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February 28, 2006

maybe she can get a restraining order

Seemingly exasperated by Karl Rove’s continued attention and comments about her in the press, Hillary Clinton finally spoke out to reporters noting that the White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Bush strategist appears to spend an awful lot of time “obsessing” over her.

And yet, this obsession was once a two-way street for Karl and the Senator, back in the day when they would spar continually, each trying to outdo the other. Sadly, that’s all over now, and so we present for you the following, sung by Karl Rove to the tune of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers:”

You don’t respect my powers
You don’t send me health care bills
You hardly demonize me anymore
In your statements to the press
At the end of the day

I remember when
You couldn’t wait to smear me
Used to love to hate me

Now with our numbers so low
Which is good for you babe
So you’re feelin’ alright
Well you just decline further comment
And turn off the television camera light

And you don't respect my powers anymore

It used to be so natural
To talk about forever
But ‘used to be’s’ don’t count anymore
We can’t go for four more
So you sweep me away

And baby, I remember
All the things you taught me
I learned how to lie
And I learned how to duck
Wait, that was Cheney
Why not Brown, no such luck

Still you’d think I could learn
How to tell you goodbye
'Cause you don’t respect my powers anymore

Well you’d think I could learn
How to tell you ‘goodbye’
You don’t say you need me
You don’t send me health care bills
You don’t respect my powers anymore

J.

February 28, 2006 at 05:01 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 27, 2006

taking the “new” out of new england

Following the controversy over the United Arab Emirates Port deal, the bad news for the Bush administration continued this week with the announcement that yet another foreign company plans to acquire strategic US assets.

National Grid PLC, a British company that already controls Massachusetts’ electrical grid is poised to take over operation of its natural gas lines as well through its acquisition of KeySpan Corp. The transaction would include additional properties in New York and Rhode Island, which the company plans to fold into a new subsidiary to be called, “Ungrateful Rebels, Inc.”

This has created a great deal of uneasiness in the region. “Sure, I know there are important national interests to consider here,” observed one state legislator, “But I’m still the one who has to look into the eyes of the great great great great great grandsons and daughters of folks who lost loved ones at the business end of an English musket. What am I supposed to tell them? That they’re just supposed to move on? That over a hundred years of unwavering support and close friendship somehow makes that all go away?”

A National Grid spokesperson tried to alleviate the growing crisis, saying in a statement that “We plan on providing her majesty’s subjects in 'New' England (as you prefer) with the very best in gas and electric service while at the same time maximizing the amount of tribute we send to the Crown.”

The move has created an uproar in Congress with Senator Hillary Clinton calling for a “moratorium on everything” until the affair can be sorted out. “I plan on introducing a bill that will halt everything until we can properly examine this transaction,” the Senator from New York said during a speech on Long Island. “That means that everyone should just stay right where they are. Don’t move. Don’t do anything. Just stay perfectly still until Chuck Schumer and I figure this thing out.”

Republicans also expressed objections over the proposed sale and moved quickly to introduce legislation that would require the Senate cafeterias to rename its English plum pudding to “freedom plum pudding.” Informed that the cafeterias have never actually served English plum pudding, the senators quickly introduced legislation requiring them to do so. And THEN change the name.

Furthermore, from now on we no longer speak English. We speak Freedom.

North Carolina Republican Representative Sue Myrick was so incensed she sent a letter to the president that said simply, "In regards to selling American utilities to the British, not just NO—but NO BLOODY HELL!

President Bush reacted strongly, issuing a statement that read in part, “I will not only veto any such legislation but will go on a hunger strike and then engage in daily rituals of self-flagellation until it is defeated, whatever this may all be about, because I probably should look into that at some point too.”

The acquisition is also putting a spotlight on the United States’ growing dependence on British imports.

“It’s not all Masterpiece Theater and Rumpole of the Bailey,” observed one State Department official. “Antiques Roadshow, Supernanny, How Clean is Your House, these are all essentially UK imports. We’ve placed ourselves in a very precarious position. They turn off the spigot of creative episodic treatments and all we’d have left are Law & Order spinoffs and The Apprentice."

"Let's face it," he continued, "we're addicted to dry British wit."

J.

February 27, 2006 at 05:07 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 24, 2006

maybe he thought the show was broadcast on “comity central”

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich appeared on The Daily Show for an interview recently without knowing that it was a comedy program that spoofs the news and thus managed to become possibly the first person to have ever punk’d himself.

Afterwards, the governor explained the manner in which he set up the elaborate prank on himself.  “I really had me going there, didn’t I?” he said. “I mean, I had myself completely fooled that it was a serious interview. There were a couple of times I came close to ruining the whole setup, including almost getting cable and very nearly picking up a magazine. Whoo boy, those were some close calls.”

“By the way, anyone know where I can get a new staff?”

While the Governor’s innocence and naivety is endearing in some regards, he probably could use a little help to avoid these kinds of embarrassments in the future and so we offer the following suggestions to better prepare him for dealing with the outside world:

  • Stop calling Michael Chertoff pleading “for God’s sake, why can’t we help these people?” That’s just “Lost.” It’s a TV series.
  • Appearing on Meet The Press and accusing Tim Russert of “being a wiseguy, eh, nyuk nyuk” does NOT “make everything even."
  • Do not send money to that nice man asking for help transferring funds “presently floating in the central bank of Nigeria ready for payment.” He’s not a nice man, and there are no funds.
  • Now would be a good time to stop telling that funny story about the time you had to fly to Washington to meet with the President and ended up in Spokane.
  • When that “labor leader” in Chicago “suggests” that you do something, it’s not a suggestion. (And he’s not a labor leader.)
  • Spice TV is not a cooking channel.
  • The next time you see Zell Miller, do not tell him he “needs to tone it down a bit.” That was Saturday Night Live you were watching and that wasn’t really Miller. It was Will Forte.
  • Donald Trump is not a real person. That’s just an actor playing a comically self-absorbed real estate developer with bad hair and an outsized ego that is hopelessly mismatched with his talents.
  • Correction: We are informed that Donald Trump is a real person. Sorry for the confusion. Our bad.

It might also be helpful for the Governor to have a little “interviewer cheat sheet” with him so in the future he will know what to expect:

Serious Interviewers:
Tim Russert
Chris Mathews
Bob Schieffer

Comic Interviewers:
Stephen Colbert
David Letterman
Conan O’Brien

Interviewers who think they’re serious but are actually comic:
Sean Hannity
George Stephanopoulos
Anderson Cooper

Interviewers who think they’re comic, and are. Just not in the way they think:
Keith Olbermann
Bill Maher

Interviewers who are cartoon characters:
Stewie
SpongeBob SquarePants
Bill O’Reilly

And finally, to our readers, should you happen to run into the Governor, please don’t attempt to take advantage of him by trying to sell him Florida swamp land, New York bridges, Democratic economic recovery programs, or Republican ethical reform proposals.

Because that just wouldn’t be fair.

J.

February 24, 2006 at 02:21 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

studies report that the use of supplements does not relieve the pain felt by pharmaceutical company profit margins

A government study called into question the efficacy of using the popular and inexpensive supplements glucosamine and chondroitin (G&C) to relieve arthritis pain concluding in the New England Journal of Medicine that “glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate alone or in combination did not reduce pain effectively in the overall group of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.”

The numbers are clear, as only 67% of the people using a combination of G&C experienced reduced pain. Why, you might as well start lighting dollar bills on fire at that rate. In contrast a stunning 70% of the people using the prescription painkiller Celebrex experienced reduced pain. And at only ten times the cost. Hey, you don’t have to hit us over the head to recognize a bargain! Not only that, but Celebrex provides a number of additional features not found in G&C including the possibility of headache, abdominal pain, dyspepsia, diarrhea, nausea, flatulence and insomnia. No extra charge.

The researchers were also careful to use only the hydrochloride form of glucosamine in the study as that is the form no one actually uses.  The pills you find in GNC and elsewhere are glucosamine sulfate.  The researchers dismiss this apparent discrepancy by noting that there is no reason to think different compounds would yield different results.   It is exactly this kind of attention to detail that makes this study so "rigorous."

And as it turns out, just about everybody involved in the study has received fees or grants from Pfizer (the maker of Celebrex) and other pharmaceutical giants.

Hey, is it a small world or what?

But the bad news for the use of natural supplements doesn’t end there. For a small subgroup of participants, 79% of those taking G&C experienced relief vs. 69% for those taking Celebrex. But then, this group was the one in which the members were experiencing the most acute pain and so were only in the greatest need. Nothing to see here folks, move along, nothing to see, show’s over,… Perhaps I can interest you in some abdominal pain or dyspepsia?

Of course, medical doctors have long been very wary of the use of supplements as study after study has demonstrated that unlike the makers of expensive prescription drugs, vitamin makers have never sent extremely attractive young women to their offices to review their product portfolios. The company’s product portfolios, not the drug reps of course. 

In the meantime, for the statistically insignificant two-thirds or more of you who are experiencing significant pain relief from taking G&C, by all means stop right now and take the advice of study leader Dr. Daniel Clegg of the University of Utah who suggests that people should talk to their doctors about trying the supplements.

For a small fee that is.

J.

February 23, 2006 at 01:40 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 22, 2006

how would you like to be able to fire your boss no matter what your customers think?

Harvard President Lawrence Summers announced his resignation just ahead of an expected no-confidence vote from members of the Harvard faculty. Summers was in hot water because the faculty was concerned over widespread student discontent with his performance and were gravely troubled over the potential effect that could have on their education.

Ha ha, just kidding. The students loved him by a three-to-one margin with only 19% thinking he should resign. Among the few dissenters was Leandra Santos, a sophomore majoring in “women, gender, and sexuality studies” who said she did not support him. And considering her major (ranked 2193 among 2194 of “This Year’s Hottest Careers,” just above Dick Cheney Hunting Party Scheduler and just below Commodore 64 Software Specialist) she won’t be supporting anyone else in the future either

The real problem was that Summers did not show nearly enough deference to the faculty and was at times even “brusque.” Harvard faculty members were unaccustomed to such treatment and so suddenly found themselves to be members of an oppressed and abused proletariat not unlike their brothers and sisters in the mines or working the docks albeit with average annual earnings of over $140,000 which admittedly took some of the sting out of it.

The last straw appeared to be the manner in which Summers handled the resignation of Arts and Sciences Dean William Kirby.  While it was reported that Kirby was not particularly well liked, the faculty was still incensed that he was not handled with more “dignity.” It is not clear all the ways in which this diva-like behavior manifests itself but one does wonder if Harvard professors don’t demand that their classrooms be scented with gardenias before their arrival and be provisioned with fresh figs, three strawberries (all the exact same size or it’s no show!) and organic ginger root with honey.

Summers’ troubles started early in his tenure when he criticized African American professor Cornel West for grade inflation and a lack of serious scholarship. Professor West said that Summers was “messing with the wrong black man” and proved his point by courageously fleeing to Princeton where they have not only promised to send him “Get Well” cards in a timely fashion but plan to play his rap CD at commencement exercises.

Summers also got into trouble when during a discussion on women’s relatively small representation in math and sciences he challenged participants to consider, among other factors, the possibility that there may be differences in “intrinsic aptitude” between the genders. As we all know, universities are no place for the rigorous debate and airing out of unorthodox ideas, particularly if they are unpopular. Instead, universities exist to tirelessly champion the status quo and protect and nurture widely held ideas so that they may flourish and thrive in an environment protected from the many hazards of dissent.

While Summers did not specify what his career plans may be beyond his planned June departure from Harvard, given his extensive experience with fragile egos and hypersensitivity he is well suited for a number of jobs including Mariah Carey’s business manager, the cartoon editor for the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, or coach of the US Olympic Speedskating Team.

None of which we’d wish on anybody.

J.

February 22, 2006 at 01:25 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 21, 2006

beating ak-47s into plowshares

Israeli forces killed notorious Islamic Jihad figure Ahmed Abu Sharik yesterday in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Upon hearing the news, Hamas leader and new Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was furious. “Great, that’s just great,” he complained, “Now what am I supposed to do for a Secretary of Transportation?”

The situation highlights one of the greatest challenges facing Haniyeh as he tries to put together a functioning government following the sweeping electoral victory enjoyed by Hamas, widely regarded by the international community as a terrorist organization.

“The competition for talent is fierce,” observed one Hamas executive recruiter/Islamic warrior “The guys looking for suicide bombers are offering great packages including eternal life with Allah and 72 virgins. What have I got to offer? Flex time and a dental plan?”

The task of governing is an unfamiliar one for Hamas leaders. As one Haniyeh staffer noted, “When you are in power, you are expected to make the buses run on time instead of, you know, placing timers on buses.”

The situation is being exacerbated by a cutoff in funding to the Palestinian authority following the Hamas victory. Countries such as the United States are prohibited by law from providing funding to organizations it identifies as supporting terrorism.

Former President Jimmy Carter has a novel idea for getting around these bothersome restrictions suggesting that the United States send the equal amount of money that would have gone to the Palestinian Authority to the United Nations instead which could then forward that exact same amount on to the Palestinians.

It’s not clear what they call that in Georgia but in the rest of the country it’s called “money laundering.” You can get indicted for that. Even in Texas!

But then, the former President always thought outside of the box such as the clever “wait and see” approach he took to the Iranian hostage crisis. His meticulously planned and executed 444-day strategy for winning the release of the hostages was a resounding success and remains a blueprint for others facing similar circumstances. An example:

Day 169: Do nothing.
Day 170: Do nothing.
Day 171: Crash some helicopters as a "diversionary tactic."
Day 172: Do nothing.
Day 173: Do nothing.

Perhaps most importantly, this sent a message to the world that if you mess with the good ol’ US, we will wait you out with a patience of unimaginable fury during which you will face a thunderous restraint the likes of which the world has never seen.

Going forward, the major point of contention with Hamas leaders will continue to be their refusal to abandon calls for the complete destruction of Israel. “Look,” said one newly elected parliament member, “We ran on two issues, the total annihilation of Israel and all its inhabitants, and zoning reform.”

“But we’re willing to be flexible on the zoning reform.”

J.

February 21, 2006 at 02:06 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 20, 2006

the brokeback mountain effect

The string of awards and critical acclaim being garnered by Brokeback Mountain, a movie chronicling the life and times of two Wyoming cowboys who fall in love, is expected to inspire copycats in the entertainment industry and beyond, all hoping to capitalize on this latest wave of gay chic sweeping the globe:

  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, will reach out to his political opponent, former Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, by noting that he “has eyes you can get lost in.”
  • Denny’s will launch a “Really Big Boy” restaurant chain which will be similar to their more traditional outlets only with tasteful window treatments.
  • Rick Santorum, Republican Senator of Pennsylvania facing a tough reelection campaign will mention during a debate with opponent Bob Casey that he did have “some strange feelings I didn’t understand” towards his bunkmate one year at summer camp and concedes that if he were to spend a long summer in Wyoming alone with Heath Ledger, “who knows what would happen?"
  • Jimmie Johnson’s NASCAR crew chief, suspended from the Daytona 500 for making illegal modifications to Johnson’s car, tries to excuse his actions by asking NASCAR officials, “have you ever been in love so much it hurts?”
  • Orlando Gay Days 2006, fearing a loss of status and exclusivity, begins advertising itself as “so gay, we make Brokeback Mountain look like a Pat Robertson sermon.”

Naturally, there is some backlash expected:

  • Bruce Willis will star in “Straight Shooter” in which he plays Jake Iron, a veteran cop who must come out of retirement after his very hot wife, played by Jessica Simpson, with whom he often has sex, is kidnapped by a criminal team of strippers all of whom he would like to have sex with if he weren’t already having sex with his wife, sometimes while simultaneously watching sports on TV.
  • iHOP redecorates its restaurants purposely mixing no fewer than eighteen different patterns of plaid.
  • Montana adopts a new state motto: “We’re on top of  Wyoming, just not in that way.”
  • Senate Democrat Blanche Lincoln will expand her legislative attack on Internet pornography to target gay porn as well. 
  • Republicans promise to forward to her “all the really good links.”

J.

February 20, 2006 at 01:34 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 18, 2006

the early greeks probably didn’t do much ice dancing. well, except maybe for the spartans

If you are like most people, when you turn on the TV and happen upon the Winter Olympics, witnessing the majesty of athleticism, the nobility of competition, and the lyrical quality of the world’s best pushing the very limits of human capacity you can’t help but wonder to yourself, “Wait, are these still on? Where the heck is ‘Deal or No Deal?’”

The problem with the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer Olympics (also known as “the real” Olympics) is that there is very little variety in the sports offered.

Summer Olympics:
Running
Jumping
Swinging
Hitting
Lifting
Rowing
Swimming
Throwing
Fighting

Winter Olympics:
Sliding

And while the Winter Olympics do have one competition that involves some shooting, the Summer Olympics provide enough weaponry to supply a Hamas town meeting, with not only shooting but sword fighting, bows and arrows, and events that involve throwing hammers, spears and iron balls.

We did make an aborted attempt to live blog the Winter Olympics earlier in the week:

8:33:23 PM: Swedish guy is starting down the slopes.
8:33:34 PM:
Look at him go.
8:33:47 PM: You know, I think he might be Norwegian.
8:33:53 PM: No, no, he’s Swedish.
8:34:12 PM: This guy is fast.
8:34:27 PM: Look at him go.
8:34:35 PM: Going faster.
8:34:43 PM: Hey, check it out, the History Channel is showing “Paper Products of the Third Reich: Nazi Napkins.”

Okay, so at a minimum we know that the Olympics are more suited to a visual medium.

And there have been controversies, from Lindsey Jacobellis apparently deciding that silver would complement her eyes better than gold to Bode Miller behaving like he’s more interested in picking up a Jägermeister endorsement than keeping his Nike one .

The Olympics are also curious in that TV networks pay exorbitant amounts of money to televise sports no one cares about, kind of the television equivalent of supporting Dennis Kucinich for President. We don’t have precise data for this, but we’d guess the TV ratings for the luge in non-Olympic years fall somewhere between community access cable programming (“Zoning Setback Abatements and You”) and Martha Stewart’s Apprentice.

This is a shame because while these competitions don’t attract the viewership of baseball or football, they are amazing. Consider the skeleton in which competitors slide down an icy banked course head first on a tiny sled at speeds exceeding 120 mph. On the manliness scale this makes golfing look like, well, okay golfing, but you know what we mean.

Even curling is manly. Think marbles, only you play on a sheet of ice with blocks of granite weighing 42 pounds. It’s like playing tiddlywinks with manhole covers.

And you’ve got to respect that.

J.

February 18, 2006 at 11:47 PM in Sports | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

we also hear syria is a “real contender” for a dod it systems integration contract

Some members of Congress are questioning the wisdom of turning over the operation of six major U.S. ports, considered potential key targets for terrorists, to Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), charged with reviewing the deal, defended their decision noting that the previous British operator of the ports was foreign as well and no one objected to that. “Maybe you’re forgetting a little something called The Revolutionary War?” asked one committee member close to the decision. “What was that, post-1776 thinking?

“And if memory serves, if you ask everyone who ever burned down the White House to take one step forward, guess who stays in line, okay? We did research, this decision is bulletproof.”

Stewart A. Baker, the assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security notes that there really is nothing to worry about since the new operator “will be obliged to have a port security plan that we will review," making our first line of defense in the war against terror the nearly impregnable bulwarks of the almighty PowerPoint presentation. Baker provided further assurances by pointing out that even if there is a problem with complying with security regulations, the United States is “not completely lacking in ability to respond to that." If we were completely lacking, well, then the criticism might be understandable. Otherwise, sleep tight.

Administration officials pointed out that the United Arab Emirates has been a close friend of the United States. Sure, they acted as an important transfer point for nuclear components on their way to Iran, North Korea and Libya and served as an operational and financial base for the 9/11 hijackers, but as one staffer for the CFIUS asked, “Why you always bringing up old stuff?”

This open-minded, “inclusive” approach to national security creates many other possibilities for sales and foreign investments. Perhaps we could turn over our Air Traffic Control System to Saudi Arabian Airlines:

Controller: United one-niner-five, this is LaGuardia control, you are clear for approach to the twentieth-floor lobby of the MetLife building.
Pilot: Um, okay, copy.
Controller: Copy that, praise Allah.

Wal-Mart could also make use of this untapped labor force (attractive for their notable lack of interest in health benefits):

Greeter: “Welcome to Wal-Mart filthy infidel, don’t forget to check out our wide selection of DVDs profaning the Prophet Mohammed, peace be unto him.”
Customer: “Where are the gummy bears?”

Supporters of the deal dismiss such fear mongering pointing out again that the United Arab Emirates has a government that has long been supportive of the US.

And it’s not like that could ever change.

J.

February 17, 2006 at 12:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 16, 2006

transcript from yesterday’s white house press briefing

Scott McClellan: Good morning everyone, I’d just like to start with providing you an update on the President’s schedule for when we get back from Ohio. On the top we've got the signing of the Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Conforming Amendments Act of 2005…

David Gregory: Scott, when did you know about this?
McClellan: Um, I don't know, I guess maybe sometime between 7:00 and 7:30.
Gregory: And we’re only finding out about this now?
McClellan: I’m sorry, what?
Gregory: Whose decision was it to keep the White House Press Corps in the dark  for two, no, nearly three hours, about this, and I'm using your words here, “signing.”
McClellan: Nobody decided to keep anyone…
Gregory: Did you tell the affairs scheduler at the White House?
McClellan: Well, sure, I…
Gregory: So what you are saying is that you felt it was more important to notify the scheduler at the White House of this, but not the American people.
McClellan: Well, I…
Gregory: And by “American people” I mean “me.”

Gregory (turning towards camera): Is this episode emblematic of a White House paralyzed by its own perceived need for secrecy or merely another example indicative of the all-too-common difficulties experienced by…
McClellan: David, this is a press conference, not the NBC Nightly News.
Gregory: Fine, so where exactly will this signing, which we are finding out about only now, be taking place?
McClellan: It will be taking place at the White House.
Gregory: Scott, you’re not answering the question.
McClellan: I’m not?
Gregory: No, when I ask you a direct question, I expect a direct answer.
McClellan: Well, I thought I gave you a…
Gregory: You are not answering my question, just answer the question…
McClellan: I thought I…
Gregory: Scott, I wasn’t done talking.
McClellan: I’m sorry, I…
Gregory: ...Just answer the question…

Okay, now I’m done.

Norah O’Donnell: Good, maybe the rest of us can get a few questions in here now.
Gregory: Norah, baby, I know it must be tough, this unrequited love you have for me.
O’Donnell: What?!
Gregory: I understand what it’s like to have this all-consuming passion, in fact, I feel the exact same way about me.
O’Donnell: Oh, you are really something el…
Gregory: Of course, in my case, it isn’t exactly “unrequited” if you know what I mean.
O’Donnell: That’s disgust…
Gregory: There’s no “me time” quite like “Gregory time.”
O’Donnell: Not every woman in here desires you, you know.
Gregory: I know, some of the men do to.
Jeff Gannon: He does have a point.
O’Donnell: Who let you back in here?

McClellan: Does anybody have any questions about the Iranian nuclear enrichment crisis?
Gregory: The whatchit whosit now?
McClellan: The crisis involving Iran’s move to begin enriching uranium, a critical step in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Gregory: Did Dick Cheney accidentally shoot someone in Iran?
McClellan: What? No!
Gregory: So you are going to stand on that podium and categorically deny that Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United States, did not shoot anyone in Iran
McClellan: Of course he didn’t.
Gregory: And we’re only finding out about this now?...

J.

February 16, 2006 at 12:57 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack