Trump Has ‘Financial Interest’ in Hydroxychloroquine Manufacturer

President Donald Trump has a “small financial interest” in the drugmaker of an anti-malarial drug that he has been touting as a “game changer” in treating coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Over the past two weeks, Trump and his Fox News allies have aggressively promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure despite top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci urging caution and noting that there was not enough evidence of the drug’s efficacy.

The Times reports that the president’s family trusts all have investments in a mutual fund whose largest holding is Sanofi, the manufacturer of Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. Associates of the president, such as major Republican donor Ken Fisher and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, have also run funds that hold investments in the pharmaceutical firm.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump Repeatedly Quotes Fox Guest to Rail Against ‘LameStream Media’ Criticism of Coronavirus Briefings

President Donald Trump kicked off the new week by repeatedly praising Gayle Trotter, a guest on Fox News, for bashing the media coverage of his coronavirus response and White House press briefings.

“Thank you Gayle. I only wish the public could fully understand how corrupt & dishonest so much of our Lamestream Media is,” Trump wrote in response to a tweet from Trotter claiming the media is at “war” with the president.

“My Press Conferences are vital. They are reaching millions of people that are not being told the truth, & haven’t been for years (Witch-Hunts, Fake News)!” he added.

Here’s another tweet where Trump quoted Trotter — though lacking a bit in context.

Trump’s interest in Trotter emanated from her appearance Sunday with Fox News host Howard Kurtz on MediaBuzz. Trotter, a conservative pundit, was asked about media criticism of Trump spreading false information passing blame to others throughout the pandemic. She responded that “the establishment media has not admitted that they were wrong and the president was right” on how to deal with it.

Other comments from Trotter on MediaBuzz got Trump’s attention, including one in which she criticized PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who was berated by the president for her questioning last week:

[Mediaite]

Inside the epic White House fight over hydroxychloroquine

The White House coronavirus task force had its biggest fight yeton Saturday, pitting economic adviser Peter Navarro against infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. At issue: How enthusiastically should the White House tout the prospects of an antimalarial drug to fight COVID-19?

Behind the scenes: This drama erupted into an epic Situation Room showdown. Trump’s coronavirus task force gathered in the White House Situation Room on Saturday at about 1:30pm, according to four sources familiar with the conversation. Vice President Mike Pence sat at the head of the table.

  • Numerous government officials were at the table, including Fauci, coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, Jared Kushner, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn.
  • Behind them sat staff, including Peter Navarro, tapped by Trump to compel private companies to meet the government’s coronavirus needs under the Defense Production Act.

Toward the end of the meeting, Hahn began a discussion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which Trump believes could be a “game-changer” against the coronavirus.

  • Hahn gave an update about the drug and what he was seeing in different trials and real-world results.
  • Then Navarro got up. He brought over a stack of folders and dropped them on the table. People started passing them around.
  • “And the first words out of his mouth are that the studies that he’s seen, I believe they’re mostly overseas, show ‘clear therapeutic efficacy,'” said a source familiar with the conversation. “Those are the exact words out of his mouth.”

Navarro’s comments set off a heated exchange about how the Trump administration and the president ought to talk about the malaria drug, which Fauci and other public health officials stress is unproven to combat COVID-19.

  • Fauci pushed back against Navarro, saying that there was only anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine works against the coronavirus.
  • Researchers have said studies out of France and China are inadequate because they did not include control groups.
  • Fauci and others have said much more data is needed to prove that hydroxychloroquine is effective against the coronavirus.
  • As part of his role, Navarro has been trying to source hydroxychloroquine from around the world. He’s also been trying to ensure that there are enough domestic production capabilities inside the U.S.

Fauci’s mention of anecdotal evidence “just set Peter off,” said one of the sources. Navarro pointed to the pile of folders on the desk, which included printouts of studies on hydroxychloroquine from around the world.

  • Navarro said to Fauci, “That’s science, not anecdote,” said another of the sources.

Navarro started raising his voice, and at one point accused Fauci of objecting to Trump’s travel restrictions, saying, “You were the one who early on objected to the travel restrictions with China,” saying that travel restrictions don’t work. (Navarro was one of the earliest to push the China travel ban.)

  • Fauci looked confused, according to a source in the room. After Trump imposed the travel restrictions, Fauci has publicly praised the president’s restriction on travel from China.
  • Pence was trying to moderate the heated discussion. “It was pretty clear that everyone was just trying to get Peter to sit down and stop being so confrontational,” said one of the sources.
  • Eventually, Kushner turned to Navarro and said, “Peter, take yes for an answer,” because most everyone agreed, by that time, it was important to surge the supply of the drug to hot zones.
  • The principals agreed that the administration’s public stance should be that the decision to use the drug is between doctors and patients.
  • Trump ended up announcing at his press conference that he had 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in the Strategic National Stockpile.

Between the lines: “There has never been a confrontation in the task force meetings like the one yesterday,” said a source familiar with the argument. “People speak up and there’s robust debate, but there’s never been a confrontation. Yesterday was the first confrontation.”

  • In response to a request for comment on Axios’ reporting, Katie Miller, a spokesperson for the vice president, said: “We don’t comment on meetings in the Situation Room.”

The bottom line: The way to discuss the drug’s potential has become a fraught issue within the Trump administration.

  • Most members of the task force support a cautious approach to discussing the drug until it’s proven.
  • Navarro, on the other hand, is convinced based on his reading that the drug works against the coronavirus and speaks about it enthusiastically.
  • Some of Trump’s favorite TV hosts, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, and friends including Rudy Giuliani, have also been touting the malaria drug for the coronavirus. Trump has made no secret who he sides with.
  • “What do you have to lose? Take it,” the president said in a White House briefing on Saturday. “I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice. And it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you’d like.”

[Axios]

Trump Refuses to Allow Dr. Fauci to Answer Question on Dangers of Hydroxychloroquine

During a press briefing Sunday night purportedly aimed at providing the U.S. public with crucial information amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump refused to allow the nation’s top infectious disease expert to answer a reporter’s question about the efficacy of an anti-malaria drug that the president has recklessly touted as a possible COVID-19 treatment despite warnings from medical professionals.

Before Dr. Anthony Fauci could respond to the question about hydroxychloroquine, Trump—who was standing back and off to the side of the podium—complained that Fauci had already spoken about the drug “15 times.”

“You don’t have to ask the question again,” said Trump, stepping forward and moving closer to Fauci as another reporter began asking a separate question.

“This is a really chilling moment from a science standpoint, with Trump having just pushed an unproven COVID treatment and Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., getting muzzled on live TV,” tweeted Andrew Freedman, a climate reporter for the Washington Post. “Was clear Trump didn’t want to be contradicted.”

Dr. Lucky Tran, a biologist, said Trump’s interruption was “unacceptable.”

“Dr. Fauci, one of the world’s top infectious disease scientists, was just censored live at a White House press conference,” tweeted Tran.

The exchange came just hours after Fauci, in an appearance on CBS‘ “Face the Nation” Sunday morning, said that “in terms of science, I don’t think we could definitively say [hydroxychloroquine] works.”

“The data are really just at best suggestive,” said Fauci. “There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there’s no effect.”

During a press briefing Saturday evening, Trump said “I really think they should they should take it,” referring to coronavirus patients and hydroxychloroquine. Three people in Nigeria overdosed on the drug last month after the president said, without evidence, that the drug may be able to combat the novel coronavirus.

In a joint statement on March 25, the American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists said “there is no incontrovertible evidence to support off-label use of medications for COVID-19.”

“What do I know?” Trump asked during the press briefing Sunday night. “I’m not a doctor.”

Media

Trump Calls Media Critics ‘Bad for the World’, Tells Press Get Coronavirus Crisis Over With ‘THEN Go Back To Your Fake News’

At Saturday’s coronavirus task force briefing, President Donald Trump once again lit into the media over reporting on his administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Every decision that we’re making is made to save lives. It’s really our sole consideration, we want to save lives. We want as few lives lost as possible,” said Trump, leading into his remarks about the press.

“It’s therefore critical that certain media outlets stop spreading false rumors and spreading fear and even panic with the public. It’s just incredible,” said Trump, shaking his head, “I could name them, but, it’s the same ones. Always the same ones.”

“I guess they’re looking for ratings, I don’t know what they’re looking for,” he said. “So bad for our country.”

He then said that the media’s approval ratings with the public are “the lowest they’ve ever been.”

“It’s so bad for our country, so bad for the world,” said the president. “Ought to put it together for a while, get this over with and then go back to your fake news.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says he agrees with Navy Capt. Crozier’s firing

President Donald Trump defended the firing of Navy Capt. Brett Crozier during a coronavirus task force press conference Saturday afternoon, calling Crozier’s letter asking for help for the sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt “not appropriate.” 

Trump said he did not make the decision to fire Crozier, but he disagreed with Crozier’s actions and suggested the captain was at fault for the coronavirus infections on board the aircraft carrier for docking the ship in Vietnam.

“Perhaps you don’t do that in the middle of a pandemic,” Trump said, adding the letter was “not appropriate” and “he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.” 

Crozier had circulated a four-page letter later obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle asking for “decisive action” as the coronavirus ravaged his crew. 

“We are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily,” Crozier wrote. 

Four days after he pleaded for help, Crozier was fired by the Navy. 

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier had “exercised extremely poor judgment” in distributing the letter. 

The Navy said Saturday 44% of the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt had been tested for the coronavirus, and 155 service members had tested positive. About 1,548 service members had been moved onshore. None had been hospitalized. 

[USA Today]

Trump Again Touts Hydroxychloroquine, Which Has Major Potential Side Effects, as COVID-19 Treatment

President Donald Trump is again touting a drug used to treat certain other diseases and says he may take it himself in hope that it will help fend off the new coronavirus.

Trump says “there’s a rumor out there” that hydroxychloroquine is effective, declaring “I may take it.”

He has often pointed to hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure and urged people to take it, despite more sober assessments of its effectiveness by medical professionals.

The drug has long been used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Very small preliminary studies suggested it might help prevent coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner.

But the drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see if it is safe and effective for treating COVID-19.

[Time]

Reality

Trump defends firing ‘terrible’ intel community watchdog as Republicans question sacking

President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his decision to fire the intelligence community’s top watchdog, calling the sacked official a “total disgrace” over his handling of a whistleblower complaint that led to the president’s impeachment.

“I thought he did a terrible job. Absolutely terrible,” Trump said of Michael Atkinson, who was let go from his role as the inspector general of the intelligence community on Fridaynight.

“He took this terrible, inaccurate whistleblower report and he brought it to Congress,” Trump added. The initial report was largely corroborated by witnesses testimony and the summary describing Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine, which was the subject of the whistleblower complaint.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump mused about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) being the whistleblower’s “informer,” without citing evidence. Schiff was the public face of the House’s effort to impeach the president.

“They give this whistleblower a status that he doesn’t deserve. He’s a fake whistleblower,” Trump concluded. “And frankly, somebody ought to sue his ass off.”

Trump’s remarks underscore his deep, long-running disdain toward the officials and lawmakers whose actions led to his impeachment in the House over his alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rivals.

Despite Trump’s vehement defense of his decision to terminate Atkinson, some Republican senators expressed uneasiness with the president’s actions and praised Atkinson.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, for example, said the firing of Atkinson “demands an explanation.”

The Iowa Republican, who crafted the nation’s whistleblower protection statutes, did not criticize Trump for firing Atkinson, as several top Democrats did when Trump relieved Atkinson of his duties late Friday night. But he said the Trump administration should explain the move in greater detail.

“[Inspectors general] help drain the swamp, so any removal demands an explanation,” Grassley said in a statement on Saturday. “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence. More details are needed from the administration.”

Also on Saturday, the office of the director of national intelligence announced that Thomas Monheim, who has served in top legal positions throughout the intelligence community, was named acting inspector general.

In a letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees late Friday, Trump informed lawmakers that he was terminating Atkinson because he no longer had confidence in him.

Atkinson drew strong criticism from Trump’s allies after he provided Congress with the whistleblower complaint that detailed Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, among other actions by White House and State Department officials.

POLITICO reported on Saturday that Atkinson sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last month in which he said the past six months were “a searing time for whistleblowers,” and he criticized those who have failed to defend whistleblowers — without mentioning the president.

“Those repeated assurances of support for whistleblowers in ordinary matters are rendered meaningless if whistleblowers actually come forward in good faith with information concerning an extraordinary matter and are allowed to be vilified, threatened, publicly ridiculed, or — perhaps even worse — utterly abandoned by fair weather whistleblower champions,” Atkinson wrote in the letter to Schumer.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) praised Atkinson on Saturday for his “professionalism and responsiveness,” but did not mention the circumstances of Atkinson’s firing.

“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive,” Burr said. “However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who often criticizes Trump’s conduct, said Atkinson’s removal was “not warranted” and that Trump’s explanation was not “persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the president has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” Collins said in a statement.

Top Democrats strongly condemned the move, dubbing it an abuse of power and an act of politically motivated retaliation. Michael Horowitz, who chairs the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, lauded Atkinson for his “integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law.”

“That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law,” Horowitz added.

A congressional source said that while the House and Senate intelligence committees were given the 30-day notice of Atkinson’s removal as required by law, he was immediately placed on administrative leave, meaning that his tenure effectively ended Friday night.

[Politico]

Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who told Congress about whistleblower complaint that led to impeachment

President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump’s impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN.

Atkinson will leave his job in 30 days, Trump told the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and he has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, according to a congressional source.

Trump did not name a permanent successor.

“As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” Trump wrote. “That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General.”

The announcement that he’s firing Atkinson late on a Friday night comes as the President is dealing with a worldwide pandemic from the novel coronavirus, which has consumed his presidency since the end of the impeachment trial only two months ago. Trump has faced widespread criticism for the federal government’s response to the outbreak, and has said the impeachment trial “probably did” distract him from responding to the virus’ outbreak during the trial in January and early February.

Atkinson’s firing is the latest case of the Trump administration removing officials who took part in the President’s impeachment. Trump also removed Alexander Vindman, a then-National Security Council official who had testified in the House’s proceedings, along with Vindman’s twin brother, both of whom were reassigned out of the NSC, and fired then-US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

Other officials, including then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and her acting successor, Bill Taylor, left the Trump administration after the impeachment proceedings.

Trump also fired former FBI Director James Comey in 2017 while the FBI was investigating the President.

The congressional source said that Atkinson was informed on Friday evening that Trump had fired him. The statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires that both intelligence committees be notified 30 days before the inspector general can be dismissed, so Trump could not immediately remove Atkinson — he could only place him on leave until the 30 days pass.

Top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees blasted the move.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in statement that Trump must “immediately cease his attacks on those who sacrifice to keep America safe, particularly during this time of national emergency.”

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who led the House’s impeachment investigation, said the firing was “another blatant attempt by the President to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”

“This retribution against a distinguished public servant for doing his job and informing Congress of an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint is a direct affront to the entire inspector general system,” Schiff said in a statement.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “In the midst of a national emergency, it is unconscionable that the President is once again attempting to undermine the integrity of the intelligence community by firing yet another an intelligence official simply for doing his job.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the firing was “all too familiar a pattern in this administration.”
“When you speak truth to power, you should be a hero. But in this administration, when you speak truth to power, all too often, you get fired,” Schumer told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.

Atkinson — a career, nonpartisan official — came under fire from the President’s allies last year for alerting lawmakers to the then-unknown whistleblower complaint, which Congress later learned was an allegation that Trump had sought dirt on his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden from Ukraine’s President while withholding US security aid from Kiev.
The allegation sparked a House impeachment inquiry that detailed the quid pro quo effort and led to Trump’s impeachment in December on two articles. The Senate acquitted Trump on both charges in February.

One of the former attorneys for the anonymous whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj, told CNN the firing of ICIG Michael Atkinson was not unexpected yet still “disheartening” and “pretty clearly retaliation” for his role in transmitting the initial complaint to Congress.

“I think Atkinson was quite honorable and acted with integrity. The way he handled himself underscored his independence and neutrality. Not all IG’s have historically done that,” said Bakaj, who no longer represents the whistleblower after they hired new legal counsel earlier this year. “In this case you have an individual who got an allegation, did an investigation and came to an independent conclusion. This is truly a loss to the IG community and also a shot across the bow for any future whistleblowers from coming forward.”
Bakaj said Atkinson “had the courage to do what was right” when he shared the whistleblower complaint with Congress despite clashing with his then-boss, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, over whether it rose to the level of “urgent concern.”

After the whistleblower complaint was shared with Congress, Atkinson testified before the intelligence committees, explaining how he had attempted to corroborate the complaint in order to determine it was credible and should be shared with Congress. Maguire initially pushed back on that recommendation, but the White House ultimately relented and released the complaint.
Bakaj told CNN that Atkinson’s replacement was ultimately expected and, in some ways, serves as a “bookend” for the impeachment saga. “The door is finally closed,” he said, adding that he was alerted that Trump had been planning to fire Atkinson for some time.

Maguire formally resigned from US government service in February after Trump made it clear he would not be nominated for the job full time, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Other top intelligence officials also have recently left the administration, after Trump picked US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to replace Maguire as acting director of national intelligence. Russ Travers, who was head of the National Counterterrorism Center, was fired last month by Grenell in a move that was seen as a removal of someone not perceived as loyal enough.

Republican Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Susan Collins of Maine issued statements later Saturday on Atkinson’s removal.
“Like any political appointee, the Inspector General serves at the behest of the Executive. However, in order to be effective, the IG must be allowed to conduct his or her work independent of internal or external pressure,” said Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is my hope the next nominee for the role of ICIG will uphold the same important standards laid out by Congress when we created this role.”

Grassley said that “Congress has been crystal clear that written reasons must be given when IGs are removed for a lack of confidence,” adding, “More details are needed from the administration.”

“The intelligence community inspector general is particularly essential to ensuring the nation’s secrets are well protected and powerful, highly invasive surveillance authorities are not abused. Going forward the ICIG must step up its focus on investigating those abuses and preventing leaks of classified information,” he said.

Collins noted that Trump followed established procedure by notifying Congress 30 days prior to the removal of the inspector general along with the reasons for the removal in line with The Inspector General Reform Act. But she added that she “did not find his rationale for removing Inspector General Atkinson to be persuasive.”

“While I recognize that the President has the authority to appoint and remove Inspectors General, I believe Inspector General Atkinson served the Intelligence Community and the American people well, and his removal was not warranted,” Collins said.

Tom Monheim, a career intelligence official, will be the acting intelligence community inspector general, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

[CNN]

Navy captain fired by Trump administration for trying to save his crew

The Navy captain fired by the Trump administration for issuing a stark warning about the risk to his crew from the coronavirus outbreak has been given a standing ovation as he left his post.

Captain Brett Crozier, was relieved of his command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday after his superiors lost confidence in his ability to lead.

As Capt Crozier left on Thursday night he was given a standing ovation and cheered on by members of the 5,000-strong crew, who chanted “Captain Crozier, Captain Crozier” as he departed.

Earlier in the week, Capt Crozier sent a letter to the Navy, obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, asking for the crew to be isolated completely in order to try and stop the spread of a coronavirus outbreak onboard the ship.

“Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed US nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure…This is a necessary risk,” he wrote.

“Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

During his press conference on Thursday evening, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the decision to sack Capt Crozier was his alone and explained that the captain’s actions forced his hand.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew,” he said. “Unfortunately, it did the opposite. It unnecessarily raised the alarm of the families of our sailors and Marines with no plans to address those concerns.”

Mr Modly added his admiration for the captain: “I expect no congratulations for it. Captain Crozier is an incredible man.”

Earlier in the day, at his daily press conference, President Donald Trump was asked by a reporter if he thought the decision was the correct one, replying: “No, I don’t think that at all.”

The decision to relieve the captain of his duties was criticised by the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination, Joe Biden, who released a statement on Thursday evening saying that Capt Crozier should not have been fired.

“Donald Trump’s Acting Navy Secretary shot the messenger – a commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic,” said Mr Biden.

“The Navy sent a chilling message to the rest of the fleet about speaking truth to power. The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump Administration, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors.”

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, upwards of 245,601 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached at least 6,058.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended a two-week ban on gatherings of more than 50 people as part of the battle to contain the spread of the contagion.

[The Independent]

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