Some weeks, there are so many tall-skinny cylinders sitting around my apartment you might think I spend my time as a wizard in The Cones of Dunshire. Sadly, you’d be wrong. The job of a WIRED Gear reviewer does not include making civilizations to collect cones. It does involve testing a ton of can-shaped portable speakers. The JBL Link 20 is one my favorites, and it’s half off through April 27.
Usually speakers come in, and I test them, and then they leave my cluttered life. But the JBL Link 20 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) has been so reliable and useful that I’ve kept it around for nearly a year and a half. It’s a Google Home speaker that lets you speak to a voice assistant hands-free, like all of the best smart speakers these days. This one has Google Assistant. Unlike many smart speakers, it’s also waterproof (it floats!), can connect via Bluetooth, and has a battery that holds a 10-hour charge.
JBL’s Link 10, Link 300, and Link 500 speakers are also on sale. The smaller model has weaker battery life and the larger two don’t have batteries at all, but all three are also Google speakers I recommend.
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Is the Link 20 for You?
Here’s what I like and dislike about the Link 20.
WIRED: The Link 20 merges the convenience and portability of the best Bluetooth speakers and the new generation of smart speakers for the home. It has an extra light to show its Wi-Fi signal strength and a light-up indicator for battery life. Muting, volume, and pausing are easy, as is activating Bluetooth. It can also charge while standing up, which isn’t always true for bottle-shaped speakers.
Since it’s a Google Home speaker, setup is also easy. Just download the Google Home app, click to set up a new device, and you’re pretty much done. Google Assistant is currently more capable than Amazon’s Alexa assistant when it comes to networking speakers and answering questions.
TIRED: The only issue I’ve had with the Link 20 is that it has such a strong microphone, it sometimes overpowers my other Google speakers. Sometimes, even if I’m talking to a speaker in the kitchen, the Link 20 will try to answer. Closing my bedroom door fixes this problem.
If you’ve ever heard a JBL speaker, your ears will feel at home. JBL’s are not as clear as the absolute best speakers, like those from UE or Sonos, but they do the job well. The Link 20 can play Lizzo’s new album with the best of ‘em, and I can’t say I’ve cared about much else for the past couple of weeks.
A damning new report by the Department of Justice found that Alabama mens prisonsand the depraved conditions inmates have been forced to endurelikely violate the Eighth Amendment, which protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishments.
As part of a two-and-half-year investigation, the DOJ determined that Alabama prisons have the highest homicide rate in the nation and that the violence behind bars has increased dramatically in the past five years.
The United States Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishments but the conditions found in our investigation of Alabama prisons provide reasonable cause to believe there is a flagrant disregard of that injunction, U.S. Attorney Richard Moore said.
Within one week inside Alabama state mens prisons, the DOJ recorded numerous violent attacks, sexual assaults, and contraband, such as methamphetamine and weapons.
During one horrific incident described in the report, two prisoners stood guardwatching for rarely-seen correctional officerswhile two other prisoners stabbed a fellow inmate.
The victim screamed for help. Another prisoner tried to intervene and he, too, was stabbed, the report reads. When an officer finally responded, he found the prisoner lying on the floor bleeding from his chest. The prisoner eventually bled to death. One… resident told us that he could still hear the prisoners screams in his sleep.
The investigation found that a combination of crowding and understaffing has facilitated violence and illegal activity between inmates. Prison officials told investigators they are often unable to protect inmates even when given warning.
The violations are severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision; overcrowding; ineffective housing and classification protocols, the report reads.
In addition to the excessive amount of violence, sexual assault, and prisoner deaths, investigators found widespread reports of hostage situations and extortion between inmates, calling it a significant problem. The DOJ established a toll-free number for prisoners to report extortion by their fellow inmates, but inspectors found that the prisons were unable to prevent or protect prisoners from the tactic.
When one prisoner reported that he was being forced into sexual acts by other prisoners while being extorted for drug money, a resource officer told him that because he was in debt to a fellow prisoner, nothing could be done.
Another inmate reported being held hostage for several days in a dormitory over a debt. Upon finally escaping, the prisoner was so badly beaten he was immediately sent to the emergency room and required two facial surgeries.
The mother of one prisoner reported to the DOJ that she and her son were being extorted for money to pay off an alleged $600 debt to another prisoner. Through texts, the extorter threatened to chop her son into pieces and rape him if she did not send him $800.
Inmates reported rats and maggots in kitchen facilitiesand when one DOJ official entered a kitchen to inspect it, he became sick from inhaling toxic cleaning chemicals fumes.
Our investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Alabama fails to provide constitutionally adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm, as a result, said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.
When DOJ experts shared preliminary conclusions with prison management, officials rarely, if ever, asked substantive questions, and the violence in Alabamas prisons has only increased since then, the report says.
In ongoing litigation, the Alabama prison systemwhich houses over 16,000 prisoners, but is designed to hold only 9,882has admitted to being dangerously understaffed. In February 2019, the system indicated that it needs to hire over 2,200 correctional officers and 130 supervisors over the next four years.
According to the report, if, after 49 days, the prison system has not corrected deficiencies identified in the report, the attorney general may file a lawsuit.
In response to the report, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said they are making efforts to improve hiring and retention of correctional staff. The department has requested $31 million dollars in their 2020 budget, which Dunn says will allow them to hire 500 new correctional officers and increase the pay scale for all security personnel.
In response to DOJs findings, it is important to understand all the current efforts ADOC has taken and will continue to take to improve the conditions of confinement within the male prison system, Dunn said. (The governors) commitment to working closely with the Legislature to resolve this generational problem will ultimately lead to a 21st Century prison system.
Hustling is the default mode of the 21st century, and I’m not above listing my adorable split-level Victorian on Airbnb during my out-of-town weekends. Need to rent a car for the day? Take mine—I wasn’t using it anyway. But whoring out my bed—my own private sanctuary, complete with sweat-stained sheets and raggedy stuffed elephant named Elephant—on Recharge, the “Airbnb for naps”? I’d rather sell a kidney. The tech industry thinks that every last inch of my personal space should be for hire, that strangers should be able to rent it, on demand, by the hour, at their convenience. I call it, with eye roll heavily implied, the sublet economy. Initial moves toward the micropersonal seemed sane enough: Share the extra storage space in your garage (Spacer) or the empty parking spot in your driveway (Pavemint, CARMAnation) or that boat you spent way too much money on (Boatbound, Antlos). But now we can’t look past our own noses without seeing dollar signs and feeling the guilt of unmonetized potential. Nothing is sacred, not even your laundry room (Laundromatch—now defunct, ha!). With all those student loans, can you really afford to leave your kitchen vacant instead of entrusting it to someone else’s dinner party (Feastly)? You know that very relatable problem where you have a toilet that’s just sitting there, not generating any revenue, most hours of the day? Put it on Airpnp, the “Airbnb of toilets”! When I volunteer to host my most intimate spaces, I sacrifice some of my basic human dignity. What’s next, a service for renting out my fresh, youthful blood? What’s mine is not yours. Unless you’d like to help me scrounge up the cash for a down payment on a house. Did I mention I had a kidney for sale?
Girls involved in gang crime are being overlooked and failed by the authorities, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Half of children involved with gangs are girls and they “desperately need help to get out”, Anne Longfield said.
They are often used to carry knives or drugs because they are less likely to be stopped by police, she told the BBC.
The Local Government Association said “limited funding” meant councils had to prioritise those at immediate risk.
‘Under the radar’
Ms Longfield told the Victoria Derbyshire programme she was writing to the government and local authorities calling for a review into support for female gang members, who were “not getting the help they need”.
“Teachers, social workers, GPs and youth workers need to be doing more to help get these girls out of gangs,” she said.
“So many are trapped with nowhere to go.”
Two-thirds of children in England assessed by councils as being involved in gangs are boys (66%) and one third girls (34%), figures analysed by the children’s commissioner’s office suggest.
Estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest a higher figure – that as many as half may be girls.
But the Metropolitan Police Service’s gangs matrix database lists 3,000 male gang members known to the authorities in London and just 18 female gang members.
And London’s deputy mayor for policing, Sophie Linden, said a lot of girls were going “under the radar”.
Nequela Whittaker, who used to be in a gang but is now a youth worker, said girls as young as 11 were now telling her they carried weapons for “boyfriends, other counterparts and gang members”.
“As young as these girls are, they are not scared to carry a weapon and if something went wrong to use it,” she told the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
“They are the ones who are getting away with it, mostly because they are not looked upon as a person of interest, as opposed to a young male.”
Until recently, “Samira”, 18, was a member of a south London gang who had groomed her into carrying weapons from the age of 12.
“It would mostly be kitchen knives, for gang members and for my own protection,” she said.
Asked if she was aware of the harm this could lead to, she replied: “All you think about is yourself. You don’t really care about what happens to the other person.
“All you want to do is protect yourself and you’re willing to do anything to do that.”
She said she had also seen other girls being sexually exploited by senior gang members.
“I saw people getting stabbed, getting shot, people getting beaten up and getting robbed,” she said.
She is now pregnant, which she said had allowed her to escape gang culture.
Ms Linden, said it was heartbreaking to hear young girls talk about being groomed and abused.
“We are doing our best to engage with those we know about and make sure we are actively reaching out to communities, to ensure we are working with young women and girls who are being exploited.
“We haven’t forgotten them.”
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils across England, said: “Councils are being forced to divert the limited funding they have left away from preventative work, including young offenders teams and youth work, into services to protect children who are at immediate risk of harm.”
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When Steve Gilbert met his wife, Jill, he had just left the Royal Marines, unnerved by a growing realisation that he was attracted to men – “especially the hunky guys”.
Almost 40 years on, Jill has dementia and lives in a care home – and Steve, now Stephanie, has had gender reassignment surgery.
“I always felt female,” Stephanie says.
“But you learn to hide everything when growing up – to fit in to society.”
Steve and Jill were both into sport and fitness when they met, at their local leisure centre, near Redruth, Cornwall.
Jill was 18 years older, with three children from a previous marriage, so they decided to just “play it by ear” but as time went on, Stephanie says: “I fell in love with her and it just got deeper and deeper.”
Steve told Jill he felt he should be female – but when she told him marriage would change this, he put his misgivings to one side to concentrate on being a good husband and immersed himself in sport.
In his 20s, he was particularly successful at judo, coming third in his weight category in the national judo championships three years running.
But rather than going away, the feeling that he should be female grew – and in his late 40s, he decided he wanted to live as a woman.
“And, of course, that’s when the difficulties started in the marriage – arguments,” Stephanie says.
After a referral to a gender identity clinic in Newton Abbot, Devon, Steve was accepted for hormone treatment – but, Jill, then in her late 60s, hated the idea.
They had all but decided to separate but Jill had a series of family bereavements and was also ill herself, with breast cancer and, later, arthritis.
So Steve decided to put his transition on hold “until things were sorted out”.
“I couldn’t put her through it.”
Soon afterwards, Jill began to show the early signs of dementia.
“At the beginning, you notice little things… and then you think there’s more to it as she repeats herself and then you find that you got like half a dozen tins of mustard powder and loads and loads of kitchen paper but no toilet paper. You think, ‘No, something’s not right.‘”
Jill never recovered properly from a general anaesthetic almost nine years ago and Steve, a skilled carpenter and joiner, whose work took him all over Cornwall, became increasingly concerned about her safety while she was at home on her own.
“In the end, I had to take the knobs off the cooker,” Stephanie says.
“It got too much and I gave up work completely to look after her full time.”
Giving up work also gave Steve the opportunity to live as Stephanie full time.
“At home, I would just be who I wanted to be and try to look after Jill – but it wasn’t brilliant,” she says.
“I had to sort of almost be gender neutral so it was indistinguishable. She still had some of her faculties about her.”
Becoming a full-time carer was exhausting. If Jill needed the toilet in the night, she was often unable to find her way back to bed.
“As the illness developed, I ended up getting fine-tuned to her. So as soon as I heard her get up, I’d be awake instantly,” Stephanie says.
Eventually, Stephanie became so stressed and depressed that she was admitted to hospital for five days.
Jill’s children took over as carers but quickly realised how tough it was and called in social services.
“It sort of got took out of my hands. I knew she was going to have to go into care but it ended up being sooner rather than later.
“I couldn’t cope any longer,” Stephanie says .
With Jill in a care home, Stephanie began to pick up the pieces of her life.
She went back to the gender clinic and was prescribed hormones – and there were other big changes.
“I decided I would pursue my dream of beauty therapy, I’d looked at it previously when I was Steve,” she says.
Stephanie was accepted at Cornwall College, which has “a really good diversity policy”.
“I think it just helped educate them a bit more,” she says, “because, as a trans person, I’ve always tried to let people know we’re just human beings who want to live our lives.”
Her course tutor, Paula Riley, has described Stephanie as “an inspiration in her open approach to transitioning”.
Paula says Stephanie’s college work was always exceptional despite the emotional upheaval of gender reassignment and her wife moving into a care home.
In November 2017, at 59, Stephanie finally underwent surgery and returned to the college early in 2018 to complete a course in Swedish massage.
Her resilience led to her being awarded 2018 Adult Student of the Year by the Association of Colleges – and this September she will begin a higher level course in sports massage.
Sadly, Jill’s dementia has progressed to the extent that she no longer recognises her husband of 30 years at all, even if Stephanie wears a short wig and gender neutral clothes.
Stephanie now has a salon in her home and does treatments for friends, including other trans women, but she still makes her living as a carpenter and joiner on building sites, as the pay is so much better.
She finds the work tough as the hormone therapy means she has lost a lot of strength, but still displays the tenacity and humour that made her so popular at college.
“I’m back on the building site, educating the guys, winding them up something rotten,” she says.
“It’s like, oh, they just really cringe and I say, ‘Haallo!’
“I’ve got to be careful I don’t get done for sexual harassment. It’s so funny. We have a good laugh.”
Walmart is doubling down on its technology innovations in its brick-and-mortar stores in an effort to better compete with Amazon. The retailer today announced the expanded rollout of several technologies — ranging from in-store Pickup Towers to help customers quickly grab their online orders to floor-scrubbing robots. These jobs were, in many cases, previously handled by people instead of machines.
The retailer says it will add to its U.S. stores 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners, 300 more shelf scanners, 1,200 more FAST Unloaders and 900 new Pickup Towers.
The “Auto-C” floor cleaner is programmed to clean and polish the store’s floor after the area is first prepped by associates. Publicly introduced last fall, the floor cleaner uses assisted autonomy technology to clean the floors instead of having an associate ride a scrubbing machine — a process that today eats up two hours of an employee’s time per day.
Built in partnership with Brain Corp., Walmart said in December it planned to deploy 360 floor-cleaning robots by the end of January 2019. It’s now bumping that rollout to include 1,500 more this year, bringing the total deployment to 1,860.
The Auto-S shelf scanners, meanwhile, have been in testing since 2017, when Walmart rolled out 50 robots to U.S. stores. It’s now adding 300 more to production to reach a total of 350.
These robots are produced by California-based Bossa Nova Robotics, and roll around aisles to scan prices and check inventory. The robots sit in a charging station until given a task by an employee — like checking inventory levels to see what needs restocking, identifying and finding misplaced items or locating incorrect prices or labeling.
In the backroom, Walmart has been testing FAST Unloaders that are capable of unloading a truck of merchandise along a conveyor belt in a fraction of the time it could be done by hand. The machines automatically scan and sort the items based on priority and department to speed up the process and direct items appropriately.
Unloading, the company noted earlier in testing, was also a heavily disliked job — and one it had trouble keeping staffed. Last summer, Walmart said it had 30 unloaders rolled out in the U.S. and was on pace to add 10 more a week.
Now, 1,200 more are being added to stores, bringing the total to 1,700.
The Pickup Towers have also been around since 2017, when they arrived in 200 stores. A sort of vending machine for online orders, the idea is that customers could save on orders by skipping last-mile deliveries, as shipping to a store costs Walmart less. Customers then benefit by getting a better price by not paying for shipping, and could get their items faster.
Walmart, however, claims to still have plenty of work for its staff — like picking groceries for its booming online grocery business, for example. Grocery shopping, generally, accounts for more than half its annual sales, and more of that business is shifting online.
The company also said that many of the jobs it automated were those it struggled to find, hire and retain associates to do, and by taking out the routine work, retention has improved.
“What we’re seeing so far suggests investments in store technology are shaping how we think about turnover and hours. The technology is automating pieces of work or tasks, rather than entire jobs,” a Walmart spokesperson said. “As that’s happening, we have been able to use many of the hours being saved in other areas of the store — focused more on service and selling for customers,” they continued.
“We have now added over 40,000 jobs for the online grocery picking role in stores over the last year and a half. These jobs didn’t exist a short time ago. The result so far: we’ve seen our U.S. store associate turnover reduced year-over-year,” the spokesperson added.
The tech announced today will roll out to U.S. stores “soon,” Walmart says, but didn’t provide exact dates.
When Harold Williams needed to answer nature’s call on March 16, he asked the employees of a Florida market if he could use their bathroom.
The Bahamian native said he received permission, but then one of the employees of Pines Market stabbed him in the face when he attempted to use the facilities.
Williams says he believes the incident was racially motivated and wants charges against his attacker increased from aggravated battery to attempted manslaughter or attempted murder, according to NBC Miami.
“I don’t know what motivated him to attack me, but I watch the news in the United States and I see how black and brown people are treated, and I can’t help but wonder if he stabbed me in the face because of the color of my skin,” Williams said, according to the station.
There’s a sign posted at Pines Market that reads, “No public restroom. Do not cross beyond this point,” but Williams said he didn’t see the sign and that the two clerks on duty gave him permission to use the bathroom. One employee, 24-year-old Fawaz Hassan, accompanied him to the rear of the market, according to CBS Miami.
On the way to the restroom, Williams says, Hassan reached out toward his face and struck him. Williams said he first thought Hassan had punched him but quickly realized the employee had stabbed him in his left cheek.
He described the weapon as a kitchen knife between 8 and 10 inches long.
“The only thing I asked was to use the restroom, and I was attacked. The man nearly took my life,” Williams said.
Williams’ attorney Jasmine Rand told CBS Miami that surveillance video supports her client’s story.
“There is video evidence of my client entering the store. The video evidence before he was stabbed and after he was stabbed it is very clear that my client was not committing any crime,” she said. “My client was unarmed, unprovoked, and it’s unjustifiable.”
Surveillance video showed Williams entering the business and then retreating with his hands up after being stabbed, police said.
“I didn’t say anything to him. I just said, ‘Sorry, I wanted to use the restroom,’” Williams told local station WPLG TV.
Williams made it to a nearby urgent care center, where employees did a CAT scan. Although the knifing didn’t damage any vitals, Williams said his doctor told him he may need surgery to repair the muscle in his jaw.
Police took Hassan into custody and charged him with aggravated battery.
Hassan’s attorney Eric Schwartzreich claims his client felt the need for self-defense when Williams attempted to go to the back of the business, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“He had to defend himself and stabbed the victim in the face,” Schwartzreich said. “It was not a random attack. He’s not a psychopath. It wasn’t done for any racial animus. It was done because of what [Hassan] perceived to be a need for a legal self-defense.”
There was no evidence that Williams had a weapon or intended to commit a crime in the business, investigators said.
I didnt do any exercise at all until I was 50. I remember trying out for the long-jump team at university for a laugh and I couldnt move for two weeks afterwards. So that was the end of my athletics career. And then I had three children and I was busy with my job. I was a social worker and ran two adoption agencies.
One day, I went to see an old friend from Nottingham University who was running a marathon. I thought that would be fun to do, at least a half marathon, anyway. I came back and told my husband and he laughed and said I wouldnt even be able to run as far as Northampton, which was about three miles from where we lived at the time. Its good to have a challenge like that! Sure enough, it did inspire me to run my first half marathon.
Then my husband died when I was 52. By then I had a small group of running friends and they were brilliantly supportive. I trained as a counsellor myself, but I found running better than counselling for dealing with grief. For one, you always feel better after youve been for a run as the endorphins kick in. But I think what is more important is the social element. Youre with people who support you and value you. You can talk if you want to, or you can be silent if you want to.
The running club was only small, but it did have one place in the London Marathon and thats when it became more serious for me. I ran my first marathon in 1996, when I was 53. I moved to London and became a member of the Serpentine Running Club and, with them, I completed my first London Triathlon when I was 58. I dont have an anterior cruciate ligament in either knee my daughter told me that Id need surgery if I kept pounding the streets like I used to and thats how I got into cycling and swimming as theyre a little easier on the joints. When I started swimming, at 56, I couldnt do crawl at all and swam breaststroke with my head above water like most women of my age. But swimming is a wonderful feeling. It might have something to do with our spending the first nine months of our gestation suspended in water.
Theres so much evidence that if you keep physically active, you dont experience some of the difficulties associated with ageing. There are lower rates of type 2 diabetes among the active, but falling over is the biggest thing. If you can keep your bone and muscle strength up, youre less likely to fall and you might also be able to prevent yourself from hitting the ground if you do fall. Falls are one of the things that costs the NHS the most money.
Im getting slower as I get older, of course I am. I do manage to run 5k, but I walk a bit more. I feel lucky that I can still jog along the Thames.
Edwina Brocklesby is the director of Silverfit, a charity that promotes physical activity among ageing people. She is also the UKs oldest Ironman triathlete. She was recently awarded the British Empire Medal
A Lin-Manuel Miranda follow is almost worth more than the presidency.
Image: emma mcintyre/getty images
Mayor Pete husband’s Chasten Buttigieg is a rare thing: a Twitter celebrity who deserves his fame.
So it was a beautiful thing to see Lin-Manuel Miranda, an equally deserving Twitter celebrity, follow Buttigieg on Twitter. But it wasn’t just that Miranda followed Chasten. It was how Chasten responded that brought joy to the rest of the internet.
“Doing a quick bit of laundry. Hear loud scream. Run into kitchen terrified, expecting to see @Chas10Buttigieg in pool of blood,” Pete wrote on Twitter. “Am thereupon informed that @Lin_Manuel is following my husband, whose life is now complete.”
Doing a quick bit of laundry. Hear loud scream. Run into kitchen terrified, expecting to see @Chas10Buttigieg in pool of blood. Am thereupon informed that @Lin_Manuel is following my husband, whose life is now complete.
Retired banker Irini Tzortzoglou has won this year’s MasterChef – and quickly said she has no plans to start a new career running a restaurant.
The 61-year-old triumphed in the BBC One show’s first all-female final.
For the final three-course challenge, she cooked red mullet with a squid risotto, griddled rosemary lamb chops and a fig and hazelnut baklava.
Irini, who took inspiration from her Greek childhood, grew up in Crete and now lives in Cartmel, Cumbria.
She was one of 56 amateur chefs who competed for the coveted MasterChef trophy in the show’s 15th series.
Over the course of several gruelling rounds of cooking challenges, they were whittled down to the final three.
Irini was particularly pleased to have been in the show’s first all-female final and said she wished she could have shared her trophy with her fellow finalists Jilly McCord and Delia Maria Asser.
She said: “It happened so quickly that I felt all the final that the three of us were like one.
“We were all doing our own thing, but actually we were in unison – so my instinctive reaction was: ‘Can I share it? Can I share it with my friends?‘”
Irini continued: “We are just lucky we are three women who love and respect each other and have grown to be very fond and appreciative of each other’s talents.”
Irini said being filmed throughout the series did not bother her because she remained “totally focused”.
In an interview on BBC Breakfast, she said: “The cameras didn’t disturb me because you really need to ignore them if you want to cook.
“And the guys are fantastic, Gregg [Wallace] comes and relaxes you – he used to joke with me about Greek history, challenge me, laugh with me – and then John [Torode] is like a younger brother who cares for you, he wants you to do as well as you want to.
“They didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I loved being around them.”
Past winners of the show, such as 2005 champion Thomasina Miers and 2011’s Shelina Permalloo, have gone on to own their own restaurants.
But despite impressing some of the biggest names in the food industry throughout the competition, Irini’s future plans do not involve opening her own professional kitchen.
“I don’t think that at my time of life I want to run a restaurant,” she said.
“I want to spend more time with my mum and I would love to go round Greece and do some research – maybe make a programme, if I’m lucky.”