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Friday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians! TGIF.

The weather continues to be very very strange. We in southern New England are being left out of another terrible winter storm. I’m reading that there is an “intense winter storm” in the Northeast:

A huge, windy winter storm lingered Friday over the Northeast, cutting power to at least a half-million customers, fanning a hotel fire in New Hampshire, and disrupting air and road travel across the region.
Power failures were so bad in New Hampshire that even the state Emergency Operations Center was operating on a generator. Winds across the region were near 50 mph as utility companies prepared for even more outages due to toppled trees and near-blizzard conditions.

Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest utility, reported power cut to at least 237,000 customers and said it would take days before everyone’s lights flickered back on.

New Hampshire? How did this storm miss us here in Boston? I’m looking out my window and I see sun. We did have strong winds blowing around last night and some rain, but that was it.

Officials in Massachusetts said the storm had knocked out power to 100,000 homes and businesses by early Friday, mostly in the northeastern part of the state. The numbers were 200,000 in New York, mostly in the Hudson Valley north of New York City, 25,000 in Vermont and more than 1,500 in New Jersey.

In New York City, 10 inches of snow had fallen before dawn and more was expected. A man was killed by a falling snow-laden tree branch in Central Park, one of at least three deaths being blamed on the storm.

The storm it somewhere in Massachusetts apparently, but not in my part of the state. I hope all you Conflucians who did get it are surviving okay.

In other news, the President held a “health care summit” yesterday. I missed the whole thing, but I got updates from the live blogs here at TC. It didn’t sound to me like much got accomplished. I don’t see a whole lot of new reaction in the big media outlets. I wonder if the whole thing is just going to fall down the memory hole.

Via right wing blog Hot Air, self-important pompous ass and CNN talking head David Gergen thinks “the Republicans had their best day in years and that they were intellectually superior to the Democrats in their arguments. Is he for real?

The Boston Globe lists some “exchanges” that took place at the “summit.” It’s a pretty short article for the highlights of a 7 hour meeting.

Jake Tapper posted a kind of open thread at his blog Political Punch, but didn’t even get many comments. This one was pretty good:

What an interesting look into the fall-out of “accelerated promotion.” You have a junior member of congress who catapults into the presidency after serving only 28 months in the body. The setting yesterday revealed Obama’s continued need to prove himself worthy of his title. What he lacks in experience and rapport with other members of congress is replaced with bravado-the only card he can play..as if his arrogance in some way makes up for his lack of qualifications in the eyes of the people in that room-most of whom, up until last year, vastly “out-ranked” him.

I think most Americans have just about given up on this administration doing anything for anyone but giant corporations.

Looking at more liberal media outlets, Lindsay Beyerstein at Alternet had this to say:

arguably, the real purpose of the summit was to captivate the attention of the media while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., figured out how to push ahead with health care reform through budget reconciliation — a parliamentary procedure that would sidestep the filibuster and the 60-vote supermajority required to overcome it, allowing Democrats to pass Senate legislation by a simple majority of 51 votes.

I still have no idea what is in this bill. Does anyone know? If they still plan to force me to buy crap insurance I can’t afford, I’m not sure what to do.

At Talking Points Memo, Greg Sargent tries to put the best possible face on Obama’s performance, while not sounding very confident about it. Sargent seems to agree with Beyerstein that the only point of the summit was to put the Republicans’ arguments on display and then go ahead and push the bill through. But did Americans get the message that Obama wanted them to get? I don’t know.

In other news, David Patterson is in more trouble in New York.

A range of political allies and even some close friends urged Mr. Paterson privately and publicly to end his bid for election. They said his political standing had been irreparably damaged by revelations on Thursday that the State Police had contacted the woman pressing a domestic violence complaint against a close aide, and by the allegation that the governor had spoken with her a day before she was due back in court.

While no prominent Democrat called for Mr. Paterson to resign, several said it would be impossible for him to both govern and run a campaign while dealing with the allegations, which the governor has asked Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate. Other officials said that if an inquiry showed that Mr. Paterson tried to influence the woman’s decision not to continue the case, he should resign.

While I was at Alternet, I found this fascinating and horrifying article by Mark Ames on Ayn Rand, who is the favorite author of many of the public officials who are destroying our country:

Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer

There’s something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be as hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population who thought like this, but the US is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?

The answer is Ayn Rand’s writings. Among her fans are

former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox — along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate “entitlement programs” increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked “Atlas Shrugged” as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after The Bible

And according to Rand’s biographer, the novelist based her most famous male characters, John Galt and Howard Roark, on a serial killer named Walter Hickman, with whom Rand was obsessed and described as “genuinely beautiful soul.” You can read more about Hickman at the link. This is a must-read.

Speaking of serial killers, I’m guessing Rand would also have been an admirer of Amy Bishop. The latest news on Bishop’s case is just incredible. There’s video at the link of Norfolk County DA William Keating making an announcement last night that the case of Bishop’s shooting of her younger brother Seth in 1986 has been reopened, and he is asking for an inquest. The reasons for this are first that Bishop’s parents have refused to speak to investigators and second that new evidence has been found.

Keating also said there were inconsistencies in the police reports, including two different accounts of Seth Bishop’s body position when he was found, with one saying he was face-up and another saying he was face-down.

And he said that a crime scene photo from that era showed that next to the rifle shells found in Amy Bishop’s bedroom, there was a newspaper with an article that chronicled a similar attack to the one she allegedly committed.

Keating said he questioned whether the shooting was truly accidental, and he added that an inquest could lead to a homicide charge against Amy Bishop.

During the press conference, Keating said that the article lying next to Bishop’s bed was about someone who killed a family member and then escaped by stealing a car from a dealership, which is exactly what she tried to do. What more can come out about this woman? My only question is, was she planning to kill her brother or her father? The father is the one she had had an argument with just before she went upstairs to get the shotgun. Keating wants to know what that argument was about.

So what are you reading this morning, and are you buried in snow?

HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY!!!!!!!

Amy Bishop and Massachusetts Politics

The scene of the crime, Dec. 6, 1986

I’m still obsessed with the Amy Bishop case–most of all I’m fascinated by the events of December 6, 1986, when Bishop shot and killed her younger brother Seth. As I’m sure you all remember, Bishop is now in jail, after being charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder for shooting six of her colleagues in the Biology Department at the University of Alabama Huntsville, three of them fatally.

Over the past few days, a great deal more information has come out and it appears more and more likely that local politics played a role in preventing Bishop from being charged with a crime in connection with the shooting of her brother Seth on December 6, 1986 in their home in Braintree, Massachusetts.

To recap, a day after the shootings in Alabama, current Braintree Chief of Police Paul Frazier released a statement in which he criticized the handling of the 1986 shooting by then Chief John Polio, now retired. Frazier had spoken to Officer Ronald Solimini, who in 1986 had arrested 21-year-old Amy Bishop and brought her to the police station to be booked.

Solimini told Chief Frazier that the file on the case had been missing at least since 1988, when Chief Polio’s successor, Chief Edward Flynn looked for it (I would love to know why he was looking for it).

Solimini said he had been in the process of booking Bishop for murder (witnesses say that word had been written on the booking sheet) when he was told by a Lieutenant to release Bishop to her parents. Supposedly the order had come down from then Chief of Police John Polio. From Chief Frazier’s statement of Feb. 13, 2010 (click on link in article to see Word document):

“I was not on duty at the time of the incident, but I recall how frustrated the members of the department were over the release of Ms. Bishop. It was a difficult time for the department as there had been three (3) shooting incidents within a short timeframe. The release of Ms. Bishop did not sit well with the police officers and I can assure you that this would not happen in this day and age.”

“It is troubling that this incident has come to light. I can assure you that the members of the Braintree Police Department maintain the highest of integrity. Since it was discovered this morning that the report is missing, I have been in contact with Mayor Joseph Sullivan. Mayor Sullivan and I have spoken with District Attorney William Keating and we will be meeting with him next week to discuss this situation. The Mayor supports a full review of this matter and agrees that we want to know where the records are.”

Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA)

After Frazier’s public statement, a March 1987 report by the State Police (PDF) was released to the public. Based on this report, then Norfolk County District Attorney William Delahunt, now a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, had ruled the the death of Seth Bishop to be accidental and no charges were filed against Amy Bishop, according to Frazier.

On Feb. 16, Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan announced that the missing report on the 1986 shooting (PDF) had been found in the files of an unnamed police officer. Who was that officer? No one is telling as yet.

Neither the Braintree police report nor the State Police report included the information that after shooting her brother, Amy Bishop had held two auto mechanics at gunpoint at a car dealership near her home and demanded the keys to a car, or that after leaving the dealership she had pointed her shotgun in the face of a 16-year-old boy who was working at a newspaper distribution office. It was there that Bishop was finally arrested, but not before she also trained the shotgun on police officers.

Basically, Bishop had gone on a rampage around her neighborhood on Dec. 6, 1986. After discharging her 12-gauge pump-action shotgun three times in her home, killing her brother with the second shot, she had run out of the house, tried to stop a man in a car by pointing the shotgun at him (that was in the police report for some reason), gone into the car dealership in search of a get-away car, then tried again to get a car by pointing her shotgun at a 16-year old boy. Finally, she pointed the shotgun at two Braintree police officers who were trying to disarm her, according to Boston’s WCVB, Channel 5.

A source close to the shooting investigation told NewsCenter 5 that police officers who arrested Bishop in 1986 called it the “scariest day” of their lives.

“I remember looking at her and thinking ‘She killed her brother and now she’s going to kill me,'” one officer, who did not want to be named, told NewsCenter 5’s Kelley Tuthill.

William Keating, the current Norfolk County district attorney, said Bishop should have been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon for her alleged actions after shooting her brother in 1986.

“There was a mistake in not doing it. I don’t think you can justify it,” Keating said.

Come on. Bishop should have been charged with manslaughter at the very least. The weapon she used, a 12-gauge shotgun, had to be manually pumped in order to chamber a round. And it could not just “go off” accidentally. She would have had to pull the trigger. Amy had loaded the weapon in her bedroom, where it supposedly discharged “accidentally,” blowing a hole in the wall. She had tried to cover up the hole before going downstairs. Her mother Judy Bishop later claimed she did not hear the shotgun blast upstairs. Continue reading

Friday Morning News and Views

TGIF and Good morning, Conflucians! Yesterday afternoon, right before WordPress crashed, we were having a discussion about whether Joseph Stack smashing a plane into a government building should be considered domestic terrorism. I said yes. According to the MSNBC, the Feds say the government building was deliberately targeted. David Niewert, author of a book on right wing militias, seems Stack’s act should be considered terrorism.

Huh? Since when is attempting to blow up a federal building NOT an act of domestic terrorism? In response to a Fox News claim that it was not terrorism Niewert writes:

…this is true only if the conventional understanding of the word “terrorism” has now been narrowed down to mean only international terrorism and to preclude domestic terrorism altogether.

Since when, after all, is attempting to blow up a federal office as a protest against federal policies NOT an act of domestic terrorism?

You know, Timothy McVeigh used a “dangerous instrument” to kill 168 people in Oklahoma City. He too was angry at the federal government, and was converted to the belief that acts of violence was the only means possible to prevent the government from overwhelming our freedom and replacing it with tyranny. He also believed that his act of exemplary violence would inspire others to take up similar acts to stave off the threat of tyranny.

And that’s exactly what Joseph Andrew Stack believed too:

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. … I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.

According to Niewert,

There are different kinds terrorism…. There’s international terrorism. Then there’s domestic terrorism, sometimes conducted by a larger conspiracy, and sometimes conducted by small cells like McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and lone wolves like Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder and James Von Brunn.

All of these acts fit the FBI’s twin definition of terrorism:

Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)]

International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

I agree with Niewert that if we don’t call what Stack and Roeder did “terrorism,” then we should redefine the term to mean only violence committed by foreigners. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

My new junior Senator, Scott Brown seems to think Stack may have been justified in his rage against the Feds. In his appearance on Cavuto yesterday, he didn’t express any outrage at the violence committed by Stack.

Dick Cheney showed up at the CPAC conference yesterday.

“I think Barack Obama is a one term president,” he told a roaring crowd. “It’s a great time to be a conservative.”

Liz Cheney also came out swinging in her conference address.

“There’s no polite way to put this, but that kind of incompetence gets people killed,” Cheney said, accusing the Obama administration of missing warnings from the intelligence community that Yemeni terrorists were plotting an attack.

“There is no doubt that the daily intelligence briefings that the president receives contained much more information on the threat from Yemen,” she said, without a hint of irony at the failures of the Bush-Cheney years, bemoaning “incompetence, misjudgment and presidential neglect.”

WTF?! Dick and Liz seem to have completely forgotten about the August 6, PDB that was ignored by President George W. Bush and was followed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. As I recall, those attacks killed close to 3,000 people.

There is also lots of new Amy Bishop news, which I’ll address in another post. But this story is really strange: Lawyer: Alabama Professor Likely Insane According the WSJ story, Bishop’s court-appointed attorney, Roy W. Miller thinks she has paranoid schizophrenia. This doesn’t sound anything like schizophrenia to me.

Miller said Bishop seems “very cogent” in jail, where he has spent more than three hours with her over two days, yet she also seems to realize she has a loose grip on reality.

“She gets at issue with people that she doesn’t need to and obsesses on it,” Miller said. “She won’t shake it off, and it’s really (things of) no great consequence.”

Bishop, who claims an IQ of 180, can’t explain the shootings, he said.

“She says she does not remember anything about it,” said Miller.

The chief prosecutor in Huntsville said he would not oppose a mental evaluation for Bishop, 45.

Admittedly, people with paranoid schizophrenia can function better in the world than people with other types of schizophrenia, but to suggest that someone with this terrible illness could earn a Ph.D. from Harvard, complete a postdoc, and work for years as a university professor while doing scientific research and publishing peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals? That’s nuts.

Schizophrenia strikes young people–usually people in their late teens and early twenties. People with any type of schizophrenia do not come off as “very cogent” in personal interactions. They have auditory and sometimes visual hallucinations and extremely bizarre delusions.

I think it’s more likely that Bishop is suffering from borderline personality disorder. That would explain her difficulties getting along with other people, her rage attacks, and her lapses into dissociative states. Someone with BPD would not be likely to qualify as legally insane, meaning that she didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Some people have called her a sociopath (now called anti-social personality disorder). I don’t think so, because there is evidence that she agonized over having killed her brother.

Stateofdisbelief came across this story which, if it happens would be wonderful: EXCLUSIVE: Obama Eyes Western Land for National Monuments, Angering Some

More than a dozen pristine landscapes, wildlife habitats and scenic rivers in 11 Western states, some larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, are under consideration by the Obama administration to become America’s newest National Monuments — a decision the administration can make unilaterally without local input or congressional approval.

According to internal Department of Interior documents leaked to a Utah congressman and obtained exclusively by Fox News, the mostly public lands include Arizona deserts, California mountains, Montana prairies, New Mexico forests, Washington islands and the Great Basins of Nevada and Colorado — totaling more than 13 million acres.

What are you reading this morning?

HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!


UPDATE:

Now a “famous criminal profiler” has come forward to diagnose Joseph Stack as a “‘self-loathing’ narcissist.”

A History of Violence

Something is very wrong with Amy Bishop, and there has been something wrong with her for a very long time. But just what is her problem, and how did she manage to keep it at least somewhat under control for so long? As a psychologist, I have found this story so fascinating that I have barely been able to focus on anything else for the past few days.

Amy Bishop is a professor at the University of Alabama at Huntville who shot six of her colleagues at a Biology Department meeting on Friday, February 12. She had taken a 9-millimeter pistol with her to the meeting, loaded with 16 bullets. She did not have a permit for the weapon. She has been charged with one count of capital murder and three counts of attempted murder so far. From The New York Times:

Those killed were Gopi Podila, 52, the chairman of the biology department; Maria Ragland Davis, 50, a professor who studied plant pathogens; and Adriel Johnson, 52, a cell biologist who also taught Boy Scouts about science.

Two of the wounded were Joseph Leahy, 50, a microbiologist, and Stephanie Monticciolo, 62, a staff assistant, both of whom were in critical condition. The third was Luis Cruz-Vera, 40, a molecular biologist, who was released from the hospital on Saturday.

A neuroscientist with a PhD from Harvard University, Bishop was working on a start-up company to market a portable cell incubator that she had invented with her husband. The couple had won the $25,000 seed money in an Alabama business competition. Bishop and Anderson have four children, the oldest of whom is 18.

Bishop had been denied tenure twice by her department, and her appeal had been denied in April of 2009. At the end of the Spring semester she would have had to leave UAH. She felt she had been unfairly treated because of personality issues, and had apparently retained a lawyer to help her fight the decision. However, with her qualifications, Bishop should have been able to find another teaching job easily. On the other hand, why did she end up at UAH in the first place when she had such outstanding qualifications?

My excuse for writing about this at TC is that, according to the Boston Herald, quoting “a family source,” Bishop

was a far-left political extremist who was “obsessed” with President Obama to the point of being off-putting.

In addition, many right-wing blogs are trying to turn this tragic story into a political issue, claiming that Amy Bishop is a radical socialist, and supposedly that should explain her losing control and going on a shooting rampage.

At least one blog is suggesting the shootings were based on race, because most of the people Bishop shot were people of color. I also saw this suggestion made on Twitter several time yesterday.

…Bishop shot almost every non-white faculty member in the department. (She also shot and wounded two white victims, a professor and a staff member.) She killed both African-American professors in the department (one of whom was too junior to have had anything to do with Bishop’s tenure decision). She killed the department chair, who was ethnically South Asian. A Latino faculty member was wounded. There may only be two non-white faculty left in the department. Whether she intended it or not, Amy Bishop effected a racial purge of the Alabama Huntsville biology department.

The following is a summary of what I have learned about Amy Bishop so far. Continue reading

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning, Conflucians!!!!

I’ve been surfing around the ‘net for awhile, and I’ve come up with a somewhat eclectic collection of links that mostly ignore current events in Washington DC. These are some stories that caught my eye. What are you reading? Is there anything big happening in the Village that I missed?

First up: more evidence that Professors with Harvard degrees are no better than the rest of us regular folks.

From the NYT: Professor Said to Be Charged After 3 Are Killed in Alabama

Three faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville were shot to death, and three other people were seriously wounded at a biology faculty meeting on Friday afternoon, university officials said….a biology professor, identified as Amy Bishop, was charged with murder.

According to a faculty member, the professor had applied for tenure, been turned down, and appealed the decision. She learned on Friday that she had been denied once again.

The newspaper identified Dr. Bishop as a Harvard-educated neuroscientist. According to a 2006 profile in the newspaper, Dr. Bishop invented a portable cell growth incubator with her husband, Jim Anderson. Police officials said that Mr. Anderson was being detained, but they did not call him a suspect.

[....]

Officials said the dead were all biology professors, G. K. Podila, the department’s chairman; Maria Ragland Davis; and Adriel D. Johnson Sr. Two other biology professors, Luis Rogelio Cruz-Vera and Joseph G. Leahy, as well as a professor’s assistant, Stephanie Monticciolo, are at Huntsville Hospital in conditions ranging from stable to critical.

This is a terrible tragedy that also demonstrates that academics are no more immune to rage, violence, or psychological dysfunction than anyone else. I was thinking about how horrible this must be for the students at UAH, and then I read this.

From MSNBC: Professor charged in university shooting

Gina Hammond, a UAH student, told WAFF that she lobbied the University of Alabama trustees to allow students with gun permits to carry their weapons on campus. She was turned down.

“I’m scared to go back to school,” Hammond said. “However, if they were to allow me to carry my pistol on campus, I would not be as scared.

“… I’m sorry that nobody in that room had a pistol to save at least one person’s life,” Hammond said.

OK, I’m not sure allowing everyone to carry guns on college campuses is the solution to this kind of tragedy. Maybe it would have been better if Dr. Bishop hadn’t had access to a firearm. Then maybe she could have calmed down a little bit, thought things over, and started looking for another job.

Here’s another odd, sad story along similar lines: Psychiatrist Tips Off Police about Her Husband’s Paranoia and Weapons Stockpiling

Gregory Girard, 45, is now being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing tomorrow in Salem District Court, where he pleaded not guilty yesterday to multiple weapons charges.

Police arrested Girard late Tuesday night after a brief standoff outside the 23 Bridge St. condo where he had been living with his wife and their 16-year-old son.

Girard had a huge collection of weaponry in the family’s home and a shooting range in the attic.

On Monday, Girard’s wife, a psychiatrist, contacted police to express concern about her husband’s increasing paranoia and apparent stockpiling of weapons, Segal said.

Kristine Girard told police that while her husband hadn’t threatened her, she was afraid to return home after an argument.

She said her husband had recently told her, “Don’t talk to people, shoot them instead,” and “It’s fine to shoot people in the head because traitors deserve it,” Segal said, reading from a police report.

This guy is too old to have recently developed schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenics sometimes function fairly well. Perhaps he has suffered with the disorder for years and has taken medication that helped him, or perhaps he has some other type of bipolar disorder that can lead to psychotic episodes (bipolar disorder or major depression are possibilities).

Regardless, this man has some kind of severe psychological disorder that wasn’t caused by attending tea party demonstrations or admiring Sarah Palin as the prog blogs have been busy implying. More nutty interpretations of a psychologically troubled person’s motivations at TPM here and here. Meanwhile, right wing blogs are focusing on the fact that Girard’s wife is psychiatrist who works in Cambridge, MA.

Guess what you Obot morons, psychiatrists are subject to human failings just like Harvard education professors and all the rest of us “ordinary people.” Get a clue, why don’t you? This is a human tragedy, and the man has a 16-year-old son who is probably really upset right now.
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