Thursday, March 31, 2005
  1001 Books for Aceh

I can't say that I'm a big fan of Starbucks and their café society, but then I do drink Sumatran coffee at home. That the McCoffee chain sells several varieties of shade-grown, Fair Trade, and organic coffees is to be applauded, although not all agree.

Starbucks and some friends of Jakartass are involved are in the following worthy appeal:

The December 26 earthquake and massive tsunami had a devastating impact on both the people and economy of Indonesia's Aceh Province and parts of Northern Sumatra. The immediate need for short-term assistance and aid is quickly shifting to the need for help with reconstruction and long-term recovery. Education, among many other issues, is now a big priority.

1001buku community with the support from Starbucks Indonesia will launch a program to assist the recovery process and create positive changes in Aceh by providing access to quality readings for children through non-profit children libraries owned and managed by the local volunteers.

You are cordially invited to a Press Conference to discuss the launch of 1001buku untuk Aceh Program in Jakarta, on Tuesday, 5 April 2005, at Starbucks Pasaraya, Blok M, at 03.30 pm.

Please confirm your attendance by contacting Lilis by email.

1001buku untuk Aceh would like your esteemed organization to be with us through the Campaign and help us deliver more books and educational toys to foster a new generation of children who will be able to fulfill their dreams to build Aceh some days.

Help for the Nisa and Simeulue earthquake victims is pouring in, though not without difficulties



8:30 pm |
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
  Nias and Simeulue Update 4pm

Many organisations already had teams in Indonesia dealing with the after-effects of the Boxing Day tsunami so the relief operations have been able to swing into action much more speedily than might otherwise have been the case. These include:
Red Cross
Save the Children
Catholic Relief Services

The following is a subscription email newsletter received today. SurfAid is based in Padang, West Sumatra, and its original brief was/is to provide health services to the good people of Mentawai. Since the Dec.26th tsunami, the organisation has been providing relief services primarily in Nias and surrounding islands.

Dear SurfAid supporters,

The team at SurfAid International is deeply saddened by yet another tragedy occurring in Sumatra, Indonesia. The March 28 earthquake measured between 8.2 and 8.9 on the Richter scale. This is one of the most powerful earthquakes the world has experienced in recorded history. The worst affected areas are the islands off the west coast of Sumatra, including Nias, Simeulue and the Banyak Islands. This quake has compounded the humanitarian crisis in the region still suffering from the effects of the December 26 catastrophe.

We are very appreciative of all the calls and e-mails that we have been receiving. All of our staff members located in Padang, West Sumatra, are safe, however there is still little word on our field team in Simeulue.

There is still no news on the following staff:
Rudi Sutriady - logistician
Enny Novita - part-time office support
Bapak Harun - driver

All efforts will continue to be made to contact the SurfAid staff in the Simeulue office.

The following is the latest news on the ground in Nias:
+ Indonesian officials report 330 people killed on Nias and Simeulue, though the death toll could reach more than 2,000.
+ We have located our staff member Herman who is now in Gunung Sitoli, where he is hard at work putting together a management team to assist the incoming doctors.
+ Herman reports widespread devastation of infrastructure.
+ The local hospital is still standing.
+ Hospital staff have fled, and there are scores of injured and nobody to attend to them.

SurfAid Response
SurfAid is planning emergency interventions to the worst affected areas of Nias and surrounding islands. Many of the affected populations are in isolated locations that may now be reachable only by boat, as most of the bridges on Nias have been destroyed. SurfAid's unique and established relationships with the local surf-charter industry have allowed us to use marine-based resources to rapidly initiate relief operations.

Initial plans comprise a marine-based medical and relief operation to address the worst hit areas of Gunung Sitoli and Teluk Dalam, Nias Island's largest towns. Both towns suffered extensive damage. Up to 80% of Gunung Sitoli's (population 20,000-30,000) buildings were destroyed, and reports from Teluk Dalam (population 10,000) indicate a similar situation. There are direct reports of people trapped under wreckage and numerous injuries, with a complete breakdown of communications, infrastructure and services.

Resources Deployed
Boat MV Saranya
On board:
2 SurfAid nurses, drugs, mosquito nets, rice, water and other food items

On board:
Surgical team from AusAID who will meet with our team on the ground comprising of:
2 Trauma Nurses
1 surgeon
1 GP
1 Emergency specialist

On board:
Dr Dave Jenkins + 2 other Dr's
Australian Journalist
Translator, team leader

MV Equator
On board:
5 Trauma Nurses
4 Doctors

Medical teams will assess the level of injuries of the affected populations for on-site treatment and stabilization of more severe cases for evacuation (on SurfAid boats) and further treatment in hospitals of the nearest unaffected port Sibolga, located on the Sumatran mainland east of Nias.

For more detailed information and daily updates, please visit the SurfAid International web site.

Many of you have asked how you can help. As always, the greatest need at times like this is funding, which enables us to fully maximize the scope of our operations. We greatly appreciate your continued support and concern.

Terima kasih,

Team SurfAid

Links from The Swanker.



4:00 pm |
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

John Read R.I.P.

I first met John some 14 years ago when he was extremely helpful to me as I set out from the security of a job contract to go freelance. We discovered that we had gone to neighbouring schools in S.E. London albeit a school generation apart; he to St. Joseph's Academy and me to Colfe's, both in Lewisham.

John ran his own business, Empi Brothers, which, he told me, he funded by bringing in loads of cash from Singapore as he didn't trust the Indonesian banking system. (It has got better, but ... )

He was always a gentleman, unfailingly polite, and full of anecdotes which I'm sure delighted the members of Indonesian Wine Society and the British Chamber of Commerce, which is where I last met him. He was held in great respect by all sectors of the expat community here.

We will miss you John and send sincere sympathy and condolences to your family.


9:30 pm |
Aceh Aftershock

Update 7pm local time.

The Indonesian Help blog is back online.

More links at the Expat Newsletter.
And The Swanker.

Checking the online press before leaving for work, I read that there has been a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

Survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami fled their homes in terror last night after a huge undersea earthquake measuring up to 8.7 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of Sumatra, leaving hundreds feared dead close to its epicentre.

Ninety-three days after giant waves left nearly 300,000 people dead or missing, there were fears of hundreds of new casualties on the Indonesian island of Nias.

From Banda Aceh, John Aglionby, the Guardian correspondent, gives an eyewitness account.

Shit, I thought ... it was a close call and not one that I would like to experience again.

There is no danger of another tsunami, but yet more aftershocks can be expected.

How this will affect reconstruction plans in North Sumatra and Aceh has obviously yet to be determined, but the first implication must be that Indonesia, with the world, must remained focused for many more years.

Jakartass suggests that locals, and others with satellite TV, tune into Metro TV for updates.


7:30 am |
Monday, March 28, 2005
  Mystical Jakarta

As I started to type this, the sound of drums and xylophone started up in front of our house ~ a hypnotic gamelan groove, metronomic music to muse to.

The three street performers were with their macaque, a long-tailed grey monkey generally found in Balinese temples and jungles in the east of Indonesia. The tethered monkey pranced around, donned a mask, stood on his hind legs and we gave Rp.1,000 for the musicians who had come from Cirebon to entertain we urban kampung dwellers.

However sophisticated Jakarta's citizens may feel themselves to be, we are never far from traditional performances and practices.

Yesterday an international golf tournament, the US$1milliom Standard Chartered Indonesia Open 2005, finished. I shall resist the temptation to launch into a diatribe about land clearances, chemical fertilizers entering the water table and how I prefer sports which are 'open' to the masses in terms of participation and cost.

What was notable about this tournament, however, was that it needed the services of a 'rainman', to keep the thunderstorms at bay. The first three days of the tournament were hampered by rain, so Basar Sumarta from Banten, West Java, was called in.

According to today's paper edition of the Jakarta Post, Basar ~ not to be confused with basah which means 'wet' ~ was called in by the organising committee on Saturday and seemingly kept the rain at bay despite ominous gray clouds hanging overhead.

Basar told the Jakarta Post, "One of the four rainmen did not do his job well to control the weather, therefore there was lightning on Thursday and Friday and rain on Saturday."

He recounted how a man came to him in a dream, telling him to fast every Monday and Thursday - a common practice among Javanese and Sundanese (West Javanese) to increase their spiritual awareness - seven times in a row.

"In my dream, the old man only told me that on the last day of my fast, someone would come to me asking for help," he said.

"On the last day of my fast, a man visited my house and asked me to help prevent rain at his event."

He said he was confused by the request, but prayed to God, read Koranic verses, and the event went off without a hitch.

This is one extraordinary dukun. Fellow expats planning their barbecues may like to note his address for future reference. It is to be found on page 10 of the Post, the Sports page.

I'd love to write more about the influence of dukuns here in Jakartass Towers, but it looks as if another storm is on its way so I'll quickly post this before disconnecting my modem and suggest that you read this article about the traditional healers of contemporary East Java.

And for those interested in different spirits and traditions, you may like to know that the Reveller has posted my profile for his readers.



6:30 pm |
Sunday, March 27, 2005
  Sunday Food Supplement

You are what you've eaten

Back in Blighty, a tremendous fuss is under way following a TV series focusing on meals supplied by the Schools Catering Service. Ah, school dinners - what nostalgia.

By coincidence, or convenience, the schools featured are all in SE London, where I was raised as a vegetarian before E numbers came to define ingredients. As a 'bulge baby', born shortly after World War II as troops returned to their wartime brides, my diet was healthy; because of food shortages, rationing was still in force.

The Ration Book Diet's low fat, high fibre and sensibly-sized portions meant that the British population enjoyed a level of health and fitness unsurpassed since 1945. There was no surfeit of sugar or salt; instead daily supplements of orange juice and malt extract, as well as foul-tasting cod liver oil were provided at school. We also drank a third of a pint of milk, a daily treat that Maggie Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher, did away with in 1976.

I didn't have school dinners in primary school (grades 1-6) ~ my sister and I were able to walk home at lunch time when we were fed bean casseroles, nut roast and other delights that I miss to this day.

However, not all was sweetness, excuse the pun, and light. Our mornings started with a bowl of Bircher muesli, which was not this recipe, but consisted of rolled oats (rather than the ubiquitous flaked variety) which were soaked overnight. In the morning our mother would add grated apple, generally picked in our suburban garden, blackcurrant purée and milk. I still gag at the memory.

British food in the 50's was, for some, singularly unappealing. Going to a semi-independent grammar school at 11 meant that I ended up having school dinners. I don't recall a choice of main course, so perforce I started to eat meat. But the compensation for me was the range of puddings, especially the stodgy steamed variety with custard.

As prosperity grew in post-war Britain, there was a need for women to leave the kitchen and re-enter the workforce. Greater disposable income led to a taste for foreign foods, initially Italian, then Indian and Chinese. Meal times became more irregular and we started to get used to pre-packaged, pre-digested foods such as Vesta curries, which consisted of dehydrated soya bean mush. Now, I'm led to believe, London is one of the world's food capitals, although my web search didn't track down an Indonesian restaurant.

The dietary conditions of Indonesia children are somewhat different. The prolonged economic crisis coupled with natural and manmade disasters such as drought, floods, landslides, earthquakes and the recent tsunami has not afforded all a balanced diet.

The crisis was associated with a clear negative shift in food consumption. The intake of foods providing minerals and vitamins of high quality which can be well absorbed by the body such as milk, eggs, and poultry decreased markedly. The daily diet of the surveyed population appears to have become less varied and more monotonous. The frequent consumption of tahu (soya bean curd) and/or tempeh (fermented soya bean 'cake') is encouraging because it is a good source of high quality protein (and cheap!).

Most schools in Jakarta, and probably elsewhere, sub-let space to fried rice and Pot Noodle vendors. Our Kid, of course, loves the snacks and instant foods, but we do give him a packed lunch for school. They don't have the attraction of the 41 lunch boxes ~ one of the many ephemeral everyday labors of domesticity ~ shown here, but we certainly hope that, thanks to vitamin supplements, he has a healthy diet. I do wonder though when he'll actually ask for fruit and vegetables. Fortunately, he does like bananas.

I also wonder if and when there will be room on the political agenda here for balanced and nutritious school meals, with professional catering staff and national politicians, such as Tony Blair (who has announced a series of plans to swap junk food for 'organic and local' fresh meals) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who wants to ban all sales of junk food in California schools and fill vending machines with fresh fruits, vegetables and milk), allocating resources.

When families are unable to provide, it becomes the responsibility of national leaders. A healthy nation needs well-nourished children.



11:30 am |
Friday, March 25, 2005
  You say tamaita, I say termahta

The Dude thinks that we English people speak very odd English.

Well, gor blimey, guv, strike me dahn wiva feaver. Doncha unnerstan proper English? Aincha ad a good lissenta Dick Van Dyke?

Unfortunately, the British Library's collection of British Accents and Dialects (Windows Media Player required) does not seem to have a London accent in its nigh on 700 sound bites, so you'll have to watch as many movies featuring Jason Statham as you can; then you'll have a notion of what I sound like when I speak Sarf Lunnon.

Actually, we Brits have problems with English as she is spoke by our colonial cousins.

Following yesterday's post about Sod's Law, the Dude comments that sod, to an American, is a premixed lawn product that you roll out over your bare yard, and six months later, you have a decent lawn. Why in the world would a prepared lawn mixture have a law?

What we Brits would like to know is how come a "piece of a surface layer of earth containing grass plants with their matted roots" (Webster's. pub. USA) is "a premixed lawn product". Is it crass commercialism, as in the patenting of genomes?

My tale of woe yesterday of Sod's Law (note the capitalisation), known in the US as Murphy's Law for some reason, was intended to show that shit happens wherever you are; it is a universal truism. However, it may be worth noting the Irish connection. The old sod is one's native land, Ireland, and under the sod means dead and buried. Murphy is, of course, an Irish name.

Not even Michael Quinion, who writes about International English from a British perspective at World Wide Words, can be definitive about either term.

I've recently read The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, about American English, which, in essence, points out that English speaking Americans base much of their language on what was taken over from Britain, including Ireland, by early settlers, who, because they were minority groups, did not speak mainstream English.

Given that the British Empire pre-dates this US-led era of globalisation, one could argue that British English is still the core of what passes for International English. We spread it first.

But, of course, there isn't just one English. The USA has different dialects which are equally acceptable, although Northerners deem their version to be superior to that of Southerners.

Oddly enough, the reverse used to be true in England with the King's (or Queen's) English, also known as received pronunciation, as used by the 'upper classes' and BBC announcers who, presumably, went through the public school system ~ which is, of course, limited to the monied classes and, therefore, private.

Thankfully, this has changed in the past 40 or so years. For me, the joy of English is that, like all living languages, it is continually transmuting. All of us who are comfortable with the internet have also had to come to terms with much new vocabulary, alternative spellings and grammatical variations.

Have you 'gotten' that, Dude?

Meanwhile, may I wish all my readers a Happy Easter, which I hope is the same in all languages.

Don't eat too many eggs.


2:00 pm |
Thursday, March 24, 2005
  A (Flanders and) Swann song

An extra day off for Easter.


Up at the crack of dawn as per usual thanks to Our Kid who hasn't got a day off. Nothing much in the paper ~ same old, same old.

Tried to log on to my ISP; it took nigh on half an hour. Downloaded a few pages so I could put together an interesting post, and this isn't it because there was a power cut.

When the power came back on, I did some work-related stuff which I couldn't complete yesterday because, yes, there had been a power surge which had caused a fire which had ... well you get the picture.

I had a chat with the handyman who's patching up a few things at Jakartass Towers. And then a bit of rain came. Nothing torrential, no need for buckets, just a very light shower.


Except, however many clear instructions one gives, how many priorities are set, it is guaranteed that your handyman knows better. No matter that after 17 years I know where rain is likely to seep in, he had to change things. Water poured down the walls and I had to disconnect my computer to avoid it being shorted out.

I rushed around moving the terrace furniture which was also being leaked on. Naturally it seems, I stubbed my toe badly enough to rip off my big toe nail.

If I were more sanguine and less bloody, I'd be singing the Flanders and Swann song The Gas Man Cometh.

There does seem to be a pattern in all this, totally unrelated to nationality or culture. I think I'll console myself, therefore, with the thought that the ability to recognise familiar objects in formlessness is said to be the engine behind imagination. Therefore we understand pattern recognition gone wrong as the well from which human culture, roughly defined as the framework of socially accepted interpretations of the real, flows.

Which can be roughly translated as Sod's Law, or Murphy's if you're Friskodude.


5:30 pm |
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

22-Mar-2005. We have completed our server migration, however, we are now working on our software upgrade. Your counter icon will not appear on your blog until we have completed the upgrade. We apologize for this delay (of five days!?) in getting our services back online and counting for each of our BlogPatrol users.

Other news
Indosat, my ISP, has finally succeeded in blocking the spam, a problem which they promised to resolve last December. But I can't actually log on to Indosat to send emails; I can only receive at the moment.

Ho hum.



7:30 pm |
Monday, March 21, 2005
  Genuine progress in the Munir case?

From Laksamana: More than six (long!) months after human rights campaigner Munir was killed by arsenic poisoning while on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, police have finally named a suspect: Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.

Pollycarpus was on the same flight as Munir from Jakarta to Singapore last September 7th, before the activist suffered an agonizing death on the second leg of the flight to Amsterdam.

Pollycarpus had telephoned Munir prior to the departure of the flight on the night of September 6 and later gave his business class seat to the activist after they boarded the aircraft. The pilot disembarked when the plane transited at Singapore's Changi Airport. He claimed he had been assigned to the flight as an aviation security officer to check on the landing gears of a Garuda 747 at the airport, although he returned to Jakarta on the first flight the following morning. It was later revealed his letter of assignment was falsified, having been written nine days after Munir was killed.

There are two major concerns here. That Munir was assassinated because he was a human rights activist targeting the remnants of the Suharto era is not one of them.

Munir was at the forefront of efforts to bring the military to justice for massacres of pro-democracy activists over 1998-99 and for crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999. More recently he had exposed military atrocities in the rebellious Aceh province. He received numerous death threats and his office was vandalized at least twice by paramilitary thugs. On one occasion a bomb was placed outside the family's house.

Rights groups are adamant Munir was murdered by his powerful enemies, possibly by those who wanted to silence his most recent investigations into corruption cases involving prominent government figures.

The first question involves the link between Garuda International and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), which, naturally, BIN denies.

A government-backed fact-finding team has found "strong indications" that four Garuda employees and two members of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) were involved in the conspiracy to kill Munir. The four Garuda staff are: Pollycarpus, former president director Indra Setiawan, corporate security head Ramelgia Anwar, and Airbus 330 chief pilot secretary Rohainil Aini. The two BIN operatives have not yet been named.

Setiawan had on August 11, 2004, issued a letter appointing Pollycarpus as an aviation security officer. The letter raised suspicions because it was the first time such a document had ever been signed by the airline's president director. Police have also questioned the propriety of the assignment, as Pollycarpus apparently lacked the requisite Garuda Aviation Training and Education (GATE) certificate to serve as a security officer.

A second letter regarding Pollycarpus' assignment was issued by Anwar and dated on September 4, two days before Munir?s flight. That was a Saturday, when Garuda?s offices were closed and the letter could not have been issued. Police investigators later found that the letter had actually been written on September 15 and signed on September 17.

A third letter, dated September 6 and signed by Aini, arranged Pollycarpus' flight schedule, assigning him to join Munir?s flight and then take the next flight from Singapore back to Jakarta. As a secretary, Aini had no authority to sign such a letter.

Last week, the government replaced the entire Garuda Board of Directors, ostensibly to improve its profitability. State Minister of State Enterprises Sugiharto said, "The company has spent the last decade trying to reshape its finances and generate profit, and it has not managed to do so." Of course, this also opens the way for the police to interrogate Indra Setiawan and others.

If a link is proven, can one expect Garuda passengers to take their own food?

The other concern is the involvement of the Dutch authorities. They conducted the original autopsy on Munir, but only agreed on Saturday to hand over documents, interview results and case reports from the Schipol airport police, and several tissue samples Dutch doctors took from Munir during his autopsy.

It has been suggested that the delay in co-operation has been because Indonesian retains the death penalty, as proven yesterday. Does this mean that a deal has been agreed so that Pollycarpus, if found guilty in any forthcoming trial, will receive less than the maximum sentence?

One hopes that there will be closure soon of this whole sorry affair so that Munir's widow, Suciwati, family and friends can continue with the rest of their lives.

One may also hope that a final resolution of this case will rein in the arrogance of state officials who have yet to learn that a key component of reformasi is the right of its citizens to protection and help from public servants.


5:30 pm |
Sunday, March 20, 2005
  Ghosts of future past

I've lived here in the same house for seventeen years. I've only been Jakartass for one year, as of today. In this year, I've chronicled a lot of what it means to be at home as an alien, of what it feels like to be part of two cultures. I am regularly asked if I want to take out Indonesian citizenship. The short answer is 'no', because there is part of me that will for ever be British, a South Londoner. (I may yet take the option of securing a long-term residence permit, once the Indonesian authorities affords expats the opportunity.)

Last night, knowing that this was a special day in the life of Jakartass, I treated myself to two hours of live internet radio, an ultimately disappointing experience which I don't intend to dwell on.

You see, a part of my past has been stirred by a eulogy in today's Observer magazine.

He was a ghost from a forgotten world, a gentleman of the road who took tea with Peter Cook and dinner with Peter Sellers. But when he passed away last Christmas, well-heeled Hampstead village in north London lost its most enigmatic star. John Hind attempts to unravel some of the mystery and myth behind Bronco John.

Apparently, he may have known Sid 'Digger' Rawle, a one time acquaintance of mine. Sid was a beneficiary of John Lennon's largesse ~ an island off the coast of Ireland, later a London squatters 'leader' (when I first encountered him), a tipi dweller and traveller, a Green Party activist, as I was too before coming here, sometime Celt, and a media star when the Halifax Building Society used a photo of him for a billboard campaign.

But this post isn't about Sid or Bronco John.

Syarif is a fixture around our streets and has been since before I arrived. Of indeterminate age, he's always seemed to be in his mid-thirties. A short diminutive figure with long matted straggly hair and beard, one is advised not to stand downwind in his vicinity. Every so often his clothes seem to be new-ish. There are fewer holes and instead of the usual brown earthern shade, a hint of off-white might gleam through.

He has his favourite haunts; for just a few days he could be outside our gate uttering singular cries of rokok or minum, at which point we'll give him a cigarette or drink of water in a disposable container. At other times, perhaps when I'm going to the main road to find a taxi, he'll ask for money. I don't know what he does with the Rp.1,000 I give him. I suspect that he is given a bunkus (wrapped package) of rice and perhaps vegetables.

There are times when we don't see him for weeks on end, but then we'll turn a corner in the warren of narrow streets around us and there he'll be having a conversation on his imaginary handphone. We're pleased to see him as we scuttle by.

Opposite where I usually stand and wait for a taxi is a large two-storeyed building; when I first came there was a bungalow set in roughly 500 square metres on the site. This was Syarif's childhood home. His parents died and the rest of the family supposedly connived to swindle him out of his inheritance. He has haunted our neighbourhood ever since. Unlike Bronco Sid, I don't imagine Syarif is ever welcomed into our houses, maybe not even for his forcible scrub and shave at Idul Fitri.

I hope he is still around this time next year when Jakartass will be two.



1:30 pm |
Friday, March 18, 2005
  The US is a friend of Indonesia
... but not the military.

At a congressional hearing on Thursday 10th March, some of the participants criticized the planned resumption of US military training aid to Jakarta, describing the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) as a "rogue institution with vast wealth and power that has committed crimes against humanity".

The U.S. exoneration of the Indonesian military removes a well-founded international censure that has given Indonesian government and civil society members the political space to press for reform of that notorious institution.

Edmund McWilliams, a former US diplomat now with the Indonesia Human Rights Network, criticized TNI for continuing to conduct brutal operations in Aceh. "With boasts that it has killed over 230 GAM members since the tsunami struck, the TNI clearly is not acting with restraint," he said.

"The most pro-active course for the US at this time is to step back from its growing embrace of the Indonesian military that remains the gravest threat to democracy and human rights throughout the archipelago," he added.

If the US can continue to uphold this stance, and delay training Indonesian troops until the TNI can demonstrate its commitment to upholding human rights in Aceh, Sulawesi and Papua, then there may be genuine gains in popularity without the need for rigged surveys.


10:00 pm |
Thursday, March 17, 2005
  If pigs had wings ....
.... they'd probably flock together.

There's a fascinating article in The Guardian today which gives me added ammunition when asked why I'm a vegetarian. Not that I need to justify this, of course, but being able to state that farm animals are sentient beings with social behaviour does add flavour to my tempé burger.

It's worth noting the evidence that they are capable of learning associations suggests brains that are, at the very least, aware of what has happened in the past and of acting on it in future.

That awareness tends to engender respect in humans. It is the foundation of collaboration and mutual aid - for instance, knowing not to attack a familiar face. In animal communities, even unrelated individuals take care not to harm each other. Animals with sharp horns or big teeth, or weighing several tonnes, will move carefully so as not to damage others - an observation that, in the past, has been put down to their desire to avoid retaliation.

Following the brawl among the "barbarian" parliamentarians on Wednesday, perhaps PDI-P needs to adopt a new logo.

PDI-P campaigns in the 2004 elections


9:52 pm |
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The posting of stories, commentaries, reports, documents and links (embedded or otherwise) on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such posted material or parts therein.

The myriad of facts, conjecture, perspectives, viewpoints, opinions, analyses, and information in the articles, stories and commentaries posted on this site range from cutting edge hard news and comment to extreme and unusual perspectives. We choose not to sweep uncomfortable material under the rug - where it can grow and fester. We choose not to censor skewed logic and uncomfortable rhetoric. These things reflect the world as it now is - for better and worse. We present multiple facts, perspectives, viewpoints, opinions, analyses, and information.

Journalism is (or used to be) the profession of gathering and presenting a broad panorama of news about the events of our times and presenting it to readers for their own consideration. We believe in the intelligence, judgment and wisdom of our readers to discern for themselves among the data which appears on this site that which is valid and worthy ... or otherwise.

That said, you may also be interested in this site which posits that western intelligence agencies, at the behest of the 'narco-military-industrial' complex, are/were responsible for 9/11 and the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, including Laskar Jihad here in Indonesia.

Jakartass is aware that the Taliban in Afghanistan were originally supported and armed by the US in order to remove the country from Russia's sphere of influence. It is also known that the Taliban curtailed the opium industry there; with a new 'democratic' government, according to the All-American Patriots, this season's crop of opium poppies is the highest ever.

A local correspondent has written to me.

Hi Jakartass,

No doubt you've seen the JP page 2 item about the Mangga Dua bomb threat - what a farce! I bet the Yanks have steadfastly refused to disclose their source of information because they know full well they'll have egg on their faces. The Ozzies have dug themselves into an even deeper diplomatic hole by relaying the warning and beefing up their "don't travel to Indonesia" advice. Only the British Embassy seems to have done the right thing, which was to evaluate and grade the warning appropriately and conclude that it should be ignored.

Rely on the 'western alliance' to jump in feet first with their "I know a guy who knows a guy" scare story, and look like a right bunch of prats. I trust that you'll be making the appropriate noises (raspberries? farts? chortles?) in your illustrious organ.


I did. (The police searched, but found nothing, and trade was down 80%) Max Kwak, the US embassy press attaché declined to comment on how the embassy learned about the threat.

I've said this before, but it is worth repeating. Jakartass lacks intelligence sources, but does not lack intelligence. My comments are the viewpoint of someone with deep roots in the local expat/Indonesian community. The current manipulation of public opinion with the military flexing its muscles and mobilising 'youth' and Islamic groups over Ambalat, with the involvement of multi-national oil companies, is another strand in the tangled web of clandestine operations.

Readers of a more prurient bent may wish to learn more about the White House child sex ring which Hunter S. Thompson was supposedly investigating before his alleged suicide.

If this piece of investigative journalism holds true, then I am tempted to give credence to any, if not all, reports of malfeasance emanating from the 'narco-military-industrial' complex.



6:00 pm |
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
  Great minds
How strange. My brain has the same configuration as John Walkenbach from whom I nicked this link.



3:00 pm |
Monday, March 14, 2005
  War Games

With all this talk of konfrontasi and nationalist tendencies being stirred over a tiny speck in the Sulawesi Sea, I was amused when someone, an Indonesian, told me today that the currency used on Ambalat is the Malaysian ringgit.

I don't know whether this is true or not; I was under the impression that no-one actually lived there, let alone traded.

Whatever, it did get me thinking about war games.

With the Indonesian armed forces pleading poverty, perhaps they should train their élite forces to use combat unicycles.

It has been observed that a proportion of the enemy soldiers on realizing that they are under attack by soldiers on unicycles will cease their combat activities and stare in disbelief, they are then highly susceptible to return fire.

The Indonesian Navy might also consider replenishing their fleet with ships built of ice. The idea's not new; Lord Mountbatten and Churchill thought of using them in World War II.

If you consider this to be a frivolous approach to what is, after all, a serious matter, then consider the theory behind war games: Rationally Justifiable Play and the Theory of Non-cooperative Games.

This paper defines the concept of a justifiable strategy, that of a justification theory (which shows strategies to be justifiable) and that of a complete justification theory (which for every strategy shows whether it is justifiable or not). An impossibility result is proved, showing that there can be no complete justification theory that includes the assumptions of expected utility maximization, common knowledge, and caution.
Copyright 1994 by Royal Economic Society.

And if that seems too obvious, then take a look at the upside-down world of co-operative games.

Almost all children's games - the games we teach children and the games children invent - have a common factor. They are preparations for an adult world. More often than not this adult world is based on competition.

Have fun, serious fun.



7:00 pm |
Sunday, March 13, 2005
  Jakartass - Your Fun Day Sunday

One Big Happy Family

There is no premiership football for Charlton fans this weekend, but no matter. Whatever the result, league position or cup failure, we Addicks can be proud.

The only fly in the liniment to my mind is that the Charlton Athletic Community Trust is now a political football. Trust chief executive Steve Waggott said: "I sense election fever in the air and the trust and the many strands of excellent community work being delivered by us across the South East is being perceived as a real vote winner for the incumbent government."

Mark Carroll, of the Home Office, and Health Secretary John Reid have visited recently with Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, interested in discussing Charlton's planned Community Centre for Skills.

Further afield, former Charlton forward Andy Hunt has written to Jakartass from his Belize Jungle Dome, to say that his wife, Simone, is very involved with educational projects. Indeed she is.

The Jaden Foundation is a non-profit, non-faith based organization aimed at improving the lives of Belizean children through education, vocational training and scholarships. We aim to break the cycle of poverty and provide the opportunity for children to create a future where they are fully self-reliant.

The Jaden Foundation is currently sponsoring 30 children. Our aim is to sponsor at least 100 children for the next school year (2005/2006), including those of the local children's homes. The Foundation provides support to local schools, funds school transport and supports the building of a vocational training center for children with special needs in Belize City (a project of the International Women's Club).

Back at the Happy Valley, there is a need to recruit another goal-scoring hero in the mould of Andy. Jakartass wonders if Ruud van Nistelrooy, that well-known Charlton fan, would be interested in a summer transfer now that he is seemingly surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.

One Big Happy Family?

Letter to the editor

Well, for most of Indonesian, I think oil is not the main issue. We're just fed up with the attitude of Malaysian Govn. Treating our workers like they don't matter after everything they'd done for the country ... so arrogant and ungrateful ...

Malaysia wouldn't be where they are right now if it hadn't been for all the hardwork of the international workers, the majority of them are Indonesian, legal or illegal! There wouldn't be those tall buildings, bridges, and highways. And now, Sipadan and Ligitan are not enough for them they decided to steal Ambalat too! For oil !!

As I said before, it's not about oil for me and the majority of Indonesian people. It's about the integrity of our nation. Losing Sipadan & Ligitan and Timor Timur is hurtful enough, we just can't cope losing another part of us. It's about our pride and self-esteem that has been hurt!

I don't want war! Ambalat belongs to Indonesia! And we'll do anything to make sure that it still does.



Kuningan is quite properly concerned about the territorial integrity of Indonesia. Whether the former Portugese colony of Timor Timur, now Timor-Leste, which was annexed by Indonesia in 1975, was ever part of the Indonesian diaspora is a moot point.

The 'loss' of Sipadan and Ligitan was determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 17th 2002. From 1945 to 1969, when the dispute first arose, Indonesia failed to add the islands to its territory. Until Malaysia, with knowledge of the rich oil deposits, began to extol the tourism potential of the islands, Indonesia had done little to assert its authoritative presence on the islands. This is the key to Malaysia's victory. It can be argued, therefore, that far from being a loss, Indonesia failed to gain.

The concern of Jakartass is that jingoism is rearing its ugly head, manipulated by hawkish generals and legislators with private agendas. There are several disputes over 'ownership' of island specks in these waters, including the Spratleys which are claimed by Malaysia, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Until an agreement is reached by those elected or appointed to take responsibility, it is premature to say, as Kuningan does, that "Ambalat belongs to Indonesia".

It is to be hoped that an amicable solution can be found to all these disputes. The obvious one is to share the spoils, as in the Gulf of Thailand, where Malaysia and Thailand are jointly developing the hydrocarbon deposits.

Failing that, referral to the International Court of Justice remains as the last resort.

All That Jazz
A one page history of jazz, albeit a long page, with samples can be found here.

Nerd Corner
Just a brief note to say that the new clock shows up very nicely for those of us using Safari - the Mac OS X browser.
Nick in Muscat, Oman

According to Microsoft's Word grammar check, "us using" should be us uses, us is using or us was using. Fair enough. This is yet another reason to give a plug, for those without Mac computers, to open source software, especially Get Firefox!.

What the ...?

Caption please.

TV Treats
Indonesia TV viewers will be familiar with Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, one of a long line of British TV comedians who have mixed one-liners with sketches. News that the Two Ronnies are reuniting after 18 years for a series will be of interest to Brits with longer memories and satellite reception.

We Brits will feel saddened by the death of Dave Allen who delivered his laid-back observations on the human condition with a tumbler of whiskey (actually ginger ale) in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

"Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you."



3:00 pm |
Saturday, March 12, 2005
  An Interesting Week In Indonesia?

Well, it might have been for observers such as The Swanker, Peak Talk, Chrenkoff and folk living in Singapore but for those of us who actually live here it's been pretty mundane.

Firstly, Indonesians are apparently better disposed towards the USA. This "major shift in public opinion" is based on a survey of just 1,200 adults (out of a total population of c.210 million) of whom only 1,191 respondents were successfully interviewed.

The survey did not follow the demographics of the 2000 census. For example, 9.5% of those interviewed had completed tertiary education, compared with 4% of the overall population in 2000. Also, 49.6% of the respondents had only completed elementary education compared with 60% of the population.

A profile of terrorist foot soldiers and supporters of fundamentalist sects, of whatever religious persuasion, would surely demonstrate a lack of education. (Jakartass defines education as having the ability to see a wider world beyond one's nose.) So, in general, the survey respondents were not myopic.

I am not denying that are Indonesians are better disposed towards Americans, mainly due to the post-tsunami humanitarian efforts of the American military in Aceh. However, 59.9% of Muslims interviewed still have a negative opinion of the USA, and nigh on 15% of all respondents answered 'Don't Know' to the majority of the questions posed.

To draw significant conclusions from a deeply flawed survey is both naïve and premature. Do read it and let me know if you agree.

It's a tale of corporate greed.

This map of Ambalat doesn't help. Somewhere in this area is a vast quantity of oil which has been the cause of much hyperbole, a nice little earner for Indonesia's rent-a-mob and a demonstration of how under-resourced the Indonesian armed forces are (according to the Indonesian armed forces).

The cause of this neighbourly tiff between Malaysia and Indonesia is corporate greed.

Shell was awarded the Ambalat oil block off East Kalimantan by the Indonesian government in 1999 but in 2001 it sold the concession to Italian company ENI. After the oil companies concluded their agreement, Eni, which was granted oil concession rights by the Indonesian government in September 1999, started exploration. Late last year, Eni conducted drilling at two sites in the Ambalat area, and reportedly found huge oil reserves at both sites.

On February 19, 2005, Shell was awarded the same oil block by Malaysia's Petronas.

In other words, having originally decided that the cost of exploiting this oil field was too high, now that oil prices are above $50 a barrel Shell aims to increase their already vast profits in Malaysia.

There is a legitimate concern over territorial rights particularly after the 'loss' to Malaysia of the nearby Sipadan and Ligitan Islands in 2002. This dispute will be resolved through discussion between the two countries. The despatch of warships and fighter squadrons was a mere flexing of muscles by the armed forces who are seeking an increase in the defence budget.

With the Indonesian government due to take over the Armed Force's businesses next year, they need an increased budget in order to replace obsolete equipment and to be able to cope better with major natural disasters such as the tsunami in Aceh.

SBY, a retired general, would like to raise the budget from the current 1% of GDP to 3-5%, approx. $20 billion, but is unlikely to be able to do so in the short-term. Hence the "current fervour of misplaced nationalism", as the Jakarta Post has described it.

There is a group of legislators with links to Islamic and military so-called youth groups who are intent on their own agenda. Having failed to stir up the masses following the hike in oil prices a week or so ago, this is another issue to divert attention from the government's programme.

This will include a reshuffle of 50% of the country's top echelon bureaucracy which has been criticized not only for its poor performance, but its vulnerability to corruption as well. One can be sure that this is upsetting to the legislators. How else will they be able to pay for their street mobs?

Shell and the other oil companies can afford to wait. After all, they've already carved up Iraq.

Hearsay Security alert

A British Council employee received an SMS message from a former colleague in the US embassy to say that there was a bomb threat at the World Trade Center Mangga Dua in northern Jakarta between March 11 and 14. The US and Australian embassies have alerted their citizens. Britain's Foreign Office haven't.

Zainuri Lubis, the National police spokesman has said that Indonesian police did not know of any threat to the multi-storeyed mall.


5:30 pm |
Friday, March 11, 2005
  Jakartass Banned

One of the Jakartass moles back in Blighty has written to say that staff at the UK's No.1 Bali and Lombok Specialist (it says here) have been barred from accessing this site.

Well, I'm flattered. I must be doing something write.

Could it be my support for eco-tourism projects which offer personal service, employment opportunities for local people, protection of and engagement with the immediate environment, coupled with an awareness of local cultural values?

Valued guests, once again I offer you the Green Dragon in Belize and Hotel Rimbo (opening soon) in West Sumatra.

Other tourist entrepreneurs with a social conscience include Surf Aid, also in West Sumatra. Read the latest update on how they are combating malaria on Mentawai Island and providing help to tsunami affected villages.

Surf Aid at work

For more detailed information on life in Aceh after the tsunami bookmark this section of the Guardian, a valued member of the Jakartass group of publications.


11:00 am |
Thursday, March 10, 2005
  In the meantime

There's a long weekend to end this long week, so expect a bumper post soon.

In the meantime, why don't you read an odd book or two?

If you prefer, you could book ahead and help cure global warming by shifting the Earth on its axis on World Jump Day ~ 20th July 2006.


10:30 pm |
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
  There's no smoke ...

The chance for an extra earner is not to be scorned. Make hay while the rain pours is a favourite Jakartass proverb, so my posts may be a little sporadic for a week or so.

There's another benefit too: I don't have enough free time to ingest my regular dose of nicotine, tar and other noxious substances.

I know, I know. It's a disgusting habit etc. etc., so the chance to cut down does please me. It should also please the signatories to the global anti-smoking pact which became law on Sunday legally binding the countries that ratified it. Cigarette-friendly Indonesia, meanwhile, coughed embarrassedly and stood at the back of the room.

For those of you who want to cut down but lack the overtime may I suggest a Coughing Ashtray?


8:15 pm |
Sunday, March 06, 2005
  Your Sunday Supplement

Sunday papers with their soft focus on hard news seem designed to bolster ennui.

As always, Sunday's Jakarta Post has pages of skinny lasses modeling unwearable rags and articles about limited edition watches which only a select few "privileged clientele" are allowed to look at. Nothing about accuracy, just incomprehensible blurb.

(Those of you using the Firefox browser will notice that I've installed a clock. Whilst you're online, it shows the time in Jakarta to the nearest nano-second. I hope you like it because I feel privileged to have you as my clientele; it's functional and doesn't cost you or me a penny.)

Heading over to the Sunday Observer Magazine in search of a deeper read, there's an article about some media-savvy writer called JT LeRoy who's an elusive libertine who's bewitched the likes of Courtney Love, Winona Ryder and Shirley Manson with his true-life tales of white-trash hustlers, hookers and abusers.

No? Ok, skip that one.

How about finding new uses for old food? Toast on beans anyone?

Even the reviews seem jaded. Example: In Camera: how photographs of bullet-ridden mobsters and slashed women inspired Francis Bacon.

Wait a minute. Hold the presses.

The Daleks Return
So the debate is renewed. My favourite Doctor was Tom Baker, a swivel-eyed, unpredictable Bohemian, quite fruity and correct - he kept a cricket ball in his pocket - but radical, too, and given to disdainful wit. 'Local politics are not my concern,' he would say.

Such is the excitement back in Blighty that the Observer Blog devotes today's posting to this momentous event.

But hang on a sec. What's this?

Three, count 'em, three of their links I've already given you: Squashed Philosophers, Error Message Generator and The Man Who Fell Asleep.

So, if you can't beat them, adopt them?

Harry asks, Just where has this notion that blogs are out to try and compete with or replace mainstream journalism come from?

It seems to me and the Big Blog Company that it's the other way round.

Jakartass is merely a commentary on whatever takes my fancy at any particular time. The mass media is paid to provide hard news. That the Guardian involves its readers is to be applauded, but I remain wary of attempts to co-opt the democratic right to write.

Remember: you read it here first.


4:00 pm |
Saturday, March 05, 2005
  Bad Plus

That the dreaded lergy is wider spread than I'd thought makes me feel marginally better.

Mind you, having given Our Kid a recorder doesn't help the headache. Although I was an acknowledged master of this musical instrument at his age, 8, and that I can still play Little Bird (not this one or this one, and definitely not this one) hasn't helped him in the slightest. He only plays one note, and it sure doesn't sound like the One Note Samba.

So we won't be going to Java Jazz this weekend.

Ho hum.

And we won't be going to the Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore from March 11th to 20th either. The lost opportunity to see the jazz songstress, living legend Shirley Horn, dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, last encountered 20 years ago in Brixton, and the London Community Gospel Choir, who sang for the Queen a couple of days ago, is regrettable.

I'd also love to go to a few jazz gigs in Britain, including, especially including, Hatfield and the North, an exhilarating swirl of battered organs, phased guitars, uneven time signatures and baffling and/or funny lyrics sung in English accents, at the Mean Fiddler on March 18th. Then there's Richard Sinclair, the Hatfield's singer, on March 20th in Exeter, accompanied by several other Canterbury Scene musicians, Andy Shepherd in several places and .... the list goes on.

So I have to dip into my extensive selection of sounds. Today's Jakartass jazz festival programme includes some fine British sounds from Provocateur Records and an American trio, The Bad Plus.

It's not often you sit down at a prestigious jazz club, take off your suit coat, order a dry martini and nod in appreciation of the Black Sabbath and Nirvana covers bellowing off the exposed brick walls. That was, of course, until The Bad Plus began infiltrating the jazz scene with their melodic pop twist to such a rich traditional instrumentation as the contemporary piano trio.

This is one gig I'd jump out of my sick bed and run to.


3:00 pm |
Friday, March 04, 2005
  And, how are you today?

Fine, thanks.

Actually, that's not 100% true, but I did struggle into work having slept for 10 hours and then I did as little as possible. But thanks for asking and for your advice.

Something I do regularly consume on the basis that it tastes so bad that it must be good is jamu. The best summary of this traditional herbal drink that I've found is on Islam Online. However, I also like these sites which prove that jamu does not help linguistic prowess.

1. Jamu is based on the fact that is God created the World, with Disease and its Remedy. Besides, Indonesia has very-complete medicinal herbs, one of the world's largest collection.

2. Dukun or tabib, a traditional doctor has been introducing this mention in ancient era. From them, drinking Jamu tradition has been popular in common people. And now, almost 80% of Indonesian people ever consume Jamu. For Indonesian people, Jamu is very popular as milk popularity for western.

And, how are you today, Abu Bakar Baasyir?

Fine, thanks. Actually, could be better, could be worse.

His 30 month jail sentence for involvement in a "sinister conspiracy" that led to the October 2002 Bali nightclub bombings has been criticised by both opponents and supporters.

What worries Jakartass is that the trial hinged on a police record that convicted Bali bombers Mubarok and Amrozi had met with the cleric at his house in Solo, Central Java, in August 2002 and asked for permission to carry out an "event" in Bali.

"The defendant has been proved to have replied 'It's up to you, because you are the ones who know the situation in the field'," said (presiding judge) Sudarto.

Baasyir's lawyers said the alleged conversation proved nothing and should not have been accepted as evidence because it was never tested during the trial.

Baasyir faced seven other charges, including allegations that as head of regional terrorism network Jemaah Islamiyah he had incited his followers to launch terrorist attacks and had planned the August 2003 suicide bombing at Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel that killed 12 people, ... that he visited a Jemaah Islamiyah military training camp in the southern Philippines in April 2000 and had passed on an edict from Osama bin Laden calling for killings of Americans and their allies.

If it's true that 'there's no smoke without fire', then the paucity of the prosecutors' case leads one to suspect collusion, presumably with Islamic groups or politicians with vested interests. If, however, there was no case to answer ~ and saying "It's up to you" does not suggest decisive leadership by Baasyir ~ then the sentence is excessive.

Do not expect an in-depth analysis from this blog. I leave that to others.

The Indonesian judiciary and police have a long way to go before they can be trusted to defend the rights of the public and defenders alike. I will continue to query 'conspiracy' charges, however. Although I do feel that Baasyir was the malevolent force behind the bombing outrages here, 'feelings' are not legal proof.

Meanwhile, the next 'political' trial could well be that of three students suspected of intending to burn a portrait of SBY.

"Suspected of intending to"?



6:00 pm |
Thursday, March 03, 2005
  Feeling like ...

Our Kid came home early from school yesterday with a fever and headache. Today, I've succumbed, with the bonus of liquid guts. It's one of those days when you're not sure if you're feeling hot because of the weather outside or the illness inside.

Jakartass has an ambivalent attitude towards the medical profession. Physician heal thyself and mind over matter are two aphorisms which have served me well down the years. So, what's up doc?

I don't think it's dengue fever. For one thing, although 'Er Indoors thinks I smell nice, mozzies don't. Besides, the area is regularly dowsed with exhaust fumes pumped out from two-stroke engines deployed for that purpose.

Another pandemic currently causing widespread fear and pandemonium is what is termed Asian Bird Flu. Last year, Megawati's government remained silent for five months about the outbreak which was reported in 10 areas in West Java and killed about 1.6 million of six million farmed chickens in the province, or 25.3 percent.

Yesterday, as reported in the Jakarta Post, the head of farm animal health at the West Java Animal Husbandry Office, Musni Suatmodjo, said avian influenza, or bird flu, had spread to five regencies and municipalities in the province. He identified them as Cirebon regency and municipality, Subang regency, Indramayu regency and Sukabumi regency.

He said he was confident this year's bird flu outbreak would be less severe, maybe killing just 10 percent of farmed chickens in the province. "We have prepared 50 million doses of vaccine to stop the spread of the virus in 2005."

I note that the UK is stockpiling 14.6 million doses of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, which works by reducing the symptoms and the risk of a carrier passing on the virus. So that's a quarter of the population of both countries OK then.

The big worry for us all is how a bird flu transmutes into a human flu. Every commentator refers to the pandemic which killed 40 million people in 1918. If you want the science, read this article. What I find more interesting is how it spread so quickly among a pre-jetsetting population. The answer according to this article is Aspirin, which I didn't realize needs capitalization, and the telephone.

In my delirium, I seem to have strayed somewhat from my central point that I feel like ... Anyway, I don't think I've got a version of Avian flu because the chickens round our street are free range. And I'm vegetarian. And I don't cuddle them.

I want to be fit for this weekend's Java Jazz Festival so I'm going to take large doses of multi-vitamins and eat fruit.

PS. Or should that be PPS?

Yesterday I wondered about the connection between the blogs of the Jakarta Kid, Aangirfan and Nona. Aangirfan has informed me that Aangirfan and Nona are a cooperative of convent girls, past and present, plus a few circus performers...

Glad that's sorted out.


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