Reports of the rape and murder of a 20-year-old Okinawan woman, linked to an American military contractor, have renewed protests of American military presence in Okinawa, an island south of mainland Japan (1). Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has militarily occupied Okinawa through a chain of several bases. Today, roughly half of the 53,000 U.S. troops occupying Japan are located in Okinawa, which accounts for only 0.6 percent of Japan’s landmass (2). As Okinawa disproportionately shoulders the burden of an American military presence, opponents of this security arrangement argue that the time has come for Japan to revise its relationship with the U.S.
On May 23, Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga called upon Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to launch a review of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) – a source of profound resentment among Okinawans against U.S. military presence. Among other provisions, SOFA restricts the ability of Japanese authorities to conduct criminal investigations and hold jurisdiction in cases concerning U.S. service personnel (3). Although no SOFA-related issue has arisen following the death of the 20-year-old Okinawan woman, Washington could have either refused or delayed the suspect’s transfer to Japanese authorities, if prefectural police had not arrested him first. According to the current status-of-forces agreement, Japan cannot detain a serviceman or civilian worker on a U.S. base. The 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by three U.S. servicemen in Okinawa illustrates this dissonance. Insulated by SOFA, the United States initially refused to hand over the three detained suspects to prefectural police who, according to the status-of-forces agreement, could not enter the U.S. base to arrest these men (4). In an attempt to mitigate the occurrence of atrocities, the U.S. military has instituted curfews and other restrictions, like the U.S. Navy’s ban on drinking in Okinawa. However, critics argue that such preventive measures are mere formalities. Real deterrence, they contend, will require a revised status-of-forces agreement that clearly outlines Japan’s ability to detain a serviceman or civilian worker at a U.S. base in Japan.
The most ardent revisionists insist that the most effective response to this violence is the complete removal of America’s military presence on Okinawa. In 1996, a bilateral agreement was signed between the U.S. and Japan that would relocate the Futenma base in an effort to relieve tensions in Okinawa. According to the agreement, the U.S. would transfer 8,000 to 10,000 Marines to bases in Guam and Hawaii by the end of the 2020s, after the relocation of Futenma scheduled for 2025. Debate over the relocation of Futenma has delayed the progress of this agreement (5). Tokyo wants to move Futenma to Henoko, a less populated area of Okinawa; however, Governor Onaga and his supporters want the base removed from the island altogether. Henoko residents, in particular, fear the environmental degradation such a move would cause in an area known for its pristine beaches and diverse ecosystem. Although the Japanese government has halted construction of the relocation site in order to resume talks with Okinawan authorities, Tokyo continues to strengthen its security ties to the United States (6). Chinese aggression in the East China Sea, closest to Okinawa, and the longstanding nuclear threat from North Korea have driven Tokyo to further shield itself under the U.S. security umbrella (7). As the Japanese government depends on the United States for such security, complete removal of America’s military presence on Okinawa remains a distant hope.
In order to effectively mitigate the myriad harms its military presence poses, the United States should make Japan’s defense the responsibility of Tokyo, not Washington. From 2004 to 2013, Japanese defense spending fell five percent. Moreover, Japan’s defense expenditures are a paltry one percent of its GDP, compared to around three percent in China, Japan’s primary adversary, and around 3.5 percent in the U.S., Japan’s primary benefactor (8). A lack of will, rather than a lack of funds, keeps Japan from military independence. By leaving Okinawa and forcing Japan to pursue greater autonomy, the U.S. can rest assured that security cooperation with Japan is not dependent upon its presence there. However, what follows – use of Okinawa’s bases by Japanese forces, the transfer of control to the Okinawan government or the return of land to private individuals – should be the decision of the Japanese (9).
(1) Soble, Jonathan. “Okinawa Murder Case Heightens Outcry Over U.S. Military’s Presence.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 June 2016. Web. 27 June 2016.
(2) Bandow, Doug. “Let’s Bring Troops Home From Okinawa: Japanese Should Decide Own Defense Future.” The World Post. The Huffington Post, 21 June 2016. Web. 27 June 2016.
(3) “EDITORIAL: Okinawa Leader Onaga Is Right: SOFA Needs a Sweeping Review.” The Asahi Shimbun. Asia and Japan Watch, 24 May 2016. Web. 27 June 2016.
(5) Goenka, Himanshu. “Japan To Halt US Okinawa Base Relocation Work But Government Says Plan Intact.” The International Business Times. IBT Media, 04 March 2016. Web. 27 June 2016.
(6) “Japan to Suspend Work on Relocating U.S. Base in Okinawa.” Reuters. Thomson Corporation, 04 March 2016. Web. 27 June 2016.
(7) Tatsumi, Yuki, and Mengjia Wan. “Don't Expect Too Much of Japan's Defense Reforms.” The Diplomat. Trans-Asia Inc., 09 Oct. 2015. Web. 27 June 2016.
(8) Bandow, Doug. “Let’s Bring Troops Home From Okinawa: Japanese Should Decide Own Defense Future.” The World Post. The Huffington Post, 21 June 2016. Web. 27 June 2016.
Image: © Videowokart | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-us-military-base-okinawa-image23021267#res14972580">US military base in Okinawa</a>
Discourse surrounding weapons proliferation remains largely reticent on the topic of radiological threats. Nuclear, chemical and biological weapons are readily recognized for the untold threat they pose to international security; however, the use of radioactive materials as weapons of mass disruption has yet to reach public consciousness. The “dirty bomb” is the most commonly recognized radiological dispersal device (RDD), which combines conventional explosives, like dynamite, and radioactive material (1). Although most RDDs would not release enough radioactive material to precipitate death or severe illness, experts worry how, in the hands of terrorists, radiological weapons might be used as an instrument to sow panic and fear among their targets.
For US officials working in the field of nonproliferation, concerns over terrorism and radiological weapons, like dirty bombs, began more than two decades ago. In the 1990s, reports emerged that Al-Qaeda, with the aid of Sudan, was attempting to obtain uranium necessary to create a dirty bomb (2). Today, in light of reports that the Islamic State has secured enough material to contaminate major cities, costing billions of dollars in damage and creating social panic, these worries are renewed (3). In 2014, the terrorist group reportedly stole 40 kg of uranium compounds from a university in Iraq (4). While the threat of radiological attack from the Islamic State is most imminent in the Middle East and North Africa, European governments and the United States are on high alert. Investigators suspect that the ISIL-affiliated brothers responsible for the suicide attack inside Belgium’s international airport last March may have been plotting to gain access to one of the country’s nuclear research laboratories (5). In response to this evolving threat, world leaders convened at the Nuclear Security Summit held March 31 - April 1, 2016 in Washington, D.C., to discuss radiological terrorism. Twenty-three countries present at the Summit agreed to secure their radiological sources by the end of 2016. These countries represent, however, only 14 percent of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Member States (6). This figure indicates that radioactive material in medical, industrial, commercial and research sites in more than 100 countries remain vulnerable to attack from extremist groups (7).
To effectively mitigate this potential crisis, governments and the private sector must work together. Raising awareness about radiological threats, developing a system to track and secure radiological sources and replacing the use of these materials with safer technologies will require a concerted effort (8). Considering the growth of terrorist organizations, the need for permanent threat reduction is more imperative than ever.
(1) “Fact Sheet on Dirty Bombs.” United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 21 June 2016.
(2) Stein, Jeff. “How Washington, D.C., Is Preparing for the Next Terrorist Attack.” Newsweek. Newsweek LLC, 21 June 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
(3) Bieniawski, Andrew, Iliopulos, Ioanna M., and Nalabandian, Michelle. “Radiological Security Progress Report.” Nuclear Threat Initiative. 23 March 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
(4) Armstrong, Ian. “Assessing the Risk of an ISIS ‘Dirty Bomb.’” Global Risk Insights. 3 March 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
(5) Neuhauser, Alan. “How Real Is the Dirty Bomb Threat?” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 23 March 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
(6) Iliopulos, Ioanna M. “Significant Gaps Exist in Security of Radiological Materials.” Nuclear Threat Initiative. 23 March 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
(7) “The Radiological Threat: Radioactive "Dirty Bombs" Are Weapons of Mass Disruption.” Nuclear Threat Initiative. 30 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 June 2016.
(8) Bieniawski, Andrew, Iliopulos, Ioanna M., and Nalabandian, Michelle. “Radiological Security Progress Report.” Nuclear Threat Initiative. 23 March 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
Image: © Alexander Ishchenko | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-bomb-laying-pripyat-city-image12037312#res14972580">Bomb laying in Pripyat City.</a>
On Tuesday, June 7, President Obama met with India’s leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to discuss the State’s emergence as a formidable actor in the international system and to reflect on the two countries’ shared interests in trade, defense and energy. This visit arrived in the midst of India’s current bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)–a 48-nation body, which oversees trade in nuclear-related exports and endeavors to protect civilian nuclear trade from military purposes (1). Most notably, this meeting highlights a persistent yet evolving security dilemma in Southeast Asia between India and Pakistan that threatens regional stability.
A leader in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the US, in particular, has fervently expressed its support for Indian membership to the NSG. Indian membership would not only further cement the country’s standing as a global power but also, as some analysts suggest, fulfill President Obama’s pivot east to contain China and its ally, Pakistan. Specifically, Chinese aggression in the South China Sea has motivated the Obama Administration to diplomatically forge a strong, defensive relationship with India (2). Ostensibly, the US seeks to promote stability in the region; however, its support for Indian membership to the NSG has exacerbated tensions between India and Pakistan–two perennial adversaries. In the wake of India’s bid to join this body, Pakistan has indicated that Indian membership would increase the likelihood of a nuclear arms race and, more recently, suggested that it will give Pakistani military commanders access to battlefield nuclear weapons, in the event of India’s membership (3). Beyond concerns of this evolving security dilemma, critics of the United States’ support for Indian membership to the NSG point to the fact that India has ratified neither the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Ratification of these treaties has traditionally been the litmus test for NSG membership. India, however, remains resolved in its effort to avoid legal obligation that would limit its ability to produce fissile material and test nuclear weapons (4). In 2008, the Bush administration struck a deal with India that allowed the country to trade in nuclear materials without the obligation to sign and ratify the aforementioned treaties (5).
As a June 20 meeting in Seoul to evaluate India’s application for NSG membership looms, the international community must consider how the acceptance of India to the NSG would upset the nuclear balance of power between India and Pakistan and contribute to the deterioration of regional security, overall. Although fragile, Pakistan deserves consideration for the NSG, as well. The country is party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and is subject to close scrutiny from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (6). Mutual constraint in the form of NSG membership for both countries and acceptance of the relevant treaties promise to most effectively mitigate the threat of further regional instability.
(1) Ayub Sumbal, Malik. "India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group." The Diplomat. Trans Asia Inc., 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.
(2) Hussain, Tom. "Obama's Pivot East Fuels an Asian Cold War." Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera Media Network, 12 June 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.
(3) "Obama Administration Defends Decision To Back India's NSG Membership." NDTV.com. New Delhi Television Limited, 25 May 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.
(4) "No Exceptions for a Nuclear India." The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 June 2016. Web. 14 June 2016.
(6) Regehr, Ernie. "India and the Nuclear Suppliers Group: Time for Plan B."Project Ploughshares. Project Ploughshares, n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.
Image: © Palinchak | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/editorial-stock-image-barack-obama-narendra-damodardas-modi-washington-d-c-usa-mar-nuclear-security-summit-united-states-president-talks-prime-image69207414#res14972580">Barack Obama and Narendra Damodardas Modi</a>
On June 7, the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened to discuss Russian violations of borders, treaties, and human rights. The Minsk accords, multilateral agreements intended to cease Russian hostilities in eastern Ukraine, lied at the heart of this hearing (1). However, in the testimonies of Vladimir Kara-Murza of Open Russia and David Satter of the Hudson Institute, a more sobering discussion of human rights and civil society emerged. Beyond the enforcement of international obligations and the posturing of military forces, the greatest challenge that faces the US and other states seeking to maintain international security is an “intellectual” one, according to Satter. The principal task of the US, as it seeks to mitigate Russian aggression, is to envisage the most effective means of holding Vladimir Putin’s regime accountable to the people and ending a 25-year era of post-Communist abuses.
The political order in Russia is a mere shell of a democracy. In recent years, as Russian military adventurism in the region has increased, so too the repression of civil society has steadily persisted. A series of laws enacted within the last five years have made it more difficult for Russians to assemble and protest, speak freely on the Internet, and advocate for political and humanitarian causes (2). In December 2011, mass protests erupted in Moscow and other Russian cities in response to Putin’s announcement that he would run for a third term as president and allegations of rigged parliamentary elections. One month later, after Putin’s inauguration, the Russian parliament passed a bill, which raised fines and penalties for participation in unauthorized protests to 300,000 rubles (more than $9,000 at the time). In July 2014, Putin authorized a new and even more restrictive law that not only raises fines for protesters but also threatens five years of forced labor or prison (3). In its effort to further suppress dissident voices, the Kremlin has readily shrunk independent media to near oblivion and actively censors free information. By the end of 2016, it is expected that the State will have limited foreign ownership of media companies to 20 percent (4). Moreover, Putin’s regime has specifically targeted civil society, particularly non-governmental organizations and other advocacy groups, under the specious pretenses of ‘national security’ and ‘constitutional order.’ Golos, an election watchdog that detailed fraud during the 2011 elections, is just one victim of Russia’s “foreign agent law”, which requires NGOs receiving funds from outside the State to register as “foreign agents” or be subject to exorbitant fines. Anyone who refuses to capitulate to the Kremlin’s demands might be subject to an attack on his or her finances or reputation, or even violence or death (5). During the hearing, Kara-Murza, Satter, and senators, alike, made several references to Boris Nemstov–a former Russian politician, democracy advocate, and vocal critic of President Putin who was assassinated last year in Moscow (6).
Holding perpetrators responsible for this kind of violence and repression will require a more robust enforcement of sanctions, according to Kara-Murza and Satter. Kara-Murza explained that public lists containing the names of Russian perpetrators who the US has sanctioned for human rights violations present reputational costs that are most effective in deterring these aggressors (7). The US can strengthen this effort by declassifying lists likely containing the names of high-ranking officials. Moreover, as Satter himself described, the US must endeavor to promote psychological healing in Russia. An initiative, akin to the South African Truth Commission, that endeavors to uncover the past 25 years of abuse must be encouraged and implemented. However, as September elections inch ever closer, the US must, in the immediate future, provide its full support to Russian civil society, as lasting deterrence will ultimately come from the inside.
(1) “Ukraine Ceasefire: New Minsk Agreement Key Points.” BBC News. British Broadcasting
Corporation, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 9 June 2016.
(2) Boghani, Priyanka. “Putin’s Legal Crackdown on Civil Society.” Frontline. Public
Broadcasting Service, 13 Jan. 2015. Web. 9 June 2016.
(5) Lokshina, Tanya. “Russian Civil Society Deemed ‘Undesirable’.” openDemocracy.
openDemocracy, 20 May 2015. Web. 9 June 2016.
(6) “Russia: Events of 2015.” World Report 2016. Human Rights Watch, 2016. Web. 9 June
(7) Baker, Peter and Ellen Barry. “U.S. Penalizes Russians for Human Rights Violations.”
The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 12 April 2013. Web. 9 June 2016.
Image: © Nikolaev | Dreamstime.com - <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-anti-putin-rally-image23549065#res14972580">Anti-Putin Rally</a>
In the Gulf region, the month of May marked a convergence of tensions. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, notably Kuwait and Bahrain, both internally dealt with growing civil discord amidst an evolving regional conflict with Iran. In January 2016, Saudi officials executed Shi’ite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr–an event which precipitated Shi’ite demonstrators’ destruction of the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Kuwait and Bahrain, in a display of solidarity with its Sunni ally, consequently downgraded diplomatic ties with Iran (1). Since January, Kuwait and Bahrain have renewed their respective efforts to suppress internal Shi’ite dissent, prompting not only greater civil discord but also further disregard for human rights.
Tensions in Bahrain last month were reminiscent of the country’s sectarian crisis that characterized, in part, the beginnings of the Arab Spring. In February 2011, the Bahraini government, which the Sunni minority leads, sought to disband the Shia opposition group, Al-Wefaq, in order to quell the pro-democracy movement among the Shia majority. During this crackdown, Bahrain’s officials killed, arbitrarily detained, and tortured hundreds of protesters. The regime justified its violent suppression of dissent, claiming that Shia-majority Iran was fomenting unrest among its population (2). However, in November 2011, Bahrain’s king acceded to the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) related to the government’s human rights record and promised desperately needed reform. Despite claims that Bahrain has fully implemented BICI recommendations, the regime has not held a single government official accountable for abuses that occurred in 2011 (3). Moreover, Bahraini activists and civil society leaders continue to report the suppression of basic rights, like the freedom of association and expression. Human Rights First, in interviews with activists and leaders, additionally confirms the continued arbitrary detention and torture of opposition (4). The Bahraini regime has successfully cloaked its abuses in a narrative that portrays Shia Muslims as not only terrorists but also, more importantly, the agents of Iran. The US, among other members of the international community, has readily accepted this narrative, as its relationship with Bahrain carries strategic military considerations. Notably, Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet (5). While BICI recommendations remain unimplemented, the US State Department, in response to this strategic relationship, continues to weaponize the regime with small arms (6). This year, however, it appeared that the US might seek to mitigate Bahraini abuses. At the behest of US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Bahraini government, on May 31, released opposition activist Zainab al-Khawaja and her toddler from Bahraini detention. As Brian Dooley of Human Rights First notes, the release of al-Khawaja and her son, although certainly positive, is “no major breakthrough for human rights, (and) no indicator of fundamental reform (7).” If the US supports human rights as it claims, it must immediately ban the sale of small arms and ammunition to Bahrain and impose sanctions on those who promulgate these abuses.
Meanwhile, in Kuwait, sectarian tensions indeed persist, as about a third of Kuwait’s population are Shia. ISIL attacks have primarily marked this divide between Sunni and Shia. In June 2015, an ISIL attack on a Kuwaiti Shia mosque killed 27 worshippers (8). Though, it should be noted that Kuwaiti Shi’ites have historically enjoyed a relatively cordial relationship with the Sunni ruling family and played an integral role in the country’s politics. After the liberation of Kuwait, when the country’s parliament was restored, the Kuwaiti Shi’ites reassumed their active role in the parliamentary process and continued to align themselves with the royal family (9). Despite interruptions to the peace, this relationship, however tenuous it may be, endures today. Perhaps the more salient source of civil discord in Kuwait is the government’s treatment of the Bidun population. The Bidun are an ethnic population, numbering nearly 100,000, whose name means “without nationality.” Either descendants of nomadic tribes or Arabs who joined the Kuwaiti army in the 1970s and ‘80s, the Bidun are denied citizenship and are considered illegal immigrants in Kuwait (10). On May 28, reports stated that Kuwait’s supreme court upheld the jail sentences of six stateless rights activists, including Abdul Hakeem Al Fadhli, who were arrested in 2014 while protesting the denial of Kuwaiti citizenship and other basic rights to the Bidun population (11). Possibly, in an effort to distract from the outcome of these proceedings and assuage the international community, the next day, May 29, Kuwait agreed to return 47 prisoners to Iran after months of negotiating a bilateral agreement. This transfer of convicts to Iran is the largest, at one time, since the 1979 Revolution (12). The following day, the US State Department approved a $420 million support package to enhance Kuwait’s fleet of Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet fighter aircraft (13). It appears that the US will continue to prioritize military strategy over the protection of human rights and the promotion of human security.
Given the United States’ resources and influence in the international community, the onus primarily falls on the US to induce countries like Bahrain and Kuwait to honor their international obligations. With lifting international sanctions and a projected, improved economic forecast in Iran, the balance of power might shift favorably toward Tehran, causing Gulf insecurity to increase. If the repression of Shi’ite communities in these states is largely a response to regional insecurity over Iran, the insistence that the US organize an effort to address these concerns becomes increasingly imperative.
(1) Al Omran, Ahmed and Asa Fitch. “Sectarian Tensions in Middle East Deepen as Saudi Arabian Allies Join Rift With Iran.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 4 Jan. 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(2) Kerr, Simeon. “Bahrain Moves to Ban Opposition.” Financial Times. Nikkei, 14 April 2011. Web. 2 June 2016.
(3) Dooley, Brian. “Bahrain’s False Claims on BICI.” The World Post. The Huffington Post, 10 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(4) Dooley, Brian. “50 Days of a Broken Promise in Bahrain.” The World Post. The Huffington Post, 26 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(5) Agence France-Presse. “Bahrain Releases Activist Zainab al-Khawaja.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 31 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(6) Dooley, Brian. “50 Days of a Broken Promise in Bahrain.” The World Post. The Huffington Post, 26 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(7) Agence France-Presse. “Bahrain Releases Activist Zainab al-Khawaja.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 31 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(8) Al-Marashi, Ibrahim. “Shattering the Myths about Kuwaiti Shia.” Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera
Media Network, 30 June 2015. Web. 2 June 2016.
(9) Al-Marashi, Ibrahim. “Shattering the Myths about Kuwaiti Shia.” Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera Media Network, 30 June 2015. Web. 2 June 2016.
(10) Taylor, Adam. “The Controversial Plan to Give Kuwait’s Stateless People Citizenship of a Tiny, Poor African Island.” The Washington Post. Nash Holdings LLC, 17 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(11) “Top Kuwait Court Jails Stateless Activist Over Protest.” Gulf News. GN Media, 28 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(12) “Kuwait Returns 47 Iranian Prisoners to Tehran.” Al Bawaba. Al Bawaba Media Network, 29 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
(13) Waldron, Greg. “US Approves $420m Support Deal for Kuwait Hornets.” Flightglobal. Reed Business Information Ltd, 30 May 2016. Web. 2 June 2016.
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Bailee Ahern has been the Director of Human Security for Global Intelligence since the summer of 2016. In this position, she strives to find the nexus of international affairs and human-interest stories. Outside of GIT, Bailee is a student at the University of Southern California, where she studies political science and international relations. Her research interests are varied. Bailee has spent time in Washington, D.C., studying nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction; at the University of Oxford, researching humanitarian action and peacemaking; and on campus, assisting a professor with political-risk analysis of inter-state conflicts. Both the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and the USC Journal of Law & Society have published her research. The one through line in all of Bailee's work is a passion for writing. Her column for the Daily Trojan––USC's only student-run newspaper––has become an invaluable outlet to engage her campus and a confluence of all her greatest passions––writing, politics, and social justice.