reads: Towards a More Perfect Union

89bad68b6f44a9a951532fb3e7b9e709Good Morning!!

Today’s beautiful messages and images can be found here. 
The reactionary and wildly creative decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are already having ramifications across the country where women, minorities, and the GLBT community are having to fight for their very basic rights.  Interestingly enough, we are learning about which corporations want to be citizens and which corporations want to exist for the sole benefits of their owners.

The Hobby Lobby decision is already creating chaos as Notorious RBG and many of us have discussed.

This week, in the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that a religious employer could not be required to provide employees with certain types of contraception. That decision is beginning to reverberate: A group of faith leaders is urging the Obama administration to include a religious exemption in a forthcoming LGBT anti-discrimination action.

Their call, in a letter sent to the White House Tuesday, attempts to capitalize on the Supreme Court case by arguing that it shows the administration must show more deference to the prerogatives of religion.

“We are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need,” the letter states.

The Hobby Lobby decision has been welcomed by religious-right groups who accuse Obama of waging a war on religion. But Tuesday’s letter is different: It comes from a group of faith leaders who are generally friendly to the administration, many of whom have closely advised the White House on issues like immigration reform. The letter was organized by Michael Wear, who worked in the Obama White House and directed faith outreach for the president’s 2012 campaign. Signers include two members of Catholics for Obama and three former members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“This is not an antagonistic letter by any means,” Wear told me. But in the wake of Hobby Lobby, he said, “the administration does have a decision to make whether they want to recalibrate their approach to some of these issues.”

This decision is controversial and will remain controversial.  It changes how the government can approach the court’s favored religion and possibly e6556dea50ee218bf572e8a948f0c6fbother religions.

The first source of controversy is the collapse of a national consensus on a key element of religious liberty: accommodation. Throughout American history, there has been widespread agreement that in our religiously diverse and widely devout country, it is good for the government to accommodate religious exercise. We have disagreed about particular accommodations (may a Muslim police officer wear a beard, despite police department policy?), and especially about whether religious accommodations should be ordered by judges or crafted by legislators. But we have generally agreed that our nation benefits when we help rather than burden those with religious obligations. That consensus seems, quite suddenly, to have evaporated.

A second source of controversy is that many people view the Hobby Lobby case as concerning not just reproductive rights but also, indirectly, rights for gays and lesbians. Advocates for same-sex marriage have long insisted that their own marriages need not threaten anyone else’s, but citizens with religious objections to same-sex marriage wonder whether that is entirely true: Will a small-business owner be sued, for instance, for declining to provide services to a same-sex couple? Conversely, and understandably, gay and lesbian couples wonder why they do not deserve the same protections from discrimination granted to racial and other minorities. For both sides, Hobby Lobby was merely a prelude to this dawning conflict.

The third source of controversy is a change in our views of the marketplace itself. The marketplace was once seen as place to put aside our culture wars and engage in the great American tradition of buying and selling. The shopping mall has even been called the “American agora.” But today the market itself has become a site of cultural conflict. Hobby Lobby is one of many companies that seek to express faith commitments at work as well as at home and that don’t see the workplace as a thing apart from religion. Many companies preach and practice values, religious and otherwise, that are unrelated to market considerations. CVS, for example, recently announced that it would stop selling tobacco products, regardless of how that decision might affect its bottom line.

A country that cannot even agree on the idea of religious accommodation, let alone on what terms, is unlikely to agree on what to do next

37ecdedb3879c2702b8ada00d9bf4bc4Here’s another group of “patriotic, gawd-fearing” amuricans shouting down children and mothers fleeing violence in our neighbor countries.  I just continue to find this to be the most appalling story I’ve heard in some time.  The Border Patrol, ICE, and every one involved–but these horrible xenophobes–were just following our laws as written.  Perhaps, they should know our laws just a little bit better themselves.

The national controversy over a surge of Central American immigrants illegally crossing the U.S. border established a new battleground this week in a Southern California small town where angry crowds thwarted detained migrants from entering their community.

In a faceoff Tuesday with three buses carrying the migrants behind screened-off windows, the demonstrators chanted “Go back home!” and “USA” and successfully forced the coaches to leave Murrieta, CNN affiliate KFMB reported.

The buses instead took the 140 or so undocumented immigrants to U.S. processing centers at least 80 miles away, in the San Diego and El Centro areas, federal officials say.

Counter-protesters squared off with the demonstrators, and a shouting match erupted over the nation’s immigration system, which recently has been overwhelmed with a tide of Central American minors illegally entering the United States alone or with other children.

A mix of poverty, violence and smugglers’ false promises is prompting the Central American inflow.

Unlike undocumented Mexican migrants, who are often immediately deported, the U.S. government detains and processes the Central Americans, who are eventually released and given a month to report to immigration offices. Many never show up and join the nation’s 11 million undocumented population, says the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing Border Patrol agents.

The Latin American immigrants rejected by Murrieta protesters were initially held in Texas, where U.S. facilities are so overflowing that detainees are sent to other states for processing.

The government doesn’t have the room to shelter the children with adults: there’s only one family immigration detention center, in Pennsylvania. To assist the unaccompanied children, President Barack Obama’s administration opened shelters last month on three military bases because federal facilities more designed for adults were overrun with minors.

Tuesday’s busloads of detained Central American immigrants didn’t include any unaccompanied minors, said Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden, who put the number of protesters at 125. The children on the buses were apparently in the company of relatives or other adults, said an official with the National Border Patrol Council.

Meanwhile, yet another corporation has decided that open carry of assault weapons in their stores may not create the most hospitable environment for 160de714ce5483a893b2a0855cd10f17employees or shoppers.  Target has joined other companies asking customers to leave their guns at home,

The leadership team has been weighing a complex issue, and I want to be sure everyone understands our thoughts and ultimate decision.

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.

We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.

This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

 

Meanwhile, over in Georgia, the new flout your gun every where has lead to just what you’d expect.9a8299e4e8603fc41c832090da0b07bc

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress summed the incident up for the newspaper.

“Essentially, it involved one customer with a gun on his hip when a second customer entered with a gun on his hip,” Childress said.

According to the Daily Times, the first man, Ronald Williams, approached the second man in the store and demanded to see his identification and firearms license. Williams also pulled his gun from his holster, without pointing it at the second man. The second man responded by saying that he was not obligated to show any permits or identification — then he paid for his purchase, left the store, and called the police.

Police responded to the call around 3 p.m. Tuesday, and Williams was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct for pulling his gun in the store.

Tuesday was also the day that Georgia’s so-called “guns everywhere” law went into effect, allowing residents to carry guns into bars, nightclubs, classrooms, and certain government buildings. Among other things, the law also prohibits police from demanding to see the weapons permit of someone seen carrying a gun. Childress mentioned that last point when talking to the Daily Times about Tuesday’s incident.

“This is an example of my concern with the new gun law that people will take the law into their own hands which we will not tolerate,” Childress said.

fd42681438f5b1673a8e22dbcd1cd448I wanted to share a mass shooting that happened on Bourbon Street last weekend. A beautiful young woman has lost her life in the senseless violence. Another has a lot of damage to her mouth, gums and teeth. All of this happened because one young man got into an argument and his anger and his gun led to indiscriminate firing into the crowd.  A total of 10 innocent bystanders were shot.

One of the 10 victims of the weekend shooting on New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street died Wednesday.

According to the coroner’s office, Brittany Thomas, 21, of Hammond, La., died from her injuries. She is the only victim of the shooting to die.

Thomas had been in critical condition since the early Sunday morning shooting when two gunmen sprayed the crowd with bullets.

Three others were reported in stable condition after Sunday’s shooting: a 35-year-old man from Mississippi, a 19-year-old Arkansas woman and an 18-year-old New Orleans man.

Interim LSU Hospital spokeswoman Siona LaFrance said Wednesday a 21-year-old Australian woman was released from the hospital.

On Sunday, police said nine people were injured in the shooting. Then Monday, they said a person who came into the police department Sunday afternoon also was injured in the violence.

Other victims, not hospitalized, included two New Orleans-area men; a teenage girl and a woman from Alabama; and a Florida man.

The young Australian woman has a Facebook page where you can help her defray the cost of reconstruction. As of writing this, I understand that the “person” of interest has surrendered to the police.  His face has been plastered every where for about a day and half.

The shooting took place about 2:45 a.m. Sunday on Bourbon Street and involved “two young men, both armed with firearms, who chose to settle a dispute between themselves without care for anyone else,” Police Supt. Ronal W. Serpas told reporters. They exchanged gunfire, hitting bystanders, he said. Bourbon Street, a hot spot for tourists, is full of bars, restaurants and shops.

e324b3893dc5ef5b70eb6a1b8d52474dThis young man’s callous regard for life should land him in jail for a very long time.  We’ll see what happens.  The suspect is a young white man and the dead girl is a young black woman.

According to the New Orleans Police Department, two men are sought in the shooting that spawned from an argument between them.

“While everyone else was running away, I was running toward the gunfire,” Minsky said. “And, I don’t know, being a curious guy — that’s what I wanted to do  — see what was going on basically.”

Minsky described the ordeal as “surreal,” saying he’d never seen multiple people get shot.

“There was a lot of blood, I can tell you that much, you know. And I actually stepped in a pool of blood and didn’t realize it until I was walking toward the person shot in the face,” Minksey said. “That kind of freaked me out a little bit.”

The victim shot in the face was Amy Matthews from Australia. The bullet struck her in her cheek and knocked out all but 10 teeth she told an Australian newspaper. She was released from the hospital this week.

In one of several photos Minsky took on his cellphone, Matthews is seen sitting on a sidewalk on Bourbon Street as a crowd of people attempted to help her, including two U.S. marines.

 

He also captured an image of an unresponsive woman lying in the middle of the 700 block of Bourbon Street.

During the chaotic moments after the shooting, Minsky said there weren’t many screams in the Vieux Carré.

“There was just a lot of people running around and trying to help each other,” he said. “The person that was shot in the face was probably the person getting the most attention at that immediate moment. But as far as the screams and commotion, I mean, yeah, there are people running and screaming but that all died down after the gunshots ended.”

I can’t believe that this is what the founders– many of whom I am a direct descendant of–planned for our union. How could they have envision this kind of hateful chaos empowered by the Supreme Court who represents the voice of reason, law, and constitutionality, and the House of Representatives which is supposed to be the voice of the people..  I do not find any of these events to be consistent with their dreams and plans for a more perfect union where no one religion would dictate the lives of others,  where all were considered equal before the law, and every one had the ability to pursue life and liberty.


Memorial Day Reads

first memorial day

Good Morning!!

A few days ago, I read an article about the “true meaning of Memorial Day.” I can’t find it now, but it was in the Chicago Tribune. The author wrote that Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day,” when Southern women decorated the graves of Confederate soldiers. I Googled some more and found other writers making the same claim. Here’s a piece by a Civil War historian from Purdue University Caroline Janney:

Many may not know the holiday weekend that marks the start of summer by paying respects to veterans and remembering loved ones began when white Southern women took a leadership role in honoring their Civil War veterans, says a Purdue University historian.

“After the Civil War, southern men would have appeared treasonous if they had organized memorials to honor their fallen, so women – perceived as apolitical – instead organized tributes and events that set the tone for how the country celebrates Memorial Day today,” says Caroline E. Janney, professor of historyand president-elect of the Society of Civil War Historians. “In 1866, the men were figuratively hiding behind the skirts of these women who worked together as part of Ladies’ Memorial Associations.”

The women organized dozens of memorials during the spring of 1866 and the following years, Janney says. Historically these memorials were scheduled throughout the spring as a sign of renewal and rebirth, and each community chose its own date to celebrate.

The date usually reflected a key date in the Civil War, such as the May 10 death of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, or a battle close to the association’s individual area. Memorial Day became more unified when larger associations, such as the United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, began organizing memorials in the 1890s. And memorial days also were observed in the North, but they were organized by Union veterans beginning in 1868, two years after the ex-Confederate women had established the practice.

I was surprised, because I had read years ago that the practice was begun by former slaves who wanted to honor Union soldiers. I found the above photo on Facebook–with the suggestion that it was taken on that first Decoration Day May 1, 1865; but I can’t be absolutely certain that’s accurate. Note that that dates is a year earlier than the one Janney writes about. It turns out that a number of places and people claim to have started the practice of decorating Union and Confederate Graves. Southerners designated “Confederate Memorial Days.” Kingston, Georgia claims to have held the first one.

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Yale historian David Blight wrote about the disputed origins of Memorial Day in the New York Times in 2011.

Officially, in the North, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization, called on communities to conduct grave-decorating ceremonies. On May 30, funereal events attracted thousands of people at hundreds of cemeteries in countless towns, cities and mere crossroads. By the 1870s, one could not live in an American town, North or South, and be unaware of the spring ritual.

But the practice of decorating graves — which gave rise to an alternative name, Decoration Day — didn’t start with the 1868 events, nor was it an exclusively Northern practice. In 1866 the Ladies’ Memorial Association of Columbus, Ga., chose April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph Johnston’s final surrender to Gen. William T. Sherman, to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers. Later, both May 10, the anniversary of Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s death, and June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, were designated Confederate Memorial Day in different states.

Soon the yearly practice became partisan:

In the South, Memorial Day was a means of confronting the Confederacy’s defeat but without repudiating its cause. Some Southern orators stressed Christian notions of noble sacrifice. Others, however, used the ritual for Confederate vindication and renewed assertions of white supremacy. Blacks had a place in this Confederate narrative, but only as time-warped loyal slaves who were supposed to remain frozen in the past.

The Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true “patriots,” defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order and a “cause” that had been overwhelmed by “numbers and resources” but never defeated on battlefields.

Yankee Memorial Day orations often righteously claimed the high ground of blood sacrifice to save the Union and destroy slavery. It was not uncommon for a speaker to honor the fallen of both sides, but still lay the war guilt on the “rebel dead.”

But Blight discovered in a historical archive at Harvard University that the earliest celebration of “Decoration Day” was organized by freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865.

During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” ….

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song “John Brown’s Body.” Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children’s choir sang “We’ll Rally Around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

Nearly 150 years later, it’s apparently very difficult for some Americans to credit African Americans with the first Memorial Day (or with much of anything else for that matter). As Ta-Nehisi Coates showed in The Atlantic recently, it’s apparently difficult for Americans to remember much of anything about African American history–before or after the Civil War. Why would anyone feel comfortable mourning the “lost cause” of a society built on the enslavement of other human beings? I can understand mourning the dead Confederate soldiers, but shouldn’t there be recognition that they died for something shameful? We can look around us today and still see the aftereffects of the slavery and the war that ended it. Will we ever get over it? One more quote from Blight’s article:

The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders’ republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

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On Memorial Day in 2014, we honor the dead of all wars, but we treat our living war veteran with disrespect. From CNN, ‘Thanks for your service’ not enough, by Sebastian Junger, Jim McDermott and Karl Marlantes.

According to current Veterans Administration estimates, 22 American veterans take their lives every single day.

High rates of unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress are decimating our community of veterans. With the wars of the past 13 years in Iraq and Afghanistan coming to a close, we are seeing too many casualties among American soldiers in this transition to peace.

In light of this crisis, we need a new kind of Memorial Day.

Many veterans are desperate to talk about their experiences with fellow Americans who accept shared responsibility for what is done in war, particularly the killing. Yet these conversations rarely happen today. How can a veteran truly come home unless we acknowledge that our nation’s wars are something we all chose and paid for?

Returning Vietnam veterans were treated shamefully. That, thankfully, is behind America. We’ve moved from outright hostility to awkward, if well-meant, expressions of “thank you for your service” and the creation of a number of new veterans services organizations.

However, there remains an abiding sense of national indifference, or worse, a sense that somehow veterans are victims. This must change.

A great deal needs to change for the United States to be “one nation indivisible.”

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In the News

 

Isla Vista Mass Murder:

The horrible murders in Santa Barbara are still at the top of the Google News page today. A few links:

NBC News: What Do We Know About Elliot Rodger’s Rampage?

Little Green Footballs: Echoes of Montreal – Isla Vista shows us 25 years doesn’t change much.

NY Daily News: Social media strikes back with #YesAllWomen after deadly Isla Vista rampage.

Slate: The Pick-Up Artist Community’s Predictable, Horrible Response to a Mass Murder

CBS Los Angeles: Rodger’s Family Friend says Killer’s Parents Tried to Get Son Mental Help.

Village Voice: Rightbloggers: Santa Barbara Killer Elliot Rodger’s Sexist Rants Have Nothing To Do With Sexism (Or Guns).

Fox News: Sheriffs never saw menacing videos before California rampage.

NY Daily News: Santa Barbara killer’s parents raced to stop him after receiving disturbing emails

 

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Other News:

The Washington Post: White House mistakenly identifies CIA chief in Afghanistan.

The New York Times: Pro-European Businessman Claims Victory in Ukraine Presidential Vote.

Reuters: French far right in ‘earthquake’ win as Europe votes.

Raw Story: It’s all in your head: Scientist now believes his pioneering work on gluten allergy was wrong.

Raw Story: SC pastor accused of turning Bible college into forced labor camp for foreign students.

The Hollywood Reporter: Walt Disney Family Feud: Inside His Grandkids’ Weird, Sad Battle Over a $400 Million Fortune.

Politico: The ‘Wary of Hillary’ Democrats

What else is happening? Please post your links in the comment thread, and enjoy the holiday!


Tuesday Reads: Hacker Twitter Storm and Post-Prom Nightmares

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Good Morning!!

 

In the comments on yesterday’s post, I mentioned that there has been quite a bit of tension building up between Glenn Greenwald and some of the more extreme members of the (for lack of a better name) cypherpunks crowd–Wikileaks, Cryptome.com, and the hacker community (including Jacob Applebaum, who is closely involved both with Wikileaks and Laura Poitras, Greenwald’s partner in crime. I guess I should have stayed up later last night, because this morning I woke up to the aftermath of a major storm in the Twitterverse, where most of these types of people choose to communicate with each other.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald

The fight stemmed from an article posted at The Intercept yesterday, in which the authors chose to redact the name of one of the five countries targeted by NSA data collection. However, it really goes back much further than that.

There has been a long running disagreement between Greenwald and the other groups I mentioned on how much of Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA data to publish. The hacker/Wikileaks crowd thinks Greenwald should simply release everything and let the chips fall where they may, and Greenwald claims he is carefully vetting the material with Snowden’s help in order not to reveal anything that would harm anyone.

Greenwald has actually revealed only a small portion of the material so far, presumably holding back information that he wanted to include in his book. But now the book has been released, and it apparently contains much information that has already been published. For those who have been obsessively following the NSA leaks story, there doesn’t seem to be a need to buy the book. Why is Greenwald being so stingy?

Here’s some background from Michael Kelley at Business Insider: WikiLeaks Threatens To Reveal Information That Glenn Greenwald Says Could Lead To ‘Deaths’.

Jacob Applebaum

Jacob Applebaum

America’s National Security Agency (NSA) can “vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation” in the Bahamas and an unnamed country, the new publication The Intercept reported Monday, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Intercept Editor Glenn Greenwald — who wrote about documents leaked by Snowden when he was a columnist for The Guardian — said the publication didn’t reveal the country because it was “very convinced” that doing so would lead to “deaths.”

After a heated discussion between WikiLeaks, Greenwald, Intercept Editor-In-Chief John Cook, and American WikiLeaks hacker-turned-Der Spiegal contributor Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks tweeted that it will reveal the name of the second country being spied on by the NSA.

As Kelley points out, the implications is that Wikileaks knows the name of the country either by unmasking the redaction with software or because Wikileaks has access to the Snowden files.

The most plausible way for WikiLeaks to have access to a Snowden cache is if Appelbaum, who led the reporting on several Der Spiegel articles based on NSA documents (which may or may not be from Snowden), shared information with his friend and WikiLeaks Editor-In-Chief Julian Assange. Applebaum tweeted that The Intercept’s redaction was “a mistake.”

Appelbaum, a close friend of Laura Poitras, the other journalist whom Snowden gave a large set of documents, also gave a presentation detailing a classified document listing technology available to the NSA’s hacking unit, known as TAO. It is not known how he acquired those documents.

Laura Poitras

Laura Poitras

So which is it? The careless ways in which the Snowden documents have been passed around between The Guardian and The New York Times and other news organizations; with Greenwald’s husband David Miranda carrying them through London to Berlin and back; as well as the fact that Snowden is in Russia, suggest that the entire cache will eventually be released, and presumably all hell will break loose. It’s only a matter of time. 

Charles Johnson posted the entire Wikileaks-Greenwald argument at Little Green Footballs: Slap Fight of the Day: Wikileaks vs Pernicious G

Today on Twitter this happened: Julian Assange, who most people believe is the one behind the @Wikileaks account, threw a huge tantrum because Glenn Greenwald redacted the name of a country from his latest disingenuous article. Greenwald says he was convinced publishing the country’s name would lead to deaths. Assange doesn’t give a shit about that, of course.

There are some inadvertently hilarious moments here; Wikileaks’s Jacob Appelbaum says redacting the country “makes Wikileaks look extreme.” I almost fell out on that one. And then there’s the tweet in which Assange basically calls everyone in Greenwald’s crew “a bunch of racists.” And it all ends with Assange issuing a super-villain threat to release the country’s name “in 72 hours.”

Scroll through the collection below to see what it looks like when extreme libertarians have a purity war.

Head over to Green Footballs if you want the details. Read more exchanges between Wikileaks, Jacob Applebaum, and John Cook, editor of The Intercept at Chirpstory. Read more at Buzzfeed, where Miriam Berger and Miriam Elder provide a timeline of the tweets along with their interpretation: Julian Assange Is Angry At Glenn Greenwald And He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore.

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Finally, Bob Cesca’s take on the whole affair: The Wikileaks vs Greenwald Twitter Fight: Julian Assange Threatens To Reveal Deadly NSA Info.

It all began Monday morning when The Intercept posted a new Snowden revelation with cutesy headline: “Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas.” Get it? Pirates! The article exhaustively describes an operation called MYSTIC and another called SOMALGET in which NSA gathers audio and metadata of cellphone calls in the Bahamas in order to spy on human traffickers and drug cartels. The Bahamas is notorious for both.

Naturally, the article featured all of the deceptive Greenwaldian bait-and-switch we’ve come to expect from his Snowden articles. For example, in paragraph seven, Greenwald and his co-authors Ryan Devereaux and Laura Poitras noted that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey routinely vacation in the Bahamas:

By targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network, the NSA is intentionally collecting and retaining intelligence on millions of people who have not been accused of any crime or terrorist activity. Nearly five million Americans visit the country each year, and many prominent U.S. citizens keep homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

NSA is spying on Oprah! Stop the presses! But no, if you read all the way down to the 54th paragraph (!!) Greenwald tosses in a token mention of NSA’s rules about preventing data collection against U.S. Persons, whether or not they happen to be inside the U.S. There are very strict “minimization” procedures to eliminate the data that might’ve been inadvertently collected. Why? Because it’s illegal to spy on Americans without an individual warrant. And, by the way, Greenwald & Company noted that the SOMALGET program is, yes, legal.

It sure seems like there are enough hints in the story for anyone to guess the redacted country. Pirates? SOMALGET? Plus the fact the Assange accused Greenwald of “racism.” Read much more interpretation and more tweets at The Daily Banter.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this story from now on and I’ll pass on any new information.

In other news . . .

On Sunday JJ wrote about an alleged gang rape that reportedly took place after the Calhoun High School senior prom in North Georgia on May 10. The reason I’m writing about it is that Sky Dancing has been getting a huge number of clicks from people looking for more information on this story. It seems people want to know what is happening, but the local papers have not published anything on the crime or the investigation since Sunday. Doesn’t that seem odd and troubling? Is a cover-up in the works. As JJ pointed out it brings back memories of Steubenville, Ohio. After the gang rape there, local officials tried to sweep it under the rug, but a blogger and an “Anonymous” group kept the story alive. Maybe someone with inside information from Calhoun needs to get something like that started? As in Steubenville, there are hints that coddled football players may be involved.

 

Jacqueline Gomez

Jacqueline Gomez

Meanwhile, in another prom-related tragedy, a girl was found dead after a prom at MacArthur High School in Houston. According to her mother, the mother of Jacqueline Gomez’ boyfriend was supposed to bring her home that night, but instead the boy’s mother allowed the couple to stay in a hotel room against the Gomez’ mother’s wishes. To me the whole thing sounds really suspicious. From KHOU.com, Mother: Daughter was not supposed to stay at hotel after MacArthur HS prom.

There are new startling details from the mother of a teenagerfound dead on prom night. Her mother feels like she was mislead by her daughter’s prom date and his mother….

Gomez was off to her senior prom at the Hyatt North Houston Hotel. Her mother was too distraught to show her face on camera, but said she expected to see her daughter back at home later that night….

Barron said Gomez’s date’s mother picked the couple up from her home. She also picked them up from the hotel later that night. That’s when she last spoke to her daughter on the phone.

“I just spoke to them after prom, a couple words, told me she was going to get something to eat,” said Barron.

That’s when the boy’s mother got on the phone and asked if Gomez could spend the night at their house.

“I said no, bring her back home,” said Barron. “I gave them a couple hours, and I never heard back.”

The next call she got was from a homicide detective with the Houston Police Department. She said detectives told her the room was booked by the boyfriend’s mother.

What happened? Who gave Jacqueline the drugs and did the boy’s mother know about it? More information from The Houston Chronicle: Texts Hint Girl May Have Overdosed After Prom.

A series of text messages offered new details into the death of Jacqueline Gomez, the 17-year-old Aldine ISD senior found dead Saturday in a Houston motel room the morning after her prom. The texts, sent from an account identified as Gomez’s date, also indicate investigators believe the girl probably overdosed….

Yet nobody can be certain how the MacArthur High School student died until autopsy results are complete – which could take several weeks, the Harris County medical examiner said. And that has the date and Gomez’s family and friends anxiously waiting for the mystery to be solved.

Meanwhile, her friends and family refute any suggestion that Gomez was ever a “party girl,” saying she spent most of her time working at a Kroger grocery and preparing to graduate in June.

Was Jacqueline given a date-rape drug? We may never find out, because those drugs wash out of the system very quickly. Check this out:

“He was posting pictures of himself crying on Instagram. So I a sent him a text that day to ask what had happened to my girl,” said Justice Gonzalez, a close friend of Gomez who saw the couple leave the prom together Friday night to go to that room. Authorities report Gomez was found dead in her bed about 9:20 the next morning.

“They said she overdosed,” part of the text reads, likely referring to law enforcement officials.

He went on.

“I woke up. I tried waking her but she wouldn’t,” the date texted back, adding four frowning faces. “I was screaming and crying telling her to wake up. But she didn’t. She didn’t,” He ended his text with two frowning faces with tears.

He stated she had appeared “perfectly fine and happy” when they left the “Miami Night” prom. She also seemed “happy” when they both went to sleep, he said.

He had told authorities that they had some alcohol, but said in a text to the friend that Gomez had also taken the painkiller hydrocodone.

Why the f&ck didn’t didn’t he take her home, and WTF was his mother thinking?! Furthermore, why can’t something be done to prevent these kinds of after-prom horrors?

Now I’m really mad, and I’m running out of space and time. I’ll post links to other news in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.

 


Sunday Reads: Link Dumps and a Feel Good Video, News Story

f98fe9cf69662527aadea94df8e35a0eMorning

all…

I have an enormous migraine, so this is going to be a massive link dump.

Like we are talking, shit load of links = go read it yourself kind of dump style, here…

So please do read these articles, especially the first ones I put up because I have a feeling it is going to be another Steubenville Rape Culture shitstorm, only this time it is in my redneck part of the woods. North Georgia.

By the way, Calhoun High is one of the top football teams in the country…just so you know, as you read these articles.

b166ada939bed00d0b03d56d51201e16Calhoun ponders one dark night: Police stress care needed in investigation into post-prom party

This time of year, with any high school during the month of May, the clock ticks off the flurry of events that pile up before summer vacation: The school musical. The spring scrimmage. The glittering, Great Gatsby-themed prom.

The clock ticks on.

But for many at Calhoun High, that momentum pushing students toward that rite of passage has paused.

And it lingers on the night of May 10 — a few hours after prom’s twinkling lights were dimmed.

Whatever happened that night in the cabin in the gated-off Coosawattee River Resort near Ellijay, Ga., has cast a shadow that stretches over the last days of Calhoun High’s school year.

From an official standpoint, the events of that night remain unclear. All that detectives have said is that they are investigating a rape case.

But in the small town of Calhoun, stories of what occurred at the alcohol-fueled party reverberate, filled with appalling details that have not been confirmed or denied by investigators.

The versions of the story compound on social media, branching into arguments, calls for arrests and cries for prayer. Some take sides. Others plead for the gossip to stop.

One thing is clear: A girl ended up in the hospital after that night, in need of serious medical treatment.

Since then, detectives have questioned at least 25 students about what happened at the cabin, including a group of young men suspected of being involved in an assault.

8ee2928784d27e07d027904298d59c03Some in the community have complained about the pace of the investigation — claiming that it’s being slow-walked because of the high-profile status of some of the students allegedly involved and their parents.

But officials in Gilmer County, Ga., which is one county over and home to the cabin in question, brush off such criticism.

Uh…I may state that I am bias, but I think the situation is one that deserves criticism…

Detectives want to cover their bases before pressing any charges, explained Capt. Frank Copeland, spokesman for the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office.

And in a case like this, there are many bases.

Imagine, Copeland said, trying to nail down a time line of what happened at a fratlike party, cobbled together from the hazy recollections of teenagers who were intoxicated.

Add to that the fact that all of these witnesses or potential suspects go to school together and see each other nearly every day. They all have the alliances and enemies and social pressures of high school.

“There are so many people we have to talk to, witnesses and accused. It takes a long time to get it done,” Copeland said. “You want to make sure you do a good investigation, you want to make sure that you’re not letting anything fall through the cracks. If we did a really fast investigation, we might miss something, or do something wrong.”

On top of that, the tremendous volume of social media posts about the allegations has added another layer of questions to wade through.

“Everybody in the three-state area is interested in hearing about it,” Copeland said. “All the local people there are joining in, siding up, throwing stuff out.”

Still, Copeland says the department expects to have a resolution in the investigation next week.

If charges are pressed, they will be filed in Criminal Court instead of Juvenile Court, officials say. All of those potentially involved were 18 or over, he said. Nearly all of those who attended the party were from Calhoun, except for one person from Dalton, Ga.

1781910c4e1a219557f8898484c9fa03The other thing that is so damn disturbing is the attitudes of the investigators and the Superintendent of Calhoun High School:

Back at Calhoun High, teachers and administrators are trying to urge students toward the finish line, continuing with regularly scheduled events and encouraging students not to dwell on or spread rumors, Calhoun City Schools Superintendent Michelle Taylor said.

Students will graduate Friday night.

Taylor has stressed that while the school is cooperating with the investigation, the party had nothing to do with the school.

While some parents have called for students who are accused of being involved in the alleged attack to be suspended or kept from graduating, Taylor said it’s too soon to say whether such measures are necessary — especially since no one has been charged.

While Copeland wouldn’t comment on the demeanor of the many students that the department has interviewed, he mentioned that plenty of them reminded him of himself at that age: Excited about graduating, enjoying friends, ready for the future.

“We all just wanted to have a good time and celebrate the fact that we’ve graduated,” he recalled. “But I will just say: What people are thinking is OK or acceptable seems to have changed in the 30 years since I was in school.”

WTF is that last quote all about? Rape was rape back then too? Right? That comment already shows to me that the man has had his decisions about the case “persuaded” shall we say, into what is considered “acceptable” by whose standards? The money and clout behind the football players/suspects’ families? (You get what I am saying right?)

Check this other link out that has more detailed information, the victim was in need of medical attention…and there is suggestion of ruffies being involved: UPDATE: Rape investigation follows Calhoun High prom party – WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

The article seems to have been updated, and questions about what part the ruffies played in this rape have been deleted. However you can still see discussion of the drugs and such in the comments. I highly suggest you read those.

For one more link about this story: Calhoun resident, students protest as rape investigation continues

Protesters hold signs in support of an alleged rape victimA group of protesters stood along a sidewalk near Calhoun High School on Saturday to raise awareness of an ongoing rape investigation in Gilmer County that allegedly involves some CHS students.

Authorities said late last week that a prom after-party in Gilmer County May 10 led to the alleged rape of a Calhoun woman. As many as 25 males ages 18-20, some from Calhoun and one from Whitfield County, are considered suspects in the investigation.

“We don’t want this to be swept under the rug,” said Tiffany Barringer, a parent of a CHS student, and one of about seven protesters Saturday. “We want justice to be done. We’re here in support of the victim to let her know she is not alone. There are people in the community behind her. We’re here to show our support.”

Barringer said she is concerned about the safety of her own daughter and she believes the suspects should not be allowed in the school.

Law enforcement officials have not released the names of any suspects.

a9e1797865660a49def4efdb41fc1d58As Barringer spoke, cars drove past on Ga. 53 honking their horns in response to signs that said, “No means no” and “honk if you agree.” But not everyone was eager to see the protest, according to Barringer.

“There’s a lot of people being negative towards us, saying that what we’re doing is wrong,” she said. “But we’ve had enough. We need to protect everybody and stand up and say we need morals, like respect. That’s totally lost in our society.”

Read the comments on this post as well.  I will keep y’all up to date on this story, I really hope it gets some traction in the media and blogs…seriously…as many 25 male suspects? Fuck if this does not become yet another horrible example of rape culture to put down in that ever growing list of other school rape scandals and cover-ups.

I have a few more links about my home state of Georgia:

In Georgia, Lawmakers Taking Pride in Policies That Hurt the Poor | Next New Deal

Georgia has taken the lead in the mad dash to thwart the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and prevent poor people from accessing health care. Last week, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law two bills that ensure the state won’t be expanding Medicaid any time soon, and that make it decidedly more difficult for people to gain coverage under the ACA. These laws – a notch in the belt of conservatives preparing for the fall election – compound the social and economic injustices already experienced by many low-income Georgians.

House Bill 990 moves the authority to expand Medicaid out of the Governor’s office and over to lawmakers. In a state where conservative politics run deep, HB 990 is Governor Deal’s clever way of way of ensuring Medicaid expansion will never get passed, and abdicating all responsibility for the health and economic consequences that will surely result. The second bill, HB 943, restricts state and local agencies and their employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion, bans the creation of a state health insurance exchange, and prohibits the University of Georgia from continuing its navigator program once its original federal grant expires in August. The University’s navigators have been working throughout the state – especially in underserved rural areas – to help demystify the ACA, assist individuals in gaining coverage on the national exchange, and help those who already qualify for Medicaid to enroll.

“Someone else will now have to re-invent the wheel and figure out how to get resources to people in rural areas,” said Beth Stephens of Georgia Watch, a non-partisan consumer advocacy organization.

Like many other states that refuse to participate in Medicaid expansion, Georgia isn’t faring so well by most socio-economic indicators. The poverty rate, which now hovers around 20 percent, is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000. Nearly two million Georgians do not have health coverage, ranking the state fifth nationally in numbers of uninsured. Close to half of those individuals between the ages 18 and 64 have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, many of whom would be covered under Medicaid expansion. Georgia has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates (seven percent) and today the average family makes $6,000 less than it did 10 years ago, when inflation is factored in. Individuals living outside of major cities have few health care options. In recent years eight rural hospitals have closed, leaving residents with scarce health resources and hospital workers without jobs.

6e0dbf1b057e77fcc91b301f68e34d0aTo make matters worse, lawmakers in Georgia have been systematically dismantling the state’s social safety net. Of the 300,000 Georgian families living below the poverty line, only 19,000 receive TANF and more than three quarters of those cases involve children only. That means that fewer than seven percent of low-income Georgians are able to get the welfare assistance they badly need. On the same day that Governor Deal signed the aforementioned bills, he also signed HB 772, requiring certain individuals to pass – and foot the bill for – a drug test before receiving welfare and food stamps. That bill is thought to be the nation’s most stringent when it comes to public assistance.

And if that isn’t shitty enough…

The environment is especially hostile for Georgia’s women, 21 percent of whom live in poverty (33 and 36 percent of Black and Hispanic Georgian women, respectively). More women in Georgia die of pregnancy-related causes than women in all but two other states. The U.S. maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 18.5; that is the number of women who die for every 100,000 births. Georgia’s MMR has more than doubled since 2004 and is now 35.5 (a shocking 63.8 for black women and 24.6 for white women). Expanding Medicaid would extend health coverage to more than 500,000 uninsured Georgians, 342,000 of them women. That coverage would surely save women’s lives.

Case in point, via Atlanta local Channel 2 News: Woman with massive tumor says hospitals turned her away over lack of insurance

A Newton County woman told Channel 2 Action News that four hospitals turned her away before one agreed to remove a painful, massive non-cancerous tumor.

Doris Lewis, 59, said she had been trying to get insurance since her husband died a few years ago.

There was no sense of urgency, but then a huge tumor started growing inside her and she realized not having insurance presented a huge problem.

“It’s getting bigger every day,” Lewis said. “I can feel it on my body. My heart hurts a little bit.”

The tumor has been inside Lewis for two months and has reached the size of a beach ball.

d4d60dc0228d64640548d36ba833dce0The news even got Raw Story’s attention: Woman with beach ball-sized tumor turned away from four hospitals for lack of insurance

But then, what else would you expect with a state who is doing this shit: Breaking: Pasadena Health Dir. Who Says Support Of Gays Is ‘From The Pits Of Hell’ Gets New Job | The New Civil Rights Movement

The Pasadena Health Director who had amassed a great résumé, a great $250,000 annual compensation package, and a great deal of controversy over his large collection of YouTube videos attacking LGBT people, has a new job. Dr. Eric Walsh, who was place on paid administrative leave just two weeks ago, reportedly is in the process of being hired by the Georgia Public Health Department to oversee the health needs of six counties.

Walsh, who is a pastor for a Pasadena Seventh-day Adventist congregation, came under fire when his comments about gay people, Catholics, Muslims, evolution, the Walt Disney Company, Harry Potter, Oprah Winfrey, Muhammad, Jay Z, single mothers, condoms, and the Pope were discovered.

In one sermon, Dr. Walsh reportedly has told his congregation, “In our public school system they began to teach moral relativism…They began to teach that there really is no absolute right or wrong. It’s more a matter of what you think or what you accept. And (according to that doctrine) if two adults agree to do something, it’s not wrong because they are both consenting adults. That is doctrine from the pits of hell. What makes something right is not based on man, it is based on God.” [Bolding added]

He had also, according to WeHoVille.com, “attacked the American Psychiatric Association’s decision in 1973 to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness, saying those who supported it were ‘raised up by the (devil).’”

02f4836e2ce5e862673874d361845cdeGo and read more about this at the link. I looked up information and news on Walsh here in Georgia and it seems that now Georgia has smartened up:  Former Pasadena official Eric Walsh does not get job in Georgia

(Uh, that is from LA not Georgia btw, so go figure. Oh, and Walsh was slated to work in the North Georgia district. Ha…what a fucking joke.)

I wanted to write about another shitty thing here in Banjoville, and our local elections. But I am in such pain, I will just have to do that later.

The rest of this post is in the massive dump I described up top:

Yet another ridiculous example of justice, North Georgia style: Ex-judge indicted on sex, corruption charges | www.ajc.com

And in North Carolina: Parents, 6 Sons, Accused Of Sexually Abusing Girl For Nearly A Decade

"The Fencer" by James Montgomery Flagg 1877-1960 nicknamed "Puss in Boots"

“The Fencer” by James Montgomery Flagg 1877-1960 nicknamed “Puss in Boots”

Meanwhile in South Carolina: Student’s art rejected from school show for being ‘inappropriate’ | Local News – WYFF Home

This next article is something else, it discusses the aspect of birth and women in the Nigerian culture: Nigeria schoolgirls kidnap: If they are freed by Boko Haram, their struggle will not be over – Comment – Voices – The Independent

In more Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women | Mother Jones

And then the smack down, read it, it is priceless: The Greatest Advice Column Response Ever (Photo)

Many of you have seen this I am sure: Town Official Defends Police Commissioner Who Called Obama The N-Word | ThinkProgress

In a related story: Mel Brooks: I Would Never Get Away with Using ‘N-Word’ on Screen Today | Mediaite

Fuck these rightwing fuckwads: The Idaho GOP Gubernatorial Debate Was Total Chaos | Mother Jones

Speaking of the rightwing fuckwads, here is X’s list for the failed revolution: 10 Reasons Why “Operation American Spring” Was A Failure | List of X

Oh, and check this out: Peggy McIntosh Sets Record Straight on White Privilege – COLORLINES

Something I found on facebook: WTF Is Wrong With Americans? This Guy Nails It.

Another thing I found on facebook: Timeline Photos – Bread and Roses 1912-2012 | Facebook

Please remember the Turkish coal miners. The high cost of mining displayed for all to see.

 

Another cliff:  Standoff on US roadway repairs becoming ‘highway cliff’ | MCT National News | McClatchy DC

I said from the very beginning, that Religious Conscientiousness was a bad thing:  Why We Need to Ban ‘Conscientious Objection’ in Reproductive Health Care

b24c608739ce7854352eaf2852f77753In California: Arson suspect charged in San Diego wildfires, most blazes dying down | Al Jazeera America

You may be in a flood zone: This Is Your Country With 10 Feet Of Sea Level Rise

A gallery here: First look at 9/11 Memorial Museum – First look inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum – NY Daily News

Science related links:

Rocketing solar winds may spark lightning as they buzz Earth | MCT National News | McClatchy DC

A Surprising Reason We Might Procrastinate | Alternet

Some scary ass pictures: Your Favorite Children’s Characters Would Kill You In A Heartbeat

Updates on other things: Football’s Risks Sink In, Even in Heart of Texas – NYTimes.com

f53d7155974dde3497e7459d9fff38dcA story that you may find a little repetitive, since Dak did a long post on the Koch brothers some time back…however, she says this one is more definitive: Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network – NYTimes.com

More Koch: Jon Stewart Trashes ‘Hypocrite’ Harry Reid over Attacks Against Koch Brothers | Mediaite

Another literary fraud: Misha Defonseca Pays $22 Million: History of the Fake Holocaust Memoir | New Republic

I loved Sister Wendy: Saturday Night Social: The Night Belongs to Sister Wendy

Some fun with: Watch Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen Giggle and Talk About Hashtags

Unfortunate news about: No Cannes Do – The Status of Women Directors at Cannes Over the Last Decade|Women and Hollywood

An article about one hunk of a man: Sting Photographed by Annie Leibovitz | Vanity Fair

Now some fashion links, first this one to a dress that reminds me of something from pre-wwII Hollywood: Fan Bingbing in Georges Chakra Couture at the “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” New York Premiere | Tom & Lorenzo Fabulous & Opinionated

Fan-Bingbing-Georges-Chakra-Couture-X-Man-Days-Future-Past-NY-Premiere-Tom-Loenzo-Site-TLO (1)

Next up, Cinema Connection–Kate Hepburn’s Ongoing Style Story from THE PHILADELPHIA STORY | GlamAmor

50887d134be5c7bb69a4f3d40c66702fAnd…then: Photos: A look at Gregory Peck’s Wife Veronique | Vanity Fair

Passani became a fixture in Los Angeles society, thanks to her philanthropy—she was a major supporter of the American Cancer Society—and distinctive fashion sense. “She developed her style more when she was in Los Angeles; she didn’t spend her life in tailored suits, but bold Yves Saint Laurent tunics and orange and lime-green Courrèges dresses,” says her daughter. Although her mother passed away in 2012, Peck plans on paying tribute to her through an exhibition that represents her stylish Parisian influence on Los Angeles.

The pictures below, shot by Firooz Zahedi, who currently is showing his work at the Kopeikin Gallery, display Passani’s outrageous wardrobe…Click through for a glimpse into Passani’s closet.

Before I get to the last link, Hillary Clinton rises above the dirty tricks – Comment – Voices – The Independent

And finally this one…it is wonderful. A lovely way to end the post. Watch the news video…so awesome. The story is told by Maria Shriver which is logical considering the connections to the Kennedys and Special Olympics:

Sweethearts with Down syndrome to wed 30 years after meeting

Sweethearts with Down syndrome to wed 30 years after meeting   - News - TODAY.com 2014-05-18 00-58-32Video: A Texas couple who both have Down syndrome and have been best friends since childhood are getting married. Their families say it’s a celebration of what’s possible when you empower kids to dream big. NBC news special anchor Maria Shriver reports.

Austin Underwood says he has loved his fiancée, Jessica Smith, since they were 4 years old, when their mothers met at a support group for children with Down syndrome.

Thirty years later, the Dallas couple will finally tie the knot.

“I want to marry her because I love her. She’s my very own best friend,” Austin told NBC’s Maria Shriver.

The couple have grown from being playmates to prom dates and, next month, husband and wife.

I love how the mothers are holding hands during the interview. Jessica is beautiful…do watch the video, it will make you feel good.

Images for today’s post by James Montgomery Flagg as seen on Pinterest.

Enjoy your Sunday…leave any thoughts and links in the comments below.