Gaining a grip on humanity’s problems
The choice: people or money?

by <>  2010-06-22


OUR monumental task is to figure out how to save the biosphere — and humanity — so that our children and grandchildren will be able to live — and not only barely survive, but live fulfilling lives. How can we stop the downward cascading spiral?

Most urgent. We must stop the killing.
      The rapid escalation of murder — both mass and in selective repression — carried out by and at the behest of nation-states is an unacceptable immediate reality. It is opposed by the overwhelming majority of the world’s ordinary people, who thus far are unable to prevail against the military and clandestine forces of the nation-states. Underlying our evident inability to change the conduct of the governing structures is their obvious control by giant capital. We must change this deadly system, more precisely, we must do away with it.

      Getting rid of the institutional structures that currently control our lives must involve changes that until this historical moment would have been dismissed as impossible by practically all so-called educated people. Here is a shocking partial list of changes I believe will be essential for allowing humanity a reasonable chance to avoid the deepening tragedy now engulfing most of the world’s peoples.

   1. Religious dogma must be seen as a major source of deadly conflict.[1]
  2. Money must be reduced to a minor social role, if not entirely eliminated.[2]
  3. Everyone contributes “honest labor” for the community, as s/he is able.[3]
  4. Anyone can live wherever s/he wishes if welcome by the prior inhabitants.
  5. No person is “illegitimate” or “illegal”.
  6. Everyone can freely and openly exchange ideas with anyone as a human right.
  7. From birth, every child must be cherished and respected as a full person.
  8. Every person will be assured adequate nutrition. Food is a human right.
  9. Every person will be assured adequate potable water as a human right.
  10. Every person will be assured adequate safe shelter as a human right.

      This brief list is far from inclusive. In order to attain a viable and sustainable global culture many other changes will also be needed. For example, the false notion that social problems are soluble mainly by the use of technology must be discarded. More “high tech” energy will not alleviate problems but make them worse. Converting croplands to production of agrofuels in order to meet the market’s “need” for automotive fuel cuts down cultivation of food, the “fuel” for metabolic energy for people and animals. Surely we don’t need a rocket scientist to explain why it’s wrong for one person, a well-to-do person to “fill er up” with biodiesel in a “gas station” while another person, an impoverished person is deprived of food. That it’s wrong is clear from simple compassion, without consulting a tutored Ph.D. full of statistics on population growth, the need for compulsory birth control, and so on ad infinitum.

Respect for ordinary, everyday people
The need for dignity with humility, for all people

      One of the most challenging changes needed is for each of us to give up our conditioning to automatically judge other people. Naturally we must all make judgments. Many times these will involve our assessments of the behavior of other people. It is unavoidable. What we need to avoid are “snap judgments”, i.e. ill-considered statements that sound like judgments but are based on inadequate information and our personal preconceptions. In a few words, what it means is that we ought to start out giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, regardless of the person’s class background, age, formal education, and so on.

      “But wait”, you respond, “it’s totally naive to accept what someone says if you don’t know the person”. And you’re right. But there’s no other way to begin building mutual trust unless each of you were to first make an extensive investigation of the other, which is simply not feasible as a way to build sizeable circles of trust. My claim here is that if we are committed to making a good global human society, we must become “naive” in this respect, i.e. in accepting as a working hypothesis that another person is speaking honestly to us, until and unless the time comes when we learn this is not so. In today’s world the adult behavioral norm is almost the exact opposite — i.e. to assume that almost everyone lies much of the time. It will not be possible to have a society with good lives for everyone as long as the dominant culture remains one of distrust.[4]

      I think that each of us should strive towards becoming “naive” in the sense of initially trusting everyone for whom there is no specific information indicating it is an error to do so. And of course maintaining critical alertness for evidence of non-trustworthiness. Will we make mistakes? Yes, naturally. It’s a much more demanding process than simply writing people off on the basis of some fragments of information (or disinformation) such as “Oh, he’s a capitalist. Forget him” Or a banker. Or a Jew. Or a drug-addict. Or an anarchist. For two people to build a relationship of deep trust in one another, they have to make a considerable effort. Of course each of us can learn a good deal about someone whose views are publicly and regularly expressed. But those of us who do not regularly make our thoughts public will only become known to other people if we meet them one way or another, through correspondence or by personal face-to-face or telephone contact. Like most things that are worthwhile, building mutual trust requires effort.

Towards building a circle of trust

      The circle of people I trust includes a good number who have never heard of me, let alone come to trust me. Three of the people in that group are active journalists: Dahr Jamail, John Pilger, and Mohammed Omer.[5] My trust in them includes my confidence that each of them invariably states the truth as he understands it, and also my certainty that their political judgments and mine would agree if I had as much information as they have. Apart from a relatively small number of “stellar”individuals such as these three, and Naomi Klein and Immanuel Wallerstein, there is a substantially larger group of people with whom I’m quite well acquainted, people with whom I’ve established relationships of mutual trust. I know that they speak truthfully to me and I am confident they see me in the same light. With them however my trust does not imply that I always agree with their opinions — we may have disagreements. Thus, for example, Israel Shamir and I have judgments that are in conflict, but there is nevertheless a sense of mutual trust. Specifically, my view is that the State of Israel is not a legitimate nation-state. It was established with the goal of conquering and then expelling the indigenous Palestinians, as is now manifestly clear. As a Jewish Nazi state it should be abolished, as was the German Nazi state. The bulk of the colonizing population (Jewish) should be forced to leave the country to its indigenous population. Shamir advocates a single state for the entire population, with equal rights for all people, Palestinians and immigrant (colonizing) Jews. To me that would in effect legitimate to too great an extent the original actions by which the Zionist conquest was effected, which I would find unacceptable.

      Much as I wish I could put “the Jews” aside and deal with the enormous threats to the overwhelming majority of the world’s people, today’s circumstances call for consideration of this particular tiny subset of people because its impact on the world is not only totally disproportionate to the size of the group, but very detrimental. The extent to which the discourse on Palestine/Israel and the whole Middle East is manipulated by Zionist-aligned groups, institutions and hyper-wealthy Zionists should be unacceptable. The resulting pseudo-reality is probably at least as skewed away from truth as the situation that history Professor Jerry Z. Muller reportedly describes in Capitalism and the Jews.[6] Muller, on the faculty of Catholic University, Washington D.C. is unsurprisingly anti-Communist. In his review of Prof Muller’s book, Karabell states, “Jews were central to the formation of capitalism before the 19th century. They have been central to its defense, and they have been central to movements that have rejected it, communism in particular . . . Jews have excelled in free-market societies over the past two centuries. Their places of prominence in the Western world reads like a conspiracy manual composed by zealous anti-Semites: In Germany on the eve of World War I, Jews composed upward of 40 percent of the corporate elite. In Hungary in the 1920’s, Jews accounted for 54 percent of the owners of commercial establishments and 85 percent of bank directors. Jews for the entire 20th century were massively overrepresented proportional to their numbers in academia, medicine and finance and as lawyers, architects and engineers. In the 1980’s, according to Forbes’ annual survey of the richest Americans, Jews made up a quarter of the list even though they accounted for only 3 percent of the population. They constituted one-fifth of the faculty of elite universities, and of the 38 Nobel winners for economics between 1970 and 2008, 22 were Jews.”

      It is a common propaganda device to gather selected information and to present it as though it is broadly representative of a general situation. Since Karabell doesn’t give a source for the “data” he offers in the above paragraph, I don’t know whether it comes from Prof Muller’s Capitalism and the Jews or from some other source that Karabell turned to. Maybe it’s truly representative — maybe not. The idea that in the 1920’s 85 percent of bank directors in Hungary were Jews is quite shocking to me. Of course it doesn’t imply that all Hungarian Jews were wealthy. Any more than the current figures for American Jews imply that all U.S. Jews are wealthy. Nevertheless, such statistics are very suggestive and can bode ill for the group they focus attention on. I recall getting Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilization five years ago and turning at once to the chapter “The First Holocaust”, referring to the first holocaust of the 20th century, committed by Turks against Armenians.[7] Fisk writes “What was at once apparent about this ethnic atrocity was . . . the systematic nature of the Holocaust. A policy of race murder had been devised in wartime by senior statesmen who controlled the . . . ‘machinery of violence . . .’ Like the Jews of Europe, many Armenians were highly educated; they were lawyers, civil servants, businessmen, journalists.”

      When I saw Fisk’s characterization I thought that these Armenians, surely but a small part of the Armenian population of Turkey, were a privileged part of the society, a part whose social success must have given rise to envy and hatred among impoverished parts of the Turkish population. I think it is always the case that people for whom life is a brutal struggle are at the very least unsympathetic to people who seem to be gliding effortlessly through life, with all their needs comfortably met. A stark separation between the privileged and the pillaged is invariably socially unstable, an ideal environment for germinating an explosion. If the separation not only reflects differences in wealth and opportunity but also ethnic differences, as existed between Turks and Armenians in Turkey, that only adds to the seething cauldron of looming conflict, emphasizing to the very poor the difference between “them” and “us”.

      Amid his endless portrayal of gruesome events in The Great War for Civilization (xxvi + 1366 pp.) Fisk also includes brief passages, as he invariably does, showing that in every so-called ethnic group there are people who demonstrate compassionate disobedience, in this case Turks who protect their Armenian fellows, sometimes at great personal risk. Naturally people who are fearful of being severely punished if their compassionate actions are discovered by agents of the state are less likely to take the personal risk involved. This is precisely why nation-states do their utmost to generate fearfulness among their citizenry — to make them compliant, if possible unquestioningly obedient, as we see today, for example, in the United States. Drumming up fear of a supposedly world-wide Islamic terrorist network aimed at seeking vengeance against the U.S. is a useful ploy to gain support for a host of repressive government actions against Islamic people, regardless of whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

      Not too long ago I received a mailing from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, against whom the U.S. government has pursued an ongoing attempt to criminalize his activities in support of Palestinians struggling against the Israeli conquest. A Google search of Sami Al-Arian brings up about 331,000 results, the first ten of which are
 1. (—)
2. (+)
3. (—)
4. (—)
5. (—)
6. (O)
7. (—)
8. (+)
9. (—)
10. (—)

      On reading them briefly, I would say seven give a negative impression of Sami Al-Arian (those followed by (—)), two portray him favorably (those followed by (+)), and one is neutral (followed by (O)). The clue for me is in those who defend him and level their criticism at the U.S. government. Al-Arian’s defenders include The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Amnesty International (AI), The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the Chairs of the American Muslim Task-Force on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT), The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Howard Zinn.[8] Unfortunately Zinn was a rare gem – an American whose “being Jewish” never tarnished his being humane above all, as it has so many contemporary Jewish Americans, who are mistakenly and foolishly loyal to the Zionist conquest of Palestine.

What’s basic?

      Yes, of course, food, clothing and shelter — and perhaps for starters the other changes I listed as necessary at the start of this article. Certainly as basic as anything is the widespread recognition that each one of us is a human being, a member of the same species with but negligible genetic variations among us. As such each of us has the same needs in order to grow into a healthy adult. So-called ethnic differences, to the extent that they do not reflect merely distinguishable cultural patterns, are purely superficial characteristics, such as skin color, hair texture and color, amount of body hair, eye color, and so on. But it is precisely these surface qualities that are visible and that are seized upon to supposedly identify different ethnic groups. Except for identical siblings, no two people have exactly the same features. Each person in the world is unique — different in myriad tiny ways from every other person — and yet physiologically identical in all the essential respects, those which define us as members of a single biological species.

      Karabell’s review of Jerry Muller’s Capitalism and the Jews, implicitly raised the question: Does an identifiable group that is very privileged compared to the general population invite envy and hatred? I believe the answer is unambiguously Yes. If my belief is justified then the way that the American Jewish population is perceived might well be important to that ethnic group. The work of Professor Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life [9], leaves no doubt in my mind that Jewish Americans as a group within the American population are highly privileged. Novick, a secular Jewish historian, now emeritus at the University of Chicago, is completely forthright in expressing his beliefs, his thoughts and his uncertainties — thoroughly trustworthy. I disagreed with him only on a few counts: He wrote that all the use of the Holocaust [by “the Israel Lobby” groups] had no “significant influence on American policy toward Israel. That policy has been based primarily on considerations of Realpolitik, and to a lesser extent on calculations of American Jewish political influence.” Perhaps now, a full decade after he wrote that (in 1999), Novick has changed his mind. Another disagreement I had regards decorum. Novick said that Norman Finkelstein and Alan Dershowitz deserve each other. Novick is wrong in being as contemptuous of Finkelstein he rightly is of Alan Dershowitz. So far as I can judge it is merely Finkelstein’s unwillingness to make believe that only a gentlemanly exchange is permissible among academic intellectuals, even with people as disgusting as Dershowitz. In my opinion, Finkelstein is a principled person (like a historian should be), and Dershowitz is committed not to truth but to winning (as lawyers are ‘supposed’ to be).

      Novick, who refuses to avoid the truth as he understands it, writes, “. . . American Jews . . . [in] the 1980s and 1990s . . . were by far the wealthiest, best-educated, most influential, in-every-way-most-successful group in American society — a group that, compared to most other identifiable minority groups, suffered no measurable discrimination and no disadvantages on account of that minority status . . .”

      I believe that Novick’s assessment is accurate. Moreover and more significantly for identifiable American Jews, I believe many ordinary Americans know that the truth lies close to Novick’s assessment, i.e. that “The Jews” are riding high. People don’t have to know history in the depth that Novick does or possess his penetrating curiosity to be sensitive to the injustices they suffer to provide the luxurious waste of wealth by rich people. And if they believe that many of those wealthy profiteers are Jews, which they are, it’s a short path to hating them, with few obstacles in the way. The fact that most Jewish people are not wealthy profiteers (and that most wealthy profiteers are not Jewish) doesn’t register that much. It is sufficient that there are a fair number who fit the stereotype and that they are well publicized. Such examples are not difficult to find.

      Rather than having to search diligently for identifiably Jewish people involved in the manipulation of money for outrageously nefarious purposes, such individuals are publicized — indeed celebrated — in mainstream media such as The New York Times.[10] Of course the public media have always trumpeted the successes of “Captains of Industry”, the Carnegies, Fords, Stanfords, capitalist titans who controlled major productive activities — steel, automobiles, railroads. So the celebration is ongoing, not something new. But there is a difference. The people now in the limelight are openly stealing money, not by the well-honed capitalist exploitation of poor people’s labor but by even more direct theft. Bernard Madoff was “celebrated” in a lengthy article in the Times on 19 December 2008, just eight days after he was arrested for having pioneered the first-ever global-scale Ponzi-scheme fraud. The Times editors assembled a team of eleven staff members to research and write the article, an indication of the importance they attributed to it. The article says, “many of the known victims of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities are prominent Jewish executives and organizations — Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Spitzers, Yeshiva University, the Elie Wiesel Foundation and charities set up by the publisher Mortimer B. Zuckerman and the Hollywood director Steven Spielberg.” The full nauseating celebration, linked to in endnote 10, is well worth reading. Note, incidentally, that even the Times, so partial to Jewish people, refers to “the known victims of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities”, not just losers by chance but victims (my emphasis).

      As this short quote indicates, wealthy ethnic Jews are not distinguishable from wealthy ethnic gentiles in their readiness — actually eagerness is more accurate than mere readiness — to steal money from anyone who has it. So why should Jews be singled out? A perfectly reasonable question. The answer. Because people of Jewish ethnicity are very disproportionately over-represented in the “business” of trafficking in money, i.e. lending it for so-called “interest”. Naturally the next question is, Why is this so? Why are there so many Jewish money-lenders? The answer to this question is key because it leads to two very different explanations of social behaviors. And not just for so-called Jews but for all ethnic groups.
      1. One response is based on the idea that different ethnic groups have social behavior patterns that evolved genetically, along with superficial physiological differences like hair color, etc. If this hypothesis were correct (I don’t accept it for a moment) the implication would be that social behavior patterns became incorporated into the DNA of the ethnic group, a process of genetic evolution that would have firmly planted that behavior into the group’s DNA, subject only to possibly eventually become altered by the long, unpredictable process of random mutation, not by cultural pressure to behave differently.
      2. A second response, the one that I believe is scientifically justified, holds that any human being born into and continuing to live in a particular cultural milieu will behave socially according to the norms of that ethnic environment. Those who hold this perspective dismiss the claims of sociobiologists that human social behavior, like that of ants (the scientific specialty of Edward O. Wilson) basically boils down to the genes’ irrevocable drive to replicate themselves.[11]

      It ought to be noted that the two points of view directly contradict each other. I think it is very significant that viewpoint 1 is believed to be correct by perfectly decent and generally reasonable people. It’s true that viewpoint 1 is also held by many people who are consumed by hatreds. As is well known, Adolph Hitler deeply detested what he perceived as “the Jewish Race”, in his mind a different species than the “Aryan Race”. Without any doubt, the bulk of propaganda of Israeli media works unceasingly to imbue Jewish Israelis with the equally mindless view that Palestinians, whether labelled Arabs, Christians, Muslims, or Islamists, are “fundamentally different” than themselves, that is to say, not “full and equal” human beings. It is this assumed separation by “ethnic differences” that is potentially so deadly, this separation of human beings into “them” and “us”.

[1] Religion as a primary underpinning of ethnic hatreds is considered at .

[2] The value system associated with money as a basic source of social conflict is considered at .

[3] “Honest labor”, the traditional social contribution of ordinary people, no longer assures a livelihood. Everywhere in today’s world the conflict between the privileged social sectors and the impoverished majority — very often indigenous — rages, seemingly ever more fiercely as the money system tightens its grip. Nowhere is this brutal reality displayed more flagrantly than in Zionist Israel’s measured destruction of the lives of the indigenous Palestinians of Gaza.

[4] On trust and distrust. The need for mutual trust is discussed in the essay, Mutual Aid and Mutual Trust, at

[5] Three journalists: Dahr Jamail, American; John Pilger, Australian; and Mohammed Omer, Palestinian are cited in my article, “Weavers of the fabric of truth” at , journalists whose work I think is of the highest quality.

[6] Capitalism and the Jews by Jerry Z. Muller is reviewed by Zachary Karabell at
. My comments are based on the cited review. I have not seen Muller’s book yet.

[7] Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilization: The conquest of the Middle East (2005) Fourth Estate, of Harper Collins, London.

[8] Defenders of civil rights supporting Sami Al-Arian and critical of his persecution by the U.S. government. The statements by the civil rights groups (and Howard Zinn’s statement) are linked to from page 2 of URL

[9] Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life, 1999, Houghton Mifflin, New York. The Amazon website has the following very good brief review:
      In the first decades following World War II, Americans rarely discussed the Holocaust. Now, remembering the Holocaust has become a fundamental part of Jewish identity; gentiles, too, view the Holocaust as a touchstone of moral solemnity. In The Holocaust and American Life, Peter Novick asks why, and his answers are both sensible and shocking. He explains the immediate postwar silence about the Holocaust by reviewing the basics of cold war politics: just after the liberation of the concentration camps, Americans were called upon to sympathize with “gallant Berliners” who resisted the Soviets and built a wall against Communism — an “enormous shift from one set of alignments to another,” Novick notes. Novick then leads readers through the series of events that brought the Holocaust to the forefront of American consciousness — the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Six-Day War, the Carter administration’s Israel policy, and the construction of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
      Among Novick’s most controversial ideas is his assertion that American Jews spoke softly of the Holocaust at first because they didn’t want to be seen as victims; later, Jews decided that victim status would work in their best political interest. Or, as Novick puts it, “Jews were intent on permanent possession of the gold medal in the Victimization Olympics.” The Holocaust in American Life is as carefully researched and argued as it is polemical and probing. Novick does not suffer Holocaust deniers lightly, and he is empathic toward victims and survivors, but he has no tolerance for false sentiment. One wishes that more people would ask, as Novick does, what kind of a country would spend millions of dollars on a museum honoring European Jewish Holocaust victims instead of a monument to its own shameful history of black slavery. -- Michael Joseph Gross
      Or, I might add, a monument to its own shameful genocide of the indigenous American Indians --G.S.

[10] The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books: Skewing the Palestine-Israel discourse to favor the Zionists. As I discussed in the text, the Times published a lengthy “celebration” of Bernard Madoff’s phenomenal criminal achievement, truly a Jewish thief extraordinaire. The article is at

      Another unsavory Jewish man is Haim Saban, who was celebrated in the May 10, 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine. One learns that “Saban is not given to modest ambitions. Sixty-five years old . . . he is known in Los Angeles as the man who brought the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers from Japan to America; the chairman and part owner of Univision, the nation’s leading Spanish-language media company; a staunch supporter of Israel (he has dual citizenship); and one of the largest individual donors to the Democratic Party. “Haim is a force of nature,” his friend Barry Meyer, the chairman and C.E.O. of Warner Bros., said . . .” This lively piece is at

      The money-hungry Jew who first captured my attention is perhaps the one whose impact in bringing about the destruction of human society may be the greatest, Peter Ackerman. His conduct has in recent years become somewhat more “discreet” than in the past. He was a top man in Bernard Madoff’s operation who continued for a time in a head position after Madoff was jailed. He escaped prosecution by leaving the country to work with a British counterinsurgency operation. The article by Franklin Foer, who interviewed him at length, in the April 25 2005 issue of The New Republic is well done and quite informative about Ackerman up until that time. The article is posted as “Regime Chance, Inc., Peter Ackerman’s Quest to Topple Tyranny” It was posted 16 de Abril de 2005 12:44:37 p.m. by Alexander Nevsky at

      Instead of defending the Zionist project of conquering Palestine by portraying the all-too-human Jewish manipulators, as do the three articles just mentioned, The New York Review of Books purports to give a more detached, nuanced, discussion. But its thrust is likewise intended to contribute to the defeat of the Palestinian struggle. The authors were surely deliberately chosen to give a reader the impression that they are weighing all the complexities, and lo-and-behold, there's really no evident solution. The article, titled “Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over?”, in the December 3, 2009 issue, is by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, identified as follows: Hussein Agha is Senior Associate Member of St. Antonya’s College, Oxford. He is the author, with A.S. Khalidi, of A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine. (December 2009). Robert Malley was Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab–Israeli Affairs and Director for Near East and South Asian Affairs on the National Security Council staff. He is currently Middle East and North Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group. (December 2009). Their article is at

[11] Sociobiology: The New Synthesis. Edward O. Wilson, the author, referring to ants, once said, according to Wikipedia, “Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species”. This little joke, if it is to be believed, indicates that E.O.Wilson had a good sense of humor, and also where he stood in the unending struggle of poor against rich. His immodestly titled treatise was first page news in The New York Times when it appeared in 1975. “Sociobiology” initiated an attempt to embed the ideology of capitalist competition in a scientific-sounding framework by replacing Thomas H. Huxley’s famous 1888 essay “The Struggle for Existence in Human Society” with his idea of competitive genes. Huxley’s effort 112 years ago, then Wilson’s 35 years ago, the gospel of competition by the capitalist cheerleaders is ongoing: Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, Tennyson’s line, lives on.
      A Wikipedia entry has: “The application of sociobiology to humans was immediately controversial. Many people, such as Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Lewontin feared that sociobiology was biologicially determinist. They feared that it would be used, as similar ideas had been in the past, to justify the status quo, entrench ruling elites, and legitimize authoritarian political programmes. They referred to social darwinism and eugenics of the early 20th century, and to other more recent ideas, such as the IQ controversy of the early 1970s as cautionary tales in the use of evolutionary principles as applied to human society.”

George Salzman is a former American Jew living in Oaxaca, Mexico, an Emeritus Prof of Physics, Univ of Massachusetts-Boston.
All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <>

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Initial posting of this page: 22 June 2010.
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