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Prosecuting Hate Crimes

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Reports of hate crimes in San Diego are on the rise and a data analysis by The San Diego Union-Tribune shows they’re difficult to prosecute. The data from the San Diego District Attorney’s offices shows the number of hate crime prosecutions in 2019 is on track to exceed last year’s total. One of those cases is the shooting attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on April 27.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 Reports of hate crimes are increasing in the county, but prosecuting suspects is challenging. Congressman Duncan Hunter Defense, the navy seal accused of war crimes by saying he's done some of the same things. Wildfires are more frequent, intense and deadly. Yet builders citing the housing crisis, still planned developments and high risk areas and sandbags. New Director attempts to shift directions for the county's transportation plans. I'm mark Sauer. The KPBS round starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:32 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:41 welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS round table today. Union Tribune investigative reporter Greg Moran. Joshua Emerson Smith who covers the environment for the Union Tribune reporter Andrew Keats of Voice of San Diego and reporter Lynn Walsh of KPBS news. Well, some criminal cases charged as hate crimes command a lot of public attention. That was certainly the case with the murder. Attempted murder and arson charges filed against Giante Ernest and April. Attacks against the Poway synagogue and an Escondido mosque. Prosecutors have attached the hate crime designation making the defendant eligible for the death penalty if convicted, but many other hate crimes charge here. Draw a little publicity and often involve murky circumstances. And Greg, let's start with that synagogue shooting the Mosque attack. Why did a district attorney summer stuff and add the hate crime characterization?

Speaker 3: 01:35 Well, um, you know, clearly they think that the crime was motivated by, by hate and, uh, the hate crime allegation in this case we're allow you to, to seek the death penalty. But I mean, I think it's the underlying, it's just the analysis of the crime that, I mean, clearly the guy left, you know, this long manifesto saying you wanted to, uh, you know, he hated Jewish people and uh, wanted to do something about it. So it was sort of a, you know, pretty straight forward prosecutorial decision.

Speaker 1: 01:59 Yeah. You kind of had it in black and white there, but your story points out in most cases charged as hate crimes. The underlying charges, uh, typically are fairly low level.

Speaker 3: 02:08 They are, yeah. I mean, uh, many of these are reviewed a handful of them from the last couple of years and many of them are, I mean, I don't need to lessen the impact of them, but there are assaults or simple batteries or um, you know, conflicts between people where at some point, uh, you know, the, in the evidence that the defendant or the, or the perfect trainer, you will yell something out or say something or do something that exhibits, you know, a clear bias or animous based on race or gender or something like that. But they are generally not, you know, super high profile crimes. It's a part of the fabric of the crime in the city.

Speaker 1: 02:45 And have we seen more hate crime prosecutions by the San Diego Da's office recently?

Speaker 3: 02:49 Right. They, there were a last year that they had 30 cases where they alleged to hate crime. Um, uh, the city attorney's office had a couple, you know, but in the, in the district attorney's office, which covers the Kennedy at 30, and that was, that's a significant increase from just five years ago in 2014, I think they had 13. So, and so far this year they've had I think 15, so that seems to be escalating. But the police investigated a lot more than are actually charged as hate crimes. They look at, um, uh, the investigation is looking at a hate crime, right? There are far more, uh, calls or, or reports of hate crimes than there are, uh, prosecuted cases of eight grams of [inaudible] two, a, a large factor. I think the city of San Diego when you're recently, and I had had a 160 180, uh, reports of hate crimes and, and you know, there were 10 or 15 prosecutions that, that year.

Speaker 3: 03:37 Uh, and that's true statewide, you know, and stayed at a 10 year period. There was a state auditor did a report that there were some, I think about 10,000 or so reported hate crimes throughout California. 3000 of those Grimes, they never had a suspect. So did you get a sense with the, this pretty serious increase in the number of charged paid crimes, whether it's an increase in the incidence of hate crimes or uh, prosecutorial decision that's been changed? Uh, probably prosecutorial decision. I'm in a, and by that I mean, I don't mean that they're looking for it. It could be that just the evidence package, you know, presented it that way. I don't get the sense that um, there has been, uh, you know, a marked increase, our emphasis on prosecuting those kinds of crimes. I think it's just sort of, you know, what, what they ended up with, you know, cause in some years it was, one year was 13, the next year it was 22, then it was down to 14.

Speaker 3: 04:31 So it just kind of dealing with relatively small numbers, all numbers and, and it really depends on you and a lot of these, uh, that, that doesn't mean that was the universe of cases that came to them. You know, those are just the ones that they charged. A lot of times they'll get a case that will have some sort of evidence in it that that seems to indicate a crime and they won't charge the hate crime because they feel they can't prove it. You know, it's a high bar to, to kind of move it. Do you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt? Juries are somewhat reluctant, uh, some sometimes to convict on that charge and those are whether it's so challenging to prosecute these for a couple of challenges. One, just getting the evidence. Uh, a lot of these, uh, are um, people who are attacked randomly or at night or they don't know who's, who's done it to them.

Speaker 3: 05:14 So it's difficult to find a suspect. Evidence can be fleeting. You paint us out to the swastika or somebody at somebodies house and wash it away or something you'd kind of want, that brings up an interesting incident. It cause of the two cases that were, we're using here as an example that a high profile cases, the first one at that mosque that was, as you just described, kind of anonymous for, for the time. And then it got charged after the synagogue and the only reason they did it because he admitted to it, you know, no one day, I think the only evidence they really had was a surveillance video from a gas station across the seat street showing us a car going by and they'd never ideal it took them a month to, you can figure it out. Defamation League is always saying, oh law enforcement needs to be more aggressive on this.

Speaker 3: 05:53 If you talk to them, they're always saying, oh yeah, there's a lot of these hate crimes out there. Law enforcement's not being aggressive enough in terms of investigating them. I Dunno if that's true or not, but that's definitely their claim. The state auditor kind of said that. Yeah, the, the DOJ in particular departments have to be much more proactive and educating people how you report a hate crime, what you have to do there. Some talk about maybe some legislation that would actually have some sort of a card or a checklist for police officers to go out and ask people. So cause they want to get more intake. But even if they do, I think proving these do is a challenge for them.

Speaker 1: 06:26 Cause you know, the jury is, I don't always agree to do that.

Speaker 3: 06:29 They don't. They will. It's, the numbers are very interesting and statewide prosecutors convict hey crimes at about half the rate that they do for other felonies. So, uh, and oftentimes you'll see a case where a bus will convict on the, it's an assault or convict on the assault, but they won't get the conviction on the assault because of a hate crime. And that's because, you know, an assault approved can be pretty straight forward to, you know, I hit him, he's, here's his injury, here's the medical report. More difficult maybe to say he was hit and here's the medical report because he's black or he's gay or something like that. But both of those has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. So it can be difficult than, I think there might be an inherent reluctance among some jurors to convict that hate crunch because there's a big discussion about, you know, you have a first amendment rights and you have expressive rights and you know, at some point, certainly my right to throw a punch ends at your face. But you know, there's some, some it's,

Speaker 1: 07:25 it's a tough [inaudible]. We'll see how that plays out as the year earnest trial approaches. We're going to move on now. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter is stridently defending a navy seal accused of war crimes perhaps to stridently. The charges against Edward Gallagher include murder, attempted murder, and posing for photos with the corpse of an enemy fighter. Gallagher pleaded not guilty. Hunter who faces a September trial along with his wife for allegedly misusing or quarter million dollars in campaign funds, says he's done some of the same sorts of things Gallagher is to be tried for. And so let's start with the 100 said in public this past week.

Speaker 4: 08:00 Yeah. So I think it kind of all started this week. Anyways, on Saturday, he was at a town hall and Ramona, and he said that a lot of his peers, including himself, have taken photos and posed with dead bodies of Milton combatants. That's something that, that he, that he has, um, enemy combatants. That's something that he has admitted to. Then there was a podcast that was released, um, zero blog 30 released an interview with the congressman and he talks again, defends Gallagher, um, talks about how specifically the one person he's accused of killing his, this isis fighter, teenage isis fighter and talks about how that's really no big deal. He doesn't care that Gallagher did this. And then he goes on to when the interviewer kind of pushes back and it's like, what do you mean? Isn't there a law that are old that you have to draw somewhere?

Speaker 4: 08:44 And he says, well, you know what? I killed hundreds when I was in Fallujah. Hundreds of civilians, probably, maybe even women and children if they were still there. So how do you judge me? So this is, these are the, some of the comments he's come out and said this week. And what was his point in making these comments? Well, I think what he's trying to do is to show that a lot of people do this when they're overseas. A lot of people in the military have done this, I have done this. So it almost seems like he's trying to normalize, um, what is happened to kind of make it so that what Gallagher is accused of. Isn't, doesn't sound so terrible because everyone else is doing it.

Speaker 1: 09:19 No. His hunters public statements have drawn the attention of Marine Corps leaders. Have they not?

Speaker 4: 09:24 Yeah. So the Marine Corps says, yes, we are aware of his statements. Um, it is, we cannot speculate as to if this would arise to any kind of potential trouble for the congressmen. They do say that, you know, posing with dead bodies is a violation of, you know, rules and laws that they have, but there's lots of different contexts that goes into it. They would need to see these images before even making any kind of, um, you know, any kind of opinion on this. And then on top of that, I've talked to, they've mentioned too, there's the statue of limitations for these types of crimes and that's five years. Um, and hunter has been out of the military, um, and you know, not a part of the military for longer than that. These crimes would have, um, taken place long before that five year limitation.

Speaker 1: 10:08 So I'm so several years ago and a hunter's a response, I mean, he's not really talking about what he said, but the bit as office they should have been.

Speaker 4: 10:15 Yeah. So he hasn't made himself available to kind of specifically talk specifically about what he has said his, yeah, his office is sent out a kind of generic response I would say that basically says, you know, everyone, these cameras are everywhere on the battlefield. Everyone is doing this. And then they went on to say that the charges against Gallagher just are, I'm not gonna stand in or not worth trying.

Speaker 3: 10:34 You're part of the answer there because I was at the town hall was it is Kim in the context of a long answer, who is given that we was really criticizing the case against Gallagher and just trying to outline the facts of as he saw them kind of spin them, does he? So I'm about how what Gallagher had they had done was not, uh, necessarily wrong in that and that the, the thrust of the grotesque was the overreach and the incompetence of what he called the corrupt military justice system. And he was really taking a run at the justice system and then was able to feather in at the end of rip at the civilian justice system, which he is currently participating in as a defendant. So I think there might've been an ulterior motive there and the rejection from the crowd at that town hall. It was when he said, the thing about I've posed with the dead bodies is just complete silence. Nobody really did anything. The only time they reacted is when he was, he was recounting what he thought were the injustice that had been done to a chief Gallagher. And people were saying, oh, this is terrible. It was awful. We do have a bite from that podcast that we're referring to. Let's, let's hear that. 15 seconds.

Speaker 2: 11:33 Okay.

Speaker 1: 11:34 There's an artillery officer and we fired hundreds of rounds into Fallujah. Right. Joel? Probably hundreds of civilians if not scores, if not hundreds of civilians, probably killed women and children if there were any left in the, in the city when we invaded. So do I get judged too?

Speaker 2: 11:50 Yeah.

Speaker 1: 11:50 So you're doing a followup story on this. You interviewed a law professor, a military background. Who is he and what did he have?

Speaker 4: 11:55 Yeah, so Bob knew if he's over at USD, he served as a judge advocate and the marines you served in Volusia. So I interviewed him this morning and he kind of talks about all the context that goes into considering a crime like this with a photo. And um, you know, when, if it is considered a crime, how it is considered a crime. But he also, you know, came out and said, look, he doesn't believe that a lot of people do this, that a lot of his military peers have taken photos with these w with dead bodies and you know, have been posting this. Um, and he also believes that it's dangerous for someone in a position like the congress meant to be saying this because what kind of message does that send to junior troops? Um, but also could put Americans at danger when they're overseas.

Speaker 1: 12:33 Well, to you're a little bit from that interview right now. We've got a bite.

Speaker 5: 12:35 Yeah.

Speaker 6: 12:37 I mean, I think it's, I think it's outrageous. I mean, it just simply not true. I mean there ha ha. There has been instances where this has come out. Uh, I think the military is held people accountable for doing that. I think it's very dangerous, you know, in particularly for somebody like the congressman who has this position of authority as an elected official, but also at the time he would've been doing this, he was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

Speaker 5: 12:58 Okay.

Speaker 1: 12:58 All right. We're about to end this segment, but the hearing you're going on today, Friday on a, on the case involving Edward Gallagher. Okay.

Speaker 4: 13:04 I was going to be determined yet they're still trying to get it dismissed. I'm his team's trying to get it dismissed and try and also get the prosecutor's I'm to be removed from the case. Um, and so we'll see what happens with that today. Um, but there is a date set for June 10th.

Speaker 5: 13:19 That's okay. You know, I just, I just want to add real quick. It does seem like he's trying to normalize it, right? Like that's the first thing you hear. But then these kind of stories like we've been hearing them for like the last decade and it's such a small percentage of the US population that serves now. It seems like that's, and people in the military are very disconnected from the general population and I'm wondering maybe this actually serves to kind of spur a conversation about what's actually going on over there because I think most of us don't really know when it could have a positive. Right.

Speaker 1: 13:56 Oh, that's a good point. We are out of time on this segment, but that's a good conversation for another day. Especially in a town like San Diego. Well, we are going to move on. San Diego along with most places in California is desperately short of housing, but expanding into open areas means building in wildfire country. A case in point is the 1100 homes planned and a project known as uh, Dara at Oti range. Am I pronouncing that right? I believe that. Okay, fair enough. Well, Josh, we'll start with the location of that project of fire prone rather under, under a state's it right,

Speaker 5: 14:25 right. Yeah. Well it's between Chula Vista and humble on a, on a road called proctor valley road. I don't know if you can kind of picture where that is.

Speaker 1: 14:35 Well, I remember it from all the fire stories in oh seven about people evacuating.

Speaker 5: 14:39 Yeah, the Harris Fire. Right. So it's like the 19th or 20th most destructive fire in the state's history happened in that area and other areas around there was like, that was a big fire. So it was in a lot of different areas. But, um, basically, yeah, it's on proctor valley road between Chula Vista on this, what is basically a gravel road right now. And it's just like surrounded by hills and Chaparral and wilderness

Speaker 3: 15:03 or in the scope on this project. How many homes are many Roosevelt,

Speaker 5: 15:06 um, 1100 homes probably bring in roughly 4,000 people and uh, you know, one road in, one road out, kind of, you know, one to the south, one to the north if you want to try to escape to homeschool or Chula Vista.

Speaker 3: 15:19 And what does the developers say regarding the fire danger on this proposed a project.

Speaker 5: 15:24 Uh, you know, they have a fire protection plan in place, right? So they have cal fire that signed off on this and we can get these guys out if we need to. And then also this is built with the latest technology, right? So everything from a big area of defensible space, we're going to clear all the flammable shrubs and bushes away from around the immediate homes. And then the houses are going to be built with fire resistant materials, including the big one of these vents now, right? They have these, these really kind of fire resistant vents that are always improving the technology on, cause remember when a wildfire comes through, the flames don't have to hit the house. It's all the embers that are coming off these big blazers that are just like come in at really high speeds. He big like softball size embers. And if they get inside the house then the house goes up.

Speaker 3: 16:13 Well, and I wanted to mention of course, and we talked about it on the show last year, deadly campfire in northern California. Uh, it, it just devastated the town in side of 30 minutes, more than 80 people were killed. And exactly what you're talking about, these embers were going in these, in these wins, in these conditions a mile, two miles ahead of the fire.

Speaker 5: 16:30 Totally. Yeah. I mean that's the situation, right? And so, um, the USA Today actually did a really interesting analysis about how many of these high fire prone areas we have around the state and the exits in and out of them. And they said that in the most fire prone areas for every lane of traffic, I'm going out of one of these areas, there's about 300 homes, but a lot of these places have way more homes than that per lanes of traffic and with the, with the Adara at Oti ranch, I mean we're talking about like 2000 people per lane of traffic. If both of the roads are open. I mean that's the other thing. If the fire clothes is one of the roads, then you could have 4,000 people trying to get out in one direction.

Speaker 3: 17:15 I was surprised to see in the story that the cal fire guy was saying, no, we're fine with this. You know, we're going to plan it. I mean, you know, it's Mike Tyson said everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the face. You know what I mean? It's why I was, because the rest of the fire community in the state seems to be saying we have to pull back from the urban wild wildfire interface. We can't sprawl out what, what's good was that.

Speaker 5: 17:35 Yeah, you might be surprised by that. But if for anyone who's been following that, they wouldn't be surprised because there's eight of these projects planned for high fire prone areas all around the county and cal fire's been coming out and callfire at with the San Diego County fire authority. They're kind of like one agency, Hey, we can get people out. It's fine. We can do this. So they seem to be very confident.

Speaker 1: 17:58 And you mentioned those, uh, those eight projects that are on the drawing boards are in the pipeline now. How many units are we talking about? How many people? A lot.

Speaker 5: 18:05 Uh, 10,000. 10,000 units. Yeah, three to four per unit here. Yeah. Well, and it's an odd thing because it kind of presents this presents the catch 22 where the first moving the, the, the early phases of these projects that are built right on the urban, uh, um, wildlife, fire ed to area. Those are, those are the most at risk. But once you build those than it, you almost shift the incentives that you want to build more because then you are no longer in the wilderness. Now you're in an urbanized area, so it's like initially there is great danger to, to sprawling this way, but once you've gone down that road, suddenly all of your incentives are to keep building as much as possible to prevent the amount of wildfire that surrounds all

Speaker 1: 18:49 and the fire doesn't distinguish with all of that. All of a sudden a time on this segment though. What a, what is the timetable on all of these developments? I mean some of them had been approved and this one here, the soups have yet to look,

Speaker 5: 19:01 got the stress. So the soups are going to vote on this next mile or what is it next month in June. But I'm, who knows if any of these are going to get built? They're being challenged in myriad ways. Sierra club and and a lot of the environmental groups are challenging them on all of the traffic it's going to create in the greenhouse gasses associated with that and the impacts to the multiple species conservation plan. I mean it's getting a lot of, a lot of heat

Speaker 1: 19:27 course, the fire and the fire thing. We'll follow up and see what happens is as we move on, those votes were going to move on.

Speaker 5: 19:33 Okay.

Speaker 1: 19:33 Everybody complains about our traffic, sandbags, new executive director wants to do something about it. Oh. And make great strides meeting climate change targets in the bargain. And that has put him at odds with what might be described as the go along. Get along. Leaders of the San Diego, San Diego Association of governments, the county's premier planning agency. So a Andrew, start with the, who is this new guy and what's his philosophy?

Speaker 5: 19:55 Uh, his name is Susana karata. He came from the southern California Association of governments. He's been here six months or so at this point. Uh, and basically I think the operating philosophy that he announced when he came to town and that has been consistent with what he said is that it's time to make transit in San Diego a time competitive with driving from anywhere to anywhere. And that's sort of the principle that he has used to outline all the things that he has, uh, said that we should do. Um, and while it sounds great and while like a noble goal initially set it, no one was opposed to that as an idea. Uh, once you put pen to paper and start describing what that means is in terms of concrete decisions, well now you start to see these people start deciding that a, that's not such a great idea.

Speaker 1: 20:37 And reminders, why is San Diego important? It's visions and actions they have real impacts you in real money.

Speaker 5: 20:43 Yes, I'm in the Sandag does two things in town. There are main agency, so they're the people who decide where we're going to build our freeways, where we're going to build our major transit lines. Um, and so that there'll be, those will be the, the things that we're building towards when the federal government decides to pass an infrastructure program and makes a bunch of money available or the state government passes a gas tax increase and make so much money available. And then we also, they also administer a half cent sales tax here locally called de Transnet, which we use to help build some of those things.

Speaker 3: 21:13 And the, you guys did a great work of voiced, did great work on showing that those funds weren't really what they appeared in spending on. It wasn't what the appeared and uh, what does the new director would want to see happen with all this transnet stuff.

Speaker 5: 21:25 So his, his idea in this is he, you know, kind of in tandem with changing the entire direction of all of all of our longterm planning, which is one thing you'd like to do. And then in the short term he says also with what money we do have remaining in this, uh, transnet measure, which is much less than we'd expected. And we already have conceded that it's not going to be enough to build everything we've said. I want to change things up and I want to start using some of that money to do some planning and environmental work around these transit projects that I envision, which means that money's not going to go to, uh, these freeway projects that some of the people in the north northern parts of the county, in the eastern parts of the county had been anticipating and expecting. And we're on the ballot. When transnet was first approved by voters in 2004, I should say, extended by voters in 2004. These were things that these voters were expecting, and he saying it's translates out of money. We're not going to get those things with what little bit of money remains. We're going to start spending it to a plan are, are our better future that I have in mind.

Speaker 3: 22:25 Did Greg, he's straight to Sandag that people will hire them, the board and the, the day, no, they were going to, this guy's a bit of a bomb thrower, you know, that they were going to get a guy who's going to come in and just start breaking furniture.

Speaker 5: 22:36 You know, I get the sense that they didn't, um, although some of them did. Yeah. Some, some of them certainly report it. Right? Yeah. There's a lot of movement behind the scenes. Right. So, yeah, the, the job had been initially offered to the previous deputy director and Mayor Faulkner for the used for the very first time, the newly empowered, uh, uh, ability to essentially veto a board decision based on his, uh, greater weight that the city of San Diego has by virtue of being a larger area, a veto that decision and that which made way for him to come in. Um, you know, he told me recently in an interview that during his first interview with Sandag board, he told them at the time, the longterm plan that you have, that outline that you guys have had in place for the last few cycles isn't worth the paper it's printed on. It's a bunch of lies. Um, so,

Speaker 3: 23:27 and he's still, God, he's still in the Hay. So I got the job. So, so if they didn't realize what we, what, what type of guy they were firing him, he say, it sounds like he told them in the interview process. That's the idea with climate change, with our regional plan, the state plan in all, sooner or later you got to get people out of vehicles. And, and you've got to start cutting down a fossil fuel use. Yeah, I mean I, to Greg's point

Speaker 5: 23:46 though, I think it's a good question because during the first six months he wasn't pulling his punches. He was saying we're going to make transit. As you know, time competitive with, with uh, with building freeways. You know, unless you're completely oblivious to the amount of money that that in w you know, entails, you would have to take from that, that we're going to start doing things very differently. So I don't know exactly how surprised you can be when somebody starts proposing things very differently. I think what happened was there was a lot of turnover in the board when this happened. People were kind of caught off guard, like they didn't really realize what was going on. Ron Roberts, long time supervisor and head of Sandag Major, major voice, he's out. Right? And then you got Jim Desmond, former mayor of San Marcos coming in as a supervisor and a major voice on Sandag kind of just getting settled.

Speaker 5: 24:35 No one really, this is a big change on Sandag and Terman, the board makeup and the direction. Yeah, I think that's a great point. You've got a number of new faces on the board all at the start of this year. You've got Hassan necrotic coming in as a new board member or as a new director at the start of year, and this is still, we're still getting used to the new nature of state law. After it was changed that gave this new voting structure instead of every city having one vote that's roughly the same. Now your vote is worth as much as your population, which really, you know, it allows the city of San Diego in Chula Vista to essentially call the shots if they want to and it's created these weird dynamics that aren't exactly what you'd expect. Such as, you know, the chair of the board is Steve Voss, the mayor of Poway, and he opposes the proposal that's being put forward by the director of the agency that he chairs the board for it. So very unusual.

Speaker 1: 25:26 We're good. We're out of time, but we're going to watch your reporting going forward. Cause this is a fascinating boarding in a lot of important meaning for the people of this region. Well, that wraps up another week as stories at the KPBS roundtable. I'd like to thank my guests, Greg Moran and Joshua Emerson Smith of the Union Tribune. Andrew Keatts, a voice of San Diego and Lynn Walsh of KPBS news. And a reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website. KPBS dot o r. G I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next week on the round table.

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KPBS Roundtable

Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.