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British Member of Parliament George Galloway’s overview of Syria (provided in the linked clip below) serves as a pretty good companion, I think, to my most recent post.  I realize that Galloway’s uncommon empathy with the Palestinians (and Arab/Middle Eastern victims of Western policy, generally) can be off-putting to some — especially when expressed as criticism of Israel — but I find his analysis of the Syria situation (and Middle Eastern affairs, generally) basically sound: apt, valid, rare, and vital.

The following YouTube clip begins with Galloway’s comments already in progress.  He’s recounting the dark predictions of anti-war people (like himself) about Libya, before NATO launched that war, and how those predictions turned out to be tragically prescient concerning the resulting balkanization of Libya and persecution of dark-skinned Africans by NATO’s allies in the war’s aftermath.

Addendum to Previous Blog: George Galloway on Syria

For those who are looking for an introduction to Mr. Galloway, I’ll include the following link to another YouTube clip, the duly famous George Galloway vs. Rupert Murdoch’s “Sky News” clip from summer of 2006, discussing the Israeli war on Lebanon with a British “news” anchor.  It should be noted that many of Galloway’s points are supported by the Israeli government’s official assessment of that war (the Winograd Report): a brutal war which, even from Tel Aviv’s perspective, was a debacle.

Addendum to Previous Blog: George Galloway on Syria

Okay, so Pope Benedict (Ratz), Dick Cheney, and Jerry Sandusky walk into a bar.  After a few drinks, a twinkle appears in the former Vice President’s eye and he says to Sandusky with a wink, “Say, why don’t we rape the hell out of Syria?”  When Sandusky and Cheney can’t stop guffawing and hooting, Benedict brings down his papal staff, BAM!  “Gentlemen, please! Do what you will, but keep it quiet — I’d hate to have to ask either of you to relocate under a cloud of secrecy.”  Wink!

Hilarious, no?

Well, imagine how funny today’s CIVIL WAR must be to Syria’s decades-old resistance, the diverse, Syria-based, peaceful dialogue-seeking National Coordination Committee (NCC)… which is actually the bitter nemesis of the freshly contrived U.S. favorite, the Syrian National Council (SNC), headed by assorted Syrian-Western émigrés — a Swede here, a Frenchwoman there — mostly based in Europe and Turkey.  This nominally Syrian organization (with scant few ties inside Syria when all this started) has been embraced by Western media, which has awarded the American neocon-advised rebels the status of “Syria’s main opposition group” or simply “the opposition.”  Thanks to the MSM’s skewed coverage, the SNC is the only opposition group most Americans ever hear of — or, more importantly, hear from, with their leaders’ unending calls for WAR, WAR, WAR: no dialogue, no compromise, and increased militarization, with an expanded role for NATO (all understandably terrifying prospects to most Syrians).

How did we arrive at this dismal point?

Syria’s established resistance began their chapter of the Arab Spring in early 2011, peacefully advocating for elections and seeking direct negotiations with the Assad regime.  And they were getting somewhere, too, winning a promise for multi-party elections in three months and a constitutional referendum that essentially ended one-party rule in Syria and limited any future president to two seven-year terms (this constitutional concession — denied the Egyptian revolution to this day — was dismissed out of hand by the inchoate SNC and the West, interested only in Bashar Assad’s head).

Then, in February of 2011, external elements (more sham “oppressed Syrian lesbians”?) tried to manufacture a Facebook/Twitter revolution (a la Iran in 2009), calling for a “Day of Rage” that, lacking grassroots support, ultimately failed to materialize.  The outsiders’ campaign was directed specifically at Sunnis and seemed to invite a bloody, sectarian civil war.  Syrians were decidedly not interested.

But the neocons don’t give up easily, not with the full weight of the American foreign policy establishment behind them (for their “ideology” and “deeply held convictions” make the MIC’s profits possible).  Over the last year, America and its allies have aggressively co-opted Syria’s peaceful revolution, relentlessly turning the country toward civil war with millions of dollars, covert military aid to various armed groups, and a slick, media-facilitated propaganda campaign that has all but ignored Syria’s organic Arab Spring in favor of war-clamoring, U.S. think tank-affiliated exiles (think Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress and Ayad Allawi and his Iraqi National Accord — these were the neocons’ primary “Iraqi” tools in 2002 — Londoners, really, their organizations not merely the pawns, but the inventions of Western intelligence agencies; those “Iraqis” were so eager to see Mesopotamia invaded by the power-promising neocons that they fed the Bushies every WMD lie they asked for — that’s love of country, for ya!).

Yes, we’ve been here before, and didn’t that work out great!  Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis; thousands of killed and maimed Americans; America’s reputation, resources, and credibility devastated; war crimes to fuel decades of terrorism; looming climate catastrophe, water crisis, and crumbling infrastructure utterly neglected…

But wait, it gets even funnier.

With the exception of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni) — which, like al Qaeda’s current figurehead, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, has decided to support America’s push for regime change — Syria’s indigenous resistance (the NCC) has vehemently rejected the idea of foreign military intervention, including supposedly limited tactics such as arming/equipping the regime’s enemies and imposing a no-fly zone.  It is the SNC’s calls for these specific, American neocon-authored, militarist “solutions” that have prompted members of the actual Syrian resistance to refer to the SNC as “a Washington club” — as in a club that Washington’s warmongers will gladly use to beat Syria into an Iraq-like pulp.  (Already Syria has begun to resemble her fragmented, hyper-sectarian, war torn and utterly devastated neighbor, having gushed scores of thousands of refugees in recent weeks.)

But the U.S. media basically does not cover the pleas of the NCC, the Syrian resisters who’ve been jailed and persecuted for decades, and who worked and hoped for political reforms without all the blood and horror.  Like the CIA’s old partner-in-torture, Bashar Assad, we’ve marginalized Syria’s dissenters practically out of existence.  Near as I can tell, our media exists chiefly to serve the daft, war-fostering neocon narratives that still, after all their egregious failures, dominate our discourse with ignorance and lies.  Washington, too, as if completely unaware of the neocons’ appalling record over the last decade, continues to follow the precise neocon (PNAC) program that began with the Iraq War in 2003: 1) invade Iraq (no defenses, oil-rich, first to go); and 2) use the momentum created by the Iraq War “victory” (hah!) to unseat Assad in Damascus, isolating Iran; and, finally, 3) depose the regime in Tehran, yielding payback for 1979 and the ultimate prize: control over two of the world’s very largest proven reserves of light sweet crude.

This “Clean Break” approach to redrawing the map of the Middle East (the neocons’ dark fantasy, hatched in the late 1990s) is a sick, frankly racist, anachronistically (and in other ways) fucked dream of imperialism and world conquest — appallingly evil nonsense which supposedly died during the first administration of George W. Bush, back when the neocons were given enough rope to hang themselves and promptly did so (before a knight in liberal’s clothing rode in to rescue them… and their lousy, crusading agenda).

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“Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House… ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians…”

— Seymour Hersh’s article “The Redirection” (The New Yorker, 3/5/07)

Okay, here’s another funny, funny joke (okay, not really): What kind of groups are among America’s primary allies in Syria and Lebanon, these days?  Did you say al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni militants whose suicide bombings and journalist-murdering, civilian-targeting tactics evoke those of ‘the terrorists’ — the jihadis who hate America and Israel at least as much as they hate Syria’s Alawite regime?”

No???  You didn’t say that, because the very thought of America partnering with al Qaeda in any way/shape/form is manifestly insane? Well, too bad (but thanks for playing), because that is the right answer after all, according to recent reports about America’s Syrian pals.  These are the kinds of surprising (some would say revolting) alliances that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh began to detail some five years ago in his essential article, “The Redirection,” which explained how George W. Bush — in the wake of an Iraq War that had inadvertently benefited Iran enormouslybegan supporting (through proxies, especially Riyadh) al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni militants in Lebanon and beyond.  (It’s called “strategery,” and Obama has run with it — like most everything he inherited from his moronic, language and humanity-butchering predecessor.)

And now, with the help of those Salafists and their ilk, America (directing our Saudi, Qatari, Lebanese, and Turkish partners) has brought to Syria the bloody civil war that the resistance never wanted, arming a sectarian/Sunni-dominated regime hit squad — populated by violent, significantly foreign, radical jihadis (think 1980s mujahedeen) — who in the past few months have repeatedly terrorized Syria’s capital and minority populations, especially Syria’s Christians (in one recent instance cleansing 80,000 Christians from the city of Homs, virtually overnight, with a series of raids; the Christian population of Qusair has had a similar experience, with most of their 10,000 residents fleeing the U.S.-backed sectarian rebels).

So where are Congress’s alleged “Christians” in the aftermath of these U.S. policy-initiated atrocities?  Where are they when the secretary-general of the U.N. reports that the rebels are using child soldiers?  Well, they’re right where they usually are: standing firmly in the corner of perpetual war, terrorism, suicide bombers, and the despotic, post-9/11 American way… only today a bunch of drone-loving Democrats stand with them, silent as Karl Rove responding to a Congressional subpoena.

Clearly, we are talking about a STRIKING lack of empathy…

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part IV: Stop Enabling the Recidivist Sandusky Neocons or Don the Miter of Shame!

I’ve just returned home after a week+ of (minor) injury and travel, so I’ve been doing a bit of catching up — and recuperating — of late.   As I’m still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the next installment of the current blog series (“A Striking Lack of Empathy”), focusing on Syria, I couldn’t help noticing some of what’s dominating the headlines now: Governor Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate and the diplomatic dust-up between London and Quito over Ecuador’s sovereignty and Julian Assange’s freedom (the future of press freedom, if the authorities apply the law equally).

NEWS WELL DONE (a few recommendations):

HuffingtonPost’s Jason Linkins does a fine job of presenting an overview of the political career of the Ayn Rand disciple/denier who Mitt Romney just tapped to be his running mate: PAUL RYAN, the man with the Medicare-ending budget that virtually every sitting House Republican has voted for.

DemocracyNow! interviews JULIAN ASSANGE legal adviser Michael Ratner (of the Center for Constitutional Rights) about the extraordinary showdown between the U.K. and Ecuador over a man who has yet to be charged with a crime; an excellent companion piece to the preceding interview would be Glenn Greenwald’s recent article for Salon (one of his last, as he’s headed to The Guardian on Monday): “Secrecy Creep” explaining the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on honest government whistleblowers and the concomitant threat to the First Amendment.

— Finally, if you’re anticipating my next blog, focusing on America’s Syria policy and the current uprising, I found the following article by Institute for Policy Studies fellow, Phyllis Bennis, particularly insightful (up to her usual superb standard); and found very illuminating this article by The Guardian’s Charlie Skelton, laying out the U.S. role in funding and influencing the Syrian exiles who our media now quote exclusively, at the expense of Syria’s decades old, indigenous resistance (the people who began this uprising over a year ago and still reject the propagandists’ calls for foreign intervention).


[In another nod to The Daily Show, I recommend (especially to the Libor scandal dilettante/newbie) Jon Stewart’s excellent summary of the scandal, highlighting not only the banks’ manipulation of this uniquely important lending rate, but also their bilking of pension funds and local (municipal/county/state) governments through related investments: Part 1, “International Banking Conspiracy Actuality” (begin at 37 second mark); and Part 2, “Libor fallout”.]

And now, here’s my best shot at covering Libor and connecting it to my thesis on corrupt systems and empathy (or the “striking lack” thereof).

For those who are as yet unfamiliar with the Libor scandal, it involves the unprecedented rigging of what is essentially the prime institutional lending rate of the world — the London Interbank Offered Rate — by several of the world’s largest banks (sixteen of which are now under investigation related to this unfolding criminal conspiracy; one of which, England’s Barclays, has already been exposed and fined nearly half a billion dollars, and is presently cooperating with the U.K. and U.S. authorities as they proceed with their investigations).

As I understand it, the Libor scandal involves several years of international megabanks manipulating the world’s prime lending rate (affecting some $10 trillion in loans) in order to game (among other things) a $360 trillion derivatives market (representing roughly half of the total global market in derivatives, aka “financial WMDs”) linked to ten different currencies.

My source for this last point, pertaining to the derivatives market in currency-tied Libor rates, is highly esteemed economist/author Simon Johnson’s Baseline Scenario blog from earlier this month: “The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged.” In the course of that blog, Johnson poses the increasingly unavoidable question, “Is the financial sector crooked at its core?” He concludes, in short, that it is: “Power corrupts, and financial market power has completely corrupted financial markets… completely destroying the legitimacy on which sensible financial intermediation needs to be based” (emphasis mine).

That’s a pretty devastating assessment coming from an awfully credible mainstream source, and Mr. Johnson is hardly alone.

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During his mini-interview a couple of Thursdays ago on The Colbert Report (begin at the 8min., 30sec. mark), The New York Times’ David Leonhardt frankly observed: “We seem to have gone through a number of years in which not only did cheating become acceptable in a lot of parts of the financial system, but the regulators — the police — weren’t looking very closely.”

Mr. Leonhardt is obliquely referring to what’s known as “regulatory capture,” the situation that arises when an industry has grown so powerful that it basically dictates to its nominal policing entities the manner in which they should perform their oversight functions, effectively self-regulating (what could possibly go wrong?).  For a few excellent examples of “captured” (and tamed) regulators, see the SEC, FDA, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — and then, of course, there’s the U.S. Treasury, taking the cake (that would be the $16 TRILLION taxpayer-financed “cake” that postponed, at least for a few years, the day the banksters would have to don their golden parachutes).

In his interview with Mr. Colbert, Leonhardt wryly scoffs at the notion of legal consequences for criminal elites: “I’ll believe bankers going to jail when I see bankers going to jail” (this, despite his assessment of “clearly illegal” behavior revealed in years of Libor manipulation).

*          *          *

And that’s the whole story in a nutshell, isn’t it? Elite impunity/immunity, on the one hand (no matter the scale or degree of the crime, or the recidivism of its perpetrator), and, on the other hand, obscenely generous patronage, including, but hardly limited to, socializing the oligarchs’ losses (heads, we win, tails, you lose “capitalism”) — all to serve a few recklessly criminal “job creators” (you know, the folks who just collapsed the world’s economy and are presently using the Euro and austerity to pillage and depress the economies of Western Europe).

My point is this: Far-reaching corruption disillusions and dispirits a society, draining it of hope. When people doubt the fundamental integrity of their institutions and see large-scale injustice and heinous crimes — massive fraud, torture, mass murder — not merely ignored but actually rewarded (repeatedly/constantly), they eventually grow cynical, with a diminished capacity for EMPATHY… without which, I don’t actually believe that human beings are worth much (however harsh that may sound, picture humanity without empathy, without compassion on any level, and I think you might agree).


And speaking of discounting the value of human beings, I suppose it’s time to turn this conversation to America’s attitude toward the Middle East…



Those are two of the questions that drove me to write this blog, because our foreign policy sentinels — our elected representatives, the press and media — are presently in Paterno/Ratzinger/Geithner mode: all too willing to clam up, personally profit, facilitate, and ignore the ongoing rape and criminality of the world they’re supposed to be monitoring and keeping honest.

…and that just leaves us, everyday Americans like YOU and ME, to reject the prevailing culture of apathy and corruption.

Which begs the question: How do YOU feel about America’s record in Iraq over the past couple of decades? Are you familiar with the basics of Iraq’s devastation as a result of America’s relentless (often criminal) predations over the years?  Consider the brutally cruel 1990s sanctions alone: studies suggest that between 500,000 and 880,000 Iraqi children under the age of five DIED during the Clinton years, as a direct result of those sanctions — and then there are the hundreds of thousands of likely other victims, including senior citizens and sick people, etc. — who also died as a result of the punitive sanctions demanded by the U.S. alone (seen as excessive by critics, denying Iraqis potable water rather than WMDs, simply in order to put pressure on the regime).

The more recent record, featuring an actual war, includes another several hundred thousand needlessly dead Iraqis very possibly over a million — the result of a premeditated frame-up concocted by unflappably greedy and self-righteous men (the neocons) who congratulated themselves on their noble intentions as they set out to violate the Nuremberg Charter and invade a nation of 27 million people on a pack of lies…

We know these things.  The record is clear: Bush and his cabal are among the worst war criminals in history… easily.

So it’s fair to ask: DO AMERICANS CARE ABOUT JUSTICE? As a result of our actions, Iraq’s children are dead; her society is fractured as never before (largely thanks to Sec. Rumsfeld’s use of sectarian death squads — “The Salvador Option” — in the earliest days of the war, which engendered a vicious retaliatory cycle); her infrastructure is destroyed; her wealth is being plundered by external enemies; Baghdad is dark and divided by blast walls and razor wire; and over 4.5 million Iraqis (nearly 20%) have been turned into refugees…  We should also consider the fact that Iraq had the highest literacy rate, best healthcare, and lowest infant mortality in the region, prior to the devastation unleashed by America’s wars and sanctions.

I find it remarkable that — even though the vast majority of Americans understand full well that the Bush administration knowingly LIED in order to justify the Iraq War — there has been no discussion (zero) in this country about making so much as an apology to Iraqis (the majority of whom have lost an immediate family member as a result of the war), let alone reparations.  If some other powerful nation had falsely accused our leaders of building weapons they weren’t building and falsely linked our leaders to some egregious terrorist attack in order to justify a war on America that ultimately killed 1 in 27 Americans, I think we would (justifiably) consider that nation’s actions MONSTROUSLY CRIMINAL.

But we do nothing.  America seems to feel that the Iraq War was an embarrassment, rather than a crime.  Nothing to see here, no looking back… Which is why we’re able to blithely repeat our most egregious mistakes, again and again… which brings us to SYRIA.

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part III: The NeoCons Keep Killing, Americans Keep Snoozing

Samantha Bee’s latest segment for The Daily Show — focusing on the Vatican’s recent condemnation of American nuns’ top priority (poverty relief, at the expense of politicking “social issues”) — serves as a nice addendum, I think, to my previous blog’s focus on the Church.

Of particular note is the featured ex-Mafioso’s description of how one must comport oneself in a hierarchical structure: “There’s a chain of command. It must be followed.  Period.”

The reformed mobster mentions another governing principle of the Mafia that cannot help but recall the Vatican’s (Archbishop/Cardinal/Pope Joseph Ratzinger’s) shielding of thousands of pedophile priests over the decades: “Keep your fuckin’ nose clean.  Mind ya’ business!” As Ms. Bee satirically observes, “he understands the code that the Vatican lives by.” (Ouch!)

But as I’ll explain in my next blog, this patently corrupt “code” is hardly restricted to priests and Pope Benedict (any more than it was limited to Paterno and Penn State)…

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part II: LIBOR, Iraq-Syria, and Us


For nearly a decade and a half, one of the most respected (all but canonized) men in America, the late Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, did all he could to protect himself, his program, and his employer from the potential scandal that would erupt if the world ever learned that Jerry Sandusky, his former assistant, had been sexually assaulting and raping one child after another on University property.

Coach Paterno and senior Penn State officials, up to and including University President Graham Spanier, conspired to cover-up the horrific crimes of Mr. Sandusky, effectively shielding this sexual predator from the authorities and allowing him continued access to their campus, university facilities, and, of course, a host of new victims, for many years to come (Paterno and his cohorts first learned of his assistant’s criminal conduct in 1998, per former FBI director Louis Freeh’s recently released, unremittingly damning, report).

In short, for a period of some 14 years, Joe Paterno and Penn State (from the highest echelons to the custodial staff, many of whom were reportedly well aware of this behavior) did next to nothing to prevent a known serial child predator from continuing to sexually assault and rape young boys, including repeatedly doing so on Penn State grounds.  Per the reports I’ve seen, several of Sandusky’s victims were between the ages of 10 and 12 years old when he assaulted — or first assaulted — them.  One victim was as young as eight, and the oldest was 17.

And now Penn State reportedly wants to take down Paterno’s statue. Well, of course they do, but, weighing the matter, I’m not so sure about that impulse.  I mean, I understand where the suggestion is coming from: they’re embarrassed.  All Pennsylvania wants this statue to go away; it’s become an ugly reminder of sullied “heroes” and a culture of official corruption at a beloved institution.  I get that.  In the wake of Freeh’s investigation and report, Paterno’s bronze, heroic image now recalls only Freeh’s assessment of “a striking lack of empathy” on the part of the coach and his fellow implicated university officials — a striking lack of empathy…

Well, no duh.  But Mr. Freeh’s stricken observation begs the question: Just WHO does he think we are, today’s Americans? What, in his mind, are our values? How exactly does Joe Paterno’s conduct in any way stand out from the prevailing ethos of our leaders, institutions, and society?  Does it?

Leaving Paterno’s statue where it stands could convey an important truth about America’s practiced (Realpolitik, dictator- and terrorist-supporting; elite-criminal pampering) values and the morality of the world today, a statement that I imagine would read something like this: “OURS IS A GOLDEN AGE FOR ELITE PREDATORS, GOOD OL’ BOYS, AND PLUNDERERS.  IF THERE’S ANYTHING LEFT OF THE FUTURE WHEN WE’RE DONE, CARPE DIEM, KIDDOS.  EMPATHY IS FOR THE WEAK.”

Now, there’s a credo for 21st-century America: “To hell with empathy, might makes right, and winners never lose!”  Isn’t that what “American Exceptionalism” is all about: the frank, unembarrassed assertion that the United States is (and must remain) above the laws of God and man?  Why do you think Liberia’s Charles Taylor gets dragged before the International Criminal Court while Kissinger, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Yoo, Gen. Geoffrey Miller, and Condoleezza Rice walk free?  Why is it that Wall St. financial giants can wantonly commit fraud on a huge scale (as standard practice, no less) and never once look back — never even face hard questions about their conduct, despite the fact that their reckless, rampant criminality depressed the global economy to the tune of $40 TRILLION — per Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges — creating unquantifiable misery in the world?

Moral relativism (ignoring our double standards) is essential to the American Exceptionalist position…  It’s why some of our country’s most heinous criminals (Cheney, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein, etc.) walk around so smugly and boast that they’ve been doing “God’s work,” even as everything they’ve done is spectacularly exploding and their innumerable victims’ bodies (metaphorical and literal) are piling up all around them.


But this mentality goes well beyond America. The obvious recent corollary to the Penn State cover-up is the Vatican’s considerably (cosmologically?) larger scandal, the general outlines of which most everyone knows — nonetheless, I’ll reiterate the basics: for decades the Catholic Church hid, protected, and simply moved around thousands of child predators within their order, endangering innumerable children around the world and creating multitudes of victims, several thousand of whom have come forward with their grim stories (and lawsuits) in recent years.

Somewhat less common knowledge: the preponderance of evidence indicates that the current pope, Benedict XVI — as the scandal-squelching/predator priest-relocating Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich, in 1979 and 1980 — took his first steps on the path toward becoming a) the top supervisor directing the Church’s handling of this burgeoning global scandal (a position he would hold over the next two decades, at least) and also, eventually, b) the actual, mother-lovin’, they-said-it-couldn’t-be-done, POPE (the divisive, hard-line, inflammatory/bigoted ex-member of the “Hitler Youth” actually became the friggin’ Pope!  Apparently, Guardian of the Skeleton Closet is a very powerful position within that order, with surprising potential for advancement…).

Documents reported in The New York Times and elsewhere (see the previous linked article) reveal that Joseph Ratzinger was basically the “Joe Paterno” of the Catholic Church, only more so, covering up for thousands of Jerry Sandusky’s over a period of decades.  And, like Paterno, Ratzinger had plenty of help, no shortage of other sets of “blind eyes” (for turning away) as he went about his filthy, self-serving/ass-covering task.

Next: Part II — LIBOR, Iraq-Syria, and Us: “A Striking Lack of Empathy” continued…