Following yktsrsbyke
up on our discussion of the security theater at Chuck E. Cheese (and what DOES that “E” stand for?), here’s a little rant about the TSA.
I post it mostly because it links to such a truly fun video (below). I laughed out loud. But the TSA’s “You May Be a Terrorist If…” list of behaviors actually reminds me of “You may be a predator if…” — the way that schools send out bulletins alerting parents that, “A man was seen near the bus stop,” or, “A van slowed down by some children today.”
We see the same overkill in the, “You may be a child abuser if…” category, including, “You left your sleeping baby  in the car while you got a smoothie,” which is literally what happened to a guy I got a letter from this week. He went in, could see his sleeping baby through the window of the smoothie place, AND was out again in about 2 minutes. But onlookers threatened him and photographed his license plate. The guy is about to start his Navy SEAL training, for gosh’ sake. I want him to be able to trust his instincts, not a society that fetishizes elaborate safety charades over actual safety smarts.  
So, anyway. Here’s the letter I got:
Dear Free-Range Kids: This summer my 92 yo grandfather, 64 yo mom, me 35, and my 7 yo daughter  flew to Reno.
I have issues walking and was in a wheelchair along with my grandfather who has some dementia and had just fallen a few hours earlier seriously injuring his arm. He was in a splint and his arm was very painful to move at all. Well you guessed it, we got pulled for extra screening.
The screener made us both get up out of our chairs so he could wand us, pat us down and wipe us with the explosive detection paper. He was being very rough with my grandpa and yanking his arm, when I reached over to try and help my grandpa take his sling off, as the screener was demanding he do so he could check it for explosives, he screamed at me to “not touch him” and told me if I tried to touch my grandpa again we would be detained. My grandpa is hard of hearing, confused and was in pain so he had no idea what was going on.
My mom also had forgotten to dump my daughter’s small water bottle that was maybe 1/4 full. I offered to drink it but was again told I couldn’t touch anything so my mom was escorted by a guard outside where she could dump the water then had to go all the way thru the security screening again even though she was with a guard the whole time.
I also have metal plates in both legs and despite having major scars and a medical card saying I have metal implants it is almost always an issue and once resulted in me being stripped to bra and panties to be screened while standing behind a paper “privacy” screen that anyone going the opposite direction down the hall could see around. Can you guess why we hate to fly?! After watching this video I can see why we set off all sorts of red flags! My daughter talks to everyone and asks questions, I fidget, my mom gets really stressed and breathes heavy and my grandpa is obviously just prime terrorist material! Enjoy! Watch the video! — Alisha


End game: Let's treat everyone in the world as if they are out to get us.

End game: Let’s treat everyone in the world as if they are out to get us.

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48 Responses to TSA and FRK

  1. Manny September 8, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    “Can you guess why we hate to fly?”

    I can guess why you hate to fly, my question is why do you fly? Why do people willing subject themselves to this? Refuse to be treated like a terrorist.

  2. Doug September 8, 2015 at 11:18 am #

    Bruce Schneier (www.schneier.com) is excellent on security issues, and his blog posts on TSA security theater is no different.

    He also occasionally runs a “movie pitch” contest where commentors post movie pitches involving terrorist plots. He does this to highlight the issues with “movie plot security.” Not so unlike child safety/predator pitches we hear all the time.

  3. Coasterfreak September 8, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    These days, I fly only when I have to. I used to LOVE to fly, but I really hate having to prove I’m not a terrorist before boarding a plane. I tried to just put up with it at first, but my breaking point was several years ago when I flew from TX to NY with my 7 year old. At 9:00 pm the night before our flight (which was scheduled to leave at 7:00 am), I received a call that our flight out of Austin had been cancelled. After much trouble, I got us booked on a slightly later flight flying out of Houston – a 3.5 hour drive from my house. When I went through security, we were pulled aside for the Extra Special Security Pat Down, which involved touching of crotches among other indignities. When I inquired as to why we were selected, they told me it was because I changed my flight at the last minute. So because the airline cancelled my flight at the last minute and I had to find another one to avoid a 3 day delay, I am a suspected terrorist.

    That was the last time I flew willingly. I have flown a couple of times for work-related reasons or family emergencies, but even for my last trip to NY I decided to drive.

    What I recommend, if you have the time and patience, is to take the train if possible. It’s relaxing and cheap if you can manage without a sleeper car, you can bring your own food and drinks with you, and you’re not treated like a terrorist when you board. The only problem being that train trips take a LONG time, but if you have the time, basically your vacation starts when you step on the train.

  4. Sarah September 8, 2015 at 11:44 am #

    “Simple Rules” Yeah right. What are we supposed to do, act like mindless zombies?

  5. Manny September 8, 2015 at 11:49 am #


    I am the same. Used to enjoy travelling, but now I only fly if someone else is paying for it. Luckily for me family is close enough that I can drive in emergency situtations.

    I too thought taking the train would be a great alternative, but I am afraid that it will eventually be as bad as flying (in terms of security theater). See, e.g., VIPR Teams.

  6. Kimberly September 8, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    What’s that saying? Something about shutting the barn door after the wolf is already in? All of these enhanced security features are the same thing. As far as I know, not a single terrorist plot has been thwarted due to our ever increasing security screenings. Yet, every potential threat since 9/11 has been caught because people were aware of their surroundings and noticed something that wasn’t “right”. I also find it highly telling that even Israel doesn’t have such extreme security measures in place.

  7. BL September 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    They’re from the government and they’re here to help.

  8. Dean Whinery September 8, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    Yes, I can appreciate why they don’t like to fly. TSA and other sometimes-self-important security people are uncaring jerks.
    I, too, have metal implanted. I have been ordered to open my chest to “prove” that I am not carrying a weapon. Last year, while waiting to pick up my sister at an airport, TSA was requiring deplaning passengers to remove their footwear before going to the waiting area outside the TSA screening stations. And I’ve seen them pat down babies.
    So who is the suspicious predator?

  9. fred schueler September 8, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    I haven’t flown since 1993 when “security” freaked out about the dissecting scissors in my backpack

  10. Doug September 8, 2015 at 12:46 pm #

    The last time I saw a pat down by the TSA, the question put to the passenger was “I’m going to put the back of my hand there. Will I feel anything?” It will take some courage, but telling the poor schmuck what exactly he/she will feel is on my bucket list.

    I might have been heard muttering “who needs the 4th amendment anyways” as I step through the chemical-sniffer-x-ray-metal-detector machine.

  11. Jana September 8, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

    I had the very same experience with the water bottle 8 yrs ago. During the years, I found out that it pretty much depends on the airport you are in – I like Boston and Washington, but really dislike Chicago O’Hara and all New York airports. Roma airport is fine, Frankfurt is horrible etc. Thanks for the video, Alisha!

  12. Colin Summers September 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    The “E” is almost certainly a reference to the musician Chuck E Weiss, who you might have heard of in the Rickie Lee Jones song, “Chuck E’s in Love.” The original Chuck E Cheese mascot was a guitar playing mouse. Cheese. Pizza. You know.

    They dropped the Pizza from the name when they realized people were coming for the playground. And the pat downs. I go for the pat downs.

  13. EricS September 8, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    Lol! That video was pretty spot on for a spoof.

  14. John September 8, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    I’ve done an extensive amount of traveling during the past 15 years and ironically enough, I’ve never had a problem with TSA personnel. They’ve always been courteous and even displayed a sense of humor at times. I think many of the TSA personnel themselves probably disagree with many of the security procedures they’re required to implement but just do it because it’s their job. The problem with it all is that it’s just a pain in the arse having to empty out all of your pockets and take off your shoes and belt (I always wear a belt with a plastic buckle when I travel so I don’t have to take it off) and run everything thru X-ray. International travel is even more stringent than domestic travel. In Kuwait, there are 3 checkpoints you need to go thru before you get on your flight. That means emptying out your pockets, taking off your shoes, running your luggage thru the X-Ray and removing your belt, if applicable, THREE times before getting on the airplane! 1) entering the airport. 2) right before checking in your luggage 3) right before boarding the aircraft. Overkill in my opinion!

    The problem with all this is that it creates a logjam of people waiting in line right in the airport and the danger there is a terrorist could easily kill just as many people and even more in the airport than he would in the air. This is according to the logic of an El Al agent who has critiqued these procedures. The agent said that you are actually shifting the threat from one area to another and it can even create more danger. It’s the same thing with these sex offender laws and other laws designed to “protect children”. They just create more collateral damage than they’re worth and they don’t do anything to make kids safer!

  15. A reader September 8, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    My husband and I have lived in Israel and plan to move back in a couple of years. Israelis, for whom terror is a serious and legitimate concern, generally pee their pants from laughter whenever they hear the word “TSA”. No one knows what they’re doing better than Israeli security personnel, and they don’t do any of this garbage. Oh, and might I add, Israeli society is very Free Range, which is remarkable considering they live in such a tough geographic neighborhood. When 3 hitchhiking teens were kidnapped and murdered by terrorists last summer, nobody asked “what were teens doing hitchhiking”, because thats totally normal over there; they just wanted justice for those boys. And very few people stopped letting their teens hitchhike.

  16. BL September 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm #

    “Oh, and might I add, Israeli society is very Free Range, which is remarkable considering they live in such a tough geographic neighborhood.”

    Not so remarkable. Living in a tough geographic neighborhood means they have no time to be blithering idiots.

  17. hineata September 8, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    Wow, really surprised to hear you have this trouble. We were actual foreigners deplaning in Seattle just a few weeks ago (though without accents, because Kiwis really don’t have accents, LOL), and although it took a while to get through customs, it was very well set out and everyone was very polite to all the passengers, many of whom were brown and some of whom wore headgear (obvious terrorists, of course ). Maybe the moral of the story is to fly via Seattle :-).

    And yes, Jana, Frankfurt was a nightmare. Everyone was very polite, but the queues were from here to Timbuctoo. If it wasn’t for the marvelous African businessman at the front of one queue (who just happened to be Muslim) who let me ask a question of the staff, we’d probably still be there :-). Wouldn’t go through there again without a 4 hour stop at least.

  18. A reader September 8, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    BL- I suppose you’re right. I was thinking from the perspective of what would Americans do? I feel like Kids would be under even more lockdown than now. Then again I suppose a society that sends its 18 year olds off to compulsory military service is rather less likely to coddle their 8 year olds.

  19. Donald September 8, 2015 at 5:58 pm #

    What ever we practice on we get better at it. We can practice good or bad behaviour. Our practice could be intentional or not. It makes no difference. If we often visualise children dying in parked cars then we get good at bringing up that image. In fact we can get so good at it that it consumes us. (as with the busybodies and the guy with a smoothie)

    If we focus on spotting a terrorist or pedophiles we are practicing our skills at trying to find them. There is a limit to how good that we can become at it but there is almost no limit about how overzealous we can get.

    As with the example of children dying in parked cars, terrorism can consume us and that’s all we see.

    I wrote another page on my blog. It explains more about practice.


  20. baby-paramedic September 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    I fly extensively and I experiment with what gets me pulled over for extra screening and what doesn’t. I can now pull it off one way or the other as I please with about a 75% success rate?
    Which concerns me, as I, with no special training, have been able to figure this out. Surely the terrorists could do this too? (I have also experimented with what I can get through security, I find it funny how much it varies, although not so funny being stripped search for a box of matches in my bag. Which were permitted under both the airport and airline rules).
    It is security theater, it doesn’t actually protect us.

  21. Greg September 8, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    The difference with the Israelis is they Focus their energy ON the person and are well trained in spotting the suspicious. They scoff at the idea because their approach is to look for the “human factor”. One criteria is “ethnic profiling”, but also includes country of origin, religion, general appearance and the most important, behavior. Furthermore, Israel doesn’t trust another country for the security of its citizens.

    I haven’t flown since leaving the military some 40 years ago and I’m not one for putting up with this “harassment”. I had an interesting situation with security when called for jury duty. I haven’t been in a courthouse where there are security checkpoints. In this case we had to remove all things in the pockets and remove our belt. When I was going past the scanner I saw others being patted down similar to the TSA. Well, I’m sure the Sheriff noticed how my facial expression had drastically changed when seeing this. I was definitely going to express my disgust, but, too my surprise he said ‘no need; go on’. I can only assume he anticipated what my reaction would be and didn’t want the hassle. I had no choice but to go to the courthouse since I was called, and didn’t get picked anyway, and it would be the same with the TSA. If I Had to fly I wouldn’t put up with someone sticking their hands down my pants. This is nothing short of Disgusting and people Should Not be putting up with it. All these methods can very easily be circumvented.

  22. kate September 8, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    I recently flew on Lufthansa. On the retrun flight after the usual announcemets regarding seatbelts etc, the pilot announced that since this is a flight to US, ” there can be no congregating at the bathrooms” His tone made it pretty obvious what he thought of this rule.

    When I left Norway, I had been given a collection of knitting needles from my grandmother, I figured it would go through security there and I was right I saw that there was some confusion, but they only asked me where in my bag they were located so they could check with out digging out everything.

  23. Lindsay September 8, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    I flew with my son once, when he was about 10 months old. He has bad asthma, so I had to bring a nebulizer and enough liquid albuterol for the trip (about 50 vials of 5 ml solutions). They wanted me to take my son’s footie pjs off of him because he can’t wear shoes through security. I didn’t. They wanted me to open every non-resealable vial of albuterol solution to prove it was what it said it was. I said no and handed them a doctor’s note and the original prescription. They wanted me to taste his liquid prescription formula. Again, no. The doctor’s note and another prescription served their purpose. Then because I was traveling alone with him, and they couldn’t hold him per their regulations, they wanted me to put him on the ground and make him crawl through the detector before going through myself. Again, me saying no seemed to be enough. It’s been a few years since then, but I’m not looking forward to flying ever again. I can imagine how much crazier regulations have gotten! (I know none of the things they were asking me were required so I felt safe saying no. I’m also white and that certainly helped.)

  24. Warren September 8, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    Everyone does realize that the terrorists have won the war. More and more your rights, freedoms and privacy are being compromised, invaded or outright taken away. You may be safe, but you have all lost in the end.

  25. Jenny Islander September 9, 2015 at 12:06 am #

    All this money poured into security theater, but when I was trying to get myself, a toddler, his safety seat, and two duffel bags home from Seattle on three hours of sleep, I could not find a single fricking rental cart in Seattle or in Anchorage. I had to make him walk and haul all the stuff as fast as I could wobble from gate to gate as I discovered that our flights had been canceled or moved.

  26. Carla September 9, 2015 at 12:13 am #

    I got a minimal pat down twice when I flew out to visit my dad. Apparently the lymphedema in my right leg alerted the scanner. No one was rude about it, though, and I was not detained further. Still, it was rather strange, I must say.

  27. Puzzled September 9, 2015 at 12:41 am #

    Well, I can’t say I’ve ever had a ‘problem’ with the TSA, in the sense that I’ve never been pulled aside for extra screening – except the one time I had a large tube of toothpaste, and the agent said he was throwing it out. I didn’t complain, I just expressed concern for his safety, seeing as he was now going to spend the rest of his shift standing next to a garbage can containing something he feared might be dangerous.

    Anyway, though, that’s not the point. The point is being treated as a criminal simply for wishing to travel – domestic travel, of course, was one of the things the founders wanted to protect, yet here we are encumbering it. The point is the money we spend on this mess that catches 5% of really obvious-looking fake bombs – the things had wires sticking out, ticking clocks, and everything! The point is a director of DHS going out and starting a company that makes screening machines, then mandating their use.

    One thing that really bothers me is that I like to be good at things. I know, we all do, but I have in mind something more specific. I get a certain amount of enjoyment out of being efficient in getting through security – having items in my carry-on, but well organized, other items in my jacket pocket, choosing an outfit that will make things easier, wearing loafers – but then I remind myself what I’m being proficient at and feel sick.

  28. Beth September 9, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    the pilot announced that since this is a flight to US, ” there can be no congregating at the bathrooms”

    I admit it, I’m dense. I don’t get this – did he mean in the bathrooms like the mile-high club? What could happen if 2-3 people were waiting for the bathroom, and why only US?

  29. Rook September 9, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    I will never fly. Never have, never will. I’ll take a car, train, or boat if I have to go anywhere. Unless it’s a privately owned plane where the owner has a brain.

  30. Yocheved September 9, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    I just immigrated to my new country (screw you, USA!) and I swear I am never going on another plane again. Thankfully my flight was fairly easy (El Al, for the win), but from now on, if I can’t drive to get there, then I’m not going.

  31. SKL September 9, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    I’ve flown with my kids lots of times in the past several years. So far the worst that ever happened (to me or anyone around me) was a quick pat-down. Usually the pat-downs occurred in less-developed countries.

    Oh, they did briefly question my kids (then 6yo girls) in India about whether they were in school and such. I suspect they were checking to see if they were being trafficked. (They are brown-skinned and I’m not.) There is a lot of trafficking of girls in that region, unfortunately.

    I have had some bottles confiscated from my carry-ons. No biggie. I remember my mom getting pretty angry in Central America when they took her toothpaste and, separately, her surgical scissors. (The blunt scissors were for her to take care of her medical dressings.) She was convinced that they just wanted those things for themselves.

    In Uruguay, at immigration, my kid thought it would be funny to joke that I was not her mother. Not smart, chick. I don’t think anyone else heard her though. At any rate, I still have her. 😛

  32. SKL September 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    The longest security line I’ve ever been through (2 hours) was in when we flew from Dublin to the USA.

  33. Neil M September 9, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    I remember reading about a woman who was stopped by the TSA in Philadelphia for carrying too many checks, from the account she had with her husband, written to herself. That’s right; she was stopped for using her own money. Here’s the link:


    Apparently, the agents thought they’d stumbled onto a woman trying to empty a joint account before initiating divorce proceedings against her husband. What triggered additional scrutiny was that the woman “acted as if she feared discovery”, which sounds to me like she was nervous. Who wouldn’t be, in such a situation? Apparently, her behavior “escalated” (whatever that means), and police were summoned.

    I wasn’t aware that the TSA had a mandate to keep questionable documents off airplanes, but apparently sequentially numbered checks are, like guns, bombs and knives, tools of terrorists.

  34. Buffy September 9, 2015 at 3:51 pm #

    Since when is it a component of TSA’s mission to care about anyone’s divorce proceedings?

  35. Donna September 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    Beth – Passengers are not allowed to wait in line for a bathroom at the front of the plane. I guess they don’t want a bunch of people collecting right outside the door to the pilots. I have never seen a flight attendant stop a line from forming at the bathroom at the back of the plane.

    Most of the time this announcement is not made due to the bathrooms at the front of the plane being reserved for 1st class passengers (that announcement is made). The last flight I took was on Frontier which doesn’t have a 1st class, but does have a bathroom at the front of the plane. An announcement was made asking us not to wait in line for the front bathroom and it specifically stated that the rule applied only to the front bathroom.

  36. BL September 9, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

    “Since when is it a component of TSA’s mission to care about anyone’s divorce proceedings?”

    That’s a very suspicious thing to say. We must go through all your luggage!

  37. Beth September 9, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    Thanks Donna. I *guess* it makes sense. I fly Delta almost exclusively, and I have a) never heard that announcement and b) never seen flight attendants discourage the people waiting for the front bathroom. Hence my denseness.

  38. Warren September 9, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    They called the husband about the checks? Wow. Could you imagine if this was a battered wife trying to escape an abusive husband?

    Also since when is it a crime for a husband or a wife to clean out a joint account for any reason?

    Like I said, the terrorists have won, and y’all just don’t know it.

  39. C. S. P. Schofield September 9, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    The TSA was created because of widespread public demand that “something” be done, but everyone in the government on any level with any sense at all knew that the next Islamotwit who tried to take over a plane full of Americans was going to be found in the overhead luggage compartment in somewhat used condition. So nobody with any brains paid any attention to the TSA, and the only people who joined it were morons, empire builders, and pricks one jump ahead of getting RIF’d.

  40. James Pollock September 9, 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    When my ex-wife decided to move out-of-state, I had to send my daughter for visitation by air. When she was under 12, this meant that she was paying extra for “unaccompanied minor” service… much like Chuck E. Cheese, the airline goes to the trouble of making sure that the person who leaves with the child is the person the child is supposed to be leaving with. For some reason, this ALSO means presenting identification to put the child ON the plane. It also means waiting at the airport until the plane actually leaves. It also means going though the security checkpoint with a special pass, which, in my experience, is ALWAYS selected for extra screening. Which means leaving my under-12 daughter at the security checkpoint to wait for me while I go get extra screened.

    Once my daughter turned 12, the airlines stopped requiring unaccompanied minor service, and so my ex-wife stopped paying extra for it, and my daughter travelled alone on a regular ticket. Usually this didn’t turn out to be a big deal. There was one time in Charlotte when an ice storm shut down the highways that nobody was there to pick her up.

  41. Donna September 10, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    My mother had a stroke while visiting Florida earlier this year. When she flew back, she asked me to try to meet her at the gate to help her navigate the nightmare that is the Atlanta Airport (not always easy even when you haven’t had a stroke within the past 48 hours). I expected to have to fight with the airline, but I simply asked for a pass to get through security and received one. It took about a minute. No documentation needed. They may have confirmed that the name I gave them was on the passenger manifest for the flight I indicated. Maybe. Even if they did, we don’t have the same last name so there is nothing to indicate that the name that I gave had any connection to me.

    So basically it is all security theater. If there was truly a legitimate threat to allowing unticketed people go to the gate, it would take more than a minute to get a pass to do it.

  42. James Pollock September 11, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    Plus, of course, we know that OSHA regulations and fire codes require that all the doors be unlocked, in case some member of the public wants to leave.

  43. Vicky September 11, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

    Lol. I’m very amused and horrified at the same time. Sooooo glad I do not have to fly…for any reason.

  44. Alex September 11, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    I was sick of all that and gave in and joined the Global Entry program for guaranteed TSA Pre-Check. It cost some time and money and is only valid for 5 years, but so far I am happy with my choice. It’s incredible how quickly you can move through security too. The pre-check line was moving almost at walking pace.

  45. SOA September 11, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    This is the reason why i refuse to fly with my son with autism. I know it won’t go well. He would not cooperate for TSA screening and I am not about to end up on the news.

  46. Pauline September 12, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Sooo…….. you basically have to walk in slowly shuffling, arms dangling limp to your sides, looking down (but not all the time!), not breathing or sweating or talking or laughing? That sounds like a zombie. Is it still ok to crave brains?

  47. Pauline September 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Seriously though, is this an American, post 9/11 thing? I’ve flown all over Europe and to North Africa and I’ve never encountered anything like this…. Just clearing the metal detector and occasionally a very quick random padding done by a female security guard on the spot, that takes only 10 seconds.

  48. Brian September 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Last year I was on vacation in NC for a holiday, realized the day before my return trip that i lost my Drivers License (and had no other ID on me) – but had my boarding pass.

    Fully expecting a huge hassle, or possibly train tickets in my future, we went to the airport anyway.

    First TSA person just called over the supervisor, who led me thru to the patting booths. He explained the process and asked me if i was ok in the paper booth or wanted to go to an actual closed room. After the pat down, they called some 800 number and started asking me questions that only i SHOULD know (to verify my identity). I of course knew all the answers and was allowed thru no problem. The whole process took about 7 minutes.

    The questions they asked (besides bday and SSN) were things like where do you work, where did you work 10 years ago, who is your mortgage with, what colors are your cars, and the most interesting one was what are the first names of any 2 neighbors around your house.

    Surely i was presenting almost all of the signs from that video, who wouldn’t when approaching the TSA knowing you have absolutely no valid ID on you, and have to work the next day.