Aletho News


Why Fukushima Can Happen in the US

What the Nuclear Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

Fairewinds Associates

Nuclear engineers Arnie Gundersen and David Lochbaum discuss how the US regulators and regulatory process have left Americans unprotected.

The well-known safety flaws of Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors have gained significant attention in the wake of the four reactor accidents at Fukushima, but a more insidious danger lurks.

They walk, step-by-step, through the events of the Japanese meltdowns and consider how the knowledge gained from Fukushima applies to the nuclear industry worldwide. They discuss “points of vulnerability” in American plants, some of which have been unaddressed by the NRC for three decades.

Finally, they concluded that an accident with the consequences of Fukushima could happen in the US.

With more radioactive Cesium in the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant’s spent fuel pool than was released by Fukushima, Chernobyl, and all nuclear bomb testing combined, Gundersen and Lockbaum ask why there is not a single procedure in place to deal with a crisis in the fuel pool?

These and more safety questions are discussed in this forum presented by the C-10 Foundation at the Boston Public Library. Special thanks to Herb Moyer for the excellent video and Geoff Sutton for the frame-by-frame graphics of the Unit 3 explosion.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, Video | 1 Comment

Irish delegation to visit Bahrain

Press TV – July 11, 2011

An Irish delegation plans to visit the Bahraini capital Manama to attempt to determine the fate of 47 doctors and nurses arrested during the anti-government protests in the Persian Gulf state.

The delegation, headed by Professor Damian McCormack, includes Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marian Harkin, Fianna Fail Senator Averil Power, former foreign affairs minister David Andrews, and representatives from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organization (INMO).

Bahrain has released 34 doctors and paramedics who were detained during the brutal crackdown on massive demonstrations in March but announced that they would soon be tried in special military courts. Many of the doctors have stated that they were coerced to sign confessions through torture while in police custody.

The delegation, which plans to leave for Manama on July 12, has requested to hold talks with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa through Bahrain’s embassy in London.

“It’s quite extraordinary for doctors to be arrested in any country. These doctors were arrested for doing their jobs,” the Herald quoted Senator Power as saying.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | 2 Comments

‘Please continue to be with us’ –a Palestinian’s letter to int’l supporters

By Hekmat Bessiso | Mondoweiss | July 11, 2011

A letter from a Palestinian woman to the supporters of Palestine.

I would like to talk to you as the voice of the thousands of Palestinians who appreciate what you are doing. You who have a great commitment to human rights and who actually act upon your beliefs, you risk your life to both witness and tell the truth of what you see. You are a group of people who understand what is happening in the holy land and have decided to dedicate your time, money and energy to the issue. You demonstrate that religion nor race is important when it comes to standing up for the rights of human beings. And every step you take justice and humanity wins.

I want you to trust that your actions are making a difference and changing the violence we see here in our land. Your solidarity is helping fuel our nonviolent fight. Palestinians face many kinds of violence and torture. However, being ignored is the worst punishment of all. Those who refuse to hear and see us are just as bad as those who occupy us. Those who stand in solidarity with us send a strong message of humanity and are helping us to overcome our suffering. In the middle of all this crisis, your help puts a smile on our face. From this smile you will always be welcome in our hearts even if you are unable to enter our land.

Your solidarity reminds the world that we are all one human family and that we Palestinians are still part of it. Please do not give up. Even if your boats do not make it to the shores of Gaza or if your planes refuse to fly, the unseen effects are still huge.

I want to say thank you for all that your work involves. Thank you for booking your tickets, taking time off from work, leaving your loved ones, and for all of the other small things, I am truly grateful.

Please continue to be with us, hand in hand, in our non-violent struggle. We need to reach the end of the path of occupation and your presence on this journey is crucial, we cannot make it alone.

I hope one day to share a coffee with you in my home or in yours, for when this day comes we will have reached our freedom.

Hekmat Bessiso is a Gazan living in Ramallah

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Israeli Authorities Uproot, Confiscate 450 Olive Trees in Salfit

WAFA – July 11, 2011

SALFIT – Israeli authorities Monday uprooted and confiscated 450 olive trees in Wadi Qana, an area west of Deir Estia near Salfit in the northern West Bank, according to Nazmi Salman, mayor of Deir Estia.

Israeli soldiers prevented Palestinian farmers from reaching their land in Wadi Qana under the pretext of it being classified as a closed military area, said Salman.

He added that an Israeli bulldozer accompanied by officers in the civil administration and soldiers uprooted 450 olive trees and destroyed land that belongs to a Palestinian resident in Deir Estia.

He said that Israeli forces confiscated the olive trees and the fence that surrounds the lands. It is believed that they took the trees to the nearby settlements of Karnei Shomron, Yakir and Nofim.

The mayor condemned the continuous Israeli attacks against Palestinians, targeting the area of Wadi Qana, uprooting olive trees and destroying land reclamation projects in the area without any justification.

He pointed out that these measures are for the benefit of settlements and settlers who aim to control the water-rich area of Wadi Qana.

Salman stressed that Wadi Qana is witnessing an unprecedented campaign of occupation to make its residents’ lives difficult in order to pressure them to leave the area, as a prelude for Israel to judaize it.

He said these measures are taken on grounds of protecting nature and said, ‘Does uprooting trees protect nature?’

Israeli authorities had uprooted and confiscated 300 olive trees in the same area in late June.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment

2,500 US Jews aim to fill gaps in northern occupied territories

Palestine Information Center – 11/07/2011

NAZARETH — An Israeli organization has announced plans to bring more than 2,500 Jews from North America to the occupied Palestinian territories this summer, as it seeks to resettle the regiment in areas with high Palestinian populations.

The organization, Nefesh B’nefesh, which encourages the migration of Jews from North America and the United Kingdom to the Palestinian territories, said it would cooperate with the Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel’s migration ministry to bring 2,500 Jews from the United State and Canada during the summer, according the organization’s website.

The first batch of 245 immigrants should land on Tuesday 12 July at the Ben-Gurion airport, the organization said.

Nefesh B’nefesh recently launched a project encouraging resettling the immigrants in the northern region of the territories occupied in 1948, where there is a high concentration of Palestinians, a step observers say is an attempt to change the demographic features of the area.

The project, dubbed “go north”, has cost a total of 10 million US dollars. It aims at settling 1,500 Jews in neighborhoods in the Triangle, Galilee, Marj Ben Amir, as well as Tabariya and Golan.

The formerly Arab city of Haifa and vicinity, which have a Jewish majority, were excluded from the project.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 3 Comments

Settler runs down boy, others vandalize farmlands in tense West Bank

Palestine Information Center – 11/07/2011

BETHLEHEM– A Jewish settler ran down and seriously injured a 6-year-old Palestinian boy on Sunday south of Bethlehem, while other settlers vandalized farmland in Safa village near Beit Ummar in northern Al-Khalil province on Sunday.

The boy, Ismail Shahein, was transported to Haddasa hospital to be treated for serious injuries after being hit by the settler’s car in Beit Sakarya in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Hassan Zawahira, a local resistance committee head, reported.

In Al-Khalil province, a gang of Jewish settlers reportedly opened fire at Palestinian farmers and burned down fruit trees and cut down vineyards.

Israeli troops intervened with tear gas and rubber bullets after local Palestinian youths responded to the attack with stones. The force arrested two of the youths in the aftermath of the scuffle.

Locals say the attack came as a prelude to the confiscation of hundreds of dunums of land paving the way for the construction of a section of the apartheid wall in the area, as has happened repeatedly.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 1 Comment

Many Still Question Megrahi Conviction in Bombing of Pan Am 103

By Andrew I. Killgore | Washington Report | July 2011

Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basil Ali al-Megrahi was convicted on Jan. 31, 2001 of destroying Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988, killing the plane’s 259 passengers, including 179 Americans, and 11 people on the ground. Megrahi was tried under Scottish law by Scottish judges in a special court sitting at Camp Zeist, a former American military base in The Netherlands.

As readers of the Washington Report are aware, the American media coverage of the Lockerbie trial was very thin, despite the heavy loss of American lives. There seems to be a determined silence about even the existence of an organization called “Justice for Megrahi,” whose members include (full disclosure) this writer and several distinguished Britons, including Dr. Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the crash, and Dr. Robert Black, former professor of criminal law at Edinburgh University and creator of the idea of trying Megrahi and his co-defendant, Lamen Fhimah, in The Netherlands under Scottish law.

The revolution in Libya, and particularly the defection to Britain of former Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa, has stirred some peripheral interest in Lockerbie. Before he became foreign minister, Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence, and close to Muammar al-Qaddafi. He would know what was in Qaddafi’s mind when he agreed to turn over Megrahi and Fhimah for trial. Was it because the Libyan leader thought the two men were guilty, or because he knew he was obliged to do so to gain sufficient Western approval for the development of his country, including increased oil production?

The April 9 Washington Post ran an article saying that Scottish officials had “met” with Koussa, who they think may have crucial information about Lockerbie. According to the article, “Prosecutors said that they would offer no additional details of their conversations with Koussa.” Just what did Koussa tell them, and why is no more information about the meeting forthcoming?

So far as this writer has seen, no American newspaper has mentioned that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ruled that Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice—a finding that presumably remains valid despite Megrahi’s release from prison on compassionate grounds. Yet, the Washington Post article writes that “the case remains open despite Megreahi’s conviction.”

The heavy lethargy of the American media on Lockerbie includes no word that many outstanding Britons who lost relatives or friends in the Lockerbie crash do not believe that Megrahi is guilty. If members of “Justice for Megrahi,” who obviously think he is not guilty, could possibly arrange a discussion with Moussa, it could clear up a lot of questions. Depending on Koussa’s answers, it could reopen the question of who really bombed Pan Am 103.

Andrew I. Killgore is publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | 6 Comments

France Says NATO Bombing Has Failed

Hillary says war must continue

By FRANKLIN LAMB | CounterPunch | July 11, 2011

On Sunday July 10, France seemingly allied itself with Russia and China in calling on NATO to immediately stop its counterproductive and counterintuitive bombing, as more countries witness public demonstrations against NATO’s actions in Libya.  French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said in Paris that military action in Libya must end and Colonel Gaddafi be welcomed around the negotiating table. Continual bombing of the country is not working, and diplomacy is the only solution – even if Gaddafi retains limited power, In an apparent U-turn in policy, Mr Longuet said Gaddafi could remain in Libya  ‘in another room of the palace, with another title.’

Longuet said:

‘We must now sit around a table…

‘We will stop bombing as soon as the Libyans start talking to one another and the military on both sides go back to their bases.

‘They can talk to each other because we’ve shown there is no solution through force.’

NATO and the Obama administration can have no part of a dialogue because they will be the major losers if peace comes to Libya without Qadaffi leaving power.

No sooner had the French Defense Minister spoken than the US State Department issued a statement insisting that “the United States will continue efforts as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition to enforce a U.N. Security Council-authorized no-fly zone in Libya designed to protect civilians under threat of attack, the State Department said. The spokesman did not mention that the no-fly zone was achieved back in March in 48 hours and that no Libya aircraft have flown since. Mission accomplished 100 days ago.

Hillary Clinton repeated her earlier words, “Our efforts in Libya will take time, but let there be no mistake that the political, military, and economic pressure on Qaddafi continues to grow. The allies will continue to increase pressure until the Libyan people are safe, their humanitarian needs met, and a transition of power is fully under way.”

And so it goes.

In most of the other Arab countries Fridays are days of rage against the government du jour but in Tripoli Friday prayers are followed by massive pro-Qadaffi rallies. One of the jokes heard at this week’s big pro-government Friday post prayer rally at Green Square is about how each morning Libya’s leader, following early morning Fajr prayers, dons  his formal uniform, complete with those huge epaulets, and salutes the small NATO flag he tapes to his bathroom mirror as he moves from place to place dodging NATO drones and assassins.  “Our leader does this”, one young lady informed me first with a wide smile and then growing serious, “because the NATO bombing of Libyan civilians, which the US/NATO axis claims Qaddafi is doing, has caused his popularity to skyrocket among our proud and nationalist tribal people. I am one example of this.  Yes, of course we can use some new blood and long overdue reform in our government.  Which country cannot?  But first we must defeat the NATO invaders and then we can sort out our problems among our tribes including the so-called NATO Rebels.”

Since the beginning of the NATO operation, March 31, the alliance has conducted nearly 15,000 sorties, including close to 6000 bombing missions according to NATO’s media office in Naples. The most recent attacks reported on July 9 included 112 sorties and 48 bomb/missile attacks, and that is about average.

The two most active Embassies in Libya these days are the Russian and the Chinese.  On February 2, according to the Bulgarian Embassy staff, which was falsely rumored to be currently handing US consular services, the US Embassy essentially ordered all EU and NATO Embassies to pack up and join their chartered plane and boats. Libyan officials tell visitors that they were shocked by the fast exodus.  “They did not even say goodbye. Suddenly they were on their way to the airport,” one Foreign Ministry advised during a meeting last week.

The Russian and Chinese leadership has grown increasingly critical of NATO’s actions in Libya and are demanding a immediate and permanent ceasefire.  Some cynics here are pointing out that these countries, unlike NATO, knows exactly what they are doing and it includes the realization that they have an excellent chance to obtaining many billions of dollars in lucrative contracts. It is partly this realization that it’s “all of nothing” that keeps the US and its potent military asset, NATO, focused on assassinating Colonel Qaddafi and breaking his civilian support base.  If Qaddafi lives, NATO loses and so do the current major oil industry contractors who are reportedly becoming depressed seeing reports of all the Russian and Chinese businessmen arriving in Libya.

As one student at Tripoli’s Al Fatah University commented, “What your American government has done in the region to destroy yourselves since 9/11 is amazing to Libyans. Now you are going to fight us?  Why?  You already had all our oil you wanted at a bargain prices; we stupidly put our sovereign funds in US banks and we did not even bother Israel much. Every day that NATO bombs it kills more Libyan civilians. We sacrificed nearly 1/3 of our population, or more than one million of our brothers and sisters, expelling the Italians 70 years ago.  Doesn’t anyone in your government study history? We are not Bahrainis or Syrians.  We are armed and will use our weapons.

Among the errors our leadership has made, one of the worst is that it believed the US agreements we made in 2004.  The Iranians and North Koreans laugh at us for trusting you and giving up nuclear and biological weapons programs. Believe me, if Qadaffi leaves power you will miss him because the Libyan people will be tougher against your projects than he has been.”

On  July 9, 2011, NATO claimed its aircraft carried out another “precision strike” on a pro-Qaddafi missile firing position near Tawurgha, south of Misrata.  According to its media office, “NATO intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance were conducted over a period of time to ascertain the military use of the site. It was confirmed as being used to launch indiscriminate attacks on Libyan civilians in the area and a staging area by pro-Qaddafi villagers, including planning attacks on rebel’s forces near the port and city of Misrata.”  The next morning, 7/10/11, local inhabitants denied that the farm had any military activity on the property and an examination of the farm buildings failed to discovery any.

NATO is getting hammered by critics, including during its press conferences, especially by reporters from such groups as Jane’s Defense Weekly who know a thing or two about weapons and war. Last week Jane’s ridiculed the NATO commander who claimed that seeing satellite dishes on roofs were evidence of a particular site being a “Command and Control Center.”  Jane’s found that assertion silly.

As international pressure builds on the White House to call off the NATO bombing campaign, several proposals are being discussed within the African Union, the Russian and Chinese Embassy’s, and even between the “NATO rebels” and representatives of the Libya government in Tripoli.

One possible scenario might be for Libya to offer Obama and NATO a fig leaf which would include Colonel Qadaffi “retiring to his tent to write and reflect” while dialogue takes places among the Libyan people, including the tribes and 600 plus Peoples Congresses which of course should have been allowed to take place as Congressman Dennis Kucinich and others insisted back in February, 2011 before NATO invaded.

Franklin Lamb is reachable at

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | 4 Comments

The True Cost of America’s Wars

By Jack A. Smith | Activist Newsletter | July 7, 2011

During his speech on Afghanistan June 22, President Obama revealed that “Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war.” He knew this was a deceptive understatement, as did everyone who keeps close watch on the Bush-Obama wars all these years.

Few Americans , however, have closely followed Washington’s 21st century wars of choice, so a trillion probably sounds right to them, but that amount in 10 years — when the annual cost of air conditioning alone for the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq amounts to $20.2 billion a year — is  way off base.

(It’s difficult to conceive of one trillion, so we’ll repeat a method we’ve used before: Sixty seconds comprise a minute. One million seconds  comes out to be about 11½ days. A billion seconds is 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32,000 years.)

The latest objective estimate for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, made public June 29, is between $3.7 trillion and $4.4 trillion (140,800 years), according to the research project “Costs of War” by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

The university assembled a team of economists, anthropologists, political scientists, legal experts, and a physician to do this analysis, which included future costs for veterans care and interest on war debts to be paid over the next few decades.

The medical costs are huge. “While we know how many U.S. soldiers have died in the wars (just over 6,000),” the report pointed out, “what is startling is what we don’t know about the levels of injury and illness in those who have returned from the wars. New disability claims continue to pour into the VA, with 550,000 just through last fall.” This doesn’t even include the thousands of deaths and injuries among quasi-military contractors. There are about as many contractors as troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s impossible to precisely predict the interest costs on these wars. In 2010, $400 billion of our tax money went toward paying off past war debts as far back as the Korean War of the early 1950s. We’ll pay war debts indefinitely because Washington is always borrowing to plan for or start new wars. So far, the U.S.-led NATO war for regime change in Libya is costing American taxpayers about a billion. The Pentagon has blueprints ready for many different kinds of future wars, from small counter-terrorism escapades, to cyberspace and outer space conflicts, to nuclear war, all the way up to World War III.

The Brown University figures may turn out to be underestimates. A few independent studies over the years have been somewhat higher but were brushed aside by the White House and the mass media. This may happen to the Brown calculations as well.

The respected Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes wrote a book three years ago estimating the cost of the Iraq war only, based on data collected in 2006. It was titled “The Three Trillion Dollar War.” They based their calculations on the “hidden” costs of the war that include enormous medical care expenses over the next 50 years for tens of thousands of badly wounded soldiers, other benefits, equipment replacement, and interest on war debts.

Stiglitz and Bilmes calculated in 2008 that the combined cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would be between $5 and $7 trillion.  They called these adventures the “credit card wars.” Using a somewhat different methodology a few years ago, the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, estimated the Iraq war ultimately will cost $3.5 trillion. They didn’t include the Afghan war.

Assuming Obama is reelected, the Bush-Obama wars — including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen (and Somalia, where the U.S. is now engaged in drone strikes), plus the wars in Obama’s final years — will certainly top $5 trillion in real costs.

In this connection, we cannot forget that current Pentagon spending of around $700 billion a year represents a huge increase since 2001, when it totaled about $380 billion. (By comparison, during this same time period, military spending by Iran — portrayed by Washington, Tel-Aviv and Saudi Arabia as the greatest danger to peace in the Middle East — dropped from $9 billion in 2001 to $7 billion in 2010.)

But Defense Department expenses are only half the story. Double the Pentagon’s $700 billion for a true estimate of the amount of money the U.S. spent on war-related issues  last year. That’s $1.4 trillion a year for the United States. How is this possible?

Instead of just discussing the Pentagon budget, it is essential to also consider Washington’s various other “national security” budgets. That of course includes the costs of Washington’s 16 different intelligence services, the percentage of the annual national debt to pay for past war expenses, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons, additional annual spending requests for Iraq and Afghan wars, military retiree pay and healthcare for vets, NASA, FBI (for its war-related military work), etc. When it’s all included it comes to $1,398 trillion for fiscal 2010, according to the War Resisters League and other sources.

It’s not enough just to take note of the money Washington spent on stalemated wars of imperial choice. It’s fruitful to contemplate where our $5 trillion Bush-Obama war funding might have been invested instead. It could have paid for a fairly swift transition from fossil fuels to a solar-wind energy system for the entire U.S. — a prospect that will now take many decades longer, if at all, as the world gets warmer from greenhouse gases. And there probably would have been enough left to overhaul America’s decaying and outdated civil infrastructure, among other projects.

But while the big corporations, Wall Street and the wealthy are thriving, global warming and infrastructure repair have been brushed aside. States are cutting back on schools and healthcare. Counties and towns are closing summer swimming pools and public facilities. Jobs and growth are stagnant. The federal government is sharply cutting the social service budget, and Medicare et al. are nearing the chopping block.

During his Afghan speech, President Obama also declared that “we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.” Finally, some “real change we can believe in” — right? Meanwhile, as The White House and Congress slash the deficit, be assured despite a bit of fixing here and there, the military and national security budgets will remain essentially unchanged.

— For the Brown Univ. study,
— For Stiglitz and Bilmes,
— For cost of air conditioning, Afghan-Iraq — See Domestic News Briefs below.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | 1 Comment

One dead as strike halts commerce in Dominican Republic

Dominican Today | July 11, 2011

SANTO DOMINGO. – The barrio organization FALPO on Monday rebuked the Sunday night killing of Julian Felix Plasencia in the central city of Bonao, allegedly by a National Police patrol, prior to the start of the 24 hour strike that began 6 a.m. Monday, as commerce halts to a standstill.

Falpo national coordinator Milcíades Geraldo said he was told that Felix, 52, was killed late last night in the Bonao barrio Prosperidad, when a police patrol violently entered the area firing their weapons.

He said Felix’s death has infuriated Bonao’s residents and created extreme tension in the entire municipality, for which Falpo will intensify the protests to demand justice. “As we had warned the government line is to stoke anarchy and plant violence amid the national strike to traumatize the people, trying to stop this spiraling nationwide fight that we’ll continue.”

“Falpo rebukes the murder of Julian Felix Plasencia and will also demands to investigate the crime and that the members of the patrol are taken to justice,” Geraldo said.

He called on the Government and the ruling PLD party to control its followers and put a stop to the repression in Bonao, and warned that the town will fight them firmly in the streets, by expanding the protests for a dignified life, with justice and fairness.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on One dead as strike halts commerce in Dominican Republic

Mexico Provokes Israel with Historical Question

Al-Manar – July 11, 2011

Amid Israel’s uninterrupted efforts to manipulate history and conceal historical events, the entity has started interfering in the educational system of some countries.

Israel caused internal trouble in Mexico over a national geography exam question about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Zionist website Ynetnews reported that “a geography question was raised focusing on the economic reasons for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It included the following answers: “The Jewish community used biased and racist methods against the Arab population when the State of Israel was founded”, and “Israel uses its military superiority to control borders, roads, airspace and maritime space.”

The Israeli community in Mexico was outraged, considering that the exam questions were biased against Israel. As a result, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon raised the issue with his Mexican counterpart, urging Mexico’s Education Ministry to present an official apology.

July 11, 2011 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | 3 Comments