Archive for the ‘Fundamentalism’ Category

Two ships passing in the night…

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

…and sometimes colliding. This is a metaphor about the Dems and GOP. The passing and the colliding, though, refer to what these traditional parties promise. Neil Postman, writing in Amusing Ourselves to Death—and quoted in Brooke Gladstone’ little jewel, The Trouble with Reality–said: “In 1984…people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us, Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us….” 1984 shows us what the far-right’s end game is, where Trump and his cronies are trying to lead us. Equally damning, where everyone is happy, happy, happy is Brave New World’s message and also the message of the far-left. People swallowing either message will need to invest heavily in antacids.

Ms. Gladstone probably wouldn’t want me react to this quote in this way, but I’ve always lumped 1984 and Brave New World together; I just couldn’t pin down the subtle difference. I now can. Conservatives emphasize the differences between human beings, parroting Orwell’s other book, Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” Progressives naively stop at “…created equal….” In neither Orwell’s dystopia nor Huxley’s utopia is there room for individual differences. Both extremes lead to the loss of individualism and the creation of demagogues who turn us into lemmings surrounded by cliffs.

Ms. Gladstone’s book did make me come to a reckoning, though: a logical and reasonable person shouldn’t be political, at least not in the sense of our two major parties that would like to play the pied piper and lead us down roads reasonable and logical people should never travel. But emotions are important too because they make us human. We just can’t let our emotions drive us into culs-de-sac like those depicted in 1984 and Brave New World.

Now I understand why my new post-apocalyptic thriller novel The Last Humans is more apolitical than political. It is about one human being, Penny Castro, and her fight for survival. She is logical, reasonable, and, yes, she’s emotional, as she beats all odds and forges a new life. This is what makes us human, not some corrupt credo, debunked and discredited ideology, or inane political platitudes. After the apocalypse, there’s no dystopia nor utopia, only survival and confronting her own reality. In all of this, Penny never loses her humanity.

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The monuments men…

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

…and women—to all those misguided individuals jumping on the careening bandwagon of indiscriminately tearing down monuments, I understand the sentiments. After all, people like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were traitors to this nation while defending an ugly, racist economy based on slavery. Slavery and human trafficking are despicable crimes that aren’t justified by the nefarious concept that some humans aren’t humans at all but possessions.

That said, I’d rather place monuments to Confederate traitors in museums where the tale of their terrible deeds is completely displayed for all to see. My reason is simple: I’m not sure people know about Lee’s or Jackson’s life stories and how they came to be traitors. Lee was a graduate of West Point, after all, but the U.S. military was racist right into the 20th century. Germany turned some famous concentration camps into historical sites so that Germans and the world would never forget the Nazi atrocities. We need to do the same with slavery and those who tried to tear the Union apart in support of it.

But let’s be reasonable about this. Historical figures like Washington and Jefferson and other Founding Fathers did a lot to jumpstart this nation. Their peccadilloes aren’t excusable, of course, but they were so much more than slave owners, and they weren’t traitors to the U.S. In fact, our country wouldn’t have existed without them!

What’s more worrisome are the sneaky politicians and power-grabbers jumping on the anti-monuments bandwagon and encouraging crowds to tear the monuments down. An egregious example is Bill DeBlasio’s desire to tear down the Columbus statue at NYC’s Columbus Circle, home to Lincoln Center. Guess what? He’s the mayor of NYC and—surprise, surprise!—he’s running for reelection. Just as Trump panders to his base of alt-right, KKK, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi crazies, DeBlasio panders to his base too. And he stokes the fires of division by doing so.

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The anti-GMO movement…

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

It’s surprising how many people are anti-GMO, playing into the hands of unscrupulous marketers who have made a lot of money attending to their whims. The whole idea is absurd, of course. Humans have been making GMOs since prehistoric times. Their creations weren’t called such a nasty, degrading name as GMO, to be sure, because the usual name until hysteria took hold was “domesticated variety” or something similar. New technologies just speed up the process, but they just continue this process.

A recent article in Science News should be read by every anti-GMO activist on this planet, many of them in the U.S. (These probably overlap considerably with the anti-immunization crowd, PETA members, vegetarians, and vegans.) OK, I’m being a bit snarky here—I don’t really care about what your belief and behavioral choices are as long as you don’t proselytize about them by shouting in my face.

Back to the Science News article; it’s titled “The Road to Tameness” (SN, p. 21, July 8, 2017). I’ll extract from that articale a short list of ancient GMOs: golden hamsters, horses, silkworms, dogs, cats, chickens, honeybees, rice, foxes, watermelons, wheat, llamas, alpacas, turkeys, camels, ducks, sheep, corn, tulips, and roses. There are many more. Human beings have been genetically tinkering for ages. One really impressive sight is to drive through Holland when all those tulips are in bloom. Guess how many varieties in those fields of color are wild.

The article’s title is politically correct; SN always tries to stand above the cultural and political wars. They talk about “tameness” and “domestication” in the article. I talk about ancient GMOs and genetic engineering. Po-tah-toe v. po-tay-toe. No matter what you call it, human beings have been genetically tinkering for a long time.

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White House cleaning?

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

It’s amazing that many were demanding that only Steve Bannon be fired. Julia Halin, Stephen Miller, Ben Shapiro, and other alt-right sympathizers (if not card-carrying members) on the White House staff should be fired along with Bannon, but his would be like Hitler firing his staff—Goebbels, Goering, Heydrich, Himmler, and others. Until we’re rid of the two guys at the top, Pence and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, order won’t be restored.

I don’t envy Kelly. He looked like he was in existential agony as he listened to his boss’ rants a week ago about equating the counter-protesters at Charlottesville with the thugs from the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other violent racists and bigots. Peacefully protesting the plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee? I’ll admit that some people went to Charlottesville without violence on their minds among those right-wing hordes, but the moment they heard chants of thate and saw confederate flags and swastikas, they should have walked away. Those words and iconic symbols of bigotry and hatred automatically implied violence would ensue.

The far-left is somewhat at fault. Antifa meets violence with violence, and even the ACLU enables it by calling this demonstration of hatred and bigotry violence free speech. Any permit given to these groups is a permit to do violence.

Are there any real differences between the car-attack on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas and the one in Charlottesville? Names for hate groups are arbitrary. You call them ISIS or neo-Nazis or whatever, but these are just names for rabid dogs that must be put down, not by more violence, but by enlightened leaders and smart laws.

The president and some members of his staff and cabinet are neither enlightened nor promotors of smart laws. They’re just the opposite. While the president can throw close staff members under the bus (five so far) to satisfy those demanding he fire them (he did it mostly to eliminate those who were stealing his thunder, of course), those actions don’t really clean up the White House. Catain Hook, the president, and his Mr. Smee, the VP, will still be there.

No, the only democratic solution possible is to cut off the two heads of the snake in 2018 and 2020. The first blow in 2018 will give control of the House and Senate back to responsible people. The second blow will eliminate a wannabe dictator and all his cronies who have been rendered impotent by a hostile congress.

The new president campaigned on draining the swamp in DC. Instead he and his cronies have poisoned the waters of the swamp even more by enabling and promoting bigotry, hate, and domestic terrorism. The electorate should take on the role of a political vacuum cleaner and sweep out this dirt that’s stinking up the White House and return it to the people.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. See the review and interview at Feathered Quill. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it).

And so it goes….

What’s going on in Venezuela?

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

For decades Venezuela rode the wave of oil profits, suffered through incompetent governments and dictatorships, and betrayed the vision of Bolivar. Under Chavez and his cronies, the ideology changed but the sins did not. Sr. Chavez excited all the wannabe Lenins in the U.S. and Europe, but what they got was a mini-Stalin, mini in the sense that Venezuela is a smaller country than the Soviet Union, so Chavez couldn’t torture and kill as many people! Now Mr. Maduro is simply an overripe plantain (what “maduro” usually means in Latin America), ready for the garbage heap of history, but he still continues his predecessor’s oppression without any pretense of ideology.  Moreover, as Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela have shown, communism has become a debunked ideology that offers no real solution for the poor and oppressed. Those who swallow this ideological gruel end up exchanging one set of exploiters for another.

Unfortunately many naïve people confuse communism and its “dictatorship of the proletariat” with social democracy. Note the juxtaposition of words: dictatorship v. democracy. Iberian and Latin American governments often descend into oppressive dictatorships led by caudillos. Venezuela is only one in a long lineup of countries following the model of Franco’s Spain. I restrict my historical focus to the 20th and 21st centuries—Portugal, Spain, and their colonies in the New World certainly have a long history of oppression. And sometimes Europe and the U.S. have encouraged that (the generals’ “Dirty War” in Argentina, Pinochet in Chile, even Castro in Cuba at first—he was on the Ed Sullivan Show!—and so forth).

The current low oil prices mean Venezuela has no real significant income beyond mom & pop enterprises that barely scrape by. Before the fall of prices, it could feed the greed and graft of its leaders with enough left over to satisfy the rest of the population. The graft and greed of the leadership still continues, but now many are without jobs and starving.

This is easily explainable. Oppressive governments are myopic. The focus is on satisfying the greed of an oligarchy, be they fascists or communists (in practice, they’re all the same) (any semblance to what’s happening in the U.S. capital is scary). There are no plans for improving the plight of the common citizen. When the economy fails, as it invariably does, the common citizen suffers while the leadership becomes even more oppressive as they try to hold onto power. Unrest becomes rampant. Sometimes the phoenix that rises out of the ashes is just another oppressive government. This was the case for Russia; it’s also often the case for Latin American countries. It was the case in Cuba. It is the case in Venezuela.

Caudillismo is a disease. Venezuela is suffering from it and is in its death throes. Other South American countries also suffer from it, like Brazil.  It’s sad. I love these people, their respect for family, and their enjoyment of life to the fullest. They deserve better. I don’t know if there’s any hope for that.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by the Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more, as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and at Smashwords and its affiliate retailers. It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). Happy reading!

And so it goes…

Irish Stew #63…

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

International

Trump’s Saudi policies. Saudi Arabia wasn’t on Trump’s list of countries whose Muslim immigrants, many escaping horrible situations in their home countries, are the targets of his bans in his executive orders, contradicting his belief that all Muslims are terrorists. And Mr. Trump negotiated a weapons deal with the duplicitous Saudis to make the military-industrial complex happy during his whirlwind tour in the Mideast.

The Saudis aren’t our friends. They’re not even the enemies of our enemies. They are the enemy. The majority of the 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia because the Saudi royal family’s state-sponsored religious schools have a continuing policy of brainwashing young boys and men to hate the West. And they have continuously attacked Yemen where they are responsible for mass murders of innocents. They probably support ISIS too, because ISIS hates Shi’ites, and they’re the Saudis’ enemies.

Sad! Trump is supporting duplicity and murder. Guess he believes in that.

National

Malthusian politics? The CBO hasn’t published its financial analysis yet, but the Senate’s proposed healthcare bill is meaner than the House’s. They’re both an attack on the middle class and poor, especially those who don’t have any financial means and depend on Medicaid as a life preserver—elderly in nursing homes, people with serious disabilities, and very sick children. Too many without any other coverage.

Not just sad but doing the Grim Reaper’s work so the GOP can give tax breaks to the rich elites. These aren’t healthcare bills—they’re thinly disguised tax breaks. And Rand Paul thinks they don’t go far enough? This guy has no compassion at all. No wonder he was a failed doctor! Next thing we’ll see from the GOP? Maybe death ovens for the sick and infirm with Dr. Death running them?

Is Obama to blame? Not as much as the GOP and American media are saying! They’re still supporting the attack on the ex-president for not divulging what he knew about Putin’s personally directed attack on our electoral system. Why? It’s not “fake news” if they hide the real truth that Obama’s desire to secure bipartisan support to inform the American public was rejected by the GOP members of congress Obama approached. OK, maybe Obama was stupid to believe that HRC was a shoo-in, but Trump had been yammering all during the campaign that the system was rigged. What if Obama had decided to divulge all he knew? They’d have said he was unfairly supporting HRC! Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

For eight years the GOP practiced obstructionism against the Obama administration. And Trump dares to accuse the Dems and Obama of being obstructionists? Of course, I’m waiting for HRC to say Obama was responsible for her losing. Sad! You can’t trust politicians or the media these days.

Wild weather. Last Saturday morning NJ received a taste of Midwest weather. I saw my first tornado in Kansas when I was thirteen visiting my grandfather—an awesome sight even if it was off in the distance. Now we had two in Howell, NJ. A smack across the face from Mother Nature to wake us up to the problems of climate change? She should concentrate on Trump who believes it’s all a hoax. Hey Mother Nature, why don’t you go after Mar al Lago or one of his many golf courses—Bedminster would be a good start? Just give the innocents a warning.

Sports etc.

Cosby and Hernandez. I never bought into the theory that the ex-Patriot tight end committed suicide. He had just won acquittal for one charge and was going to appeal the conviction that put him in jail. Why would he be suicidal?

MA law says a conviction that is being appealed must be vacated. Sleazebag prosecutors want to change that law. They must be related to the DA prosecuting Bill Cosby.

DAs who are running for office or have nefarious agendas shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute anyone because they are just trying to win points for being “tough on crime.” Political campaigns interfere with objectivity. So do many careers in general. Of course, most lawyers, prosecutors or defense attorneys, aren’t known for objectivity or a commitment to the truth—they’ve sold their souls to the Devil for their clients.

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And so it goes…

Post-mortem of a speech to Congress…

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

In some dilating time machine or Mr. Trump’s parallel universe, ages have passed since he gave that speech to Congress. In real life, it was only a week ago—can you believe it? Everything he said is meaningless now, so dissecting that rambling rhetoric of a delusional man is anti-climactic. But let’s do it anyway because the president left the Twitter-sphere long enough to sound presidential and hide his narcissistic psychosis.

It’s curious that the media, after the president declared them to be the “enemy of the American people,” fell all over themselves to state that his “state of the union” (read: state of Trump’s parellel universe, that one that circulates among the dark energy and matter of his mind) set a new tone. Il Duce was even called presidential because he sounded presidential. But not for me—he’s not my president! He never will be my president, and isn’t the president of a majority of the American people.

What I heard was empty rhetoric reminiscent of Goebbels’s 1930’s propaganda in Germany—in other words, fascistic spin and appeal to populism playing on the fears of good Americans. His handlers, Bannon, Conway, and Miller, who take turns at the puppet strings—yes, he’s a marionette, even stringing himself along—carefully planned this atrocious display. If it was some crazy attempt to reach across the aisle, Dems won’t buy the snake oil from this charlatan, and didn’t—the thumbs-down from the Dem women in white were refreshing and evidence for their general mood—Trump the misogynist is women’s rights worst enemy. Narcissus the Wonderful shows no concern about women’s issues—we know he sees them only as objects—and on abortion, he’s as much a right-wing bigot as they come.

Let’s consider a few points. On trade, Trump might have sounded a wee bit like Sanders. There’s a huuuuge difference, though. Both men were born in Brooklyn, but the two are light years apart—Trump might actually live in one of those other multiverses where his marionette strings are tangled with those of general string theory. In particular, where Bernie was an earnest and honest champion for the working class, Il Duce doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about their plight—it’s all just show. He follows the time-tested fascist strategy of pretending to do so, of course—that’s how Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini came to power in the 1930s! U.S. workers should be wary about buying anything from this snake-oil salesman. Pay attention to his false promises at your own risk!

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Apocalypse redux…

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Redux = brought back, revived. We’re talking about the apocalypse again. Apocalypse is the event. While a dystopian society can cause it or be its aftermath, post-apocalyptic is reserved for the aftermath. There is a resurgence in these themes now. Everyone knows the reason: what’s happening in the U.S. right now as well as across the world has frightening parallels with 1930’s Germany, Italy, and Spain as well as with the darkest days of the Cold War. There’s nothing religious about this apocalypse.

Most dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic tales in the past were associated with the two world wars or the Communist threat. Brave New World was dystopian; Ape and Essence was post-apocalyptic. Even The Time Machine was post-apocalyptic. 1984 and Animal Farm were dystopian. Later sci-fi novels like Not This August were post-apocalyptic. Many classics can be found in these subgenres. Many soon-to-be classics like Wool are too. They all are warnings about what could happen. It’s common that interest in books and movies in these subgenres reflect troubled times in the world.

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the world. As that hand on the Doomsday Clock inches toward midnight, these sci-fi subgenres become more popular. Some readers ignore them, burying their heads in the sand by reading schmaltzy romances and fluffy adventures that avoid most serious themes of any type. Which group is right? Beats me. I just tell stories. If one of them comes out apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, so be it. Almost all my stories have serious themes, though, but not all of them are in the aforementioned subgenres.

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Irish Stew #59…

Monday, January 9th, 2017

International

Classic Putin? His refusal to expel U.S. diplomats in response to Obama’s retaliation for Russian hacking and inviting the diplomats’ kids to a Christmas party made me wonder if a bare-chested Putin would ride in to the party on a reindeer sporting the rest of Santa’s costume. Even without the latter, Putin’s response makes Putin look like a PR genius (can I hire his PR people for my books?) and Obama look like a chump. McCain rightly states that Putin is a murdering thug, though, and certainly not on Santa’s “nice list,” so maybe Trump’s chump for SecState won’t be approved by the Senate. Trump is swimming in dangerous waters! No one likes Putin except Trump and the narcissistic despot himself.

I’ve been very careful to separate the sleazy practices at the DNC exposed by the Russian hackers from the criminal actions of the hackers and the man who commands them, Vladimir Putin. Obama is right to say that we should be on the same page about Putin’s nefarious attempts to undermine the American election, now established by U.S. intelligence leaders—Putin is the enemy here. But I’m not alone in wondering if Obama and other Dems would give a rat’s ass about this if it had been the RNC that was hacked, or if HRC had won. Those who would say HRC lost because of the hack in spite of the findings from the intelligence community, and the continue to blame the FBI director, should just move on. Trump won, figure out why, and never let it happen again. Moreover, let’s work our butts off to keep this psycho Il Duce from destroying the world!

The art of the deal? To many one-percenters, war is a business. Either Trump wants to pander to these ghouls, or he wants a piece of the action. The U.S. sells more arms to the rest of the world than any other country and, of course, the Pentagon still wants their new and improved toys too. People get rich off war. Il Duce Trump, not content with the endowment Nature gave him, wants to extend it by forging new swords to brandish internationally. “Let’s have another arms race,” he says, “because we’ll have bigger and better bombs.” (OK, I couldn’t find the direct quote, but that’s the idea!). We have a recipe for disaster on an international scale. At the very least, I can see international conflagrations occurring as more bodies, Americans and others, are poured into the maws of Mars. Insane!

National

What’s with deifying Elizabeth Warren? This faux-progressive is becoming Mother Teresa and Joan of Arc for all HRC’s liberal faux-progressives licking their wounds after the presidential election. I can imagine “liberal Catholics” (now there’s an oxymoron!) proposing her for sainthood. Just remember, ye true progressives across the land, she campaigned for HRC in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the primaries instead of Bernie Sanders. Remember that guy, the one who could have beaten Il Duce Trump? Warren and the rest of HRC’s sleaze-team got what they deserved. And Warren is part of that crowd! She just announced she will run in 2018. I’m hoping there’s a true Massachusetts progressive candidate who will run against this faux-progressive in the primary.

Healthcare. Mitch McConnell says the first item on the agenda for the new Congress is to end the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare. McConnell, Ryan, and others in the GOP are already talking about slashing Medicare and Social Security, and Medicaid is on the way out. Do the American people really want to turn back the clock to when health insurance meant insurance that you would die young? When insurance companies dropped you as soon as you contracted something serious? When millions of people’s insurance reduced to emergency visits to ERs?

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Irish Stew #58…

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

[Double billing today…don’t get used to it, but 2017 is starting out with a lot of news to comment on. Don’t be shy. Your comments are always welcome, even rants. Just keep them clean!]

International

Russia and Syria declare ceasefire. How nice of them! Who’s speaking for the rebels? We have an international refugee crisis in the area; Aleppo, Palmyra, and other cities are completely destroyed and their populations dead; and Assad and Putin are patting each other on the back and chortling about how many rebels they’ve killed. Maybe ISIS will regroup and refocus and go after Assad—he deserves it!

Team Assad/Putin are closing in on Stalin’s record for murders, and Papa Joe had a lot more years under his belt. If there’s a Devil, he has some good assistants who work despotic hand in skeletal hand with the Grim Reaper. So little time…so many people to kill!

Say goodbye to the two-state solution. Netanyahu doesn’t want it, Trump doesn’t want it, and the Arabs don’t want it because it works against their campaign to destroy Israel. The main problem in the Middle East? Everyone wants a scapegoat. Secondary problem? Saudi Arabia! Even with low oil prices, the Saudi royalty are still living the rich life. When their people reach the level of the long-suffering Palestinians, maybe something will change. By then Netanyahu might be begging for his life!

National

Media and public senility. Loss of short term memory, they say, is one indication of senility. Whether senility or just plain stupidity, the American media and public have become so focused on the Russian hackers that the big issue has been forgotten. Did Russian hackers help Donald Trump or hurt HRC? There’s a difference, folks, and not recognizing it is part of that senility or stupidity too!

Not to minimize cyberwarfare crimes perpetrated by pimp Putin’s hacker-whores, let’s deal with reality: there were sleazy crimes committed by HRC and her followers once Mr. Sanders entered the primaries, and they continued all the way through them, the convention, and the 2016 election. Here’s a Bishop Berkeley-like question: if illegalities are committed by a candidate, campaign, and political party, does it matter who exposed them?

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