Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 World Seniors' Chess Championship

From TWIC, results of the Women's Senior CC, October 28 - November 9, 2008. Here is a link to the final cross-table for the Women's standings. The women's countries were not listed in the final cross-table at the official website, which is really stupid! I want to know where the players were from without having to check at FIDE player lists for each one individually. Photo from official website: WFM Tamara Vilerte, 2008 Women's Seniors CC winner. Top three Women's Senior CC finishers: 1 Vilerte,Tamara WFM 8 51.5 2 Strutinskaya,Galina WIM 7.5 52 3 Fomina,Tatyana WIM 7.5 45

Are Basque Relics Frauds?

Story from the Oh no. (Calvary image from June, 2006) Finds that made Basques proud are fake, say experts Giles Tremlett in Madrid Monday November 24 2008 00.01 GMT It was hailed as an archeological discovery of global importance showing, among other things, the oldest representation of Christ on the cross and proof that ancient Egyptian influences had survived deep in Roman Spain. For traditional Basques the pictures, symbols and words found scraped onto pieces of third century pottery dug up near the town of Nanclares, in northern Spain, included miraculous evidence that their unique language of Euskara was far older than ever thought. Eighteen months ago the dig's director, Eliseo Gil, claimed that some finds at the Roman town known as Veleia were on par with those at Pompeii or Rome itself. Basque nationalists bristled with pride. This archeological jewel gave them a far greater claim to a distinctive, millennial and Christian culture than they had dreamed possible. Now a committee of experts has revealed those jewels to be fakes. "They are either a joke or a fraud," said Martín Almagro, a professor in prehistory from Madrid. "How has something like this been taken seriously for so long?" [Who are these experts? Are they Spanish? Are they Basque? Are they of other nationalities who do not have regional politics as their number one agenda???] The hunt is on for an archeological fraudster who defaced fragments of third century pottery with fake graffiti. [An assumption not yet proven]. The fraudster seems either to have buried the pieces or planted them in a laboratory where experts sifted through finds. [Really?] The fakes left the first people to see them swooning. The Calvary scene was hailed as both the nearest thing mankind had to a contemporary pictorial account of the crucifixion, and proof that Basques had been relatively early Christians. The words in Euskera, if genuine, would have predated by 700 years the previous earliest known written form of the language. The hieroglyphics caused speculation about the existence of third century Egyptologists [oh please - why use such a loaded word "Egyptologist" - why is it not possible that third century Egyptians who were Coptic Christians were in the area at the time? We know there was long-term trade between Egypt and Spain dating back thousands of years] who might have created the inscriptions to teach children. Now experts who have studied the pieces in depth say the fakes, some of which used modern glue [Was modern glue simply used to hold pieces of shards together? Why would this make the inscriptions a fraud?], should have rung warning bells immediately. References were found to non-existent gods [really? If these gods were not know before from prior references, how do these experts know they are non-existent?], 19th-century names [again, really? place names always present complications in archaeological digs but are often used to substantiate other evidence of antiquity] and even to the 17th-century philosopher Descartes [note that no quotes were provided to substantiate this claim]. Words in Euskara used impossible spellings. [Really? Who are these experts in this ancient language? Have they ever studied ancient spellings in English? The variety of spellings is amazing! Indeed, I believe that in English for instance, standardized spellings weren't established until the 20th century!] The hieroglyphs included references to Queen Nefertiti which would have been almost impossible to make prior to the 19th century. [Really? If the people who were doing the inscriptions had actual knowledge, then it wouldn't be so unusual; it's just us so-called modern westerners who didn't have knowledge of Queen Neftertiti until the 19th century; that doesn't mean other people prior to our time didn't know about her. That's a really arrogant assumption to make, tsk tsk.] The Calvary scene, meanwhile, included the inscription "RIP". "It is a formula that can only be applied to people who are dead," Almagro told El Correo newspaper. "To say that Jesus Christ is dead would be a heresy. I haven't seen anything quite so funny in the whole history of Christianity." [Well, I don't know about that; Christ actually did die on that cross, otherwise the whole premise of Christianity, i.e., that Christ rose from the dead 3 days after he died, would be a big lie! What else would people put in a Calvary scene representing where Christ died, but RIP?] Local authorities and sponsors from Basque public companies have poured hundreds of thousands of euros into excavations. Last week they closed the dig temporarily. Eliseo Gil did not return calls from the Guardian but sources said those in charge were not yet fully convinced that their finds were fake.
Based on what is presented in this story, it seems to me that some "experts" are attacking that which would cast their prior academic conclusions into question. If you think that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, you haven't seen anything to compare to a previously published academician's pet theories scorned! If these shards are the word of a fraudster, then it was a rather ignorant fraudster. If, as the story implies, it was someone who had access to the dig site and/or the storage facilities for artifacts recovered from the dig, it seems to imply that someone working on the dig is the guilty party. But who would be so stupid as to use modern references in an attempt to fool "experts?" And I still do not get the mention of the use of "modern glue" - just how does that prove that these certain inscribed shards are frauds?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Reveals Harsh Reality of Arabic Women

Story from The Korea Times/Arts and Living Section 11-28-2008 22:14 By Chung Ah-young Staff Reporter Arabic modern literature has been rarely introduced into Korean publications due to the lack of common values and its exotic background. But "The Golden Chariot,'' which has been recently published in Korean translated directly from Arabic, is drawing attention as it focuses on the Arabic women's lives under a male-dominated society. Written by Salwa Bakr, one of Egypt's most respected novelists and short story writers, the book uses Arabic literary values weaving tales together into a contemporary "Arabian Nights.'' Bakr, also known as a feminist, who visited Korea to attend a Korea-Arab literature forum from Nov. 17 to 18, said that she wants to shed light on the male-dominated social system through literature. "Women's stories in my novel are not only for the Arabic society but also for other societies as almost every civilization has grown based on the male-oriented system in agrarian culture. Particularly, the male-dominated system is prevalent in Asian countries. So I think that can win sympathy from my novel,'' Bakr said. The novel revolves around 15 women in a prison in Egypt and the motives behind the crimes. An Alexandrian woman Aziza is serving a life sentence for the murder of her mother's husband. She killed the man who seduced her, after her mother's death when he took another woman as his new wife despite his promises to Aziza. In her cell, Aziza imagines a golden chariot to take her to heaven so that her wishes and dreams come true. But she decides to take other fellow prisoners who deserve a free ride to paradise. Aziza, who is described as a woman obsessed with such an illusion, listens to the stories of her fellow prisoners to select them to ride in the chariot. Her fellow prisoners were imprisoned for various crimes, including murder, theft, and drug-dealing. Um Ragab is behind bars as she resorted to pick pocketing to support her children. Hana killed her husband one night by leaving on the gas after suffering abuse from him for 45 years as a sexual slave and domestic help. Azima, depicted as a tall woman, became a naddaba (professional mourner), then a vocal performer for religious celebrations and finally a popular singer. She killed her abusive lover. Huda is the 16-year-old youngest prisoner; Zaynab Mansur is well educated; while Shafiqa had been a beggar. Um al-Khayr was a peasant likened to a Pharaonic goddess, and Gamalat assaulted her sister's would-be boyfriend. Various characters in the prison who have suffered from harsh reality pushing them to have no choice but to commit a crime are all to get on board Aziza's golden chariot to the heavens. The novel focuses on how the women came to the prisons and the salvation they need, symbolized by the golden chariot. But Aziza dies in the last chapter just as she prepares for the chariot's departure. As the novel's title suggests, the chariot does not ascend to the heavens. It means rather than salvation through a golden chariot to the heavens imagined by Aziza in prison, the author suggests real-life salvation comes from the social and political change begun by the women themselves. Bakr's is a sarcastic and cynical look at how women of different backgrounds ― some guilty and some innocent ― get together in prison. It is in line with her writing, which mostly depicts life at the grassroots of Egypt's culture, urging women to liberate themselves from poverty and inequality. Through The Golden Chariot, readers are able to see the injustices of a transitional Arabic society. At the same time, it offers a glimpse of their yearning and longing for a better life. The author also depicts the difficulty that these societies face as honest means rarely solve anything. Bakr has been concerned about repression in all spheres of Egyptian life and in particular the political sphere. However, she believes that both men and women can be liberated through the contribution of women's writing. She says that Arabic is a male-dominated language and that "women should create a language for themselves.'' She does not believe in conflict between men and women, but rather sees both genders as victims of traditional society.Born in Cairo in 1949, the daughter of a railway worker, Bakr took a degree in business management in 1972 at Ain Shams University and in literary criticism in 1976 before embarking on a career in journalism. Her short stories began to appear in the press during the 1970s and her work has been met with much critical acclaim.

Blue Eyed Mummy and Cannabis in Ancient Chinese Grave

I had no idea that most strains of cannabis today originated in China! Fascinating article - and more of those troublesome blue-eyed certainly Caucasian mummies (this one was most likely a shaman) showing up in the far northwest region of China. [Map - shows how close Turpan a/k/a Turfan is to Urumchi a/k/a Urumqi - see prior posts under Mummies of Urumchi: (1) (2)]. Story from The Canadia Researchers find oldest-ever stash of marijuana 1 day ago OTTAWA — Researchers say they have located the world's oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China. The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany. The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China. The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour. "To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent," says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo. Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties. The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success. The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage. Researchers also could not determine whether the cannabis was smoked or ingested, as there were no pipes or other clues in the tomb of the shaman, who was about 45 years old. The large cache was contained in a leather basket and in a wooden bowl, and was likely meant to be used by the shaman in the afterlife. "This materially is unequivocally cannabis, and no material has previously had this degree of analysis possible," Russo said in an interview from Missoula, Mont. "It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied." The tomb also contained bridles, archery equipment and a harp, confirming the man's high social standing. Russo is a full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine approved in Canada for pain linked to multiple sclerosis and cancer. The company operates a cannabis-testing laboratory at a secret location in southern England to monitor crop quality for producing Sativex, and allowed Russo use of the facility for tests on 11 grams of the tomb cannabis. Researchers needed about 10 months to cut red tape barring the transfer of the cannabis to England from China, Russo said. The inter-disciplinary study was published this week by the British-based botany journal, which uses independent reviewers to ensure the accuracy and objectivity of all submitted papers. The substance has been found in two of the 500 Gushi tombs excavated so far in northwestern China, indicating that cannabis was either restricted for use by a few individuals or was administered as a medicine to others through shamans, Russo said. "It certainly does indicate that cannabis has been used by man for a variety of purposes for thousands of years." Russo, who had a neurology practice for 20 years, has previously published studies examining the history of cannabis. "I hope we can avoid some of the political liabilities of the issue," he said, referring to his latest paper. The region of China where the tomb is located, Xinjiang, is considered an original source of many cannabis strains worldwide. Copyright © 2008 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

Shopping on Black Friday!

Ohmygoddess - I can't believe my sister and I actually went shopping today! We must be crazy! The mall was packed! We had a ball together. We're about the same size so we were able to comb the racks together for things in our size. I was on the hunt for new shoes and a few more mock turtlenecks or a sweater or two for myself. I bought two pairs of shoes, a new pair of cushy mittens, a new pair of brown slacks (my old ones wore out and I remembered I wanted a new pair), a scented Christmas candle and Christmas sweater for myself, and gifts for two people at the office that I got the most incredible deals on! Three wonderfully scented six-inch candles for one gift; and three highly decorated small wooden boxes for the other gift. The boxes cost $10 - unbelievable. The three scented candles cost me what one would normally cost and were around $10. My own scented candle was also on sale for 50% off and was under $5. I got the candles and the small decorated boxes at Pier 1 Imports; we also shopped at Boston Store and Kohls. My sister got a pair of shoes at Kohls, a top at Boston Store, and Christmas tree ornaments at Pier 1 Imports. We are both very happy - and exhausted! Since we had my sister's car (I do not drive or own a vehicle) I also took the opportunity to stock up on wine and liquor for the holidays and other large and/or bulky items that would otherwise have taken me several laborious trips home lugging a few items at a time. We started out shortly after 1:00 p.m. and were home by 4:30 p.m. I had enough time to toss some nuts and peanuts to the squirrels before the sun rushed below the horizon. The weather cooperated today, too. It was sunny and got above 40 this afternoon although the wind was brisk at times, causing some windchill. I finally pulled out the shovel and scraped down my driveway, and it was appreciably improved by the sun and relatively mild temperatures when we got back home from shopping. As much as 3 more inches of snow is forecast beginning this coming Sunday night so I wanted to get down to bare payment - the snow was not otherwise melting as quickly as I'd hoped and I didn't want more to shovel than necessary! I don't know about elsewhere in the country - judging from what I've seen on the news this evening there were crowds at stores all across the country today. Southridge Mall was packed - I do not believe I've ever seen it that crowded. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, though, which made navigating the crowds much more pleasant. There were lot of kids in the crowds - full families were out - mom, dad and kids. Besides "door buster" specials Boston Store had 20% off coupons in the newspaper which both my sister and I clipped (I used 2 of them). I received $20 worth of Kohls dollars as a result of my purchases at Kohls - only stipulation is that they must be spent at Kohls before or on December 6. It just so happens that my friend Ann and I are meeting for lunch at our favorite Olive Garden next Saturday, December 6, and will go shopping after lunch (Southridge Mall is very close by). I need socks and underware (har! Isn't that always what Grandma bought you as a kid). So those Kohls dollars will not go to waste. Pier 1 Imports, which is not part of the mall but is on the same grounds, was also busy and they had fantastic deals on Christmas decorations and ornaments, scented candles, and lots of other items. The candle I bought for myself is called something like "cranberry balsam" and the scent is absolutely delicious and evocative of the holidays. It is a beauty cranberry-ruby red color that will go perfectly with the living room decor. My sister and I have already made plans to shop the post-holiday sales, lol!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Saga of the Whipped Sweet Potatoes

For some years, I've made a whipped sweet potato dish that is requested for Thanksgiving dinner. This year, I decided to check for new recipes to see if I could find something better than the recipe I normally use. After a couple nights of checking around the internet, I did find some interesting recipes, but nothing really radically different than what I was already doing, with one important exception. I have now incorporated that new ingredient into my recipe and I thought it turned out very well! I'm not revealing the contents of this recipe, for state security reasons... One other interesting bit of information I picked up was to use a food processor (which I do not own) or a blender (which I do own) to do the bulk of the whipping-up work after the initial mash is finished. Ahhh, I thought to myself, this is a good idea. I had been using my old (more than 20 years old now) but faithful electric hand mixer which has the unfortunate tendency to spatter bits of food all over the walls and me at higher speeds. And so, after doing my initial mash and incorporation of some ingredients, I added the butter, mashed a bit, and then dumped the whole into my blender. Turned it on low. It was running but there was no movement in the chamber. Turned it up a few notches higher; still no movement in the chamber. I turned off the blender and added milk and stirred things up a bit. Turned the blender back on. Still no movement. I repeated this exercise several times before deciding that THIS IS NOT GOING TO WORK, STUPID WOMAN! And so, I meticulously scraped out every bit of non-whipped sweet potatoes and non-blended bits of butter back into a mixing bowl, pulled out the trusty old electric hand mixer, and set to it. Approximately one hour later (it takes a LOT of whipping and tasting and whipping and tasting to make my whipped sweet potatoes - sounds rather like a naughty movie, doesn't it, all that whipping and tasting), my dish was finished! Voila! Lesson learned: I need a food processor.

The Saga of Ka-Nefer-Nefer Continues

The Saint Louis Art Museum Ka-Nefer-Nefer Egyptian Mask Saga Continues Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 04:58:43 PM A recent Associated Press article reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is now looking into the provenance of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian relic acquired in the late 1990s by the Saint Louis Art Museum. The mask, said to date back to the Nineteenth Dynasty (1293-1185 B.C.), was unearthed early in 1952 by an up-and-coming Egyptian archaeologist named Mohammed Zakaria Goneim. It is at the center of a long-running ownership dispute between the art museum and the Egyptian government. The set-to was the topic of an in-depth Riverfront Times story by Malcolm Gay, "Out of Egypt," published in February 2006. Wrote Gay:
Goneim announced to the world that he might have uncovered the untouched tomb of a previously unknown pharaoh named Sekhemkhet -- potentially the most significant find since Howard Carter unearthed the virgin tomb of Tutankhamen 30 years before. Among the many burials Goneim discovered atop the pyramid, one in particular caught his eye: the unmummified body of a woman, wrapped in a simple reed mat. Her remains, which dated to the Nineteenth Dynasty, were badly decomposed, but she wore an elaborate mask over her head and shoulders. Her face, covered by a thin sheet of blended copper and gold, peeked from beneath an intricate resin wig molded into plaits. The diadem that crowned her head was made of glass, as were her eyes and nipples. In each hand she held an amulet symbolizing strength and welfare; etched across her folded arms was a scene depicting the encounter between Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead, and the woman's spiritual double in the afterlife, known as her ka. Goneim dubbed the woman Ka-Nefer-Nefer: the Twice-Beautiful Ka.
The AP story updates the fight being waged by Zahi Hawass, secretary general for Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, against the SLAM and its current director, Brent Benjamin. In the current story, Benjamin reiterates the argument he made to Gay in 2006 -- asserting that "[t]o date, we have not seen information that we believe is compelling enough to return the object." Counters Hawass, per the Associated Press: "This stupid man [Benjamin], he doesn't understand the rules here." Archaeologist Goneim, meanwhile, never achieved the worldwide fame his discovery had augured: In 1958 he was accused of looting artifacts, and though a friend and colleague came to the rescue with exculpatory evidence, he arrived too late. On January 12, 1959, Goneim threw himself into the Nile River and drowned.-Tom Finkel
Hmmmm, she certainly sounds like an important person. Regular people weren't buried with elaborate gold death masks, wigs and acoutrements. Who was she? Is she a lost queen?

3000 Year Old Kurdish King Burial?

I'll see if I can find the photo mentioned in the article - it wasn't published in the article! Kurdish National Congress of North America An Embalmed Corpse of a King was discovered in Kurdistan-Iran (California, November 27, 2008). On November 19, 2008, six corpses were discovered in Kurdistan-Iran. Archeologists believe the corpses were buried some 3000 years ago. The corpses belonged to a king and five of his bodyguards, who were buried around him. [Are these bodies male or female?] According to a myth, they were buried around him to protect their king even in death. As the picture shows, the king was buried with jewelry and his crown. A fish plaque with ancient writings placed on his chest requires a scientific study by unbiased archeologists to come up with an authentic and undistorted translation of the historic message. The king’s picture shows a strong resemblance to the ones of the ancient pictures of the Medes emperors. Also, the geographical area where the corpses were discovered is situated at the heart of what was the Median Empire. Further, the burial timing ties the history to the era of the ancient Medes and their powerful and advanced empire. Ironically, the Iranian officials have tried to trivialize this historic discovery and publically proclaimed that there was no king’s corpse, but rather a 3000-year old skeleton. This flagrant denial reminds us of Iran’s continuous policies to deflect and obliterate the history of the Kurds, who by many reliable historical sources are the direct descendants of the Medes. Therefore in order not to distort this ancient history, no Iranian-government appointed archeologist should be the sole source of the translation of the writings. After the Median Empire became the Medo-Persian Empire in 550 BCE, the Medes’ culture, way of governance, and language were adapted by the Persian rulers and the Medes remained in honor and positions in the empire. However, under King Darius things gradually changed and Persian rule increased. Ever since then, the Persian rulers, ancient and modern alike, have tried to misrepresent Kurdish history and portray the Kurdish culture as Iranian culture and the Kurdish language as a branch of the Persian language. This recent Iranian effort to suppress the truth about the Kurdish history and civilization is clear evidence that the Persian rulers want to continue their ill-intended maneuver to maintain their ownership of Kurdish history and heritage. Sadly enough, when the Persians inherited the great Median Empire and Medes’ legacy, their rulers have been relentless in their efforts to keep the Kurdish descendants of the Medes oppressed. They even have been cooperating with other nations such as Iraq, Syria, and Turkey to subject the Kurds to the policies of assimilation and disappearance. In the new century, when the world is more interdependent and more aware of our common humanity, Iran and other nations that subsumed and now control parts of Media/Kurdistan need to realize that a nation of more than 40 millions cannot and will not disappear off of the face of the earth. A day will come where the Kurds, who are the legitimate descendants of the Medes, will claim their rightful place in the civilized world and will continue to contribute to its enrichment. Inquiries: 403-200-6310 Contact: Brusk Reshvan
Added at 9:18 p.m.: I have found what I believe is the photo referred to in the above article. Here it is - from an article at Payvand's Iran News: 11/20/08 3,000-Year-Old Burial Ground Discovered in Kurdistan Province of Iran Source: Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency A prehistoric burial ground has been discovered near the Iranian city of Sanandaj, which dates back to 3,000 years. Sanandaj is located in the western Kurdistan Province of Iran. According to a report by the FARS News Agency, the 3,000 year-old cemetery was found during a road construction project, that is located 500 meters from the previously found ancient mound of Zagros. Kurdistans provincial cultural heritage office confirmed that so far five squat burials have been found in the cemetery along with spears, bronze bracelets and earthenware. Excavations, which started four days ago at the site, will continue for another week, reports from Press TV indicate. Irans Kurdistan Province contains 218 natural, cultural, historical and religious sites including numerous historical villages. Ancient bridges, the Safavid Asef Divan monument and the Khosrowabad structure are among Kurdistans many tourist attractions.

Armenian Gold Medalists Awarded State Medals

State Awards of the Republic of Armenia to Chess Olympic Champions 27.11.2008 13:16 On November 26 the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan signed a decree on awarding Medals “For Services Contributed to the Motherland” of the first rank to the head coach of the men’s chess team of Armenia, International Grand master Arshak Petrosyan, International Grand Master Levon Aronyan, International Grand Master Vladimir Hakobyan, International Grand Master Artashes Minasyan, International Grand Master Tigran Petrosyan and International Grand Master Gabriel Sargsyan for their brilliant victory at the 38th Chess Olympiad, for properly presenting Armenia on the international arena, and promoting the development of chess in Armenia. According to another presidential decree, Medals “For Services Contributed to the Motherland” of the second rank were awarded to Vice-Presidents of the Chess Federation of Armenia Levon Yolyan and Smbat Lputyan, businessman Artak Sargsyan, Director of the Chess House Hrachya Tavadyan for essential contribution to the development of chess in the republic.

Mary Ann Gomes on her Olympiad

From The Telegraph (Calcutta) A long way to go: Mary A STAFF REPORTER November 28, 2008 Calcutta: Mary Ann Gomes is happy with her performance in the chess Olympiad in Dresden. The Calcutta girl won a silver after scoring six out of eight points and a performance rating of 2437 in the championship. “This was my second Olympiad. I performed quite well and am happy with my showing,” she said after returning to the city on Thursday. The WGM, a product of The Telegraph Schools’ Chess Championship, said her experience made the difference this time. “I was very tense in my first Olympiad in 2006. But this time I concentrated on my natural game. Moreover, two coaching camps organised by the AICF in the lead up to the tournament also helped,” she said. The performance, however, hasn’t left her complacent. “This is just the beginning… I still have a long way to go. This year I completed my WGM. Now I am aiming for the men’s IM norm and then the GM,” Mary Ann, who has an Elo rating of 2298, said. She, though, will improve her ratings by 21 points by virtue of her performance — five wins, two draws and a loss — in the Olympiad. “The competition was very tough. All top teams played and it helped me a lot… I think my penultimate round performance was the best in the competition. It was a near flawless game and my moves were perfect,” she recalled. She also plans to work on her shortcomings with Dibyendu Barua. “I’ve got to work on my openings. The strategic play also needs improvement,” she pointed out.

Pourkashiyan Awarded GM Title

I believe that's a WGM title - quite a difference, but still an achievement for Pourkashiyan. Congratulations! Iran's Pourkashiyan awarded GM title Thu, 27 Nov 2008 10:11:25 GMT Iran's Woman International Master Atousa Pourkashiyan has been awarded the Grandmaster title at the 38th Chess Olympiad in Germany. The Iranian national earned the title after she gained eight points in 11 games at the end of the Chess Olympiad in Dresden (Germany), IRIB quoted Iran's Chess Federation on Thursday. Pourkashiyan won seven games and drew two others after competing with four grandmasters and five international masters during the event. In the second round, the Iranian chess master drew with Ukrainian Woman Grandmaster (WGM) Kateryna Lahno but managed to defeat all of her opponents in the next five games. The world chess organization FIDE awards the title Grandmaster to exceptionally qualified chess masters. Apart from 'World Champion', Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain. Once achieved, the title is held for life. One hundred fifty-four countries took part in the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, on November 12-25. HRF/JG/MMN

A Modern Thanksgiving Story

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Today is USA's T-day. There is horror and terror in India, Somalia and elsewhere in the world, but today we Americans sit down with our families and loved ones, enjoying the best meals that we can afford, be it at our own tables or in church halls and homeless shelters where free meals of turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables and gravy with stuffing and cranberry sauce are served by volunteers. I'll be leaving in a little while to go to one of my sisters' houses for dinner, along with my super whipped sweet potatoes, a family favorite. Here is a story I found at the New York Times about sudden, unexpected bounty that is allowing thousands of people in New York City to purchase extra food and special food treats that they normally would never be able to afford, just in time for the holidays, because they had been illegally cut off from the Federal food stamp program years before. Many of the beneficiaries of the pay-out from settlement of the law suit are sharing their good fortune with those around them. Stories like this one remind me forcefully that I am very fortunate - I have a lot of equity in a beautiful home, I have employment I deem fairly secure, I can afford meat and potatoes whenever I want and can splurge on feeding $2.99 a pound nuts to the squirrels this time of year, I have adequate fresh water, heat, and light. I'm trying to shed excess fat off my body, I am not chronically malnourished. I have enough "discretionary" funds to be able to buy many items and do other things that some people probably cannot even fathom. I am American middle-class, by no means wealthy, but by the standards of more than 50% of the world, I am a millionaire. I am very blessed. A Surprise Bounty From a Food Stamp Lawsuit By LESLIE KAUFMAN Published: November 26, 2008 Class-action lawsuits, especially the type that drag on for years, are rarely synonymous with sudden joy, serendipitous generosity, or an unexpected Thanksgiving turkey. But this month Harris v. Eggleston, a lawsuit with its roots in 1990s welfare reform under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, is the unlikely vehicle for spreading holiday cheer to thousands of the poorest households in the city. The lawsuit, which charged that thousands of people were illegally denied food stamps after they moved to receive Social Security disability payments instead of welfare benefits, was settled at the end of 2006. Yet only now are the roughly $12 million in awards being distributed to nearly 9,500 households in the five boroughs in the form of credits to electronic benefit cards. The payback does not quite amount to winning the lottery — the 18 largest reimbursements top $5,000, and most average far less. And all of the credits can be used only for food. Still, to many who had given up on or forgotten what they were owed, the money in their accounts, some of which arrived before any notice from the government to explain it, has been a rare moment of bounty at an otherwise dismal economic moment. Monica Ryan learned of her good fortune when she went to her corner bodega in northern Manhattan to buy bread and milk. She was picking up just the necessities because she was conscious of having less than $5 in her account. But when the clerk swiped her card, it appeared that she had hundreds left. Hundreds? At first, Ms. Ryan, who says that she has been barely getting by with a monthly benefit of $107, thought it was impossible. In shock, she called the automated food stamp line, which confirmed that $888 had just been placed in her account. “I didn’t believe it,” she said. “They make so many mistakes.” It was not until days later, when a government letter arrived confirming that the money was part of the settlement, that she finally relaxed and went out and bought a steak. “It was so delicious,” she said. Now she is planning on buying a turkey to share with her son, something she had not done in two years because, she said, “it takes half the monthly allowance to buy the groceries for that one meal.” Ms. Ryan said she once knew about the lawsuit but had completely forgotten about it. The origin of her ample holiday meal has it roots in federal welfare policy changes that were approved in 1996, when the federal government set five-year limits on its willingness to contribute to welfare payments for the country’s poor. The city, in response, pushed to move the poor who were mentally or physically disabled to the federal Social Security program, which has no time limit. Many of those transferred, however, were automatically cut off by the city from food stamps, even though the federal law explicitly allowed people to receive both benefits. City and state officials said the problem was caused by computer errors that they were working to fix, yet it persisted for years despite repeated reprimands from the federal government. So in 2002, the Urban Justice Center, a Manhattan-based nonprofit group that had been working to resolve the issue, sued the city on behalf of one recipient, Barbara Harris, and thousands of others. In 2006, the parties agreed on a settlement that would involve reimbursement to those tossed out of the food stamp program going back to 1999. The reimbursements were capped at 21 months of lost benefits. It took a year for the settlement to be approved by both the court and the United States Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of the food stamp program and is providing the funds. The benefits started arriving at the end of October. As important as the payouts is the fact that the city finally began changing the system to prevent disabled people from being removed from the program in the first place, said Bill Lienhard, who was the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. “This lawsuit actually helped maximize federal benefits in a time of economic downturn,” he said, “and prevented disruptions in benefits to those who needed them the most.” Food stamp use in the city is up 65 percent since 2002, according to city officials, and as of September neared 1.3 million recipients. The state under Gov. David A. Paterson has found new ways to maximize what the state and its residents can receive from the federal government program. Such successes, however, have escaped the notice of Ms. Harris, who still lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Her food stamp allotment has long been restored, but she says she must be very careful to ration her $176 monthly allowance. She began crying a bit when she described finally receiving the first half of the $444 she was owed from 1999. “I just went out and got a ham,” she said, “and cooked it with cloves, apple juice and raisins. It was very sweet.” Others who received the money in the last several weeks said they delayed gratification a bit to make the holidays more festive in a year that has otherwise been very tough. Luis Rosario, 52, who lives in the Bronx with his mother, received $2,333, because he was cut off in 1999 and was just put back in the program. He said he would use the money to make a Thanksgiving meal of roast pork and turkey for his sister, daughters and grandchildren. And, he said, he would also take care of Christmas, too. “We usually go to my sister in New Jersey, but she was laid off,” Mr. Rosario said, “so this year we are going to take care of everyone.” It is a sentiment that would sit well with Abdelkader Louali, who also lives in the Bronx and got a payout of $550. With that money Mr. Louali, who lives alone, purchased some shrimp as a treat, and he also bought $64 in food for neighbors who were in need. It was a special pleasure to him, he said, to finally be the one who had enough to share with others. “I have $100 left,” he said, “but it is the holidays and I would give it away. You see, my refrigerator is already full.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2008 Chess Olympiad: Was Israel's Gold a Fluke?

Not according to the math - good article explaining the from the beginning of creation complicated relationship between math and chess - and not just about tie-breakers, either! From The Times Online November 26, 2008 Sexy maths: Skills of a chess grandmaster Marcus du Sautoy For a while, the chess Olympiad this year looked like producing a surprise winner but closer inspection of Israel's team sheet revealed that it was pretty much business as usual: half the players were named Boris! Other than a brief blip in the 1970s, the biennial event has produced remarkably consistent results. From 1952 to 1990, the Soviet Union ruled the contest, and after the superstate's fragmentation either Russia or one of its former union satellites struck gold every time. As it turned out this year, the Soviet diaspora's turn in the spotlight was short-lived and Armenia triumphed for its second successive Olympiad. Despite being connected by being born under the red flag, those that dominate the game are better categorised by their membership of a different club: the mathematical mafia. Legend has it that the game was invented by a mathematician in India who elicited a huge reward for its creation. The King of India was so impressed with the game that he asked the mathematician to name a prize as reward. Not wishing to appear greedy, the mathematician asked for one grain of rice to be placed on the first square of the chess board, two grains on the second, four on the third and so on. The number of grains of rice should be doubled each time. The King thought that he'd got away lightly, but little did he realise the power of doubling to make things big very quickly. By the sixteenth square there was already a kilo of rice on the chess board. By the twentieth square his servant needed to bring in a wheelbarrow of rice. He never reached the 64th and last square on the board. By that point the rice on the board would have totalled a staggering 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 grains. Playing chess has strong resonances with doing mathematics. There are simple rules for the way each chess piece moves but beyond these basic constraints, the pieces can roam freely across the board. Mathematics also proceeds by taking self-evident truths (called axioms) about properties of numbers and geometry and then by applying basic rules of logic you proceed to move mathematics from its starting point to deduce new statements about numbers and geometry. For example, using the moves [in chess] allowed by mathematics the 18th-century mathematician Lagrange reached an endgame that showed that every number can be written as the sum of four square numbers, a far from obvious fact. For example, 310 = 172 +42 + 22 + 12. Some mathematicians have turned their analytic skills on the game of chess itself. A classic problem called the Knight's Tour asks whether it is possible to use a knight to jump around the chess board visiting each square once only. The first examples were documented in a 9th-century Arabic manuscript. It is only within the past decade that mathematical techniques have been developed to count exactly how many such tours are possible. It isn't just mathematicians and chess players who have been fascinated by the Knight's Tour. The highly styled Sanskrit poem Kavyalankara presents the Knight's Tour in verse form. And in the 20th century, the French author Georges Perec's novel Life: A User's Manual describes an apartment with 100 rooms arranged in a 10x10 grid. In the novel the order that the author visits the rooms is determined by a Knight's Tour on a 10x10 chessboard. Mathematicians have also analysed just how many games of chess are possible. If you were to line up chessboards side by side, the number of them you would need to reach from one side of the observable universe to the other would require only 28 digits. Yet Claude Shannon, the mathematician credited as the father of the digital age, estimated that the number of unique games you could play was of the order of 10/120 (10 to the 120th power, a 1 followed by 120 zeros). It's this level of complexity that makes chess such an attractive game and ensures that at the Olympiad in Russia in 2010, local spectators will witness games of chess never before seen by the human eye, even if the winning team turns out to have familiar names. [Will they be Russians - har!]

"Buddha's Skull Found in Nanking?"

Geez - who writes these headlines! LOL! Of course it's not the entire skull of Buddha - and actually - it's probably a bit of monkey skull or some such (I probably should not have said that - oh well). From the (where else?) 'Buddha's skull' found in Nanjing Chinese archaeologists have claimed that a 1,000-year-old miniature pagoda, unearthed in Nanjing, holds a piece of skull belonging to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai Last Updated: 12:26PM GMT 24 Nov 2008 The pagoda was wedged tightly inside an iron case that was discovered at the site of a former temple in the city in August. The four-storey pagoda, which is almost four feet high and one-and-a-half feet wide, is thought by archaeologists to be one of the 84,000 pagodas commissioned by Ashoka the Great in the second century BC to house the remains of the Buddha. Ashoka, one of India's greatest emperors, converted to Buddhism after waging a bloody war in the eastern state of Orissa. He is widely credited with spreading Buddhism throughout Asia, and across his kingdom, which stretched from Pakistan through Afghanistan and into Iran. The pagoda found in Nanjing is crafted from wood, gilded with silver and inlaid with gold, coloured glass and amber. It matches a description of another of Ashoka's pagodas which used to be housed underneath the Changgan Buddhist temple in Nanjing. A description of the contents of the pagoda was also found: a gold coffin bearing part of Buddha's skull inside a silver box. Although scans have confirmed that there are two small metal boxes inside the pagoda, experts have not yet peered inside. The pagoda is currently on display in the museum. Qi Haining, the head of archaeology at Nanjing Museum, told state media: "This pagoda may be unique, the only one known to contain parts of Buddha's skull". But he said there would be a lengthy process before the cases could be opened. In 2001, Chinese authorities found a case that was said to contain a relic of Buddha's hair, but declined to open the welded box in case it damaged the contents. De Qing, an expert in Buddhism in Nanjing, said: “The discovery of the relic will have a huge influence on the cultural history of Buddhism in China and will establish Nanjing as a premier site. It will be a great encouragement for Buddhists as well as for future studies. It is important for Buddhism as a religion to have these sarira, or relics, to show its followers. The more a Buddhist practises, the more relics will remain of him after his death. I am hugely excited. I think they should take the skull outside of the container, it is a sacred item, but it is not an untouchable item.” Siddhartha Gautama, who is believed to have been born in the fifth century BC, was a spirit­ual teacher and recognised by Buddhists as the Supreme Buddha of our age. Also known as Shakyamuni, or the Sage of the Sakyas, his teachings are contained in the Tripitaka, the canon of Buddhist thought. He is said to have attained Enlightenment, or to have become a Buddha, which means "Awakened One", at the age of 35, after 49 days meditating underneath a pipal tree. The second World Buddhist Forum, a gathering of monks and scholars from around the world, will take place near Nanjing next year in Wuxi.

Red - CCC (Color of Choice for Cavemen)

LOL! Okay, so I had a little fun with that caption - but this is no laughing matter. Through history the color red has been ripe (har!) with meaning. This is an interesting article speculating on the possible use of hematite (which yields red dye, etc.) in Stone Age China: From China Daily Red color ruled fashion world 15,000 years ago (Xinhua) Updated: 2008-11-26 23:19 ZHENGZHOU - The color red, which represents luck, happiness and passion in China, could have been used in clothing 15,000 years ago. Li Zhanyang, a researcher with Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, said in an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday. Li has been leading an eight-member archaeological team doing excavation and related research on lake-based ruins in Xuchang, central China's Henan Province, in recent years. The Xuchang ruins made headlines in foreign media in January when State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced that Chinese archaeologists had found a human skull dating back at least 80,000 years in the ruins last December. According to Li, this month, their excavation team found from the soil strata dating back 15,000 years, or the late Paleolithic Era, at the Xuchang ruins more than 20 pieces of hematite, one of iron oxides commonly used as a dyestuff, alongside three dozen thin instruments made of animal tooth enamel, plus seven needles made of the upper cheek tooth enamel of a rhinoceros sub-species now extinct. It is the first time in China that iron oxide of such high concentration has been excavated from the ruins of the late Paleolithic Era, claimed Li. "Through excavation, we are confident that these hematite were deliberately brought to the Xuchang ruins from afar by ancient people, as Xuchang does not produce such minerals," said Li. The ruins used to be the location of a lake where activities such as clothes making, food preparing, water drinking were clustered, said Li. "I believe the people who lived there might have used hematite to dye clothes, which was quite different from Upper Cave Man at Zhoukoudian of Beijing who used hematite as a sacrifice to the dead, or from Europe, where ancient people there used hematite to draw cave murals." Li said lab work proved the thin instruments made of animal tooth enamel might have be used as articles similar to buttons in present times. "There has been evidence suggesting people dating back 15,000 years could have made advanced fur apparel. If that is true, the most popular color might have been red," said the Chinese archaeologist. The Paleolithic site at Xuchang was discovered in 1965, when Chinese scientists found animal fossils and stone artifacts from soil dug for a well. The most recent large scale excavation started in June 2005. The archaeologists declared in January this year that they found the fossil consisted of 16 pieces of the skull with protruding eyebrows and a small forehead from the excavation last December. That find was heralded as the greatest discovery since Peking Man and Upper Cave Man skulls were found in Beijing early last century. The Peking Man skull fossil dates back 200,000 to 700,000 years, while the Upper Cave Man skull fossils date back about 18,000 years. Besides the skull, more than 30,000 animal fossils, and stone and bone artifacts were found in the Xuchang ruins over the past two years. The pieces were fossilized because they were buried near the mouth of a spring, whose water had a high calcium content, according to Li.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Peruvian Finds Date Back to 3500 BCE

Evidence of human civilization in Peru keeps getting pushed back earlier and earlier... Story at The Latin American Herald Tribune November 25, 2008 Remains of 5,500-year-old Human Settlement Found in Peru LIMA -- A team of Peruvian and German archaeologists has discovered the remains of a human settlement 5,500 years old near the southern town of Nazca, south of Lima, the capital daily El Comercio reported Sunday. The archaeologists, who are members of the Nazca-Palpa project, said that the discovery was made in a sector known as Pernil Alto, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Palpa. The project is headed by Peruvian archaeologists Johny Isla Cuadrado and Elsa Tomasto, and by Germany's Markus Reindel. "The find consists of a group of homes in which 19 graves were found, including the remains of a child younger than 1 year old with possible evidence of having been mummified," said the daily. The paper went on to say that the find is the first discovery in southern Peru of an inhabited site corresponding to the late portion of the archaic period some 3,500 years before Christ. One of the project researchers said that the excavations made at the site since last October enabled the team to find the remains of eight small oval-shaped and circular homes made by digging deep pits in the ground. Also found were up to 19 graves of children and adults interred individually inside the homes, which would seem to indicate that they were buried there after the homes were abandoned. In some of the graves, archaeologists found carved bones and snail-shells, deer horns, necklaces and bracelets made from shells, but there was no concrete evidence of offerings to the dead or to dieties. The researchers are seeking to expand their knowledge about the culture of southern Peru in the early epochs from about 5,500 years ago up to the Inca civilization in the 16th century. The project is being funded by the German Education and Science Ministry, the Archaeological Commission for Extra-European Cultures and the German Archaeological Institute. EFE

Big Funding Boost for "Internet Archaeology

Great news for those interested in archaeology and making information on current and past discoveries readily accessible to everyone with an internet connection! Story from the Yorkshore Post Wednesday, 26th November 2008 US funding boost for web-based archaeology journal Published Date: 25 November 2008 By Brian Dooks FUNDING from a New York-based foundation will help York University make academic research material available online. The Andrew W Mellon Foundation has awarded 250,000 US dollars to the study led by Julian Richards, head of the university's department of archaeology and co-director of online journal Internet Archaeology. Prof Richards is looking at ways of using online publication to allow researchers to link their work to databases, video, audio and other information as well as stimulating academic debate. The latest research will build on work completed as part ofan earlier award-winning project, Linking Electronic Archives and Publications, or Leap, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under its ICT Strategy programme. Prof Richards said: "We're very excited about this project as it will allow us to work with North American archaeologists to create novel ways of publishing their research findings. "It builds on the success of the original Leap project, which won Best Archaeological Innovation and was highly commended in the Best ICT Project category at the 2008 British Archaeological Awards." The project will run until March 31, 2011. Internet Archaeology, hosted by York University, was established in 1996. It has over 70,000 hits per day to its pages from more than 120 countries.

2008 Chess Olympiad: Some Final Thoughts

It's all over for another two years, thank Goddess! I am now wracking my brain trying to figure out how I can possibly report on all of the news on the chess femmes in this Olympiad in my final column for Chessville. Well, I guess I'll have to make it the biggest (and hopefully the best) column yet, with a special section devoted entirely to the Olympiad. I still have a few days, it's not due to be published until the beginning of December. I foresee a four-day weekend of sleepless nights... There are now a wide variety of websites that provide first-class information on chess events - some more timely than others (but for those less "timely", always worth the wait, darlings). Here are those I am most familiar with - by no means all of the sites that provide news and insight into the happenings in the world of chess. Special thanks and unending admiration for the following - how the hell do they do what they do day after day after day...
  • Kudos to GM Susan Polgar who did triple-duty - not only reporting information at her blog, but also serving as Chess Ambassador and English-Language Press Liason, as well as holding great interviews daily with players and personalities from the Olympiad. Thanks also to Paul Truong, the official photographer for this Olympiad, for his fantastic and candid photographs, round after round, from off days, the official opening, the official close, and everything in-between. I am appreciative of the great job that both Polgar and Truong did.
  • I was very happy that Chessdom went back to its "live" blog for coverage of Round 11. I did not like the "live chat" experiment - most of the comments were boring, common, and disjointed. It was hard to follow what was going on. In the "live" blog, on the other hand, it was easy to follow the action as the time counted down toward the end of the games.
  • The Week in Chess has set the standard ever since I've been online (December, 1998) and no doubt from before! Mark Crowthers lets nothing stand in his way of going the extra mile, whether it be going over games move by move to create and/or correct PGN notations or correctly identifying otherwise sometimes obscure players.
  • I was very impressed with Chess Vibes - very current reports, great photographs and a slamming lay-out. How'd you do that?
  • Europe E'checs provided much-needed information - in French (but they have English translation on some pages).
  • Mig Greengard has such a wicked sense of humor! His Daily Dirt blog (part of Chess Ninja) provides much-needed insight and lots of laughs, but be warned: all types hang out there, compensated for with a collection of wits and sparkling commentators, most of whose commentary probably whizzes over the ignoramus heads of the thankfully relatively few a-holes. I believe (but have no proof) that a lot of chess femmes read the commentary there but generally refrain from commenting themselves - only a brave few every now and then wade in.
  • Daaim Shabazz's The Chess Drum is a must-read for keen insights into the chess world in general and, in particular, for news about chess players that generally aren't covered elsewhere.

A few final thoughts: I'm still absolutely amazed that the American men were able to repeat their miracle Bronze performance from 2006 in 2008 Dresden! More incredible, at least to me, is the US Women's Team performance. I honestly did not think they had a prayer of winning a medal. I'm quite happy to say I was SO SO WRONG. And I will eat my wool beret tonight for supper. Hell, I need a new one anyway, this one was looking rather ratty...

I am absolutely convinced that what happened to the Russian Teams (Men - oh, I mean "Open" - and Women) was Divine Justice being meted out to Miniputin, the ass! LOL - do you hear laughter, Pharaoh er, Miniputin? That's the sound of millions of chess fans falling off their chairs and rolling on the floor busting a gut in hilarity at the performances of the oh-so-vaunted #1 ranked teams entering the Olympiad: Russian Men and Russian Women. Bwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhaaaaaaaa!

The Georgian Women won the Gold Medal The Georgian Women won the Gold Medal The Georgian Women won the Gold Medal

They're the only team other than USA and India I would care to see win the Gold. Sweet! Particularly Sweet since the Russian mobsters who put together the Women's World Chess Championship INSISTED that the female chessplayers of the world assemble in Nalchik, Russia, mere miles away from the GEORGIAN WAR ZONE after Russian invaded Georgia in August, 2008 a few weeks before the Championship was to convene. Those Russians particularly pooh-poohed the Georgian Women chessplayers' concerns - and the concerns of other Federations on behalf of their players - about sending their players to Nalchik.

Ha ha, Miniputin. The best is yet to come. Just watch what happens to your "vaunted" Ruble (Rubble?) in the coming months. Nothing personal against the players on the Russian chess teams - I suggest you emmigrate to Manhattan before President-Elect Obama takes office on January 20, 2009...

High Jinks at Politkovskaya Trial

From The New York Times: Bid to Remove Politkovskaya Judge By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ Published: November 25, 2008 MOSCOW— Russian prosecutors requested a new judge Tuesday in an increasingly confused trial of three suspects accused in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist, after the judge flip-flopped twice on whether to allow press coverage. The judge, Yevgeny Zubov, is accused of “violating procedural rules,” said Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor general’s office. She would not elaborate on the alleged violations, though she said Judge Zubov would be given the chance to decide whether to recuse himself on Wednesday. In a hearing on Tuesday, the judge once again decided to open the trial to the media, a second reversal on the issue, after 19 of the 20 jurors signed a statement saying they had made no official complaints about the presence of journalists in the courtroom, in opposition to the judge’s previous statements. Last week, Judge Zubov cited jurors’ fears about media coverage of the trial to bar journalists from the proceedings, overturning an earlier decision. The request to remove Judge Zubov adds to the confusions that have come to typify this closely watched trial, as well as the two-year investigation that preceded it. Supporters of Ms. Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist and pugnacious Kremlin critic, accuse officials of botching the investigation into her killing, and have suggested tacit government complacency in her death. The three defendants are all accomplices. The police say they have yet to capture the person who shot Ms. Politkovskaya to death two years ago in a hallway of her apartment building, and investigators also say they have little information on who ordered the killing. In another twist on Tuesday, however, a defense lawyer in the case caused a stir in the Russian media when he announced that court documents indicated that an unidentified politician inside Russia had ordered the killing, contradicting authorities’ claims that a Kremlin enemy abroad was responsible. “During the investigation, the prosecutor general said that this was some great and horrible figure from abroad, but in the indictment we see that this is someone not so great and horrible, but a political figure inside the country,” Murad Musayev, the lawyer, said, according to Russian media. In a later interview, Mr. Musayev downplayed his statement, saying his remarks were meant to highlight the lack of evidence in the prosecution’s case. He denied that court documents identified any specific individual who ordered the killing. “This was the speculation of the investigator, who, for some reason, wrote this in the indictment,” he said by telephone. “About 98 percent of this case consists of guessing by the investigators.”
So, it was just a guess that a high ranking political figure in Russia had anything to do with Politkovskaya's murder. Yeah, right.

Taliban Terrorists - Allah Will Spit in Their Faces for This

From The New York Times: 10 Arrested for Afghan Acid Attack By ABDUL WAHEED WAFA Published: November 25, 2008 KABUL, Afghanistan — The police in Kandahar Province arrested 10 Taliban militants they said were involved in an attack this month on a group of Afghan schoolgirls whose faces were doused with acid, officials in Kandahar said Tuesday. The officials said that the militants, who were Afghan citizens, had confessed to their involvement in the attack on the schoolgirls and their teachers on Nov. 12 and that a high-ranking member of the Taliban had paid the militants 100,000 Pakistani rupees ($1,275) for each girl they managed to burn. The girls were assaulted by two men on a motorcycle who were apparently irate that the girls had been attending high school. The men drove up beside them and splashed their faces with what appeared to be battery acid. Zalmay Ayobi, the spokesman for Gen. Rahmatullah Raufi, the governor of Kandahar, said the orders to carry out the attack had been given from a foreign country, although he did not identify it. The militants were arrested by the police last week. Mr. Ayobi said a joint delegation from the Interior Ministry and the office of the attorney general in the capital, Kabul, had arrived in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, on Monday to evaluate the cases of the suspects. The delegation, led by the deputy interior minister along with the governor of Kandahar, announced today that the suspects confessed their involvement in the attack, Mr. Ayobi said. He said Afghanistan’s courts would decide the attackers’ fate after the investigation was completed. At least two of the girls were hospitalized by the attack, their faces blackened and burned. The attack was condemned at the time by Laura Bush, who described the Taliban as “cowardly and shameful” for carrying out the attack. “The Taliban’s continued terror attacks threaten the progress that has been made in Afghanistan,” the first lady said in a statement, adding, “These cowardly and shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world.” Mrs. Bush has been an advocate for the women of Afghanistan during her husband’s tenure. She has visited Afghanistan three times to put a spotlight on development and women’s issues, most recently in June, a trip cloaked in secrecy so she would not become a target of terrorists.

Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners NEEDS HELP!

Oh no, disaster has struck! On this most wonderful of days, when BOTH U.S. chess teams earned Bronze Medals at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden (and IM Anna Zatonskih earned a Gold Medal for her performance on Board 2, and WGM Rusudan Goletiani earned a Silver Medal for her performance on Board 3 - that's 10 medals - count 'em darlings, TEN! for the good old under-funded USA), I received this email from Tom Fogec of my adopted chess club, the Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners: The Southwest Chess Club needs your help in finding a new meeting location. As many of you know, we are currently meeting at the Layton State Bank in Greendale. Starting with the new year in 2009, that facility will no longer be available to us. We are asking members and friends of the club for any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions regarding a new playing site. Previously we met at the Village Hall in Hales Corners, which is still being renovated. Both sites were provided to the club at no cost, although the club might be able to pay a nominal rent. Sites such as community rooms, schools, colleges, churches, ethnic clubs, recreation centers, corporate meeting rooms etc. are often good choices. It would be very helpful if your suggestion included the name and phone number of a contact. Specifically we need a facility that can accommodate 25 to 40 chess players on Thursday nights from 6 to 11 PM. Please send me an e-mail or call me at 414-425-6742 with any suggestions. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can render. Tom Fogec Southwest Chess Club
I am going to wrack my tired brain to see if I can come up with some plausible suggestions. Anyone out there reading this post - suggestions are welcome. What we really need is a rich landlord who is a chess fan with a vacant commercial space of adequate size with restroom facilities for men and women who is willing to dedicate this space to my adopted club for free - or a nominal rent. I'll pay $100 for a year...
BTW, Tom Fogec is a life member of USCF and rated 1618. He is one of the pillars of the Southwest Chess Club.

Testers Needed for a New Chess Game

Hola darlings! Out of the blue I received an email earlier today from a perfectly agreeable gentleman who is looking for people to try out a new chess game (and give critical feed-back) that is accessible for playing on an ipod or cell phone. I am ignorant of such devices, not owning either, so I cannot help. But I offered to post his company's offer here, and he accepted, so here is the information: My name is David Calkins and I'm with Newtoy Inc., a small startup game developer in Dallas, TX. I have an unusual request...We make games for the iPhone and iPod Touch and our first game is called Chess With Friends. It's a correspondence-style game that aims to reintroduce the joy of chess to a broad audience by giving players a game of chess in their pocket that they can play with their friends anywhere, anytime. The first version of Chess With Friends was released two weeks ago. It's gotten some good reviews so far, but we want to take it a step further and create something that chess-lovers will really love. Seems like the best way to do that is solicit some expert feedback. That's where you come in :) I was wondering if you (or any chess-playing friends, for that matter) have an iPhone or iPod Touch and would be interested in checking out a free version of our game? We'd really like to hear what you think. You can find out more about the game here. The game is currently offered free at the app store via this link: Please send your feedback to David Calkins. Our legions of fans (all four of you), be kind to David and volunteer! Smooches, Jan

2008 Chess Olympiad - NEWS FLASH

UNBELIEVABLE. It seems US Women and Open Teams have tied for third place in their respective Olympiads after R11. Now it's up to tie-breaks to see who takes home bronze medals and in the Women's section, the gold. In the Open, Armena wins gold, Israel (!!!) takes silver. Russia goes home empty handed, drawing all their last games. In the Women's event, Poland and US are tied for 3rd place, Georgia and Ukraine are tied for 1st. Added 10:39 A.M. It's official - USA Men and Women each win Team Bronze medals. In addition, Anna Zatonskih wins an individual Gold medal for her performance on Board 2, and Rusudan Goletiani wins an individual Silver medal for her performance on Board 3! Congratulations to the US chess Femmes and to the US chess dudes, too. The medals are excellent news for U.S. chess. Now if only the USCF Executive Board could stop all the law suits and really start doing what is good for chess in this country - like coming up with some cash to back their players and offer better prizes at national events!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kim Cattrall as Titian's Diana

(Photo of Kim Cattrall, 2007, from the Do Something blog) What a great story! I've never seen Sex in the City - not even in re-runs! I did add the recent movie to my Netflix list and it will be delivered in due course. I remember Cattrall for remarkable green eyes and being incredibly gorgeous and a good sport in "Big Trouble in Little China." Cattrall recreates art masterpiece 4 hours ago Sex And The City star Kim Cattrall has posed semi-naked in a recreation of Titian's masterpiece Diana and Actaeon. BBC Two's The Culture Show challenged Tom Hunter to create a 21st century version of the painting after he backed the campaign to raise £50 million to keep the artwork on public display. The painting shows Actaeon, while out hunting, accidentally happening upon the secret bathing place of Diana, chaste goddess of the hunt, incurring her fury. The National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery, London, have until the end of the year to raise the total sum to buy it, after which time it may be sold on the open market. Cattrall, who is from British descent, is a regular visitor to the National Gallery and a huge admirer of Titian's work. She said that viewing this painting is "like being in the presence of genius... it would be a tragedy if it were not on public view". Hunter is known for his recreation of old masters and is the only photographer to have had an exhibition at the National Gallery. He rose to the challenge of recreating Diana and Actaeon, enlisting Cattrall, who plays man-eater Samantha in Sex And The City, to take the starring role. Hunter said: "Kim is the perfect Diana. Just like the Greek goddess, she combines beauty with a sense of threat. She was a great sport and at 52 made an amazing Diana. She more than held her own among a room full of twentysomethings. "The picture can't of course hold a candle to the original which deserves to remain on public view. This painting is sublime and to lose it to a private collection would be a tragedy." Also featured in Hunter's version of Titian's painting are arts students from the Courtauld Institute and performers from West End burlesque show La Clique. The photograph was taken at the Arts Club in London's Mayfair. Copyright © 2008 The Press Association. All rights reserved.

Redefining the Goddess

Salt Lake Community College Redefining the goddess Dominique Snow Issue date: 11/24/08 Section: Campus On Wednesday evening, Dr. Margaret Toscano, Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Utah, spoke at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts about images of the female body. Utah artist Shauna Cook Clinger introduced Toscano while promoting her own exhibition. Clinger's exhibit is currently showing at the UMFA. Her exhibition is called "An Innermost Journey." It explores the female body. "I know for certain that the paintings and drawings would love to meet you," Clinger said to her audience. Clinger and Toscano met in 1989 at a symposium. Clinger said that the power of Toscano's ideas and intellect soaked into the deepest part of her being. Toscano has taught since 1996, and has received two teaching awards at the U of U. Gender, mythology and religion are her focuses for study. She has written an article titled "The eyes have it," which explores the sexual desires of ancient Greek women. She ignores assumptions that are made of women. She thinks that Clinger's work rejects prisoners of biological destiny. "We live in a material world where we perceive ourselves as our bodies," Toscano said. The great power in visual and spoken images became realistic for us. They reflect a world where the universe is seen as organic and alive. In the Paleolithic period depictions of the human body have an emphasis on fertility. Scholars believe that these deities are goddesses. Inanna was the first goddess representing fertility, dignity, and strength. She was the queen of seven temples in ancient Sumar. Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis were goddesses that controlled the vital aspects of life. Females depicting goddesses were prevalent in religion until the Judeo-Christian times. The Western world speaks of God in male terms. Some see the return of the goddess in the Virgin Mary. She has a divine status - incorporating nurturing and compassionate qualities. Toscano said that Mormons also believe in a heavenly mother. Many people search for the female face of God. The Native American religion has Buffalo Woman, Spider Woman and the Corn Mothers. Pictures are able to change the way we see the world, so we no longer see women as objects. We have to be able to view everything from multiple points of view. There are both essentialist and constructivist views that define our definition of reality. Bodies and shapes change to fit the ideal in culture. Toscano sees this as society writing codes on our bodies. Throughout time, art depicting the female body has shown females differently. In 30,000 BCE, women held Venus of Willendorf during childbirth. The deity emphasized breasts and genitalia. Titian's Venus of Urbino showed the goddess humanized, exhibiting appropriate female behaviors. Manet's Olympia sexualized the female showing an even greater decline in the female deity. Olympia was seen as a prostitute and encompassed with shame. Toscano takes offense to the exclusive male control of female sexuality. Clinger uses her own body to convey her own truth. She reworks dark and light as important aspects of reality. According to Toscano, women cannot be defined by generalizations. Contradicting this, portraits will have a universal appeal. Stereotypes control and dismiss, while archetypes liberate and understand. There are many metaphors that deal with female power. "We experience life through our bodies, we see our bodies as conduit to a beautiful physical world we're a part of," Toscano said. Traditionally women have been given limited choices. Women are now being resexualized, breaking the simplistic pattern. Toscano has seen Eve be redeemed as a powerful symbol of feminism, instead of the depiction of a shameful temptress. Toscano finds one of the most powerful female images to be the birth of the goddess. She lifts her arms as the forgotten yet significant women of the past lift her out of the water. Mother earth and father sky need to unite to complete the myth of sacred marriage. This unites rationalism and intuitiveness. Toscano believes that mutual healing and blessings will be bestowed to those women who accept the masculine and men who accept the feminine.

News, Chess News and 2008 Chess Olympiad

Hola! dondelion has published a new edition of Random Round-up. This week's focus is China. At Goddesschess, RR is in the right-hand column, below Axis Mundae. This isn't chess news - but it's great stuff! 2008 Chess Olympiad: Round 10 Action reviewed at At Chess FM, a video interview with GM Veselin Topolov. US keeps chess medal hopes alive in Chess Olympiad, an AP report from November 23, 2008 on the US Teams' Round 10 action. Tanraj Sohal Wins BC Junior Chess Championship 24 Nov 2008 by editor SURREY – Chess champ Tanraj Sohal, a Grade 7 student from Surrey, has done it again. The chess wizard has won the 2008 BC Junior Chess Championship held in New Westminster on November 8-9, 2008. He is the youngest BC Junior Chess Champion ever to win this trophy. This championship is open to all the BC junior chess players under the age of 20. The remarkable and gifted Tanraj just celebrated his twelfth birthday in October and is still in his last year at elementary school. Tanraj recently returned from a successful trip in Vietnam where he represented Team Canada at the World Youth Chess Championship (WYCC) held at Vung Tau Resort, near Hi Chi Minh City from October 19-31, 2008. His dad, Dr. Parmjit Sohal, was the Head of Team Canada Delegations which represented 24 players from all across Canada at WYCC in Vietnam. Just to keep things in perspective about the 2008 Chess Olympiad, where we focus on our favorite teams, of course, but mainly the top teams garner the bulk of publicity, an article about the Women's and Open Teams from Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyz female chess team wins twice on World Chess Olympiad 24/11-2008 08:52, Bishkek – News Agency “”, By Ksenia TOLKANEVA Kyrgyz combined girls’ chess team won twice in the framework of the ninth and tenth regular tours of the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, Kyrgyz Chess Federation reported to the news agency “”. Kyrgyz girls’ team defeated Norway 3:1. The victorious points were brought by Greta Lim and Irina Ostriy. Chyngyz kizi Ayjarkyn and Janyl Tilenbaev were tied. On November 23 our girls’ team met with Columbian chess players. In the result Kyrgyzstan has 2.5 points against the Columbian 1.5. However, they could not withstand to Croatia team. Only Irina Ostriy managed to make a draw, others failed- 0.5:3.5. Kyrgyz chess players will meet Israel rivals in the framework of the eleventh round. Kyrgyz men’s combined team met with Singapore rivals and defeated them, scoring 3:1. Bolot Takyrbashev and Tologon tegin Semetey finished their games with victory. Nurdin Samakov and Sadam Davletbakov were tied with Singapore chess players, gaining 0.5 points for the Kyrgyz team. Besides that, our athletes met with Uzbek chess players. The latter considered as one of the strongest ones. Only Tologon tegin Semetey managed to tie with Aleksey Barsov, 0.5:3.5. Tomorrow, November 25, Kyrgyz men’s team will play against the United Arab Emirates. Susan Polgar's column: Chess champ gives update from World Chess Olympiad in Germany Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Sunday, November 23, 2008 Story last updated at 11/23/2008 - 3:08 am

Sunday, November 23, 2008

2008 Chess Olympiad

Now I know - I don't know how to read those charts at after all! Here's a new AP article mostly focusing on the U.S. team results in Round 10: US keeps chess medal hopes alive in Chess Olympiad By ROBERT HUNTINGTON – 4 hours ago DRESDEN, Germany (AP) — The U.S. men and women teams kept their slim hopes for a medal alive on Sunday after the men beat Germany 2.5-1.5 and the women rolled over Uzbekistan 3.5-0.5 in the 10th and penultimate round of the Chess Olympiad. On the top board in the open section, Ukraine edged Israel on the strength of Zahar Efimenko's win over Evgeny Postny to move into a tie for first-place with Armenia, which defeated Serbia 3-1. China moved into a tie with Israel for second, one half match point behind the leaders, after beating England 2.5-1.5. The Netherlands, Russia, Spain and the U.S. are all tied for fifth, a full point behind the leaders. In the final round on Tuesday, China will play Armenia, the U.S. faces off against Ukraine, Israel plays the Netherlands, and Russia is paired with Spain. On first board for the Americans, Gata Kamsky successfully defended the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez and drew against Arkadij Naiditsch. On board two, American Hikaru Nakamura defeated Igor Khenkin. The Germans picked up their only win of the day on board three when Daniel Fridman shredded Alexander Onischuk's kingside pawn structure and outplayed him in a long rook-and-pawn endgame. The U.S. also won on board four on Yuri Shulman's kingside attack against David Baramidze. In other open section results, Russia rolled over Slovenia 3.5-0.5; Spain defeated Bulgaria 3-1; Australia beat Brazil 2.5-1.5, and Canada took no prisoners in a 4-0 drubbing of Nicaragua. In the women's section, Poland moved into first place by edging Armenia 2.5-1.5 while the other leaders before the round, Serbia and Ukraine, tied 2-all. Georgia improved its medal chances by beating China 2.5-1.5. The American women's team got wins from Irina Krush, Anna Zatonskih and Rusudan Goletiani on the top three boards, against Nafisa Muminova, Irina Gevorgyan and Hulkar Tokhirjanova, respectively. Zatonskih and Goletiani are almost assured of individual medals on their respective boards. Katerina Rohonyan gave up the only draw for the U.S. on fourth board against Nodira Nodirjanova. Just a point separates the top six teams with one round to go. Poland has 8.5 match points; Georgia, Serbia, and Ukraine each have eight; Russia and the United States have 7.5. In the last round, Poland plays Ukraine, Georgia faces Serbia, the United States gets France, and Russia is paired the Netherlands. The 11th and final round is on Tuesday with no matches scheduled for Monday. Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

2008 Chess Olympiad

The grass is cut and the leaves are duly chopped up into bits - at least on the front lawn :) It was actually tolerable outdoors today, dressed with turtleneck, sweatshirt, winter jacket, globes, scarf and hat on - jeans too (I was not naked from the waist down, darlings). It took forever to chop up the leaves, and the tree on the next store neighbor's lot kept dropping more leaves on to my newly cleared grass with every little puff of breeze; I swear it was baiting me :) It took forever! Back and forth, back and forth...but at last, it was done. I got my work-out for the day, and I was pooped! The backyard is a mess - hopefully the day after Thanksgiving will be temperate enough to pull out the lawn mower and give it a last going-over for the season. We'll see. Here are the current Women's Olympiad standings after R10: Rk. SNo Team Team Games + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 1 9 Poland POL 10 8 1 1 17 302,0 125,0 26,0 2 2 Ukraine UKR 10 6 4 0 16 343,0 122,0 27,5 3 4 Georgia GEO 10 7 2 1 16 330,5 121,0 28,0 4 10 Serbia SRB 10 7 2 1 16 277,5 119,0 25,5 5 7 United States of America USA 10 7 1 2 15 321,0 119,0 28,0 6 1 Russia RUS 10 6 3 1 15 298,0 121,0 27,0 7 3 China CHN 10 6 2 14 328,0 133,0 25,5 8 6 Armenia ARM 10 7 0 3 14 288,5 122,0 25,5 9 5 France FRA 10 6 2 2 14 275,0 108,0 28,0 10 11 India IND 10 6 2 2 14 274,5 120,0 23,5 11 16 Romania ROU 10 7 0 3 14 251,0 118,0 24,5 12 17 Netherlands NED 10 7 0 3 14 246,0 118,0 22,5 13 8 Hungary HUN 10 6 1 3 13 268,5 122,0 24,5 14 19 Greece GRE 10 6 1 3 13 260,0 99,0 28,0 15 26 Belarus BLR 10 5 3 2 13 252,0 99,0 26,5 16 47 Mongolia MGL 10 6 1 3 13 247,5 114,0 21,5 17 21 Israel ISR 10 5 3 2 13 239,0 111,0 23,5 18 13 Bulgaria BUL 10 6 1 3 13 235,0 105,0 24,5 19 29 Argentina ARG 10 6 1 3 13 222,0 99,0 26,0 20 33 Italy ITA 10 5 3 2 13 220,5 105,0 24,0 21 43 Uzbekistan UZB 10 6 1 3 13 217,5 113,0 22,0 If I'm reading this correctly, USA and Russia each have 15 points, #1 Poland has 17 points; Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia each have 16 points. Tomorrow USA plays France, which is in 9th place with 14 points. Any odds-makers out there figuring out who could possibly win? Here are the top match-ups for the Women for the final round tomorrow: 1 9 POL Poland 26 17 : 16 27½ Ukraine UKR 2 2 12 GER1 Germany 1 21½ 12 : 12 25½ Sweden SWE 20 3 4 GEO Georgia 28 16 : 16 25½ Serbia SRB 10 4 7 USA United States of America 28 15 : 14 28 France FRA 5 5 17 NED Netherlands 22½ 14 : 15 27 Russia RUS 1 6 16 ROU Romania 24½ 14 : 14 25½ China CHN 3 7 11 IND India 23½ 14 : 14 25½ Armenia ARM 6 8 8 HUN Hungary 24½ 13 : 13 22 Uzbekistan UZB 43 9 33 ITA Italy 24 13 : 13 28 Greece GRE 19 10 29 ARG Argentina 26 13 : 13 26½ Belarus BLR 26 In contention for individual medals: Board 1: IM Irina Krush in 10th place, with 6.5/9. In first place after R10, is GM Maia Chiburdanidze with 6.5/8. Board 2: IM Anna Zatonskih is holding down 1st place, yippee! with 7.5/9. Board 3: WGM Rusudan Goletiana is holding down 2nd place, yippee! with 8.0/10. Here are the top women by performance rating after R10: 1 GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2489 Georgia 2697 6,5 8 81,3 1 2 IM Fierro Baquero Martha L 2361 Ecuador 2613 7,5 8 93,8 1 3 WIM Linares Napoles Oleiny 2261 Cuba 2603 8,5 9 94,4 4 4 WIM Majdan Joanna 2284 Poland 2592 8,5 10 85,0 4 5 IM Zatonskih Anna 2440 United States of America 2591 7,5 9 83,3 2 6 WGM Hou Yifan 2578 China 2588 7,0 10 70,0 1 7 IM Socko Monika 2434 Poland 2574 6,0 9 66,7 1 8 GM Cramling Pia 2550 Sweden 2569 7,5 8 93,8 1 9 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda 2468 Russia 2567 7,5 9 83,3 3 10 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2443 Armenia 2562 7,5 10 75,0 2 11 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2548 Bulgaria 2549 7,0 9 77,8 1 12 IM Dzagnidze Nana 2503 Georgia 2538 6,5 9 72,2 2 13 GM Peng Zhaoqin 2455 Netherlands 2538 6,0 9 66,7 1 14 GM Hoang Thanh Trang 2483 Hungary 2534 7,0 10 70,0 1 15 WGM Zdebskaja Natalia 2419 Ukraine 2528 7,0 8 87,5 5 16 WGM Zhukova Natalia 2488 Ukraine 2528 6,0 9 66,7 2 17 IM Moser Eva 2376 Austria 2527 7,5 9 83,3 1 18 WGM Goletiani Rusudan 2359 United States of Amer. 2513 8,0 10 0,0 3 19 IM Krush Irina 2452 United States of America 2511 6,5 9 72,2 1 20 IM Khukhashvili Sopiko 2409 Georgia 2511 5,0 6 83,3 5 Can the US Women pull off a medal in this Olympiad? My hat (well-spiced) is ready for munching, ladies... How'd the US chess duds, er, dudes do? They're in 8th place with 15th points. In 1st is Armenia with 17, in 2nd is Ukraine also with 17, and in 3rd is Israel with 16. Where's Russia? Holy crap, in 5th place with 15 points, behind 4th place China also with 15 points. Guess the Americans aren't the only super-GM duds (although to be fair, the US duds aren't super-GMs).
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