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Topic Reading-Vol.1906-6/30/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How lack of sleep affects the brain
The longer you sleep, the better your brain performs? Does this apply to you?
Of course, it’s depending on the individual how long is enough to deal with day-to-day tasks effectively, such as looking after kids, working on a computer screen or driving a vehicle.
Now, a new study was conducted to reveal how one’s brain functions and looks. The participants of the study were asked to take various tests to measure their cognitive performance after a regular sleep time and a much shorter time. Their brains were scanned while they were working on the tests. The results?
Enjoy reading and thinking if you take enough sleep to maximize your brain performance.


Topic Reading-Vol.1905-6/29/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Coffee under threat
Do you drink coffee? If yes, you may start worrying about bitter future of this popular drink. Coffee harvest is declining in major producing areas, such as Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, and Brazil, the largest producer of coffee, according to a report published in Nature Plants today while coffee consumption has been on the rise globally.
Why so? Climate change to blame. Temperatures are rising and precipitations are declining in these coffee-producing regions. While you can sweeten or enrich coffee to enjoy drinking with sugar and milk, there don’t seem to be any instant solutions to the climate change on the planet.
Enjoy reading the text and think what you would do if a cup of regular coffee cost higher than the main dish.


Topic Reading-Vol.1904-6/28/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Germany: Reluctant military giant?
The Bundeswehr [ˈbʊn dəsˌvɛər] is Germany’s armed forces, civil administration, and procurement authorities. There are about 200,000 actives and reserve soldiers, the second largest force in the European Union after France. Their budget is limited to 1.2% of their economic force, GDP, which is far lower the NATO’s 2.0% target expenditures, but is slightly higher than that of Japan’s 1.0%.
Germany’s presence and influence in EU have been rising not only in economy but also in defense at a time when one of the key members of the union is leaving, and also the commitment of their long-term guardian, the USA, has become shaky under the current administration.
Should their armed forces be reinforced to play more roles in peace keeping efforts in Europe and beyond? Are nuclear weapons really unthinkable and unsayable option?
Enjoy reading and learning what Germany’s post-war military forces are like.


Topic Reading-Vol.1903-6/27/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Average American vs Average European
Comparing American with European sounds interesting. But before comparing the two, who are actually Europeans?
Europe lies in the westernmost part of Eurasia. There are over 50 sovereign states and 500 million residents in the continents, even without Turkey and Russia. The total population of the five largest peoples, Germans, French, British, Italian and Spanish, is approximately 320 million, which almost equals to the one of the US.
Speaking of America, nearly 200 million of the citizens are non-Hispanic whites, whose ancestors emigrated from Europe over the last three centuries.
Now, how different are they? The country of immigrants, freedom, dream, mixed culture and continuous change versus countries of distinct history, culture, language and tradition, and continual wars and union.
Enjoy seeing the video and learn some of the distinctive characteristics and figures of America and Europe.


Topic Reading-Vol.1902-6/26/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How much sugar is in your snack?
Raising awareness of a problem is just the first step. Showing viable solutions to the problem is the next step. People often pick up sweet or fatty snacks or drinks that are often enriched by unhealthy ingredients without recognizing how much is too much, especially sugar. In fact, a cup of smoothie, latte or soda contains much more sugar than a grown-up adult needs a day and so does a Danish pastry or muffin. This fact might make your afternoon gloomy. But don’t worry. There seem to be nearly-satisfying alternatives for your afternoon beverage or snack.
Enjoy finding safe and unsafe drinks and snacks for your health, and possibly weight.


Topic Reading-Vol.1901-6/25/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Yoga: How did it conquer the world and what's changed?
Yoga is a set of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines originated in ancient India. It was originally developed in the sixth or fifth centuries BCE and practiced within religious communities. It aims were to integrate and harmonize different personalities of a human; physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. It evolved gradually mainly in the subcontinent until the 20th century when it was introduced to the rest of the world. There, this originally-spiritual mediation became popular as a physical exercise.
Now Yoga is not only listed as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, but also International Day of Yoga is observed on June 21st, the after the World Refugee Day, by the UN. It is probably the most popular Indian tradition that is known to and practiced in the world.
Enjoy reading the text and think which of those five aspects you would like try to heel or enhance.


Topic Reading-Vol.1900-6/24/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
World Refugee Day: What you should know
Each year, June 20th is observed as Word Refugee Day. The day is dedicated to increase awareness of the situation many refugees are facing all over the places. Indeed, the world is observing a record number of people who have been forced to flee their homelands because of war, conflicts, and persecutions. The day is commemorated by various events in over 100 countries by government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians, and also by those displaced people.
Not-enough humanitarian efforts have been taken to save these people or solve the root problems. In fact, some of the countries that had been accepting those refugees are cutting the number of immigrants due to the rising pressure by their own citizens who worry about the security and harmony of their society.
While some part of the world is advancing toward brighter future with new technologies and talents, there is an increasing number of people who are struggling to find food to eat and place to live in.
Read the article and watch the short videos to learn about World Refugee Day


Topic Reading-Vol.1899-6/23/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Shootings kill or injure 19 children daily
About two per every 100,000 children are killed and nine are shot and wounded by guns every day in America, a recent report by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. These amount to an annual total of nearly 1,300 deaths and 6,000 gunshot wounds.
Unlike the Middle East or Afghanistan, there aren’t any civil wars or disputes, bombing or suicide attacks or any large scale civil unrest in this country of dream and freedom. Then why are there so many gunshots among children in the U.S.? The tradition, custom, culture, law, access to guns or incautious parents to blame?
Read the article and think when, or if ever, an AI-powered safety mechanism is installed in every gun sold or traded in America.


Topic Reading-Vol.1898-6/22/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Eating fried potatoes linked to higher risk of death, study says
Bad news for those who enjoy eating fried potatoes regularly. A new study, conducted in over 4,000 patients who suffer from joint problems, found that there is a link between their early deaths and fried potato consumption. The number of the patients who had eaten any form of fried potatoes, such as deep fried, potato chips or hash browns, once or more times a week was twice as high as that of those who hadn’t.
Though the study was observational, it showed that certain food could affect human mortality.
But why do fried potatoes have such bad effects on human health?
Enjoy reading and thinking who your next potatoes should be cooked.


Topic Reading-Vol.1897-6/21/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Sharing umbrellas pop up in Changsha
What sharing services have you used so far? How many apps do you have on your smartphone? There are all sorts of sharing services and their apps these days, such as a car, bike, room and even power bank. These services conveniently fill short-term needs for something that you don’t need to own or use all the time. Then what about an umbrella?
Right in time for the plum rainy season in Changsha, a major city in central China, a new sharing service appeared on the street, Sharing Umbrellas. It’s quite simple to use the service especially for Chinese who are used to use their smartphones to do everything from shopping to payment. Just like any other sharing service, you simply need to download their app, put a small deposit, find and use one of those umbrellas for only 1 yuan, approximately 15 cents, per hour.
You don’t have to worry if you should take an umbrella on a cloudy day or carry one that might not be used for the day. The only thing you may not be used to is to show ads that are printed on the umbrella, which reduces the usage fee.
Enjoy reading and thinking what kind of new sharing services will appear in the coming years.


Topic Reading-Vol.1896-6/20/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Jeff Bezos is the smartest guy in business
Whether you live in a marketplace within the reach of their delivery service or not, you probably know what is. Founded as an online bookstore back in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, the company has been extending its business categories to hardware, online streaming, web services and even their own tech gadgets like Kindle and Echo. Recently, the online retail and service giant entered brick-and-mortar retail business that offers unprecedented convenience and experience, Amazon Go, where customers pick up merchandises and walk out without checking out. (Don’t confuse this with alpha go, AI “go” player by Google)
Now, they announced to purchase an upper-class grocery chain, Whole Foods, that has a decent customer base. This acquisition was immediately applauded by Wall Street but was feared by other grocery chains.
Enjoy reading and thinking what sort of synergy, convenience and value are going to be created by this latest online-and-offline retail combination.


Topic Reading-Vol.1895-6/19/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
One-third of the world now overweight, with US leading the way
First, you may want to refresh your understanding of BMI and weight categories to read today’s topic reading.
Body-Mass Index, or BMI, quantifies the amount of body mass of an individual and categorizes that person as under, normal or over-weight, or obese based on that value.
It is a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.
BMI Categories are:
   - Underweight = <18.5,
   - Normal weight = 18.5–24.9,
   - Overweight = 25–29.9,
   - Obesity = 30 or greater
For example, the BMIs of a person whose height is 175cm by weight are:
   - 75 kilograms, 24.5 <= normal weight (barely)
   - 85 kilograms, 27.8 <= overweight
   - 95 kilograms, 31.0 <= obese
A new study found that over 2 billion adults and children are overweight or obese in the world, which is nearly one-third of the world population! Also, another problem seems to the children who are already overweight or obese at their early period of their lives because they are most likely to be in such unhealthy conditions for too long, like 20, 30 or 40 years.
Enjoy reading and thinking what practices or disciplines are more effective and sustainable to keep the weight within a healthy range.


Topic Reading-Vol.1894-6/18/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
You can teach yourself a risk taker
Which do you think gives you more assurance for tomorrow, keeping the way you’ve lived in or taking on a new challenge?
This question may sound controversial but the answers seem to be clearly divided depending on the business and environment. For example, if you’ve been farming rice or wheat for years, you probably prefer to adopt new methods or tools time to time to improve productivity rather than changing the way you know works at once. But if you work in Silicon Valley or Bengaluru, staying where you are means you’re left behind as others are taking risks to reap forward.
Another question is what drives one to take risks to initiate a new business or materialize a new idea because not everyone is a natural born entrepreneur.
Enjoy reading the article and think if you want to try something that you’ve wanted to do but haven’t.


Topic Reading-Vol.1893-6/17/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Tilted towers: The secrets beneath the world's leaning buildings
As you probably know, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is one of the most remarkable architectural structures from medieval Europe. Its construction began in 1173, but a series of wars delayed the completion until 1399. It stands at 60 meters tall with 251 steps to the top. More importantly, it is leaning at about a five-degree angle, but had been leaning as much as 10 degrees until the repair work took place in 1990.
Is that the only leaning tower in the world?
No. There are other renowned towers that are leaning, in Germany and China only to name a few.
Were they planned to lean in the first place or over time? Are they safe to go inside?
Enjoy reading and learning what kind of architectural mishaps created learning towers.


Topic Reading-Vol.1892-6/16/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Norway to ban face veils in all schools
Ones’ tradition may not be always accepted in other places, and sometimes by law.
Wearing a hijab, a veil that covers the head and chest, or burqa, enveloping clothes to cover nearly the entire figure in public, is a long-kept tradition for many Muslim women, even among world-class athletes, politician like Benazir Bhutto and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Now, Norway is going to ban wearing of any full-face veil or mask in any educational institution in the country. Why? The advocates say they want to encourage students and learners to communicate with each other more and better. For Muslim women, wearing this traditional garment is a symbol of modesty and privacy.
It sounds highly controversial, isn’t it? What about in your place?
Enjoy reading the article and think how teachers and students distinguish one from others in the classroom if all the girls wear a face-covering veil.


Topic Reading-Vol.1891-6/15/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What would happen if everyone went vegan?
Meat, dairy products, eggs and honey. These are foods are enjoyed by many in the world. But what if everyone decided to refrain from using any animal product whatever for food, clothing, or any other purpose? Would people become healthier and the environment turn greener?
It seems so. It is in fact easier to get the right food balance as a vegan because the consumption of junk foods and meat, which are both high in saturated fats, is going to be reduced. Also, according to the UN, livestock animals emits nearly 15% of the greenhouse gas produced by humans, or almost as much as the total exhaust emissions by fossil fuel engines. That has a significant impact on the environment without sacrificing day-to-day convenience or practice. Sounds like a rosy idea, doesn’t it?
But one thing should also be thought. What will happen to the livestock animals? Will they be all eaten before everyone went vegan, or kept in zoos?
Enjoy reading and thinking if you want to see vegan-only restaurants and supermarkets on the street and dishes on the table.


Topic Reading-Vol.1890-6/14/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Are Google, Amazon and others getting too big?
Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon are the four largest US companies in terms of market capitalization as of April this year, followed by Facebook in the 8th place. All these tech giants dominate their respective businesses, such as tech gadgets, search engine, apps, online retailing or social networking, and increasing their market share further and extending their arms to other markets. Also, as Information Technologies (IT), such as the Internet of Things, data mining and deep learning, become more essential and influential for both online and offline businesses, the value of the data and information those tech giants are collecting from their customers and users is becoming more critical to be competitive. Therefore, while the use of such data offers convenience and benefits to users, there are growing concerns about their data gathering and handling practices.
Should they be more regulated to avoid monopoly or oligopoly in their businesses?
Enjoy reading and thinking if you want your behavioral data is gathered, exchanged and used by someone else.


Topic Reading-Vol.1889-6/13/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Naruhito: Will Japan's crown prince be a 'fresh breeze' for the monarchy?
Crown Prince Naruhito is now set to become the 126th Emperor on the first day of either January or April in 2019 to mark a new Japanese era when his father, Emperor Akihito steps down. It’ll be the first abdication of a living emperor in Japan’s royal family in 200 years.
Naruhito was born as the first son of then Crown Prince Akihito on 23 February 1960. He studied history at Gakushuin University in Tokyo and also at Merton College, Oxford University in England. He married his wife Masako in 1993 and welcomed a daughter, Princess Aiko in 2001. He is interested in water policy and water conservation, and enjoys playing the viola, jogging, hiking, and mountaineering in his limited free time.
While he is well determined to take the busy and responsible role by standing close to people like his father, he also seems to be interested to bring a fresh breeze to the monarchy.
What he means or hopes remains to be seen.
Enjoy reading about Japan’s 15-century old monarchy.


Topic Reading-Vol.1888-6/12/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The new way to karaoke in China: On the go and by yourself
How do you enjoy singing karaoke, if you ever do? Most of karaoke singers usually sing, whether alone or with others, in a room with dedicated equipment. But new ways to enjoy this popular entertainment are emerging in China, where there are millions of casual or enthusiastic karaoke singers, such as self-service karaoke booths, karaoke app to sing duet with popular stars, and a portable half-microphone/half-speaker gadget.
It sounds just like the way PC & email culture has shifted to smartphone & messaging app.
Enjoy reading and seeing the video of the game-changing new methods for karaoke.


Topic Reading-Vol.1887-6/11/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What is the Muslim Brotherhood?
Rift is a word you hear more frequently than usual these days, especially within the Gulf Cooperation Councils (GCC), a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Suddenly without any prior indication or warning, the other GCC states, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, joined by Egypt, abandoned all diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, including any transportation and travel by land, air, or sea. The impact to this small Gulf sheikhdom is catastrophic because of its dependency on logistics to its neighbors. For example, about 40 percent of food supply arrives in Qatar via land transport from Saudi Arabia.
Why was Qatar isolated from its neighbors so suddenly and drastically? One reason is said to be its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, or the MB. Then, what is the MB? Is it that threatening to other Islam countries?
Enjoy reading and learning what this political Islamist group in the Arab world is about.


Topic Reading-Vol.1886-6/10/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Indians still mad for engineering despite threat to H1B visa
India is one of the largest producers of engineers in the world. And they are one of the major contributors of the success of America’s IT industry.
 Nearly five million under graduate and post graduate students were studying engineering and technology in 750 universities and over 40,000 colleges in India in 2016, according to UGC India. And almost 1.6million engineers appear each year to the global market. Among them, over 126,000 were granted H-1B visa to the US, a ticket to work in the US for three years in their field at an amount of salary they can hardly earn in their home country.
Accordingly, to pursue higher income, status and future prospect, many students in India try to get a ticket to study engineering and technology in top universities such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, or IIT, which makes the enrolment much more competitive than any other world-famous university, even Harvard or MIT.
Even though the current US administration is going to limit the number of H-1B visas to foreign talents, students in India are still looking at IT as the surest path to success.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you want to compete in the most competitive market.


Topic Reading-Vol.1885-6/9/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
6 Silk Road secrets: Traveling in Central Asia's Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
Among the seven “stans,” Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan lie along the northern route of the ancient Silk Road. Things popular in one place are often more appreciated in other places, especially in ancient times when transporting such valuable items took time and risks, and could cost even lives.
Though there were times when foreign powers ruled the region like the Soviet Union, cities in these central Asian countries have kept ancient monuments and architectures, and old traditions and lifestyles along with modern buildings and transportations.
Things seem to be moving not as fast as the other part of the world. It may be worthwhile applying visas to enter and experience these historical and monumental “Stans” before it’s too late.
Enjoy seeing the photos of things and places in Central Asia.


Topic Reading-Vol.1884-6/8/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
India launches 'monster' rocket
This made-in-India, 43-meter tall rocket is a launch vehicle for cargo or human crew to space. It weighs 660 tons, as heavy as 200 elephants, and can send up to three tons of satellites into the high altitude orbit for TV, telephone calls and broadband connections. Though it isn’t the heaviest rocket in history, this second successful launch of the heavy-weight vehicle is crucial for India’s future projects, to send human crew into space and explore Mars.
It is not surprising to develop such high-tech, money-eating spacecraft for this still-developing country. As science is promoted in its constitution in India, the majority of the college students are majoring some area in science, and their talent and capability is already proved to be the top of the world. Furthermore, their wages are still far lower than the comparable talents in the US or European countries. So why not making us of the domestic resources instead of paying expensive bills to other countries? And more importantly, they can retain and make use of their knowledge and experience for their future.
Enjoy reading and thinking which country will lead space programs in the mid-21st century.


Topic Reading-Vol.1883-6/7/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Will smartphones kill the art of Chinese handwriting?
Have you ever thought how Chinese people text messages in their language?
Traditional Chinese characters appeared during the Han Dynasty and become consistent in the 5th century. Even they were simplified to improve literacy in the last century, there still are over 8,000 standard characters in mainland China. Now, thanks to the modern technology and convenient devices, such as PCs and mobile phones, very few handwrite those still-complicated characters on paper these days. And there is no such keyboard that has thousands of keys. How do they form text messages?
Also, though students learn to read and write those characters in school, they no longer use them in practice outside their classrooms as they all chat on their smartphones. Will the handwriting culture disappear? Does it matter in the first place?
Enjoy watching the video to learn how Chinese characters appear on their mobile phones.


Topic Reading-Vol.1882-6/6/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How the US coal industry is reacting to the Paris Climate Accord withdrawal
“The decision” seems to have pleased US coal miners, their bosses and shareholders, at least. All the major coal producer companies express their appreciation and support for the President’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
Interestingly, though, other major fossil fuel producers such as Shell and ExxonMobil stand by the accord, saying that they will continue to provide more and cleaner energy.
Another divide is seen among political leaders. While the federal administration decided to step back from the Paris accord, numbers of governors and mayors across the country have committed to uphold the obligations of the climate agreement.
Many business leaders of either online or offline retailers, international or domestic corporations, high-tech or low-tech companies openly opposed the withdrawal but others remain silent.
Even among Trump’s voters, opinions as to whether to support the withdrawal are evenly divided, according to a recent national poll.
Are the staff of his administration, family members and even the people of Pittsburg all united?
Enjoy reading and thinking how divided the United States of America is.


Topic Reading-Vol.1881-6/5/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Trade dispute holds up EU-China climate statement
In the late last century, “It’s the economy s-----!” phrase worked the most in elections.
It was so close to reach a historical joint commitment to combat global warming between these two parties, the EU and China. This unlikely alliance could have been formed should they had managed to compromise the disagreements in trade and steel production issues. Since China has been the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses ever since it surpassed the US in 2007, their commitment to the Paris climate agreement is essential for the global environment, especially when the US president announced to withdraw from the accord.
It seems that while the US has lost the leadership role in global environmental initiatives, China has missed a chance to take the position.
Enjoy reading and thinking when the world hears “It’s the environment s-----!” phrase during elections. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1880-6/4/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Piracy threat returns to African waters
Dangerous it is, off the West Coast of Africa, particularly Somalia. As shown in a 2013 American biographical survival thriller movie, Captain Phillips, there have been a number of merchant mariners that were taken hostage by pirates mainly for ransom. Ships that go through the designated High Risk Area (HRA) are advised to; register with the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), remain within the protected corridor by military support vessels, and also deploy armed guards. However, nearly a quarter of the ships sailed unprotected seas last year, and the number of high jackings increased over the previous relatively-quite years.
Off-shore measures don’t seem to provide sustainable solutions to this modern piracy problem, do they?
Enjoy reading and thinking what are the root causes of the problem on the ground.


Topic Reading-Vol.1879-6/3/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The avocado toast index; How many breakfasts to buy a house?
Do you eat avocado toast? Just to make it clear, it’s an open sandwich made with mashed avocado on toast. Toppings, such as poached eggs, salmon or shrimps could be added to further enrich this stylish sandwich. Though it’s no more expensive than other ordinary sandwiches, it’ll cost you as much as the down payment of a house you may want to own, if you keep buying one every day for years.
How many years?
Enjoy reading and seeing the comparative chart to show you how many avocado toasts are needed to put a deposit on a house.


Topic Reading-Vol.1878-6/2/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Mount Everest: The perils and glory of 64 years at the top of the world
Chomolungma is how it is called in Tibet and Sagarmatha by Nepalis. Ever since it was first climbed to the top by a climber and a Sherpa in 1953, the 8,850-meter-high mountain has been summited 7,646 times by climbers as old as 80 and as young as 13 years old, whether with or without oxygen. The passion to stand on the top of the peak is so irreplaceable that as many as 661 people reached the summit in 2013 alone. But there is no easy or safe way to get there. According to the Himalaya Database, 174 deaths were counted between 1990 and 2016 during their expeditions. The causes of those deaths include; a fall, storm, avalanche and even an earthquake.
Does it have to be Everest? There are many other challenging and rewarding summits in the Himalayas and other continents.
Enjoy reading the article and seeing the photos of the world most famous mountain.


Topic Reading-Vol.1877-6/1/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel
Jerusalem, which lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, is one of the oldest cities in the world. It is considered a holy city in the three major Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is also claimed as the capital by Israelis and Palestinians. The international community has never recognized Israeli’s claim and they all place their embassies in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. Only Russia recently recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In reality, Palestinian part of the town has been annexed to Israel. While over 400,000 Palestinian residents still live in the disputed territory, about 200,000 Israelis also have settled there being protected by military and police forces.
Holiness, historical significance or geopolitical importance?
Enjoy reading and ask yourself why Russia recognized Jerusalem as Israeli’s capital all of a sudden.