Archive for the ‘Tucson Shootings’ Category

Tucson Shootings

Tucson Shootings Response

In early January Jared Loughner shot 19 people in the city of Tucson, Arizona, killing six and wounding 13. Loughner killed U.S. District Judge John Roll, as well as gravely injured Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the shootings. Because the alleged target of Loughner’s attack was Giffords, some have voiced the opinion that Loughner should be labeled a “terrorist”. This question has been debated amongst many in recent weeks.

According to the Belgium Red Cross, a terrorist act is committed “for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destablishing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country or of an international organization”. Giffords and Roll may fit the type of targets in a terrorist act, but Loughner’s objectives were seemingly not to “fight for independence, fight against corporate regimes, or to secure a dictatorship”. However, we do not fully know the reasons behind Loughner’s rampage. It was initially reported that Loughner had targeted Giffords, but his reasons for doing so have not been confirmed. Because of this, I do not believe we can assign Loughner with the “terrorist” label until the investigation is complete.

An important factor in this case is Loughner’s mental illness. Investigations by the Pima County Sheriff Department show that Loughner is believed to have metal issues dating back to the beginning of high school. He was suspended from Pima Community College after complaints of inappropriate behavior, according to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (Frantz). Loughner’s behavior can be partially attributed to these mental problems, rather than him shooting 19 innocent people because of a specific ideology. This appears to be a case of a severely mentally ill young man rather than a terrorist act. The key fact is that Loughner acted alone, on his own behalf with no ideology backing his shootings. According to an article by the New York Times, “investigators are ‘100 percent’ certain that Mr. Loughner did not have an accomplice, and while they continue to investigate his “online associations,” they see no obvious connection between the suspect and political extremists”.

Loughner was indicted by a federal jury on January 19 on counts of the attempted murder of Giffords and her aides, Pat Simon and Ron Barber. According to the Arizona Republic, this is only the “beginning of the legal action being taken against Loughner” (Keifer). Loughner faces many more charges, including the murder of Judge John Roll and Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman. He could face the death penalty because of the murder of Roll, a federal judge. However, Loughner has not had any counts of domestic terrorism brought against him as of yet. He plead not guilty to the charges on January 24.

I discussed the issue with one on my pen pals, Emily Flanigan. She has working in El Salvador for over a year now as a member of the Peace Corps. Emily disagreed with me. She felt that Loughner’s actions made him a terrorist.

“The Tucson Shooting was a tragic incident and I believe that Jared Loughner can be considered a terrorist. I have read a few articles online that call him a homegrown terrorist and I think that term is fitting. He may not fit the typical profile of terrorists that we have become familiar with but his actions have made him one. He targeted Gabrielle Giffords, a United States congresswoman. Police have also recently released some of their findings regarding Loughner’s background. They have found videos of him burning the American flag, calling for a new government, and denouncing US currency. He may not have had a backing, but, to me, all of these things make Loughner is a terrorist.”

I think Emily brought up some very interesting points that made me think a lot deeper about the issue, but I still do not believe Loughner is a terrorist. Ultimately, I agreed with some of what Emily said but we have different definitions of the word terrorist. I think the fact that there is no universal definition of terrorism have made the situation with Loughner particularly hard to define.

In the long run, unless investigators can prove that Loughner had the motives behind a terrorist act or was acting on the behalf of a specific ideology, then we cannot call him a terrorist. No matter how heinous, not every act of extreme violence should be considered an act of terrorism. We need to be extremely careful when labeling people as “terrorists”.

Works Cited

Fedi, Namuezi, Laurelia Nootens, Vincent Vandendriessche, and Frederic Casier. Terrorism? Belgian Red Cross. Print.

Flanigan, Emily. Message to author.  7 March 2011. Email.

Frantz, Ashley and Emanuella Grinberg. “Jared Loughner’s Background Reveals Series of Warning Signs.” This Just In – CNN.com Blogs.” This Just In – CNN.com Blogs. Web. 13 Jan. 2011. <http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/jared-loughners-background-reveals-series-of-warning-signs/>.

Kiefer, Michael. “Federal Grand Jury Indicts Loughner in Giffords Shooting.” Arizona Local News – Phoenix Arizona News – Phoenix Breaking News – Azcentral.com. Web. 20 Jan. 2011. <http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/01/19/20110119giffords-shooting-loughner-federal-grand-jury-charges.html>.

The New York Times. “Jared Lee Loughner Index”. 24 January 2011.< http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/jared_lee_loughner/index.html>.

“Labelers and Labels: Why Do We Care?

I find myself rather frustrated lately with the world’s obsessive necessity with labels and their inconsistent application. In my humble opinion, labels are simply a means for the “Labelers” to convince others to accept and believe their manipulative perspective and opinion and to create a pecking order most beneficial to “Them”.

Which leads me to my current soapbox – Tucson Mass Murder Jared Loughner versus Dearborn Mosque M-80s Roger Stockham.

Here is a brief synopsis of each event:

TUCSON MASS MURDER JARED LOUGHNER


On January 8th, 2011, at approximately ten o’clock in the morning, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner approached United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords during a public political event in Tucson, Arizona. It was at that time, Loughner shot and critically injured Congresswoman Giffords and indiscriminately shot citizens gathered to meet her. Loughner discharged approximately 31 rounds in 15 seconds, killing six and wounding 13 (Washington Post).

It was later revealed that Loughner had a personal YouTube channel where he posted miscellaneous entries reflecting his discontent with the current government and policies. In one particularly interesting posting, Loughner defines “terrorist” as “a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.” Loughner labeled himself a terrorist.

It should be noted that Jared Lee Loughner had a few minor criminal infractions prior to this event.

Please see my January 31, 2011 post “Terrorist or Lunatic With a Gun”.

DEARBORN MOSQUE M-80 ROGER STOCKHAM


On January 31, 2011, 63-year-old Roger Stockham was arrested outside a Dearborn, Michigan mosque with explosives in his car with the intent to blow up the mosque. The explosives were identified as class C-fireworks, to include M-80s. According to Fox News, Stockham was charged with 1 count of possession of explosives with unlawful attempt and 1 count of making a false report or threat of terrorism. No one was injured and Stockham was taken into custody without incident.

It was later revealed that on January 31, 2011, at an unknown time, Stockham entered J.S. Fields bar in Dearborn and proclaimed to be a “mujahideen.” A mujahideen is an individual who is a Muslim fighter doing jihad or struggle (Examiner, 2011).

It should be noted that Roger Stockham has a long history of threats and criminal infractions prior to this event.

  1. Stockham plead not guilty by reason of insanity after being arrested in 2002 for threatening then President G. W. Bush. Roger Stockham spent approximately 1 year in the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (Detroit News, 2011).
  2. On September 1, 1979, The Merced Sun-Star, described Roger Stockham as a Muslim convert who attempted to hijack an airliner from Los Angeles to Iran (Bill Warner Sarasota, 2011)

Two separate events, two different perpetrators acquiring two different labels. Jared Loughner is labeled a lunatic with a gun while Roger Stockham is labeled a terrorist. Why?

Now, if the United States defines domestic terrorism as any activity that violates any state or federal criminal code that endangers human life, which intimidates a civilian population with the intent to influence the policy of a government or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping (Cornell Law School, n.d.), how do the acts of Roger Stockham fit these elements?

Well, fireworks can endanger human life and proclaiming to be a Muslim fighter doing jihad in today’s atmosphere can be intimidating to most civilians. Yet, how does his actions influence governmental policy or affect the conduct of a government? I cannot find nor see any indications of such. Where as, Jared Loughner intentionally attempted to assassinate a US Congresswoman and slaughter her political supporters at a political function, sufficiently terrorizing citizens and affecting the conduct of government.

As a retired law enforcement officer, my training and experience compels me to believe that Roger Stockham’s actions fulfill the criminal elements of a hate crime more than domestic terrorism. A hate crime is defined by a 1994 federal law, Public Law #103-322A, which states the following: “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person” (Religious Tolerance, 2011).

Based on their legal definitions and the world’s obsessive necessity with labels, how would you, the reader, label these men – terrorist or the perpetrator of a hate crime?

I dare to say Roger Stockham’s reported history as a converted Muslim and his intended target being a Muslim mosque influenced his acts to be labeled “terrorism.”  This, of course, is mostly due to the fact that the world ignorantly and erroneously equates anything “Muslim” with terrorism and the extreme politically correct sensitivity of today’s day and age. In addition to this, “Labelers” fearfully reminding American citizens that the “war on terror” must continue at home and abroad in order to eradicate Muslim extremists.

I surmise labels are used to manipulate the masses into accepting the perceptions and opinions of the “Labelers.” Jared Loughner, by legal definition, committed an act of domestic terrorism and therefore, is a terrorist. Roger Stockham, on the other hand, committed acts that fall within the hate crime category and therefore, is an anti-religion (Muslim) hate criminal. As clear as this may be, the “Labelers” want to convince us otherwise.

With this said, we must remember the most important element of all – in the end, regardless of the label applied, the end result is still the same – a crime is a crime is a crime.

Works cited:

Nakamura, D., Horwitz, S., Hedgpeth, D. (2011, January 19) In videos, details of shooting emerge. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://wapo.st/eee7uj

Robinson, B. A. (2009, July 22) U.S. hate crimes: Definitions; State/federal laws. Religious Tolerance. Retrieved from http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_hat3.htm

Sarasota, B. W. (2011) blog retrieved from http://pibillwarner.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/viet-nam-vet-roger-stockham-arrested-in-attempt-to-blow-up-the-islamic-center-of-america-mosque-in-dearborn-the-biggest-mosque-in-the-detroit-area/

Staff. (2011, January 31). Explosives expert: Fireworks in Dearborn mosque plot were ‘enough to be lethal. Detroit News. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/hLVpWm

Staff. (2011, January 31). Calif. Man accused in plot on Michigan Mosque. Fox News. Retrieved from http://fxn.ws/hCUlc3

Taylor-Bonds, D. (2011, February 1). Man who tried to blow up mosque has history of threatening President Bush. Examiner. Retrieved from http://exm.nr/eHAoRT

Was The Tucson Tragedy Terrorism?

Was The Tucson Tragedy Terrorism?

The events that happened in Tucson were one of the moments in your life, where you can ask, “Where were you when…?” Everyone has been asked “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” or more recently, “Where were you when you found out Michael Jackson died?” The Tucson shooting brought up the question, “Where were you when Rep. Giffords was shot?” The events in Tucson were very tragic. But, was not an act of terrorism. The shooter in Tucson, as far as we know had no political ties to any organization, did not have an ties to any terrorist organizations, and was not charged with any terrorist acts in court.

Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman in the deadly Tucson shootings is not a terrorist. He is an American citizen who just went down the wrong path, a path that he has been going down for years. His path was not lead by any political affiliation that we are aware of. On CNN.com it states. “Accused Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner was not registered to any political party, and in fact hand wrote ‘independent’ on two separate voter forms, county officials said” (Accused Gunman Had No Party Affiliation). Many people in the media were really looking for Loughner to be part of a political party and he is not. It is unfair to call this an act of political terrorism.

Loughner is not known to have any ties to any terrorist groups. All we know, from what the media has told us, is that he has had a troubled life. Loughner had been kicked out of college, dropped out of high school, and was not admitted to the military because he failed his drug test. There has been many questions around the internet and also including from myself, why isn’t Jared Lee Loughner a “home-grown terrorist”? I believe he is not labeled a home-grown terrorist because everything I mentioned above. He has a record of a troubled life, not necessary a criminal record but a mentally unstable life. I believe that the American Government should take blame for not seeing the direction Loughner’s life was going and for not taking action. Loughner is mentally unstable and acted on his thoughts, and the events in Tucson are an example of that.

If you want to call someone a terrorist you have to charge the person with terrorist acts in the court of law. Loughner will be charged with, “attempting to assassinate Giffords, two counts of attempting to murder her aides, killing District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman. If indicted in those killings he would face the death penalty” (Loughner is Indicted in Tucson Rampage). Loughner is not being charged with an acts of terrorism. Jared Lee Loughner is not a terrorist, but rather, an individual in America who did not get the proper mental health treatment, and acted on what he thought was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, there are many more people out there in America who think some of the crazy thoughts Loughner felt on the morning of the Tucson shooting. We cannot convict every single “crazy person” as being a terrorist.

All in all, the Tucson shootings are something that almost every American will remember vividly in their minds for the rest of their lives. But, this again was not an act of terrorism but rather an individual who had a very unstable life and did something that he probably thought would “benefit” the community in someway.

Terrorist or Lunatic With a Gun

On January 8th, 2011, at approximately ten o’clock in the morning, alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner approached United States Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) during a public political event held at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona. At that time, Loughner shot Congresswoman Giffords in the head. Then Loughner turned his weapon on several citizens standing in a line to meet Giffords and indiscriminately shot them. According to the Washington Post, Loughner allegedly discharged approximately 31 rounds in 15 seconds, killing six and wounding 13 people before witnesses tackled him to the ground.

The alleged actions of Jared Lee Loughner created a political windstorm in regards to gun laws, mental health care and political rhetoric accountability and responsibility. Yet, nagging questions still linger; why did Loughner do it? Is he a terrorist or just a lunatic with a gun? With all of this in mind, it begs the question; was the Tucson shooting an act of domestic terrorism or the acts of an emotionally disturbed person?

In order to assume the appropriate socially required label for this event, several key components must be examined. First, Loughner’s mental culpability (mens rea) has to be considered. Mental culpability refers to the mindset of the individual perpetrating the act –whether he or she knowingly, intentionally, negligently or recklessly commits a crime.

According to the timeline released by authorities, the night before and the morning of the shooting, Loughner was busy. He dropped off film at a Walgreens and checked himself into a Motel 6. He posted a statement on Myspace telling his friends not to hate him and eventually made his way to a Wal-Mart, at which time he purchased ammunition and a black bag (Nakamura, Horwitz, Hedgpeth, 2011).

Shortly thereafter, Jared Loughner summoned a taxicab that picked him up at a Circle K and drove him to the Safeway. Upon arrival, the taxi driver and Loughner enter the Safeway together, at approximately 09:54 am, in order for Loughner to break a $20.00 bill to cover his taxi fare (Nakamura, et al., 2011).

The Washington Post reported that Loughner was seen in security videos exiting the store and intentionally circling back around towards Congresswoman Giffords’ public event. The security video showed how Loughner quickly approached Giffords with the firearm in his hand next to his leg. Loughner knowingly raised the firearm and shot Giffords in the face, just above the left eye, from less than 3 feet away. After which, Loughner turned his firearm on the attendees and intentionally shot them until he was subdued, by witnesses, while attempting to re-load his firearm (Nakamura, Horwitz, Markon, 2011)

The image conjured up by the published timeline is that of a calculated and premeditated act of violence, not the crazed psychotic lone gunman on the brink of a mental collapse first reported. It is, of course, important to consider Loughner’s “bizarre” behavior months, if not years, before this event. However, Loughner’s behavior, actions and decisions the night before and the morning of the shooting indicate that his mental culpability was knowingly and intentionally to commit this crime.

It should be noted: on 01/19/2011, ABC News created a virtual re-enactment video depicting Loughner’s deliberate actions during his shooting rampage. The video was constructed from the images captured by several security cameras in the immediate area: Jared Lee Loughner Surveillance Re-Enactment in Virtual Reality 1/19/2011 .

Secondly, in order to label an act an act of “domestic terrorism”, it is imperative to know the legal definition of “domestic terrorism.” According to the United States Criminal Code: Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 113B, Section 2331 defines the term “domestic terrorism” to mean activities that:

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended
(1) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(2) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(3) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States (Cornell Law School, n.d.).

The first element required is an act dangerous to human life in violation of federal or state law. Jared Loughner allegedly shot 19 people, in which 6 were killed, thus fulfilling the first required element.

Next, the act appears to be intended to influence government policy by intimidation. The act of an attempted assassination of a US Congresswoman is, in itself an intimidating act. Furthermore, Loughner’s self published rhetoric regarding how US currency is not legitimate, he will be the treasurer of a new currency, how words have no meaning, rants about the US government’s involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks, as well as how the US government was trying to trick him (New York Times, 2011) reflects discontent with the current government policy and wanting change.

Additionally, on Loughner’s personal youtube channel he declares “I define [a] terrorist”. He writes: “…a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.” This “self-determined” declaration increases the probability that the shooting rampage was a premeditated act.

The third element, to affect the conduct of a government by assassination is not a required element, but simply an additional category for an act to fall within. In this incident, Loughner’s attempted assassination of Giffords is self-explanatory and all “normal” political conduct came to an abrupt halt directly after the incident. Lastly, the act took place on US soil.

In the final analysis, Loughner’s actions indicate that he knowingly and intentionally shot US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the additional 18 victims. This act exudes a warped perversion of political ideology and motivation.

Also, according to the United States Criminal Code’s definition of “domestic terrorism”, this act fulfilled the required elements to be labeled “domestic terrorism.” Therefore, based on the totality of the circumstances and the known facts surrounding this case at the time of writing, Jared Lee Loughner is a terrorist and is responsible for committing an act of “domestic terrorism” in Tucson, Arizona.

References

ABC News. (2011, January 19) Jared lee loughner surveillance re-enactment in virtual reality. ABC News. Retrieved fromhttp://youtu.be/C4oZQxtSBow

Cornell University Law School. (n.d.) Title 18: Legal information institute. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00002331—-000-.html

Nakamura, D., Horwitz, S., Hedgpeth, D. (2011, January 19) In videos, details of shooting emerge. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/18/AR2011011806483.html

Nakamura, D., Horwitz, S., Markon, J. (2011, January 15) Police depict a busy, focused loughner on morning of shooting. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/14/AR2011011404927.html

New York Times. (2011, January 19) Jared Lee Loughner. New York Times. Retrieved from http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/jared_lee_loughner/index.html?scp=2&sq=loughner%20postings&st=cse

Terrorism: by nature or by press?

The word “terrorism” conjures up sentiment beyond its dictionary definition. In his article “The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism,” David Cole argues that the war on terror allows the government “simultaneously to repeat history and to insist that it is not repeating history,” bringing about panic akin to that of the Red Scare (Cole 1). However, government does not hold this power exclusively. Without even uttering the term, news media can produce terrorist scares. When treated inappropriately by leaders of the public sphere, any event evokes sentiments of panic and fear— from act of terror to isolated tragedy. Before news coverage and government response, the Tucson shootings may have just been the latter. But news and government transformed tragedy into terror.

In order to decide whether Jared Loughner’s actions alone qualify as an act of terrorism, one must first define the term. According to Title 18 of the US Code on the Cornell University Law School website, “the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States

This definition makes Jared Loughner a terrorist. Shooting and killing a judge endangers life, breaks criminal laws, and affects government. But any shooting could satisfy those criteria because most violence “intimidate[s]… a civilian population.” Perhaps the US Code’s definition is too vague.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation calls terrorism “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Federal Bureau of Investigation) European states say that terrorism is a “specific offence… that may seriously damage a country… and is committed for the purpose of intimidating the population, forcing a third party to act or destabilizing or destroying the fundamental structures of a country…” (Terrorism handout) Loughner might be a terrorist under this definition, but to know, we would have to be him. While court cases can reach a formal ruling about whether or not an act falls under this definition, one’s true motives remain forever unsubstantiated. A definition contingent upon a person’s purpose for acting fails to define much. Of course, killing thousands and publicly announcing the intent to destabilize isn’t too vague—one can make some safe assumptions. But these definitions do little to address smaller crimes.

Definitions agreed upon by states function only for large acts of terror because large acts of terror are what the states writing these definitions have in mind. The definitions’ lack of clarity implicitly reveals that before even defining terrorism on paper, states have begun to define it internally— as something enormous. While terrorism intimidates the population, the idea of terrorism intimidates the officials who define it. This menacing conception doesn’t originate solely with government officials. It rises also from the media, feeding and feeding upon itself, fulfilling its definition every time the news implicitly defines it.

Ominous intro music, a somber or outraged tone of voice, and bold text accompany news reports about terrorism. Phrases like “war on terror” and “radical Islamic extremism” alert the audience that terror is a very real threat. Visual and verbal tactics combined attempt to scare viewers . As much as the day’s events compose the front page of the paper, the front page of the paper composes the day’s events—at least in the audience’s mind. A crime as minor as domestic assault might garner a few shaking heads, or it might intimidate an entire neighborhood and thus become terrorism under US code, depending upon how the neighbors hear about it.

Was the shooting in Tucson an act of terrorism? It was when Jan Brewer wanted America to see her as Arizona’s bold yet tactful leader, even in the face of the “tragedy and terror” (Full text…). It was when reporters, eager to get the story first, mistakenly pronounced Gabrielle Giffords dead It was when news zoomed slowly in on Loughner’s YouTube page , captivating viewers, but unsettling them as well. For the most part, the media did not include the term “terrorism” in reports of the incident, perhaps because it occurred in isolation. Yet, if Loughner had a support network or better logistics, his sentiment would still present a threat. Would the media then refer to him as a terrorist? Does capability qualify actions as terrorism? If so, government and media assist Loughner in becoming a terrorist because without their response and reporting, his actions would only have unnerved those in the Safeway parking lot. Terror depends on those who tell of it. Politicians, entertainers, and reporters all play a critical role in knowledge production for the general public. Thus, in the absence of a universal definition, terrorism is whichever crime those in the public eye use to grab attention.

Works Cited

Cole, D. 2003. The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism. Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 74. 19 January 2011.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2005. Terrorism: 2002-2005. Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. 26 January 2011.

2011. Full text of Gov. Jan Brewer’s State of the State address. AZ Capitol Times.com. 20 January 2011.

2010. United States Code. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B, § 2331. 19 January 2011.

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Terrorism and the Press

This blog is an integral part of a special section of Honors 394 Spring 2010, Arizona State University. Rather than a routine history course this dynamic, interactive seminar explores the interplay between terrorism and television, and other media sources on-line and in print. 26 students and their global pen pals comprise the bloggers. We welcome all to share their opinions, pertinent observations, insights, comments, feedback. Please post in a responsible manner.