fossil fuels

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The Shadow Bank That Owns The World

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/07/2022 - 3:32am in

Who owns the world? Well, I’m about to tell you – And no, it’s not Oprah.

Now I’m going to drag out the suspense of who owns the world for this entire – BLACKROCK! It’s BlackRock! (Damn it… Should’ve dragged it out longer.)

BlackRock is the largest asset management firm on the planet. It’s essentially a shadow bank. And I don’t know what a shadow bank is other than what my uncle would always say the Greek guy at his construction job had. (Seemed vaguely racist but I couldn’t put my finger on it.)

BlackRock is enormous! However big you’re picturing, multiply it by the size of, like, a Toyota Sequoia. …Side note: why are giant SUV monster trucks always named after the thing they kill? Your dumbest friend is always like, “Yeah, I own a Nissan Polar Bear. But I’m thinkin’ of tradin’ it in for the Chevy Our Grandchildren’s Future. It has 18 cup holders and two cub holders for any bear cubs you run over with it.”

BlackRock literally has more assets than the gross domestic products (GDP) of every single country except China and the U.S. So picture India with their 1.4 billion people. BlackRock has more than their annual GDP! It’s ridiculous. BlackRock holds somewhere around 9 trillion dollars. That’s a tenth of the whole world’s yearly economic activity.

Here, this will put it in perspective. If you make $60,000 a year (after taxes), then you’re doin’ pretty well. But in order to grab up $9 trillion, you’d need to work for 150 million years. You’d have to work for the entire length of the existence of the dinosaurs. (And that’s if your stegosaurus boss paid you on time, which, you know how they are.)

And BlackRock is by far the biggest wealth fund or shadow bank in the world. “The grand total of the sovereign wealth funds managed by over 91 such funds across the world is projected to be worth approximately 8.2 Trillion US Dollars.” That’s right, 91 other such funds don’t have as much as BlackRock has.

So what do they do with all this money? I’ll tell you what – they own everything. But especially horrible shit. They’re like that friend you have who always goes, “Man, if you get a prostitute, I’ll pay for it. Seriously.” But that guy’s not offering to pick up the tab for your kid’s daycare. No way. They don’t care about that.

BlackRock is a huge investor in oil and they hold $85 billion in coal despite their pledge to sell fossil fuel shares. About that pledge – BlackRock’s CEO and founder, Larry Fink – yes, his name in the dictionary literally means “an unpleasant or contemptible person.” (We’re living in a stupid simulation, and it’s not even trying to hide it anymore. The next president will be named Daniel Yourfucked and we’re supposed to keep acting like everything’s fine?!)

In a public statement, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink announced that he would begin holding the companies they invest in accountable for being responsible corporate citizens.

A responsible corporate citizen? That doesn’t even make sense. That’s like a fun STD.

But even so, that statement by Fink made some of BlackRock’s investments – companies that do things like pump fossil fuels to destroy the planet – nervous. They thought, “Oh shit. BlackRock might start funding good stuff, like electric public transportation, free community health centers, or bringing back Beanie Babies™. Everybody loves Beanie Babies™.

So BlackRock then wanted to reassure everyone they aren’t actually changing. They wrote a letter stressing their commitment to destroying our future. “In the letter, BlackRock reported… its investment in fossil fuel companies totaled $259 billion globally… [proudly touting] that it is ‘perhaps the world’s largest investor in fossil fuel companies.’”

For the rest of this analysis of the people who own the world, please watch the full video above.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines’ new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

The post The Shadow Bank That Owns The World appeared first on MintPress News.

Economic Growth Takes a Bite out of Fishing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/07/2022 - 2:12am in
by Stephen Coghlan

“A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work,” proclaimeth bumper stickers throughout my neck of the woods in central Maine. No disagreement here! For humans, fishing is fun and mentally and physically stimulating. Fishing also engenders respect for nature, relieves stress, and sometimes provides a tasty meal; though not so much for the fish.

Man holding a small fish up to the camera.

Hardly a lunker, but “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”

Fishing is deeply embedded in American culture, in part due to public-trust doctrine of wildlife management, legacy of subsistence fishing by poor rural folk, and postwar economic growth and widespread affluence allowing suburbanites and city-slickers the means to enjoy nature. But that economic growth has degraded and threatens to destroy many freshwater fish and recreational fishing opportunities for current and future generations.

Freshwater fish are some of the most imperiled biota in the world. Threats vary by species and location, act synergistically, operate through many pathways, and include overfishing, deforestation, pollution, damming, irrigation, exotic species, habitat loss, and climate heating. But all of these are merely symptoms of the ultimate cause: overshoot.

Empowered by fossil energy, lubricated by debt-based money, and justified by faith-based economics, the human ecological footprint has grown beyond planetary carrying capacity;  we’re depleting resources faster than can be replenished, producing waste faster than can be assimilated, and destroying biodiversity faster than it can evolve. The global economy acts as a mindless, self-organizing, energy-hungry amoeba designed to grow, incapable of recognizing any limits. We’re incessantly turning nature into more of us, our things, and our effluents, leaving less nature for future generations and other species.

Ramblings of a Middle-Aged Fish-Squeezer

Most of my adult life has revolved around studying and catching freshwater fish, but I didn’t grow up in a “fishing family.” My maternal grandfather grew up dirt-poor on a farm in Central New York during the Great Depression and did his share of sustenance fishing and hunting. This was about 40 years after the worlds’ largest population of landlocked Atlantic Salmon was driven to extinction in his backyard and Onondaga Lake was well on its way to becoming the most polluted lake in North America, but about 30 years before PCB contamination made fish in Skaneateles Creek unsafe to eat for generations. Grandpa sat me in his lap and read from Field and Stream and taught me about local fish and wildlife, recounting stories of monster brown trout in North Brook. Fascinating, but I was content with armchair natural history.

Onondaga Lake in New York

Onondaga Lake in New York State: a place to fish, if not healthily. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, NYS DEC)

My father wasn’t outdoorsy, but he enjoyed rural Cape Cod in the early 1960s (before urban sprawl and tourism chewed up forests, fields, marshes, and beaches), when alewife ran so thick he could catch a mess in an old hubcap. When I was about five, Dad took me fishing twice, once at Owasco Lake (long before septic tank runoff and toxic algae closed beaches) and once in Crane Brook behind the brand-new Finger Lakes Mall (which sparked more sprawl into surrounding countryside, destroyed local businesses, and now is a ghost town anchored by a fizzling Bass Pro). Catching rock bass on worm-and-bobber was fun, but Star Wars was more interesting.

Later, a family friend introduced me to angling for lake-run rainbow trout and dip netting for rainbow smelt. Back then, “No Trespassing” signs were scarce, April 1st was cold and snowy, and a piece of orange sponge soaked in tuna oil was magic. Tiny streams literally “ran black” with smelt and you could catch your limit five-gallon-bucketful in a few minutes.

Something stirred within me. I bought a cheap rod, practiced my casting, tied crude flies with fur from my Shepard-Husky mix, Sam, and bided my time until I could drive. I spent many mornings on Dutch Hollow Creek as the bus delivered kids to high school without me. I sought help from a local fly shop (eventually driven under by Bass Pro) and the owner, Mike, was patient and generous. I fished hard but rarely caught, and wondered if trout even existed. Mike assured me they did; he had pictures to prove it.

One gorgeous fall day, I happened upon a spawning pod of lake-run brown trout in Mill Creek and watched with fascination as males fought, females dug, jaws gaped, bodies quivered, and gametes spilled. I had an epiphany, knowing I must spend my life studying these creatures and eventually catch some. College friends and professors helped immensely. Twenty years later I’ve caught a few fish and squeezed a few more, but the more I learn and experience, the less confident I am that recreational fishing has much of a future.

Economic Growth: No More Fish Stories

Recall those fish-threatening “proximate causes” that arise from economic growth. Many of these threats contribute to economic growth: clearcutting a watershed for lumber, damming rivers to generate hydroelectricity, dumping toxins in rivers to increase profits. Let’s consider some of the biological and ecological impacts, using examples from New York and northern New England, my home range as ecologist and angler. We’ll focus on a few popular “sport fishes” that I happen to value: salmonines (the salmonids comprising trout, salmon, and char) and panfish (sunfish, bass, perch, etc.). I do, however, realize that this distinction of “value” is laden with Euro-centric cultural biases; so, apologies to my Indigenous friends.

Atlantic Salmon cannot tolerate a large and expanding human footprint, and most salmonines are just as sensitive. Sea-run and landlocked Salmon were native to Northeastern USA before European invasion, as were brook trout, lake trout, and Arctic chars. Rainbow and brown trout were and are introduced widely, and some have become naturalized. Hatchery and naturalized coho and chinook salmon exist in Lake Ontario. We can generalize that most or all salmonids are intolerant of heat, low oxygen, and toxins. They also require clean, cold water, express complex life-histories, and need access to diverse habitats. Lastly, they evolved in forested watersheds with seasonally-reliable temperature and flow regimes.

Links between economic growth and salmonine declines are clear. Sea-run Atlantic salmon once swam up the Penobscot River in hundreds of thousands (and in other coastal rivers from Connecticut to Russia), along with millions of river herrings. A nascent industrial economy grew by building dams that blocked migration to spawning grounds, deforesting huge swaths of Great North Woods, destroying stream channels with log drives, poisoning rivers with toxic effluents, overfishing for profit, and ultimately killing more salmon than could be sustained.


A spent salmon in waters warmed by a bloated GDP. (CC BY 2.0, Robert Couse-Baker)

Eventually, the Clean Water Act and others helped buffer the Penobscot from the worst insults and improved water quality, but salmon kept declining. Hatcheries and the Endangered Species Act have postponed extinction, and the Penobscot River Restoration Project has removed dams and improved habitat. River herring runs seem to be recovering, and this could benefit Atlantic salmon by fertilizing streams and providing cover from predators. But climate catastrophe (itself a consequence of economic growth) is almost certainly the last nail in the salmon’s coffin.

Across Maine (and almost everywhere), quickly heating rivers and more extreme droughts and floods are leaving less habitat suitable for survival, growth, and reproduction. Invasive and heat-tolerant smallmouth bass have spread throughout most watersheds, and are dangerous predators and competitors of salmon. Climate-driven shifts in ocean food webs, along with loss of genetic diversity, skews spawning runs towards smaller and less fecund fish.

Similar stories exist for other salmonines. Landlocked salmon were driven to extinction in Lake Ontario and Finger Lakes watersheds by damming, deforestation, overfishing, pollution, and exotic species introduction. Brook trout have declined or been extirpated across their native range, with few strongholds limited to high-elevation, sparsely-populated watersheds from Adirondacks to Aroostook—again, for similar reasons.

Short-lived, slow-growing brookies are vulnerable to overfishing and require strict limits on harvest; most populations are sustained by stocking. Unfortunately, anglers tend to target and remove the largest fish, leading to “unnatural selection.” Although rainbows and browns are nonnative, and may outcompete native salmonines, they have similar niches and responses to stressors. Spawning streams in the Finger Lakes suffer more extreme heat, floods, and droughts, especially in deforested watersheds, so fewer wild fish exist and more stocking is required to support angler demand.

Of course, some examples exist of where local economic growth has benefitted local salmonids. For example, hydroelectric dams in the Delaware watersheds created deep reservoirs, cold tailwaters, and thermal refuge for browns and rainbows.

Hooked on Growth

Economic growth also threatens fishing. Motivation and skill vary among anglers, but I’d say most people prefer to catch more and larger fish in more pleasant settings. (Anglers desire remote but easily accessible areas—don’t we all!) It follows that fewer, smaller, harder-to-catch fish in fewer, more crowded, uglier places diminishes the fishing experience.)

Although the number of licensed anglers has decreased significantly, it’s unclear whether overall fishing activity has declined. It might have (due largely to poorer fishing), but sometimes it feels like the fishing pressure has simply become more concentrated. The old saying goes that 10 percent of anglers catch 90 percent of the fish. That 10 percent can be awfully stubborn, and for the rest, remember the motto, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.”

Several people fishing on the shore.

They managed to find a fishing hole. Will they find their way to the town hall to object to the county’s growth plan? (Shutterstock)

Heavy stocking masks the collapse of wild fisheries and attracts anglers who otherwise might not fish. Legal protections from ESA prohibit recreational angling, like for Maine Atlantic salmon. And the ultimate economic insult is fish so contaminated with mercury or PFAS that they shouldn’t be consumed.

Catchability varies among individual trout. Some are prone to capture and removal quickly, leaving frustratingly difficult fish. Naïve trout are caught-and-released easily once but learn quickly to reject flies and hide from anglers; experienced trout acclimate to anglers but remain skeptical of flies.

Increased crowding makes fishing more challenging, exemplified by Magalloway River in northwestern Maine, known for large wild brook trout and heavy pressure, concentrated in a short stretch of tailwater that increases over summer as nearby rivers heat. Catch-and-release ensures that some fish are caught repeatedly, and none are (legally) removed.

These trout tax my patience and skill, yet the occasional reward (including a five-pounder caught before sunrise on the summer solstice) outweighs the long drive and increasingly crowded streambanks. But for how much longer? As global heating proceeds, anglers must travel farther to catch salmonids (burning more fuel and emitting more CO2 in the process), if not discouraged by high gasoline prices or disrupted by energy-economic shocks.

Shorter winters and thinner, less dependable ice cover also threaten ice fishing. Many salmonine fisheries are closed or tightly regulated then and impossible to access without snowmobiles. Enter panfish. Panfish generally tolerate more human disturbance and are found closer to population centers, but this means easier access and crowds.

Pumpkinseeds are highly desirable and fished hard in New York, but nearly ignored in Maine. Small, sheltered ponds freeze quickly and provide excellent early-season fishing but may suffer from anoxia later on, especially in agricultural watersheds. Black crappie are slowly invading northeastwards, and newly established populations seem to provide about a decade of spectacular harvests before intraspecific competition kicks in and word spreads among anglers.

Prolonged heavy fishing eliminates largest and oldest fish, leaving many runts. I’ve been testing my pet hypothesis that sustenance ice-fishing for panfish is a smart investment in self-reliance to buffer against economic and ecological shocks from overshoot. One skilled angler can harvest lots of biomass, but every calorie of fillet demands at least 50 calories of mostly fossil energy—worse than industrial agriculture!—and only so many anglers could attempt this before fisheries collapse. Nevertheless, ice fishing will soon be just a fond memory.

Speaking Trout to Power

Auditorium of people learning about climate change.

Town hall meeting. Notice the incongruent slide: “Improving life on earth and protecting our planet…Strengthening U.S. economy through science and technology.” Anglers in the audience should be ready to rectify. (CC BY 2.0, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Old-timers have always lamented “fishing ain’t what it used to be,” but hardly anybody blames economic growth directly. Aside from a few of my like-minded fishing buddies and students, most anglers and biologists I encounter fail to see the connection. Anglers who grumble that northern Maine is turning into Massachusetts see the trees but miss the forest when in the next breath they argue that rural communities need economic growth. After all, what else could possibly convert the Great North Woods into the Bay State but economic growth?

Many die-hard anglers resist acknowledging the climate emergency, even though objective data and lived experiences say otherwise. Central New York fishing guru and local icon Mike Kelly advocates passionately for protecting trout and streams from direct human insults (he’s seen them all in 60+ years of fishing), but devotes one dismissive sentence to global heating: “Since Central New York residents were just digging out from one of the coldest winters in the last half-century…I’m not quite ready to concede that we are seeing the results of ‘global warming.’” I wonder if the last eight years of record-breaking heat have changed his mind.

Even my own university, that prides itself on “sustainability” and expertise in fish and wildlife management, seems to justify its existence on grounds of promoting economic growth. However, a very near-exception to this rule is Trout Unlimited. TU is extremely proactive in identifying proximate threats to cold-water fish and fishing, and is actually achieving results through lobbying, public education and engagement, and on-the-ground conservation and restoration. At times they come tantalizingly close but stop just short of admitting that a growing economy is incompatible with their mission. Maybe they need just a little nudge from us steady staters, and others will follow. Fish need breathing room too.

Stephen Coghlan is CASSE’s Maine chapter director and an associate professor of freshwater fisheries ecology at the University of Maine.

The post Economic Growth Takes a Bite out of Fishing appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

War of the Words: Rebranding the “Healthy Economy”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/06/2022 - 12:50am in
by Mark Cramer

Industries strive incessantly to increase human productivity, often by way of mechanizing or automating tasks. After all, there are limits to purely human energy, strength, and ability. Without more workers, we require technological innovation to overcome these limitations. Fortunately for the pro-growth industries, technology doesn’t earn wages.

Even outside of the workplace, technology takes the place of utilitarian exercise. Long ago, most people hunted and gathered their own food. Later they walked to markets. Nowadays, those of us who don’t drive ourselves to supermarkets can have our pre-packaged groceries delivered to the doorstep.

Our ever-growing, production-driven economy has converted us into sedentary beings. Studies have shown that as countries become wealthier, Body Mass Index (BMI) for the bottom 80 percent of the population worsens while BMI for the richest 20 percent improves. Degrowing to a steady state, then, is likely to yield significant health benefits for (at least) 80 percent of the population.

Reclaiming the “Healthy Economy”

Part of the path to improving people’s health (and arriving at a steady state economy) includes reclaiming the health-related vocabulary pro-growth economists have monopolized. Adjectives like “healthy” and “robust,” nouns like “recovery,” and verbs like “strengthen” have been reappropriated from the realm of human health for an (ironically) unhealthy economic system. A “robust recovery” in the soft drink industry means an increase in cases of type two diabetes, and the health care industry is “strengthened” when more people are sick.

A $100 bill with a medical mask covering Ben Franklin's face.

An economy designed for perpetual GDP growth is best described as “sickly.”

We might be better equipped to spread the message that taking a brisk walk outdoors is preferable to driving to a fitness club if we first stop describing the growing economy as healthy. If we can’t reclaim the health-related terminology from economic discourse entirely, the least we can do is call a spade a spade; that is, describe a growing economy as “sickly” and replace terms like “green growth” with “brown bloating.”

To introduce viable alternatives, we need to recapture the language, especially as it relates to utilitarian use of metabolic energy. Otherwise, we can win the battle of logic but still be defeated in the war of words. Reappropriating positive health-related vocabulary for degrowth and steady-state alternatives is a great place to start.

Public transportation seems like enemy number one for GDP strategists, if opinion writers for the Heritage Foundation and the libertarian Cato Institute are the gauge. Yet “active transit” would be an apt phrase for public transportation, with a clear link to public health. When one uses light rail or a bus, it’s necessary to walk to and from the bus stop or rail station on both ends of the commute. It’s fine exercise; as good as any treadmill, and far more stimulating.

In Paris I usually commute by bicycle but using the metro has helped me avoid rush-hour traffic. The brisk walks to and from the metro add 40 minutes of utilitarian exercise, roughly equivalent to the exercise benefit of 50 minutes of biking (the amount it takes for a round trip).

It’s common sense that active transit is healthier than passive. Common sense is corroborated by statistical case studies, too. One such study showed that a mere “one percent increase in county population use of public transit is associated with a 0.221 percent decrease in county population obesity prevalence.”

Degrowing Our GDP and G-U-Ts

Replacing fossil-fueled machinery with human metabolic energy is a simple step towards degrowing some of the most detrimental industries. The automobile industry, for example, is responsible for approximately 4.5 percent of all jobs in the USA according to pro-car researchers. During a policy debate on public transportation at the Paris Hotel de Ville (City Hall), I witnessed car company lobbyists warning that if the municipality curtailed car use, the economy would suffer. (When called out on fossil fuels, they flashed their trump card: the electric car.)

Two people riding bikes down a road with cars parked along the side.

Trading fossil power for human power is a step towards a truly healthy economy. (CC BY 2.0, Kristoffer Trolle)

In other words, these lobbyists believe (or would have us believe) we should rejoice at the opportunity to sit immobilized behind the wheel during a traffic jam because we are “lifting” GDP. Yes, in GDP parlance, we can now lift while remaining inactive.

The CDC has attempted to counteract such lobbyists by explaining what would happen if we kept our cars parked for trips under a mile. The answer is startling. Car trips under a mile equate to 10 billion miles per year in the USA. If Americans traveled half of these trips on foot, the result would be the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road each year. The “health” of the automotive and oil industries would diminish as the health of the American people improves, all while saving drivers $900 billion.

A study cited by the CDC found that eliminating car trips under five miles (round-trip) in urban Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin would result in nearly $5 billion in health benefits from improved air quality. The same study estimated that if half of these car trips were bike trips, $4 billion in healthcare costs could be saved—along with well over a thousand lives.

Another segment of the economy that contributes heavily to GDP with malignant results for our personal health is the food industry, from farming to food services. “Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.055 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a 5.0-percent share.” The industries also “contributed” to a “healthy” dose of obesity.

Adults helping a child with gardening at a community garden plot.

What could be better than walking to the grocery store? Participating in a community garden! (CC BY 2.0, d-olwen-dee)

With a healthy dose of human energy, we can grow our own food while staying trim. Local gardening can reduce the role of fossil fuels in food distribution, too. The average tomato travels more than 1,300 miles from farm to supermarket. We can do better than that. Plus, the result for public health would be significant beyond obesity concerns: fresher, nutritious food; revitalized bodies; and fewer trips to the doctor. The more families that do their own gardening and composting, the bigger the hit taken by the food industry and GDP—and the better our health.

Like walking and cycling, gardening isn’t just healthy, it’s satisfying and enfranchising. Many cities have nonprofit organizations that help homeowners convert their lawns into gardens. Even apartment dwellers can participate in community gardens sprouting up in smart American cities and common around the world. These vibrant spaces combine active living with social connectivity.

Who would have thought that the very language of health would be siphoned away from human beings and applied to GDP? Who would have thought that we’d reach a point in history where walking, bicycling, and gardening would become acts of rebellion? I am not an economist, but I suspect that when we use our own metabolic energy in utilitarian tasks, the vast majority of us will be healthier and happier while GDP declines.

Mark Cramer Book CoverMark Cramer is the author of Old Man on a Green Bike: Chronicles of a Self-Serving Environmentalist.

The post War of the Words: Rebranding the “Healthy Economy” appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Oil and gasoline prices move together

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/03/2022 - 6:21am in

I keep seeing people on social media saying things like, “Well oil prices are down but gasoline prices are still high.” Look, the last thing I want to do is defend the fossil fuel industry. It should be put out of business as soon as possible because it’s a threat to civilization and maybe human life itself. But on this point, the social media pundits are wrong.

For example, in August 2013, crude oil (as measured by West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark) was $107 a barrel and the average gasoline price was $3.66. Two years later, oil was $43 and gas was $2.75. Aha!, you might say—oil fell by 60% and gas by only 25%. But it works the same in the other direction too. In June 2006, oil was $71 and gas was $2.96. Two years later, oil was $134, up 89%, and gas was $4.12, up 39%.

The graph below makes the point visually. Oil and gas prices move almost exactly together, with gas moving less than oil. A simple regression on these stats shows that for every 10% change in the price of oil over the course of a year, the price of gas moves by about 4.5%. The relationship hold in both directions. That 45% ratio almost exactly matches the percentage changes in the previous paragraph. And the relationship holds if you take the analysis back to 1975 instead of beginning in 2000.

Again, this is not to defend the oil industry, which should be put out of business ASAP. But people who think gas prices won’t come down if oil prices come down are going to look silly if oil prices ever come down again—assuming the world isn’t blown to bits before they get a chance to.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/03/2022 - 7:12am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

March 3, 2022 Anatol Lieven on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine • Alyssa Giachino and Derek Seidman, among the authors of this report, on private equity and fossil fuels

Quakers Divest from ‘Big Four’ Banks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/01/2015 - 10:04am in