Nov 30 2009

If you’re a scientist, consider signing the petition

Category: global warmingharmonicminer @ 9:30 am

In the light of recent disclosures about global warming data being faked, deliberately misinterpreted, suspiciously “lost” and so on, maybe this is a good time to point out to any scientists reading here that there is a Global Warming Petition Project.

The purpose of the Petition Project is to demonstrate that the claim of “settled science” and an overwhelming “consensus” in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climatological damage is wrong. No such consensus or settled science exists. As indicated by the petition text and signatory list, a very large number of American scientists reject this hypothesis.

Publicists at the United Nations, Mr. Al Gore, and their supporters frequently claim that only a few “skeptics” remain – skeptics who are still unconvinced about the existence of a catastrophic human-caused global warming emergency.

It is evident that 31,486 Americans with university degrees in science – including 9,029 PhDs, are not “a few.” Moreover, from the clear and strong petition statement that they have signed, it is evident that these 31,486 American scientists are not “skeptics.”

These scientists are instead convinced that the human-caused global warming hypothesis is without scientific validity and that government action on the basis of this hypothesis would unnecessarily and counterproductively damage both human prosperity and the natural environment of the Earth.

Here is a sample of the petition:

Yes, that’s the signature of Edward Teller, “father of the thermonuclear bomb,” who, regardless of what you may think about his participation in the creation of the H-Bomb, was certainly no slouch as a scientist. He knew how to read scientific literature, and how to interpret data.  And he thought the entire global warming eco-panic crowd were perpetrating a giant scam, though not all knowingly.  Some were merely duped, in his view.

There is an article on Wikipedia that reports “investigations” of the petition and its signers.  One would wish such diligence might be applied to verifying the bona fides of the data being used to convince politicians that global warming is a cause for panic.  However, note carefully, the Wikipedia expose draws conclusions from quite small samples of the signatures….  almost as if the investigators are afraid of what they will find if they look carefully, instead of casually.

And then there are these folks


Nov 29 2009

Happy Birthday to me: UPDATE

Category: family,friendship,humorsardonicwhiner @ 12:45 pm

So, today is my birthday.  I went and played keyboard for the first service at church, then got out before someone caught on and tried to sing to me.

Since my age for the entire last year was a prime number, I guess that means that I am now, uh, past my prime.

Sigh.

To make me feel better about it, some friends, colleagues and students sent me nice birthday greetings on facebook.  Some were of the normal “Happy Birthday, Shack!” variety.  A couple of them got insulting and called me Dr. Phil.

Cretins.

One even thanked me for teaching her music theory and music technology, which she now uses in her life more than she expected.  That was nice, one of the best birthday gifts a person could give me.

One former student from way back seemed to find great joy in astronomical allusion.  We eventually decided that as long as I live, the galaxy will keep spinning ’round, with all black holes kept tidily in their places.  Or maybe that’s an astronomical illusion.

My 94 yr old mother sent me email asking how long the university will allow me to continue to teach.   Nice, mom.  Real nice.

Then my cousin told me about all the family members she’s seen lately that I haven’t.

It’s always your family that knifes you in the back.

And then there were the nerds.  Lots of nerds.  For example, a fellow faculty member sent me this birthday greeting:

sol-sol-la-sol-do’-ti, sol-sol-la-sol-re’-do’, sol-sol-sol’-mi’-do’-ti-la, fa’-fa’-mi’-do’-re’-do!

I think that last do should be do’…  but I suppose I’m quibbling.

A music major from three decades back, who then worked as a DJ or something at a radio station in Alaska for a time, sent me this:

0–0-2–0–5-4–0-0-2–7–5—0-0-9--7-5-4–2—10-10-9–5–7–5

It took some time to decode that one, since it has a couple of errors in it (the 9–7 sequence should be 12 — 9, and the 2–7–5 sequence should read 2–0–7–5), and it assumes that “0″ is the fifth scale degree…  but what can you expect from someone who moved to Alaska?  Hey….  I wonder if he ever met Sarah Palin?

But I digress.

Then there was the current student, a jazzer, who couldn’t resist sticking in a suspended, altered dominant voiced as a Neapolitan major 9, +11, 13 chord over the dominant root, where it would conflict with the penultimate note rather seriously, so he changed the melody down a half-step, the only remaining problem being that the root of the Neapolitan isn’t the ideal melody note against all that extended color.  He seems also to want my birthday to be over very, very quickly, though at least he wished me many happy returns.

Happy Birthday wierd

I am often accused of employing inappropriate logical tools to issues of values, theology, philosophy, etc.  That may be what was behind the next birthday greeting, which I think may be a subtle insult suggesting that I think only in black and white, with no room for shades of gray, nuance, etc.

01000111 01000111 01000001 01000111 01000011 01000010 01000111 01000111 01000001 01000111 01000100 01000011 01000111 01000111 01000111 00100111 01000101 01000011 01000010 01000001 01000110 01000110 01000101 01000011 01000100 01000011

I’m not sure what to say about that, other than that the apostrophe confused me for a moment…  I actually had to consult this table.  In retrospect, it was obvious, of course….  the apostrophe was to indicate the upper octave of “G”.

I’m reminded of a sign on my office door, graciously donated to me by a faculty friend.  It says:

There are only 10 kinds of people.  Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

As for accusing me of binary thinking, all I can say is this:  either today is my birthday, or it isn’t.

Based on the available facts and logical conclusions to be inferred from them…

I choose to believe that it is.

_________________________________________________

UPDATE:  It has been pointed out to me by a friend on facebook that, while I can do binary arithmetic, I can’t do third grade decimal arithmetic.  To wit: last year, my age was NOT a prime number.  And neither is this year.  Next year IS…  I think.  I no longer trust myself.

Perhaps the logical question is, will I be completely overwhelmed by senior moments (or senior hours) even BEFORE I have passed my prime?

I suppose time will tell.



Nov 28 2009

Abbas: Obama isn’t putting enough pressure on Israel

Abbas accuses Obama of doing ‘nothing’ for peace in the Middle East

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday accused US President Barack Obama of doing “nothing” to achieve peace in the Middle East. Speaking to Argentinian newspaper Clarin, Abbas said he hoped that Obama would “take a more important role in the future.”

He went on to say that the Palestinian people were awaiting US pressure on Israel, “so that it respects international law and takes up the Road Map,” stressing that the peace process could not be restarted without a halt to settlement construction.

When asked what he was willing to concede for peace, Abbas told Clarin that the Palestinian people had “already made concessions.”

He opined that the current government, with Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister and Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister, “is not seeking peace,” though he said that 73 percent of Israelis were in favor of peace.

What Abbas wants, of course, is for Obama to be tougher on his (putatively) only friend in the Middle East, Israel, than he is on actual opponents, like Iran, Syria or Hisbullah.

If we needed any reminder of the fact, this illustrates the basic dynamic of all Middle East peace negotiations.  Israel, which has always been the attacked party, must give up land and options that were legitimately earned in acts of national self-defense from Arab aggression, self-defense against incredible odds.  In the meantime, Palestine doesn’t have to give up anything, including the intent to see the end of Israel as a Jewish nation.

Prediction:  Obama will be no more successful than any of his predecessors at convincing Palestinians that their best interests lie in normalizing relations with Israel, with reporting and fighting against the terrorists in their number, and with going about the business of building a functioning economy, without the ridiculous and unachievable destruction of Israel.  Palestinians have exactly the same opportunity now that Israel had 60 years ago, to build something out of nothing in the desert.  Further, they have a potential partner, Israel, which would help, if Palestinians could control their hatred of the Jews.  I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, Obama brings a student council president level of understanding to a negotiation where world class diplomats have tried and failed.  I won’t blame him for failing.  I will blame him if he manages to cripple Israel while he is busy failing to engineer an unlikely peace.


Nov 28 2009

Sexual fulfillment for terrorists

Category: Hizbullah,Islam,societyharmonicminer @ 9:16 am

If you want to recruit men to risk their lives repeatedly for relatively minor gain, Hezbollah thinks it knows the secret:

Mohammad, a 40-year old Lebanese Shiite who lives in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs, was holding forth on the virtues of resistance, loyalty, and sex. “You could create the most loyal army by providing political power, social services and fulfilling the desires of your men — namely, sexual ones,” he declared.

“And Hezbollah has been very successful in this regard,” Mohammad continued.

It is hard to disagree.

Hezbollah liberated South Lebanon from Israeli occupation, expanded the Shiite community’s political power within the country, and has provided social services, such as health care and education, to its constituency since the 1980s. Today, it is also working to fulfill the sexual needs of its supporters, though a practice known as mutaa marriage.

Mutaa is a form of “temporary marriage” only acceptable within Shiite communities, one that allows couples to have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures.

In conservative Muslim societies known for their strict sense of propriety, mutaa offers an escape clause. The contract is very simple. The woman says: “I marry myself to you for [a specific period of time] and for [a specified dowry]” and the man says: “I accept.” The period can range between one hour and a year, and is subject to renewal.

A Muslim woman can only marry a Muslim man, but a Muslim man can temporarily marry a Muslim, Christian, or Jewish woman, as long as she is a divorcée or a widow. However, those interviewed for this article confirmed that Hezbollah-the “Party of God”-has allowed the practice to spread to virgins or girls who have never married before, as long as the permission of her guardian (father or paternal grandfather) is obtained.

Presumably, if you allow your virgin daughter to engage in a Shiite-sanctioned “temporary marriage,” you aren’t then required to kill her to preserve your family’s honor, which has been a big problem in Lebanon, it seems.


Nov 27 2009

Open Theism & Theistic Evolution: mysteriously friendly

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:58 am

Two popular notions among certain Christian academics these days are open theism and theistic evolution.

What’s interesting to me is that there is a group of theologians and a few theistic scientists who subscribe to both.  They seem not to be too concerned about the contradiction between:

1) theistic evolution, which basically posits a God who just about never changes his mind in the process of creation, and pretty much never intervenes in a significant way in the working out of the laws of nature as their interplay leads to the universe we see, and almost requires some form of reasonably strong determinism in order to allow its adherents to say “God created the human race,” and

2)  open theism, which posits a God who changes his mind sometimes, can be surprised at how things turn out, doesn’t know the future exhaustively in every fine detail, but only those future events He has predestined in a specific way, and so on.  (Openists would say that God knows all possible futures, including how He will work out His will and foreordained events in each one.)

These sound like two different Gods to me.  And I’m not too sure that either one of them is the God that I worship, though I suppose I’m willing to be convinced by compelling evidence and logic.

A very prominent Christian biologist, Francis Collins, in his book The Language of God, essentially admits that some form of relatively exhaustive predestination is required in order for God to have used evolution to bring about humanity.  Collins doesn’t like the phrase “theistic evolution,” preferring his own term, “biologos,” but as far as I can see, they are the same general idea.   Collins’ distaste for the phrase “theistic evolution” seems to have more to do with the difficulty of selling it to the public than with the inaccuracy of it.  Collins specifically rejects the notion that God did anything directly to bring about humanity via evolution, other than set the conditions of the big bang in the first place.  Presumably he does this to avoid being placed in the company of those foolish, benighted believers in Intelligent Design.  That wouldn’t be respectable, y’know.  So his acquiescence to some form of “pre-creation” determinism makes sense.  How else to say God created humanity, rather than merely a universe in which a planet like Earth might come about, on which life might arise, which might evolve into intelligent beings who might happen to have a spiritual nature as well?

From the Biologos website (the organization founded by Francis Collins, but from which he withdrew to accept an appointment from President Obama to head the National Institutes of Health):

Because evolution involves seemingly “random” mutations, it seems that the Earth could have been the home of a different assortment of creatures.  But belief in a supernatural creator leaves the possibility that human beings were fully intended.  An omniscient creator could also have created the Universe’s natural laws so as to inevitably result in human beings. (emphasis mine)

As in Collins’ book, this seems a clear admission that some form of determinism is required for theistic evolution, as understood by one of its chief scientific proponents.

Open theist Greg Boyd, in his book God of the Possible, presents a view of God’s created order in which the future is not pre-determined, so much so that God does not know it exhaustively.  To quote from the Amazon description of his book,

Boyd sidesteps the more abstruse theological debates surrounding this issue in favor of a patient, but not pedantic, exposition of a “motif of future openness” in biblical narrative and prophecy. These biblical texts repeatedly portray God as changing plans in response to human decisions, viewing future events as contingent and even being disappointed at how events turn out. Boyd clearly believes the debate over open theism has gotten off to an unfortunate start, as disagreements about the “settledness” of the future have unnecessarily been interpreted as challenges to God’s omniscience or sovereignty.

In other words, in contrast to process theology, in which God is seen to change, develop and “learn,” open theism is presented by Boyd as merely “the open view of the future,” i.e., it’s more a statement about the kind of universe God chose to create than about God Himself.

Understandably, historic Christian understandings are often seen to be threatened by either of these perspectives.  My point here is not to challenge them directly, but to point out that they challenge each other.  That makes it very interesting that there are so many academics who appear to believe both.

Consider:  if God brings about his fore-ordained will in an “open future” universe, He is a God who clearly is constantly interacting with it, adjusting circumstances to reflect events that were NOT fore-ordained, and which God did not directly choose.  When the first bacterium turned left instead of right, God moved its food source where it would find it anyway.   (Hey you, the orphan germ, can’t you see where the kitchen is?)   And surely there would be many such events all along the developmental path of life on earth.

The point?  It seems to me that the Intelligent Design view of the development of life is more suited  to the “open future” view (of the open theists) than “theistic evolution” is.   Yet the open theists love to keep company with the theistic evolutionists, to the extent that they appear on the same academic programs at universities, apparently because the programmers of these conferences believe that theistic evolution and open theism somehow support each other.

I guess they buy the notion of a God who doesn’t know how it all turns out, but predetermined it anyway to make sure it turned out like He wanted.

I suppose it’s also possible that God cheats at solitaire.


Nov 26 2009

First, Do No Harm

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:38 am

This is a repost of something I put up last September, before Obama was elected, of course.  I think it’s very appropriate for what has happened under Obama’s watch already, and what’s perhaps about to happen with healthcare.

***********************

Being a politician, and especially being President, has aspects in common with being a parent, and with being a physician.

Good parents, first and foremost, need to avoid damaging their children. Maybe I have low standards for parenting. But if you can raise a child to the age of 18 or so, and have helped them avoid doing damage to themselves (they aren’t substance abusers, high school dropouts, criminals, etc.), and if they know you love them, and they love you, you’ve probably won. Sure, there are tons of nice things to try to do, but they depend at least as much on the nature of the child as on parenting magic. The point: you are to raise the child, help where you can, not go against the fundamental nature of the child by trying to get things from them they can never do or simply hate (and you’ll have to be somewhat sensitive while discovering the child’s nature), and avoid messing the child up. Everything else is gravy, and we all know how bad that is for your health, in excess.

There is a similar principle in medicine, sometimes attributed to Hippocrates, “First, do no harm.” It means, generally, that if you can’t fix it, at least don’t make it worse, or create a new problem. Medical doctors used to attach leeches to “bleed” patients to remove “ill humors” that were making them ill. Of course, they were simply weakening their patients, in most cases. Thalidomide babies of 1950s helped lead to the creation of the modern FDA drug approval process (which has created its own problems), another example of doctors causing harm while trying to do good.

What has this to do with politics? It’s pretty simple: some problems are very complex, and are rooted in human nature and individual choice. The attempt to use governmental power to “fix” them is likely to create new problems, frequently without making a serious dent in the old ones, and sometimes making the old ones worse.

So: beware of the politician who promises things that have never been, that sound too good to be true, that depend on very complex systems managed by governmental power and oversight, and that create incentives for individuals and organizations to behave in ways counter to the intent of the new program or policy. Raise taxes on the rich, and they’ll change their behavior in ways that don’t lead to economic growth, and you’ll actually reduce tax receipts to the government. Offer benefits to unwed mothers, and you’ll have more unwed mothers. Fix prices at some “fair” level, and you’ll have shortages. Provide “free” or “cost controlled” healthcare, and you’ll soon run out of healthcare services…. a special case of price fixing, in essence. And so it goes.

I think it’s very likely that Obama plans huge, radical changes which will have unpredictable effects, not solve the problems he claims the changes are aimed at (or make them worse), and create new ones. The article at the previous link makes it clear that the danger of Obama’s election is not that he won’t keep his promises; it’s that he will. What else can you expect from someone whose ideological hero’s manifesto is titled Rules for Radicals? And he is likely to appoint judges who have similar intentions, to make sure his radical changes are declared to be “constitutional”.

*****************************

Unfortunately, it seems that the predictions I made here are coming true.  Obama has made huge changes to the relationship between government, business, and individuals, and seems to plan even larger ones.  FDR used an economic downturn to change the course of America, and we struggle under the programs he set in motion up to this day.   Obama, who only thinks he’s FDR, seems to be going down the same road….  only instead of driving a 1930 Packard, he’s driving a 2009 Corvette….  which he probably “got free” from GM (of course, you actually helped pay for it), and he’s driving us all, pedal to the metal, towards a utopia that never existed, and never will.

Better fasten your seat belt.  Put on a helmet if you have one.  The crash is going to be spectacular.


Nov 25 2009

The Left at Christian Universities, part 15: Summer camp was never like this

Category: diversity,education,societyharmonicminer @ 8:34 am

The previous post in this series is here.

In Minnesota, future teachers may be sent to re-education camp. (more at the link)

Do you believe in the American dream — the idea that in this country, hardworking people of every race, color and creed can get ahead on their own merits? If so, that belief may soon bar you from getting a license to teach in Minnesota public schools — at least if you plan to get your teaching degree at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.

In a report compiled last summer, the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group at the U’s College of Education and Human Development recommended that aspiring teachers there must repudiate the notion of “the American Dream” in order to obtain the recommendation for licensure required by the Minnesota Board of Teaching. Instead, teacher candidates must embrace — and be prepared to teach our state’s kids — the task force’s own vision of America as an oppressive hellhole: racist, sexist and homophobic.

What is this article doing in the “Left at Christian Universities” series?  Because it illustrates how thoroughly the buzzwords of “diversity” are owned and promoted by the secular, anti-American Left.  It illustrates the essential impossibility of separating those perspectives from the word “diversity.”

How can “Christian diversity activists” at Christian universities hope to separate the word “diversity” from all its baggage, regardless of the application of other qualifiers?

It is not at all uncommon for much of the language in the article that was referenced here to be heard in diversity and multi-cultural presentations at Christian universities and colleges.  If you are a person of the Left, that probably doesn’t bother you much.  For the rest of us, it is a clear sign that the desire to be well-regarded by the secular Left has triumphed over traditional Christian expectations.

Will all good Christians be required to confess their racism and general bigotry, in writing, as a condition of employment?  Not quite yet, it seems.  But it does not seem impossible, given the way that Christian institutions continue to ape secular ones.

The clear challenge for Christian colleges and universities with education departments or schools is this:  how to satisfy the demands of the state credentialing apparatus without surrendering traditional Christian perspectives on values, the worth of human beings, etc.?

h/t: JW

The next post in this series is here.


Nov 24 2009

Flash Gordon, we hardly knew you

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:47 am

Is this the end for human space flight?

SO WE won’t be going to Mars, not in my lifetime anyway. And not back to the moon either, not for decades. Buzz Lightyear fantasies are dashed. Don’t believe the spin – the dream is over.

OK, the Augustine panel’s review of NASA’s human space-flight plans outlines several options. Mars may be out, but the moon is still in with a shout, and plans to go to the Lagrange points and even the asteroids are mooted. Technically, all this is probably doable. But it won’t happen, and here’s why.

The problem is not money: the US can afford an extra $3 billion a year. It is psychological. NASA, the only game in town, has no idea what space is for, and no audacity.

Sooner or later, we’ll go. We’ll have to. The earth, large and varied as it is, is finite, and we will need the resources of space, just to sustain life on earth.  And we’ll need to protect civilzation from space-borne catastrophe, sooner or later.

But the people who go, who first reap the benefit, who first control the high frontier (since we seem to be relinquishing it) will probably speak Chinese.   Our great-great-grandchildren may vacation on a Chinese owned space platform, and get there on Chinese vehicles.

Someone is going to do it.  It should be US.


Nov 23 2009

Climategate? Or just business as usual?

Category: environment,global warming,scienceharmonicminer @ 10:20 am

The lies of the global warming eco-panic crowd may finally be exposed in Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’?

If you own any shares in alternative energy companies I should start dumping them NOW. The conspiracy behind the Anthropogenic Global Warming myth (aka AGW; aka ManBearPig) has been suddenly, brutally and quite deliciously exposed after a hacker broke into the computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (aka Hadley CRU) and released 61 megabites of confidential files onto the internet. (Hat tip: Watts Up With That)

When you read some of those files – including 1079 emails and 72 documents – you realise just why the boffins at Hadley CRU might have preferred to keep them confidential. As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

One of the alleged emails has a gentle gloat over the death in 2004 of John L Daly (one of the first climate change sceptics, founder of the Still Waiting For Greenhouse site), commenting:

“In an odd way this is cheering news.”

But perhaps the most damaging revelations – the scientific equivalent of the Telegraph’s MPs’ expenses scandal – are those concerning the way Warmist scientists may variously have manipulated or suppressed evidence in order to support their cause.

It is, of course, early days in the investigation of the stolen emails.  Perhaps it will all turn out to be a huge hoax.  But, here are more details.

Of course, the AGW eco-panic mongers of the world will say that this isn’t the only data, that many other independent data sources have confirmed the same conclusions, and it can’t ALL be a hoax.

Maybe not.  Some of it could be just simple, politically motivated non-science.  There are probably some well-meaning sorts who have particular data that doesn’t, by itself, refute AGW, so they have trusted those who are sure they have data that confirms it.  But it seems that maybe there aren’t as many scientists as previously claimed who are “sure” they have confirming data…  so they cook the books.

Here is an attempt at damage control.  You can decide how successful you think it is.  My impression: while accusing the hackers of “cherry picking”, they have “cherry picked” the emails the hackers “cherry picked” to try to make their points.  Your mileage may vary.  But I wonder how many of these bleats about the nasty, illegal, immoral hackers were issued by people who were similarly distressed when the New York Times exposed critical US programs to protect us from terrorists.  (You may say this is a loose connection, but the political dimension of the AGW controversy is the entire point….  and the politics of eco-panic mongers and anti-American Leftists are remarkably parallel.)  Here is someone who takes it more seriously.

This seems like a good time to review all those scientists who have thought all along that AGW was, if true, a very minor contributor to whatever overall warming may exist (which it seems is less and less).

h/t:  Mike


Nov 21 2009

Bribery, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Category: Congress,healthcare,legislation,politicsamuzikman @ 11:57 pm

Imagine you are a police officer who has just stopped a vehicle for speeding.  When you make it clear that you intend to write a ticket, the driver offers you $100 to change your mind.  This action, a felony, is called Bribing a Peace Officer and carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 and two years in jail.

Now imagine you are a United States Senator from Louisiana who is unsure of how to vote on the so-called health care bill.  Another Senator tells you they will see to it that your state receives $100 million dollars to ensure that you vote “yes” on the aforementioned piece of legislation.  This action is called political hard ball, is apparently legal, and carries no fine or threat of imprisonment if found guilty.

it would seem that our political leadership has abdicated any real responsibility to deal with the issue, let alone the merits of this 2000+ page monstrosity of a bill.  It has become entirely about politics and money.

Is there anyone out there who can say with a straight face they truly believe this is at all about improving the health care system in this country?  If so, why don’t you hop on your unicorn, fly over and meet me at the end of the rainbow.  I’ll introduce you to a lovely little leprechaun who’ll point out the pot of gold we can use to pay for government-sponsored health care.

Read the details.  Senatorial votes are for sale to the highest bidder.


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