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Gar Smith: Stones to Drones: A Short History of War on Earth 

12 Oct

 

Transcript and video – Dandelion Salad Republished with permission from David Swanson at World Beyond War by Gar Smith World Beyond War, Sept. 24, 2017 October 11, 2017 Gar Smith / World Beyond War #NoWar2017 Conference,…

War is humanity’s deadliest activity. From 500 BC to AD 2000 history records more than 1000 [1,022] major documented wars. In the 20th Century, an estimated 165 wars killed as many as 258 million people — more than 6 percent of all the people born during the entire 20th century. WWII claimed the lives of 17 million soldiers and 34 million civilians. In today’s wars, 75 percent of those killed are civilians — mostly women, children, the elderly, and the poor.

The US is the world’s leading purveyor of war. It’s our biggest export. According to Navy historians, from 1776 through 2006, US troops fought in 234 foreign wars. Between 1945 and 2014, the US launched 81% of the world’s 248 major conflicts. Since the Pentagon’s retreat from Vietnam in 1973, US forces have targeted Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bosnia, Cambodia, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and the former Yugoslavia.

 

 

Wars against nature have a long history. The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest tales, recounts a Mesopotamian warrior’s quest to kill Humbaba — a monster who reigned over a sacred Cedar Forest. The fact that Humbaba was the servant of Enlil, the god of earth, wind, and air didn’t stop Gilgamesh from killing this protector of Nature and felling the cedars.

The Bible (Judges 15:4-5) relates an unusual “scorched-earth” attack on the Philistines when Samson “caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails . . . and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines.”

During the Peloponnesian War, King Archidamus began his attack on Plataea by felling all the fruit trees surrounding the town.

In 1346, Mongol Tartars employed biological warfare to attack the Black Sea town of Caffa — by catapulting bodies of plague victims over the fortified walls.


Poisoning water supplies and destroying crops and livestock are a proven means of subduing a population. Even today, these “scorched-earth” tactics remain a preferred way of dealing with agrarian societies in the Global South.

During the American Revolution, George Washington employed “scorched-earth” tactics against Native Americans who allied with British troops. The fruit orchards and corn crops of the Iroquois Nation were razed in hopes that their destruction would cause the Iroquois to perish as well.

The American Civil War featured Gen. Sherman’s “March through Georgia” and Gen. Sheridan’s campaign in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, two “scorched-earth” assaults aimed at destroying civilian crops, livestock, and property. Sherman’s army devastated 10 million acres of land in Georgia while Shenandoah’s farmlands were turned into fire-blackened landscapes.


During the many horrors of World War I, some of the worst environmental impacts occurred in France. At the Battle of the Somme, where 57,000 British soldiers died in the first day of combat, the High Wood was left a burnt tumble of blasted, mangled trunks.

In Poland, German troops leveled forests to provide timber for military construction. In the process, they destroyed the habitat of the few remaining European buffalo — which were quickly cut down by the rifles of hungry German soldiers.

One survivor described the battlefield as a landscape of “dumb, black stumps of shattered trees which still stick up where there used to be villages. Flayed by splinters of bursting shells, they stand like corpses upright.” A century after the carnage, Belgian farmers are still unearthing the bones of soldiers who bled to death in Flanders Field.

WWI inflicted damage inside the US as well. To feed the war effort, 40 million acres were rushed into cultivation on acreage largely unsuited for agriculture. Lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands were drained to create farmland. Native grasses were replaced with wheat fields. Forests were clear-cut to serve wartime needs. Extensive overplanting of cotton depleted soils that eventually succumbed to drought and erosion.

But the biggest impact came with the oil-fueled mechanization of war. Suddenly, modern armies no longer needed oats and hay for horses and mules. By the end of WWI, General Motors had built nearly 9,000 [8,512] military vehicles and turned a tidy profit. Air power would prove to be another historic game-changer.


With the outbreak of World War II, the European countryside suffered a renewed onslaught. German troops flooded 17 percent of Holland’s lowland farms with saltwater. Allied bombers breached two dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, destroying 7500 acres of German farmland.

In Norway, Hitler’s retreating troops methodically destroyed buildings, roads, crops, forests, water supplies, and wildlife. Fifty percent of Norway’s reindeer were killed.

Fifty years after the end of WWII, bombs, artillery shells, and mines were still being recovered from the fields and waterways of France. Millions of acres remain off-limits and the buried ordnance still claims occasional victims.

 

 

WWII’s most destructive event involved the detonation of two nuclear bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fireballs were followed by a “black rain” that pelted survivors for days, leaving behind an invisible mist of radiation that seeped into the water and air, leaving a chilling legacy of cancers and mutations in plants, animals, and newborn children.

Before the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, the US and USSR had unleashed 1,352 underground nuclear blasts, 520 atmospheric detonations, and eight sub-sea explosions — equal to the force of 36,400 Hiroshima-sized bombs. In 2002, the National Cancer Institute warned that everyone on Earth had been exposed to fallout levels that had caused tens of thousands of cancer deaths.


In the closing decades of the 20th century, the military horror show was unrelenting.

For 37 months in the early 1950s, the US pounded North Korea with 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,557 tons of napalm. The US destroyed 78 Korean cities, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and killed perhaps 30% of the population by some estimates. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, offered a lower estimate. In 1984, LeMay told the Office of Air Force History: “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population.” Pyongyang has good reason to fear the US.

In 1991, the US dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq, destroying homes, power plants, major dams and water systems, triggering a health emergency that contributed to the deaths of a half-million Iraqi children.

Smoke from Kuwait’s burning oil fields turned day to night and released vast plumes of toxic soot that drifted downwind for hundreds of miles.

From 1992 to 2007, US bombing helped destroy 38 percent of the forest habitat in Afghanistan.

In 1999, NATO’s bombing of a petrochemical plant in Yugoslavia sent clouds of deadly chemicals into the sky and released tons of pollution into nearby rivers.

Africa’s Rwandan war drove nearly 750,000 people into the Virunga National Park. 105 square miles were ransacked and 35 square miles were “stripped bare.”

In Sudan, fleeing soldiers and civilians spilled into the Garamba National Park, decimating the animal population. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed conflict reduced the resident elephant population from 22,000 to 5,000.

During its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon admits to having spread more 175 tons of radioactive depleted uranium over the land. (The US admits to having targeted Iraq with another 300 tons in 1991.) These radioactive assaults triggered epidemics of cancers and incidents of horrifically deformed children in Fallujah and other cities.


When asked what triggered the Iraq War, former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid admitted: “Of course it’s about oil. We can’t really deny that.” Here’s the awful truth: The Pentagon needs to fight wars for oil to fight wars for oil.

The Pentagon measures fuel use in “gallons-per-mile” and “barrels-per-hour” and the amount of oil burned increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. At its peak, the Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of global-warming CO2 per month. Here’s an unseen headline: Military pollution is a major factor driving climate change.

And here’s an irony. The military’s scorched Earth tactics have become so devastating that we now find ourselves living — literally — on a Scorched Earth. Industrial pollution and military operations have driven temperatures to the tipping point. In pursuit of profit and power, extractive corporations and imperial armies have effectively declared war on the biosphere. Now, the planet is striking back — with an onslaught of extreme weather.

 

But an insurgent Earth is like no other force a human army has ever faced. A single hurricane can unleash a punch equal to the detonation of 10,000 atomic bombs. Hurricane Harvey’s airstrike on Texas caused $180 billion in damage. Hurricane Irma’s tab could top $250 billion. Maria’s toll is still growing.

Speaking of money. The Worldwatch Institute reports that redirecting 15 percent of the funds spent on weapons globally could eradicate most of the causes of war and environmental destruction. So why does war persist? Because the US has become a Corporate Militocracy controlled by the Arms Industry and Fossil Fuel Interests. As former Congressmember Ron Paul notes: Military spending mainly “benefits a thin layer of well-connected and well-paid elites. The elites are terrified that peace may finally break out, which will be bad for their profits.”

It’s worth recalling that the modern environmental movement arose, in part, in response to the horrors of the Viet Nam war — Agent Orange, napalm, carpet-bombing — and Greenpeace got its start protesting a planned nuclear test near Alaska. In fact, the name “Greenpeace” was chosen because it combined “the two great issues of our times, the survival of our environment and the peace of the world.”

Today our survival is threatened by gun barrels and oil barrels. To stabilize our climate, we need to stop wasting money on war. We can’t win a war directed against the very planet we live on. We need to put down our weapons of war and plunder, negotiate an honorable surrender, and sign a lasting Peace Treaty with the Planet.


Gar Smith is an award-winning investigative journalist, editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, and author of Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green). His new book, The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books) will be published on October 3. He was one of many speakers at the World Beyond War three-day conference on “War and the Environment,” September 22-24 at the American University in Washington, DC. (For details, include a video archive of the presentations, visit: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2017.)

#NoWar2017 Part 6: pro-enviro & anti-war activism – Richard Tucker, Gar Smith, Dale Dewar

WorldBeyondWar.org on Sep 23, 2017

Understanding the intersection of pro-environment and anti-war activism, with Richard Tucker, Gar Smith, and Dale Dewar. Moderator: Leah Bolger

Earth First – Serve the People – Defend the Planet and all its life forms at all costs and by any means necessary! Rise Up and Defend your Mother!

 

Source: Gar Smith: Stones to Drones: A Short History of War on Earth (Transcript + Video) – Dandelion Salad

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The real History; Juana Azurduy de Padilla; Bolivian guerrilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. International day of women’s rights

5 Mar

 

Juana Azurduy de Padilla was a Bolivian guerilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. It was this day in 1816 that she along with 200 Indian women on horseback, defeated the Spanish troops in Bolivia.

Juana Azurduy Llanos (July 12, 1780 or 1781 – May 25, 1862) was a South American guerrilla military leader.

She was born on July 12, 1780 or 1781 in the town of Chuquisaca, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (now Sucre, Bolivia). She was Mestizo by ethnicity, meaning she was half Spanish and half indigenous. “Her mother married into a family of property” meaning she married into a more wealthy family. Her father, however, was killed by Spaniards, and the killer apparently got away without any repercussions. She grew up in Chuquisaca and at the age of 12 joined a convent to become a nun. She was then expelled at the age of 17 because she rebelled too often. She married Manuel Ascencio Padilla in 1805, a man who shared her love of the indigenous populations in Bolivia. She spoke Spanish and two South American languages: Quechua and Aymara. Juana Azurduy was born in Toroca, a town located in the Municipality of Potosí in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (present-day town of Ravelo, Potosí Department, Bolivia) on July 12, 1780. Her parents were Don Matías Azurduy, a rich white owner of many properties and Doña Eulalia Bermudes, a chola from Chuquisaca.

Upon their return they raised an army and joined in the fighting in the area. She fought a guerrilla style war against the Spanish from 1809 to 1825. On March 8, 1816, her forces temporarily captured the Cerro Rico of Potosí, the main source of Spanish silver, also leading a cavalry charge that resulted in the capture of the enemy standard. For these actions she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 16, 1816, by Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, the Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata at Buenos Aires. However, Shortly after Juana, who was expecting her fifth child, during a battle in November 1816, she was injured and her husband was killed while trying to save her, The body of her husband was hanged by the realists in the village of Laguna, and Juana found herself in a desperate situation: single, pregnant and with realistic armies effectively controlling the territory. After giving birth to a girl, she joined the guerrillas Martin Miguel de Guemes , which operated in northern Alto Peru. On the death of this leader guerrillas north dissolved, and Juana she was forced to malvivir in the region of Salta. at which she led a counterattack to recover the body of her husband. When the Spanish eventually counter-attacked in 1818, she fled with some of her soldiers to Northern Argentina where she continued to fight under the command of the Argentinean governor/guerrilla leader, General Martín Miguel de Güemes. She was appointed to the position of commander of patriotic Northern Army of the Revolutionary Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. With this army she was able to establish an insurrection zone, until the Spanish forces withdrew from the area. She was so determined to the cause that she actually fought while she was pregnant, at one point, giving birth to her daughter, then returned to the fight soon after. At the highest point of her control, she commanded an army with an estimated strength of 6,000 men. After her military career was over she returned to Sucre (Chuquisaca), where she died on May 25, 1862. Throughout all the conflicts she lost her four sons and her husband, yet she continued to perform her duties until she retired and later died.

 

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At the time of her death, she was forgotten and in poverty, but was remembered as a hero only a century later. She was awarded the rank of general of the Argentine Army in 2009. She also has “The National Programme for Women’s Rights and Participation” of Argentina is also named after her.

A 25-ton, 52-foot-high statue of Azurduy was created in Buenos Aires and unveiled July 15, 2015. It was commissioned by Bolivian president Evo Morales, and placed in the space where a statue of Columbus has stood. As of December 2015, months after its inauguration, it shows weathering damage.

A bas relief sculpture of Juana Azurduy was on display as part of an outdoor exhibition of famous Latin Americans on the grounds of the Pan American Union Building in Washington, DC in Spring 2014. Juana Azurduy is also the subject of a children’s cartoon designed to promote knowledge of Argentine history.

 

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It’s not just racial tension; It’s White Supremacist Capitalist Imperialist Patriarchy! #BecomeUngovernable.

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump;  #BecomeUngovernable

24 Feb

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars – a lesson today’s celebrities could do with learning.

These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

On the other hand, it’s by no means clear what difference most anti-Trump interventions by musicians actually make. After all, during the election, the galaxy of A-listers backing Hillary Clinton spectacularly failed to generate either turnout or votes, with some pundits even suggesting the campaign’s reliance on celebrity power legitimised Trump’s claim to fighting “liberal elites”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music and the uses of fame over the last few years, as I’ve worked on my book No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

The son of an escaped slave, Paul Robeson graduated Phi Beta Kappa on a scholarship from Rutgers before studying law at Columbia university. He was arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (some say of all time); he played basketball professionally and was seriously tipped as a heavyweight contender to fight Jack Dempsey. He was handsome and impossibly charismatic, spellbinding, prize-winning orator, who could sing in over 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Yiddish and a number of African tongues.

Robeson launched his vocal career in the mid-1920s with reinterpretations of spirituals, the “sorrow songs” of the American plantations. The spirituals expressed the misery of slavery through biblical themes but their innate ambiguity also allowed Robeson to voice the preoccupations of the Harlem Renaissance.

For instance, Go Down, Moses celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage. But when Robeson sang “let my people go”, his audience understood the challenge to all present-day pharaohs.

Likewise, the exquisite Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child emerged out of the familial separations of slavery. Robeson’s rendition, however, also spoke to the experience of the Great Migration, the process in which African Americans left their homes to flee north for jobs and an escape from racist violence.

 

 

In 1930, Robeson played Othello in London. At that time, the part was always given to a white actor in dark makeup on the more-or-less explicit basis that a black man could not convey the deep humanity of Elizabethan tragedy.

Robeson’s critical and popular triumph not only reshaped Shakespearean theatre, it also struck a blow against the assumptions underpinning Jim Crow America.

You can hear Robeson explaining and performing the final monologue from Othello in this concert recording:

Though Robeson became a huge Hollywood star (in films such as Show Boat, Sanders of the River, The Proud Valley and so on), he consistently struggled to find parts worthy of his talents.

As a musician, he enjoyed more freedom. Critics urged him to embrace a traditional operatic or classical repertoire, but his deepening political commitments led him to identify as a folk singer, assiduously learning languages to perform the songs of different cultures in their original form.

“The artist must take sides,” he announced. “He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

That declaration was made in the context of the Spanish civil war, a conflict that Robeson, like many others, recognised as the last opportunity to prevent the advance of fascism. He travelled to the Spanish front line in support of the International Brigades, a multiracial, anti-fascist army based on volunteers drawn from almost every country in the world.

In besieged Madrid, the desperate Republicans quite literally deployed Robeson’s music as a weapon, rigging up loudspeakers so that his bass baritone carried to the fascist trenches.

But it was probably in America in the 1940s that Robeson used his celebrity most effectively, in a prolonged campaign against segregation that predated the more famous boycotts of the civil rights era.

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For instance, in a concert in Kansas City, Robeson stopped singing when he realised that, contrary to what he’d been promised, his audience was divided along racial lines. When the booking agent apologized, the victory spurred a broader campaign against discrimination in the state. As the historian Gerald Horne says, “Robeson was a kind of Pied Piper of anti-Jim Crow, journeying from city to city inspiring fellow crusaders.”

In the 1930s, Robeson had visited Moscow and the apparent absence of anti-black feeling amazed him. For the rest of his life, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet dictatorship, backing the regime even as news of Stalinist atrocities spread.

Not surprisingly, during the cold war, red baiters in the US increasingly targeted him.

By 1952, Robeson had become, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”. The FBI intimidated promoters to deny him venues while radio stations refused to play his records, which were no longer available in the shops. He couldn’t sing at a commercial hall, no producer would put him on stage, and his movie career had long since come to an end. Worse still, the state department denied him a passport, trapping him inside the US.

The destruction of Robeson’s reputation dates from that period, a time when attending a Robeson concert became a suspicious act and sporting records were surreptitiously revised to disguise his past achievements.

Many other figures smeared during McCarthyism – Albert Einstein, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, WEB Du Bois, etc – have been subsequently rehabilitated. Robeson’s ongoing obscurity stems from his obstinate refusal to recant or back down.

“I am a radical,” he insisted, “and I am going to stay one until my people get free to walk the Earth.”

Called before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, he was asked why, given his beliefs, he remained in the United States.

“Because my father was a slave,” he replied. “And my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear”’

When he won his passport back in 1958, he embarked on a worldwide tour. You can glimpse something of Robeson’s effectiveness as a political singer in the film that survives from his visit to Australia.

 

 

Famously, Robeson gave the first ever recital at the Sydney Opera House – a concert delivered to the trade unionists constructing the building.

In that performance, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River, his best-known track.

The song – from the musical Show Boat – was composed with Robeson in mind by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, as a conscious imitation of the spirituals. Robeson initially thought the role of Joe in Show Boat to be demeaning – before changing his mind and then utterly dominating both the stage show and the subsequent movie.

In their original form, the lyrics spoke of phlegmatic African American resignation to misery and oppression.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ skeered of dyin’,

But ol’ man river,

He jes’ keeps rolling’ along.

In Sydney, Robeson sang instead:

But I keeps laffin’

Instead of cryin’

I must keep fightin’

Until I’m dyin’

When he mouthed the word “laffin’’’, his lip curled in scorn; at “fightin’”, he punched his fist in the air, making clear to the listening unionists that he had in mind their shared enemies: the employers and politicians for whom an uneducated labourer in Sydney was no better than a black man in Tennessee.

The song now suggested that what was inescapable was not resignation but human dignity – the desire for freedom that persisted, and would prevail, like the mighty river itself.

In 1960, construction workers were not respectable. Concert halls did not cater to labourers, whom few considered deserving of fine music or sophisticated entertainments.

So, with the gesture at Bennelong Point, by transforming – if only for a lunch hour – their worksite into the musical venue it would eventually become, Robeson made a statement characteristic of his life and career.

You aren’t, he said to them, simply tools for others; you’re not beasts, suitable only for hoisting and carrying, even if that’s the role you’ve been allotted. You’re entitled to culture, to music and art and all of life’s good things – and one day you shall have them.

According to some accounts, by the end of the performance, men in the crowd were silently weeping.

What made Robeson’s interventions so powerful?

First, and most obviously, he was an extraordinarily gifted artist, over and above his politics. When the critic Peter Deier described Robeson as “the most talented person of the 20th century”, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Second, though Robeson had no compunction about using his fame, he was committed to a politics of social change from below. He didn’t simply urge his fans to donate to a charity or check their personal privilege. On the contrary, he assured them that they themselves had power – and they should use it.

Thus, in 1938, he explained to a journalist how ordinary people mattered more than stars:

During one of my films I was struck by this very forcibly. There was everybody on the set, lights burning, director waiting, head of the company had just come on to the set with some big financial backer to see how things were going – and what happened? Everything stopped. Why? Because the electricians had decided it was time to go and eat, they just put out the lights and went and ate. That’s my moral to your readers.

Third, Robeson persistently sought to connect disparate issues and link varied oppressions, in a manner that’s rare today.

For instance, his film The Proud Valley is based on a comparison that Robeson often made between Welsh mining towns and African American communities.

Likewise, on his Sydney trip, he insisted on meeting with Indigenous activists – and then, in his public appearances (such as in the clip below), raised Australia’s brutal history in the context of the anti-colonial struggles taking place everywhere at that time.

 

 

 

 

Fourth, when Robeson urged his audience to become active, he could often direct them to groups and campaigns through which that activism might be made meaningful. The Opera House concert, for instance, was arranged by trade unionists – and, as a result, Robeson’s performance gave a direct spur to workplace organisation.

That’s an obvious difference between Robeson’s era and the context in which artists are speaking out against Trump in 2017.

In the United States, as in Australia, the trade unions and the radical movements to which Robeson oriented during the latter half of his career have either declined or disappeared, leaving something of an organisational void for grassroots activism.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy for musicians and other celebrities to see themselves as the sole agents for change – and then engage in the sort of self-congratulatory posturing that helps Trump more than it hurts him.

At the same time, significant campaigns do exist, and they’ve been given new impetus by Trump’s victory. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, was both reflected in, and reinforced by, hip-hop music in particular – and it’s not surprising that rappers have so far produced some of the best musical responses to the Trump presidency.

As many people have noted, in 2017, we’re entering uncharted political waters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on the resources of the past. As the cultural resistance grows, it’s worth looking back on the giant legacy of Paul Robeson. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow is published in Australia by Scribe

Source: Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow | Music | The Guardian

 

 

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