Dr. Mila Means is still trying to establish a Kansas abortion clinic to replace the resource lost after the political assassination of Dr. George Tiller. So they may have found the right person but the mountain of obstacles grows:
WICHITA, Kan. ? Not long ago, Dr. Mila Means, the physician trying to open an abortion clinic in this city, received a letter advising her to check under her car each morning ? ?because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it,? the note said.
There was reason for concern: the last doctor to provide abortions here was shot to death because of his work. But rather than lower her profile, Dr. Means raised it by buying a car that nobody could miss: a bright-yellow Mini Cooper, emblazoned, appropriately enough, with lightning bolts.
?It?s partly an in-your-face response,? she explained. ?You?re looking for me. I?m here.?
Two years have passed since this city, for decades the volatile epicenter of the national fight over abortion, was shaken by the murder of Dr. George R. Tiller ? a controversial figure because of his willingness to perform later-term abortions ? by a man who said he wanted to stop the killing of babies.
Since then, abortion rights advocates have hoped that someone would take Dr. Tiller?s place to show that violence is not an effective way to stop abortions. Despite their vows to redouble their commitment, the murder of Dr. Tiller actually scared people away. Opponents, even those who criticized the killing, have noted with some satisfaction that no abortions have been provided here since.
Now a little-known physician has stepped into this tinderbox environment to take the mantle ? indeed, the very instruments ? of the man many abortion rights advocates regard as a martyr.
But Dr. Means is certainly not the ideological warrior many expected to fill his void. She said her decision to start performing abortions was as much about making money for her struggling practice as about restoring access to a constitutional right.
But Dr. Means decided last summer that she had little choice but to try.
Go read the rest, which follows Dr. Means' journey of conscience from fundamentalist Christian to abortion provider.
Last October, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confessed that his “single most important” objective was to make “President Obama to be a one-term president.” In an interview on Fox News Sunday this morning, host Bret Baier asked McConnell if his motivations in the midst of the debt ceiling negotiations are still to defeat Obama. McConnell reaffirmed that it is indeed his “single most important political goal” next year:
BAIER: I received an email with a list of quotes on it. Republican candidates and leaders saying that bad economic numbers help Republican chances in 2012…So how do you respond to those Democratic lines of attack?
MCCONNELL: Well, that is true. That’s my single most important political goal, along with every active Republican in the country. But that’s in 2012. Our biggest goal for this year is to get this country straightened out.
Despite admitting that political victory is his first priority, McConnell tried to clarify that defeating Obama doesn’t take precedence until next year. It’s disconcerting and irresponsible that McConnell thinks pressing national issues should ever take a backseat to defeating Obama.
McConnell also falsely asserted during the interview that, “Nobody is talk about not raising the debt ceiling.” Several prominent Republicans including Michele Bachmann are now saying they will vote to raise the debt ceiling under any circumstance.
We've got an economy struggling with a slow recovery from a genuinely disastrous crisis.
We've also got a very large federal debt, one that we should probably do something about at some point.
The debate on how to fix these two problems generally splits two ways. Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, propose doubling down on tax cuts for the rich and returning to 1929 rates (ask Herbert Hoover how that worked out), apparently still believing, in the face of historic evidence, that tax cuts are the solution to all problems real and imagined.
Progressive Democrats propose a return to Clinton-era tax rates, and perhaps even tax hikes for the rich and corporations to maintain valued social programs like Medicare and Social Security, further our investment in public education?and who knows, maybe even do a little more, better targeted economic stimulus. Economist Jeffrey Sachs on the progressive budget proposals:
In the progressive middle is the People's Budget. Like Ryan's plan, the People's Budget would cut the budget deficit to zero by 2021, but would do so in an efficient and fair way. It would close the budget deficit by raising tax rates on the rich and giant corporations, while also curbing military spending and wrestling health care costs under control, partly by introducing a public option. By raising tax revenues to 22.3 percent of GDP by 2021, the People's Budget closes the budget deficit while protecting the poor and promoting needed investments in education, health care, roads, power, energy, and the environment in order to raise America's long-term competitiveness. The People's Budget thereby achieves what Ryan and Obama do not: the combination of fairness, efficiency, and budget balance.
Naturally, President Obama is in the middle, supporting an eventual return to Clinton-era tax rates, just not right now, and opposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security without taking cuts completely off the table.
What's missing from this argument, even on the progressive side, is a discussion of returning to historically normal tax rates. John Boehner, Jim DeMint, Rush Limbaugh and Scott Brown, along with several other Republicans, have praised Democratic President John F. Kennedy as a kind of Democratic model, because one of his first acts as president was to pass a tax cut that lowered rates even for the richest Americans.
This is true. Kennedy did slash the top marginal tax rate ? all the way down to 70%. And that's just the beginning:
? The tax reform passed after Kennedy?s death cut the top marginal tax rate from 90 percent to 70 percent, twice today's top rate of 35 percent. Kennedy explicitly called for a top rate of 65 percent, but added that it should be set at 70 percent if certain deductions weren't phased out at the top of the income scale.
? Kennedy called for U.S. corporations to be taxed on all their profits, earned anywhere in the world, rather than the current system of allowing them to defer taxation until they bring those profits home. "The undesirability of continuing deferral is underscored where deferral has served as a shelter for tax escape through the unjustifiable use of tax havens such as Switzerland," Kennedy said in 1961. During Kennedy's time in office, corporate taxes made up more than 20 percent of total revenue. Today, it's less than ten percent.
? Kennedy called for cutting tax preferences for the oil and gas industries, saying in 1963 that, "while these are complex as well as controversial problems, we cannot shrink from a frank appraisal of governmental policies and tax subsidies in this area." Republicans have been adamantly opposed to cutting subsidies for oil and gas companies.
? Kennedy called for limiting itemized deductions for the rich, saying that they should receive the same benefit for things like charitable giving "as everyone else," instead of preferential treatment (which they still receive). President Obama has called for the same system since he came into office, but the GOP has derided Obama's proposals.
Is that what Boehner and Brown and DeMint want to return to?
And if it were, what would be the outcome?
In truth, a top marginal rate of 70% was the lowest we ever had from 1936 to 1981, a period of time when the United States enjoyed strong and sustained economic growth, so much so that it's referred to as the "long boom." The strongest economic growth we've seen since then occurred in the 1990s?under a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who did raise the top marginal rate, albeit not to pre-Reagan levels.
If we brought it back today, it would affect only the most bloated incomes in America; the top Kennedy-era tax brackets, adjusted for inflation, would affect incomes of $5 million or more.
Hardly any struggling small businessmen in those brackets, it'd be safe to say.
So let's take a moment to think about what would happen if we did return to such rates?and what we could do with the windfall.
What Would Happen If Kennedy-Era Rates Did Return? We'd Pay Down The Deficit, For Starters
We've seen the Republican plan to deal with the deficit; it's the Ryan plan. Still more tax cuts for the rich, paid for by eliminating Medicare and carving up basically every other successful federal program in existence ? and we get, maybe, a balanced budget 20 years from now.
Democrats have a pretty reasonable response; the economy was pretty good during the Clinton years, so hell, let's just go back to Clinton-era tax rates and raise revenues; do that, and end the expensive Republican wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and use the added revenue to pay down the deficit. After all, Clinton was the only president since LBJ to actually balance the budget. Maybe the Big Dog actually knew what he was doing.
At least some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans shouldn't be controversial given the size of the federal debt, since it's a basic principle of economics that revenue should match expenditures in order to balance the budget, and since we like most of our main expenditures (Medicare, Social Security, defense spending) and want to keep them, we ought to look at revenue.
Actually, the American people are very much on board with this:
Sixty-one percent of Americans said that increasing taxes to the wealthy should be the first step toward balancing the budget.
By contrast, 20 percent of respondents preferred cuts to defense spending as the first option, while 4 percent said that cutting Medicare would be the best way to start cutting the deficit. Three percent said they preferred cutting Social Security.
But it's worth noting that even if we raise the top marginal rates just a little bit, or if we just raise them on people making $5 million annually or more, it saves far more on its own?coupled with no spending cuts at all?than the Republican plans.
So the conclusion is pretty clear; either Republicans don't actually care about the deficit or have no idea how to reduce the size of it, since even a little tax hike for the rich is far more effective than the Ryan Medicare-abolition plan.
Obviously we'd do well in paying down the debt if we returned to Clinton-era or slightly higher tax rates. But for fun, let's go back to 1961 tax rates.
All these taxpayers would pay a whopping $382 billion more in taxes this year if they had to pay at the 1961 effective tax rate, the rate the rich actually faced on their tax returns 50 years ago after taking advantage of every available loophole.
Why do we need more audits at the top? The most recent IRS Oversight Board report estimates we're losing $290 billion a year to tax cheats ? and high-income taxpayers, one 2008 study has concluded, underreport their incomes at triple the "misreport" rate of average-income taxpayers.
The bottom line: Taxing the rich at the actual rates they paid a half-century ago ? and doing more to make sure all the rich pay their taxes ? would likely this year raise, at the federal level alone, an additional half a trillion or so.
That would raise about half a trillion dollars. The Republican austerity measures would save, oh, about 20% of that.
If you are legitimately serious about reducing the size of the deficit, by far the best, simplest, and most logical way to do it is by increasing revenue. It's just more efficient and more effective than even the draconian spending cuts in the Ryan budget.
Progressive Deficit Reduction
Sachs has made a powerful case for this strategy (emphasis mine):
Progressives have come to berate deficit hawks as if concern about the budget deficit is somehow intrinsically reactionary. I view deficit reduction as progressive, because it reflects a concern to protect our future wellbeing, and especially that of our children. What counts is not deficit reduction per se, but how it's done. If it comes as the Republicans propose, by slashing government programs for health, education, retirement, and infrastructure, it would indeed be a disaster. If it comes instead by taxing the banks, higher incomes, and fossil-fuel pollution (initially at a low, but then rising rate), while simultaneously investing more in clean energy, modern infrastructure, education and jobs skills, then deficit reduction is prudent, progressive, and wholly supportive of sustainable prosperity.
What Could You Do Beyond Paying Down The Deficit, With This Added Revenue?
Well, for one thing, you could invest it in the economy.
Let's take Sachs up on his proposal. Is it possible to do the stimulus correctly?in an investment-based manner, spending on higher education, infrastructure, clean energy and so forth? Would it help bring us out of this struggling economy?
With an added revenue stream, why not?
During a time when the economy is struggling, we shouldn't be beholden to right-wing blather on the evils of spending (especially from the same gang that brought us the unpaid-for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).
Because government spending actually doesn't hurt the economy; in fact, it helps in the short term, as even conservative Chicago School economists acknowledge.
John Taylor (and Robert Hall), Macroeconomics, 5th ed.:
pp. 190 ff.: We now know that an increase in government spending... increases the interest rate and increases income.... [T]he increase in government demand increases GDP through the multiplier.... [But] interest rates must [also] rise to offset the increase in money demand.... This increase in interest rates will reduce investment demand and net exports and thus offset some of the stimulus to GDP caused by government spending. The offsetting negative effect is crowding out.... An expansionary fiscal policy will have a relatively strong effect on aggregate demand if interest rates don't rise by much [when government spending increases]...
Why does government spending help the economy? Two reasons:
1) Like we saw during the New Deal, the government can actually hire people to do stuff in the public sector, if it wants to. Some of that stuff can be highly useful: it can hire workers to build highways, schools, railroads, parks and so forth; it can make investments in clean energy; it can hire cops to police those streets and teachers to fill those schools. Even conservative icon Ronald Reagan would acknowledge the success of such programs; his father, Jack Reagan, worked for a series of New Deal programs in the 1930s, and that?s a big part of what kept the Reagan family above the poverty line.
2) Even if the government isn't directly hiring, the economy is basically a measure of aggregate demand?or aggregate spending, in other words. The more demand there is for goods and services, the more is actually spent on goods and services?which is the definition of economic activity. This is why, during times of economic recession, you'll be told to go shopping, or invest your money somehow. Anything to do your part toward spurring economic activity. The U.S. government, being the biggest single spender in the American economy, has more power to affect aggregate demand (and economic activity) through spending than any other entity.
Sachs argues that taking a simplistic Keynesian view towards government spending?that any kind of stimulus is good stimulus?is erroneous and dangerous, and that that?s part of the reason the Obama stimulus was only moderately successful.
This is very likely true. But as Sachs points out, there are legitimately smart investments in the energy, transportation and higher education sectors that we could target with further, smarter stimulus.
The Obama stimulus was designed on the premise that personal saving rates would drop back to pre-2008 levels?about 3%?and that that increase in aggregate demand would spur growth. Personal saving rates were still around 6% in the summer of 2010.
Whether or not the government is spending too much, Americans aren't spending enough. Someone's got to make up the difference; that can be done while making smart investments in America?s future sustainability and prosperity.
Kennedy: Put Up Or Shut Up
Republicans like Speaker John Boehner, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, and tea party darling Jim DeMint love pointing to John F. Kennedy as a Democratic tax-cutter. And he was?again, he dropped the top marginal tax rate all the way from 91% to 70%.
So here's what I'd like President Obama to do. I'd like for him to introduce legislation calling for a return to Kennedy-era tax rates, right here, right now, call it the Boehner/Brown Tax Relief Bill, and give the Republicans a choice.
"Either pass it, and I'll sign it, or shut the hell up about John F. Kennedy."
It wouldn't necessarily get any votes, but hopefully it would preclude the Republicans from continuing to spew misinformation and deceit about the strongly progressive history of our tax code.
At The End Of The Day
We know we're not returning to Kennedy-era rates any time soon. Boehner and DeMint and Brown will never get the chance to put up or shut up on their peacock talk. There just isn't the political will for it; even the Progressive Caucus doesn't want to go near the level of tax rates that were once considered historically low, during the period of the American long boom.
But it's perfectly reasonable to do it. It wouldn't hurt the economy, and it might help; it would raise revenues dramatically; it wouldn't drive business overseas; and it would give us all a chance to reinvest in America's future.
All you'd have to do is ask millionaires to pay their traditional share.
I just got back from a delightful 17-day European vacation (marred only by the theft of my brand-new iPad from a hypothetically “locked” compartment on the overnight Paris-Venice train, while we were sleeping in it [how creepy is that?]. According to the Venice cops, this happens EVERY night: so why don’t they crack down on [...]
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An award-winning destination restaurant in Downtown Washington, DC, Bistro Bis is the place to savor and be seen - where Capitol Hill powerbrokers and politicians enjoy innovative interpretations of classic French bistro cuisine.More from the account of the dinner, the confrontation and an interview subsequently, all at Talking Points Memo:
Owned and operated by renowned Chef Jeffrey Buben, this non-smoking, downtown DC restaurant is next to The Hotel George on the slope of the world-famous Capitol Hill. Senators, congressman, celebrities, entertainers and leaders come to experience bold French fare in the refreshing ambiance and chic luxury of one of he most enticing restaurants in downtown Washington, DC
Susan Feinberg, an associate business professor at Rutgers, was at Bistro Bis celebrating her birthday with her husband that night. When she saw the label on the bottle of Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru Ryan's table had ordered, she quickly looked it up on the wine list and saw that it sold for an eye-popping $350, the most expensive wine in the house along with one other with the same pricetag.If you're a fiscal hawk, life is good in DC.
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After showing a number of clips in the run up to the next segment where Michele Bachmann clearly showed she didn't have a lot of use for either facts or concern for flame throwing, the panel on The Chris Matthews Show pondered whether the now very "serious" and now "disciplined" Michele Bachmann somehow has her finger on the pulse of the Republican electorate in America.
What was amazing to me is that even after showing how off the cliff Bachmann is and that there is no way in hell she should be elected to lead this country, they pretty much calmly discussed how the Republican Party has gone off the rails, and without explaining just how dangerous someone like Bachmann would be should the American public actually turn out to be insane enough to elect her, and pondered whether Bachmann now represents the heart of the Republican Party.
I never thought I'd live see the day when our beltway Villagers were seriously discussing Michele Bachmann's potential road to the presidential nomination, but here we are.
MATTHEWS: Andrea, I hear something there that's powerful. It's connecting the regular people, the base of the country, the regular people and their sense of conservative history, their conservative view of history.
MITCHELL: I think you're actually right and there's a new PEW poll which says that people do not want to see their Medicare, Social Security, I mean, not surprisingly, they don't want to see their benefits cut, they don't want to see taxe increases. The majority of people in this country are not willing to do the things that John Boehner is now prepared apparently to do, that the President wants us to do, that leadership, arguably needs to do in order to get past this crisis.
Michele Bachmann really has her finger on that pulse. She's put up a new ad, her first ad in Iowa, which said I will not vote for a debt ceiling.
MATTHEWS: No matter what's on it.
MITCHELL: Exactly. And even if it has all of the cuts that the Republicans want. So she is taking it one step farther and I think that she is really in tune with the majority of the people, whether they understand the facts or not.
MATTHEWS: Okay, that's Iowa, the religious right and she may be perfectly, you know... perfect pitch, will that sell across the Republican base of the country? Can she compete for the nomination right to the end?
PAGE: I don't think so. She has all of the vulnerabilities of Barry Goldwater who got the nomination back in '64...
MATTHEWS: But he won the nomination.
PAGE: But he did because at that time the moderates were weak and they're weak now. That's her best shot because it's a shrunken party from what it used to be. But I think because of recent events a lot of the Republican moderates, the David Brooks type are going to be the ones to stand up and call a halt, but after South Carolina.
MATTHEWS: I wonder whether the cerebral writers like George Will and David Brooks, great people, are not really in tune with that base out there, is she?
WOODWARD: Well, that's right and this could be a flash in the pan and remember Mike Huckabee won the Iowa primary in 2008, Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary in 1996. So we'll just have to see, but I would go the conventional wisdom route on this. I think this all helps Romney. There's lots of debate. There's lots of pie throwing. She probably won't go in the history books. But again, you never know in American politics...
MATTHEWS: Jamie there's some spark there I hear. She seems to have the perfect pitch for some people in the country.
TARABAY: Well I think... I think there's something interesting about the fact that she's so categorical about it. She's yes or no. And for a lot of back and forth that we see in Washington, I think that must be very refreshing.
MATTHEWS: I think the purity tests that she passes, they're so crystal clear, I think there's a potential that there's been tectonic shifts in the Republican Party over the years, that places her more in the center of the real Republican heart than Mitt Romney, who I think still is seen as a moderate, and that party is not run by moderates.
MITCHELL: Well, it's the calendar that's in her favor. If you look at Iowa, to a certain extent New Hampshire, perhaps less though, but certainly South Carolina and then you go down to Florida. She's got that geography and calender in her favor.
Obama has renounced torture. He has issued a new executive order defining acceptable interrogation techniques. He has reasserted the illegality of many of the techniques used in American prisons around the world during the first few years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But he has also repeatedly expressed his desire to "look forward instead of looking backward." As a result, there has yet to be any accountability for the actions of the Bush/Cheney administration. And none appears forthcoming.
And without accountability -- without either criminal prosecutions or some sort of official national reckoning of what took place -- there's no reason to think that the next time a perceived emergency comes up, some other president or vice president will not decide to torture again.
Governor Rick Perry?s The Response prayer rally already has support from self-proclaimed prophets and apostles like Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Che Ahn, Doug Stringer, John Benefiel, and Jay Swallow, and now we can add one of the most prominent leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation to the list of endorses: C. Peter Wagner.
Not only is Wagner one the founders of the International Council of Apostles, but he is also a chief advocate of Seven Mountains Dominionism, which holds that fundamentalist Christians should have control over all aspects of society, and a foremost proponent of ?Spiritual Warfare.? Wagner?s wife, Doris, is also an endorser of The Response. She is author of How To Minister Freedom, a collection of works that includes chapters on ?Freedom From Homosexual Confusion,? ?Freedom from Abortion?s Aftermath,? and ?The Believers Authority over Demonic Spirits.?
Following the deadly earthquake in Japan earlier this year, Peter Wagner argued that the disaster was punishment from God because Japan ?invited national demonization? and the pagan Sun Goddess had ?sexual intercourse with the Emperor? of Japan. He similarly blamed Japan?s economic problems on the Emperor?s supernatural sex life: ?Since the night that the present emperor slept with the sun Goddess, the stock market in Japan has gone down - never come up since.?
It's one of those contests for which there is a seemingly endless supply of candidates, but in the race for stupidest of all Republicans we may have a winner.
Two Democratic senators are defending a top U.S. regulator's power to shield the nation's largest banks from certain state consumer financial laws.
Following a series of abuse cases in Europe and North America, revelations have emerged of sexual abuse by priests in a number of African countries. The case of Father Renato Kizito, who is accused of raping young men in Kenya, shows how local power structures work in favor of the clerics.
Bringing fresh insight into long-standing debates about how powerful geological forces shape the planet, from earthquake ruptures to mountain formations, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have identified a new mechanism driving Earth's massive tectonic plates.
Scientists who study tectonic motions have known for decades that the ongoing "pull" and "push" movements of the plates are responsible for sculpting continental features around the planet. Volcanoes, for example, are generally located at areas where plates are moving apart or coming together. Scripps scientists Steve Cande and Dave Stegman have now discovered a new force that drives plate tectonics: Plumes of hot magma pushing up from Earth's deep interior.
Rate Of U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq Is At ?03 And ?04 Levels
Hundreds of protesters pelted the security headquarters in the Egyptian city of Suez with rocks on Wednesday, angered by a court's decision to uphold the release of seven policemen facing trials for allegedly killing protesters during the country's uprising.
Riots and protests have been escalating recently over what many see as the reluctance of the military rulers to prosecute police and former regime officials for the killing of nearly 900 protesters.
A painting by Leonardo da Vinci that was lost for centuries has been authenticated by distinguished scholars in the United States and Europe and will be exhibited at London's National Gallery as part of a Leonardo show that opens November 9, ARTnews has learned.
"It's up there with any artistic discovery of the last 100 years," said one scholar.
Inspired by Mike Konczal here’s a chart showing the aggregate quantity of hours of work done in the USA versus the size of the working age population. Both are indexed to 2002:
As you can see, the population has a “slow and steady” growth path. Aggregate hours work is more of an up-and-down thing driven by the business cycle, but with an upward trend since the number of working age people rises over time. And now we have this amazing gap. It’s a staggering waste of the most precious resource we have: Human beings and their potential.
I think Rep. Alan Grayson pretty much killed the Myth of the Wimpy Liberal, and certainly Bernie Sanders is showing very little tolerance of repug intolerance in the Senate.
But it's true that as a general rule liberals are cursed with empathy - the ability to see the other point of view no matter how wrong, ludicrous or lethal. That's not our fatal flaw; what kills us is the naive belief that others share our empathy and are as open-minded about different opinions as we are.
There's lots of positive chatter this week-end about Sally Kohn's excellent piece in the Washington Post about the limits of liberal tolerance. It's an excellent question. Along with our bent for altruism and empathy, it's a real Catch 22 for liberals seeking to live their values. It's a little bit hard to it when the act of doing so empowers those who are hostile to them. There was a guy named Jesus who had some things to say about that but his teachings on the subject a very out of fashion these days, particularly among the people who hate tolerance, altruism and empathy. It's more than a little bit ironic that they are the ones who've made a political litmus test out of being Christians.
It's also, by the way, what sets the liberals apart from your commies --- their system doesn't really incorporate those values either, even if they share some hostility toward capitalistic excess. But don't tell that to the right wingers. But then they also think liberals are in cahoots with Islamic fundamentalists who believe women should be stoned for adultery and gays should be hung, so they have a bit of a hard understanding these nuances.
The perennial question is what to do about it and after years of pondering this question I think it comes down to this: you can be altruistic and empathetic even when people are mean and ungrateful. Those values aren't dependent upon how others receive them. And in order to live in this world you have to be tolerant of human foibles and differences among us. But you can't be tolerant of injustice, greed, cruelty and violence. It's not all that hard to see the difference when you step back and look at it clearly.
Anyway, read Kohn's article. It's a very interesting discussion of our competing worldviews and asks the right questions. It's a problem, no doubt about it. It's always has been.
When will the Village stop churning out these "both sides do it" pieces?[...]
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