Friday, 31 January 2014

News From The Dark Side Of The Moon

The Illustrated London News August of 1864 was an action packed edition, from which I could have created many posts .... but in this series of blasts from the news past, I will create just one more post from that edition. So after a post from Ceylon, and one from North America, I have created a post from the Pacific area - New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

The first story is from New Zealand where there was a simple story on the arrival of news from England - an event which was a very important for a people who were months away from news from home. They may as well have been on another planet or the dark side of the moon.
News From The Other Side Of The World

.... it took a month for the packet ship to arrive from Sydney alone, and months for the ships from England to get to Australia.

The Main Post Office In Auckland 1864

This is particularly interesting as there was brief mention of military actions in New Zealand, which must have been wars with the native Maori's .... so the news from home and family would have been even more wanted.

Fighting In New Zealand

Then there was a report on the building of the Tarradale railways viaduct completing the Melbourne to Sandhurst line. This was in Victoria Colony, the richest in Australia at the time ....

A Big Achievement In Australia.

And the arrival of flat bottomed schooners in Sydney New South Wales having sailed 16,000 miles to get there was big news. Its easy to forget how many ships were sunk on trips of those distances in 1864 ...

The West Hartley - One Of Two Flat Bottomed Schooners
Finally, The Illustrated London News reported on a land, so strange and exotic that it had been closed to westerners up until 1853, when Admiral Perry from the US Navy had forced it to open up. So this was only a decade after that opening up ..... Japan really was a foreign land.

Report From Osaca in Japan

Osaca Street Scene in 1864

The Japanese Army Modernised Quickly After This Scene in 1864

Myth Busters Busted

Tonight I watched an episode of the popular TV show "Myth Busters" .... this episode related to the attempt of the two American presenters, at the request of President Obama, to debunk or prove Archimedes "Death Ray", which he supposedly used to sink Roman warships via a concentrated beam of light reflected from mirrored bronze or metal shields, to create a single hot spot and set the ships on fire.

The details of the arrangement used are sketchy, so attempts to recreate it, are often very different ...... disappointingly, the two presenters, tried and failed to generate the heat required to start a fire and concluded that the myth was 'busted'.

But I thought that I had seen this same event recreated successfully in the past by various TV 'scientists' on varying degrees of size scale model. In particular, I noted that like most of the researchers they had fallen into trap of trying to set fire to wet wood on a ship .... ignoring the obvious method of all 'fire-ships', which was to set fire to the sails and masts .... which are in the main very dry, especially in the Mediterranean.

In point of fact I had also read that a group of MIT students had managed it, and so had a Greek scientist .... So off I went on to the web to research this and lo and behold ....... there was an article here, on both the MIT students and the Greek guy. However it was slow and cumbersome, and its been suggested that the mirrors were in fact a diversionary tactic which dazzled the Roman sailors.

There were also a number of videos of the experiment working to some degree or other ....

And this bunch of students holding mirrors ...

And Adam Hart-Davis - at about 21 minutes into this episode of 'What the Ancients Did For Us: (The Greeks)', demonstrates a mirror attack on a ship model ....

and finally this one .... where a guy ingeniously used a long strip of mirrored metal, which could be flexed to give a focus point for the light of great variability, which meant focus could be kept on a moving target.  

So I am not convinced that the Myth Busters team were actually right, especially as their model was rather a clumsy attempt to recreate the device described by the records ..... it certainly didn't show the ingenuity of some of these other attempts.

Archimedes after all was a genius, the two presenters rather obviously aren't.

What Iranians Really Want?

Thousands of Iranians have recently attacked a Brazilian TV hostess, model and actress Fernanda Lima, because the Iranian TV broadcast company refused to broadcast the football world cup draw whenever she was on camera …. Her dress was deemed 'too revealing' for the hot-blooded religious bigots and wannabe rapists who were watching.

The official reason was "To be honest with you, the dress of the lady who presents the show does not meet our broadcasting guidelines at all," according to Adel Ferdosipour, the host of the programme in Iran.

But instead of football fans blaming their own TV company for its religious zeal (because complaint may mean a visit from the local torture squad - aka the religious police), they instead went on to her social media accounts to insult and vilify her for not meeting Iran’s standards of womanhood.    

The interesting sub-text to this story was the arrogance of the social media commentators from Iran, who said that she should wear a "wear a Hijab" so that Iranians could watch a world TV event. If anything tells you what ‘world Islam’ really would be like it’s this i.e. That the whole world adheres to their 'standards of social mores'.
  • So all women should cover from head to toe like black crows ......
  • Women can be beaten by men or women in the street, merely for being women showing hair ....

  • That men and women can be placed in holes in the ground and stoned to death ....
I won't post this picture its too horrible.
  • That homosexuals can be hung from cranes in public spots ...

Is that the world that they want us all to live in?

I wonder, will they demand that all Brazilian women cover up for the World Cup so that Iranian football fans don't feel the overwhelming desire and lust, that seems to well up at the site of a bare chest or arm, and that is so strong that it drives them to sexually arousal? What do they expect to happen if Iran draws Brazil in a game?

Perhaps, all women should be banned from matches like they are in Iran? Would that satisfy the male Iranian tweeters?

We really should be taking fright at the backwardness that the western world is being asked to tolerate … we give an inch and they take a mile. So here, for the rest of the world, and to keep the religious police at bay from this blog, is a great shot from the very beautiful Fernanda Lima.

Fernanda Lima

Legal Weasels And Foxy Justice

Once again the spinning wheel that is 'justice' in the western world has stopped and Amanda Knox (aka Foxy Knox) and her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito,  have been reinstated as guilty of the murder of Meredith Kercher, and both face long sentences .... But therein lies the rub, do they?

Old Foxy fled to the USA as soon as the first appeal set her 'free', and has since refused to return to Italy ... Her unspoken defence to the great unwashed of middle America seems to be that Europe, and Italy are backward countries, where a white American girl will get no justice (meaning she risks being found guilty, and being imprisoned),
although what 'human rights' and sympathy a twice convicted murderess deserves is a little hard to see from this side of the Atlantic and all utter bollocks of course, she should try being a foreigner in the US legal system. Knox can fight any extradition in a US court, citing among other things international human rights law, possibly playing the double jeopardy card (the US still prevents criminals being tried for the same crime twice), a practise that has been largely abandoned in Europe as it let too many wriggle free when new evidence emerged, especially DNA ....

Of course the US, while quick to demand the extradition of foreign nationals from other countries, is notoriously reluctant to return the same service to other countries demanding US citizens so she has a good chance of getting away with this ...... 

In The US She Is The Classic Innocent Abroad

But while this white middle class legal merry go round has been swirling through the Italian court's and world media, there has been one person in prison for the murder of Ms Kercher, and that of course is the black man Rudy Guede from the Ivory Coast, who has already been convicted of Miss Kercher's murder at the first trial, and sentenced to 16 years in prison. As that verdict specified that he did not commit the crime alone and he either hasn't or had been refused the round of appeals the two white suspects have, maybe they could ask him what really happened that night?

In Italy Her Image Is Much Darker

Of course the backdrop to all this is the whole Western legal process, which allows for a seemingly endless round of appeals ... I mean what are the point of the first or even second trials, when the results can apparently be ignored, in favour of a third trial or even a fourth? - Yes apparently, Knox and Sollecito can appeal for a fourth time. I fail to see how justice can be served, if the verdicts of 12 good men and true, and another 12, and another .... Well you get the idea, can be simply overturned by legal process time after time .... The only people this ultimately serves well are the lawyers.

But maybe I am jumping the gun here, because of course Knox is still in the US and has vowed to fight against any return to Italy to face justice …... and on that note, Italian police have also reportedly found Mr Sollecito very near the Austrian border, after he had left the courtroom just before the verdict was read out ... but after his passport was then taken away, his lawyers said he had never intended to flee .... yep! 

Still one has to wonder if the US interest would have been the same if Foxy Knoxy had been Foxy Brown and black .....

Friday, 24 January 2014

Total Conquest

Some conquests are total while others are more like occupations .... the Turkish Conquest of the Byzantine Empire was total - they supplanted the Christian religion, and Romano/Greek culture of an entire civilisation, so that it disappeared almost completely, except in the residual Greek population of Constantinople, and where its records survived in Europe. The British 'conquest' of India was merely an 'occupation', which though leaving a legacy of language, law and politics, didn't ultimately change the basic culture of the subcontinent.

King Harold Also Had The Pope Against Him

Another invasion that can be classed as more like an 'occupation' was the 'Norman Conquest' of England in 1066. The Vikings of Northern France were more closely related to the Danish rulers of England, such as King Cnut (Canute), than to the Frankish 'French' who Hrolf Ragnvaldsson, or Rollo (aka Robert of Normandy), had evicted from the Normandy region. It was that fact that was partly what William the Bastards claim to the throne was based upon. So why do I suggest that it was only an 'occupation', when they had won such a stunning victory, and wiped out the existing ruling class in England, and later in southern Scotland.

Well, obviously one of the most obvious effects of 'the conquest' was the introduction of a northern dialect of Old French, later  known as Anglo-Norman, as the language of the ruling classes in England, and the displacement of 'Old English'. So as a result, many 'French' words, entered the English language, and perhaps unsurprisingly (and even to be expected, as aping ones betters has always been an English class trait), French became the language of the remains of the English speaking upper classes as well. A further sign of the conquest was the use of French first names instead of the Anglo-Saxon names. So gone were the Egbert's, Ethelred's and Harald's, and male names such as William, Robert and Richard soon became the norm. Strangely female names changed more slowly, but perhaps this was because to Norman male ears, English female names such as Merwenna were considered alluring.

It is not known how much 'Old English' the Norman aristocracy learned, nor how much, knowledge of the 'Norman French' language spread amongst the lower classes of the Saxons and Britons who they now ruled, but the demands of trade and basic communication probably meant that at least some of the 'Normans' and certainly many of the native 'English' were bilingual.

The Norman Conquest Wasn't The Total Defeat It First Looked.

But after this, the effects of the language change petered out quite quickly - for instance within 300 yrs, the aristocracy were speaking 'English', and in fact Geoffrey Chaucer wrote 'The Canterbury Tales' in 'English' for the Royal Court in the 1390's. Likewise, unlike during the Viking Invasions (or even the Saxon invasions), the Norman invasion had not such a big as impact on place-names. Offhand I can actually think of just a few  'Norman place names' e.g. Nottingham had been called ‘Snotingaham’ in the Saxon era (‘the settlement of Snot’ - yes really!). Similarly, Cambridge was called ‘Grantebrige’ before  the Normans arrived - A clue to Norman place names was that they frequently gave it a prefix of ‘Beau’ and ‘Bel’. e.g. Beachy Head, but you will still notice more Saxon and Viking (or even Roman - Chester, Manchester, Londonium etc), place names around than Norman.

By the time of Shakespeare, the assimilation of the now English aristocracy was so complete that none of the aristocracy thought themselves as 'French', but rather considered themselves to be thoroughly 'English' ..... sometimes 'conquest' works in reverse ... a fact that has worked rather nicely for some.

New Economy or New Jerusalem

The 'Enfield 8000' aka 'The Enfield Thunderbolt' was the worlds first viable electric car .... It was a British invention (as a result of a competition by the 'Electric Board' in the mid 1960's), and decades ahead of its time in both concept and technology ..... and yes, the reason why you will never had heard of it was that it also was scrapped through lack of development funds. Exactly like Blue Streak and almost every British invention of that era and beyond.

The Enfield 8000 aka Enfield Thunderbolt - Mass Produced Electric Car

So now, its the Japanese and German who make viable electric cars (having borrowed much of the ideas from the defunct British model), and Britain merely assembles their designs. It's criminal how the technological breakthroughs of British scientists in the 1960's, were wasted by British Governments .... I sometimes suspect that it was the persistent use of the term 'Boffins' in the press and elsewhere, that led to the brilliant science being wasted in almost a jokey manner. A generation of idiots ran the country at that time.

If we had shown the same foresight as the French, or the diligence of the Germans in the 1960's and the next two decades, it would be British 'Blue Streak' rockets and launchers that were the basis of the 'European Space Industry', not the French 'Ariane' systems which were years behind the British developments; It would be British Nuclear technology that was exported around the globe, not French; It would be the HOTOL intercontinental supersonic Rocket Planes that be-straddled the globe, not the failed 'Concorde' (that cuckoo in the nest that was set up by the French to lure Wilson's government away from rocket technology); and it would have been a British electric car that would now be the leading manufacture of 'eco friendly urban cars - not the German 'SMART Car' concepts.

Had the UK politicians of the post 50's era not been obsessed with expanding the welfare state into the monster that it now is (and look what's that has given us), or even on trying to expand or roll back socialism etc, and concentrated on developing and supporting the technologies that would sustain Britain as a major economic player into the next century, then we would be rivalling Germany in economic performance and output, instead of relying on Eastern Europeans to fill the low paid jobs in tourism and 'service' industries, which our own feckless underclass can't or won't fill (cradle to grave benefits being far easier), to keep our economy afloat.

We lost our place in the world because of an obsession with building a 'New Jerusalem' on sand foundations, instead of an economy on stone ones.

World Turned Upside Down

When Communism ended (although not it seems totalitarianism), in Eastern Europe, it might have been expected that there would  be some sort of swing to the right, but maybe not quite as far as seems to be the case. After all the old USSR had fought a bloody four year campaign against Hitler's Nazi Germany, which had scarred the collectivity memory of a generation of post war Russians in the USSR.

To many of the former population of the Soviet Empire, it would seem almost sacrilege to embrace the ideology of the Nazi's, in what after all was the heartland of the Soviet Union. However it seems that their children don't think in the same way. Rather in fact, such is the low esteem with which the Communists and their ideology are held by many of the younger people of the post communist Russian society, that they seem happy to embrace elements of Nazism and the symbols of its ideology.
Spartak Moscow Fans Fly Swastika

Now admittedly, football fans and followers of Nationalist or Neo-Nazi groups, are not entirely representative of all of Russian youth, but the fact that the outward signs of the Nazi regime are publicly tolerated, to a degree that they wouldn't be in Western Europe, is still very surprising.

I have reported before on the rise of Nazi ideology in places where it should be least likely to do so, but even so it still takes me by surprise. We truly live in a world turned upside down .... 

'Bong Bong' Land

Its that man again …. Yes my personal political hero, a man with whom I share little in political ideology, but whom I totally admire for his courage and his convictions (the political kind, not the legal type – of which he’s had a few as well). Yes, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, who has kept to his word, and while opposed to hard drug consumption has enacted legalisation laws to take the multi-million-dollar cannabis business away from the drug cartels.

Jose Mujica - Legalised Cannabis Growing

Quite simply, he has kept to his political word, and gone ahead, despite local and international opposition and extended an already liberal tolerance of cannabis usage in Uruguay, in to allowing registered users to grow, or buy at licensed pharmacies, up to 40g of cannabis a month each. This won’t be extended to tourists etc, so don’t go there expecting a free for all (try Portugal for that), but effectively removes the cannabis market away from the drug lords, while providing more revenue to the state.

Plenty Of Tokers Agree With President Mujica

He naturally faces criticism both at home and abroad, with the United Nations declaring that it violates international law, but at least he’s giving it a go … so finally those of us who believe that it’s the only practical approach to drug usage that might take the money out of criminal hands, and back into the peoples, will have some evidence one way or another.

The move is being watched keenly by all the ‘Narco States’ in the region, with some already hailing his move as "a visionary" step, while Mexico has suggested that it doesn’t go far enough …. They have warned that "unilateral policies" will not tackle the issue and have asked for a global discussion about drug policy …. Sadly unless the USA agrees to think about this again, it will only be "unilateral policies" that will be made.

Still, as one man once said, a journey of a thousand miles starts with one footstep, so if enough small states made "unilateral policy" changes, that would be a lot of footsteps on the thousand mile trek to common sense. Oddly he's now also inadvertently pleased a lot of those who used the term 'Bong bongo' land to deride foreigners, because Uruguay can now legitimately be described as 'Bong Bong' land.

Friday, 17 January 2014

World With No Humanity

One day Humanity will end - maybe with a whimper, still locked to this planet (or maybe our solar system). Or perhaps we will have broken away, and at massive expense of resources, launched arks of humanity to distant planets, to colonise another star and its planets, leaving a Dying Earth behind. But in any event, the end of humanities reign on Earth will come. If you were a betting man, then on Earth it would be sooner rather than later on a planet exhausted by mankind’s depredations, with famine and disease sweeping around a poisoned globe. Although we may just take the whole biosphere with us in a blaze of nuclear light …..

So what comes next?

Well in the great scheme of things, and by that I mean the geological epochs that govern the Earth, the 25,000 years or so that make up the mini epoch of the 'Killer Ape', when mankind will have really impacted the planet, is nothing, a mere blip that covered one 'Ice Age' and bit of global warming, and in terms of the Solar System or Galaxy, its not even a second on the clock ... tick, tock and humanity has been and gone.

But assuming that we haven't poisoned it completely, or lit up the skies with a second sun for a while, Earth Will Abide, and life will resume on the planet. Maybe there will be enough surviving descendants of the Killer Ape to slowly but surely (assuming no extinction event occurs), start repopulating the plains, maybe as hunter-gatherers - only to resume the sort of 'civilisations' that existed in the past.

Lack of resources such as iron and coal, may limit the extent to which it can rise this time round (although 'mining' the remains of banks (metal coins) and landfills etc may provide some 'metals'). So a interstellar observer may see a new Egypt or Rome, with barbarians populating the steppes (if horses, or some equivalent such as camels survived), but no rise into the Industrial / Technological revolutions of the 18th century because the Iron and coal that powered those events are just not there on a wasted earth.

Of course if humanity was truly wiped from the planet, and that’s at least a 50/50 possibility, then depending upon the cause, and assuming it’s not a planet sterilising event, then evolution will just offer another species a chance to 'rule' the Earth. We have had the Plants, then the Reptiles, then the Dinosaurs, then the Mammals .... would it then be the Insects? Possibly, if there was an evolutionary imperative that forced the social insects such as Bees, Ants, or Termites to develop higher levels of activity ... maybe fighting over limited resources, but is hard to see their limited brains developing to that level. They might dominate the fauna of Earth by their numbers, and spread, but not by intelligent design.

But there are other creatures, mammals admittedly, who have enough guile to flourish in a world without humanity, but they would all need some additional evolutionary push to become the dominant species.

The Great Apes – our nearest cousins: These would seem the natural successors, but in fact they took an evolutionary line that led to them not reaching the potential of humans .... but maybe given the right circumstances, they may back evolve in enough respects, to be able to get out on the plains and start hunting (this being the apparent driver for the common ancestor of Apes and Humans to split). However, it seems likely that we will have made them extinct inside 100 years, and so they may not be around to get their chance to succeed us. So we probably have to look elsewhere for the new lords of the Earth. 

Baboons are big, aggressive social animals, not as bright as Chimps and Bonobo’s etc, but far more aggressive – they are cunning raiders of farms and each others territories, and they are not under immediate threat of extinction by man. They learn quickly and have a selfish kind of greedy cunning, that I suspect is what our first ancestors displayed when they broke with the apes. To me they look the strongest contenders.

Earth's Next Dominant Species May Not Be Our Ancestors

Of the others contenders, well there are rats for example, they exist in great numbers, and are quick to exploit environments and opportunities, but their small physical size means that even in great numbers, they are still 'prey' to many other species. These sorts of creatures were around during the rise of the Dinosaurs and just don't have the physical mass to make it. They would however evolve into a lot of variants, to fill a lot of ecological niches (including large sizes), if there were no predators such as cats, dogs or eagles around. So one could image Rhino size rats given the opportunity and time by nature.

Then of course we may be leading ourselves down the wrong path by thinking of ‘Lords of the Earth’ …. It might be the Oceans that produce the next dominant animal on the planet … the Dolphin or Whale families are suggested as possibly intelligent, but while they remain in the sea, we may never see this potential exhibited, even if humans were gone. Apart from the obvious threat of extinction now, there is also the lack of need. Without humans the oceans would once again teem with fish (in the 17th century, some cod banks were so abundant that it was said that a man could almost walk across their backs in the German Sea), and so with food a plenty, where’s the need to conquer the land from which their distant ancestors evolved? The seas Poets and Singers of ballads they may be (or become), but lords of the Earth, probably not.

However the oceans does hold one other candidate, that’s highly intelligent, has appendages that can grasp, manipulate and propel, and can even now make its way across land in limited circumstances – the octopus (cephalopod molluscs). The may even have evolved from land creatures or shoreline creatures in the past, and are big brained and big eyed, and curious ….. So given a free run, they may well become the masters of the aquatic and partially aquatic worlds. Whether they could take on a land world with predators I am not sure, but they may be able to evolve to do so later in the game. They have survived extinction events over the 500 million years of their history and that’s something many species haven’t.        

Of course I am only guessing and a million factors could tip the balance in favour of this or that species .... still I find the idea that we are not required, and that the solar system will continue without us, rather entertaining .... as I said earlier the Earth, like 'the Dude,' Abides.

 Update 3rd February 2014:

There were reports on the radio and press recently of a prediction of evolution on the move .... Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist from the University of Leicester was quoted as predicting that rats could grow to be the size of sheep (or even bigger). He said that these super adaptable creatures could take advantage of larger animals becoming extinct in the next 100 yrs, and over a long period of evolutionary time could grow to be 12st+ ( 80kg) - and bigger than a current Capybara.

'Animals will evolve, over time, into whatever designs will enable them to survive and to produce offspring'.

So essentially, by our extermination of other mammals, we already creating evolutionary niches for species to move into.

Clever Clogs

When I was a lad, we did occasionally see clogs about .... Lancashire clogs of course, but they were normally worn by older people, and even then they were something of an affectation, worn only for Morris or Clog dancing, or sometimes for particular jobs where their non heat transferring properties were useful e.g. hot metal working. The 1970's comedy group, 'The Goodies' even used them in a generic manner in a comic sketch called "Ecky Thump" in which a lethal martial arts was developed in the North / Yorkshire, involving men with tied trousers, wielding Black puddings and wearing clogs.

Kung Fu Kapers

But a few decades earlier, say just before or around the second world war, they were essential and daily footwear for many people, especially the poorer element of society, or as mentioned, where their non heat transferring properties were useful, such as tarmac laying (when the hot tar was still tamped by hand and foot). The movie Hobson's Choice was about a Bootmaker, who when the film starts is primarily making (well getting his worker Willie Mossop to make), clogs, as the staple footwear of the working class. Clogs were sometimes handed out as part of poor relief; the Blackburn 'Weekly Telegraph' recorded five people receiving "gifts of clogs or parcels of clothing" in 1912.

Of course clogs are not not unique to the UK and former empire colonies. Some parts of the US had clogs as well, and in fact there is a form of clog dancing known as Appalachian Clogging.

Henry Hobson  - Clog and Bootmaker

Of course you can still buy clogs ..... but now they are kinda trendy, and healthy footwear for ladies and gentlemen  .... but the clogs that I am talking were not like that. Although they are still made in the traditional way if you want to go to a specialist maker for handmade versions, today's clogs are more often than not made in factories. The sort seen today are what used to be referred as 'neet' or night clogs, which involved having fancy patterns in the stitching or tooled leather.

Modern Clogs Are Often Ornate

No the sort of bad boys that I was thinking about, are the sort of day to day clogs that fish porters and the like wore. Something like these indeed ......

Old Fashioned Working Clogs

..... Just look at the clogs on these chaps. Of course clogs lived on in the local language even when few wore them .... In some British sports such as Rugby Union and Association Football (soccer) when you committed a heavy foul on an opponent, it was sometimes referred to as giving them a 'clogging' ...

In some local English dialects, giving someone a beating was sometimes referred to as a 'purring' by older men in the mill towns, such as those around Manchester. This term purring came from what apparently had been a form of fighting known as "Up and Down Fighting" .... a method of settling scores amongst the steel mills and fish workers in Lancashire, which had apparently involved much male nudity, a la Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in the film 'Women In Love';

"It is all up and down fighting here. They fought quite naked, excepting their clogs. When one has the other down on the ground he first endeavours to choke him by squeezing his throat, then he kicks him on the head with his clogs. Sometimes they are very severely injured."

So rather neatly, this post ends as it started, with a local Northern / Lancashire 'martial arts' method, involving 'Clogs', but one which even The Goodies would never have dared to parody on TV ......

Sharia Comes To The High Street

Even at Christmas, our news organisations run stories that remind us of the fact that some groups, just don't integrate in to the warm cuddly inclusive UK society that some at the BBC, and the Liberal and Labour parties HQ's, think is what we are living in. The latest of these is that Muslim staff at the struggling shopping giant Marks and Spencer's are allowed to refuse to serve any customer who has bought either Alcoholic or Pork products.

This came to light when an M&S customer was requested to go to another till by a Muslim member of staff, when it was seen that they had a bottle of an alcoholic beverage in their bag (presumably after having queued for ages, at this time of year!).

Now there are obviously a few questions raised by this latest bit of race apartheid, that sets Muslims as 'different' from the rest of us .....
  1. In 'Muslim lands' (as they now refer to areas of Britain where they 'patrol' and beat up Non-Muslims), will all the local M&S stores be told not to serve anything that offends against 'Sharia'?
  2. Will this ability to refuse to serve Non- Muslims include serving any meat products that are not Halal?
  3. How about them not serving any woman whose face is not covered?  
  4. Or even insisting that if female Muslims, they can cover their faces with a Niqab, when a male who is not a relative is in the stores?
Its all very disturbing, and Marks and Spencer's later issued an apology "As a secular business we have an inclusive policy that welcomes all religious beliefs, whether across our customer or employee base... We apologise that this policy was not followed in the case reported."

Other stores have been dragged into this ..... with many coming out with statements along the lines that they 'worked with their employees on a case-by-case basis, to let Muslims avoid handling alcohol or pork, and would allow similar exceptions for other religions' .... in other words, they did operate a similar policy but try to avoid it coming to light by allowing Muslim staff to avoid certain duties. While the Asda stores have said that they do not have a similar policy, but again try to avoid the situation coming up.

However the managing director of the John Lewis stores, even questioned whether members of staff should have the right to refuse to serve any customers. "This is taking it one stage beyond common sense, we certainly have never had any issue with our teams... we've not even had to have a policy on this. I would hope [members of staff] would understand that in their job this was probably going to be required." .... and that was the first bit of common sense I read or heard on the matter. If you apply for a sales job with a company, you can't then just 'pick'n'mix' which bit of the business you approve of, and refuse to perform the job fully .... or at least not if your not a Muslim.

Meanwhile, somewhere over the rainbow, in La LA PC land, on the BBC they have continued with their relentless propagation of the 'we are all just one shared and happy culture' message, by advertising a rather unfunny and low rated, but very PC TV show .....

.... which has as the lead character, the only Father Christmas promoting Muslim in the UK (if not the world).

Now that really would be funny, if it wasn't actually evidence of the way the BBC actually thinks race relations really are in the UK.

Grim Reading (aka Taking The Pisa)

Once again the failings in the UK’s dumbed down education system have been exposed. I say ‘dumbed down’, because there was and is a school of thought (what an inappropriate term), amongst educationalists that got a grip on the education system a couple of decades ago, and that said that ‘no one is to be left behind’. So it abandoned streaming classes on the ability of the children, and pretended instead, in a socialist sort of way, that all are equal. Let us therefore have 'multi-achievement' level kids in every class, and teach at the speed of the stupidest.

Grim Reading For The Educational Establishment.

Well the results are there for all to see – an education system that was once one of the best and most admired in the world. That once produced some of the brightest and best minds in the world; now languishing in 23rd spot in the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment), educational attainment tests, world league table- which are run by the O.E.C.D think tank.  And before the Celtic fringe in the (still) United Kingdom starting wittering on about the ‘special’ education that they offer, now that they are free of the ‘English’ … please note that:

  • Scotland performed only marginally better than England,
  • Who were a bit better than Northern Ireland, and
  • All of whom out performed Wales.

I remember the politician Michael Heseltine (born in Swansea, Wales – but presumably not educated there), suggesting that Wales had been ‘socialist’ for so long, that it had lost the ability for entrepreneurship (a sign of an apathetic education system if ever there was one), and just wanted state sector employment. Maybe he was right, but not just for Wales?

How teachers, faced with the continuing evidence of their collective failure, have the nerve to keep suggesting that they are a professional body that needs no supervising nor instruction, is beyond me, but then I didn’t go to some ‘red brick’ Polytechnic only to emerge full of the latest trendy educational theories, that dictated that ability, attainment, and achievement were all 'dirty words'.

Of course the UK isn’t the worst of the performers (although in Northern ‘rich’ Europe, it’s a pretty poor performer), and across the globe there are some surprising results; Chile for example is the strongest performer among South American countries, but only just above the lowest-performing European country, Albania. Personally I found that surprising, as I would have guessed that Chile, Argentina and maybe Uruguay, would all have done well – certainly to mid European standards, as delivering a good education system is in their interests as societies, and not entirely dependent upon national wealth, as a good cultural attitude towards education is at least as important a factor (as we are rediscovering in the UK).

In some countries, its the regional variations that are marked out by the tests - In Italy, the region of Trento is apparently one of the best in the world at maths tests, but poor southern Calabria is performing below many poor east European countries (approximately two years behind in pupil attainments). Similarly in the USA, where the public education system is generally an average/poor performer in these tests (below countries such as Russia and Spain), there are pockets of high achievement in some individual states: If for example Massachusetts was ranked as a country, it would be sixth best in the world, ahead of any European country – but then I vaguely recall that Massachusetts also took a radical approach to welfare dependency (particularly single parents), but don’t quote me on that, and possibly are reaping the benefits in the attitudes of their children coming from ‘working’ households.

It seems also that the penny may be dropping in some of the Arab nations (not renowned for their secular lessons), because from an admittedly low base in earlier years, one of the biggest improver's in maths and reading is Qatar, where the country has been investing in education.

Example Question: Maths question (top difficulty level):

Helen's got a new bike. It has a speedometer which sits on the handlebar, which tells her the distance she travels and her average speed for the trip.

Helen rode her bike from home to the river, which is 4km away. It took her 9 minutes. She rode home using a shorter route of 3km. This only took her 6 minutes.

What was Helen's average speed in km per hour for the trip to the river and back?

That would not have been classed as top difficulty level in my time, and I don't have a maths O-level.

  • Add up the time and the distance.
  • How many times does the the time divide into 1 hour (4), and
  • Times distance by that time.

So 7km in 15 minutes and 15 goes 4 times into 60 (1hr) and 4 x 7 = 28km per hour ...

What's shocking is that for this level of difficulty, only a third of 15-year-olds in Shanghai did well on these questions of this difficulty level, followed by 20% in Singapore ... but the average for this difficulty level of question in maths, found in countries such as France, Austria and the UK - was just 3% doing well.

In the UK the usual row broke out … The Conservative Education Secretary said that reforms are needed (and under way), while the Labour opposition (who spent billions of pounds on supporting the unreformed teaching ideology, in the belief that if we threw just another 10 billion at the problem, the lefty theorists would be proved right), are saying it’s the current governments fault, even though they themselves were in charge through much of the tested children’s education.

Of course its actually both major parties fault for not recognising what had gone wrong by the mid 1970’s, and for the sake of all our futures sat down and set-down the framework of an education system that ensured that we at least got education in the UK ’right’.

Finally, just a thought … mass immigration over the last two or three decades, where 'English' is not the first tongue of many children entering our schools can't have helped matters. The extra teaching required to bring those children up to speed, must have impacted the amount being taught to the native speakers in school lessons, and therefore negatively influenced the PISA test results? …

But then 'social engineering' via mass immigration, was never meant to improve the UK was it?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Shermans March To The Sea

In another from the blast from the past series of posts, 'The Illustrated London News August 1864' continues to provide some interesting material .... of course the American Civil War was still raging, although the South was losing by now (but perhaps wasn't fully aware of this fact). 'The Illustrated London News' was reporting on the events as 'foreign' or 'other news'.

So the first report is underneath a story about Greece, in which an 'Admiral Canaris' formed part of the government .... by a strange coincidence that was also the name of the Nazi German Admiral who was killed for plotting against Adolf Hitler (Apparently the German Admiral Canaris believed that his family was related to the Greek admiral, freedom fighter and politician Constantine Kanaris, which influenced his decision to join the navy).

So back to the the Civil War .... General William T. Sherman is reported to be encircling Atlanta after his march to the sea, with shock and awe tactics, with repeated clashes between the armies, creating causalities in the order of 10,000 dead, and occurring on almost a daily basis as General Robert E Lee desperately tried to prevent the cities encirclement. There are also reports on other theatre's of the war .....

Reports On Sherman's March To The Sea

The news also included reports from Imperial India which interestingly show how much latitude was allowed to local leaders .... with reports of battles between an Ameer and his brother Afzul Khan over a succession. This also carried an update on General Grant destroying the Confederate fort of Petersburg.

And finally, finishing other US news was a report from the US Customs in San Francisco which illustrates that even in a civil war, life goes on and also that nothing is new under the sun. Opium smuggling was just as big a problem then as now, with the smugglers using false eggs to bring in the drugs ......   

I hope you have enjoyed the postings on the US in August 1864. 

Please note that for the purposes of the post, I have cleaned the newsprint up, and joined the latest news section to the main posting images. 

A Load Of Old Crap

When you hear the term "Fossil Coprolite's", you may like me think that this is some sort of ancient sea urchin, or possibly a coral .... but of course its actually 'fossilized faeces' (Dinosaur Poo to you and me). The study of this particular type of fossil is a 'rich' (in many senses) source of information on the dietary and ecological conditions of the creature and its environment when it was passed (so to speak).

Dinodontosaurus (dicynodonts)

Recently a massive source of these fossils were uncovered in Argentina and are being investigated - thankfully they aren't literally as 'fresh as the day they dropped', but the information they contained was all captured when they were buried under volcanic ash and fossilized. They now look like rounded rocks, ranging in size from small pebbles to 40 cm diameter 'boulders', weighing several kilograms.

A Collection Of Dino Poo
The examples above all come from a mega-herbivore called a Dinodontosaurus (dicynodonts), which lived 240 million years ago, a crucial time in evolutionary history when the first mammals were also there, living alongside this rhino sized precursor to the much later dinosaurs, and which grazed in huge herds, defecating at favoured communal toilet spots.

Apparently this behaviour trait serves to mark out herd territories, helps stop the spread of parasites and diseases across their range, and warns potential predators that 'you are big, and backed up by many bros' .... this is a survival trait that similar creatures such as horses, and elephants, practise now. Which kinda proves that there’s nothing new, and the best solution is always evolved when faced with the same problems. Oddly Rhino's themselves, being solitary creatures don't practice this activity.

Now you might think that this kind of study would be restricted to Dinosaurs and possibly the later Mega-Fuana of the post dinosaur extinction era (when nature used mammals to try and recreate the lost Dinosaurs with giant creatures), but no, given the right conditions human coprolites can be, and are uncovered, only this time the fossilization is not quite as solid so to speak, and there are a lot more odours associated with the study. Human latrine pits have shall we say a certain fragrance or aroma which is sealed in with them, and which can be unearthed when they are reopened hundreds or thousands of years later.

I give as an example of this, the sewers and ancient public toilets of ancient Roman times - uncovered in Herculaneum and Pompeii, which are ripe, but the 'night soil' still contains the remains of the meals of the inhabitants of the apartment blocks from which the contributors lived. However more spectacularly from a sheer size and odour point of view, I cite the 'Viking' coprolite's uncovered in Jorvik (York), England, which tell us a lot about the diet, and that at least some of the 'Vikings' were very 'regular' in their regimes.

Jorvik Human Coprolite

Incidentally, on side note, the Jorvik latrines contained a number of bone carved combs, which indicate that both the men and the women were very interested in hair styling and grooming. Not really the image you immediately conjure up when thinking of hairy (and active) arsed Vikings.

Eve Teasing

Even when it reports on a story about the antiquated and backward attitudes towards raping women in India, the BBC still finds a way to blame the British (white males only of course), for the law in India's attitude towards rape.

Apparently, according to one school of Indian jurisprudence (male lawyers only), the fact that the 1860 laws that the British put in place used a 'flowery language' to describe sexual offences against women that are not penetrative, allows Indian judges (and juries), to consistently let men off sex attacks, on the most misogynist of grounds. And yes, its really is that long since India bothered to change the sex offence laws (but apparently that’s not considered backward, or in anyway should be considered a condemnation of the Indian males views on women), but seemingly that's not the India's responsibility, even though they have been independent since 1948.

Oh and the 'flowery language' that has survived in the Indian penal code for so long? .... well the term used in the act was “Outraging the modesty of a woman" … which apparently allows many Indian judges to uphold the male centric idea that holds that a woman raped, or subject to an attack, does not have any 'modesty' left which could be 'outraged'. Of course this being the Indian sub-continent, the girls who have the least modesty in the eyes of the courts are the Dalits (or untouchables) i.e. lowest caste, while the rapists who are from the highest castes, who appear in court accused of rape, are therefore the least likely to be convicted.   

The Indian police still even use the "two-finger test" …. which I hardly need to explain, is the method used by some court appointed doctors to determine if a the rape victim is still a virgin. Apart from the fact that it’s not a reliable test, in Indian courts its used like the old witch evidence was in 17th century Europe. If the accused survived the ordeal then she was convicted as being a witch and killed. If she died under the ordeal, then she must have been innocent. Similarly, if the Indian rape victim is deemed as 'still a virgin', then there can have been no crime, or maybe only a 'minor crime' (known as ‘Eve Teasing’ in Indian male society). If however the girl is declared as not a virgin, then she was obviously 'asking for it', and probably a willing participant in the act.

'Eve Teasing' = Sexual Harassment.

This barbaric and totally irrelevant 'determination' of virginity, is also declared as a ‘colonial legacy’, and therefore not the responsibility of the 65 years of Indian independent government inaction, and it’s therefore still possible for the BBC to blame the British, for the legacy of legal attitudes towards rape in India being so bad.  

You are left having to wonder whose side the BBC are on, and who pays the licence fee …

Crackers In Caracas

“Welcome to the USSR” …. That’s the sign they should put up at Simón Bolívar International Airport, aka Caracas International airport in Venezuela. It seems to be a country run by idiots, with an ideological bias that only an ex-terrorist could have come up with. Venezuela has been run under a ‘democratic dictatorship’ (at least no one has never proved that the elections aren’t basically fair), in which the late ‘populist President “Hugo Chavez”, led a Socialist (or 'Communist' as his critics would claim), government from 1998 until his death in 2013 - only to be succeeded by his deputy 'Nicolas Maduro', and its fair to say that things have not gone especially well during that period.

Chavez - From Soldier - To Arrested Coup Plotter - To Demagogue

Certainly, initially the oil rich governments policies of the state seizing private assets under the ‘Bolivarian’ ideology and policies, were popular with ‘the masses’, but of course it takes several years before the butchers bill comes back … essentially Communist in thrust, the state seizures of assets (often without full compensation), and ‘setting prices’ for shop goods and services, cost little to anyone except those dispossessed. Well as any fool should know by now, you can’t buck the markets. So when they fixed the price of many essential items from milk right through to toilet paper, allegedly to counteract against ‘profit-hungry private companies’ aka 'Inflation' (officially running at around 50%, but unofficially it is much higher), then it should have come as no surprise that supplies of these items suddenly ‘dried up’, and now, whenever a rumour of a delivery of the rare products passes around, there are mile long queues of people trying to get them.

There is also now the almost obligatory 'official currency exchange rate', set by the government, and its illegitimate twin, but almost as ‘official’, ‘black market’ rates set by people, which just like in the old USSR, offers a vastly different rate of exchange. This ‘economic model’ is very similar to that in Cuba and is being closely mirrored by the Argentine government, with much the same results.

Recently, President Maduro ordered a chain of electronic stores called ‘Daka’ to 'slash' their prices, accusing it of 'defrauding ordinary people' – needless to say all the ‘cut price items' sold out (many to be later sold on the black market for considerably more i.e market rates), leaving the store empty of stock, and no longer able to restock – so likely to go bust. But rather than be chastened by this failure, the government has said it will extend the policy to other sectors.

Of course in this Socialist Paradise corruption is endemic, and having to pay bribes to everyone from the police to public officials to get any service is 'normal'. All this of course is almost a mirror of the old USSR and its Eastern European Empire …. But strangely (or perhaps not), no one seems to have learnt any lessons from history, and so now this ‘El Presidenti’ rules by decree, and the country collapses in to lawlessness, with the Venezuelan capital having the reputation of being one of the most violent cities in South America (and when you consider the rivals include Bogotá, and Mexico city, that’s some reputation!).

Ironically the President's creation of a ‘sub-Ministry for Social Happiness’ to tackle the problems, may actually prove to be the last laugh of a strange regime, if the next elections are actually free and fair, or maybe not, because if the moral of the story of this, and similar governments in Gaza, Iran, Zimbabwe, its surely that when the masses get to vote, they can be bought by populist demagogues time and time again.

The Who's song "Won't Get Fooled Again" .... actually was wrong. We can be fooled time, and time, and time again, apparently.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Elephant Catching In Ceylon

As part of my blast from the past series from the old newspapers that I own, I thought that you might be interested in how to capture an elephant in Ceylon. Not a story that we see in the newspapers of today, but the sort of subject matter of abiding interest to our ancestors of even just sixty years ago, let alone those of 150 yrs ago, when much of the world was fearful, heathenish, exotic and mysterious in about equal measures.

Even in 1902, Joseph Conrad was able to describe the Belgium Congo as the 'Heart of Darkness' (a tag that particular state has never lost), but other areas, such as Britain's Indian Empire, which included Ceylon, were seen as more exotic. So The Illustrated London News August 1864 was able to include in a packed edition, a very interesting story from Ceylon on the capturing and taming of wild elephants.

The Illustrated London News - 13th August 1864

The story starts with a detailed background explanation of the capture .....

The Main Story

But then its accompanied by some very rich illustrations .....

The 'Krall' and the Grandstand for the Europeans

The Continuation of the Story ....

... with beautifully drawn pictures

..... of a rather brutal practise.

Photographs may have removed the need for these kind of illustrations but there's no denying that we certainly lost a little bit of beauty when they went.

Please note that for the purposes of the post, I have cleaned the newsprint and images up.  

Thanks For The Legacy

There have as usual been some notable deaths in the last 12 months ..... some like Mrs Thatcher and Nelson Mandela were noteworthy enough to garner national and international comment and amongst those that created international comment were also:
  • Film Director Michael Winner
  • Singer Lou Reed, and
  • Actor Peter O’Toole

..... but others who died, may have had only local coverage or a small paragraph in the international press. Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist for example, was the last survivor of a group of German army officers, who tried unsuccessfully to kill Adolf Hitler. While Douglas Engelbart, was the the US electrical engineer who invented the computer mouse, the design of which was described in a patent filed in 1967 and granted in 1970.

However the name that caught my attention was that of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian inventor of what would become the world’s most popular assault rifle, the AK-47. Now needs must as the saying goes, and when in the middle of a death struggle between Communism and Nazism, the invention of the AK-47 "Kalashnikov" rifle was a battle winner for the beleaguered soviet armies ..... but boy did the law of unintended consequences apply later.

Kalashnikov's Legacy Lives On

The gun was the most successful of its kind in history, being used in by armies and 'freedom fighters' around the world ever since. It was said that you could bury one in to the ground, comeback 6 months later, bang the dirt out and it would fire. For the sort of savages who wield the weapon these days, this robustness and lack of maintenance requirements make it the perfect weapon, in a way that no other weapon has managed.

It may well be that this weapon has killed more people than any in history, including the sword, spear, bow and arrow and even the Nuclear bomb ... which when you think of it, is one claim to fame, or infamy given that its only been around for 70 yrs or so. But as over 75 million AK-47s, and 100 million of the total Kalashnikov-family of weapons have been made, and if they have a kill rate of only one person per two weapons, that's still 50 million killed by it world wide, with every chance of at least another few millions over the next few decades in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

That's some sort of legacy ... and ensures he won't be forgotten for a long time.

Dead White Authors

Huncoat Primary School, near Accrington, Lancashire in England has just been through one of those Politically Correct witch hunts that seem to afflict Local Education Authorities these days. The subject of their latest hunt, for those who hold opinions deviant from those that the LEA deem to be 'correct' was that old standby Enid Blyton.

Yes dead though she is, this authoress has long been the centre of a cult of politically correct driven hatred by the feeble minded and stupid, because her books, written in a very different age, and with values that reflected opinions of the time, contain what the left like to call 'inappropriate ethnic stereotypes' with references to 'gypsies', and 'golliwogs' and featuring a dog with a name starting with 'N' .... the word that can't be said out loud by anyone except rappers (who can make millions using it in songs and CD covers .... but that's not a fact that groups like Lancashire LEA likes to consider). So out goes what's left of the authors works, banished from the school library, and all so that the school could get a 'Race Equality Mark' from the council ahead of the opening of a new school library.

It's a bit reminiscent of the book burnings in Nazi Germany, where books that didn't meet the regimes idea of 'correctness' were ripped from the libraries and burnt in piles on the streets (instead of being burnt in a recycling plant) .... but the irony of this, probably escapes those who undertake this kind of action, possibly because they don't have the right kind history books in their school libraries?

Enid Blyton's Books Consigned To The Fires Of History

Still, while we are in the book eradication mode, there are a few other books circulating in the Accrington area that the local council may wish to ban .... these books have content that reflects outdated attitudes, and are not only freely available, but every school has at least one of them on the premises. Yes I am talking about the books used in local religions, which contain a few dodgy racial and cultural references of their own.

Here's a few just to illustrate what I mean from the Bible:

Women as the inferior of men:
  • Timothy 2:12: says: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent." Or maybe this from Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit to you husbands as to the Lord"

Women get it again, when witches are attacked as a group:
  • Exodus 22:18: "Do not allow a sorceress to live." - Ironically Accrington is only about 6 miles from the location of a great witch trial in the 17th century, based around Pendle hill.   

There's even references to sanction gang rape:
  • Book of Judges 19:25-28:  A Jewish man is trapped by a mob of non Jews, so he "took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.”

Or how about genocide:
  • Samuel 15:3: "This is what the Lord Almighty says ... 'Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" ... and this is backed up by Psalm 137: which celebrates this terrible revenge: "Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." 

Homosexuals - a protected group in PC driven ideology, are condemned:
  • Romans 1:27: "In the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error."

Slavery is still condoned in the Bible:
  • Peter 2:18: "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel."

Now I don't know about the good burghers of Lancashire County Council but these all seem to be against equality on the gender and slave front, and therefore full of 'inappropriate ethnic stereotypes' .... but if Christianity is not the thing, what about that other 'protected group', the followers of Islam?

Well the Quran (and the accompanying Hadiths) still condones Slavery - the prophet of Islam kept slaves throughout his life (a fact which means slaves are still kept in many Muslim countries, even though its 'illegal').

33:50 - "Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty."

And the Quran still has instructions to kill Christians and Jews.
  1. "O believers, fight the unbelievers who are near to you, and let them find in you a harshness; and know that Allah is with the god fearing" (Sura al-Tawba 9:29).  
  2. "Fight against those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger, have forbidden -- such men as practice not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book -- until they pay tribute out of hand and have been humbled" (Sura Al Ma idah 5:33).
  3. "The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;" 
  4. Sura (5:51) - "O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people." Sura (5:80) Sura (3:28) Sura (3:118) Sura (9:23) Sura (53:29) Sura (3:85) Sura (1:5-7) 
There are allegedly 123 verses of the Quran that refer to killing non Muslims ..... doesn't that count as inappropriate for Lancashire County Councils Race Equality mark? 

Or is it only dead white authors who can offend?


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