Links 9/4/15

What Do Cats See? Nickolay Lamm

Cats do not need their owners, scientists conclude Telegraph

Chimpanzees who attacked drone with a STICK took ‘unique and deliberate action’ say researchers Daily Mail

Calstrs Aims to Cut Risk by Moving Up to $20 Billion Out of Stocks NYT

Risk of financial crisis higher than previously estimated  Eurekalert

5 Things to Watch in the August Jobs Report WSJ

‘I see a labor market that is looking hotter and hotter’ Business Insider. Deutsche Bank analyst.

This Was to Be the Year of Bigger Wage Gains. It’s Not. NYT

Understanding the Historic Divergence between Productivity and a Typical Worker’s Pay EPI Briefing Paper

Uber’s ride getting a bit bumpier Seattle Times. “The old economy charges $45 for a cab ride from the airport, while the new economy charges only $25. Something’s bound to break, and right now it’s the workers.” So that’s what Uber’s valuation is based on: Breaking workers. Good to know.

Worst roommate ever rents guy’s bed to drunk people on Airbnb Daily Dot

Sharing Economy Goes Hyperlocal With a Growing Market for Household Items NYT

US trade contraction adds to global fears FT

Brazil Econ, Political Crisis Threatens to Worsen Further Market News

Draghi Unveils Revamped QE Program as ECB Downgrades Outlook Bloomberg

IMF Says China Slowdown, Other Risks Threaten Global Outlook WSJ


What if the China Panic Is All Wrong? WSJ

3 Takeaways From China’s Military Parade The Diplomat

Why Does China’s Economy Need to Change? For Clues, See Smaller Cities WSJ

Ghost Cities of China: A Discussion with Wade Shepard Chengdu Living. Important and insightful.

China pushes mergers by listed firms China Spectator

As Shanghai Stock Market Tanks, China Makes Mass Arrests: ‘You Could Disappear at any Time’  Wall Street on Parade

Thai Commercials: Great at Making People Cry The Atlantic

RM2.6 billion is no ordinary donation, but ‘grand corruption’, says Transparency chief Malaysian Insider. That’s the $700 million that ended up in Prime Minister Najib’s personal bank account. Rather a lot of money, even today.

Indonesia’s Modernizing Military Foreign Affairs


Fading Support for Greek Leader Puts Emergency Bailout at Risk Foreign Policy

New Democracy closes the gap on Syriza FT

A tale of two crises in Greece – coping with economic depression and refugees Guardian

From “cockroaches” to campaigns: how the UK press u-turned on the refugee crisis New Statesman (RS).

By Land or By Sea Foreign Policy

How Europe’s migrant crisis evolved FT

France, Germany agree binding migrant quotas needed: Merkel Agence France Press

Neo-Nazi Arsonists: Officials Concerned by Growing Far-Right Networks Daily Mail

Europe’s migrant crisis dwarfs U.S. problems on the Mexican border Los Angeles Times

French farmers’ tractor protest rolls into Paris The Loca

Black Injustice Tipping Point

How the Federal Government Built White Suburbia Citylab

Rhetoric vs. Reality, Police Safety Edition Mother Jones

Police describe their views on Ferguson unrest in rare and candid words Los Angeles Times

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

The Feds Need a Warrant to Spy With Stingrays From Now On Wired

The Loopholes in DOJ’s New Stingray Policy Emptywheel

The Whistleblower the CIA Couldn’t Break American Conservative (Re Silc)


Hillary Clinton Just Picked Sides With the Democrats’ Warren Wing Against the Rubin Wing David Dayen, The Intercept

Presidential contenders focus on Puerto Rico fiscal crisis Reuters

For Health Insurance Startup Oscar, Cute Ads Only Go So Far Bloomberg

Class Warfare

Low-Income Workers See Biggest Drop in Paychecks NYT

The dangerous separation of the American upper middle class Brookings

The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America Salon

The Privatization of Childhood Jacobin

The Witches of Salem The New Yorker

Fossil Fuels Losing Cost Advantage Over Solar, Wind, IEA Says Bloomberg. Hippies right again.

US clean energy suffers from lack of wind FT

Obama’s Journey: Top 10 signs of Extreme Climate Change in Alaska and why it Should Scare Us Informed Comment

Biodiversity belowground is just as important as aboveground Macroecology

Soldiers in Dark Times: Military Education, Ethics, and Political Science Political Violence @ a Glance

Guatemalan President Resigns in “Huge Victory” for Popular Uprising Democracy Now

Death-Qualified LRB. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Retrotopia: The View from a Moving Window The Archdruid Report

Antidote du jour:


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. scott

    Just think what would happen if a city police force, or police organization/union vowed not to cooperate in the civil forfeiture scam within its jurisdiction?. It’s the factor that makes me no longer trust the police, and I’m white. Remove the “roving tax collector” meme from policing and see what happens to the respect level.
    Instead, some states are passing laws limiting the fraction of city operating budgets that can come form BS traffic stops. That is going the wrong direction.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In this particular case, one can say, some government workers’ household budgets are funded by taxpayers.

      And if (or when) they privatize tax collection, the same works for tax farmers.

      Perhaps details matter and as Hillary said recently, we have to restore trust in the government.

    2. JTMcPhee

      You got red-light cameras operated by those tax farming privatized in YOUR town? And code enforcement is sort of necessary to keep things civilized, but of course the devil is in the details.

      Hey, I don’t even notice, or miss, the little mordidas that the sensors sensing the little ID electronic sticker stuck to the windshield behind my rear view mirror subtract from my “worth” as I conveniently wait in line with my fellow citizens to conveniently avoid even the tiny bit of human interaction with the ever-smaller cost-cutted set of toll takers…

      And I believe the “libertarian-authoritarian” model is that every motion, breath, preference, etc., can and must be captured by the Panopticon, so the debiting can be most efficiently, accurately and compendiously accomplished.

      Butlerian jeehaaad, plus accidental or planned (one would wish) Jubilee!

  2. Chris in Paris

    Been talking to my friend in Guatemala who’s normally a pretty conservative person. Seems the general public across all classes and ethnicities are very happy about Molina and the VP being ousted and moreover (and this was strange coming from her) they are against any election being held until a lot more crooks are locked up.

    On that point, the US Embassy stated yesterday that “elections should go forward as planned.”

  3. Brindle

    re: Hillary Clinton / David Dayen

    I guess I have a more cynical view of Clinton endorsing the “anti-revolving door” legislation. This pragmatic move is to keep Warren from endorsing any other candidate. The legislation is unlikely to be passed and once Hillary is president there would be nothing to stop her from a mostly “business as usual” structure. HRC is pretty much a “Rubinite” anyway. Good window dressing move by Hillary.


    —Normally, endorsing legislation is one of those perfunctory check-the-box activities that presidential candidates engage in without much meaning, especially when Congress is likely to be partially controlled by the opposing party. But this bill is entirely about the personnel that would serve in the next administration. Clinton can “enact” much of it simply through her decisions on staffing the executive branch.—

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It helps (and I got this from the South China Morning Post) that president Xi can rely on the PLA’s declaration of loyalty to him (it says, to the president) made at this week’s military parade in Beijing.

      Perhaps this will afford the current omnipotent government unlimited interference, now that the Middle Kingdom Wehrmacht is fully behind him.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              That declaration of loyalty is quite unusually these day, and it brings back a certain memory, not necessarily reducing anything to one thing…

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Dogmatic people, more than simply reactionaries.

                People of all inclinations are capable of that. That’s why we are humans, and can be human, all too human.

            2. Vatch

              It’s a valid comparison. In most modern countries, the members of the military swear an oath to the nation or to the nation’s constitution, but in Nazi Germany, they swore an oath to Hitler the person. See this for more information:


              The term Hitler oath refers to the oaths of allegiance, or Reichswehreid, sworn by German Wehrmacht officers and soldiers as well as civil servants during the Third Reich between the years 1934 and 1945. The oath pledged personal loyalty to the person of Adolf Hitler in place of loyalty to the constitution.

  4. Eric Patton

    Those articles on the separation of the upper-middle class are fascinating. They reflect a shift in the entire political paradigm. Conservative is being redefined to mean “pro-capitalist, but no bullshit we’re really going to take care of people this time.”

    Increasingly, I think, liberalism is going to be defined with being an anti-capitalist — and using that as a true way to help and take care of each other.

    Shorter: In the long run, the left wins.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      The left only wins if we can bring the UMC over to our side (they have virtually all of the managerial and technical expertise) or if we can somehow win over their opposition. There is IMHO a misplaced faith in the shared interests of the 99% and in the notion that being very liberal (on social issues, anti-poverty programs, etc.) is close to being anti-capitalist. Consistent with the articles, almost all of the UMC’s I know are hyper-competitive strivers who, personally, have no problem with current economic arrangements, even if they occasionally lament how hard things are for poor people (which is my definition of a liberal).

      1. Brindle

        Yes, most UMC Dem types I know are comfortable with the neoliberal notion that we are all individual entrepreneurs etc.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Compared with the super-rich, the UMC, i.e. the Upper Middle Class, lives a rather precarious existence.

        A billion dollars and you can live comfortable through any physical setback in life

        Any UMC person doesn’t have the security…thus, the ever competitive striving.

        I would focus the stare on the super rich.

    2. hunkerdown

      It can’t be. Liberalism has always been pro-capital and pro-capitalism, despite the UMC’s attempts to propagandize to the contrary.

      You don’t need much managerial and technical expertise if you just break things and treat those spouting strivey-wivey myths as the lepers they are.

  5. NotTimothyGeithner

    The cat study on their separation anxiety failed to note cats besides being somewhat solitary have covered themselves in our scents. Putting a cat in an odd environment doesn’t mean the big cat smell isn’t on them and is likely comforting. Oh, the scientists concluded the cats jump on the big cat’s bed when they are scared. Gee, the cats hid in the home of the big cat. In feral cat colonies, the big cat keeps threats out.

    1. scott

      It’s more like we’re covered in their scents. Whenever I pet or carry my cat, he spends the next 20 minutes cleaning himself, or rolling in the dirt, to remove the human scent.

      The vision article also doesn’t mention why cat’s eyes have vertical slits. It’s an optical spatial filter that blurs out small vertical things in the image (like tall grass) making lower frequency things (like a mouse), easier to see. Larger cats that are above the grass, or hunt in trees, have round pupils.

      While housecat vision isn’t as great as we once thought, it is now clear that their hearing, along with directional control of the ears, greatly help cats locate prey and avoid danger.

      1. EmilianoZ

        All this talk about cat vision is based on the properties of their eyes. But vision has more to do with the brain than with the eye. What you think you see and what really falls on your retina are two completely different things. What you think you see (what your brain sees) is mainly reconstruction, probably based on prior knowledge. Based strictly on what falls onto our retina, our vision would be very blurry. The neat images we have in our heads is mainly reconstructions. Unless we can go inside the brains of cats we do not know what they “see”.

        1. scott

          Actually, we kind of can know the resolution limit from the density of rod/cone cells and the focal length of the eye lens. Brain processing can filter out noise or be optimized for motion detection (like a cat), but can’t improve resolution beyond what the retinal cells can detect.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Yes, the rubbing thing cats do is a territorial marker – they have scent glands on their heads.

        it means “mine.”

    2. GroundZeroAndLovinIt

      I’ve had two cats who experienced sudden, urgent medical crises and both times the cats came to me (I guess I’m the big cat) for help straightaway. One was having a neurological issue and could barely walk but made a beeline to me anyway, and the other I had adopted only 3 weeks earlier and still, she came running to me for help.

      Both situations were horrific, but those cats knew I was “on their side.” So, I’m not sure I buy this study concept of cats’ relative indifference or aloofness. My wee beasties have all seemed to be highly social and partial to certain humans over others.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Existential ennui of the French farmer (from link above):

    “Milk has dropped to €320 per tonne from €340 last year, and it’s still falling,” said Christian Ribet, who had arrived on a tractor from Brittany.

    “We sell at a loss even though it’s supposed to be against the law.”

    Think of it: a Frog named Ribet. Ah ha ha ha … sorry!

  7. Jim Haygood

    From the jobs report this morning:

    On an annual basis, average hourly wages rose 2.2%, but the average weekly wages posted a 2.5% increase, the best since February.

    Workers are getting uppity, so the Fed’s gonna put the kibosh on that noise, tout de suite. Fedguv Lacker seconds Stanley “Saturday Night Special” Fischer that ‘both mandate conditions appear to have been met,’ so ‘exceptionally low rates are no longer warranted by the job market.’

    Translation: Lacker is declaring victory. The gods will punish him for that, starting this morning as stocks puke.

    Liquidate stocks, liquidate REITs, liquidate ETFs … liquidate the Fed!

      1. Jim Haygood

        More from Lacker’s delusionary speech:

        So here we are, just past mid-2015, with robust employment growth and an unemployment rate that … is now more than a full percentage point below the committee’s forward guidance threshold.

        Moreover, inflation is arguably running just above the FOMC’s objective of 2 percent, not below.

        Waiting too long to begin raising rates could require a more dramatic increase in rates to restrain inflation pressures. Factors holding down real growth and inflation — harsh winter weather, the strengthening dollar, and the steep decline in energy prices — have dissipated.

        So here we are — LA DI DAH!

        Unemployment dropped faster than we planned, so it must be punished for its insubordination.

        Lckr [sic — they don’t have vowels on his planet] is describing a different world than the one we live in. Shouldn’t he return to his own solar system?

        1. cnchal

          Right at the end is this:
          Looking at the upcoming presidential election, he said: “The Fed cannot be looking at the political calendar,” when making decisions on rates or other monetary policy moves.

          “If it does it’s going to run into trouble. The Fed is going to get criticized no matter what we do,” he said.

          Magoo still thinks he’s in charge, and for all we know that might even be him, in a Yellen disguise. Has anyone ever seen the two in the same room at the same time?

          1. participant-observer-observed

            Freudian slip?

            Turning down the flow of free money to billionaires at the start of an election season will give them an excuse to feel victimized and come to candidates looking for more of the heroin. It is a way to keep the gears in the revolving doors well greased.

            Sorry I can’t offer a less cynical interpretation, given the track record of the last 8 years.

          2. NotTimothyGeithner

            Many of the Fed types don’t follow politics beyond CNN style sources. They may be looking at the date, but they might not be looking at 270. For example, a Trump Presidency can’t win 270*, but the popular polling this far out might scare anyone who doesn’t emotionally understand 270 which includes plenty of politicos. Hillary didn’t seem to grasp delegate allocation rules in 2007/8, so we have to remember views on outcomes not just dates are affecting the decisions.

            *Maybe against Hillary.

          3. Christopher Fay

            That’s Mr. Magoo to you mister, actually the Right Honorable Dr. Magoo, Earl de Maestro in the Corner, Dead or Alive

        2. susan the other

          About a year ago the Fed organized a conference of their major stockholders – the TBTF banksters – and asked them to come up with the proper Fed funds rate if the expectation was quaranteed liquidity. No doubt all the bids are in. And the banksters will see enough profit at the expense of the entire rest of the world to do OK. As usual. End the Fed. End private sovereignty.

    1. craazyboy

      I would have hoped by now, after almost 7 years, that everyone would have concluded that the Federal Reserve has very little to do with whether or not you get a raise from your boss.

      But maybe there is some employee negotiating tactic I’m unaware of?

      Hooray for Magoo! He can’t see a quarter point.

      1. Jim Haygood

        He can’t see that a 12-month decline in crude oil from $100 to $40 is a global deflationary shock.

        Nor can he see that unbalanced G7 policies — with the Fed tapping the brakes, while Europe and Japan floor the accelerator with moar QE — constitute a formula for a stronger dollar, putting still more pressure on China to devalue.

        Now here’s the fatuous icing on the cake from Stanley Fischer:

        ‘By meeting [our Humphrey-Hawkins] objectives, and so maintaining a stable and strong macroeconomic environment at home, we will be best serving the global economy as well.’

        Doin’ well by doin’ good! *nominates self for Nobel prize*

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          More pressure on China to uncover those hidden Shanghai stock market manipulators.

          Liquidate, liquidate, liquidate (Treasuries) to prop up the Yuan, after first attempting to devalue it’

          One might call it ‘chaos.’

          1. susan the other

            I bet the Chinese actually think like Jack Bogle: the purpose of the stock market is to raise money for corporations. The purpose of the system is to perpetuate the system. In the case of China the Shanghai Composite is a virgin. It is meant to be a repository of Chinese savings in order to stimulate their corporations and their economy. Oh but No. Gotta get in there and short sell all those savings quick; make that pirate’s profit; and get out fast. No wonder China was iron fisted and called it malicious. It was by their standards. And by our forgotten standards.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              If that is the case, all those who opened new accounts in recent years must have better teachers than us here.

              Here, we teach the market is like a casino…the wrong idea.

        2. craazyboy

          Ya, well, one man’s deflationary shock is another man’s (or even woman’s – if they drive cars) boost in discretionary consumption.

          Um, global monetary policy doesn’t work, period. End of story. They broke any hope of things working when they decided the only way to “beggar thy neighbor” is with import duties, and therefore we can’t have import duties. Which do have the nice feature of allowing you to target their effect as necessary and in the proper direction.

          So the Fed has blown more bubbles, and now we get to see what happens next.

      2. MikeNY


        In addition, if a 25 bps rate increase from ZERO (which effects mostly interbank lending in any event) sends the whole economy crashing, maybe something about this whole “boom” was a bit artificial and unstable to begin with. I think it’s time we knew.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In the Fed’s fictional world, zero rates have generated a lot of wage pressure (or should have) and now that the workers are starting to get a little uppity, and since that is the bane of its existence, and even though, in the real world, low rates have shown, in the last few years, to have little correlation with wage pressure – savers and seniors suffering in vain – this is one Pyrrhic Victory the Fed is determined to earn.

          “Come what may to the financial markets, workers must be disciplined!!!”

          My Omnipotence, average weekly wages up 2.5%!!!!! Apocalypse now.

          1. MikeNY


            We’ve been waiting 7 years, no 30+ years, for the God of the Market to descend from Heaven and deliver wage gains to working Americans. Through all the cycles, the only people who benefit are the billionaires and the bankers. I’m tired of waiting for the God of the Market to distribute economic justice. Sometimes, the gods help those who help themselves.

  8. Carla

    Lambert–thank you for this generous portion of links! Good for helping get me through a rainy day here in NE Ohio (and glad for the rain we are, too).

  9. PhilK

    Re: Hillary Clinton Just Picked Sides With the Democrats’ Warren Wing Against the Rubin Wing

    It seems to me that the distant prospect of a slight change in weather is being presented here as a major change in climate.

    1. nippersdad

      I read it that way as well. The real story for me, though, was that this seemed to be an unusual kind of story for Dayen to write; he is usually much more of a cynic.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Until she purges her campaign of the John Podestas, we can continue to assume Hillary will say anything.

        1. nippersdad

          Agreed, though even that would be subject to suspicion for me at this point. Tossing Olympic swimmers overboard into the Rubinite seas does not mean that they will drown, nor does it mean that they cannot subsequently reboard the SS Clinton at a later date under some as yet unproclaimed necessity.

          As a cost benefit analysis would probably show, a few individual millionaires losing a few extra million so that trillions could continue to be reaped from the scam is just a good business call.

        1. nippersdad

          I can think of no way for her to destroy her populist credentials faster than for her to go into business with a Clinton, or even a Biden for that matter. There are some stains that will not wash off, and I think that would be one of them. She is smarter than that.

        2. willf

          Warren and Clinton aren’t agreeing, and you won’t have to worry about voting for Warren, as she isn’t running (yet).

          This story is simply p.r. for the Clinton campaign, and here’s the whole reason for the effort in one paragraph:

          Clinton had to make a choice because she was cornered by the golden parachute payments her top aides received from their former Wall Street firms when she served as secretary of state. Progressive groups allied with Warren used this as a hook to demand Clinton’s position. Warren herself kicked this off by publicly challenging all presidential candidates to support the Baldwin legislation in July. Clinton’s main challengers for the nomination already endorsed the bill.

          That last sentence has been changed since the story went live yesterday. Originally the last sentence there pointed out that Bernie Sanders is a cosponsor of the bill.

          So, what we have here is Elizabeth Warren (and DfA) putting pressure on Clinton to get her to “endorse”* a bill that Sanders has co-sponsored, (and for which the other candidates have previously advocated).

          In other words, rather than “embrac[ing] the Warren wing of the party”, Clinton is instead running to catch up with where the other candidates already are.

          I must say that David Dayen’s reporting has been less credulous in the past

          *(a word that means next to nothing in re: bills in congress and presidential campaigns)

            1. JTMcPhee

              In one telling of the myth of the unfortunate Ms. (Does anybody use that hard-won designator any more?) Pandora, Hope was the last – and the worst- of all the plagues on Humanity to escape from that Fateful cask…

  10. Roquentin

    Re: Uber

    I know a lot of people here live in NYC as well. Did you get propaganda in the mail urging you to support Uber against De Blasio and the Taxi & Limousine Commission? I sure did. I knew right then and there they were up to no good. No one spends the cash to send shit like that out in the mail unless they plan on making a whole lot more off of whatever bullshit they’re peddling. Not that I love the TLC either, but the real question is who benefits from this? The answer is a few clowns in Silicon Valley.

    I’m still surprised by the amount of people I know, people who should know better, who still fall for that “disruptor” canard.

    1. tegnost

      Yeah, it seems to depend on who’s being disrupted, see the upper middle class article linked from salon…or read dean baker pretty much any day of the week for more

    2. sam s smith

      Uber hiring former Secretry of Defense Robert Gates should tell you everything you need to know about Uber.

    1. craazyboy

      Ya, I don’t know how many times it will take to learn this lesson, but excessive leverage is the root of all evil.

      ZIRP and QE make the price of evil “free”.

  11. Ted

    Re ghost cities in China

    Is it just me or was the person being interviewed a few IQ points below the norm. He certainly has not had the time to read any urban theory or economic theory (heterodox or orthodox) for that matter. Doesn’t seem to understand the relationship between urban development, industrial output, and economic value. Also, had a very bizarre and almost childish understanding of what money is (a fiction and a fetish) and where the value of investments develops (speculative trade in paper). Sigh … NC used to be such a great place to read informed commentary. I find myself coming less and reading less than back in 2007 when the level of insight and economic analysis was much higher. The perils of success I suppose. I certainly wouldn’t have made the editorial choice to label that particular collection of verbiage “important.”

    1. craazyman

      I thought it was pretty good.

      I liked the phrase “economically kinetic entitites” and his view it’s still too early to tell if these cities will work they way planners have in mind. They might! That would be amazing but it could happen.

      Of course, it might all blow sky high, but if it does or doesn’t, no form of conventional economic or financial analysis will do any better job of analyzing or predicting than this young man’s interesting journalism.

      If you don’t think money is “a fiction and a fetish” then what is it?

      If you complain about lack of erudtion, then “be the change you want in the world”.

      Well? . . . :-)

      1. craazyboy

        Yeah, I liked it. I find that I have no problem at all reading stuff that doesn’t begin with a 100,000 word introduction to the “nature of money”, before getting on with the rest of the article.

        Imagine if Hunter Thompson did that.

        “…the big hairy Hell’s Angel biker dude shoved me hard and I went to the ground. Looking up I saw gold rings on his fingers the size of brass knuckles. Gold neck chains, gold earrings and a large gold nose ring. I started to say, ‘Sir, I think you may misunderstand the nature of money. May I tell you about MMT?’ A big black motorcycle boot came crashing down into my face. Everything went black.”

        Aren’t you kinda glad Hunter spared us that?

        1. Jim Haygood

          Sounds more like Bill Mitchell, cb. Whose next line would be:

          ‘Hands orf, cobber! Or I’ll open up a tin of thin-air liquidity on yer!’

        2. craazyman

          The biker wasn’t objecting to a conversation about “the nature of money”. I think it was the reference to MMT, since that pegs you as an East Coast liberal yoga-studio-class-taking-downward-dog-posing-bottled-water-drinking-politically-progressive-self-obsesssed-foo-foo metrosexual with long hair and a pony tail tied with a felt band. You can’t even tell if you’re a man or a woman!

            1. craazyman

              I’m going to Kansas City
              Kansas City here I come
              I’m going to Kansas City
              Kansas City here I come
              They print a crazy lot of money there
              And I think I’m gonna get me some

              I’ll be standing on the corner
              On the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine
              I’m gonna be standing on the corner
              On the corner of Twelfth Street and Vine
              With my Kansas City gravy train
              And a bottle of Kansas City wine

              Well I might take a train
              I might take a plane
              I know I won’t have to walk
              Cause I can pay it now just the same
              I’m going to Kansas City
              Kansas City here I come
              They print a crazy lot of money there
              And I’m gonna get me some

              I’m gonna pack my clothes
              Leave at the break of dawn
              I’m gonna pack my clothes
              Everybody will be sleeping
              Nobody will know where I’ve gone
              Cause if I stay in New Yawk City
              I know I’m gonna die
              Gotta find a friendly city
              And that’s the reason why
              I’m going to Kansas City
              Kansas City here I come
              They got a crazy way of makin money there
              And I’m gonna get me some

              -w/apologies to Wilbert Harrison “Kansas City” lyrics

            2. craazyman

              I can’t believe the DELETE-IT algo snagged my song about Kansas City and put it in moderation. What a travesty of peanut gallery commenter abuse!

              Maybe an art lover can dig it out and post it anyway. haha

              I only wrote a few words, to be honest. Wilbert Harrison wrote most of it.

            3. micky9finger

              I like the reference to Kansas city.
              Meant to be subtle??
              Nations hot bed of MMT- U of Missouri, KC.
              Also Bill Mitchell is from Australia and plays in a rock and roll band.

    2. tegnost

      How does what he says misrepresent “the relationship between urban development, industrial output, and economic value”. I’m also curious where the value of investments develops, is it speculative trade in paper? Seemed like an anecdotal tale to me with a sort of wide eyed childishness if you like, he was 25 after all. What does urban theory have to do with a youths voyage of discovery, and why is it important to know what conventional theory is before you open your eyes and look around? I think he also portrayed how big media loved the story about ghost cities but went all anechoic on him when he found people there…Tell me more, unfortunately I’ll be away from the computer today carrying rocks and stuff but i’m sure I’ll be around once in a while.

      1. Oregoncharles

        “carrying rocks and stuff”?! tell us more – or send Lambert a picture when you’re done.

        I’m a landscaper, so I take a personal interest.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      The guy’s not an economist. He’s a traveler and photographer who had familiarized himself with the subject on the ground before the story was a story. It’s very hard to get insight into China at all, given the quality of official statistics. That’s why I labelled the story “important,” since it gives insight into the real economy.

      The archives are to your right. Feel free to peruse them. Sigh, forsooth.

      1. susan the other

        I think it gives insight into the plan, however delayed. I didn’t understand how China’s rural land is controlled by rural authorities and they can do the developments (change the status from rural to urban) for housing as they see fit. Usually gaining enormous profits on the land. That sounds a little too out of control for China. I would guess that all those ghost towns had mandates from the top down. How do we know that it wasn’t a good investment? Moving people off the land takes time and incentive and right now with industry shut down there isn’t much incentive.

      2. cnchal

        . . . gives insight into the real economy, and into the reasoning behind what happens in China, most of which looks senseless from here.

        . . . what’s really interesting about housing in China – and some cities are starting to regulate this – what you buy is an empty concrete shell. It’s not a house, it’s space. What you are buying is a certain amount of square meters. It’s kind of like buying a bond in the country’s New City Movement. You give developers your money off the bat – which kind of funds more land sales – on the prospect that you might be able to make that money back someday, or a have a more secure way of storing your money. These new houses are actually more valuable as maopeifeng, as houses with no internal fit out of any sort. If you put in walls, windows, electrical outlets, it will actually be worth less than an empty space. These places are serving a function beyond being a place of residence, so to look at an abandoned housing complex and say “This place is not being used because no one lives there” is totally missing the angle that they are indeed being used.

        They are serving as economically kinetic entities. You can think of them as a vault that you have valuable things in.

        What is a daisy chain of debt really worth when it manifest’s itself as an empty concrete shell, that becomes worth less, by making it habitable?

        I’m looking forward to part two. Thanks.

          1. cnchal

            Drywall futures are looking up! Here’s hoping that they figure out how to make it so it doesn’t start rotting the second it comes off the rolls.

  12. Inverness

    Greatly appreciate the healthy amount of links lately related to school privatization/childhood lately. It’s clear that the school reform movement is not about improving schools for the most vulnerable youth, but it is essentially a social engineering project to ensure that children obey, don’t question, and don’t maintain close links to their community (which is why minority community schools like Jamaica High School in Queens are at risk for closure).

    The Jacobin article notes that there’s enough anxiety about how parents can ensure their children can grow to become as competitive as possible. A good friend of mine’s son is just 7, and his recess will be cut to just one 8 minute session next year in their Western Massachusetts school. This runs counter to all child psychology, which emphasizes that children need play, and plenty of it. He also gets extensive homework assignment packages, and has lost his own meagre recess after absences due to illness, because the teacher “is paranoid that he will fall behind.” This little boy is also the top student in his class, but that doesn’t matter.

    His 13 year-old sister has developed severe testing anxiety. Although she regularly gets B marks in math, she can’t pass the state assessment. This is far from an isolated incident. The She cannot concentrate come test time, which isn’t a surprise, since teachers and principals are reminding children that these tests are crucial. Little wonder– school test scores can make or break school futures and educator careers, which is why high-profile teacher and principal cheating scandals have been happening.

    What we’re witnessing is the destruction of childhood. The school should teach to the child, not decide that its role is to promote testing , drills, and eliminate the play and joy from school. New York principals have noted that the new Common Core tests “make children vomit…We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders..Others simply gave up. One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, ‘This is too hard,’ and ‘I can’t do this,’ throughout his test booklet.” (Jessica Chasmar, Washinton Post)

    What’s severe test anxiety when it means a literal publishing payout bananza for education publishing companies who make out like bandits with no-bid contracts to provide the next wave of tests and pre-test materials? Why should our children be comfortable, when their futures looks so dim? Finally, I worry for the next generation of US teachers, produced in factories to teach to the test and drill facts. sorry tots: finger-painting won’t raise your test scores.

    1. Joerenter

      My Son can’t test worth beans. Does this mean he is less of a person? It is this hyper competitiveness in society that cause so many problems. It has to change or it will destroy us.

      1. Inverness

        Joerenter, there are organizations like which will help you, should you choose to opt out of tests for your son. The people there are very helpful and can let you know what you may, and may not legally do. You might be surprised.

        I fully agree that the competitive American environment encourages terrible pedagogy, and I struggled with all that while I lived in the US. As a teacher, I love to collaborate with my colleagues. Also, kids shouldn’t be in some kind of warped Hunger Games universe where they are competing against each other. Another good resource for information is Diane Ravitch, who maintains a good blog to keep teachers, parents, and concerned citizens aware of what’s going on in American education.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The next generation of teachers, produced in factories…

      What should these would-be teachers do?

      Quit the vertically-integrated factory system? Stop being the enablers?

      1. Inverness

        Organize. There are some grassroots organizations (FairTest, GEM in NYC) out there with whom they can connect. Learn from the little victories against the ed reform machine. And yes, they should stop being enablers, which isn’t easy since quite a few teachers don’t have full collective bargaining power in many states. All the more reason to put pressure on unions (Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers) needs teachers to pressure her. I was startled at how uninvolved New York teachers are in their union. They need to create partnerships with parents, because good teaching conditions are good conditions for students as well. (Less canned standardized testing, smaller class sizes, greater community control of schools). It isn’t easy, especially in the atomized US, but teachers and students have everything to lose, otherwise.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Less canned standardized testing is not much a problem than the confusing of education with training to make overlords richer and powerful (by working for them as employees) – by both the teachers and the students.

          “College graduates should make more money” – why? One might be a better thinker or more enlightened, or able to write or recite poetry. But as many English majors know, one can’t make money from that, and if enlightenment has nothing to do with career training, why should there be any correlation?

          Besides, if corporations need trained workers, they should foot the bill to train.

          Just like if a greed basketball team owner needs athletics, they should pay out of his/her own pocket to train them (and build his own arena).

          Education should be about enlightening the mind, but giving subsidizing intellectual/physical training for the overlords.

          1. optimader

            College presents a structured opportunity to focus on learning, how to process information, manage time, meet deadlines –the basics to developing a personal kit of skills that provide a means of supporting oneself.. A more macro view, it is an environment that allows the opportunity to raise ones awareness of sht and how to influence it productively.

            That said,college is not the only way to do those things, but for the average person it’s a reasonably efficient environment to get it done.

            Unfortunately the proliferation and ubiquity of “a college education” is an oversubscribed concept often to the detriment those better suited to guild & trade training in this country.

            At it’s worst it is a venue for wealth stripping people that pursue academic paths offering little/no practical opportunity for economic recovery of the investment. Want to be an English Lit major? Start with a trust fund and no expectation of employment in discipline or just pursue as a lifelong passion in Public libraries for free.

              1. optimader

                As well the flipside of that.

                I have a woman MD friend on the hunt, ditched husband rev.1 who was an idiot.
                She’s funny as hell, Always get a kick out her descriptions of when she finally tells dates what her specialty is, which is infectious diseases. The problem w dropping anchor w/ an MD, bless the good ones, is it can be a tough lifestyle. My best friends dad was a neurosurgeon–a brilliant guy, looong expensive education which allows one to then work horribly long hours, high potentialities for unrelenting stress all of which unfortunately can bleed into a difficult family life.

                Had I gone the MD route it would have been as a radiologist or endocrinologist, at least you have a chance at normalish hours and aren’t exposed to blood and gore so much.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              The expectation is that a college degree should correlate to better pay.

              If a corporation needs a programmer, it should pay for his/her training. Hire someone with a good heart and teach him/her how to program. Education should be about enlightenment.

              And a good education include the teaching that enlightenment and money, both can be good, depending on the situation, are not the same, nor does one necessarily lead to the other.

              1. optimader

                I think it still does correlate, for most monetizable educations. Engineering or MDing or CPAing come to mind.

                I think programming is one of those exceptions to needing the college degree chit. Either your competent or your not– like a commercial artist. A degree is meaningless if you can’t code –or draw competently. I hae a cousin who is a coding savant. He dropped out of college because it was interfering with his education, and never looked back..

                If a business needs a programmer it should hire a programmer. If it cant find a programmer w the relevant programming skills it should provide OJT…

                1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                  If it does, and probably so, for many, but it should not necessarily correlate with better pay, if the idea from the start is to become enlightened through learning.

                  One may, for example, inquire into the nature of good life and discover (with the help of a good teacher) it living amongst caring friends and family members, but not much in the bank account.

                  1. optimader

                    One may, for example, inquire into the nature of good life and discover (with the help of a good teacher) it living amongst caring friends and family members, but not much in the bank account.
                    I wouldn’t underestimate that. Good health good family good friends good food good wine.. ..and a satisfied mind (h/t jcash). Thats about the essence of it.

                    1. optimader

                      Do your thing and at the end of the day eat well (not expensive) with good friends and you’re way ahead.

                  2. optimader

                    How many times have
                    You heard someone say
                    If I had his money
                    I could do things my way

                    But little they know
                    That it’s so hard to find
                    One rich man in ten
                    With a satisfied mind

                    Once I was winning
                    In fortune and fame
                    Everything that I dreamed for
                    To get a start in life’s game

                    Then suddenly it happened
                    I lost every dime
                    But I’m richer by far
                    With a satisfied mind

                    Money can’t buy back
                    Your youth when you’re old
                    Or a friend when you’re lonely
                    Or a love that’s grown cold

                    The wealthiest person
                    Is a pauper at times
                    Compared to the man
                    With a satisfied mind

                    When my life has ended
                    And my time has run out
                    My friends and my loved ones
                    I’ll leave there’s no doubt

                    But one thing’s for certain
                    When it comes my time
                    I’ll leave this old world
                    With a satisfied mind

                    How many times have
                    You heard someone say
                    If I had his money
                    I could do things my way

                    But little they know
                    That it’s so hard to find
                    One rich man in ten
                    With a satisfied mind

    3. ohmyheck

      School privatization—coincidentally, my daughter was informed today that unless the parents of the entire senior class coughed up $35 to rent cap&gowns for graduation- in June!- today— they would not walk in the ceremony. We are being forced to rent from a single, private company–Joostens.

      The school is now backing off from having to pay the deposit – 9 months before the event- but is still insisting that we rent from Joostens–or else. This is a public school, extorting money for a private company, from families, some who do not have a spare $35 sitting around, without blinking an eye. I wonder if kick-backs are playing a part?

      Needless to say, fak with the bull you get the horn, and I am the horn….

      1. optimader

        1.) show up with out a cap and gown;
        2.)show up w your own cap and gown;
        3.)skip it and organize a picnic w/ likeminded friends, the diploma will arrive in the mail –that’s what my friends did. Always thought the concept of sitting on plastic chairs in the sun/rain listening to someone drone on and on was a little bit daft.

        1. Inverness

          I’m with optimader. If you can get your daughter in on a DIY graduation ceremony, that could be very special. I’d also invite the press; an enlightened local reporter could turn it into a solid story how schools are pushing the agenda of private businesses.

  13. Leo

    I’m just too depressed to click on any links today. I’ve got doom fatigue. Even the antidote du jour reminds me of how male lions will kill the cubs of another male.

    1. craazyman

      It might not be a good time to read up on Niburu in that case.

      This is certainly Prime Time Links material, but evidently thoughtful scientific analysis is verbotten here in favor of propagating conventional wisdoms that East Coast Liberal Elite Yoga-class-taking and bottled water drinking finance industry and academic-type bleeding heart progressives will comfortably inhale as confirmation bias affirming ontological bong hits.

      1. craazyboy

        whew. That’s some heady science craazyman. Now I’m wondering if maybe Jesus and Plant Niburu are one and the same and they are both coming back??? That would explain a lot about what’s going on lately.

  14. neo-realist

    As a long term cat owner/parent, I call BS on the notion that cats don’t suffer from separation anxiety. The one in my possession now, from my neighbor reports, gets very upset and angst ridden while me and my significant other are away on vacation. I’ve had others who got very excited as if they were glad to see “the parent” if I was out for the evening and came back late. Every cat is a different planet, personality wise, which in part makes them very interesting; not all subscribe to the same emotions with regards to having the parents around or not. It could also make a difference in terms of separation anxiety if you have multiple cats to keep each other company versus a only cat (presently have an only cat).

    Haven’t you had a cat sit on you suitcase when you had it out on the floor of your living space while packing or on the morning of departure as I have on quite a few occasions?

    1. Oregoncharles

      My parents were fishing on a pond where friends had a cabin. The resident cat was so lonely it SWAM out to them, had to be hauled into the boat.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think the test is flawed because it seems like they are using dog-pack relationships for cats when they don’t have that kind of social hierarchy. Cat territory is different than dog territory. Cats can travel through proper routes without being bothered when they cross cat territories. Unless the stranger is in the off limit territory, it’s not a big deal for the cat to have an interloper.

  15. Inverness

    Re: Refugee crisis. The Syrian father of the drowned toddler applied for asylum in Canada, and was refused by Ottawa, although his sister would help provide for them in Vancouver. Had Ottawa approved, they could have avoided the near-loss of that entire family. The father was offered Canadian citizenship, which he rejected.

    Well, Stephen Harper will even manipulate that tragedy. He publicly sobbed and said that real measures would have to be taken, solutions that would actually work! No, he didn’t mention that Canada would open her arms to those fleeing war in countries like Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, and Afghanistan. He used it as an opportunity to boost military intervention. Remember, this is election season, and no tragedy should go unexploited.

    This is a fine time to remember that Canada, along with England and the United States turned away Jews during the Holocaust, sending them to certain deaths. Without that child’s photo, it would seem that people just have a Der Sturmer image of the greedy migrant out to steal everybody’s job, maybe without the hooked nose, this time. Then again, if a British columnist can call them cockroaches, I’d say it’s the same difference. I just read yesterday that under Tony Abbot’s government in Australia, refugees are kept in offshore prisons where they face rape and other forms of abuse. I seriously doubt that under Harper or Abbot we’ll see anything approaching a humane policy.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Migrants or refugees aren’t greedy.

      They don’t always want to go to a rich nation, but just a place they can feel safe and be with their families…and if Canada is reachable, so can China be a destination.

      And even if most people in China are poor/less poor, refugees don’t mind (again, they are not greedy), if they can survive and the host cares.

      And we over here with our global reserve currency can help too.

      1. craazyboy

        That would be somethin’ to do with all those ghost cities. Fill ’em with refugees from everywhere. ‘Course the banks would have to write off all the loans at that point, and then China would be one of these two things:

        1) Broke
        2) A Monetary Sovereign

        It’d be fun just to find out the answer to that question?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          After the ‘You can disappear anytime’ article, one would hope the Chinese government can’t spend as much as it wants.

    2. JEHR

      My impression of Harper’s response to the photo of the dead child was that of a sociopath who knows what the right response is (choking voice, hung head and sad words) but he ruined it in the next breath by talking about how things are much worse than that and that is why Canada is bombing ISIS with, of course, no mention of the civilians killed by that bombing. Others are more charitable about Harper’s response.


      1. Michael

        Not unlike President Obama’s singing after the Charleston tragedy.

        This stuff is right out of House of Cards. Incredibly cynical. It’s impossible to buy any politician’s sincerity when faced with tragedy; probably a few of them really are broken up, but the rest of them are so good at faking it– it is a prerequisite for the job, after all–we would never know.

  16. Jess

    The unfortunate reality is that the current refugee crisis is only the forerunner of the massive (as in billions of people) crisis that global climate change is going to unleash. Another grim reality is summed up by Ripley’s line in “Aliens”: You can’t save them.

    In This Changes Every Thing, Naomi Wolf makes a passionate moral and humanistic call for the first world to help third world people survive the coming displacement. Ain’t gonna happen. There are simply way too many people on the planet. The only way to correct that imbalance is for a lot of them to die. And when that reality hits home, those that have it better are going to say, “Sorry, no room at the inn.”

    It’s harsh, but I believe it’s what will happen. The only possible silver lining is that an event of biblical proportions such as this just might be the final catalyst necessary to reform our socio-political-economic system to better serve those elements of mankind that survive.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “…only way to correct that inbalance is for a lot of them to die.”

      The trick is to make sure one is not included among ‘them.’

    2. AdamK

      Not sure there will be a division between first and second world. The great migration could potentially drag the first world down. Europe is not capable of dealing and absorbing millions of immigrants who simply start marching to better their chances of survival. We can find ourselves becoming second and third world faster than we think.

    3. Vatch

      Fewer people will die prematurely if there are fewer births. There are many reasons to support smaller family sizes, and this is a big one. This isn’t just an issue for the Third World — there are too many births right here in the United States. So naturally, a federal judge has ruled against contraception in a portion of the ACA:

      “In a remarkably incoherent and injudicious opinion favoring the anti-abortion organization March for Life, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington, D.C., ruled Monday that the religious rights of employees of a secular anti-abortion organization are infringed because they’re required to buy health insurance that covers contraception, even though nothing forces them to actually acquire contraceptives if they don’t wish.”

      The foolishness is mind-boggling. People who oppose abortion should be the most enthusiastic supporters of convenient and affordable access to contraception. If one prevents conception, then abortion is impossible. But no – that would be logical.

      1. ambrit

        The Ultra opposition to contraception is logical when we assume a Patriarchal ideology based on the dominance of the female by the male. Once women gain control over their own reproductive functions, male dominance is doomed.
        Read closely the history chapters of the Old Testament. As Graves has pointed out, it is the history of a power struggle between a Female Deity Complex and a Male Deity Complex.

        1. Vatch

          Of course you are correct. If one carefully chooses one’s premises, as the patriarchal fundamentalists do, one can logically derive any twisted conclusion that one wants.

          Meanwhile, people and the biosphere continue to suffer from the effects of human overpopulation.

  17. optimader

    What Do Cats See?
    In my experience cats see everything as either various forms & potentialities of scratching posts, food or when getting out of the shower, snakes.

  18. ex-PFC Chuck

    In re the link about CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou the writer states, ” . . the former CIA agent was charged and convicted with leaking classified information and sent to prison in 2013 . . ” Perhaps it’s time for journalists begin discriminating between situations in which a person who is a political target is coerced into pleading guilty to a relatively trivial count after being indicted on a whole bunch of charges, none of which are slam dunks, in order to prevent the financial ruin of his or her family and those who are either found guilty by a jury or plead guilty to charges that obviously are slam dunks.

    1. David Mills

      Kiriakou is another prime example of the shame of Obama and Eric “Place” Holder. No rational person risks 35 years in federal prison, they always plead out. This is why federal conviction rates are in the high 90s. Policy is whistleblowers only, no bankers.

  19. Fool

    I seriously question the notion that “Hillary Clinton Just Picked Sides With the Democrats’ Warren Wing Against the Rubin Wing.” She did not; moreover, Rubin himself would have probably agreed with the proposal.

  20. Gio Bruno

    RE: Soil Biodiversity

    This an excellent short article on an extremely important topic. That stuff under your feet in the forest is not dirt; it’s soil and it is alive! The magic of tree growth begins in this soil and slowly develops into the unrecognized (by most) transport system between the visible elements of green leaves (photosynthesis) and the invisible microbial activity in the soil. A soil microbial environment that is affected by both moisture and temperature.

    Which makes this quote misleading:

    That is important because scientific studies often focus on temperature – not precipitation – when predicting how ecosystems will respond to future changes such as climate change”, says Associate Professor Aimée Classen.

    While climate scientists focus on temperature, they are well aware that global temperature change will affect precipitation patterns (location/intensity). It’s all related; that’s why they call it Ecology.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      More microbes live underground, deep underground, like really, really deep, than on the surface of the planet.

      How many more? We can only guess.

  21. AdamK

    Lambert, pretty disappointed from the coverage of the refugees migration to Europe. This is huge, and will influence the economic situation in Europe and eventually the whole western project.

  22. direcion

    Byxbe, my rescue dog who has previously graced this page as an antidote (hat tip NC), saw a drone near the dogpark a couple days ago and would not stop watching it. all the other dogs ran around and paid no heed. But he had run down to the edge of the field to watch it and stayed there alert until the man took it away. He did not trust that thing. unique and deliberate were his reactions as well.

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