Monday, October 31, 2005

The Weatherman

Tomorrow's Weather?

I just saw the Weatherman. It's one of those movies that you probably can wait to rent, but I saw it anyway. Michael Kane, the successful Pulitzer Prize winning father of the lost, in his own mind, loser, weatherman Nicolas Cage, tells his son, "when a problem comes along, you must whip it, before the cream sits out too long, you must whip it."

Cage gets it, kind of, but only after he loses his father, his family, and his fear of being the person he actually is.

It's climate change, as forecast
By Geoff Strong
The Age
October 31, 2005

A year of climatic disasters is now persuading politicians to accept the warnings of 20 years ago.

IF WAR is said to be a means of teaching Americans geography, what then is needed to teach them and fossil-fuel profligate sidekicks like ourselves about global warming?

After the US has faced death and massive economic loss from two large hurricanes, and after Wilma gave the area another kicking last week, it seems the message is starting to register.

In one of the greatest of shocks, in Australia federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has conceded the debate is over: humans have to accept their actions are warming the planet and the consequences will probably be disastrous.

But why have we taken so long to take the problem seriously and do something about it? Scientists who know about the greenhouse effect have been, by any reasonable standard, certain for two decades.

One of the problems appears to be that the scientific definition of certainty sounds like equivocation to the ordinary public, particularly to their elected and often scientifically ignorant representatives.

The world's greatest gamblers, the insurance industry, didn't need that level of certainty. It had been banking on scenarios being right since at least 1995.

In March that year, the world's biggest re-insurer, Munich Re of Germany, stunned the industry by saying manmade warming was increasing natural disasters. The head of the company's geoscientific research group, Dr Gerhard Berz, said: "Today there can be no doubt the growing number and intensity of windstorms, thunderstorms and floods all over the world are attributable to the rapid increase of air and sea temperatures."

In hindsight, perhaps scientists should have worded their predictions differently and conveyed more certainty to the public because two decades have been lost. By appearing uncertain, they might have protected their backsides, but allowed a whole army of vested interest groups such as the fossil-fuel lobby and right-wing think tanks to attempt to lever apart the argument and create 20 years of delay.

Journalists who wrote what scientists believed were pilloried too. I was taken to the press council in 1999 by a reader for writing about global warming a decade on. My alleged crime was I hadn't given oxygen to those who didn't believe.

The complaint was dismissed."

As have the warnings.

Here is another one that should put a little dent in your tranquility.

Higher ocean acidity seen as threat to food chain
Cape Cod Times
October 30, 2005

WOODS HOLE - In 50 to 100 years, rising ocean acidity levels might reach a point where the shells of some marine organisms could dissolve or fail to grow altogether.

This scenario sounds like a scene from a scary sci-fi flick, but researchers say this potential phenomenon is directly related to rising carbon dioxide levels in the ocean that could upset the balance of marine ecosystems.

Ocean acidification is occurring at a faster rate than originally predicted, with the potential to harm marine life and disrupt the ocean's food web, according to Scott Doney, a marine chemist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

''The food web is going to look very different in 50 to 100 years if we continue to burn carbon dioxide at current levels,'' Doney said.

Within that time span, the team concluded in a study published last month in the journal Nature, there could be ''severe consequences'' for so-called marine calcifying organisms that build external skeletal material from calcium carbonate, the basic building block of limestone.

''Up until now, we've mostly thought of climate change in terms of changes in temperature or rainfall,'' Doney said, adding that the ocean is equally susceptible to climate modifications.

The ocean serves as a big CO2 repository, Doney said. And the research conducted by his team and a host of others ''shows the negative consequences of the ocean being a big sink,'' he said.

''We have recognized for several decades that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil-fuel combustion will lead to ocean acidification,'' Doney said. ''We know it's due to human activities; there's no controversy to that.''

When a problem comes along, you must whip it,
before the cream sits out too long,
you must whip it.

So get it straight,
go forward,
your cream is in danger.

The Weatherman.


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art courtesy of Clay Bennett

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Light Speed


This story is not for those with weak technolibido.

It is a big development though.

And it will change the speed of a lot of things.

Engineers Report Breakthrough in Laser Beam Technology
By John Markoff
New York Times
October 26, 2005-

A team of Stanford electrical engineers has discovered how to modulate, or switch on and off, a beam of laser light up to a 100 billion times a second with materials that are widely used in the semiconductor industry.

The group used a standard chip-making process to design a key component of optical networking gear potentially more than 10 times faster than the highest-performance commercial products available today.

The team reported its discovery in the current issue of Nature, which was published on Wednesday. Such an advance could have broad applications both in accelerating the already declining cost of optical networking and in potentially transforming computers in the future by making it possible to interconnect computer chips at extremely high data rates.

Currently, the communications industry uses costly equipment to transmit data over optical fibers at up to 10 billion bits per second. However, researchers are already experimenting with optically linked computers in which components may be located on different sides of the globe.

Cheap optical switches will also make it possible to create data superhighways inside computers, making it possible to reorganize them for better performance.

"The vision here is that, with the much stronger physics, we can imagine large numbers - hundreds or even thousands - of optical connections off of chips," said David A.B. Miller, director of the Solid State and Photonics Laboratory at Stanford University.

"Those large numbers could get rid of the bottlenecks of wiring, bottlenecks that are quite evident today and are one of the reasons the clock speeds on your desktop computer have not really been going up much in recent years."

Several industry executives said the advance was significant because it meant that optical data networks were now on the same Moore's Law curve of increasing performance and falling cost that has driven the computer industry for the past four decades.

In 1965, the Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noted that the number of transistors that could be placed on a silicon chip was doubling at regular intervals. The semiconductor industry has held to that rate of change since then, giving rise to the modern era of microelectronics that has transformed the global economy.

Now that rate of change could be directing the future of the telecommunications industry.

Computer and communications industry executives believe that advancements in inexpensive optical networks will transform the computer industry and other major industries ranging from the financial marketplace to Hollywood."

Optical circuits and computing is essential to a light based economy.

With high speed optical switching, power paints will be more efficient.

With high speed switching, existing photovoltaics might be improved.

With these high speed switches, we can harness the surrounding light.

And the world can move at light speed from

carbon to crystal.

Last night,

The author who sees the world with the same pallette

as I do,

sees a holy different scenario in response to the world's problems.

He sees a major die off of population as the solution.

In my view,

It would be proof of our failure.

Our failure to see our situation.

Our failure to see our solution.

Our failure to see our earth as one.

Our failure to move from our armaments of war.

to the arms of peace.

At light speed.


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*light speed courtesy of hideinplainwebsite

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Restoring Faith

Yesterday, we heard something that we have not heard in a long time.

We heard from a professional.

We heard from someone who loves justice.

We heard from someone who is smart and confident.

We heard from someone who is not afraid to say (scroll down)

"I haven't thought it through,

so, I'm not going to give you an answer."

We heard from someone who is not afraid to use the word "duck"

when he doesn't answer the question,

or that "he took a dive" on that.

The prosecutor Fitzgerald restores my faith.

He restores my faith in the hope that justice and equity

will trump partisan lies and positioning.

It restores my faith in the hope that our system

can deal with the real issues of this day.

It restores my faith that humankind will make the right decisions,

once all other alternatives have been exhausted.

Last night,

I met an author who asked me to take a look at his newest manuscript.

As we visited,

it became clear that he sees the world with the same pallette

that I see the world.

He sees the perma frost melting.

He sees the plankton count dropping.

He sees the oceans becoming more acidic.

He sees the coral reefs in decline from warming waters.

He sees the artic ice cover receeding,

and the blue water collecting more sunlight,

where the white ice once reflected it.

He sees the Peak of oil production.

He sees the exponential rise of poor leadership.

He sees that humankind is on brink of a great trouble.

If we can drop the partisan play for power,

for a renewed sense of union to solve the true problems that face us,

We can navigate through these coming stormy seas.

If we drop the fake issues, the fake morality, the fake freedom,

the fake democracy, the fake understandings,

the fake wisdom, the fake religion,

the fake divisions in our world view,

that blind us and bind us,

We can find our way to a new shore, a new horizon,

and a new world.

The prosecutor Fitzgerald reminds me

that one man of good faith and intelligence,

can do much to change the world.

Many men and women,

from many worlds and cultures,

can do so much more.

And there is so much to do.


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* Rene Magritte

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Oily Business

It's reassuring how language seems to adapt and change.

As current events and forces shape our lives,

Words take on new meaning and the truth is revealed.

When the Railroad Robber Barons were stealing everybody blind,

and throwing their substantial weight around in the late 1800's,

the noun "Railroad" became a pejorative verb.

And for some time now, "oily" has not been what you want to be called.

If a deal is oily, it is a crooked deal.

To wit, Our Hometown Newspaper led on the top right yesterday

with a terrible tale about the oil scandal in Iraq.

Here is the Reuters version.

Oil-for-food probe implicates 2,000 firms
By Evelyn Leopold and Irwin Arieff
Thu Oct 27, 2005

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - More than 2,000 of the foreign companies that did business with Iraq in the U.N. oil-for-food program made illicit payments to Saddam Hussein's government, a report on the program said on Thursday.

The U.N.-established Independent Inquiry Committee led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker reported that Saddam diverted some $1.8 billion in kickbacks and surcharges.

The program, which began in December 1996 and ended in 2003, was aimed at easing the impact of U.N. sanctions imposed in 1990 after Baghdad's troops invaded Kuwait. It achieved considerable success in feeding Iraqis, and allowed Iraq to sell oil in order to pay for food, medicine and other goods.

The report said companies in 66 countries paid kickbacks on selling Iraq humanitarian goods, and companies from 40 countries paid surcharges on oil contracts but the U.N. Security Council took little action. "

Let's see, 1996 to 2003 is 7 years into 1.8 billion is about 250 million a year.

Simply terrible.

Such greed and corruption.

Greed and Corruption in the Oil business?

I am shocked.

And then there is this story.

Exxon Mobil Profits Soar on Surging Oil and Gas Prices
By Vikas Bajav and Jad Mouawad
New York Times
October 27, 2005

Exxon Mobil and other energy companies reported strong gains in their third-quarter profits today on surging prices of oil and gasoline both before and after the hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon Mobil said its earnings jumped 75 percent. Royal Dutch, meanwhile, said its earnings climbed 68 percent, and Marathon Oil said its earnings more than tripled.

Today, Exxon Mobil reported net income of $9.92 billion, or $1.58 a share, in the third quarter, up from $5.68 billion, or 88 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue jumped 31.9 percent, to $100.7 billion, from $76.38 billion.

This year, Exxon Mobil's nine-month profits - $25 billion - are so far equal to those of 2004, already a record year for the company. Its sales are on track to exceed those of Wal-Mart this year.

Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell, the world's third-largest oil company, reported third-quarter net income of $9.03 billion. Revenue rose 6 percent, to $94.7 billion, from $89 billion.

This year is shaping to be an exceptionally lucrative one for the entire oil industry. Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, is expected to post a quarterly profit of $4 billion on Friday.

Among those assailing the oil companies is Senator Byron L. Dorgan, a Democrat from North Dakota, who introduced legislation last month to impose a windfall tax on oil companies.

But Exxon bristled at suggestions that oil companies should be taxed more."

Then there is this curious story and testimony from the CEO of Dow Chemical.

US should declare national emergency on NG supplies
Oct. 7, 2005

Shortages may develop for plastic milk and detergent bottles, automobile tires, disposable diaper liners and bread bags because of high natural gas prices and hurricane-hit chemical plants, the head of Dow Chemical Co. said on Thursday.

The US government should help repair damaged natural gas processing plants and declare a "national emergency" to make consumers aware of supply problems triggered by the storms, Liveris said. "Soon the loss of chemical manufacturing in the Gulf will ripple through the economy in the form of shortages and higher prices," Liveris said.

Some of the products that may develop shortages include widely used consumer goods such as plastic bottles and bags, he said. "The short-term outlook for natural gas consumers is grim," he said. "If prices remain at or near current levels, manufacturers will be driven out of the market and many may not return."

Natural gas, a crucial raw material for chemical plants, soared to a record high of $14.75 per million British thermal units in futures trading on Wednesday. Prices fell on Thursday, to around $13.69 per million Btus in midday trading. "

And finally, there is this statement from Hugo Chavez, my favorite oil executive, next to the Bush's pal Oscar Wyatt, who just got indicted in the Iraqi oil scam.

Chavez: World Faces Major Energy Crisis
Associated Press Writer
Sat Oct 15, 2005

SALAMANCA, Spain - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that the world faces an energy crisis but there is little chance of his country and other OPEC members increasing production because they are already pumping near "their capacity."

"The world will have to get used to a barrel price, I think, of above $50, and energy will have to be saved," he told reporters as leaders from Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries met in this central Spanish town.

"We're at the doorway of major energy crisis worldwide," Chavez said. "We'll have to develop other resources such as wind, solar and nuclear energy — naturally for peaceful purposes." He said Venezuela was in talks with Argentina and Brazil regarding nuclear power.

"The cause of the increase in the price is not in the production. It's partly the intermediaries who make things dearer. It's also because of the increase in demand and the irrational capitalist consumerism model," he said.

"The United States for example, with scarcely five percent of the world's population, uses almost 25 percent of the petroleum and combustion fuels produced in the world," he said."

Small wonder the Administration wants to start a war with him too.

Ever since Rockefeller blew up his competitors to gain control

of the refining, and then set up a nice foundation

to make it all feel and look respectable,

the oil business has been, well,


Before they are finished with their countless evils,

they may even try to change the name of the Sabbath.

Somehow, Oilyday just doesn't sound right.

Fits the preachers though.

Speaking of church, Fitzmass is near.

Rove escapes for now though.


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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Omega Point

For some reason, the words Omega Point came into my mind today.

Now don't run off, even if you are a technophobe

or for that matter, any kind of phobe.

According to Wikipedia, the Omega Point is a term used by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin to describe the aim towards which consciousness evolves. He believed that evolution was a process converging toward a final unity. He also believed that everything was alive and that is was all one. According to Chardin, the planet is in a transformative process, metamorphosing from the biosphere into the noosphere.

This term is also used by Tulane University professor of mathematics and physics Frank J. Tipler to describe a hypothetical cosmological scenario in the far future of the Universe. The basis of this concept is now flawed because the foundation of the idea involves a big crunch, and that can't happen in an accelerating universe.

So, I am not thinking of the Tipler Omega Point.

I am thinking about Teilhard's Omega Point.

Here is an edited excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica about Teilhard's Omega Point.

Teilhard held that evolution was a process converging toward a final unity called the Omega Point. He attempted to show that what is of permanent value in traditional philosophical thought can be maintained and even integrated with a modern scientific outlook if one accepts that the tendencies of material things are directed, either wholly or in part, beyond the things themselves toward the production of higher, more complex, more perfectly unified beings.

Teilhard regarded basic trends in matter – gravitation, inertia, electromagnetism, and so on – as being ordered toward the production of progressively more complex types of aggregation.

This process leads to the increasingly complex entities of atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms, until finally the human body evolves, with a nervous system sufficiently sophisticated to permit rational reflection, self-awareness, and moral responsibility.

Another great advance in Teilhard's scheme of evolution is the socialization of mankind. This is not the triumph of herd instinct but a cultural convergence of humanity toward a single society.

According to Teilhard, evolution has gone about as far as it can to perfect human beings physically: its next step will be social.

Teilhard saw such evolution already in progress; through technology, urbanization, and modern communications, more and more links are being established between different peoples’ politics, economics, and habits of thought in an apparently geometric progression.

Theologically, Teilhard saw the process of organic evolution as a sequence of progressive syntheses whose ultimate convergence point is that of God. When humanity and the material world have reached their final state of evolution and exhausted all potential for further development, a new convergence between them and the supernatural order would be initiated by the Parousia, or Second Coming of Christ."

Somehow this Omega Point and the Singularity of Vernor Vinge seem like cousins to me.

Maybe it's just the Reeses peanut butter candy accident, where the chocolate and the peanut butter get mixed, but consider these edited thoughts from the abstract of Vinge's famous paper.

"Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.

I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence.

There are several means by which science may achieve this breakthrough:

There may be developed computers that are "awake" and superhumanly intelligent.

Large computer networks (and their associated users) may "wake up" as a superhumanly intelligent entity.

Computer/human interfaces may become so intimate that users may reasonably be considered superhumanly intelligent.

Biological science may provide means to improve natural human intellect."

Teilhard had no means to imagine the internet.

For that matter, even Vinge could not imagine the internet we have today when his famous paper was written just 12 years ago.

Both of these thinkers, years apart in age and with wildly different educational backgrounds, are seeing the same thing.

And so should we.

As bad and stupid as everything is right now,

We can envision a time where most of the things that we "think",

are simply going to go up in smoke.

Nations will dissolve or will become as important as cities.

Computer networks and their users will band and grow together

to create new super intelligent organisms.

Whether these super intelligent networks are democratic

or not,

is up to us.

And I guess that that is why

I'm thinking Omega Point.


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* alpha and omega courtesy youngpreston

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


AP photo

Eulogy for 2000 Neighborhood Kids

and 30,000 Iraqi citizens,
and more –

I have been trying to remember the name
of one of my son’s teenage friends,
one of the polite ones,
earnest, a fast smile, fast tracked
to the Navy
after he lived through Austin High.

I have been trying to remember the name
of the soldier’s mother in DC last summer,
white hair, short cut like a boy,
magenta streaks –

She told us about the back door draft,
how her son joined the Navy
and was transferred to Baghdad.
His letters were terrifying.
Julian Bond had just finished speaking.

The 2000th mother’s son, father’s daughter
has now been killed in Iraq –
little league games, Barbie dolls and
yellow miniature dump trucks,
video games and math books
chewed on by the dog –
or howling neglect,
chocolate chip and pecan cookies baking
on a Saturday night.

I don’t know what it means to be
a good parent, if I can’t make
the world more hospitable
to human beings.

The collective neighborhood aches today.
The neighborhood aches.

©copyright, 2005, Susan Bright

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Here is the the Department of Defense Press Release for the 2000th casualty in Iraq.

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander, Jr., 34, of Clanton, Ala., died at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, on Oct. 22, of injuries sustained in Samarra, Iraq, on Oct. 17, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Alexander was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

For further information related to this release, contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

I don't know if Sgt. Alexander has a wife, or children.

I suspect he does.

He probably has a mother and a father who are still living.

And he probably has a brother or a sister or two.

And he probably has some good friends,

who will all miss him


This War is is not about nice round numbers with zeros .

It is not about remaking the Middle East.

It is not about fighting the terrorist there,

so we don't have to fight them here.

And no matter how many times I have said it,

it is not even about oil.

It is about blood.

And we grieve.

And today will very likely be the day for another milestone.

This will likely be the end of the grand jury investigation,

and the beginning of indictments and trials,

for those who trafficked in the outing of Valerie Plame.

Congressman Jerry Nadler and 39 others have even called for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation to be expanded to examine whether the White House--President, Vice-President, and members of the WH's Iraq War Group--conspired to deliberately deceive Congress into authorizing the war.

"We are no longer just talking about a Republican culture of corruption and cronyism," Nadler says. "We now have reason to believe that high crimes may have been committed at the highest level, wrongdoing that may have led us to war and imperiled our national security."


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Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Here is a story that is coming out in Newsweek International. If you don't find this sobering, it will at least help in the numbing.

The Last Word: Preparing for The Worst
By Mac Margolis
Newsweek International

Oct. 31, 2005 issue

On Oct. 12, the United Nations' official day of Disaster Preparedness, scholars from the U.N. University's campus in Bonn issued an appropriately gloomy statement.

If nothing is done to cushion the blow of natural disasters, they declared, by 2010 some 50 million people around the world could be driven from their homes annually.

Not long ago, such dire predictions might have been written off as just another warning from the usual Cassandras. But considering the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in Pakistan, Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, and the Asian tsunami, people are starting to take note.

Janos Bogardi, director of the U.N. University's Institute for the Environment and Human Security, spoke with NEWSWEEK's Mac Margolis about the mounting toll of natural disasters and what the world needs to know in order to cope.


Are natural disasters getting worse?

BOGARDI: There are absolutely clear signs and compelling statistics showing the situation is getting worse. We now are experiencing 2.5 to 3 times as many extreme events of climatic or water-related emergencies per year as we did in the 1970s. At the same time annual economic losses [from disasters] have increased sixfold.

How many people are displaced by environmental emergencies every year?

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees puts the number at 19.2 million people a year.

Why is this happening now?

Climate change certainly plays an important role. That leads to extremes at both ends of the spectrum. We have more floods, more droughts, longer heat spells without rain and more storms. But we also have increasingly unsustainable land use. With increasing deforestation there is a much higher rate of rain runoff, leading to floods and landslides.

How can world governments cope with the 50 million refugees expected by 2010?

We need to start by deciding who they are and what their plight is. Some mechanisms are already in place. We are aware that climate change is a threat, and an intergovernmental panel on climate change is working on strategies and response. Similar mechanisms are needed for the victims of so-called creeping disasters, those displaced by land degradation.

How well is the world prepared to deal with the next calamity?

Scientific communities all over the world are working on strategies. But of course, scientific wisdom alone is not enough. It has to be followed up with forceful political decision and public-awareness campaigns."

Today's big story will be Cheney.

He knew who Valerie Plame was.

But he didn't know Joe Wilson.

No. I don’t know Joe Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. A question had arisen. I’d heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular...And Joe Wilson—I don’t know who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back.

And the other big story will be the death of our 2000th soldier,

Even though our side has lost almost 2200.

And we either won't or can't count the death on the other side.

All the while, Cancun is practically destroyed.

And the Earth is angry.

The earth is angry. Mankind persists in ignoring the messages.
The Age
October 24, 2005

The startling image of a man paddling through thousands of dead fish carpeting a Brazilian lake tells part of the story. So too does the onset of America's worst tropical storm season in decades and warnings that the Antarctic is being threatened by warming seas.

The Age recorded all three of these distant phenomena on one page last week. Each is a costly and life-threatening local environmental disaster. Yet these events are just fragments of a far bigger picture of gloom and despair awaiting a world that ignores the warnings that they carry. These are not obscure or isolated occurrences, but part of a mosaic of climate-related changes to the global condition.

The fish are dying in the Amazon basin because of drought that some scientists argue has been aggravated by deforestation. Links are also being made between more intense weather events - such as hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma - and climate change. Among the dozen hurricanes so far during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, a weak and little noted event named hurricane Vince earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first recorded tropical hurricane to make landfall in Europe.

But the most alarming revelations concern the rising temperatures being recorded in the Antarctic seas. Scientists with the British Antarctic Survey have concluded that sea temperatures are increasing so significantly that the unique fauna of the world's last great wilderness is in danger of succumbing to global warming. Air temperatures have risen by nearly 3 degrees Celsius over the past half century, while the sea ice cover has retreated by 20 per cent.

The Age finishes their editorial with this plea.

"It is tempting for individuals to shrug their shoulders and dismiss such problems as beyond their control. Certainly, governments must take the lead. But Australia has so far largely failed on this front, avoiding its moral and environmental responsibilities as a rich nation (and as the world's heaviest per capita producer of greenhouse gases) in not ratifying the Kyoto protocols. But every Australian can play a role through the individual decisions they make about consumption and energy use and, ultimately, even through their choice of government."

Yes it is tempting to dismiss these problems as beyond our control.

And, in all fairness,

they may be. But.

When do we start behaving as if our home is in peril?

If a fire is out of control,

You don't act like it doesn't exist.

You don't stand there frozen in your fear.

You do what you can,

to save lives,

to save your stuff,

to protect your family.

And we are an earthfamily.

Even as we are blinded by our nationalistic fogs,

And preened by the politics and pretentions of collective hubris,

in archaic mindforms that divide us from ourselves

and hide and frustrate our greater human potential.


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Monday, October 24, 2005

The Gorilla

Last week, I watched a film by Patrick Shen called Flight from Death, the Quest for Immortality. The documentary is narrated by Gabriel Byrne. This potentially downer of a film is based on the books and teachings of Ernest Becker.

Dr. Becker, a cultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary scientific thinker and writer, came to the realization that psychological inquiry inevitably comes to a dead end beyond which belief systems must be invoked to satisfy the human psyche.

Because of his breadth of vision and avoidance of social science pigeonholes, Becker was an academic outcast in the last decade of his life.

It was only with the award of the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his book, Denial of Death that his enormous contributions began to be recognized. This was about two months after his own death from cancer at the age of 49.

The second half of his magnum opus, Escape from Evil (1975) developed the social and cultural implications of the concepts explored in the earlier book and is an equally important and brilliant companion volume.

According to most existential psychoanalysts, our primary repression is not sexuality, but death. Although fear of death is necessary for self-preservation, it must be repressed for us to function with any degree of psychological comfort.

Over the past two decades a trio of experimental social psychologists has amassed a large body of empirical evidence substantiating the universal inflexible motive of death denial as advanced by Becker.

According to Becker, "everything that man does in his symbolic world is an attempt to deny and overcome his grotesque fate. He literally drives himself into a blind obliviousness with social games, psychological tricks, personal preoccupations so far removed from the reality of his situation that they are forms of madness."

I had to watch the movie several times. Mostly because I kept falling asleep.

What most impressed me is the body of empirical evidence that is substantiating Becker’s premise.

In one test, judges were unconsciously flashed fear of death signals. The judges who had their fear of death increased in this manner, handed out sentences that were twice as severe.

There seems to be a lot of evidence now that supports the notion that much of humankind’s despicable behavior can be linked to this repression of the fear of death. Much of our anger, much our hatred, much of our tribal natures, our ability to kill, our ability to behave terribly in groups, can be linked to the repressed fear of death.

The premise is fairly straightforward.

We all know we are going to die and so we repress it.

Most of us use our church, our work, sports, our children, fast cars, whatever we can think of, to try to manage it, ignore it, and/or of course repress it.

But, the Buddhist in you knows that if you look at death squarely and honestly, it can become an ally instead of an unconscious dragon.

Contemplating death gives us strength because it liberates our fear.

Shaman teach their initiates to keep death on their shoulder.

Some Buddhist keep a scull on their meditation table.

I have always called it the Gorilla.

He is there. In the bushes. Waiting. Peaking.

Somedays I see him dancing in the speckled light.

I’m too chicken to ask him to dance.

But I’m learning the movements.


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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Hurricane Alpha

This is from the Weather Underground blog of Dr. Jeff Masters

"Ever since the formation of two major hurricanes in July made it clear that the Hurricane Season of 2005 was going to challenge 1933 as the busiest season ever, I've been expecting to see the words "Tropical Storm Alpha" emblazoned on a hurricane tracking chart.

Well, we've got the record now.

The formation of Tropical Storm Alpha, the 22nd storm of the season, now makes 2005 the busiest hurricane season of all time. Still, it looks really strange to see the words "Tropical Storm Alpha" on the hurricane tracking charts, and gives a surreal cast to Hurricane Season of 2005 as we approach the Halloween season.

In keeping with the season, we have two very scary storms to talk about. The eye of very dangerous Category 2 Hurricane Wilma is moving offshore the Yucatan mainland this evening, a little earlier than I expected. This makes it more likely Wilma will be a bit stronger at landfall in Florida Monday--perhaps a strong Category 2 with 105 mph winds. We are not good at making intensity forecasts, and Wilma could easily be a Category stronger--or weaker.

The argument for a weaker hurricane goes like this: Wilma's inner eyewall has collapsed, leaving an outer eyewall with diameter 80 miles in place. When an inner eyewall collapses like that, it usually takes at least a day for the eyewall to reform, and by a day from now, Wilma will start experiencing increased wind shear which will weaken her down to a Category 1.

The argument for a stronger hurricane goes like this: Wilma still has a large, intact circulation, and is still a Category 2 hurricane. She will not follow the usual normals (since this is the Hurricane Season of 2005, after all), and will re-intensify quickly over the warm waters that nurtured her rise to Category 5 status this week.

By late Sunday, she will be a Category 3 hurricane again, and large enough and fast moving enough that the shear affecting her will be unable to significantly weaken her. Wilma will make landfall as a major hurricane on Florida's west coast.

So, both scenarios are plausible, and Florida must be prepared for the arrival of a major hurricane on Monday. Landfall anywhere between Sarasota and the Keys is possible. "

And here is a report from Liz in Cancun.

"We evacuated our home in Cancun yesterday and came 200 miles west to Merida. Our home sits about 100 feet away from the beach. The waves were crashing over our 6 foot tall sea wall yesterday before we left and destroyed the palapa that sits about 10 feet out in the water. We fully expect our home and all our belongings to be gone. We lost contact with all of our friends that stayed, cell and land lines are down of course as is power.

We just talked with a friend that says the power is out, phones only working when the generators are running to pump out all the water. He said the hotel is blowing apart (not in the hotel zone) and all you can see when looking outside is a wall of water blowing sideways and pieces of things being shredded by the high winds, some huge."

Cancun is getting pounded for 24 hours.

Isle Mujeres has received more than a yard of rain.

Because this hurricane season has gone through the alphabet,

we now start with Greek letters.

Tropical storm Alpha looks like it is going to go across Haiti

and then out to the Atlantic.

But, the first hurricane ever to form in the south Atlantic

was just last year.

It was the real alpha.

and harbinger of things

to come.


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Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Emocracy

This morning, I came across this press release from Carnegie Mellon University, thanks to One Good Move. It pretty much states the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs restating.

"The emotional responses that guide much of human behavior have a tremendous impact on public policy and international affairs, prompting government officials to make decisions in response to a crisis--such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks--with little regard to the long-term consequences, according to a study by scholars at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

The paper, which appears in the Chicago-Kent Law Review, was written by Jules Lobel, a Pitt professor of law, and George Loewenstein, professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon.

Intense emotions can undermine a person's capacity for rational decision-making, even when the individual is aware of the need to make careful decisions. With regard to public policy, when people are angry, afraid or in other elevated emotional states, they tend to favor symbolic, viscerally satisfying solutions to problems over more substantive, complex, but ultimately more effective policies.

Over the past 40 years, this has led the United States into two costly and controversial wars, in Vietnam and Iraq, when members of Congress gave the president broad powers in response to a perceived crisis that did not leave sufficient time for deliberation.

"War is the quintessential issue where immediate emotions and passions hold sway, often at the expense of an evaluation of long-term consequences," Lobel said.

This means that the situations that most require a careful, well-reasoned response are those in which our emotions are most likely to sabotage our long-term interests. America's founding fathers understood that passion could trump principle and therefore vested Congress, a deliberative body in which power is dispersed among dozens of members, with the power to make war, rather than with the president.

But that constitutional safeguard began to erode in the 20th century because of the sense of perpetual crisis that emerged during the Cold War and escalated as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The calamitous nature of those attacks gave Americans a distorted sense of the true risk of being killed in a terrorist attack--which is quite low--and policy makers responded with an expansion of federal law enforcement powers, cumbersome security measures and a new war that may ultimately be self-defeating.

"Human psychology hasn't changed much, but politicians and marketers have become ever more sophisticated when it comes to manipulating people by manipulating their emotions.

One of the functions of law should be to keep deliberative control in the picture, especially at times of high emotion when it is needed the most," Loewenstein said."

And emotions are beginning to run high as the special prosecutor opens his own web site.

To see how it is affecting the talking heads, go to Crooks and Liars and watch how nervous Dick Morris is,

and then watch David Gergen talk about the "wheels coming off".

While you are on the site, watch Gary Hart slam Hannity.

Speaking of emotions, Jon Stewart plays them well on the humor side.
Here is his take on the guys with the cameras.

And here is your favorite congressman getting booked.

There may be more before the week is up.

But keep your head.


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*André Masson

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sweet Bird of the Revolution

A Golden-fronted Woodpecker
slips his long black beak deep into
water from the yellow flower cup
of a cactus. Gently,
in air empty of clatter, he
stops for a drink,
an ordinary being all dressed up,
zebra coat, sweet faced bird,
soft eyes, earnest soul.

I have seen him,
hour after hour after hour,
bang his head against our telephone pole
banging, banging, tap, tap -
like me, bang, bang, tap, tap
bang, bang, tap, tap -
all day, all day, and the next,
and the next.

There must be nourishment in it,
or a place to nest, regenerate, set
a few eggs in a hole, sleep.
He is trying to collapse
the infrastructure. I
drill holes into the grid,
change the essence.
Our whole lives,
we work at it.

The utility will bring
another pole next week.
The letter carrier brought a card.
They'll be here Tuesday
sweet faced bird
with soft brown eyes.
You'll have to start again,
poke through bitter black pitch,
or find another home.

The aura of a migraine
scatters silver spots
across the way I see.
Today, your golden crown,
red hat full of rhythm,
grey shirt,
long beak, pointy claws
balance just so
above Mimosa bursts.

Soon we will return
to relentless banging.

Today, you bring me such quick
joy I almost stop wondering
if it's worth it.

©copyright, 2005, Susan Bright

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-fifty books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.


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* Huichole

"The Five Sacred Colors of Maize," by Guadalupe, widow of Ramon Medina Silva, after yarn painting by Ramon. Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

"The five saved colors of maize in the symbolic universe of the Huichols are white, yellow, red, blue and speckled, with blue the most sacred of all. These five colors are personified as the young maize goddesses, who together coalesce into the maize deity, Our Mother Dukurauku, but also manifest themselves as a single bundle of maize cobs in the five colors. The maize goddess herself appears as a wild dove, after whose distinctive call she is named."

(Art of the Huichol Indians, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. NY, 1979)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Nightmare Ends

If you haven't seen it, you have now.

The picture has been floating around for several days now.

The Picture is fake.

The story below is not.

Cheney 'cabal' hijacked foreign policy
By Edward Alden in Washington
The Financial Times
October 20 2005

Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.

In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

“Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”

Mr Wilkerson said his decision to go public had led to a personal falling out with Mr Powell, whom he served for 16 years at the Pentagon and the State Department.

“He's not happy with my speaking out because, and I admire this in him, he is the world's most loyal soldier."

Among his other charges:

■ The detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was “a concrete example” of the decision-making problem, with the president and other top officials in effect giving the green light to soldiers to abuse detainees. “You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you've condoned it.”

■ Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and now secretary of state, was “part of the problem”. Instead of ensuring that Mr Bush received the best possible advice, “she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president”.

■ The military, particularly the army and marine corps, is overstretched and demoralised. Officers, Mr Wilkerson claimed, “start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam. . . and all of a sudden your military begins to unravel”.

Mr Wilkerson said former president George H.W. Bush “one of the finest presidents we have ever had” understood how to make foreign policy work. In contrast, he said, his son was “not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either”.

And, just in case you missed it, this is a real story too.

White House Watch: Cheney resignation rumors fly
Posted 10/18/05
By Paul Bedard

Sparked by today's Washington Post story that suggests Vice President Cheney's office is involved in the Plame-CIA spy link investigation, government officials and advisers passed around rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"It's certainly an interesting but I still think highly doubtful scenario," said a Bush insider. "And if that should happen," added the official, "there will undoubtedly be those who believe the whole thing was orchestrated – another brilliant Machiavellian move by the VP."

Said another Bush associate of the rumor, "Yes. This is not good." The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn't get the job or run for president in 2008."

I remember Watergate.


We all knew that Nixon and his cronies were really bad guys.

What we didn't know was how bad.

Last night, when I heard about this resignation rumour,

I mentioned it to the attendant in the gym.

"Why would Cheney do that", he asked?

I took a breath and spoke really slowly.

Based on the Downing Street memo and all the other evidence,

it is clear that the Vice President and his cabal fixed the intelligence

around the desire to invade a sovereign country.

When a country invades a country that has not attacked that country,

it is against international law.

Those who lead their countries in violation of international law,

are war criminals.

The attendant just looked at me with that look I get.

He can handle it.

Can we?


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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Shining

Johnny stands outside the downtown dry cleaners with his little Ben Hogan hat on. He sees me, moves his head a little, and then he begins to walk inside. He knows he has a customer. He is lean and wrinkled and his skin is dark. He has been shining shoes in this triple seater for as long as I can remember.

Always good to see you, he says.

Always good to see you.

You come back now.

Always good to see you.

And so far, I always do.

Even on the hottest day in August, this dry cleaner shop on the main street of this capital city is not air-conditioned. If you want your shoes shined, you sit and read the paper, and you do it in the heat.

I always feel like I’m in the first act of a Tennessee Williams play. You can see the sidewalk traffic from your perch with impunity. They are outside, you are inside, they look at you, you look at them. The stained laundry glass window with the specials painted on it separates you just enough.

As Johnny is finishing up on my Blundstones, another customer mounts the shining stand. He is a lawyer. But he is not your standard smarty pants lawyer with a polished imitation soul, he is a real guy. We know each other casually and we are glad to bump in to each other.

He even occassionaly reads the blog, so that tells you something.

We visit for a moment.

Somehow we got started about General Motors and their negotiations with their work force. We talk about how the social contract with the workers is being broken. More and more, we are seeing large Corporations, be they airline companies or energy companies, either not honor or wish to change their contract with the people who have made their stockholders the profits, the bondholders their yields, and earned the executives their bonuses and football game viewing boxes.

So on this day, General Motors managed to carve out part of their obligations from their work force.

The first line of the NYT story reads

General Motors reached an agreement Monday it had long been pursuing with the United Auto Workers to reduce the company's mounting health care costs. GM, the nation's largest domestic automaker, also said it was considering selling its finance business to further reduce expenses and restructure itself.

The announcements came on the same day that GM said it lost $1.6 billion, or $2.89 a share, in the third quarter, even as sales increased by 5 percent, to $47.2 billion, because of deep discounting of cars and trucks in the summer months.

Somehow I could tell that even though this lawyer knew that GM had to do this to survive, he found it disgusting.

That gave me an opening. Besides, I figure that anyone who voluntarily reads this blog is more than likely willing to at least listen to a mini lecture while on a shoe shine stand in an un-airconditioned cleaners on the main street of an reasonably old southern capital of a demonstrably powerful state.

I opened up.

"One of these days, we are going to measure the success of our economy by how low the employment rate is," I said. "We will measure our success by how few of us are working." Full employment in an advanced civilization is the equivalent of hay in a parking garage. It’s just not needed anymore.

"100 years ago", I said, "most of us were farmers, the rest of us helped build things, and there were a few merchants and soldiers." With today's machinery, we only need one percent of us to feed everyone. We need less than that for construction. So, there's our food and our shelter with just over one percent of us working. Robots and computers could do almost everything else. That presumes of course that we have the energy.

And that of course is all around us."

By now, I could see he was at least politely going with me.

“Yes”, he said, “I wonder how many of us earn our livings by simply transferring wealth?”

“And what about real estate agents”, I chimed in.

And we went on.

Not willing to lose the moment, I took it further.

"Little did the Capitalist know that when they won the cold war against the Communist, that as they witnessed the disintegration of half of the world’s economic philosophy, that the other half, our half, would follow them in just a few short decades.

"We may have won the Cold War, but our system is as bankrupt as the system of the partner adversaries that we helped bankrupt."

Johnny was finished with both of us by now.We dismounted from our elevated perch and walked onto the street of one of the most creative, artistic cities perhaps anywhere.

As we walked down the wide, well constructed sidewalk, I reminded him of what Thomas Jefferson said, “we are farmers and revolutionaries, so that our children may be lawyers and doctors, so that their children may be philosophers and teachers, and their children may be musicians and artists.”

I told him that work is what we just did. We talked deeply, honestly, in the moment, and we exchanged our best with one another in a spirit of compassion and understanding.

We parted.

"Always good to see you."

"Always good to see you too."

I cannot find the Jefferson quote.

Sometimes I just make stuff up.


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Oz note...The Jefferson quote is derived from a shorter John Adams quote.
Comments are working again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Enchantment and Angels

Over the past years, I have continually talked about the development of new age materials that can convert the surrounding light into usable energy. I have used the word "power paint" because 20 years ago, we used to talk about the day when this brand new science of nanotechnology would surely lead us to such photon/electron materials. Perhaps it was Drexler who first used it. I don't think it was Smalley. But, it might have been Duncan.

Somebody made up the term. That was the easy part. (sort of) But the development of a real power paint, which was in some sense guarenteed to become a reality, was still a long way off for a variety of reasons.

Then, perhaps two years ago, I walked into the office of my boss, and said,

Guess What?

Somebody is actually developing power paint. The story I had read was the power paint story from Canada. Until that time, I had not actually seen the words used in conjunction with solar photovoltaic devices.

There have been a lot of stories since, but this weekend, I saw this story from the Land of Enchantment.

NMSU/Wake Forest solar breakthrough
will help spur viability of alternative energy

SANTA FE -- Imagine being able to “paint” your roof with enough alternative energy to heat and cool your home. What if soldiers in the field could carry an energy source in a roll of plastic wrap in their backpacks?

Those ideas sound like science fiction, particularly in the wake of the rising costs of fossil fuel.

But both are on the way to becoming reality because of a breakthrough in solar research by a team of scientists from New Mexico State University and Wake Forest University.

While traditional solar panels are made of silicon, which is expensive, brittle and shatters like glass, organic solar cells being developed by this team are made of plastic that is relatively inexpensive, flexible, can be wrapped around structures or even applied like paint, said physicist Seamus Curran, head of the nanotechnology laboratory at NMSU.

Nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing, refers to the ability to build things one atom at a time.

The relatively low energy efficiency levels produced by organic solar cells have been a drawback. To be effective producers of energy, they must be able to convert 10 percent of the energy in sunlight to electricity. Typical silicon panels are about 12 percent energy conversion efficient.

That level of energy conversion has been a difficult reach for researchers on organic solar technology, with many of them hitting about 3 to 4 percent. But the NMSU/Wake Forest team has achieved a solar energy efficiency level of 5.2 percent.

Conventional thinking has been that that landmark was at least a decade away. With this group’s research, it may be only four or five years before plastic solar cells are a reality for consumers, Curran added.

The importance of the breakthrough cannot be underestimated, Curran said. A cheap, flexible plastic made of a polymer blend would revolutionize the solar market.

New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary Rick Homans added, “This breakthrough pushes the state of New Mexico further ahead in the development of usable solar energy, a vital national resource. It combines two of the important clusters on which the state is focused: renewable energy and micro nano systems, and underlines the strong research base of our state universities.

And towards the end of last week, I came across this story from the City of Angels.

UCLA Makes Thin-Film Polymer Solar Progress
October 13, 2005
Los Angeles

Using solar cell made out of everyday plastics could promise to be a more affordable way to harness the sun's rays, say researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

In research published in Nature Materials magazine, UCLA engineering professor Yang Yang, postdoctoral researcher Gang Li and graduate student Vishal Shrotriya showcase their work on a new plastic (or polymer) solar cell they hope to produce at 10 to 20 percent of the current cost of traditional cells, thus making the technology more widely available.

Made of a single layer of plastic sandwiched between two conductive electrodes, UCLA's solar cell is easy to mass-produce and costs much less to make. The polymers used in its construction are commercially available in such large quantities that Yang hopes cost-conscious consumers worldwide will quickly adopt the technology.

According to Yang, the 4.4 percent efficiency achieved by UCLA is the highest number yet published for plastic solar cells (Ed. note: It should be mentioned that recent achievements above the 5 percent mark were announced this week from a team of researchers from New Mexico State University and Wake Forest University)

"We hope that ultimately solar energy can be extensively used in the commercial sector as well as the private sector. Imagine solar cells installed in cars to absorb solar energy to replace the traditional use of diesel and gas. People will vie to park their cars on the top level of parking garages so their cars can be charged under sunlight. "

Yes, Imagine.

Imagine a solar nano power paint race between the great labs

of the world,

instead of a nuclear arms race,

instead of a race to the bottom for the last glops of oil.

Imagine all structure, that sees light, painted with this material.

Imagine these materials, in reverse, emitting soft light from your ceiling,

or your walls, or the highway, or your clothes, or your car interior.

Imagine these materials in the floors, in the fabric of your couch

tuned to absorb the heat out of a room, and off of your body,

all the while converting that heat to usable energy for your plasma screen.

Imagine a world without oil.

Without Dick Cheney.






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