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“It hurts to see everything gone. It hurts to be pushed back. This is treaty land. ... And here we are — unarmed — facing an army in our own land.”
“Mother Nature – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned – demands that we take action”
-Berta Cáceres 1971-2016
One year ago on 2 March 2016, armed men broke into Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres’ home in the middle of the night and shot her dead. Cáceres had dedicated several years to trying to halt the construction of a hydroelectric dam on her community’s land in Intibucá, western Honduras, which threatened a vital and sacred water source for the indigenous Lenca people. Dam construction is one of the main causes of violence against activists in Honduras.
Less than a year before her death she had delivered a moving address to a packed auditorium as she was presented with the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for exceptional bravery in environmental activism. Dedicating her award to:“the martyrs who gave their lives in the struggle to defend our natural resources.”
Tragically, not even the international limelight could save her. Two of those charged with Berta’s murder were trained by the United States in Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC). One of them, Army Major Mariano Diaz, was the chief of army intelligence at the time of Berta's murder. He had been a direct commander of a third suspect, Henry Javier Hernandez, a former special forces sniper who has admitted to being at Berta’s home when she was murdered. The 7 charged included an executive of the hydroelectric dam company that Berta opposed.
Since the 2009 coup –Obama’s very first - that ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, a succession of right-wing governments have made mining, agribusiness and energy projects a cornerstone of the country’s economic growth strategy. In 2011, a government-hosted conference proclaimed the country ‘Open for Business’.
From the capital Tegucigalpa, the US embassy has been promoting ramped-up investment in Honduras’ extractive industries, with mining giant Electrum already planning a US$1 billion investment. The country’s hydro and agribusiness sectors are also seeing cash injections from US-backed development banks, such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the US Congress has agreed a huge US$750 million aid package for Central America, with Honduras taking a large chunk.
Sandwiched between Guatemala and Nicaragua on the Caribbean coast, Honduras is blanketed in forest and rich in valuable minerals. But the proceeds of this natural wealth are enjoyed by a very small section of society. Honduras has the highest levels of inequality in the whole of Latin America, with around six out of ten households in rural areas living in extreme poverty, on less than US$2.50 per day.
Nowhere on earth are you more likely to be killed for protesting the theft of land and destruction of the natural world than in Honduras. According to Global Witness research, 123 land and environmental activists have been murdered in Honduras since the 2009 coup, with countless others threatened, attacked or imprisoned.
Berta Cáceres was one of dozens of people Global Witness interviewed during a two-year investigation into the political and economic forces behind this killing spree. Among the interviewees it was rare that someone hadn’t lost loved ones, friends, colleagues, or hadn’t themselves been intimidated or attacked, allowing well-connected Hondurans to push through their business deals at huge cost to whole communities and the environment.
. Although the government theoretically has the power and resources to protect activists, in practice a lack of political will, endemic corruption and undue influence from elites means it fails to do so.According to rights groups, more than 90 per cent of killings and abuses against Honduran human rights defenders remain unsolved.
In October 2016, Tomas Gómez survived an attempt on his life. He was Berta’s right-hand man and successor as leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH). Shortly after the attack he told us:
“It’s difficult to reconcile yourself to the fact it may be your last day, your last moment, you know? But my spirits are up again.... We keep on going. Despite everything, we keep on going.”
Cynical and Cruel.
There is no other reasonable way to describe ICE's horrific action here. No, they aren't "just doing their job." To do this in front of a 13 year old child is cynical and cruel, and anybody responsible for this action should be summarily fired. But it won't happen under the new order."-
-Attorney Eric Kirk
HIGHLAND PARK, LOS ANGELES-
While being dropped off at school with her sisters, 13-year-old Fatima Avelica recorded her undocumented father being picked up by agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez had been in the country for 20 years with four children, two of whom are grown.
The ICE officials, who wore police jackets, took the 48-year-old father into custody as he dropped his girls off at school in Highland Park on Tuesday.
"It's really hard what we're going through," Avelica-Gonzalez's daughter Brenda Avelica said. "I never thought we'd actually go through something like this. It's terrible to feel and see your family being broken apart."
Executive director of the Highland Park charter school Academia Avance, Ricardo Mireles, brought together about two dozen people to support the family.
"I think the impacts are going to come in terms of, 'Hey, how do we pay the rent? And how do we move forward?'" Mireles said. "We want to be able to find resources to help this family go through this process."
Mireles said the girls' father had a nearly decade-old DUI conviction and an incident 20 years ago where the father said he bought a car with an incorrect registration sticker, unbeknownst to him. Both were reasons given for the deportation.
An attorney for the family was attempting to file paperwork for a U-visa, which would allow Avelica-Gonzalez to remain in the country.
ICE released this statement about the incident:
Officers with one of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Los Angeles-based Fugitive Operations teams took Mr. Avelica into custody Tuesday morning. Mr. Avelica was targeted for arrest because relevant databases indicate he has multiple prior criminal convictions, including a DUI in 2009, as well an outstanding order of removal dating back to 2014. After conducting surveillance to confirm his identity, the officers arrested Mr. Avelica during a vehicle stop in the 3200 block of Pasadena Avenue, approximately a half mile from the charter school described in the related social media post. No one else was detained during the vehicle stop. Mr. Avelica remains in ICE custody at this time.
In Southern California, in one of the first major roundups during the Trump administration, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all.
“Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did,” said a 10-year veteran of the agency who took part in the operation. “Now those people are priorities again.
White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on Tuesday that the president wanted to
“take the shackles off” of agents, an expression the officers themselves used time and again in interviews to describe their newfound freedom.
“Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,” the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a joint statement after President Trump issued the executive orders on immigration late last month.
A whirlwind of activity has overtaken ICE headquarters in Washington in recent weeks, with employees attending back-to-back meetings about how to quickly carry out President Trump’s plans. “Some people are like: ‘This is great. Let’s give them all the tools they need,’” said a senior staff member at headquarters, who joined the department under the administration of George W. Bush.
But, the official added, “other people are a little bit more hesitant and fearful about how quickly things are moving.”
Two officials in Washington said that the shift — and the new enthusiasm that has come with it — seems to have encouraged pro-Trump political comments and banter that struck the officials as brazen or gung-ho, like remarks about their jobs becoming “fun.” Those who take less of a hard line on unauthorized immigrants feel silenced, the officials said.
ICE has more than 20,000 employees, spread across 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries, and the Trump administration has called for the hiring of 10,000 more. ICE officers see themselves as protecting the country and enforcing its laws.
All Illegal immigrants are criminals in the eyes of an immigration Agent. These Agents are just doing the job they were hired to do.
A supervisor in Northern California described a typical operation, with teams of at least five members rising before dawn, meeting as early as 4 a.m. to make arrests before their targets depart for work.
CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuelan officials may face U.S. sanctions for profiting from food shortages that have exacerbated hunger in the South American country.
The calls by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle come in response to an Associated Press investigation that found trafficking in hard-to-find food has become big business in Venezuela, with the military at the heart of the graft. Embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro has given the military increasingly broad control over the food supply as shortages have led to widespread malnutrition this year.
“When the military is profiting off of food distribution while the Venezuelan people increasingly starve, corruption has reached a new level of depravity that cannot go unnoticed,” said Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The AP report published last month detailed a chain of dirty dealing by the military, including kickbacks to generals for food contracts and bribes to move food out of the port. Some of the food is purchased in the U.S. and some of the bribes passed through the U.S. banking system.
U.S. prosecutors are investigating senior Venezuelan officials, including members of the military, for laundering riches from food contracts through the U.S. financial system, the AP learned from four people with direct knowledge of the probes. No charges have been brought.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said President Donald Trump should take immediate action to sanction the top officials named in the AP report.
In this Feb. 10, 2015 file photo, Venezuela’s Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres leaves after a press conference at the Central bank in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)“This should be one of President Trump’s first actions in office,” Rubio, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees Latin America, said in a statement.
The Associated Press cited documents and testimony from business owners who pointed to food minister Gen. Rodolfo Marco Torres and his predecessor, Gen. Carlos Osorio, as key figures involved in fraudulent food imports. Neither official responded to requests for comment, but in the past, both have dismissed charges of corruption as empty accusations propagated by political opponents.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, said she is urging the State and Treasury Departments to apply sanctions to Marco Torres and Osorio, as well as anyone else getting rich off Venezuela’s food shortages. She is also asking that government agencies ensure U.S. companies are not doing business directly with any Venezuelan business owners fronting for corrupt officials. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, joined her in calling for those involved in food corruption to be held accountable.
In 2014, the Obama administration, at the urging of Rubio and Menendez, froze U.S. assets and denied visas for top Venezuelan officials accused of drug trafficking and of human rights violations during a wave of anti-government protests. Maduro responded by calling the U.S. lawmakers “terrorists” bent on destabilizing the oil-rich nation, and banned them from Venezuela.
Venezuelan lawmaker Carlos Berrizbeitia, who sits on the congressional audit committee, said sanctions or no, the opposition will do all it can to stop officials from participating in food trafficking.
“We welcome help from any country interested in investigating corruption in Venezuela, but we also have to keep up pressure on our own institutions to make sure they function properly,” he said. “We need to do everything possible to ensure they don’t rob a single dollar more from the food budget while the country is going hungry and people are eating from the trash.”
The Maduro administration rarely acknowledges accusations of corruption inside the military, and has not responded to the AP report. When he shook up his cabinet this month, replacing more than a dozen ministers, he kept Marco Torres at the helm of the Food Ministry.
Transparency International Chair Jose Ugaz said the lack of government response was in itself telling.
“It’s powerful that there’s been no reaction to such a strong report,” he said.
The story about corruption in the food supply under a socialist government sparked discussion even among Venezuelan leftists on the popular Aporrea website.
“Look at the disaster Carlos Osorio made of the Ministry of Food, and there were no consequences, just removal from office,” Esmeralda Garcia wrote on Aporrea. “This has become a third rail that you can’t bring up for discussion, because it’s an open secret and no one does anything.”
The issue of corruption also raised tempers in food lines, which have sprouted across Venezuela.
“It’s out in the open now; the officials have no respect for the people,” said Manuel Blanco as he waited in an hours-long line to buy rice. “They’re running their schemes and we’re the ones affected. We’re out here trying to live on soup and mashed bananas.”
“What makes you mad is they don’t leave anything to take to your children,” added Yanet Montilla, who had lined up next to Blanco at dawn in hopes of buying food for her three daughters. “But what are we going to do? We all have families and can’t risk getting killed in the street.”
*On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
* On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
* On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
* On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
* On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
* On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
* On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
* On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
* On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
* On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
* On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
* On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
* On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”
* On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
* On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.
Donald Trump provoked fresh outrage on Saturday by lashing out at a revered civil rights activist who challenged the legitimacy of his election win.
In a week in which the world of the president-elect grew ever more bizarre, he remained his own unpredictable, infuriating, charismatic, deeply flawed self.
The criticism of US congressman John Lewis came on the day of a civil rights march in Washington aimed at Trump’s incoming presidency, two days before America observes the annual Martin Luther King Jr Day and six days before the country’s first black president leaves office.
Lewis, who was beaten by state troopers during the historic 1965 march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, is the first leading Democrat to publicly question Trump’s right to govern.
“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press this week.
The 76-year-old congressman from Georgia, seen by some as the moral conscience of the nation, will boycott Trump’s inauguration, the first he has missed since becoming a member of Congress three decades ago.
“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected, and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Clinton received 2.9m more votes than Trump but lost the electoral college. When assailed, Trump is known to favour a playbook of hitting back harder, even against seemingly no-win targets such as Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a US soldier killed in Iraq; Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe winner; and Meryl Streep, the Oscar-winning actor.
On Saturday he decided that Lewis should be no different, using Twitter to say that he “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!”
The comments – from a man backed by figures linked to the Ku Klux Klan and other racist far-right groups – drew a scathing response, even from the president-elect’s own party.
Ben Sasse, a Republican senator for Nebraska and frequent Trump critic, said on Twitter: “John Lewis and his ‘talk’ have changed the world.” Conservative commentator Bill Kristol posted: “It’s telling, I’m afraid, that Donald Trump treats Vladimir Putin with more respect than he does John Lewis.”
Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who ran as an independent conservative in the presidential election, said: “While you avoided the draft, John Lewis risked his life for equality in America. You’ll never even dream of such selfless patriotism, Donald.”
Howard Wolfson, a former deputy mayor of New York, commented: “John Lewis did more to make America great in one day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge than Donald Trump ever will.”
This week, Lewis also spoke out against Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, during a confirmation hearing. Sessions was denied a federal judgeship in 1986 over alleged racist remarks. This week, a letter from King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, opposing his nomination was rediscovered and published by the Washington Post.
“We need someone as attorney general who’s going to look out for all of us, and not just some of us,” said Lewis, a protégé of King.
Trump’s latest Twitter storm coincided with a civil rights march in Washington led by activists angry over his offensive remarks about Muslims, Mexicans and other minority groups. The Rev Al Sharpton planned to lead protesters along the National Mall, ending at the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, about two miles from the steps of the US Capitol, where Trump will be sworn in as president on Friday.
“The 2017 march will bring all people together to insist on change and accountability,” Sharpton told Reuters. “Donald Trump and his administration need to hear our voice and our concerns.”
Civil rights groups including Sharpton’s National Action Network, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Council of La Raza, as well as US senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, were expected to join the march, kicking off a week of demonstrations before, during and after Trump’s inauguration.
Trump got 8% of the black vote in the presidential election, according to exit polls; Clinton received 88%.
The changing of the guard in Washington, however, is gathering momentum. Even before Trump takes office, Republicans won a gateway victory in Congress on Friday in their efforts to scrap Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. With a 227-198 House vote, Congress gave final approval to a budget that will ease passage of a still-unwritten bill replacing the Affordable Care Act.
The budget “gives us the tools we need for a step-by-step approach to fix these problems and put Americans back in control of their health care”, House speaker Paul Ryan said after the vote.
John Lewis: 'I don’t think I’ve changed much. I still consider myself an activist'
But internal divisions are emerging. At least seven Republicans have said they want to wait until a replacement is ready before they will vote to repeal Obamacare, wary that 20 million people who gained health insurance could suddenly lose it.
Trump could also face a bumpy ride from his own cabinet. This week several of his nominees underwent Senate confirmation hearings and expressed views that differed from his own on everything from Russian hacking to the Iran nuclear deal to immigration rights.
The president-elect brushed off the dissent, claiming he had told his picks to “say what you want to say”. He said: “I may be right, they may be right.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday Obama delivered his last weekly address at the White House with a call for active citizenship.
“Our success depends on our participation, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings,” he said. “It falls on each of us to be guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: citizen.”
He added: “It has been the honour of my life to serve you as president. Eight years later, I am even more optimistic about our country’s promise. And I look forward to working along your side, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.”
Sustainability, an idealized goal for human progress and survival, is an elusive myth. The unfortunate fact is that sustaining the consumptive capitalist culture that governs human society is not possible. No individual effort can realistically mitigate the systemic failures of the dominant culture. Unless collective action is achieved, we are destined to experience retrograde development that threatens the future of all inhabitants of the planetary ecosystem.
According to a July 2015 report by the United Nations Environment Program’s- International Resource Panel-The prevailing patterns of Global production and consumption are clearly unsustainable. The amount of primary materials extracted from the Earth has tripled in the last four decades.The rate at which materials are now extracted is already having an impact on human health and quality of life. The report warns that increased use of fossil fuels, metals and other materials will lead to the depletion of natural resources, causing shortages of critical materials, heightening the risk of local conflicts.
The information on material flows contained in the new report complements economic statistics, and identifies the scale and urgency of global environmental issues. The amount of primary materials extracted from the Earth rose from 22 billion tons in 1970 to 70 billion tons in 2010, with the richest countries consuming on average 10 times as many materials as the poorest countries and twice as much as the world average.
“If the world continues to provide housing, mobility, food, energy and water in the same way as today, by 2050 the planet's nine billion people would require 180 billion tons of material every year to meet demand.”
The report also ranks countries by the size of their per-capita material footprints - the amount of material required for final demand in a country, an indicator that sheds light on the true impact of a country on the global natural resource base. It is also a good proxy for the material standard of living in a country. Europe and North America, which had annual per capita material footprints of 20 and 25 tons in 2010, are at the top of the table. By comparison, China had a material footprint of 14 tons per capita and Brazil 13 tons. The annual per-capita material footprint for Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and West Asia is between 9 and 10 tons. Africa's footprint is below 3 tons per capita.
Global material use has rapidly accelerated since 2000 as emerging economies like China undergo industrial and urban transformations that require unprecedented amounts of iron, steel, cement, energy and construction materials. Since 1990, there has been little improvement in global material efficiency. In fact, efficiency started to decline around 2000. The global economy now needs more material per unit of GDP than it did at the turn of the century because production has shifted from material-efficient economies such as Japan, South Korea and Europe to far less material-efficient economies like China, India and South East Asia. This has led to an increase in environmental pressure for every unit of economic activity.
Rising material use will result in climate change, higher levels of acidification and eutrophication of soils and water bodies, increased biodiversity loss, more soil erosion and increasing amounts of waste and air pollution. It will also have negative impacts on human health and the quality of life of all species, depletion of natural resources and supply shortages of critical materials in the short and medium terms.
The conclusions are clear- Decoupling escalating material use from economic growth is the imperative of modern environmental policy and essential for the prosperity of human society and a healthy natural environment. In more dire terms- If we can’t change the rates of extraction and consumption of finite resources, in future generations, life itself will not be sustainable. The expectation of exponential growth as a measure of healthy human economies, at the expense of the biosphere is not a sustainable, and will end, either by conscious design, or by predictable calamity.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:
These goal are the minimum standard that must be achieved to begin to approach sustainability, and are unlikely to gain traction globally any time soon. National governments may attempt to meet these goals independently but will be hampered by the economic realities of implementation.
The framework is clear and represents the only real option. How these broad goals are implemented is a test of the human will to survive,
a test we may well fail.