LYNDA BELLINGHAM: ‘Oxo Mum’ only weeks to live

British television actress Lynda Bellingham, famed for playing the matriarch of a Sunday roast-loving family in the Oxo advertisements of the 1980s to the 1990s, has revealed that she is suffering from terminal cancer and has only a few weeks to live.

National tabloid the Daily Mirror reports that Ms. Bellingham will give up chemotherapy treatment and has ‘chosen the date I will die’ but hopes to spend one more Christmas with her real-life family. For the sake of privacy and to help her come to terms with her diagnosis, Bellingham had opted to keep her terminal cancer a secret for the past year. She had been told by medical professionals that she had bowel cancer, but reassured her fans that the cancer would not be fatal.

Recently however, the beloved ‘Oxo mum’, now aged 66, announced that the tumours had spread from her intestines to her liver and lungs, meaning that the illness may now be impossible to treat. This has been despite an intensive and gruelling course of chemotherapy to try to stop the cancer’s advance.

Lynda said: “I’ve only got weeks to live – so I’ve picked the date I’ll die.

I would love to make one more Christmas, if possible, but I want to stop taking chemo around November in order to pass away by the end of January.

It was such a relief to say those words.

Please don’t think I am giving up for the sake of a few ulcers, it’s the fact my body has started to rot, and I promised myself as soon as that happened I would make a plan. I want my family to remember me whole.

I want you all to remember me.”

In an interview with the Daily Mirror, she spoke at length about her decision to keep her illness confidential, but also speaking of her long and illustrious career, her family – including her husband Michael Pattemore  – and how they came to terms with her devastating diagnosis.

I would like to stop having chemo [chemotherapy] and let the natural way do its thing,” she added.

It has been a rather fast deterioration over the past couple of weeks, and bizarrely it has been the desire to finish this book that has both spurned me on and finished me off.”, Bellingham said referring to a book she was working on.

This past Friday night, as her cancer became more aggressive, Bellingham said she was forced to pull out of starring in the play “A Passionate Woman” by Kay Mellor last summer as she began her chemotherapy course. She was diagnosed after her GP (general practitioner/family doctor) spotted something amiss during a routine health check-up. Just weeks later an oncologist told her she had cancer. Three days after receiving the bad news, Lynda Bellingham began treatments. She would have finished all her doses of chemotherapy by December last year. That same Friday, Bellingham also put out a message to her 38,000 Twitter followers to help gain much-needed moral support. She tweeted: “Hi guys back from my holiday. All revealed! I would appreciate your support x

When first diagnosed Lynda described how she hugged the specialist after he told her she was not going to die. She was determined not to let the illness bring her down and vowed to ‘fight it with all her might’. She even described it as a ‘temporary blip’.

At the time she said: “It’s the mantra I’ve repeated every day to myself.”

Lynda has previously lost her sister, Barbara, to cancer in 2005. Then at the same time as she began chemotherapy, her close friend, actor Bernie Nolan, also died from the disease. The loss of her sister turned Lynda into a passionate supporter of cancer charities in the U.K. The most notable of the charities that Bellingham threw her high-profile weight behind were Cancer Research UK and Macmillan.

She writes on Macmillan’s website that she is “very cancer aware” and that her sister’s death taught her “never to be complacent when it comes to health.”

Poignantly, she writes: “Barbara’s diagnosis was terminal but still, she took all the treatment she was offered, I imagine for the sake of her dear husband David and their two children. The news must have broken their world.

Lynda, whose Oxo ads ran from 1983 to 1999, said losing Barbara had given her a positive attitude towards life.

She said: “I have so much to thank her for…Her death made me want to live. I wanted to grab Michael and hold on to him tightly and never let him go.

Even so, nothing quite prepares you for being told you have cancer.

She now wishes to spend her remaining time with her husband Michael, a property developer and her two sons Robbie, 26, and Michael, 31.

Bowel cancer is a particularly aggressive form of the disease, but can be successfully treated if detected early enough. However, patients diagnosed in the advanced stages of bowel cancer generally have only a six per cent chance of making it out alive, with a maximum five-year lifespan. At this stage of the illness, there is currently no cure. The family of bowel cancers, including those that affect the colon, are the second most common type of the illness occurring in British women, after breast cancer. The latest available figures on the frequency of bowel cancer suggest that 16,187 people died of bowel cancer in Britain in 2012.  Most victims of bowel cancer are above the age of sixty-five. It is believed that Bellingham has colorectal cancer, although previously she had refused to reveal the exact nature of her illness.

Lynda Bellingham is most remembered by the British public for playing the much-adored ‘Oxo mum’ in the Oxo adverts that ran from 1983 to 1999. Kindly and loved by her on-screen family as she brought them together for delicious roast dinners made with the Oxo stock cubes, she became an inspiration to a generation of mothers and was widely respected for her depiction of traditional British family values.

Born under the name of Meredith Lee Hughes in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1948, she was given up for adoption at the age of four months for family-related reasons. She was taken in by adoptive parents Donald and Ruth Bellingham who lived in Aston Abbotts in Buckinghamshire, England. She was educated in that county’s main town of Aylesbury before completing her acting training at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

She began her television career in the Seventies, appearing as a nurse in the little-known ITV hospital drama General Hospitalas well as a number of low-key British films. She also took on roles in the Doctor Who sci-fi series, and throughout the Eighties and Nineties, she appeared in several soap operas and televised dramas alongside her role as the Oxo mother. Bellingham also made appearances on stage. Despite playing a role as a ‘sweet mummy’ character, she had no qualms about playing villainous or gritty roles. 

In 2007, Lynda Bellingham became a panellist on the light entertainment gossip show Loose Women. She was a regular feature on that programme until she departed in 2010. She also began delving into presenting, fronting her own daytime cookery show My Tasty Travels, and since last year, she also presents the ITV programme Country House SundayShe also made an appearing on the televised ballroom dancing competition Strictly Come Dancing but was voted out by the fourth week. She also published an autobiography and has her own website showcasing her career at

Facebook, Facebook Inc.
“TV’s Lynda Bellingham: I only have weeks to live as my cancer is terminal” – Grace Macaskill, Mirror – News – UK News/Mirror Online (27 September 2014)
“Lynda Bellingham” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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“Lynda Bellingham returns to Loose Women – interview – 10th May 2013″ – spikeyroberto, YouTube GB (6 June 2013)
“Lynda Bellingham – finding yourself.wmv” – Ebury Reads, YouTube GB (9 March 2010)
“Last ever OXO advert with Lynda Bellingham” – spikeyroberto, YouTube GB (4 March 2011)
“1980’s Oxo Commercial” – TV Ark via Joe Bolox, YouTube GB (12 November 2009)

EAST DEVON ROMAN HOARD: Builder uncovers 20,000 ancient coins in field

A semi-retired builder searching for treasure in the east of the English county of Devon struck historical gold after recently uncovering a hidden hoard of around 20,000 coins dating from the Roman occupation of Britain, national newspaper the Daily Mail reports. The collection of coins, believed to be in the value of £100,000 (US $162,440) was chanced upon by builder and amateur metal detecting enthusiast Laurence Egerton in east Devon, an area in south-western England famed for its picturesque moors and fields.

The hoard of Roman money is believed to be one of the largest hauls of historical coinage ever discovered in the U.K. Egerton, aged 51, was in a local field searching for finds with his metal detector when he stumbled across the hoard of copper-alloy coins, possibly low-denomination coinage issued by the Roman Empire for use by their colonists in their northern most province. The Daily Mail reported that Egerton was so concerned about the possibility of his hoard being stolen that he camped out in the field for three nights, guarding the discovery site while archaeologists arrived to explore the site in more detail.

Dubbed the Seaton Down Hoard, the assortment of 22,000 copper-alloy coins may have been the accumulated savings of a private individual keeping the money safe for a ‘rainy day’ or an informal and well-hidden bank of wages perhaps left by a Roman soldier. It is likely the hoarder died or lost track of the burial site leaving the coins to lay unseen for nearly two thousand years. A picture supplied to the Daily Mail by the British Museum and picture agency Apex shows the Seaton Down Hoard contained in a heavy duty plastic box. The coins appear in still good condition despite being buried for two millennia, but all show signs of corrosion, namely a green rust called verdigris, caused by the copper in the coins reacting with moisture and acids from their surroundings. Many of the coins bear the usual emperor’s profile of Roman coinage and some show two standing figures which possibly have allegorical origins. An analysis by local historian Bill Horner determined that the coins dated back to between 260-348 AD and bear portraits of the Roman emperor Constantine, other emperors ruling alongside him, members of his family. Emperors that ruled either side of Constantine’s reign also make an appearance. According to Horner, Britain at that time was in a prosperous financial state with many Romans and natives flush with money. As one of the outermost provinces of the Roman Empire, Britannia, as the Romans knew it, was a relatively safe area at a time when rebellions on the European mainland against Roman colonial rule made matters unstable there. The Roman colonists in Britain escaped the worst of the tensions and maintained their high standards of living, building many luxurious villas in the south of England. However, freedom struggles and numerous invasions and episodes of infighting in the Empire soon brought financial uncertainty to the rich Romans and Romanised Britons of east Devon, who started hoarding as a security measure.

Romanised farms, or Villas including several in East Devon, were at their richest.

‘But the province was ultimately drawn into Imperial power struggles that, along with increasing attacks from Germanic, Irish and Caledonian tribes, resulted in the rapid decline and end of Roman rule.

‘Coastal areas such as East Devon were on the front-line, and this may be the context for the coin hoard.

‘There were no high street banks, so a good, deep hole in the ground was as secure a place as any to hide your savings in times of trouble, or if you were going away on a long journey.

‘But whoever made this particular deposit never came back to retrieve it” Horner explained.

(c) British Museum via Joanne Bailey.

Believed to have been buried in the 4th century AD, the Seaton Down Hoard is only the third largest such discovery in recent times. In 2010, the Frome Hoard made headlines with its total of 52,503 coins. The second largest was the Nether Compton hoard of 22,703 found in the neighbouring county of Dorset in 1989. Laurence Egerton’s find has been declared ‘treasure trove’ under a Crown law for the protection of British antiquities. A Devon Coroner’s inquest held earlier this month saw the coins donated to the British Museum who are now holding the Seaton Down collection in storage.

A video shot by Egerton shows him wearing gloves and extracting the dirt covered coins from a pit in a muddy field. Despite the muck, archaeologists reckon that his find is one of the best preserved findings of coinage from the last centuries of the Roman Empire in Britain they have ever witnessed. The video later shows archaeologists working on site removing clumps of coins heavily concentrated in a non-descript part of the field.

Interest in the Seaton Down coins, which do not contain any gold or silver, have nevertheless soared between the many museums in Britain concerned with Roman antiquities. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) in Exeter, the county town (capital) of Devon already houses a formidable collection of Romano-British artefacts from the local area and is eager to acquire the coins, and is running a fundraising campaign to purchase the coins outright from the British Museum to display for the benefit of local historians, researchers and students.

Although only reported this month, Laurence Egerton made the initial discovery in November 2013 after obtaining permission from the landowner of the field in Honeyditches, eastern Devon, where previously the remains of a Roman villa, or country home had been noted. The find was then reported to the landowner, a privately-owned company named Clinton Devon Estates, in accordance with the Treasure Act 1996, a parliamentary legal instrument aimed at safeguarding artefacts of national and historical value.

In an interview with the Daily Mail newspaper, Mr Egerton said: “It’s by far the biggest find I’ve ever had. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

‘Between finding the hoard and the archaeologists excavating the site, I slept in my car alongside it for three nights to guard it.

‘On this occasion, the ground where I was working was quite flinty and I found what I thought were two Roman coins which is actually quite unusual in Devon.

‘As I began working in a grid formation in the surrounding area I had a signal on the metal detector which means that there is probably iron involved.

‘Most detectors are set up to ignore iron but I decided to dig the earth at that spot and immediately reached some iron ingots which were laid directly on top of the coins’

‘The next shovel was full of coins – they just spilled out over the field.

The coins may have originally being held in a cloth bag at the time of their deposition, but that the ravages of time and chemicals from the nearby soil might have caused the bag to rot away leaving the coins to scatter underground. The find is said to be unusual for the region as the county’s acidic soils would normally decompose any metal left in it, yet the coins are in a remarkable state of preservation.

The United Kingdom, with the exception of Scotland, became part of the Roman Empire in a 55 BC invasion of the area by renowned emperor Julius Caesar, who wrested control from the numerous Celtic tribes previously settled there. Many of the conquered Celts were permitted to continue striking their own coins, which were often modelled on imported Greek coins but made more simplified by the native minters. The Romans began importing their own coinage, mainly to pay Roman soldiers and imperial mercenaries stationed in the UK, and also began minting coins locally and to celebrate their victories in Britain. The gold aureus was used for large payments, but not much for day-to-day transactions. It had a fixed value of 25 denarii until at least 200 AD. The silver denarius was the main coin of value in general circulation. The low value coinage of sestertii, dupondii, and asses was struck variously in bronze, orichalcum and copper. Denarii were paid to soldiers at a rate of one a day, while asses, or aes, were believed to have been used to pay for supplies obtained from local traders by the Romans. However by the time of the Seaton Down Hoard, Roman British coinage had become almost worthless owing to imperial financial mismanagement and debasing of the hard currency.

“Builder unearths vast treasure trove of 22,000 Roman coins worth up to £100,000 – then spends three nights sleeping on site to guard his hoard” – Victoria Woollaston, Mail Online – Science & Tech/Associated Newspapers Ltd (26 September 2014)
“Coinage In Roman Britain The Coinage Of Britain During The Roman Occupation” – Peter R Thompson, The Ormskirk and West Lancashire Numismatic Society
Joanne Bailey, Twitter
“Seaton Down Hoard – 22,000 Roman Coins unearthed in Devon” – ClintonDevonEstates, YouTube GB (26 September 2014)


LADBROKES: Cheshire student nets over £1 million in betting shop lottery

A student in Chester, Cheshire, can finally wave goodbye to Pot Noodles and baked beans after she recently won just over £1 million on a lottery run by a local betting shop. Jirtchaya Klongjarn, 34 years, visited a town centre branch of the betting shop chain Ladbrokes, where she placed two £1 bets for the Friday draw of the ‘49’s ‘ lottery. She successfully chose all six winning numbers and netted herself a cool £1,000,990.

It was a case of ‘second time lucky’ for Klongjarn, who only began playing the 49’s lottery just four months ago. She first won £601 in June 2014 and narrowly missed out on a £200,000 windfall after selecting a different draw for her numbers mistakenly earlier in the summer. Among her lucky numbers, the Thai student picked 8 and 12 based on her birthday of 12th August, while the rest of the lucky digits were picked at random.

I’m over the moon and I still can’t believe it,” Ms Klongjarn said in an interview after the big win. “I told my friends I had won the 49’s and that I might have a chance to win a million, then when I finally found out I was so excited. It still doesn’t feel real and I’ve barely slept. I had some bad luck earlier on in the year but this has made up for it. My friends all play the 49’s and they now say I’m the luckiest in the whole group.

Ladbrokes’ spokesperson Alex Donohue said in an interview with betting website that the company was just as happy for their lucky punter, notwithstanding the huge payout. He commented “We couldn’t be happier for our history-making millionaire,

She’s defied the odds in style.

While not as popular as the Lotto (National Lottery) – which draws the lion’s share of non-professional gamblers in the UK, the 49’s lottery is very popular among the hundreds of thousands of customers that visit Ladbrokes’ branches every week. Just like its popular rivals, punters chose a set of numbers and hope to match all the numbers to get the top prize. The maximum cash giveaway is £1,000,000 if a 49’s player successfully matches all six numbers in one of the twice-daily draws held.

Jirtchaya’s windfall is the second million pound pay-out for Ladbrokes in the past 12 months, after another customer in Bournemouth scooped a seven-figure sum after placing a £4 stake in December 2013.

The wins at opposite ends of the country has certainly stunned Ladbrokes just as much as the lucky winners, Donohue added: “These jackpots are won once in a blue moon so the odds of two coming along in under a year are very long

We’re not expecting any sympathy though and we’re paying out with a smile.

Ms. Klongjarn plans to visit Chester Racecourse with her friends to repeat her success at the races as well as celebrate her win. She also plans to share her fortune with her mother, who is living back in Thailand.

“ player wins a million pounds” {press release} – via (10 September 2014)
“Ladbrokes Player Wins A Million Pounds” – (9 September 2014)
Getty Images via Zemanta.

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON: Contactless Travel

On the 16th September 2014, Transport for London (TfL), the London authority in charge of the city’s public transport formally ushered in a new way of paying fares for its customers. This new paying method, which TfL has branded ‘contactless travel’ enables commuters with special credit or debit cards to use these cards to pay for their daily travel without having to buy tickets or top up an Oystercard, making it ideal for occasional users or tourists…or anyone unfortunately unable to access their usual means of fare payment (lost Oystercard/photocard, for example). Many banks and building societies in the UK now offer credit and debit cards with a distinctive ‘sound wave’ logo. Using radio waves, a scanner can pick up the signal from a card with this logo and deduct money from the customer’s account without the need to enter a PIN and with minimum hassle. The technology works on a similar principle to the longer-established Oystercard, a plastic card with an inbuilt chip that the customer can load up with credit or season tickets and simply place on the reader when passing through platform gates or boarding a bus. TfL have already enabled the technology for a while on their bus routes, but the 16th of September marked the day when contactless travel became widely available across London’s buses, tube, Overground, DLR trains, trams and National Rail trains.

Contactless payment cards are special cards that enable purchases up to a maximum of £20 per transaction without the customer needing to sign a receipt or enter a PIN code. Using a patented wireless technology, they enable seamless payment without fuss. The technology can be applied to all kinds of payment cards: debit, credit, charge or pre-paid.

For Londoners and tourists, contactless travel is very useful, provided their bank has issued them with a compatible card. Most banks are already offering the new cards as standard for recent customers and card renewals, so they will soon become widespread. The benefits of contactless travel include it being much cheaper than paying by cash. While you can still pay for many tickets on the London transport network with coins and notes, the city’s buses have stopped accepting cash fares since June 2014. Commuters do not have to carry around and top up an Oystercard, which is convenient for when in a hurry and they do not want to miss the next train or bus. This also saves on queuing time at ticket halls, which are soon to be earmarked for closure anyway as TfL makes rapid changes to its services in the near future. If a commuter uses the same contactless payment card for every journey they make, they can benefit from daily and weekly fare capping at the stated adult rate, making travel more flexible and convenient. Commuters who sign up for an online account with TfL have the added and secure advantage of being able to register their card and view up to a year’s worth of journey and payment history linked to that card on the TfL website whenever they feel like it. The technology is secure, meets the strict security standards demanded of TfL by the card payments industry and no TfL employee will have access to commuters’ purchasing history.

(c) Romazur/Wikipedia

TfL customers who are unsure whether their card is a contactless one or not (UK bank customers only) should look at the front of their card, where their name, card number and account details can be found. If a symbol that resembles a Wi-Fi signal or sound waves is visible, then the card offers contactless payment. More information on contactless cards can be found by visiting the website of the UK Cards Association at . Commuters who have only just received a contactless payment card in the post and have yet to start using it should first make a ‘Chip and PIN‘ payment elsewhere so the card can be activated for the transport network. Customers from outside the UK who want to take advantage of the TfL contactless travel programme are advised to visit this website instead before using their card to make sure it is compatible for using for payment whilst travelling. The website is by TfL and can be found at . Visitors and tourists should note that international transaction fees or other charges from their bank may apply when using their contactless card on the London transport network. Commuters concerned about the security of TfL’s new payment scheme can learn more about this at the following link - .

When using your contactless payment card, you should treat it the same as an Oystercard and always remember to ‘touch in and touch out’. This means placing your card briefly on the provided reader at the station gates where you begin your journey and you must then repeat this with the same card at the gates of the station you exit from. For buses, you will only need to touch the card against the reader once. Be sure to keep different contactless cards and Oystercards separately as keeping them all in one wallet, purse or handbag could result in the payment reader deducting the fare from the wrong card, a situation referred to by TfL as ‘card clash’. Card clash can also occur if the reader detects several contactless cards and does not know which one to read. This can result in the ticket gates refusing to open, or a red light flashing on the side of the reader’s face. The presence of a flashing red light means that the card was not read and can result in the maximum fare being charged. More seriously, this could result in a Penalty Fare (or even two maximum fares from two different cards) being charged or, in the worst case scenario, prosecution, which will place the onus on the commuter to prove they had intended to pay the fare. Special plastic holders for Oystercards can easily be obtained from station and newsagents, and many companies across London give Oystercard holders out as free gifts.

Touching in and out applies even if you find the gate is wide open and you are able to walk unimpeded through it. Failing to touch the card readers at both ends of a journey could result in your card being charged the maximum fare, as TfL will not be able to determine when or where you started or ended your commute. In addition to the normal yellow-fronted readers, contactless commuters need to also be aware of the presence of pink coloured ones that they may need to use when changing trains. If you forget to touch in and out, not only will you be charged more than you should have been, but the extra charge will not count towards your daily or weekly fare cap.

If you touch in and out at the same station but without making a journey, for example if you change your mind and take an alternative route or form of transport, your card will still be charged but the fare will be refunded if it is the only time you do this within the last seven days. Any charges and repayments from TfL can be seen on the online account your card is registered with, if you have chosen to do so. If you forget to touch out at the end of your journey and are charged the maximum fare, you can apply for a refund online once a month.

Unlike Oystercards with PAYG credit, the fare for the journey will not show up on the reader’s LCD as you pass through. TfL do not allow this for contactless cards as they need to calculate the total cost of your travels for the day overnight and then be displayed on your online account on the following day. So if you travel on a Monday, you will not get the total breakdown of your journey times and fare until Tuesday. Commuters are encouraged to register their cards online because it means they can not only view their payment and travelling history, but also can request refunds and also receive email alerts if an issue develops with the card that could prevent the commuter from travelling.

As with Oystercards, the card will need to be presented if asked for by a revenue protection officer during ticket inspections. They will be carrying a handheld reader which will read your card as with TfL’s own travel cards.

If you have any questions or queries, you can get help from TfL’s customer service team via the following contacts:

“Contactless travel” – Transport for London (leaflet hand distributed at Euston Square tube station in Euston, London)
Creative Commons CC Search
“File:Oyster Card Top-up Machine.JPG” – Romazur, Wikipedia (17 September 2012) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.>
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IRAQ BARREL BOMBS: Iraqi army condemned for bombing civilian areas

The armed forces and government of Iraq has been recently condemned for wholesale destruction of civilian areas in territory held by the Islamic State (IS) militia, according to a report published yesterday by Britain’s The Independent newspaper. Both the army and government are fighting a tough battle of bullets and hearts against the Islamic State, who have overran large parts of Iraq‘s north and central regions in rapid succession, inflicting numerous atrocities. The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS and ISIL, drove out Iraqi Army battalions in its advance on several towns and cities. As it has cemented its power, IS has killed and abducted hundreds of people from the country’s ethnic and religious minorities as it self-declared a caliphate across the parts of Iraq and Syria where it holds sway. IS have also beheaded two American journalists and one Syrian reporter and a British aid worker in quick succession as it threatens the West against interfering in the conflict.

The armed forces of Iraq have already been accused of killing ‘scores’ of civilians as it bombs residential areas in cities occupied by IS in its attempts to flush out the militia’s fighters. The recently appointed prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has ordered the ceasing of bombing raids using highly destructive and illegal ‘barrel bombs’ on civilian areas yesterday (Saturday 13 August) to comply with conditions set by Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders who have agreed to pledge their support against the IS. The order was drafted in the previous Thursday; however reports from a source at a hospital in the city of Fallujah claim that on the same day that Prime Minister al-Abadi ordered the cessation of bombing, fourteen barrel bombs were dropped in the area, murdering twenty-two civilians.

I have ordered the Iraqi Air Force to halt shelling of civilian areas even in those towns controlled by Isis,” Abadi said on his official Twitter account. 

International charities observing the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, including Human Rights Watch have recorded widespread and continual use of barrel bombs by Iraqi national forces since the IS began spilling across the Syrian-Iraqi border to set up their de facto caliphate earlier this year. IS now are said to control a third of Iraq, an area the size of the British Isles and have overrun parts of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq’s north, where they have viciously persecuted the Yazidi, Turkmen, Assyrian Christian and Shi’a communities, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for safer areas. IS now control several of the north’s major cities, including Mosul, Ramadi and Fallujah.

The devastation of barrel bombs – as seen in this eyewitness photo of damage in Syria.

IS militants have cleared out the old civilian and governmental agencies in their zone and established replacements staffed by their cadres. The streets of occupied cities like Fallujah often have IS fighters intermingling with locals, making it hard for government troops to separate the combatant from the innocent. As a result, entire cities under IS control have been considered legitimate targets by Iraq’s government, who have adopted an indiscriminate bombing approach. In July 2014, Human Rights Watch reported that the army was dropping barrel bombs on civilians in Isis-controlled towns including Fallujah, Beiji, Mosul, Tikrit and al-Sherqat. The charity claimed that seventy-five civilians have already perished in just one month of air strikes by their country’s air force and that barrel bombs accounted for seventeen of those deaths. Women and children were among the victims. Human Rights Watch have appealed to American and allied forces to discontinue the supply of heavy-grade weaponry and ammunition to Iraqi forces until they end their violation of war protocol and cease killing innocent civilians.

The Iraqi government may be fighting a vicious insurgency, but that’s no license to kill civilians anywhere they think Isis might be lurking,” said Joe Stork, the deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The government’s air strikes are wreaking an awful toll on ordinary residents.”

The city of Fallujah has particularly suffered from the Iraqi army’s indiscriminate air raids, with much of the city left in ruins as Iraqi warplanes began operations against IS militants holed up there since January. It was the first large city to fall to IS. One witness, a 40-year-old man named in the report as Amar, claimed he saw an Iraqi barrel bomb on the 6th of July that claimed the lives of his brother and two unrelated people.

They had been fixing a generator that provides electricity to the al-Shurta area of Fallujah minutes before the attack.

I went to my house which is about 50 yards away,” he said.

The generator is in a yard and the barrel bombs fell on the street between the generator and the houses.

It was like an earthquake and I ran to my brother, I saw his body and I saw four cars burning in the street.”

The other fatalities were a supermarket owner and a woman whose body parts had to be collected in a blanket by neighbours.

I saw the bottom of the barrel and shrapnel,” Amar said, describing the bomb as a “ball of fire” dropped from a helicopter.

Under international treaties and law, the use of barrel bombs is illegal in civilian areas. The bombs tend to be made on a shoestring budget, and usually consist of a metal container, often a simple oil barrel, filled with explosives and shrapnel. The bomb is allowed to fall from a height and is activated via an inbuilt timer fuse. The bombs are designed to cause maximum damage and injury over a wide area, which makes them exceptionally lethal if dropped in a locale such as a residential street.

Also known as ‘flying IEDs‘ as they are an airborne version of the IEDs that were popular among militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, barrel bombs are normally dropped manually from helicopters or airplanes. Their size, lack of precision and indiscriminate impact upon detonation has drawn considerable criticism abroad and are banned under most international conventions of warfare as ‘weapons of terror’. The earliest known use was in Sudan in the 1990s where they were rolled out of cargo-doors of transport planes by the Sudanese army against civilian rebellions in Darfur region and what is now the independent  nation of South Sudan. A barrel bomb is capable of levelling entire apartments. Cheaper than conventional bombs and relatively easy to manufacture on limited resources, they can cost as little as $200-300 to produce.

Barrel bombs have also been reported being dropped against towns in neighbouring Syria, and their usage in civilian areas there was one of the human rights abuses cited against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by international observers. The United Nations, which has expressed grave concerns against the war in both countries, recently published a report via its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in which it stated: “The use of barrel bombs [indiscriminately in civilian areas] amounts to area bombardment, prohibited under international humanitarian law as a tactic that spreads terror among the civilian population,

The United Nations representative for Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, expressed his satisfaction at Iraqi prime minister al-Abadi’s move to stop the barrel bombs. He said: “Protection of civilians and ensuring their safety and security is a paramount priority for the United Nations

In February 2014, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution that demanded an end to indiscriminate aerial bombardment including the use of barrel bombs. However their use in Iraq and Syria has seen the number of incidents skyrocket since the beginning of 2014.

Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter
The Independent, Twitter
“Islamic State: Iraqi Government’s illegal barrel bombing of civilian areas ‘to be stopped’ ” – Lizzie Dearden (additional reporting via Reuters), The Independent (13 September 2014)
“Barrel bomb” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Getty Images via Zemanta.


PHOTO MOMENT: Old Skool Raver

(c) original designer via Riki Blac

A Photoshop designed poster for a ‘old school’ music event being held in south-east London. The capital city of the United Kingdom is home to a varied and exciting musical scene encompassing many niches, tastes and cultures. Nightclub events such as ‘Old Skool Raver‘ are particularly popular among the city’s younger music lovers, drawn by the banging beats, relatively cheap alcohol and experiences of fun. These events are highly publicised via brightly coloured flyers and posters which have become works of art in their own right, even though mainstream designers and the modern art world may generally regard such ephemera generally as promotional tat. Some music posters for famous bands and events such as Live Aid (1985), the Woodstock festival and early illegal warehouse raves in the late Eighties are now prized collectors’ items fetching sometimes hundreds of pounds on auction sites.

Different ‘club nights’, as they are usually known as in the industry, will often have performances and artistes from particular musical genres. The most popular in terms of ticket sales are pop, garage, R&B, reggae, dancehall, bashment and house music. Many ravers nostalgic for their younger partying days will find that London in particular caters well with its many ‘old school’ nights showcasing memorable hits from the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

The poster above features the obligatory line-up of acts scheduled for the night, and graphics reminiscent of what truly defined an early 1990’s raver. Also shown is the singer Stush, the ‘First Lady of British Dancehall’, who has been active in the local underground music scene since 2002. Her music has been featured in the tough inner city life film Adulthood.

“All Hail Stush: First Lady of British Dancehall” – Bashment Vibes (9 August 2013)
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter
land of da legends, Twitter
Riki Blac, Twitter

UPCOMING BLOCKBUSTERS: Jurassic World & Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

with Sunny Atwal (idea contributor)

Today’s feature is a special sneak preview of two guaranteed crowd-pleasers that will be hitting your local cinema in the next couple of years. The highly anticipated prehistoric flick Jurassic World - the newest instalment of the Jurassic Park film series is coming out next year. While keeping to the dinosaurs-coming-back-to-life-and-devouring-your-friends format, this new film is said to be a updated rejig in a bid to escape the dreaded ‘curse of the sequel’. A year later, join the red-caped laser-vision totting reporter from the planet Krypton as he squares up against the millionaire behind the wheel of the Batmobile in Batman v Superman - Dawn of Justice due for release in 2016Both films are sure-fire box office winners and look likely to pack out British cinemas upon their release, as their predecessors have already shown. So what is in store for fans of these two action-packed flicks? The Half-Eaten Mind goes into the murky depths of the interwebz to find out more.

Jurassic World is the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series, which first stomped onto our screens right back in 1993. The films revolve around a group of scientists who have successfully brought dinosaurs and flying reptiles back from extinction using ancient DNA from a mosquito trapped for millennia in amber. They create a park where the dinosaurs roam free, but death and devastation soon ensue. The previous film in the series, Jurassic Park III was released in 2001. Since then, the filmmakers had endured a ‘development hell’ trying to get Jurassic World past the storyboard stage. Progress was also slowed by infighting between the Jurassic Park writers and Universal Studios. The Jurassic Park franchise is one of Hollywood‘s most successful as well as universally appealing productions. The entire series is said to have grossed $1.9 billion (£1.2 billion) in ticket sales and merchandising since the first film introduced us to beasts from times long gone.

Off the coast of Central America, Isla Nublar, the home of the ill-fated original Jurassic Park is now home to a new and improved version as originally developed by the elderly archaeologist John Hammond (played by the late great Richard Attenborough, father of British wildlife documentary presenter David Attenborough). This new park is owned by a bunch of corporate suits, the Masrani Corporation. While the park is now mishap-free, with no Tyrannosaurus Rex devouring unfortunates hiding in toilet cubicles or Velociraptors rampaging in the Park’s kitchens, visitor numbers have declined. Faced with falling ticket sales, the Masrani scientists head back to the genetic drawing board to create a primordial attraction that will change the fortunes of the world’s strangest wildlife park. Their efforts at playing prehistoric God however create an attraction that becomes famous…for bloodthirsty reasons. For those interested in the small details, a recently released Jurassic World leaflet describing the park’s attractions was tweeted by a fan. There is a bamboo forest, a golf course, the original research laboratory, a gentle giants petting zoo for younger visitors, an interactive ride with a gyrosphere, an underwater observatory and a ‘Cretaceous Cruise’ where you do not just walk with dinosaurs, you paddle with them, while witnessing 100 species of prehistoric life. 

(c) M. Englert via Wikipedia

(c) M. Englert via Wikipedia

The film features a variety of new names and is also the second not to be directed by eminent director Steven Spielberg, although he will sit in the producer’s chair. New director Colin Trevorrow has also signed on Irrfan Khan of Salaam Bombay! and Life of Pi fame, the first Bollywood actor from India to ever appear in a Jurassic Park franchise. The film is said to be a complete reboot of the original storyline, and that apparently there will be no feathered dinosaurs appearing. Fans of the movies need not be disappointed though, as despite the brand-new storyline, the traditional elements of the Park will still remain, so expect plenty of crashed jeeps, footprints, rustling vegetation, glass-eyed and fearsome dinosaurs and people getting dined on. Lead actor Chris Pratt also reassured fans on the movie’s semi-official website saying that the film was safe in the hands of Trevorrow and that it would “knock your socks off“. As to what the mysterious and lethal attraction will be in Jurassic World, lips are sealed but one insider said that filmgoers will “want to keep the lights on after you see this movie“. Fans’ appetites are already whetted as the publicity hype for Jurassic World starts warming up with the release of official poster work at the recent Comic-Con convention held recently, and the trailer to be released during the 2015 Superbowl in the United States. A special Jurassic World attractions map and a multilingual visitor’s leaflet with adverts by American Airlines also made an appearance. The director also got in on the hype by tweeting a picture of a film-branded clapboard nestled in between the fearsome jaws of what appears to be a ‘T-Rex’. Trevorrow simply titled it ‘Wrap’. It is believed much of the movie will be filmed in the tropical paradise of Hawai’i, famed for its dense and primeval jungles. Four months of filming is now wrapped out and Jurassic World is now in the post-production stages. The film is due for release on the 12th June, 2015.

(c) C. Trevorrow

Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Produced by Patrick Crowley
Frank Marshall
Screenplay by Colin Trevorrow
Derek Connolly
Story by Rick Jaffa
Amanda Silver

Colin Trevorrow
Derek Connolly
Based on Characters and Jurassic Park
by Michael Crichton
Starring Chris Pratt (Owen)
Bryce Dallas Howard (Claire)
Jake Johnson (Lowery)
Nick Robinson (Zach)
Ty Simpkins (Gray)
BD Wong (Dr. Henry Wu)
Irrfan Khan (Dr. Rajesh Masrani, owner of Jurassic World)
Music by Michael Giacchino
Cinematography John Schwartzman
Legendary Pictures
Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)
  • June 12, 2015
Country United States
Language English


While we headed 65-plus million years in to the past with Jurassic World, now take a journey into the not too distant future as Superman takes on his rival superhero Batman in Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice. These two will meet in a monumental clash in a film where even their respective logos will be fused together, as they tussle for supremacy in the mean streets of Metropolis and Gotham City. While both are from the DC Comics stable, this is the first time Batman and Superman have gone head-to-head and is certain to make life and arguments tough as their fans are forced to take sides in this epic clash of the comic world’s favourite protagonists. Dawn of Justice is the intended sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel and the second instalment in the DC Cinematic Universe. It is being directed by Zack Snyder and the screenplay was written by Chris Terrio. The cast includes Henry CavillBen Affleck,Gal GadotAmy AdamsLaurence FishburneDiane LaneJesse EisenbergJeremy Irons, and Holly Hunter. Ben Affleck stars as the titular Batman while Henry Cavill will be effortlessly switching between meek reported Clark Kent and his red-caped alter ego. Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot will also make her first appearance on the silver screen. The film was announced at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International, shortly after the release of Man of Steel. 

(c) W10002 via Flickr/Compfight

At this early stage, little is being disclosed of the plot, but what is known is that Batman’s suit will shed the armour seen in previous films and return to the cloth material that swaddled the Caped Crusader in the Sixties (with a second armoured suit on standby though). Superman’s costume will be updated and tweaked, but the exact designs are currently top secret. Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor, the megalomaniac bent on destroying both Superman and the world in the original Superman flicks from the Eighties, will still retain his distinctive bald pate, according to IGN news network. Other sources however are claiming that Luthor will have a shock of wavy red hair, as he used to have in the original DC comics.

Filming and pre-production has been in full swing since May this year. A source told fan magazine Batman News that film shooting with Affleck and the Batmobile in attendance has been spotted at a docks terminal, but this is the only eyewitness account as the docks are private property and off-limits to photographers or film hacks hoping for a new scoop on Affleck reprising the Batman role.

There is filming taking place on a seaside port at night. It seems as if The Batmobile has and will be involved. A chase scene has been filmed that included a lot of stunts. A Batman stunt double was used to film a scene that had Batman standing on the top of a 40+ story crane. Most of this shooting has been stunt double heavy.” – Batman on Film

There is a great air of secrecy around Dawn of Justice, especially with the plot. This is to be expected though from such a big blockbuster, as Snyder keeps comic fans chomping on the bit by dishing out a few interviews and special pictures once in a while. Many are speculating that the movie is a ground breaker for a possible Justice League flick possibly coming out in the same year, if the online rumour mill is to be believed.

Batman vs Superman – Dawn of Justice will be released in the United States on March 25, 2016 in 3D format. The release date for the United Kingdom is April 29, 2016, and dates for other countries are not known at this stage in time.

Directed by Zack Snyder
Produced by
Screenplay by Chris Terrio
Story by
Based on Characters published
by DC Comics
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Larry Fong
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
  • March 25, 2016(United States)
Country United States
Language English
“Jurassic World” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
“Chris Pratt says Jurassic World will ‘knock your socks off’ ” – Chris Picard, Scified Jurassic World/ (6 August 2014)
“New Jurassic Park film gets name and 2015 release date” – BBC Newsbeat – Entertainment (11 September 2013)
“‘Jurassic World’: New Park Map & Brochure Images Tease Dino Attractions” – B.C. Edwards, Screen Rant/Screen Rant, LLC
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
“Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice: All Night Only So Far!” –  Sam Hayes, Moviepilot (4 September 2014),manual#!bQXAAY
“‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ night shoot featured Batman and the Batmobile” – Chris Begley, Batman News (4 September 2014)
“File:JurassicWorldComicConPoster.jpg” – Mark Englert via Crumpled Fire, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. (21 July 2014)
Colin Trevorrow, Twitter
W10002, Flickr via Compfight

PHOTO MOMENT: My niece Shaniya’s fifth birthday

This 18th September 2014, my niece Shaniya turns a half-decade old. Only a few weeks short of her fifth birthday, she has grown to a remarkably intelligent and polite little girl. This week, she started reception class at a nearby primary school after being done with nursery. She got to meet her new teacher, Mrs. Cook and a host of new friends and seems to adapting well to the new environment.

I have already sorted out a couple of nice presents for her, of which one still is being waited on to be delivered. I’m not sure what her parents are planning for her birthday yet, but I do know she will get a nice birthday cake, lots of presents, hugs, kisses and exhaustion from running around all over the flat on her special day. She loves cake and on a previous birthday bash, actually showed more enthusiasm for the chocolate gateau she was presented with, than the presents themselves.

My niece has stunned me by how much she has learned from family and from her old nursery. She is a quick learner and likes to pretend to be a princess or a superhero. Her favourite superheroes are Spiderman, Batman and the Incredible Hulk. She is very chatty, practically non-stop, and likes to sing the song “Let It Go” from the Disney film ‘Frozen’.

In honour of my crazy ‘Shooby’ I made this special ‘birthday flyer’ using piZap. I used a ‘Hello Kitty’ wallpaper as the background. This was the canvas which I used to then build upon the flyer. Hello Kitty is one of my niece’s cartoon characters of choice and the Japanese kawaii cat by Sanrio in fact is celebrating its own 40th birthday this year.

Shanis 5th bday flyer pizap.com14100003144411

To give you an idea of how I made the flyer, which I know my niece is going to love, here is the ‘recipe’ I wrote on Notepad as I was putting everything together and planning on the trot:-

Ingredients for Shaniya’s 5th b’day poster:

1. Pre-downloaded pink Hello Kitty wallpaper – uploaded to pizap.
2. Text “Happy 5th Birthday” in deep pink with white backglow. Typeface used was Black Chancery at size 30.
3. Text “SHANIYA” in white with a pink/purple backglow. Typeface – Sniglet at size 50.
4. Text “18 September 2014″ – date of her fifth birthday with pea green Cutty Cupcakes typeface at size 50, angled
at a slant
5. “Best wishes…”text typed in black Times New Roman at 24. Text box then tilted.
6. Added in stickers from the birthday section of the stickers section.
7. Added in yellow “Star of Bethlehem” sparkles from sparkles section.
8. Added assortment of pictures of Shaniya from family images on USB drive.
9. Finally added some traditional embroidered hearts from the hearts section.

The pictures are of Shaniya in some of her favourite poses and costumes, especially her princess dresses. That cheeky grin of hers is a common feature too. She is very photogenic and not only likes putting a show for the camera but also is quite good at taking pictures herself.

I’ll leave you with a selection of quotes from Nye-Nye herself and another piZap creation made by her mum, Alia.

“Football is Skittles, and Skittles come from the Fruit Shoot”

“I’m a good girl!!”

“Monsters in the rosebush”

“I am Spiderman….psshhhhh”

“Nani/Mum/Daddy…I want chocolate”

“Give me huggles”

“You count, I hide!”

“I want to go shops Mum, buy sweeties”

“What spells chair?….good job!”

“Vijaymama, can I play with your phone?…I’ll keep it on charge”

(c) A. Ropun/piZap

(c) A. Ropun/piZap


+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY – SHANIYA!!!*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+

“Hello Kitty wallpaper” – HDW
Shaniya’s pictures by myself, Alia and Anjali.

ASHYA KING: Seriously ill UK child found in Spain, parents detained

Ashya King, the five-year-old Hampshire child who was taken by his parents as they fled with him and several of his siblings to the Continent while he was about to undergo critical radiotherapy treatment for cancer, has been found safe and well, reports British tabloid Metro.

King, who suffers from a brain tumour, was taken from his hospital bed at Southampton General Hospital in southern England by his parents Brett and Naghemeh, both said to be devout Jehovah’s Witnesses ( a branch of Christianity which does not permit medical blood transfusions). After the abduction last week, British police put out an appeal for Ashya’s return, encouraging people with relatives in the European mainland to advise them to be on the lookout for the little boy, who needs vital hospital care around-the-clock.

After a Europe-wide search by police, Ashya and his parents were found safe and well in Malaga, a popular tourist resort in Spain. His parents have however been arrested by local police for endangering their son’s life. They are currently being questioned by detectives. They had been discovered as they were about to check into a local hotel, the Hostel Esperanza in Benajarafe. Police had pulled over their people carrier, discovering Ashya and his mother and father inside.

The latest development and conclusion of the case, which first made the headlines in the middle of last week, comes as Ashya’s father Brett posted a YouTube video via his other son’s account criticising the National Health Service (NHS), a government agency in the United Kingdom that manages public hospitals, clinics and other taxpayer-funded healthcare services. The video shows Brett sitting on the bed with Ashya, who has a drip-feed attached to him. Brett King said in that video that “we couldn’t be under that system any more.” Brett also said that Ashya was receiving a better standard of pre-operation care in Spain and that his health had improved markedly. He appealed to the U.K. authorities to “call it off, this ridiculous chase“. Ashya’s father had wanted his son to receive Proton Beam therapy in order to treat the malignant tumour in his son’s brain. According to Cancer Research UK, a research charity, the therapy was developed to target inoperable or hard-to-reach tumours, and is a form of radiotherapy that has little effect on surrounding tissues, meaning less in the way of side-effects for the patient. However the treatment was not available in the Southampton hospital or at any other medical facility in the UK, forcing the child’s parents to take the step of withdrawing Ashya from his current programme and then fleeing the country altogether. He then claimed that when he told doctors of his decision to end Ashya’s treatment, he and his wife were threatened with imposition of an ‘emergency protection order’, which would have prevented them from seeing their son.

Proton beam is so much better for children with brain cancer,” Brett said in the ten minute clip. “It zones in on the area, whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side and destroys everything in his head.
“So we pleaded with them for proton beam treatment. They looked at me straight in the face and said with his cancer – which is called medulloblastoma – it would have no benefit whatsoever.

Brett felt his son’s treatment was unhelpful ‘trial and error’ and since their fleeing to Spain, he and his family had become ‘refugees’.

We can’t do anything. The police are after us. The things we want to do to raise the money to pay for the proton beam, they’ve prevented it now.
“So my son is being treated and he’s doing fine. We’re very happy with his progress. We’re not neglecting him. He has everything he had in hospital.” Brett added.

In a recent press conference, the Hampshire Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said Ashya and his parents were located near Malaga, according to Metro

We don’t have many details on Ashya’s condition at this point in time, but what we do know is he was showing no visible signs of distress,” Mr Shead said. The parents are currently being held at a police station in nearby Velez-Malaga, while their eldest son Naveed is looking after their other children. Mr and Mrs King were expected to be taken to Madrid on Sunday for an extradition hearing at Madrid’s Central Criminal Court.

The Hampshire police also stated that doctors working at the Southampton General Hospital are working with fellow professionals at Ashya’s current hospital in Malaga to transfer Ashya to a specialist children’s facility in the area where he can receive more specialised help. Police offices from the constabulary will also be flying out to Spain to assist in the local investigation.

Yesterday (Saturday 30 August 2014), police had obtained a European arrest warrant for Brett and Naghemeh King, which was written on the grounds that they had neglected Ashya by removing him from Southampton General’s care. They said that it would be a last resort measure and that they preferred the parents to hand themselves in voluntarily. They were concerned that without usage of his battery-operated feeding tube, Ashya would possibly die. The tube is a piece of specialist equipment that can be fitted only by trained medics. However, Ashya’s father denied putting his son’s life at risk, saying that they had packed spare feeding tubes and Calpol (a children’s paracetamol syrup brand for treating colds and high temperatures) before leaving the country.

We were most disturbed today to find his face is all over the internet and newspapers and we have been labelled as kidnappers, putting his life at risk, neglect,” he said.

As you can see there’s nothing wrong with him, he is very happy actually since we took him out of hospital,” Mr King said.
“He has been smiling a lot more, he has very much been interacting with us.

It is not known what the fate of the parents of Ashya will be upon their eventual return to Hampshire or the future status of Ashya’s treatment. Whether he will be allowed to remain in his parents’ care is also uncertain at this point.

Additional reporting and Brett’s comments on the case via the Telegraph newspaper.

Metro, Facebook
“Ashya King: Boy with brain tumour ‘stolen’ from hospital found in Spain after father releases YouTube video explanation” – Oliver Wheaton, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (31 August 2014)
“Ashya King found after father releases video explaining why they fled” – Claire Duffin & Josie Ensor, The Telegraph – Health News/Telegraph Media Group Limited (30 August 2014)
“UPDATE ON ASHYA KING!”  – Brett King via Naveed King, YouTube GB (30 August 2014)

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