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Showing posts from 2015

Pentagon thwarts Obama's pledge to close Gitmo

There appear no bounds to how the Pentagon goes "about its business".    As Reuters reports, whilst Obama has stated that he wants to close Guantánamo, the Pentagon is actively thwarting that.

"President Obama's repeated pledges to close the Guantánamo Bay detention center have been routinely and deliberately undermined by his own Department of Defense, according to a damning new investigation published on Monday.

Citing numerous administration officials, Reuters exposed a "pattern" of bureaucratic obstacles imposed by the U.S. Pentagon which have successfully thwarted efforts to transfer cleared detainees from the notorious offshore prison.

"Pentagon officials have refused to provide photographs, complete medical records and other basic documentation to foreign governments willing to take detainees, administration officials said," according to the Reuters excluive. "They have made it increasingly difficult for foreign delegations to visit Guan…

A plea not to be ignored

The message is loud and clear....

"The father of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey—the powerful photo of which captured the human tragedy of the refugee crisis—will deliver a Christmas message in which he urges the world to have sympathy for those fleeing the ravages of war.

Abdullah Kurdi, who, in addition to losing three-year-old Alan, also lost his wife, Rehanna and five-year-old son Ghalib when the boat bound for Greece they were on capsized, will deliver the remarks in this year's alternative Christmas message on the UK's Channel 4. An excerpt of the message and transcript have already been released.

"We Syrians leave our country due to war. We all are afraid for our children, for our honor," Kurdi says."


"The war in Syrian has already uprooted more than 4 million people, and the International Organization for Migrations said this week that the number of fatalities of refugees or migrants just off Gr…

Tech literacy....and the lack of it

Like it or not, in this age tech literacy is a must.....but sadly in many areas of public life - be it politicians or public servants - it is sadly lacking, and in many situations, with bad outcomes.

"Silicon Valley luminaries are easily mocked as having a precious, narrow take on the world. People in the tech industry can’t see past themselves, critics often charge; they act as if the products they build sit at the center of everything.

But this year, the techies were right: Technology did rule many issues in 2015. And not only did tech dominate the news, it often moved too quickly for politicians, regulators, law enforcement officials and the media to understand its implications. This year we began to see the creaking evidence of our collective ignorance about the digital age."


"First, to understand the problem, consider the year’s headlines. From terrorism to protests over police abuse, from the scandal at Volkswagen to global tensions over energy and the climate, …

The plight of refugees...continuing into 2016

If there is one topic which dominated the news in 2015, it was probably refugees, in their thousands upon thousands, seen fleeing the Middle East and seeking haven in Europe.    Sad to say, 2016 isn't shaping up to be a better year for those who continue to still be fleeing persecution

"The number of people forced to flee war is expected to far surpass 60 million in 2015, the United Nations said on Friday, warning that violence around the globe is likely to push a record number of asylum seekers even higher in the coming year.

At least five million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in the first half of the year, adding to the 59.5 million displaced people the United Nations refugee agency had recorded by the end of 2014. One in every 122 humans today is someone who has been forced to flee from home, the agency said.

Most of the people on the move in 2015 were displaced within their own country, but as many 839,000 people fled across international borders in the f…

Religious faith at a high cost

No one ever said that following a religion is necessarily easy....but as one reviews the world around  us we are confronted by religious intolerance - and even persecution - on a grand scale.   And Governments, and people in general, closing a blind to it.    

"As we celebrate the holidays, let’s remember that this is one of those savage epochs when some families must choose between their faith and their lives. It is an echo of when Nero burned Christians alive, or when self-described Christians unleashed pogroms against Jews.

Partly because of allergies about religion, the international response has been utterly ineffective. Liberals are sometimes reluctant to champion Christians who are persecuted for their faith. And conservatives are too quick to champion only Christians, neglecting other religious minorities — such as the Yazidis — who suffer even worse fates. One result of this “God gulf” is that the Western response to atrocities against religious oppression is patheticall…

GOP poll: Yeah, let's just bomb a country which doesn't exist

Absurd!   Appalling!   Ridiculous and plain dumb!....and a reflection on the calibre of GOP members, and Americans in general.

"A poll on Friday by Public Policy Polling perfectly encapsulates the Republican presidential race so far: “30% of Republican primary voters nationally say they support bombing Agrabah.” That would be the fictional country in Aladdin.

Republican voters, urged on by the Republican candidates, are now eager to bomb anywhere that has a Muslim-sounding name regardless of whether it comes from a cartoon. While the poll itself may be amusing, it’s not exactly surprising given the cartoonish levels of tough-guy militarism that spews from the mouth of every Republican candidate as they try to one-up each other on who would start more wars harder and quicker.

Ted Cruz has spent the past two weeks calling for a “carpet bombing” of the Middle East in an attempt to destroy Isis, saying he wants to see if “sand can glow in the dark”. He defended this call on national tel…

America's ongoing disgraceful legacy from using Agent Orange in Vietnam

One might have hoped that the country that is forever lecturing other countries about human values, decency, the rule of law and democracy - looking at you the USA - would not only not have used Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, but at the very least jumped to the fore to materially assist those affected by the chemical.   truthdigreports.....

Tran Thi Le Huyen, 23, in a wheelchair at her family home in Danang, Vietnam, in 2007. Her family once lived near the highly contaminated Danang Airbase; her father was a driver for the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government during the war
"The war in Vietnam resulted in the deaths of more than 58,000 Americans and more than 3 million Vietnamese. Twenty years ago, the United States and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations in an effort to put the terrible legacy of the war behind them. But for the survivors—both Vietnamese and American—the war continues. About 5 million Vietnamese and many U.S. and allied soldiers were exposed to the toxic …

Lots of talk.....and missing the point

This editorial in The New York Times says it all pitch-perfect......
"It was remarkable that the Republican presidential candidates’ debate this week, supposedly focused on keeping Americans safe, was devoid of questions and comments about the public health issue of gun violence. Instead, the nine Republican rivals spent much of their time dwelling darkly on potential threats from Islamic State terrorists. And when they brought up the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., this month, carried out by a couple found to be inspired by Islamic State violence, the discussion never veered to the easy gun access that enabled those killers — and many others — to commit swift and horrific slaughter of innocent people. That would have complicated their pitch, and more important, would mean thinking about gun violence in ways that would displease the gun industry and its political lobby. Those forces demand unquestioning allegiance from politicians fearful for their careers — outspoken candi…

Aid-workers face considerable, multiple challenges

We all tend to admire those who put life and limb at risk to travel to far-off countries to work for organisations such as the Red Cross, Medicin sans Frontier, Oxfam and the like, to be what we commonly call aid workers.   But there is a cost for these people.    They are now at risk of being killed or kidnapped - and then to suffer post-traumatic stress.    That is the point made in this piece "Humanitarian workers risk their lives to help others and they deservemore support" in The Age newspaper.

"Nowadays, targeted attacks and bombings of healthcare facilities are not an aberration. They are part of a trend. Only very recently we witnessed the terrible bombing of hospitals in Kunduz, Afghanistan, as well as in Yemen and Syria, killing dozens of innocent health workers and patients.
Over the past three years, almost 1000 aid workers experienced violence that resulted in either death or injury. These people are much more than a statistic. This year, in Yemen, two Red Cr…

A Muslim "Coalition" without the country (Indonesia) with the largest number of Muslims

Robert Fisk, writing in "Why is Indonesia not in the Saudi-led Sunni coalition against terror?" in The Independent, poses a pertinent question....

"The Saudis love coalitions. The Sunni monarchy had the Americans, the British, the French and sundry other oil importers on their side to drive Saddam’s legions out of Kuwait in 1991. Earlier this year, the Saudi military – for which read the youngest defence minister in the world and the ambitious Deputy Prime Minister, Mohamed bin Salman al-Saud – struck at the Kingdom’s Shia Houthi enemies in Yemen in yet another coalition. This included not only Saudi fighter-bombers but jets from Qatar, the Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan.

But now – with all the drama of a new Hollywood franchise – the Saudis have announced their new multinational military epic against the “disease” of Islamic “terror”, starring more Muslim and would-be Muslim states than ever before assembled since the time of the Prophet. Onc…

There is no "gold" in them thar hills of Afghanistan

Again the already devastated country, Afghanistan, takes yet another "hit".    Independent journalist, documentary maker and author (look out for the recently released book, Disaster Capitalism), Antony Loewenstein, has a piece on Nation, detailing how the so-called mining industry in Afghanistan hasn't happened.

"Before its failed occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union discovered that the country was rich in natural resources. In the 1980s, Soviet mining experts drafted maps and collected data that would lay dormant in the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul until the rise of the Taliban. These charts documented a vast amount of iron, copper, gold, cobalt, rare-earth metals, and lithium.

Fearing what the Taliban might do with this wealth, a tiny group of Afghan geologists hid the maps in their homes until the arrival of American forces in 2001. By 2007, the US Geological Survey had undertaken the most comprehensive study of the mineral deposits below the country’s…

Pick your religion!

Credited to Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Israel's so-called democracy exposed. It isn't!

This piece, from truthdig, speaks for itself.   Despite all the claims of Israel being a democracy, it clearly isn't!

"Israel’s army announced Tuesday that an Israeli military court had sentenced Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian Parliament member who has frequently spoken out against Israel, to 15 months in prison.

The reasons cited for Jarrar’s incarceration, The Associated Press reported, were incitement and belonging to an illegal organization. Her supporters are crying foul:

Jarrar was arrested last April in a raid on her home for allegedly violating Israeli travel restrictions that barred her from Ramallah, the West Bank city where her family lives. She was subsequently charged with incitement and membership in an illegal organization.

Palestinians say Jarrar, who is in her early 50s and the mother of two grown daughters who are pursuing advanced university degrees in Canada, was prosecuted for political reasons. They say the evidence against her was flimsy and that she poses n…

Donald! Look at who really supports ISIS

In the wake of the outraged response to Donald Trump's comments about not letting Muslims into America, this piece in The Independent, is timely - as is the result of what people of the world actually support ISIS.

Donald Trump says that in the wake of the apparently Isis-linked San Bernardino shootings, all Muslims should be banned from entering the US “until we are able to understand this problem”.

In implicating every follower of the religion in the massacre in California, the 2016 Republican contender betrayed a popular American belief that Isis is widely supported across the Muslim world.

Yet the reality is that Muslims around the world share an overwhelmingly negative view of the militant group.

Mr Trump said in a campaign statement that “hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population” was evident “without looking at the various polling data”.

But when data journalist Max Galka actually did just that, he found that no more than 15 per cent of people in countr…

Marvel at these wonderful photos capturing 2015

Marvel at these wonderful photos - highlighting and reflecting on events in 2015 - on The Atlantic.

One photo by way of example....

"Migrants are escorted through fields by police as they are walked from the village of Rigonce to Brezice refugee camp on October 23, 2015, in Rigonce, Slovenia. Thousands of migrants marched across the border between Croatia into Slovenia as authorities intensify their efforts to attempt to cope with Europe's largest migration of people since World War II. The United Nations estimates that more than 750,000 people crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe this year, fleeing violence, poverty, and insecurity in parts of Africa and the Middle East".

"Bigot" and "despicable" an appropriate description of Donald Trump?

Are there any other words than "bigot" and "despicable" to describe Donald Trump for his latest pronouncements about Muslims.    All too sadly a lot of people in the US, and elsewhere, will blindly, and in ignorance, agree with Trump.

"In his most despicable declaration yet, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is urging the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” according to a statement his campaign released to the media Monday.

In the incendiary statement, which comes in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., Trump says, “Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense…

Amnesty International: ISIS assisted by "reckless" transfer of arms to Iraq

We reap what we sow might be apt for the findings of Amnesty International into how ISIS came to possess so may arms.  

"Decades of irresponsible arms transfers to Iraq fuelled the Islamic State (IS) group's firepower and ability to carry out atrocities on a massive scale, Amnesty International said in a report published on Tuesday.

The London-based human rights watchdog called for tougher controls in order to put a stop to the alarming fallout from the proliferation of weapons in the country.

"The vast and varied weaponry being used by the armed group calling itself Islamic State is a textbook case of how reckless arms trading fuels atrocities on a massive scale," Amnesty researcher Patrick Wilcken said in a statement.

"Poor regulation and lack of oversight of the immense arms flows into Iraq going back decades have given IS and other armed groups a bonanza of unprecedented access to firepower," he said.

The huge amounts of internationally manufactured weapon…

Things not looking good at the half-way mark at those climate talks in Paris

Now that the leaders have gone home post their grand-standing at the opening of the Climate Control talks in Paris (they were each allotted 3 minutes to speak!), by all accounts things aren't going too well as the talks progress to the half-way mark.    

"The COP21 climate talks in Paris reached their halfway point on Saturday, but a deal that experts and global justice campaigners would consider acceptable remains a long way off as the fossil fuel industry and wealthy nations maintain their powerful grip on the direction of the international summit.

Given the troubled history of the UN-sponsored talks, most members of civil society headed to Paris acknowledging the two-week gathering was unlikely to yield the kind of agreement that either the science of global warming, or the movement for climate justice, would find acceptable.

However, in the wake of released draft texts by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body governing the talks, envir…

Killings using guns in USA good for business

As if it wasn't tragic enough that there are so many killings, using guns, in the USA - and a reflection on the Americans for not taking any steps to stop the carnage by do something, anything, to restrict access to firearms - now comes perverse news that these killings are good for buisness for gun manufacturers and those selling guns.     The Intercept reports in "Gun Industry Executives Say Mass Shootings Are Good for Business".

"Behind closed doors, speaking with investors and Wall Street analysts, the gun industry views mass shootings as an opportunity to make lots of money.

Ordinary people are despairing about the frequency of tragic events like the murderous rampage in San Bernardino on Wednesday, or the Planned Parenthood massacre last week. And the cycle of mass killing, media frenzy, and political stalemate starts anew each time.

But meanwhile, gun sales continue to break records, a fact that has not gone ignored by financial analysts.

The Intercept reviewed …

Where journalism is being murdered

We take it too much for freedom!   It's under attack, in some countries relentlessly, in various parts of the world.   This piece in The Washington Post by Noam Chomsky and Christophe Deloire should give one pause for thought.

"Journalists are the “watchdogs” of democracy, according to the European Court of Human Rights. Anyone who wants to control a country without being troubled by criticism tries to muzzle reporters, and unfortunately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a past master at stifling the cries of freedom. As journalists from around the world converge on Antalya to cover this weekend’s Group of 20 summit, many of their Turkish colleagues are being denied accreditation.

Sidelining opposition media has become a bad habit in Turkey, which is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. Four days before the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections, the police stormed Ipek Media Group headquarters a…

Iraq War: "It was a huge error" says former US Special Forces Chief

One suspects the candour of this senior US military officer won't go down well with the powers that be....   CommonDreams reports in "'Huge Error': Former US Military Chief Admits Iraq Invasion Spawned ISIS"

"The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq fueled the creation of the Islamic State (ISIS) today and must serve as a warning against similar rash military intervention in Syria, a former U.S. intelligence chief said in an interview with German media on Sunday.

"When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, 'Where did those bastards come from? Let's go kill them. Let's go get them.' Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from," former U.S. special forces chief Mike Flynn, who also served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told Der Spiegel. "Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction."

In recent weeks, ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks in Lebanon …

Why Britain going into fight in Syria is doomed......

The Independent, in Britain, writes: " Patrick Cockburn was invited by Jeremy Corbyn to brief MPs on the facts about today’s Common’s vote on air strikes in Syria. This is his briefing to you"....

"Britain is on the verge of entering a conflict in Syria in which its political and military strategy is based on wishful thinking and poor information. British air strikes in Syria will be too few to make much difference to Isis, but are important because they signal Britain’s entry into what may be a long war.

In one crucial respect, David Cameron’s approach is similar to that which saw Britain fight two small but unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, in both cases without an effective local partner on the ground. Similarly in Syria, Britain will be at the mercy of events which are being shaped by the numerous other players in the conflict, all of whom have their own highly contradictory agendas.

Much of the debate around the feasibility of the British strategy…

Let the politicians eat cake at that Paris Climate Conference. You can eat better and healthier.......

Sound-bites here, there and everywhere as the politicians at the Climate Conference in Paris all sprout their 3 minute's worth - yes, that is their allotment  - on this or that on the subject of climate, whilst wasting their tax-payer's money in attending the Conference for 1 day only.

Far better for you and me to take note of what Michael Pollan, noted author on food, says about the food we should be eating - and why.

"When the international climate negotiators assembling in Paris next week sit down for dinner, they might reflect on the climate impact of their meal.

Indeed, in the midst of a growing - and very encouraging - global conversation on how to address the common threat of climate change, far too little attention has been paid at the highest levels to the impact of our diets and farming practices on planet-warming emissions.

To put it another way: if we are serious about changing the climate, we need to get serious about changing agriculture.

The climate impact of fo…

Refugees, the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra and a house....

A good-feel story in an otherwise rather bleak landscape....

"As tensions over the Syrian refugee crisis continue to escalate across Europe, one of the the world’s great orchestras has offered a ray of humanitarian hope. A month ago the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra purchased a disused house in St. Aegyd, Lower Austria for the purpose of housing homeless refugees. The ‘Vienna Philharmonic House’ is the brainchild of the orchestra’s clarinetist Norbert Täubl, who was born in the village. The old inn is large enough to support four families, and will also serve as a meeting place for cultural dialogue and benefit concerts. Chairman Andrew Großhauer said, “With this project we not only send a signal of humanitarian commitment, but also open a space for dialogue and understanding which everyone benefits long term, the community and also our society”.

The plight of Syrian refugees migrating to Europe is an issue close to the hearts of many of the musicians in the Vienna Philharmonic. Ar…

Disaster capitalism writ large

Here is disaster capitalism writ large.    Huge corporations devastating and impacting on "locals" - this time in Brazil.   

"Brazil’s government has announced it will sue mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale for $US5.2bn after the deadly collapse of a dam at an iron ore mine sent 60 million cubic meters of mud and mine waste cascading into the Atlantic ocean and left more than 13 people dead.

Environment minister Izabella Teixeira said a lawsuit would be filed demanding that the companies and the mine operator Samarco, which they co-own, create a fund of 20 billion reais to pay for environmental recovery and compensation for victims.

“There was a huge impact from an environmental point of view,” Teixeira said at a press conference in the capital Brasilia.

“It is not a natural disaster. It is a disaster prompted by economic activity, but of a magnitude equivalent to those disasters created by forces of nature.”

The lawsuit will be filed on Monday, attorney general Luis Inacio…

Obama's disgraceful war on whistleblowers

Yet another example of Obama, the so-called liberal President, saying one thing and doing the opposite.   It is disgraceful, and scandalous, to think what Obama's administration has "done" to whistleblowers.   The latest example is detailed in this piece on Information Clearing House.

"The four USAF military drone operators who recently blew the whistle and exposed the callousness and complete lack of concern for civilian casualties of the US drone assassination programme, (and received very little mainstream media exposure), yesterday found their bank accounts and credit cards all blocked by the US government. 

The effects of that on daily life are devastating. My source is their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, through the Sam Adams Associates (of which we are both members).
No criminal charges have been brought against any of the men, despite numerous written threats of prosecution. Their finances appear to have been frozen by executive action under anti-terrorist legislati…

The USA in Africa

Yes, the Chinese are spreading their tentacles across the globe  - including in Africa - but so are the Americans.    For what purpose one might well ask.   And to what extent is that US reach into Africa?    TomDispatch provides some answers in "Does Eleven Plus One Equal Sixty?" ....

"In the shadows of what was once called the “dark continent," a scramble has come and gone. If you heard nothing about it, that was by design. But look hard enough and -- north to south, east to west -- you’ll find the fruits of that effort: a network of bases, compounds, and other sites whose sum total exceeds the number of nations on the continent. For a military that has stumbled from Iraq to Afghanistan and suffered setbacks from Libya to Syria, it’s a rare can-do triumph. In remote locales, behind fences and beyond the gaze of prying eyes, the U.S. military has built an extensive archipelago of African outposts, transforming the continent, experts say, into a laboratory for a new…

America's "sickness"

The USA is often viewed and seen through rose-tinted glasses.    However, as the stats in this piece "Signs of a Dying Society" from CommonDreams so vividly demonstrate, it is a society which, for the average American, is far from a "bowl of cherries".

"While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his "Outstanding Contributions to Society."

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as 'Honest Mistakes'

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America's great…

Houston....we have a problem with our planet!

Things aren't going well for our planet! - and they don't look like getting better any time soon, unless these talking-heads at the upcoming Climate Conference in Paris do something positive beyond mouthing platitudes.

"Global temperatures are continuing to climb to fresh records, adding to the urgency of curbing greenhouse gas emissions that are the primary cause, the World Meteorological Organisation says.

Preliminary agency figures show that for the first 10 months of 2015, average sea and land surface temperatures were 0.73 degrees above the 1961-90 average of 14 degrees. They were about 1 degree warmer than the 1850-1899 period used as a proxy for the pre-industrial era.

The past five years were also the hottest on record, beating the previous five years, and showing "a continued sustained warming trend" since the mid-1970s. (See chart below.)
The planet is racing towards another global heat record.

"This is all bad news for the planet," WMO secretary-…

State of Terror

  A memorial in New York City to victims of the Paris attacks. If the United States suffers terrorist killings similar to those in France, a state of national anxiety well might cripple American democracy.
This piece "State of Terror" by Chris Hedges (one time NYT Bureau Chief in Jerusalem) on truthdig is sobering - yet is a perfect analysis of where the world sits right now as it confronts widespread terrorism attacks, sabre-rattling in all manner of ways and a variety of parties and governments scrambling to contain or remove the threat of terrorist violence.
"It is nearly certain that we will endure, sooner rather than later, another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil. The blundering of our military into the Middle East; the failed states that have risen out of the mismanagement and chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan; the millions of innocents we have driven from their homes, terrorized or slaughtered; the bankrupt puppet regimes we have equipped and trained tha…

Corruption (2)

A different "element" of corruption and influence to that in the post Corruption (1) - as reported by The New York Times in "Afghan Leaders Try to Halt Exodus, but Pleas Ring Hollow".....

"President Ashraf Ghani took a stage here last week and urged the crowd of young people before him not to join a huge exodus from Afghanistan, despite rising insecurity and economic hardship.

The gates of Western nations are closed on us, Mr. Ghani said. “Our dignity, our respect is in Afghanistan.”

To many Afghans, though, that rang hollow.

That is not only because Mr. Ghani’s path to power and prominence was paved abroad, as he lived and worked in the United States for much of his adult life. The addresses of the families of a majority of his government’s senior officials read like an atlas of world capitals, near and far — just not Kabul.

“How will they understand our pain?” said Mohamed Abas, 19, a roadside mechanic in Kabul, as he took a break from his lunch of fries and brea…