We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Valentine covers the involvement of US secret government agencies and criminal organizations, while government agencies looked the other way, in the transport of illicit drugs. Unfortunately, he plays it safe by focusing on this history from 50 plus years ago.
If you need to know more recent history, and you should as a good activist and informed person, then you need an update of your government's secret agencies involvement in the drug trade from the 1990s when Gladio B went into operation. The best source of this information is from the courageous whistle-blower and former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds.
You can get a good idea of the more recent history of these operations by reading her latest piece of political fiction entitled The Lone Gladio, or by listening especially to her accounts in Part 3 and Part 4 in her series of interviews on Gladio B that she did with James Corbett last year and/or reading the transcripts of these interviews here and here.
In spite of the veneer of "niceness" that today's capitalists show to some of their select workers, Levine argues that it is okay to hate not only capitalism but capitalists.
...the hipster capitalists who make capitalism look cuddly and nice are up to the same tricks.
How ironic that, in an age of growing inequality and immiseration, brought on by the logic of capitalist development and exacerbated by neoliberal austerity policies – and at a time when the exigencies of keeping the capitalist system afloat include irreversible environmental damage and perpetual war — that high minded cultural sensibilities and causes would function to obscure awareness of the continuing – indeed, increasing – evils of the capitalist system!
I'm posting this because I think that there are still some activists out there who think that elections in the US really matter, except perhaps to slow the descent into outright fascism.
For the vast majority of people, there never seems to be enough money. From paying off student loans to affording a place to live, and eat, money can be tight. For very few however, having money and keeping it is not a problem. These super rich individuals have an incredible number of loop-holes they use to keep their money from being taxed. While the majority of people pay full taxes, these super rich get away with astonishingly low taxes. How do they do it? Lets find out.
The seats, which include four hundred and thirty-five in the House of Representatives and thirty-six in the Senate, have attracted buyers from a broad spectrum of industries, including investment banking, energy, pharmaceutical, and gun.This article is listed as satire, but is it really? The Center for Responsive Politics have projected the total campaign contributions for these seats in the recent election to be $3.67 billion--that's rather close to this piece's "satire". According to Google's definition:
sat·ire: noun - the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Friday, November 7, 2014
Although the legacy of the Soviet Union has engendered mistrust on both sides of the Azerbaijan-Russia relationship, the reality of global politics is bringing the two closer together than they have been at any point since the collapse of the USSR. Undoubtedly, the increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming from the West in regards to Azerbaijan is a driving factor in the burgeoning relationship between Baku and Moscow. Additionally, the continued sanctions war waged by the West against Russia has opened a window of opportunity that Baku is quickly seizing.In Part 2 Draitser examines recent trends in Azerbaijan and hostile rhetoric coming from Empire figures and thinks that they could have major impacts on the Empire's anti-Russian economic and subversive campaigns as well as the whole thrust of the Brzezinski inspired policies to control Eurasia. Once again, we see the Empire's use of NGOs as a major weapon in this region.
(Note: If you want the details on how the Empire uses NGOs as soft power, you won't find a more colorful description of their operations than what FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds provided in an interview with James Corbett early last year. Specifically, the section of the interview where she provides these details is from 45:23 to 67:10 minutes which you can access either through the transcript or the video or both.)
The disappearance of the students has mobilized and brought together diverse local groups from all social strata and regions of Mexican society. Committees of support have been set up in the most remote corners of Mexico, the Zapatistas have held a silent march in Chiapas and famous Mexican actors have declared their solidarity. However, the heart of the movement is located in Iguala, in the Asamblea Nacional Popular (ANP) headed by the parents and schoolmates of the disappeared students.
We activists in the center of the US Empire need to be acquainted with people in countries targeted by Empire directors as the "Axis of Evil". Iran has long been at the top of this shit-list because Iranians had the audacity to throw out one of the Empire's appointed dictators after installing him in another of their many subversive projects all over the world. After recently returning from another visit to Iran, the author is left with this general impression of Iranians:
This is a far superior country than the one I left behind as a child and visited throughout the years. Iran’s guardians, its keepers, are all Kazems [a man of character she describes earlier]. It has been said that the strength of an army is the support of the people behind it. The whole country is that army. As Khalil Gibran rightly observed: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” With every wrong policy, America adds to the scars, strengthens the character and spirit of this unbreakable nation. This is what Washington is not able to grasp.The Cubans, the Iranians, the eastern Ukrainians, and now the Syrians are all an inspiration to US activists who sometimes get discouraged by the many defeats experienced while fighting in the belly of the (Empire's) beast.
Much of the recent focus has been on the surge of land grabbing that has taken place since the global food crisis in 2007. But there is also another less known wave of grabbing which is taking place on two-thirds of this planet – our oceans. And like the global land grab, this ocean and river grab has an equally devastating impact for the well-being of millions of small-scale food producers, particularly fisher people and fishing communities.
A recent report by the Transnational Institute, Masifundise and Afrika Kontakt on Ocean Grabbing shows how the rise of market-based fishing policies that favour large-scale aqua-industries is systematically dispossessing fishers of the means to livelihood.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Swanson accurately describes the great political divide in American "democracy", but can't decide which is worse. That's what the recent election and capitalist democracy is all about: giving people choices. Of course, these political positions have been carefully engineered by the propaganda apparatus of the ruling capitalist class in order to hide their New World Order agenda.
From all of the reports from the One Percent's media, one would think that Bill Gates was the savior of the world's poor and downtrodden. Ruccio summarizes a report from Grain to show where Gate's money is really going. Another good summary is at The Guardian. Mainstream media, which is controlled by the One Percent, love to portray our rich masters as generous and caring toward the suffering masses in the Ninety-Nine Percent.
Ruccio uses this example to focus on the real significance of concentrated wealth under a capitalist system: it provides individual "winners" of the capitalist game the power to unilaterally make important decisions affecting entire societies. This power plays out in every sector of societies under capitalism--not just in philanthropy. The irony is that capitalist propaganda and indoctrination organs hide this reality behind rhetoric about the democratic nature of a "free-market" economy. (For some reason, they don't like to use the word "capitalism".)
Many of my well-intentioned students are in awe of Bill Gates. He’s a rich guy, a successful businessman, who is giving away a large portion of his income to help solve the world’s economic and social problems through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. What could be more admirable?
I do remind them that it’s Gates alone who gets to decide what the problems are, what the solutions are, and how those solutions will be enacted. We’ve seen that already in the area of education reform. The rest of us have no say in the matter.
Pozzati provides hard evidence to support the headline about declining internet hits on major German websites.
What's going on in the German media is huge. It is one of the most popular subjects on our site. The US and UK media have been hugely biased in their coverage of Russia, but German media has been far, far, worse, to the point which strains credulity.
Now it turns out that part of the reason is CIA fiddling with German media outlets. Coming on the heels of the Snowden revelations, this has Germans seriously ticked-off.
Washington state's Mike Whitney warns us about another debt bubble--this time, it is about auto securities (last time, mortgage securities).
Soaring auto sales are not so much a sign of a strong economy as they are an indication of financial hanky-panky. We saw this same type of fakery play out in housing between 2004 – 2006, when prices went through the roof due to a mortgage-lending scam (“subprime”) that crashed the stock market and sent the economy reeling. Now the bigtime money guys are at it again, writing up auto loans for anyone who can sit upright in a chair and scribble an “X” on the dotted line. .... The finance gurus are packaging these sketchy subprimes into bonds, offloading them on eager investors, and recycling the profits into more crappy loans. It’s a perfect circle and it won’t end until the loans start blowing up, jittery investors head for the exits, and Uncle Sugar rides to the rescue with more bailouts.Blowing, and blowing-up, investment bubbles is what advanced capitalists are left with after hoarding so much wealth at the expense of the planet's ecosystems and working people everywhere. I suspect that much of the recent free money (debt money) issued under the Fed's QE program has been inflating this bubble.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
This aging super-sleuth of deep state machinations has contributed so much to the project of digging up the criminal activities of our masters in the One Percent during the post WWII period. Immediately after this devastating war, the US nation and its ruling class reigned supreme in the world. Their power was based on an intact industrial structure, vast resources at its command, and many military bases in foreign lands. Scott, with his long years serving both the Canadian government and academia at UC-Berkeley, has been thoroughly immersed in the capitalist liberal indoctrination which portrayed the US as some kind of utopian democracy, land of opportunity, and a refuge for the world's oppressed peoples.
On the other hand while thoroughly indoctrinated, Scott is also a very honest, moral, and intelligent person who has had considerable difficulties in reconciling the tenets of this liberal indoctrination with the actual deeds of the US. Here in this essay we find an attempt to explain this contradiction between capitalist dogma about "democracy" and the dark realities as manifested since 1963. However, he ignores the extensive history of class conflict, the growing power of the ruling capitalist class, and the development of the secret security state prior to this period. Instead he frames this post-1963 period as essentially the good guys of open government versus the bad guys of Empire builders who have used un-American methods of stealth and violence to accomplish their project of building an Empire. In his own words:
I believe that a significant shift in the relationship between public and deep state power occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, culminating in the Reagan Revolution of 1980. In this period five presidents sought to curtail the powers of the deep state. And as we shall see, the political careers of all five—Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter—were cut off in ways that were unusual. One president, Kennedy, was assassinated. Another, Nixon, was forced to resign.So, why is this relevant? Why am I even wasting time on this? These questions were going through my head this morning. My answer is that there are so many Americans, who are beginning to become aware that there is something like a "deep state", and are concerned about the never-ending wars, deteriorating quality of life in the US, impending climate destabilization, etc, but remain confused by liberal propaganda which is preventing them from taking effective actions to turn this state of affairs around. Many--not only liberals--wish and think that we can return to this earlier idyllic period.
To some extent the interplay of these two forms of power and political organization is found in all societies. The two were defined by Hannah Arendt in the 1960s as “persuasion through arguments” versus “coercion by force.” .... The two represent not just different techniques of government but different cultures and mindsets, in fundamental tension with each other.
This tension increases, and predictably tips toward violence, if a well-organized open community expands beyond its own borders and is increasingly occupied with the business of supervising an empire. It is repeatedly the case that progressive societies (like America) expand. As their influence expands, their democratic institutions, based at bottom upon persuasive power among equals, are supplemented by new, often secret, institutions of top-down violent power for the control of alien populations abroad, often speaking different and unfamiliar languages. The more the society expands, the more these institutions of violent power encroach upon and supplant the original democracy.
Until people recognize capitalism for what it is, no effective action can be taken. The dynamics of this system is very much like a virulent cancer, which can only grow (metastasize) or die. People must understand how this system has enabled a small class of private "owners" of economies, which are quintessentially social artifacts, to take nearly absolute control of all our lives. We are now only witnessing the end-game of their rule.
The protagonists of the system, the ruling capitalist classes, are on a rampage to accumulate more wealth and power regardless of the effects on the vast majority of humans. They are now threatening the very existence of the human race either through nuclear wars or catastrophic climate destabilization. To idealize some mythical past is to cast a fog over the realities of such a deadly system.
Where is your nearest FEMA camp? An NBC news crew may have stumbled across one in upper state New York…Americans, by and large, remain oblivious to their New World Order and its police state. After all, only bad guys would be affected. The rest of us good guys will continue on obeying orders, producing for our masters, and minding our own business. Warning about the content: If you are one of the latter people, you might find this piece disturbing.
Executive Directive 51 was signed by George W. Bush in 2007, which gives the US Federal gov’t the power to declare impose martial law in the event a ‘national emergency’, giving the White House and Homeland Security (DHS) the ability to detain millions of Americans on US soil under Rex 84 and other military programs previously planned and run as inter-agency exercise drills.
This interview is for younger Americans who have no idea what happened in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. This ignorance is no accident because our masters in the One Percent do not want people to know about the dangerous (to them) ideas and practices that emerged during this period in Spain, and because of their embarrassment about the history of all the major capitalist countries of that time in relation to this war: US, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.
I listened to most of this recording and found that Hochschild's understanding of this war corresponds with my own. There were only a few indications of a liberal bias in the form of references to the "democratic" countries. Both Hochschild and the interviewer, C.S. Soong, made such references to the capitalist fake version of democracy found in US, Britain, and France. Like all liberals, both regard this version of democracy as in a different category from fascism when in reality the latter is simply capitalist class rule without the soft gloves of their fake democratic forms.
The great significance of this event was clearly the revolutionary ideas and practices that the anarchists and other leftists put in practice in this brief period in Spain. They were fundamentally at odds with the entire history of class rule that has plagued societies since the beginning of civilization. Obviously, the directors of capitalist countries, whether fascist or pseudo-democratic, could not let this exist. Meanwhile Russian policies toward Spain, under Stalin's leadership and narrow nationalist perspective, was only looking out for Russian security in the face of the growing fascist threat.
After listening to this, I recommend that you continue your studies of this event by reading George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.
The Polemicist provides us with a great joke to lighten our cares as we go about surviving another day under capitalism. Here is the opening paragraph:
On the way home from his successful fund-raising meeting, a powerful US Senator, drives his car into a tree and dies. His soul arrives at the Pearly Gates, and is met by St. Peter.
This is an antidote for all of you people suffering from the incessant anti-Russian propaganda vomited by mainstream media which, of course, is under the control of our masters in the One Percent. It seems that Putin and his Russian dogs are interfering with the activities of our masters in Europe. How dare they!
Once again, for the thirtieth time in as many weeks, our world community braces in breathless expectation, standing by for the imminent cataclysm of all-out Russian blitzkrieg that great prophetic geopolitical analysts such as the late Ronald Reagan and Tom Clancy perpetually warned us about. Failing that, experts agree that the world hyperbole community is groaning under the spectral menace of a neo-Tsarist domination poised to gobble up Eastern Europe piecemeal like a compulsive gobble-guts running amok in the ice-cream section of a supermarket.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
...Facebook has been reticent to discuss its product experiments and their impact on voting. After all, most of its users have no idea that the company is constantly manipulating what they see on their feeds. In June, when a team of academics and Facebook data scientists revealed that they had randomly altered the emotional content of the feeds of 700,000 users, the company was met with global outrage and protest. The actual impact of this research into "emotional contagion" was tiny; the data showed that a user would post four more negative words per 10,000 written after one positive post was removed from his or her feed. Still, people were enraged that Facebook would tamper with the news feed in order to affect the emotions of its users. (The lead academic researcher on that study, Jeff Hancock, needed police protection.)The title of this article rather trivializes the full significance of ruling class attempts to engineer our perceptions and behaviors. The main issue is not about Facebook's attempt to affect voting or an issue of Democrats versus Republicans. Someone who is fully aware of its significance is Assistant Professor Zeynep Tufekci who has studied the history of the engineering of consent and pointed to Facebook's manipulation of the vote as indicating the future direction of this type of manipulation of the public. She first brought this to the attention of academics in her scholarly paper entitled "Engineering the public: Big data, surveillance and computational politics". To address these wider concerns to the global internet audience, in July she published an article entitled "Facebook and Engineering the Public" which I urge you to read.
This nefarious development using the internet is only at the beginning stages, with much more dangerous attempts coming in the future to manage the minds of the Ninety-Nine Percent. The internet, more specifically the world wide web, is a mixed bag. It can be used as a marvelous tool to enlighten the Ninety-Nine Percent or it can be used to manipulate them. You can be sure that our masters in the One Percent will make every attempt to use it for the latter purpose. Thus, it is mandatory for all activists to be aware of this threat.
On a related manner, read how the FBI fakes news events on the internet in their operations in this recent article entitled "FBI created fake Seattle Times Web page to nab bomb-threat suspect".
Chomsky provides an overview of Empire sponsored terrorism during the past 50 years or so starting with the Bay of Pigs invasion.
But if you want more details on these secret criminal activities involving both terrorism and drug running dating from the 1990s, through 9/11, up until recent years, you must listen to the 2013 recorded interviews entitled "Sibel Edmonds on Gladio B". These interviews were conducted by James Corbett in which whistle-blower and former FBI translator, Sibel Edmonds, provides us with a treasure trove of information that you likely will not find anywhere else. For some reason, probably because the length of the interviews, I was terribly remiss in not posting the interviews at the time they were posted in early 2013.
The interviews are rather lengthy at one hour plus and consist of six segments. Because she speaks rapidly and with a Turkish accent, I highly recommend that you open each video segment along with the transcription website and follow along simultaneously. So far I have listened to the first three segments.
The first posting contain both the video interview and the transcript. After that I recommend that you access all the videos (and more) here. The associated transcripts can be accessed here: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.
11/04/2014 Update: I've just finished Part 4. Even to an old, informed cynic like me, this stuff is mind boggling!
Wirt writes a brilliant poem in the style of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky poem found in Through the Looking-Glass to take many jabs at the operations of the US Empire. To make clear what his words refer to, he references them to recent articles.
Monday, November 3, 2014
Petras provides this introduction to his essay in a PDF format.
The principal reason why Washington engages in military wars, sanctions and clandestine operations to secure power abroad is because its chosen clients cannot and do not win free and open elections.
A brief survey of recent election outcomes testify to the electoral unattractiveness of Washington backed clients. The majority of democratic electorates rejects candidates and parties which back the US global agenda: neo-liberal economic policies; a highly militarized foreign policy; Israeli colonization and annexation of Palestine; the concentration of wealth in the financial sector; the military escalation against China and Russia. While the US policy attempts to re-impose the pillage and dominance of the 1990’s via recycled client regimes the democratic electorates want to move on toward less bellicose, more inclusive governments, which restore labor and welfare rights.The core reality which I think escapes the professor is that this compulsion to world dominance is an inherent characteristic of advanced capitalist societies. The earlier stages of capitalist development required elements of social democracy and democratic forms in order to preserve their legitimacy; however in this advanced stage which all capitalist countries strive to achieve, they find such liberal features to be a hindrance to their quest for control on a global scale of all resources and labor which their system of exploitation ultimately requires. Social democracy and elements of democracy such as elections and representative governments have always been only a temporary expedient to capitalist rulers.
In the drive for world power, no crime is left undone; no democracy that opposes it is
tolerated. Countries as small and marginal as Honduran or Somalia or as great and powerful as Russia and China cannot escape the wrath and covert destabilization efforts of the White House.
The quest for world domination is driven by the subjective belief in the “triumph of theThis last sentence gives his position away. By reference to Nazi Germany and their propaganda about the “triumph of the will”, he is suggesting that the current Fourth Reich's quest for dominance is merely another historical aberration. I don't think that Petras realizes that the capitalist drive for world domination is its ultimate destiny.
We have a rare privilege to listen to Pepe Escobar, the Brazilian geopolitical analyst extraordinaire, interview and discuss issues related to Daʿish, or ISIS, with Thierry Meyssan, a French geopolitical analyst living in Damascus. The interview was broadcast on Al Nasr TV, an Iraqi station. Escobar begins the interview with this introduction:
Thierry, you live in Damascus which is the eye of the hurricane. So break it down as shortly as you can, the relationship between Daʿish, Gulf financing--where does it come from--and the eventual Israeli meddling in all this picture.
With my old ears, I was unable to hear everything in this discussion, but I don't think that Meyssan said much about the Israeli role, except briefly mentioning their support of the Kurds. I did get Meyssan's informed opinion that the term "moderate rebels, or "Free Syrian Army" were public relations terms used by the Empire's media to obscure their creation and sponsorship of the terrorist army of Daʿish.
Two disillusioned men with roots in Communist countries, one a former dissident from the Czech Republic, Milan Kohout, and the other a Russian born citizen who immigrated to the US at a young age, probably with his parents, get together at a village in western Czech Republic to discuss their disappointments. It's clear that they both embraced American culture initially, but came away profoundly in opposition to it. I think that in this interview they are trying to understand what happened with themselves and many other dissidents from all the "Communist" countries. I don't think they really found the answer. So, permit me to offer my own opinion.
I think that the main reason that "really existing socialism" failed in the 20th century was because it was informed by a vanguard political orientation. Although a politically conscious revolutionary organization may be necessary to get the ball rolling toward a revolution, such an orientation never ceased after their revolutions. After overturning the old ruling class, people in the "vanguard" regarded themselves as having a superior political consciousness, and entitled by their revolutionary service to assume leadership which easily evolved into a ruling class. When genuine as well as capitalist inspired opposition began to appear, they resorted to police-state tactics to suppress opposition. Obviously subversive actions from Western capitalist countries was always a threat, but the Communist suppression of genuine dissent among their own populations had a reactionary effect.
I think the lessons for a future revolution against capitalist rule are clear. Only a rock solid anchoring of power within the grass-roots of society has any chance of taking down capitalist rule and enduring over time. The secret of capitalism's endurance, in spite of a horrendous record, has been the overwhelming capitalist control of ideological institutions--media, education, and entertainment. Hence, an enduring people centered system, one grounded in the grassroots of society, must emphasize control of such institutions from the very beginning.
This British expatriate living in Barcelona finds a lot of resistance in not only Europe, but in important nations all over the world, to a key provision of the free-trade pact that is presently under discussion.
In Europe, opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty is rising. The primary cause of concern, both among the general public and certain national governments, is the proposed inclusion of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).ISDS contains the key neoliberal clause which the author describes as a...
...rather innocuous-sounding provision is what gives the new generation of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements their sharpened claws and canine teeth, by allowing private companies and investors to sue entire nations if they feel that a law lost them money on an investment.
Only a private profit driven system would be recklessly gambling with our lives. Only those addicted to power and profits as "owners" of our economy would be capable of consistently lying about doing so. More and more people like J. Edgar Murdoch are waking up as evidenced by his comment following the article:
I went to a presentation on GMO's in British Columbia during the summer & Dr. Vrain was the featured presenter. Very knowledgeable, very credible, very poignant & not at all optimistic regarding the perpetuity of mankind without an enormous rebellion by the world's population.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
I first learned of this report while watching a TV news broadcast early this morning on ABC (American Broadcasting Co.). The talking head casually read off a brief summary of the latest IPCC report issued by the United Nations following a conference of scientists associated with this body who have been meeting in Copenhagen. It was like he was reading the daily weather report.
It's clear to me that our masters in the One Percent have no intention of meeting the threat of climate destabilization. To do that they would have to give up the system that delivers them the opiates which make them high--power and wealth. Whether there are sufficient numbers of the Ninety-Nine Percent who are aware of the threat and who want to save human habitat for their children and grandchildren is anybody's guess. In any case, time is rapidly running out.
It is hard to be optimistic about the chances of success given the views of various spokesmen prevalent in the center of the Empire. As I see it, there are four main positions. First, there are the corporate sponsored representatives in Congress who still are mostly in denial:
Second, there are the more liberal opinion leaders who mouth their concerns about climate change, but play it safe by advocating reforms such as more green energy, conservation, and carbon trading schemes.
Third, there are corporate representatives that claim that we can have climate stabilization, a growth economy, profits, and jobs. These are the hardcore addicts of the capitalist system. From the Carbon War Room website:
Then there are the rest of us in the Ninety-Nine Percent who range across this spectrum and even further. We are divided, confused, and more focused on the immediate concerns of finding a job, or fear of losing the existing one, paying bills, paying off our loans, etc.
The BBC has nothing over the US corporate networks or the government's PBS. This trend of rather overt, manufactured propaganda has been accelerating since 9/11. It smacks of desperation, and it doesn't bode well for our future.
The BBC incessantly peddles Anglo-American propaganda under the auspices of objective and impartial reporting, distorting the truth of numerous conflicts and world news stories for the benefit of the Western elite. Independent media is the only antidote to this monolithic propaganda network, and boycotting the broadcaster is the only way to be free from BBC bias. [my emphasis]