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Last updated: Sunday, November 19, 2017, 12:33 PM
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Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S.exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451 – $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

Officials do not believe the leak in TransCanada Corp’s pipeline, which carries oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, affected drinking water

....Crews shut down the pipeline on Thursday morning and activated emergency response procedures after a drop in pressure was detected resulting from the leak south of a pump station in Marshall County, TransCanada said in a statement. The cause was being investigated.

Source: Associated Press | The Guardian
Veteran climate scientist says litigation campaign against government and fossil fuels companies is essential alongside political mobilisation in fighting ‘growing, mortal threat’ of global warming

One of the fathers of climate science is calling for a wave of lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies that are delaying action on what he describes as the growing, mortal threat of global warming.

Former Nasa scientist James Hansen says the litigate-to-mitigate campaign is needed alongside political mobilisation because judges are less likely than politicians to be in the pocket of oil, coal and gas companies.

“The judiciary is the branch of government in the US and other countries that is relatively free of bribery. And bribery is exactly what is going on,” he told the Guardian on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Bonn.

Without Hansen and his fellow Nasa researchers who raised the alarm about the effect of carbon emissions on global temperatures in the 1980s, it is possible that none of the thousands of delegates from almost 200 countries would be here.

But after three decades, he has been largely pushed to the fringes. Organisers have declined his request to speak directly to the delegates about what he sees as a threat that is still massively underestimated.

Jonathan Watts | The Guardian
"A climate damages tax on the fossil fuel industry is one way to reverse the injustice of climate change, and ensure the fossil fuel industry pays for its damage—not poor people."

As the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany come to a close, more than 50 groups and and high-profile climate advocates, including journalist Naomi Klein, are demanding a Climate Damages Tax to levy on companies that extract coal, oil, and natural gas "to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change when these products are burnt, implemented nationally, regionally, or internationally."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams

Reporting from COP23 in Bonn, Germany, Democracy Now! travels to the nearby blockade of the Hambach coal mine, the largest open-pit coal mine in Europe. Activists say the mine extracts an extremely dirty form of coal called lignite, also known as brown coal, which causes the highest CO2 emissions of any type of coal when burned. For more than five years, they have been fighting to shut down the mine and to save the remaining forest from being cut down to make way for the expanding project. Only 10 percent of the ancient forest remains.

Tar sands have been dubbed the largest – and most destructive – industrial project in human history. And Canada is on the forefront of their exploitation

This week, the Canadian government will be in Bonn touting Canada’s climate plan. It will be joined by Canadian oil companies working to put a green hue on Canadian tar sands – but the world shouldn’t be fooled.

The truth is, Canada cannot yet meet its own arguably weak climate targets. The country plans to expand oil and gas production despite evidence that this is inconsistent with Paris goals. Then, there is the issue of the toxic sludge of waste products from Canada’s tar sands destruction, which form what are known as tailings ponds.

As of this year, these ponds hold 1 trillion litres of sludge that is unlike any other industrial byproduct in the world. They contain a unique cocktail of toxic chemicals and hydrocarbons that will remain in molasses-like suspension for centuries if left alone.

These open, unlined ponds currently cover 220 sq km, an area of land equivalent to 73 New York Central Parks. A single tailings pond – the Mildred Lake Settling Basin – has been identified by the US Department of the Interior as the world’s largest dam.

These tailings ponds made international headlines in 2008 when 1,600 ducks flew into one of them. The resulting imagery of animals coated in oil was a powerful reminder of the costs of our global oil addiction.

....The history of the government’s weak attempts to address tailings are shocking. A couple of years ago a directive was put into place to require companies to reduce tailings. Not a single company complied. Rather than fining the companies or refusing permits, the government simply removed the directive.

....The dire state of this situation is compounded by the very uncertain economic future for tar sands mining. The tar sands industry’s approach to tailings management since 1967 has been to procrastinate on cleaning up the mess until a silver bullet technology is found to deal with them.

Now, 50 years later, technologies to clean up tailings that have been discovered are not being implemented because they are expensive and government is not requiring them.

Opinion: Tzeporah Berman | The Guardian
Report shows around £15bn of assets worldwide have been shifted away from coal companies in the past two years as concern over climate risk rises
Juliette Garside | The Guardian

The Trump White House actually did a pro-coal exhibit at the Bonn climate summit in Germany, COP23. It did not go over well.

Indeed, this sort of absurd stunt has the makings of a complete end to American leadership in the world. Mark Twain once observed that “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

The Trump administration at COP23 is naked. Because it is unclothed, lacking any moral fiber, it can be disregarded. And everyone is disregarding it.

It is sort of like someone opened a butcher shop at a PETA conference.

Juan Cole | Informed Comment
Navajo and Hopi communities are torn over the impending closure of a coal plant that brings both jobs and pollution
Interior Department Scrubs Climate Change From Its Strategic Plan [this Administration has been perfectly wrong about everything]
A leaked draft of a five-year plan reveals how the DOI will prioritize “energy dominance” over conservation.
Al Gore’s new film is worth watching
John Abraham | The Guardian
Some organic growers say hydroponics shouldn’t be certified organic
A little too easy...

The revelations in the Paradise Papers followed quickly on the release of the Panama Papers (English majors please note the allusion to the Pentagon Papers).

Both of these Papers were revealed by an organization with the cumbersome name of The International Consortium of Independent Journals (ICIJ)—a group in need of a new name and a publicity agent. That name gives the impression of some mining cartel intent on keeping up the price of gold and diamonds.

To the contrary, it is a group of dedicated journalists who recognized that they could not honestly report on tax evasion when they were working for mainstream media. The media barons and major advertisers are prime users of the tax evasion system. So these journalists gave up successful and lucrative careers to dedicate themselves to exposing offshore tax fraud. The Panama and Paradise Papers are a tribute to their courage, sacrifice, and dedication.

However, the mainstream media uses the press tactic of ‘burying the lede’ by focusing on political leaders or corporate use of loopholes to the exclusion of a more serious underlying problem: the billions of dollars that the 1% do not pay in taxes so that we bear the burden of maintaining the upkeep of the country and its growing debt. Of course, everybody hates paying taxes. The super wealthy are no different in attitude, only in means. They can afford the ways to avoid paying taxes. In 2012, the Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 trillion and $32 trillion—the size of the U.S. and Japanese economies combined—was hidden in secrecy jurisdictions. If the tax evaded by wealthy individuals was collected, it would likely cover most of the annual deficit in each of the G7 countries.

However, most reporting has obscured the tax fraud aspect, the most outrageous aspect of the disclosure. There are two types of these schemes: one is evasion, i.e. tax fraud, by which individuals do not pay taxes. At least 31,000 of the individual and corporate clients included in the Paradise Paper records are U.S. citizens or have U.S. addresses, more than from any other country.

The other scheme is tax avoidance, by which large corporations use government-provided loopholes and willful blindness to reduce their taxes paid by pretending to have made sales or expenses in low tax jurisdictions and reduce tax liability in the US. Apple and Amazon are examples that have been in the news for the avoidance type.

In this article, I’m going to focus just on how wealthy individuals elude the tax man, how easy it is to do, and how easy it would be to stop it if the politicians of either party had the will to do it. That would mean, of course going against the wishes of their wealthy campaign donors. The corporate avoidance schemes will come in a later article.

'Say Goodbye to Local Media,' as Trump FCC Opens Corporate Merger Floodgates [decreasing regulation will increase monopoly power of large News and Entertainment providers enabling distortions of media content benefiting the higher bidder]
"Today will go down in history as the day when the FCC abdicated its responsibility to uphold the core values of localism, competition, and diversity in broadcasting."

In "an awful new low" that elicited warnings about "a new wave of media consolidation," the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday rolled back media ownership regulations under the guise of trying "to modernize its broadcast ownership rules & to help promote ownership diversity."

"Any pretense that this vote will help journalism or increase ownership diversity is cynical and offensive," said Free Press president and CEO Craig Aaron, warning that the move will "lead to more mergers, more layoffs, and more communities that have no news outlets in place to cover important stories and hold officials accountable."

In response to Thursday's move by the FCC, Aaron's group vowed to fight the decision and initiated a campaign to file suit.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
'Time to Raise Hell': Internet Defenders Mobilize as FCC Aims to Kill Net Neutrality Within Month [decreasing regulation will increase monopoly power of large Cable and Telecom broadband providers enabling distortions of Internet content benefiting the higher bidder]
FCC chair Ajit Pai, warn critics, is aiming to "destroy the internet as we know it and give even more gatekeeper power to a few huge companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon"
"If the FCC passes Pai's plan in December, it will face enormous challenges in court—and in the streets as well."
—Craig Aaron, Free Press

Defenders of the open internet are issuing urgent calls to action as news reports indicate that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai has set his sights on a December 14 vote to kill net neutrality and "destroy the internet as we know it."

"In less than a month, and in defiance of the tens of millions of Americans who have spoken out for the free and open internet, Ajit Pai will move to kill net neutrality." Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, said in a statement. "It's time to raise hell."

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
The private security firm TigerSwan worked to build a RICO suit accusing Greenpeace, Earth First, and BankTrack of inciting protests to increase donations.
Alleen Brown, Will Parrish, Alice Speri | The Intercept
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
BOB SOMERBY in The DailyHowler | EVERY DAY


At the group’s request, the president’s son promoted Russia-hacked materials to the American public.

If it gives us nothing else positive, the Republican tax plan—and, in its Senate form, the health-care repeal—at least provides clarity. There is no debate. The middle class will, in the long run, pay more in taxes than under current law, and the rich will pay less. For a brief moment last week, there did seem to be space for discussion, in the form of a disagreement between the centrist and highly regarded Tax Policy Center and the Tax Foundation, a pro-business group that is generally seen as more biased. Even if poorly matched, having two groups with similar, boring names set the stage for the appearance of a two-handed tax debate. One side says it helps the rich, hurts everyone else, and will lead to a bigger deficit; the other side says the opposite. Our media and political system has long viewed economic policy—and, especially, taxation—as the equivalent of “American Idol.” There is a group of judges, loudly disagreeing, and the home audience can pick whichever side they like, based on whatever criteria they have. In past tax-news cycles (2001, 1993, 1990, 1986...), there were enough serious, respected economists on both sides to make it seem like there was a real, substantive fight over the impact of taxes on jobs and economic growth. (While each individual economist appears to know everything with certainty, as a group, they are surprisingly unsure of the impact of taxes on a nation’s well-being. However, most surveys of economists suggest that virtually none accept the simplistic notion that raising taxes on the rich will cripple an economy.)

Adam Davidson | The New Yorker
Revealed: Secret cash fueling conservative and liberal advocacy organizations.

Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch are well-known for pumping tens of millions of dollars into so-called “dark money” nonprofits — groups that actively promote or criticize candidates for office but are not required to reveal their donors.

Not so well known is the duo’s role in underwriting and sculpting the legal landscape that led to the court decisions that made possible these and other groups such as super PACs.

The Center for Public Integrity investigated an array of organizations that have participated in legal challenges dating back 40 years that have resulted in a system allowing unlimited sums to be pumped into modern elections. It’s a system that both Republicans and Democrats now fully rely upon ahead of 2018 midterm elections that could reaffirm — or torpedo — President Donald Trump’s congressional majority.

Throughout that history, Koch-backed groups have stood out as reliable, stalwart opponents of regulation of money in politics. While far from the only players in the legal battle, the Kochs are certainly among the most recognizable — and significant.

Our new video series launches this week as a reminder of the experience of women who sought abortions when the male-dominated state controlled their bodies and their fate.
  • Videos about women who faced NO CHOICE: Although 59 percent of US adults say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, it remains one of the most divisive issues in America: Not a week passes without headlines chronicling attempts at every level of government to deny or defend women’s reproductive rights.
BILL MOYERS | Moyers & Company
Robert Mackey | The Intercept

The Trump administration’s decision to loosen restrictions around the import of elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia has turned attention back to the president’s family’s own connection to the controversial sport.

Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are prolific big game hunters and during the 2016 campaign, images re-emerged of the pair on a 2011 hunting trip posing with animals they had killed on safari including an elephant, a buffalo and a leopard.

Jamiles Lartey | The Guardian
'Disgusting': Senate Republicans' Tax Plan Will Scrap Obamacare Mandate [tax-cuts for the super-rich are more important than the health and lives of 13 million poor people]
"The GOP tax bill is now straight-up 'take away your healthcare to pay for tax cuts for corporations,'" says's Ben Wikler

....The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that repealing the mandate would, over the next decade, cause 13 million people to lose their coverage, but also reduce federal deficits by more than $300 billion. That reduction is key to the Republicans' tax bill, which cannot add more than $1.5 trillion to federal deficits.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
Senior citizens' healthcare spending would be on the chopping block to make up for the $1.5 trillion deficit increase brought on by the House tax plan
Julia Conley, staff writer | Common Dreams
"What if we tell House Republicans and Democrats that North Korea wanted to close schools, take our healthcare away and pump CO2 into our air—we could suddenly, magically find $700 billion dollars for all of it."

In a bipartisan show of support for endless war and out-of-control military spending, the House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 that aims to boost war outlays by $80 billion—an amount that critics noted would easily cover the costs of free public college tuition and other initiatives that are frequently dismissed as too expensive.

"Flint still doesn't have drinking water, we are told we cannot have affordable single-payer, free college education is too costly, we do not have money to help the homeless, we do not have money to fix our infrastructure."
—Matthew Battle

The final vote tally was 357-70, with 127 Democrats throwing their support behind the bill. Sixty-seven Democrats—including Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and John Conyers of Michigan—voted against the legislation.

In addition to providing cash for 90 F-35 jets—20 more than President Donald Trump requested—the measure also approves more than $12 billion for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, a massive boost in funding that comes amid soaring tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
Cases were among 10 where Moore, as Alabama’s top judge, dissented from court’s majority view and sided with alleged offenders, Guardian review finds
Jon Swaine | The Guardian
Innovators like Elon Musk – who have long worked to get self-driving trucks on the road – are poised to remove the last humans left in the modern supply chain

....The only humans left in a modern supply chain are truck drivers. Today’s cutting-edge warehouses buzz with automated forklifts and robots that load and unload trucks while drivers stand around sipping coffee – and getting paychecks and health insurance. That’s the kind of thing that drives corporate finance types crazy. The best option is to eliminate drivers.

I understand that global industry is constantly being reinvented to reduce inefficiencies. New technologies will not be stopped, because if we don’t do it here, they’ll do it everywhere from Singapore to Shanghai or Dusseldorf and we’ll be left behind.

I also understand that human error is responsible for almost all vehicle accidents. About 1.25 million people worldwide are killed on roadways every year, including 40,000 in the US. I’ve no doubt that when the technology is perfected and critical mass is achieved, those millions of deaths will be reduced to a trickle.

But what’s the endgame with all this technological innovation?

Opinion: Finn Murphy | The Guardian
While support builds for an outright ban of autonomous weapons, powerful nations with large technology industries are resistant to imposing expansive limitations

As the United Nations' first formal meeting about killer robots came to a close on Friday, tech experts and critics continued to warn about autonomous weapons and called for more urgent action to curb the threat they pose.

"These will be weapons of mass destruction. I am actually quite confident that we will ban these weapons," he added. "My only concern is whether [nations] have the courage of conviction to do it now, or whether we will have to wait for people to die first."
—Toby Walsh, University of New South Wales

In Geneva this week, a Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) group of governmental experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems gathered to discuss growing demands that the global community establish limitations on the development of robotic weapons.

As artificial intelligence technology has advanced, human rights organizations, advocacy groups, military leaders, lawmakers, and tech experts, and engineers such Tesla CEO Elon Musk have all expressed concerns about these fast-evolving machines.

"Militaries around the world and defense companies are sinking a lot of money" into developing weapons that can autonomously select targets and kill humans, Mary Wareham of the arms division at Human Rights Watch (HRW) told AFP. "Countries do not have time... to waste just talking about this subject."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams
New York Times reporters uncovered "consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate" in what "may be the least transparent war in recent American history"
Jessica Corbett, staff writer | Common Dreams

The US is usually number 1 in the German research firm Gfk’s rankings, headed up by political consultant Simon Anholt. They ask some 22,000 people around the world to rank countries on six scales.

This year it fell five full places to number 6. No such fall has taken place since 2004, when Americans elected George W. Bush to a second term. And in the past, falls only lasted for a year.

Angela Merkel is the leader of the free world, not Trump.

The Gfk’s poll doesn’t just measure favorability, but looks at 6 dimensions of a country, so that the US fall from grace is all the more surprising. The dimensions are governance, people, culture, exports, immigration-investment and tourism.

In governance, the US had been in 19th place. It is now in 23rd. Out of 50 countries. People think the US is worse governed than nearly half of the developed countries in the world. This dramatic fall in the governance score is pretty obviously caused by Trump.

Juan Cole | Informed Comment
The inventor of the world wide web remains an optimist but sees a ‘nasty wind’ blowing amid concerns over advertising, net neutrality and fake news
Olivia Solon | The Guardian
Using diesel trucks now ‘economic suicide’, says Musk – but questions persist over company’s capacity to meet demand
Julia Carrie Wong | The Guardian
Dozens of parasites and corn kernels found in man shot as he fled to South Korea, hinting at extent of malnutrition in North
Source: Reuters | The Guardian

Disintermediating nation-states
Marc Cherbonnier | The Baltimore Chronicle | Ref.
Trump Ocean Club drew people accused of corruption and future president benefited from laundered funds, reports say
Rory Carroll | The Guardian
At the group’s request, the president’s son promoted Russia-hacked materials to the American public.
BOB BAUER | The Atlantic
"The choice is between resolution, or complicity in the suffering; there is no third option."
Julia Conley, staff writer | Common Dreams
Increasing taxes on those already drowning in student loan debt to give the rich a tax break denounced as "the height of Republican insanity"

"Soaking broke-ass grad students to pay for a private jet subsidy. All-out class war on the 99 percent."

"An educated population is dangerous to an oligarchy. The GOP claims to be for jobs and economic prosperity for all, but this action shows otherwise."
—Jess Phoenix, California congressional candidate

That was how one commentator described a pair of provisions buried in the GOP tax plan that passed the House on Thursday and is likely headed to the Senate floor for a vote as early as next week.

One provision—crammed in the middle of the latest version of the so-called "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act"—would provide a windfall to the wealthy few who own or lease private planes by exempting them from certain taxes related to "maintenance and support," "the hiring and training of pilots and crew," and "administrative services such as scheduling, flight planning, weather forecasting, obtaining insurance, and establishing and complying with safety standards."

Graduate students, however, would not fare so well if the GOP plan becomes law.

As CNBC reports, "[s]ome programs provide graduate students with a modest stipend for food and housing. For instance, Ryan Hill, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at MIT, receives a $30,000 living stipend and a tuition waiver allowing him to forego paying $50,000 in tuition. He currently pays taxes on his $30,000 stipend, but under the proposed House tax bill, his tuition waiver would also be taxed—meaning he would be taxed as if he was earning $80,000 a year."

In total, the House GOP tax plan would raise taxes by 400 percent on many graduate students, the Harvard Crimson estimated.

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
"If we are going to stop Republicans from taking healthcare from millions and slashing Medicare to give tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, now is the time to stand up and fight back."

With their passage of a deeply unpopular $1.5 trillion tax cut bill on Thursday, House Republicans did their part in "paving the way for the greatest transfer of wealth from regular people to the super-rich in modern American history,"—a move that sparked a flood of outrage from progressive activists and lawmakers who vowed to mobilize and do everything in their power to "kill the bill."

"The grassroots resistance they're about to experience will be just as intense as the tidal wave of opposition that repeatedly stopped the zombie Trumpcare bill."
—Murshed Zaheed, CREDO

"If we are going to stop Republicans from taking healthcare from millions and slashing Medicare to give tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, now is the time to stand up and fight back," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a call to action that was echoed by many of the progressive groups that played a significant role in the fight against Trumpcare.

Now that the House bill has passed, "the fight now turns to the Senate, where the Trump tax scam has always faced much tougher odds," noted CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed said in a statement.

As Common Dreams reported on Tuesday, Senate Republicans crammed a provision into their own tax bill that would strip healthcare from 13 million Americans—a fact opposition groups have used in recent days in an effort to galvanize grassroots forces.

"It is no surprise that Trump's lapdogs in the Senate want to use the Trump tax scam to try to gut healthcare for millions of Americans," Zaheed said, "but the grassroots resistance they're about to experience will be just as intense as the tidal wave of opposition that repeatedly stopped the zombie Trumpcare bill. If the Senate manages to pass the Trump tax scam despite massive public opposition, we suspect many senators will come to regret it next year."

'The tax plan passed today by the House of Representatives is a flat giveaway to America's richest households and corporations,' argued Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute in a statement. (Photo: Tax March/Twitter)
Click for bigger image. Table by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Senate GOP plan—expected to hit the floor for a vote before Thanksgiving next week—will raise taxes on low-income Americans beginning in 2021, JCT found. More broadly, the Senate plan would sharply hike taxes on millions of families that earn less than $75,000 a year beginning in 2027.

Citing these numbers, the Washington Post's Paul Waldman wrote, "If you're one of those white working-class voters who propelled Donald Trump into the presidency and gave Republicans total control of Washington, the GOP has a message for you: Sucker!"

By contrast, the wealthiest Americans—including President Donald Trump and his family—stand to gain massively from both the House and Senate plans. According to an NBC analysis published Thursday, Trump and his heirs would save more than a billion dollars if the House measure became law.

"The tax plan passed today by the House of Representatives is a flat giveaway to America's richest households and corporations," argued Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute in a statement. "Most of the same people who cast this vote to deprive the government of tax revenue will now cynically pivot and start wringing their hands about the federal budget deficit, arguing that vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid must be slashed."

"Disgusting," concluded Fight for $15 on Twitter, "but the fight isn't over. This is one of the worst pieces of legislation in history. Call your Senators and tell them to vote NO!"

Jake Johnson, staff writer | Common Dreams
Energy industry jolted by advice to Norwegian government from its central bank, which runs $1tn fund

The Norwegian central bank, which runs the country’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s biggest – has told its government it should dump its shares in oil and gas companies, in a move that could have significant consequences for the sector.

Norges Bank, which manages Norway’s $1tn fund, said ministers should take the step to avoid the fund’s value being hit by a permanent fall in the oil price.

The fund was built on the back of Norway’s hydrocarbon wealth, and around 300bn krone (£27.73bn), or 6%, is invested in oil and gas companies.

Adam Vaughan | The Guardian

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