Background Briefing with Ian Masters Russia Files

January 22, 2018

Which Side Won the Battle of Framing the Government Shutdown
Progressive Senate Democrats Reject the Compromise Deal to Reopen the Government
A Progressive Democrat on What She Sees as a Cave-In By Senator Schumer
Program Notes

We begin with the Senate vote of 81 to 18 to reopen the government after a brief shutdown which led to an intense blame-game that has pundits assessing who the winners and losers are. We will begin with Paul Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at New York University who was the founding director of the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and is the author of “Government by Investigation: Presidents, Congress and the Search for Answers”. He joins us to discuss the broader political landscape rather than the issues under contention that led to the shut down, and that is how the showdown between uncompromising Republicans and frustrated Democrats was framed in the media and which side was more successful in spinning their narrative. With Trump claiming to act out of love for “Dreamers” he and the Republicans unleashed scurrilous racism and xenophobic charges against the Democrats implying they only cared about “illegal

Then we look into the rejection of the compromise deal to reopen the government by leading progressive Democrats in the Senate with Senator Kamala Harris fuming  that is was “foolhardy” to believe Senator McConnell made “any commitment whatsoever” and that she is “disappointed with a conversation that suggests a false choice. You either fund the government or take care of the DACA kids. We can do both”. Longtime political organizer and strategist Robert Creamer, a partner in Democracy Partners and author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win”, joins us.

Then finally we speak with Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee who has spent the last 15 years working on labor, electoral and advocacy programs throughout the country. She represents the so-called “Elizabeth Warren wing” of the Democratic Party and joins us to voice her disappointment at what she sees as a “cave in” by Senator Schumer and her concern that “these weak Democrats hurt the party brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018”.

Paul Light | Robert Creamer | Stephanie Taylor

January 21, 2018

The Government Shutdown and the Blame-Game Underway
NATO Allies Turkey and the US at Loggerheads
The North Korean End-Run Around Trump’s Belligerence
Program Notes

We begin with the government shutdown and the blame-game underway with President Trump calling for the “nuclear option” in the Senate to take away the filibuster from the Democrats and leave them completely powerless in the face of a thuggish, uncompromising and unyielding Republican House and Senate and a criminally incompetent president. Jim Manley, a 21 year veteran of the U.S. Senate who served as a senior advisor to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the past six years and before that as an aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, joins us. We discuss the Republican finger-pointing at Senator Schumer and the feigned indignation coming from Republican Majority Leader McConnell who has shut the Democrats out of any negotiation and when they have been let in on a bi-partisan basis, they soon find themselves hung out to dry and jilted by a joke of a president who does not know what he wants and is easily swayed by the hawkish hardliners he listens to Stephen Miller and his Chief of Staff General Kelly.

Then we assess the growing crisis with two NATO allies at loggerheads as Turkish jets pound the U.S.’s Kurdish allies in the Syria/Turkey border area while Turkey’s surrogates in the Free Syrian Army along with Turkish troops launch a ground offensive. Max Hoffman, the Associate Director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress where he focusses on Turkey and the Kurdish regions, joins us to discuss the dictator of Turkey Erdogan’s vow to “strangle this force at birth” meaning the Syrian Kurdish military force the U.S. has backed and wants to maintain as a long-term military presence in the region.

Then finally we speak with Kent Harrington, a former senior CIA analyst who served as the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia. He joins us to discuss his article at “Why the News Needs to Deconstruct Trump’s Dangerous Jingoism” and how much the North Koreans have done an end-run around Trump’s belligerent rhetoric by sending their Olympians to compete in the Winter Games under a common flag with their pre-Olympic delegation to Seoul led by a North Korean pop singer who has created a K-pop media frenzy in the South.

Jim Manley | Max Hoffman | Kent Harrington

January 18, 2018

Chaos and Trump’s Latest Attack on the Truth
The Oval Office Reality TV Star as the Center of Attention in His Own Tawdry Drama
The Most Unethical Presidency
Program Notes

We begin with the chaos on Capitol Hill caused by our chaotic president whose tweets and rhetoric risk blowing up frantic last-minute deals his own party is trying to negotiate to avert a government shutdown. While senior House Democrats introduced a resolution to censure the president for his recent crude racist remarks insulting the people of Africa today, Trump tweeted out his much-anticipated “Fake News Awards” with a link to the Republican National Committee website which promptly crashed. Jason Stanley, a Professor of Philosophy at Yale University and the author of “How Propaganda Works”, joins us to discuss Trump’s latest attack on the truth just a day after a Republican senator had delivered an impassioned speech on the senate floor lamenting Trump’s use of Stalin’s death-threat in branding the press “the enemy of the people”. This a day after Senator McCain had published an op-ed stating “The phrase ‘fake news’ – granted legitimacy by an American president – is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens”.

Then we examine further the political rhetoric coming from the White House with John Murphy, a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois where he studies the rhetoric of the U.S. presidency. He joins us to discuss the antics of the reality television star in the Oval Office who continually creates his own tawdry drama with him in the starring role as the center of attention, and how much Trump has broken the mold of traditional presidential decorum and dignity and whether respect for the executive branch can be restored.

Then finally Ambassador Norman Eisenjoins us to discuss a new report he has co-authored at CREW, the Center for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, “The Most Unethical Presidency: Year One”. He served in the Obama White House as special counsel and special assistant to the president for ethics and government reform and was U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic and we will discuss not just the most chaotic, but the most unethical presidency in modern times and possibly in the nation’s history.

Jason Stanley | John Murphy | Norman Eisen

January 17, 2018

An Analysis of Trump’s First Year Trashing US Foreign Policy
Internet Search Data Reveals a Dramatic Drop in the Public’s Interest in Trump
The Arrest of an Ex-CIA Officer Suspected of Exposing the CIA’s Spy Network in China
Program Notes

We begin with two important new and revealing studies assessing the first year of the Trump Administration, the first “Trump’s National Security and Foreign Policy Failures: Year One” and the second “What Internet search data reveal about Donald Trump’s first year in office”. Daniel Benaim, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who served as a Middle East policy adviser and foreign policy speechwriter at the White House, the Department of State, and the U.S. Senate, joins us to discuss his report on the first year of Trump’s abysmal foreign policy record which has left America more isolated and less respected, and the extraordinary speech in the senate today by Republican Senator Jeff Flake who likened Trump to Joseph Stalin and other despots warning “The president has it precisely backwards – despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy” and in terms of Trump’s lasting damage to our foreign policy, “Mr. President, so powerful is the presidency that the damage done by the sustained attack on the truth will not be confined to the president’s time in office.”

Then we speak with Darrell West, the vice president and Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and the Founding Director of the Center for Technological Innovation. He is the author of “Billionaires; Reflections on the Upper Crust” and the author of a new report “What Internet search data reveal about Donald Trump’s first year in office” which finds that over the year the public’s interest in Trump has dropped dramatically while interest in his impeachment has spiked.

Then finally we examine the arrest of an ex-CIA officer charged with spying for China who is suspected of exposing the CIA’s spy network in China causing the murder or capture of around 20 undercover U.S. agents. June Dreyer, a professor of Political Science at the University of Miami specializing in Chinese government and foreign policy who was the Asia Advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations, joins us to discuss the pervasive nature of China’s spying activity in the U.S. and the tensions between and the CIA and FBI counterintelligence over their mole hunt inside the CIA.

Daniel Benaim | Darrell West | June Dreyer

January 16, 2018

Should Democrats Negotiate With Liars?
Who Will Be Blamed For a Government Shutdown?
The Hypocrisy of Religious Freedom
Program Notes

We begin with the looming possibility of a government shutdown on Friday and analyze who has leverage at the moment and which party will be blamed if Washington grinds to a halt. Democratic strategist Matt Angle, who directs the Texas Democratic Trust and the Lone Star Project, a Political Action Committee that aims to be an aggressive fact-checker on the Republican Party, joins us. We discuss what strategies the Senate Democrats might employ in the face of the outrageous lies from Trump and Senators Cotton and Perdue who trashed the truth-teller Senator Durbin. We will assess whether the Democrats can draw a line and say we are not talking to the White House or the Republicans until they stop lying because what is the point of negotiating with liars? And since the Democratic base will not sacrifice “dreamers” for wasting money on Trump’s wall, which he will not budge on, we look into whether, with the Democrats poised to tack back the House and possibly the Senate in November, using DACA as the issue upon which to shut down the government will hurt Democrats in Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and other Red States.

Then we examine further the showdown over DACA versus the wall and who gets blamed for shutting down the government and speak with Robert Shapiro, a professor and the former chair of the Department of Political Science at Columbia University and author of “Politicians Don’t Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness”. He joins us to discuss the Democrat’s dilemma and the Republican lying, with The Washington Post counting over 2,000 lies Trump has told in his first year in office and the shameless lies Senators Cotton and Perdue are engaged in covering up for Trump.

Then finally, with Trump proclaiming today January 16 Religious Freedom Day, we discuss the historical hypocrisy of celebrating the Religious Right’s idea of religious freedom and the absurdity of their claim that the founders wanted a “Christian Nation” when in fact Jefferson, Madison and other founders championed religious tolerance because they had witnessed the public beatings of Baptist preachers and still carried the memory of women branded as witches being burned at the stake. Frederick Clarkson, a Senior Fellow at Political Research Associates joins us to discuss how the theocratic bent of the Religious Right and their intolerance towards women’s rights and the LGBT community makes a mockery of religious freedom.

Matt Angle | Robert Shapiro | Frederick Clarkson


January 15, 2018

“Mr. President, Are You a Racist?”
Trump and the Moral Sickness He is Spreading
A Backlash to Trump in the Spirit of MLK
Program Notes

We begin with President Trump’s White House appearance shortly after he made vulgar and hateful remarks about Haiti, El Salvador and the entire continent of Africa at which he praised Doctor King but was overshadowed by questions from the press causing Trump to hurry out of the room ignoring shouts of “are you a racist”. Kristen Clarke, the President and Executive Director of the national Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights which leads the national nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, joins us to discuss her overview of where race relations and voter enfranchisement stands in the Trump/Sessions era. With a racist in the Oval Office and a relic of the Old South as the nation’s top lawman supposed to protect voting rights which Jefferson Beauregard Sessions 111 has always opposed, we will examine ways to turn back the turning back of the clock on civil and voting rights in the country.

Then we speak with the theologian and scholar Obery Hendricks the author of “The Universe Bends Toward Justice: Radical Reflections on the Bible, the Church and the Body Politic”. He joins us to discuss the moral sickness that Trump is spreading across the land with enablers like the moral midgets Republican Senators Cotton and Perdue joining in the Trump lies of denial when the whole world knows that the racist and hateful remarks attributed to Trump are what he said. We discuss harnessing the power of love against the tide of hate and a revival of the religious left in this country while the religious right loses any claim of Christian legitimacy as they cling to a racist misogynist in the White House.

Then finally we discuss the likelihood of a backlash to the Trump/Sessions assault on civil rights and voting rights in the spirit of Martin Luther King’s teaching and sacrifice as the millennial generation shows signs of growing political activism in reaction to Trump and Betsy De Vos indenturing them with student debt while Sessions tries to reverse the legalization of marijuana. Garrett Duncan, a Professor of Education and of African and African/American Studies in Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington in St. Louis joins us on this Martin Luther King Day.

Kristen Clarke | Obery Hendricks | Garrett Duncan

January 14, 2018

An African Perspective on Trump’s Insult of the Continent
An Historian of Immigration on the Trump/Sessions Agenda
Why Our “Populist” President Governs of, By and For the Plutocrats
Program Notes

We begin with the vulgar and hateful remarks that Donald Trump made about Haiti, El Salvador and the entire continent of Africa during White House discussions with lawmakers over the future of DACA ahead of an increasingly likely government shutdown on Friday.Aneidi Okure, the executive director of the Africa Faith and Justice Network which advocates for responsible U.S. relations with Africa, joins us to discuss the outrage at Trump’s insult to the continent’s 55 countries expressed by the African Union and African ambassadors to the United Nations. We will also examine the role of African leaders who, while venting indignation at the racist ignoramus in the Oval Office, in many cases care little for their own populations and are mainly interested in enriching themselves by accepting foreign bribes for access to critical minerals and vast tracts of agricultural lands.

Then we will look into the historical roots of Trump’s racist attitudes to immigrants that go back to the language of nativists and racists in the1920’s, and speak with a political historian who specializes in immigration, citizenship, and nationalism.Mae Ngai, Professor of History and of Asian American Studies at Columbia University and author of   “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America” and the forthcoming book “The Chinese Question”, joins us to discuss how Trump and Sessions are trying to turn back the clock on immigration. We will examine how DACA is being held hostage by Republican hardliners who want a wall and a so-called “merit-based” immigration system, while the Democrats hold considerable leverage ahead of a government shutdown at the end of next week.

Then finally we will speak with Thomas Ferguson, a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts who is co-author of a new study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking “Industrial Structures and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games” We will look into the report’s detailed research of the last election that finds the bulk of the $861 million that Trump raised flooded into the race in the finally weeks of the campaign and it came mostly as dark money from private equity billionaires who have been rewarded by a president who ran as a populists but governs for the plutocrats.

Aneidi Okure | Mae Ngai | Thomas Ferguson

January 11, 2018

Trump Punishes the Poor With a Bogus Work Requirement
Trump’s Tweets Almost Scuttle FISA Reauthorization
The Alt-Right Disowns Bannon for the True Hero Donald Trump
Program Notes

We begin with the announcement from the Trump Administration that states may now impose a work requirement on Medicaid recipients with Trump’s director of the federal Medicaid office arguing that “higher earnings are positively correlated with longer lifespan” and there is “strong evidence that unemployment is generally harmful to health”. Judith Solomon, Vice President for Health Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, where she focusses on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, joins us to discuss this reversal of the Obama era effort to expand access to Medicaid, with the Trump Administration now trying to restrict it. And we assess whether most if not all of the states who rejected Obama’s Medicaid expansion are the states that now want to run demonstration projects to test work requirements.

Then with the House passage of the reauthorization of the controversial FISA surveillance law on a vote of 256 to 164 today, we look into the chaos that preceded the vote with first Trump tweeting out his increasingly hysterical distortions about FISA and the Steele dossier and the imagined Obama surveillance of the Trump campaign, only to reverse himself two hours later with another tweet presumably in response to adult supervision. Michelle Richardson, the Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Freedom, Security and Technology Project, joins us to discuss the six-year renewal of the controversial 702 statute that critics argue allows the government to spy on Americans without a warrant.

Then finally, with neo-Nazi and white nationalist leaders like Richard Spencer and Andrew Anglin disowning Steve Bannon and making it clear that their true heroes and leaders have been and still are Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, we speak with an award-winning journalist, author and expert on American right-wing extremism, David Neiwert, the author of the new book “Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump”. He joins us to discuss how we have a classic authoritarian, fascist leader in Trump, but without the fascist ideology, and mercifully, so far America’s democratic institutions have been able to prevent the authoritarian in the Oval Office from engineering a totalitarian takeover of America.

Judith Solomon | Michelle Richardson | David Neiwert

January 10, 2018

Trump’s Tangled Ties With Deutsche Bank
The Impact of Bannon’s Banishment on the Alt-Right and the Conservative Movement
Will Arpaio Hurt Republicans and Help Democrats in Arizona?
Program Notes

We begin with Trump’s call today to Republicans to take control and scuttle the Russia investigation and his attack on Senator Feinstein for releasing the transcripts of the Fusion GPS testimony that the Republicans were suppressing. A white-collar criminologist and founding member of Bank Whistleblowers United, William K. Black, distinguished scholar in research for financial regulation at the University of Minnesota, joins us to discuss money laundering and Deutsche Bank which were the main concerns expressed by the Fusion GPS founders in their testimony released by Senator Feinstein. We discuss how over the holidays Trump quietly waived punishment for convicted megabanks including Deutsche Bank, and whether Mueller, who has the records of Trump’s tangled dealings with Deutsche Bank who Trump still owes as much as $300 million, will be able to complete his investigation before the Republicans, urged on by the likely guilty party Donald Trump, will be able to get his findings to the public before he is shut down.

Then we assess the impact on the alt-right and the broader conservative movement of Steven Bannon’s spectacular fall from grace from the top Trump-whisperer to “sloppy Steve” who has been dumped like a dog, cut off from his financial patron which in our money-driven political system, means you are roadkill. Joseph Lowndes, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Oregon and an expert on conservatism, the Tea Party, social movements, the GOP, race and elections, joins us to discuss where the battle between the far right and the far-far right stands and whether the government will be soon shut down over Trump’s insistence on building a wall.

Then finally we examine the unsettled political landscape in Arizona which has been upended by Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s announcement he is running for the U.S. Senate to replace Jeff Flake in a move that may hurt Republicans and help Democrats. A retired Judge in Maricopa County, Donna Hamm, the Executive Director of Middle Ground Prison Reform, joins us to discuss the likelihood Donald Trump will endorse the 85 year old former sheriff he pardoned whose lawless behavior cost Maricopa County millions in settlements as a result of Arpaio’s racist, cruel and sadistic practices.

William Black | Joseph Lowndes | Donna Hamm

January 9, 2018

Senator Feinstein Drops a Bombshell
Trump’s Amazingly Light Work Schedule
A Book Will Not Force Trump Out of the Oval Office
Program Notes

We begin with the bombshell dropped today by Senator Diane Feinstein who unilaterally released the transcripts of the testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the co-founder of Fusion GPS which the chairman Senator Grassley has been sitting on. One of America’s leading experts on the nation’s intelligence organizations, Loch Johnson, the Regents Professor of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia who served as staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joins us to discuss this uncharacteristically bold move by Senator Feinstein. We will look into how both Senator Grassley and Senator Graham have been going out of their way to divert attention from the evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians and possible compromise Putin has on Trump in the Steele Dossier. Instead they are re-investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails and the bogus Uranium One story while going after the messenger by instigating a criminal investigation into Steele in the hope of preventing the message from getting to the American people.

Then we examine President Trump’s amazingly light work days revealed today in a scoop by Axios who managed to get a copy of this week’s private presidential schedule which show that most of the day Trump is engaged in what it euphemistically referred to as “Executive Time”, meaning he is watching cable television, calling friends on the phone and tweeting. Matthew Dallek, a professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and a political historian, joins us to discuss how little Trump works governing the country compared to his predecessors and how dangerously ill-informed Trump is because he watches so much of Fox News.

Then finally we speak with Dr. Allen Frances, a Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Duke University and author of “Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump”. He joins us to discuss how the new book “Fire and Fury” adds to the problem that there is too much focus and expectation being placed on the wish to remove Trump from office because he is mentally unfit while not enough attention is paid to the fact that Trump is a very bad man doing very bad things to the country and the world and he is only just getting started.

Loch Johnson | Matthew Dallek | Dr. Allen Frances

January 8, 2018

Trump Puts One Million on Notice They Face Deportation
Why Children and Families Flee Central American Countries
White “Patriots” Get Away With Threatening Feds With Assault Rifles
Program Notes

We begin with the Trump Administration’s announcement that 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. for 17 years or more have to get out of the country by September of 2019 or face deportation, this after earlier deportation notices to 45,000 Haitians, 2,500 Nicaraguans and the expected forthcoming elimination of TPS, temporary protection status for 57,000 Hondurans. Martha Arevalo, the executive director of the Central American Resource Center (CARACEN), who specializes in immigrant advocacy work, joins us to discuss what she sees as a cruel and arbitrary policy designed to satisfy President Trump’s anti-immigrant base. About one million now face deportation, since Trump has already rescinded DACA, Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals exposing 700,000 kids to deportation. And now he is forcing out 200,000 Salvadorans with roots in this country and about another 200,000 of their U.S.-born children who are American citizens giving them the choice of either staying here without their parents or going back to a gang-infested country with one of the worst homicides rates in the world.

Then we examine further Trump’s anti-immigrant purge and go to Honduras to speak with Elizabeth Kennedy, a scholar who focuses on the experiences and needs of child, youth and forced migrants. She has worked as a Fulbright Fellow with returned youth migrants in El Salvador who have fled gang violence and Elizabeth is now in Honduras studying children and families fleeing rampant violence from corrupt police, military and drug traffickers in that country. We look into the extent to which this is a legacy of U.S. foreign policy and what can be done to make these countries more livable for their citizens so that they don’t have to flee and risk their lives trying to get to safety in the United States.

Then finally with a judge in Nevada angrily dismissing the charges against the Bundy family who in 2014, along with about 400 so-called patriots, led an armed standoff to stop a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy cattle grazing on federal lands after Cliven Bundy had refused to pay the government grazing fees for 20 years. Eric Herzik, a Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Nevada, joins us to discuss how badly the federal prosecutors blew the case, and the double standard that white ranchers can point assault rifles at federal officials and get away with it, but if a black urban youth tried that, he’s be shot dead.

Martha Arevalo | Elizabeth Kennedy | Eric Herzik

January 7, 2018

How Donald Trump’s Mental Health is Now a Public Health Matter
Is Senator Lindsey Graham Being Blackmailed?
Ryan and the Republicans Are Now Colluding With Trump to Shut Mueller Down
Program Notes

We begin with Trump’s “when did you stop beating your wife” defense of his mental health in response to the revelations in Michael Wolff’s book with Trump’s claim that he is a “very stable genius”, and speak with a prominent psychiatrist who has been lobbying Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to act on the dangers posed by a president exhibiting manifest signs of psychological frailty under ordinary circumstances who under stress, could cause catastrophic damage to the country and the world. Dr. Bandy Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine who was the lead organizer of the Duty to Warn conference and the editor of the bestseller “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”, joins us to discuss her warning that the personal health of public figures is their private affair, until, that is, it becomes a threat to public health, and her article at The Guardian “Trump is now dangerous – that makes his mental health a matter of public interest”.

Then we speak with Sarah Kendzior, a journalist who specializes in the authoritarian states of Central Asia and is an op-ed columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail. She joins us to discuss the sudden about face of Senator Lindsey Graham who went from being an acerbic critic of Trump to a gushing sycophant and her concern that Trump is following the playbook of his mentor Roy Cohn and is possibly blackmailing Lindsey Graham using information the Russians hacked from the RNC and the senator’s private email.

Then finally we look further into the extent to which Republican leaders have thrown their lot in with Trump and are now actively colluding in a purge of the DOJ and the FBI following Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to back the highly partisan White House flunky House Intelligence Chairman Devon Nunes’s sabotage of the Mueller investigation by subpoenaing FBI documents that are evidence in the on-going Russia probe which will surely end up in Trump’s hands and cripple Mueller’s inquiry.Scott Horton, a professor at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper’s in legal affairs and national security.

Dr. Bandy Lee | Sarah Kendzior | Scott Horton


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