Charitable propaganda

In September I speculated that the plethora of news articles concerning ill-treatment of Rohingyas in Myanmar and Uighurs in China were the result of lobbying efforts by pro-Muslim groups awash with zakat money. I’d like to see a study done on how many “news” items are simply campaign propaganda, paid for by political organisations masquerading as charities with too much money. Take this CNN report, for example:

Beef isn’t good for the planet. But you probably knew that already.
You might know beef is responsible for 41% of livestock greenhouse gas emissions, and that livestock accounts for 14.5% of total global emissions. If you didn’t, you’ve probably heard about the methane — a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent that carbon dioxide — that cattle produce from both ends.

This is one of several reports I’ve seen over the past few weeks claiming eating meat is bad for the environment and everyone needs to drastically cut down their meat consumption if the planet is to be saved. These stories appear on major news sites littered with question-begging statements coupled with wholesale acceptance of the most extreme climate change predictions. So who’s putting this garbage on newsroom desks?

Firstly, it must be understood that environmental campaigning, vegetarianism, and veganism are western, rich people’s hobbies. I read somewhere that Greenpeace gets the bulk of its donations from Germans; apparently they’re sanctimonious bores who like to tell others what how to live. Who knew? The last decade has seen the number of environmental groups multiply, probably as a result of government money being hosed at anyone who sings from the climate change hymnsheet, but also because societies – particularly those in northern Europe, north America, and Canada – have got richer. People – particularly those in mid-career with disposable income and no children – are more inclined to donate money to environmental and green charities, allowing them to lecture others on sustainability before jetting off to the Bahamas on holiday. Hell, some of them might even believe they’re helping.

What is certain is these environmental groups are awash with money. One proof of this is how much they spend on salaries and marketing campaigns: it runs into the millions. Only they’ve come under a lot of pressure recently to spend more on charitable activities, which to you or I means going outside and getting your hands dirty to help those in need. But the wealthy social science graduates who run these organisations aren’t going to do that; so instead they spend the money on “awareness” campaigns which can just about pass muster as “frontline services”. They’ll call up their friends in media and ask them to run some nonsense about how everyone must go vegan to save the planet, and they’re only too happy to oblige. It’s cheap and it’s free for starters, and they don’t even have to leave the building.

As I said, I’d love to see a study done on how many supposed news reports are simply media campaigns put out by charities. But what I’d like to see even more is the government carry out a thorough investigation into these alleged charities, strip them of their charitable status, and start treating them as political organisations. It’s high time the public started treating them that way, too.

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An untypical protest

Heh:

France’s PM has announced a six-month suspension of a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests.

Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

Good work, comrades.

The difficulty for Emmanuel Macron is that this is exactly the kind of capitulation to the street that he has vowed to stop. There will be no change of direction, he repeats to all who will hear, because that would only store up worse problems for the future.

The thing is – and I defy you to show me a British newspaper that makes this distinction – the French public were ready to accept reforms to the labour laws of the sort that traditionally bring the unions onto the streets. In fact, Macron did push through such reforms and the unions did strike, and the public refused to back the strikers. I remember all the complaining about the disruption to SNCF services when I was working in Paris, but the majority knew major reforms are necessary. What they clearly don’t support is their foppish president sacrificing the living standards of ordinary people on the altar of environmental hysteria. Most commentators will say this was a typical French uprising against reform and modernisation – plus ça change – but it wasn’t.

Macron had all the goodwill he could have wished for from a population who wanted to change; instead he chose to hit them hardest on a vanity project. That should be the story here.

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Hubris

This morning I came across this tweet:


Catherine Noone is an Irish senator and practicing solicitor. This tweet is a good example of something I find myself talking a lot about these days: hubris.

Tesco are an outfit at the end of an extraordinarily complex, technologically advanced, and finely-tuned supply chain which enables farm produce to be freshly available on supermarket shelves in city centres day after day with no interruptions. Looked at in isolation, the entire operation is nothing short of miraculous, an achievement of human endeavour which rivals the space programme.

But the metropolitan middle classes with social science, humanities, and law degrees think they’ve found something wrong with it. For some reason, the global experts in packaging, transport, storage, and retail operating on razor-thin margins have decided to use a few million tonnes of unnecessary plastic. Perhaps it was a decision made late on a Friday night when they all wanted to go to the pub, and never got around to revisiting it? Silly people! They spend millions on computer controlled warehouses, yet they can’t even get their packaging right.

I have the advantage over most of those wringing their hands over food packaging of having actually worked on a large vegetable farm, including a few days in the packing plant. The farm would come to life at about 5 or 6am, everyone would be in the fields picking by 7am, and by 1 or 2pm the first produce would be coming into the yard, some of which would go into the packing plant. Between 2 and 5pm several large lorries from the major supermarkets would pull in, get loaded up, and be off to the distribution centres from where the produce would be sent to all four corners of the UK, where it would appear on shelves at 7am the next morning. One thing I noticed, being a part-time forklift driver, was that clever packaging was essential for rapid loading and unloading. Everything needed to be packed in such a way it could be stacked on a pallet and put on a lorry with a forklift. We used to being loose veg in from the fields in small lorries or with a tractor and trailer, and it was a right pain. This is why we had a packing plant.

If you want just-in-time logistics, you need to pack things properly. Also, as mentioned in this post by someone who knows what they’re talking about, the plastic serves a vital function in keeping the produce fresh. I am sure it is also used to keep moisture and creepy-crawlies out in some instances. Now I don’t know the optimum packing methods to achieve all this, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption that those who have a billion dollars worth of skin in the game have worked it out. The idea that vegetable supply companies use “excess” packaging is so ludicrous only the seriously dim and neo-religious could believe it. And of course, if they removed the packaging there would be uproar about food waste. That campaigns against this imaginary problem have such support is indicative of several things, not least the increasing divide between those who work white-collar jobs in air-conditioned offices in large cities and those who actually make the country function.

In any conversation on this topic, you’ll inevitably get someone – usually a woman with a good salary, nice handbag, and plenty of shoes – smugly state that they buy their vegetables loose from the local organic shop and “they’re perfectly all right”. Which is true, but you’re not going to be able to feed cities of between 2 and 5 million people via small shops filled with bent, muddy, and cracked vegetables chucked in cardboard boxes. Well you could, but not while maintaining the standards of living everyone now demands. These people are the equivalent of the apocryphal American kids who don’t know milk comes from cows.

One of the paradoxes of the population becoming more educated is they seem to know less. The middle classes are increasingly backing trendy causes – gender equality, renewable energy, fuel taxes, carrier bag bans – without having the slightest idea how the world functions beyond their bubble. They’ve never been on a farm, toured a factory, walked through the turbine hall of a working power station, seen the spaghetti-like piping in a refinery, watched a giant crane lift something into place, or stood on a platform built in the middle of a hostile sea to provide the life-blood their society depends on. They don’t know how things are done and who does them. All they know is they’re doing it wrong and they know best. Like I said: hubris.

This won’t end well.

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Enough is enough

It’s not surprising people are turning to violence:

What began as protests over President Macron’s fuel tax has transformed into general anger at high living costs.

Mr Macron says his fuel policies are needed to combat global warming.

So global warming is an existential threat, is it? Okay, but:

France is heavily dependent on nuclear power, which Mr Macron pledged to reduce to 50% of the national energy mix by 2035 by closing 14 of the country’s 58 reactors.

If global warming is really going to kill us all within decades, the problem of nuclear waste disposal and fear of accidents would seem rather small indeed. That politicians are closing nuclear power stations is proof that even they don’t believe global warming is an existential threat, or even a serious one.

That is on top of the closure of all four of France’s remaining coal-fired power plants and investment of billions of euros into renewable energy.

And that’s what this is all about: elites in government making life more expensive for the ordinary citizen so they can virtue-signal to other elites and the wealthy, middle-class idiots who support them. Like I said, no wonder people are turning violent. I’m amazed it’s taken this long.

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Signalled virtue fails to save whale

So how did this happen, then?

A dead sperm whale that washed ashore in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 6kg (13 lbs) of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials say.

Items found included 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops.

The carcass of the 9.5m (31ft) mammal was found in waters near Kapota Island in the Wakatobi National Park late on Monday.

I thought carrier bags had been banned from French supermarkets and bars in London no longer provide drinking straws, so how come we have a dead whale in Indonesia? Ah yeah:

Five Asian nations – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand – account for up to 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans, according to a 2015 report by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

Nevertheless:

The European Parliament has voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks.

Next up: hosepipe bans in Surrey to prevent drought in Ethiopia.

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Une Manifestation

On Saturday, while trying to get on the A41 on my way to a seminar in Geneva, I ran into this:

One protester has died and more than 200 were injured as more than a quarter of a million people took to the streets of France, angry at rising fuel prices.

The female protester who died was struck after a driver surrounded by demonstrators panicked and accelerated.

The “yellow vests”, so-called after the high-visibility jackets they are required to carry in their cars, blocked motorways and roundabouts.

They accuse President Emmanuel Macron of abandoning “the little people”.

I was pretty annoyed, especially when one of them told me I had to move my car to the side of the road to let the bus behind me past, which was carrying children. I was tempted to suggest that, if kids languishing in buses are a concern, maybe they shouldn’t be blocking the f*cking road. They then handed me this:

The protesters were mostly aged between forty and fifty, rather too old to be subscribing to anarcho-communist ideologies which have no chance of success at the ballot box. But when I got home and read the BBC article, I thought they may have had a point:

The price of diesel, the most commonly used fuel in French cars, has risen by around 23% over the past 12 months to an average of €1.51 (£1.32; $1.71) per litre, its highest point since the early 2000s, AFP news agency reports.

World oil prices did rise before falling back again but the Macron government raised its hydrocarbon tax this year by 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol, as part of a campaign for cleaner cars and fuel.

The decision to impose a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol on 1 January 2019 was seen as the final straw.

Diesel has always been cheaper than petrol in France, in part because French companies were early pioneers in diesel engine technology and the refineries were geared to meet the subsequent demand. But a decade or so back politicians across Europe decided CO2 emissions were the greatest danger mankind had ever faced and encouraged everyone to switch to diesel cars, which get a better mileage per gallon. So everyone did, only now the politicians are saying diesel is bad and have whacked up the tax, leaving millions of people facing rising fuel bills and with cars that in many cases will be near-worthless. An increase of 14.1 cents per litre in two years on a fuel the government encouraged people to adopt is extortion; no wonder people came out in protest.

Speaking on Wednesday, the president blamed world oil prices for three-quarters of the price rise. He also said more tax on fossil fuels was needed to fund renewable energy investments.

So why not just borrow the money if it’s such a great investment? After all, aren’t we forever being told that renewable energy is now so cost effective it doesn’t need subsidies? In any case, why should motorists be taxed to pay for renewable energy generation? Why not charge the customers directly?

So we have a government invoking an idiotic fad to punish people for following an earlier idiotic fad, which nobody in power has taken any responsibility for pushing. At the same time we have a blatant cash-grab in order to fund white-elephant projects which make the government look good when it struts around on the world stage with other kleptocrats. Little wonder Macron is the most detested French president in living memory.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents to a poll by the Elabe institute backed the Yellow Vests and 70% wanted the government to reverse the fuel tax hikes.

More than half of French people who voted for Mr Macron support the protests, Elabe’s Vincent Thibault told AFP.

Annoyed though I was at being delayed on Saturday morning, I’m rather glad I’m in France and people are making a noise. Most other places, the population would just eat it up.

“The expectations and discontent over spending power are fairly broad, it’s not just something that concerns rural France or the lower classes,” he said.

Indeed. How many of those supporting lunatic environmental policies live in cities, smugly tell everyone they don’t own a car, and have no idea how the country is fed and the lights kept on? Once again, the wealthy, metropolitan middle classes are making life miserable for everyone else.

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UN-driven neo-colonialism in Africa

I’ve noticed that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals seem to get mentioned a lot in my presence recently, particularly when I’m in Geneva. It’s not so much that my university has a policy of pushing this stuff as Geneva being home to various UN bodies, hence is stuffed to the gills with do-gooders, NGOs, and busybodies who latch onto them. In short, it’s more by virtue of proximity than anything else.

Naturally, I’m unimpressed by it all. I sat in a seminar recently where various well-educated, pasty-white western folk living the high life in Geneva at taxpayer expense spoke about Africa as if it were populated by retarded children who haven’t yet worked out that gender equality will catapult their societies into a whole new era of peace and prosperity. If they’d been wearing pith helmets and talking about Christianity rather than gender equality I’d have thought I’d gone back in time to the peak of colonialism. I’ve decided I’m going to do a podcast on each of the UN’s sustainable development goals. highlighting the downsides and trade-offs of which their proponents seem unaware.

Anyway, yesterday a long-time reader and ex-boss sent me the link to this paper:

This research explores how female-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in semi-arid lands experience and respond to climate risk. MSMEs account for about 80% of employment in developing countries, are highly vulnerable to climate change and are limited in their capacity to adapt.

Female entrepreneurs can be key in promoting resilience at micro (e.g. household) and macro scales but how they experience or adapt to climate risks has been little researched. This paper addresses that gap with a case study of how female-owned MSMEs experience climate risk in the semi-arid county of Narok in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Findings suggest female-led MSMEs in Narok may face both additional exposure to climate risk compared with men, and additional barriers to adapting to that risk.

So in parallel to pushing more women to become entrepreneurs in Africa the neo-colonial missionaries have discovered these same women are now at greater risk from climate change. The reasoning is a veritable work of art:

The research found that strong social and cultural norms around gender roles, and resource use and access, confine female-led MSMEs to sectors that experience higher exposure to climate risk – most notably agriculture.

Society and cultural norms must be overturned to protect UN-encouraged female-led small businesses from climate change.

These norms also create pronounced barriers to women coping with climate risks and building business resilience, including reduced access to land, capital, markets, new technology and educational opportunities compared with men.

This seems to have very little to do with climate change.

The research identified examples of female entrepreneurs pursuing unsustainable forms of coping that may help in the short term but which reduce their capacity to adapt to climate change in the longer term.

Go on.

Coping strategies include selling business assets, e.g. reducing stock at times of water scarcity; diversification, e.g. into the charcoal business, which weakens long-term resilience by exposing agricultural land to erosion;

Clearly these are gender-related problems.

and land sales, which are usually carried out by men, with female-led MSMEs usually not receiving any direct benefit.

So climate change might lead to a female-led business having to sell land which, for some reason, is usually carried out by presumably random men and the woman will usually not receive any money. I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced.

Adaptation tools appear to include social networks such as women’s groups and table banking initiatives, through which groups of women save, rotate funds and lend money. However, these funds appear unlikely to be adequate to protect MSMEs from the impacts of climate extremes.

If female-led businesses insist on excluding men from their financing operations they’re going to struggle, regardless of what the climate is doing.

Female entrepreneurs in this research suggested a strong dependency between household resilience and business resilience. Therefore building women’s resilience at the household level is likely to serve as a key route to enabling private sector adaptation among female-led MSMEs.

Okay, but when western countries build up women’s “resilience” we find a lot of them never actually get to run a household. Is this what African women want, increased “resilience” at the price of being single?

The research also finds that while Kenya recognises the need to support female entrepreneurs in various national policies (including in national climate change legislation), these policies are currently poorly implemented.

Why, it’s almost as if the government pays lip service to the latest western fad in order to keep the aid money rolling in but doesn’t actually implement anything. In Africa, of all places! Who knew?

The research consisted of a literature review plus focus group discussions and interviews with 17 female entrepreneurs, most of whom work in agriculture, and a workshop with other stakeholders including government and NGOs.

This is the basis on which they want to overturn African societal norms? Interviews with 17 female entrepreneurs? Meanwhile, a thread on Twitter provides the view of an actual African woman on such matters. I recommend reading the whole thing, but here are the most poignant parts:

“The religious aspects of these secular movements”. I’ve written about this before.

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Flip-Flops and Carrier Bags

William of Ockham risks legal action over exclusivity rights to bring us this story about carrier bags:

In Australia, most states/territories, with the exception of New South Wales, have banned supermarkets from giving away single use plastic bags with shopping.

In response to this, the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths have removed said bags from New South Wales’ stores too. I’m sure this decision was reached for purely environmentally-righteous reasons and not simply because running two different processes and sourcing operations is inefficient.

Only a few days later:

Supermarket giant Coles has buckled to the backlash from its customers over paying 15 cents for reusable plastic bags and will now give them away to shoppers for free indefinitely.

A year ago the retailer announced it would phase out single-use plastic bags in its supermarkets by July 1, but appeared to be caught unprepared for the negative consumer response that followed.

So customers find carrier bags useful and prefer them to be free? Who would have thought? The hand-wringing middle classes didn’t like this though, among them the otherwise sensible Claire Lehmann, founder of Quillette:

Whereas I’d say it takes a lot more balls to reject pointless middle class environmental posturing than to go along with it. Good on Coles’ customers! Alas, my celebrations were to be short-lived:

Coles has done a double backflip on providing free plastic bags and will recommence charging customers for them after coming under fire from green groups and consumers for giving them away for free.

In a message to the retailer’s 115,000 staff on Thursday, Durkan said the ban on single-use plastic bags had been a “big and difficult” change for customers.

While customers had been growing more and more accustomed to bringing reusable bags, many were still finding themselves one or two short at the register.

So in the absence of a law banning free bags in New South Wales, who is driving this campaign against customers’ interests?

Environmental groups, including a vocal Greenpeace, and like-minded shoppers had heaped criticism on Coles for deciding to go back on its original plan to only temporarily provide reusable bags for free.

Ah yes. As usual, it’s a loud minority of wealthy middle class do-gooders via multi-million dollar lobby groups masquerading as charities. That Coles sided with them over actual customers says a lot about modern corporate management.

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The last straw? If only.

On the plastic drinking straws ban:

At the center of these conversations is a statistic: Each day, Americans use an estimated 500 million straws. The number has been used to illustrate the scale of the issue and modern society’s reliance on this ubiquitous piece of disposable plastic.

It turns out, however, that the number is imprecise and originates from Milo Cress, a young environmentalist who researched straw usage to come up with the 500 million estimate when he was just nine years old.

As a curious fourth grader who had just started an environmental project to discourage restaurants from providing straws by default, Cress decided to look online to find out how many straws are used each day in the United States. Not being able to find any statistics, he called straw manufacturers directly and estimated the 500 million figure based on numbers they provided him.

What I find most annoying is that the dubious origin of this figure has been known for well over a year, but rarely gets mentioned by those pushing for a ban on plastic straws. Of course, there’s a reason for this: banning plastic straws in developed countries is nothing to do with saving the environment and everything to do with quasi-religious virtue-signalling and prod-nosed busy-bodying. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the pious middle classes have seized upon a product they don’t use and called for it to be banned in order to smooth their passage to whatever they consider an afterlife. Note they don’t campaign for disposable nappies to be banned.

Religious fervour often causes people to behave strangely, and in this regard Californians are trying to outdo everyone else:

The city of Santa Barbara has passed an ordinance that will allow restaurant employees to be punished with up to six months of jail time or a $1,000 fine after a second offense of giving plastic straws to their customers.

The bill was passed unanimously last Tuesday, and covers bars, restaurants, and other food-service businesses. Establishments will still be allowed to hand out plastic stirrers, but only if customers request them.

And as the article points out:

Oh, and each individual straw counts as a separate infraction, meaning that if someone got busted handing out straws to a table of four people, he or she could end up facing years behind bars.

Bear in mind that California recently decriminilised the act of knowingly infecting a partner with HIV, several cities have refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and areas of San Francisco have turned into third-world slums festooned with used needles and human shit.

This business with the drinking straws isn’t an isolated incident, but part of a pattern which can be seen elsewhere. The ruling classes have neither the competence or incentive to tackle serious problems so instead involve themselves with initiatives which solve nothing but make them look useful. They’re further encouraged by a noisy minority of virtue-signalling puritans, almost all of whom work in government, media, or for corporations firmly engaged in moral posturing. In the case of the plastic in the oceans, part of the problem is western countries deciding landfill is evil so encouraging everyone to recycle. Only to get around their own environmental legislation the bulk plastic is shipped to Asia, where a lot of it ends up horsed in the river. Rather than examine their own stupid rules, or put pressure on Africans and Asians to stop chucking crap in the sea, it’s easier to launch social media campaigns clamouring for new laws which further criminalise ordinary people for mundane behaviour. Never mind disabled people rely on plastic drinking straws to consume fluids, as far as Metropolitan mothers groups on Facebook are concerned, they’ll just have to manage somehow.

I see a parallel here with the ludicrous campaign to ban upskirting. This was pushed by privileged middle class women and will consume considerable government resources which could better be spent elsewhere. Like putting a stop, once and for all, to the systematic and widespread abuse of vulnerable young girls in provincial English towns, for instance. Yes, this is still going on and nobody is interested, in part because inconvenient voices are handily drowned out by women demanding special laws because a drunken oaf supposedly took a photo up someone’s skirt in a festival. There is subset of western society which believes the role of government is to intervene on every minor issue over which they wring their hands, no matter how ignorant they are of it. Judging by my own social media feed, a lot this stuff seems to be driven by bored men and women who, lacking the time, talent, or discipline for a proper hobby, jump on these campaigns to give themselves a sense of purpose. Yet at the same time there is far less pressure to solve problems which are certain to have catastrophic consequences: mass immigration, uncontrollable public spending, unaffordable housing, and dangerous social divisions.

It’s often said that a sign of country undergoing improvement is a growing middle class. What I think we’re seeing now is what happens when the middle classes get too big and too comfortable for too long. It won’t end well.

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Burning Burberry

This is interesting from an economics point of view:

Burberry, the upmarket British fashion label, destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m last year to protect its brand.

It takes the total value of goods it has destroyed over the past five years to more than £90m.

Fashion firms including Burberry destroy unwanted items to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply.

Someone has obviously done some calculations and estimated the damage done to the brand’s image by selling their products at a discount is greater than £90m. So, it’s cheaper to burn it.

Burberry is not the only company having to deal with a surplus of luxury stock.

Richemont, which owns the Cartier and Montblanc brands, has had to buy back €480m (£430m) worth of watches over the last two years.

Analysts say some parts of those watches would be recycled – but much would be thrown away.

Better than being flogged second hand on eBay, obviously. Naturally:

Environmental campaigners are angry about the waste.

Those last three words feel superfluous.

“Despite their high prices, Burberry shows no respect for their own products and the hard work and natural resources that are used to made them,” said Lu Yen Roloff of Greenpeace.

You can imagine the mental gymnastics they went through trying to put their knee-jerk objections into vaguely-coherent words, can’t you?

“The growing amount of overstock points to overproduction, and instead of slowing down their production, they incinerate perfectly good clothes and products.

Are they still producing the same line of clothes they’re burning? Unlikely. And since Lu Yen Roloff brought up thrift:

Maybe we can get Burberry employees and shareholders to comment on her lifestyle?

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