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Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We usually start the Labor Day weekend with Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues.” But times have changed, so let’s do this anthem instead

And you spend your life
Puttin’ money in his wallet

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*** UPDATED x1 *** Sean Casten once called GOP “the pedophile party”

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From Peter Roskam’s spokesperson…

Hey, Rich… found part of yesterday’s Sun Times article kind of interesting.

From the Sun Times story:

    During that forum, Roskam also accused the Democrat of calling Republicans ‘pedophiles.’ After the debate, Casten told reporters he didn’t remember ever saying that.

This is the first time we’ve heard that he said this, but clearly he did.

He posted this tweet in December of last year and since he’s deleted all of his tweets prior to March of this year (presumably in an effort to get away from tweets like this one):

*** UPDATE *** From the Casten campaign…

“Peter Roskam is a 25-year career politician with practice showing faux indignation. When sexual abuse of students was reported at Ohio State University and that Jim Jordan knew about it, Peter Roskam didn’t call for an investigation - he welcomed Jim Jordan with open arms. Sexual abuser Dennis Hastert? He celebrates that he has his desk in his office. When asked to speak out against Roy Moore? He wouldn’t. When Donald Trump called Barack Obama the founder of ISIS? Crickets.”

“And when it comes to women’s health care, Peter Roskam wants to make abortion illegal, with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest and Sean finds that to be profoundly disturbing.”


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Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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*** UPDATED x3 - IEPA responds *** Leader Durkin files bill to immediately close Rauner-owned plant

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Remember this story?

Two low-slung industrial buildings, tucked behind a Target store in west suburban Willowbrook, are about as nondescript as they come. For years, they have been home to Sterigenics International, a company that has quietly gone about its business of fumigating medical instruments, pharmaceutical drugs and food to kill bacteria and pests.

But a new federal study is putting a bright spotlight on the company, finding that people living nearby face some the nation’s highest cancer risks from toxic air pollution.

A gas used by the company, ethylene oxide, is far more dangerous than previously thought, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In one census tract near the plant, the EPA estimates the risk of cancer is more than nine times the national average.

Another federal agency concluded the cancer risks could be significantly higher. […]

The company also stands out because since 2011 it has been owned by a private equity firm co-founded by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who left the firm a year later to begin campaigning for public office. […]

“This is not an emergency. This is not a public health immediate crisis. This is something we are managing,” Rauner told reporters after a bill-signing event in Chicago. “We are going to work with the federal government to monitor this whole situation … and try to reduce exposures from this as much as we can.” [Emphasis added.]

* As Anders Lindall pointed out, the governor still has a personal stake in that company…

* Today, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who represents Willowbrook, introduced this bill

Provides that a facility emitting ethylene oxide at levels higher than federal or State standards shall immediately cease operations until the level of emissions are reduced below both federal and State standards. [Emphasis added.]

The leader apparently disagrees with the governor that this situation is “not an emergency.”

And while I seriously doubt that the bill is a direct result of Rauner throwing him under the bus at the Daily Herald yesterday, I don’t doubt that it probably felt just a wee bit satisfying to file this bill today.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Press release…

State Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove) is joining local officials, including House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla, in calling on Sterigenics International, Inc. to cease operations until further testing is completed.

“Recent news reports and discussions at a town meeting this past week have many people, myself included, greatly concerned about the safe operation of the Sterigenics facility. New research from the USEPA indicates that ethylene oxide is far more dangerous to the public than previously believed,” said Curran. “Given the new revelations about the dangers of ethylene oxide, I join with those encouraging Sterigenics to cease operations at the Willowbrook facility until further testing is done.”

The letter sent to the company on Friday, which was signed by state, local and municipal officials (see attached), notes that it is “imperative that the community be assured that Sterigenics is acting as a good corporate citizen and are taking all steps necessary to protect those who are potentially impacted by the emissions of ethylene oxide from their facility.”

Curran says today’s letter is just a first step in addressing the concerns residents have about this facility. “Next week I intend to file legislation in the Illinois Senate that will create new notification protocols that will alert surrounding property owners of an air emission leak, reopen the company’s current air permit for additional public comment and expand the public comment period for any future permit renewals.”

Throughout this process, Curran has also been conferring with the Attorney General, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency and will continue working with them to make sure they have all regulatory and enforcement tools necessary to protect the public health and safety.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Oof…

*** UPDATE 3 *** From the Illinois EPA…

Under current law, should Sterigenics, or any other permitted facility, violate any condition of its permit such as an emissions standard, the Illinois EPA would initiate appropriate action, whether that be enforcement or other corrective action. The type of action depends upon the nature and severity of the violation. If such a violation involved an imminent threat to human health or the environment, the Agency would send that matter to the Attorney General for enforcement, including immediate injunctive relief.

And they’re not making that referral because the company is currently in compliance with both state and federal environmental regulations.


Question of the day

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My copy arrived today, so I haven’t had a chance to read the three chapters former Illinois Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk devotes in his new book “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics” to his time with Rod Blagojevich

“Rod possessed none of the skills, work ethic, discipline, integrity, or focus to perform any real work once he won office,” Tusk wrote.

He described a typical Blagojevich workday as “a loose mix of a few phone calls, watching ‘Sports Center,’ reading long biographies of Napoleon, preparing for a run, going for a run, stretching after the run and then showering for at least 90 minutes after that.” […]

Tusk said the less-benign explanation [for why he was hired] came to him after Blagojevich’s indictment in 2009.

“I was still a naive kid. I didn’t understand the cesspool of Illinois politics. I didn’t know the players. And in retrospect, a few things were conspicuously absent from my job portfolio: hiring, grants and contracts,” he wrote.

“If you’re looking to execute a massive pay-to-play scheme — auctioning off jobs, contracts and grants to the biggest campaign donors — it’s all you care about. Rod and his cronies figured they could do what they wanted — and let me worry about running the state — and I’d never notice,” he wrote.

OK, but he also deliberately avoided that stuff. During an end of session party when Attorney General Lisa Madigan was investigating Rod for allegedly selling jobs, contracts and bill signatures, I asked him if he was worried about his own legal status. He made it a point to stress to me that he had nothing whatsoever to do with things like that. And then he split at the end of Blagojevich’s first term.

* Greg Hinz read the whole book and came away with this

The core of Tusk’s book is the suggestion that just about everyone and everything in public life is crooked, conniving, dumb as a rock or an ideological zealot—this from the guy who more or less ran Illinois government for a few years, served as communications director for U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, worked for former Philadelphia Mayor (and later Democratic National Committee Chair) Ed Rendell, and not only worked for but ran re-election campaigns for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Of that crew, Bloomberg—and presumably himself—are the only ones that Tusk seems to have any fondness for. To quote just one of his many put-downs of the political class: “The vast majority of people who run for office are desperately insecure, often even self-loathing. They need attention and validation at all costs. Running for and holding office is the only way most of them can get it (since they typically lack the talent to meaningfully succeed at anything in the real world).”

His damnation of Blagojevich is particularly strong. The ex-state rep and congressman “possessed none of the skills, work ethic, discipline, integrity or focus to perform any real work once he won office,” he writes. It was so bad that when the governor was needed to act on pending legislation before a pending deadline, he couldn’t be bothered. “I’m picking out fabrics for three new suits (today),” Blagojevich supposedly said. “It’s gonna take a while.”

So Tusk pretty much took control of Blagojevich’s administration—too much control, the kind of thing a hungry young man would do, some others in the Blagojevich world tell me. But control nonetheless. […]

The gist of the book is advice to new-economy entrepeneurs—after leaving Illinois, Tusk made a fortune consulting for Uber—on how to get stubborn pols on the take to give them what they want. Given that, I’m not surprised by his overall conclusion.

* The Question: Your memories of or insight into Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s first term?


Some good questions for DCFS in wake of Little Village fire

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board asks several good questions about the horrific fire in Little Village that killed ten children. Here are the state-related questions

What interactions, in detail, did the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services have with the children and their families? One of the mothers, who lost five children, reportedly had been investigated by the department for 21 complaints since 2004. Two of those complaints, including a case in which the mother involved a 16-year-old daughter and a 7-month-old relative in a shoplifting scheme, were confirmed.

What services did DCFS offer to the children and their families? What services were accepted? Who made contact with the family, made the assessments and provided services — DCFS directly or a private contractor?

Charles Golbert, the acting Cook County Public Guardian, told the Sun-Times that the extraordinary number of DCFS complaints about the one family, even if most of the complaints were deemed “unfounded,” should have prompted DCFS to take more aggressive action, including bringing cases to court. How valid is that criticism?

Most of the children were school-age. Did local school districts — either the Chicago Public Schools or in the suburbs — notice anything? Were there red flags? Was there any communication among the schools, DCFS and police agencies about these children and their families?

* I have another question

In a statement, the Department of Children and Family Services said it tries to be as proactive as possible to prevent neglect when investigating struggling families.

Before the fire, the department already had been transitioning to a more holistic approach of evaluating families, which puts more of an emphasis on previous history, instead of reviewing complaints independent from each other, a spokesman said.

“This fire and this tragedy certainly confirms the need to do what we were already moving towards,” said Neil Skene, assistant to the department’s director.

Why did DCFS ever think it was a good idea to review multiple complaints about the same family “independent from each other”?

…Adding… A commenter…

DCFS gets taked over the coals either way. Anonymous@11:23 and Rep. Sosnowski are blasting DCFS for investigating a kid walking her dog alone, and then DCFS gets blasted for not separating this family.

My response…

When you think about it, those two examples you used go right back to the question I asked.

By deliberately not putting cases into a broader context, DCFS sets itself up for failure both ways. Either they go overboard on a silly one-off, or they don’t see the forest for the trees on a family with lots of issues.

* Related…

* DCFS drops bombshell as it investigates Little Village fire deaths: DCFS, in its news release, said: “None of these individual reports by itself rose to the level of our removing children from their parents. Our current direction at DCFS is to be as proactive as possible in dealing with struggling, vulnerable families.” Charles Golbert, the acting Cook County Public Guardian, said the report was shocking. “It’s an extraordinary number of investigations for any one family. And it’s an extraordinary number of investigations that were unfounded,” Golbert said. An unfounded investigation means the agency couldn’t find credible evidence of child abuse or neglect.

* State child services ‘missed opportunities’ to help family before Little Village fire killed 10: Inspector general: “There are patterns where there are histories with families, where the department has been involved, and then it ends up in a death case,” said Meryl Paniak, who was appointed inspector general in January. “There were missed opportunities to do some things differently.”

* Was Enough Done To Protect Children Killed In Little Village Fire?: In the last decade, DCFS has had seven directors. In roughly the same period, a state report found 19 children died for undetermined causes, while their families were under DCFS supervision. Another 10 were killed in their own homes, while families were receiving DCFS services. “It’s not possible to make consistent systemic types of changes at DCFS without consistent, high quality leadership and DCFS has not had that over the last decade,” Golbert said.


Rate Sam McCann’s new campaign videos

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* “Building Illinois”

* “Illinois Needs Action”

* “An Economy for Everyone”


Son of deceased Quincy veterans home resident: “People died because they didn’t know what was going on”

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gene Kennedy at WGEM

Three years ago this month, the Legionnaires disease crisis claimed a dozen lives at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy. Today, as plans to build a new vets’ home in Quincy take shape, an Adams County man who lost his father to Legionnaires’ disease at the home speaks to WGEM News for the first time. […]

Eugene Miller tested positive for Legionnaires’ and official state emails later revealed at the time of his death, the state knew for nearly a week it was dealing with a Legionnaires’ crisis at the vets’ home.

“And we actually saw the dates of what was done and said, it just brought it home to us,” [Tim Miller] said. “Our dad could have maybe had a different outcome had we known that information when our dad was sick and beginning to show signs.” […]

“Our team has done, by in large, an excellent job,” Rauner said. “People aren’t perfect, occasionally they stumble here and there but the reality is we’ve done everything we were asked to do, immediately.”

When Miller heard that statement, he decided to speak out.

“What I think it really gets down to, the hardest thing is that he (Rauner) doesn’t want to give any thought to the fact that maybe the ball was dropped in a big way and that people died because they didn’t know what was going on,” Miller said. “It’s really a hard pill to swallow to see him say ‘we did it right, we did what we were supposed to do’ because that’s not the case.”


Governor claims to be “pretty upset” over Tollway nepotism allegations

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Marni Pyke has been all over this story for the Daily Herald

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants the Illinois tollway to get its act together regarding reports about nepotism, potential patronage and infighting among executives.

At a Daily Herald editorial board interview Wednesday, the incumbent Republican said he “was pretty upset” regarding the tollway’s hiring the sister-in-law of GOP House Leader Jim Durkin as engineering manager in 2017.

“I’ve troubled by some of the allegations that have surfaced,” Rauner said. “I’ve called the board and said, ‘Look, guys, If I have to send in some investigators, I’ll do it.’” […]

Rauner campaigned in 2014 on ridding Illinois’ government of cronyism, and he frequently excoriates Pritzker and House Speaker Michael Madigan on that subject.

Laura Durkin’s last job was in office furniture sales in 2001, the Daily Herald reported; tollway leaders contend she was the most qualified person for the $80,000-a-year engineering department job. The tollway also has a $6.6 million subcontract with Morreale Communications as part of a larger engineering contract. The firm is led by CEO Kim Morreale, who is married to Chicago’s only Republican state representative, Michael McAuliffe. Tollway officials say they follow state procurement laws and the Morreale firm was hired on its merits.

Investigators? Is he gonna send the state cops in or hire a private detective or something?


*** UPDATED x1 - ACLU applauds *** SIU quickly rescinds ban on “activism” during events by athletes, cheerleaders

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The ban was probably unnecessary to begin with because, as explained earlier this week, two of the protesting cheerleaders didn’t return to SIUC this semester and the third had already decided to stop taking a knee during the anthem. And legally speaking, it was highly problematic, as explained by Brian Munoz at the Daily Egyptian

SIU Athletics has rescinded new language in the Student Athlete Code of Conduct that said any displays of activism will not be tolerated and could lead to the individual’s removal from their respective program. […]

“However, some have interpreted the language to suggest that our aim was to restrict the free speech rights of our students – that was never our intent,” [Tom Weber, associate athletic director over communications] said. “We fully support the free expression of ideas and opinions among our students and the entire Saluki family.” […]

“The government can make neutral rules for students to follow and universities can set higher standards of conduct for athletes, cheerleaders and other student leaders,” [William Freivogel, a media law professor at SIU] said. “But in the process, the government can’t discriminate based on the content or viewpoint of speech.”

Freivogel said the university cannot punish a student leader for taking a knee during the anthem if the school is also not prepared to “punish pro-flag, pro-military or Tim Tebow-style religious gestures.”

Gregory Magarian, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said he shared similar sentiments.

“If we’re going to say there’s nothing political about standing for the national anthem then we are saying one of two things – we’re saying it’s meaningless, or we’re saying that we are absolutely forcing a consensus political view on everybody and it has political significance – and you will obey that political significance, or you are out.”

*** UPDATE *** Ed Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy, ACLU of Illinois…

SIU has done the right thing by reversing this ill-conceived policy. Students at a public university should be able to weigh in on matters of public concern without threats of reprisals and discipline. This action represents an opportunity for the University to foster an active dialogue about a range of issues – including the need for police reform in our nation. We hope the University will embrace this moment and create an atmosphere where views can be expressed and exchanged in a thoughtful manner.


*** UPDATED x1 - Casten responds *** Koch brothers group to back Roskam

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

The political network created by the billionaire Koch brothers announced plans to support eight House Republicans on Thursday, pledging financial resources and activists to help re-elect several vulnerable congressmen deemed “principled” conservatives. […]

The announcement comes a month after Trump assailed the Koch brothers as “a total joke in real Republican circles.” Days earlier, network patriarch Charles Koch had condemned the increased government spending under the Republican president’s leadership and Trump’s push for import tariffs. […]

Despite the clash with the White House, the Koch network remains one of the most powerful political organizations in the country. The sprawling organization is on pace to spend as much as $400 million on politics and policy ahead of November’s election. And its coalition of trained activists across 36 states has no rival.

The candidates backed by the network’s political arm, Americans for Prosperity, include eight men from seven states: Reps. Rod Blum and David Young of Iowa, Dave Brat of Virginia, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Will Hurd of Texas, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Peter Roskam of Illinois.

* Roll Call

“The candidates we are supporting this fall have each been strong, principled leaders committed to removing barriers to opportunity in the federal government that are preventing people from realizing their full potential,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. […]

Last month, AFP announced it would not support Rep. Kevin Cramer in his challenge to Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota because of his views on trade and immigration.

That elicited a response from Trump, who called then the “globalist Koch Brothers” and their network’s influence “highly overrated.”

*** UPDATE *** Sean Casten…

“Two of the largest corporate benefactors of Peter Roskam’s tax scam have announced they’re returning the favor,” said Casten. “It’s understandable that the Koch Brothers, who stand to benefit from $1.4 billion in tax breaks thanks to Peter Roskam, would want to financially support him. But what is not factual are the policy positions they attribute to Peter Roskam as their rationale.”

“Peter Roskam voted to strip health coverage away from 30,000 of his constituents, eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, added over $2 trillion to the deficit, voted against protecting Dreamers, and voted against increasing funds for veterans’ health care and post-traumatic stress disorder - that’s a record I’d be running from, not supporting.”

In their rationale for backing Roskam, the Koch Brothers erroneously attributed leadership to Roskam for his work on health care, budgets, Dreamers, and veterans. Casten highlighted where Peter Roskam is, in reality, bad on those issues:

    Voted to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act 60 times, and voted for Paul Ryan’s bill which would have left 23 million Americans - including more than 30,000 6th District residents - without health care and raised premiums 20 percent.
    Voted for a tax bill that adds $2 trillion to the deficit, with 83 percent of the benefits in Peter Roskam’s tax scam going to corporate special interests and the wealthiest one percent, while its $10,000 annual cap on state and local tax deductions will force thousands of middle-class families to pay more.
    Voted against the DREAM Act as well as to restart deportations of undocumented immigrants protected under DACA and DAPA.
    Voted against increasing funds for veterans’ health care and PTSD treatment.


*** UPDATED x4 - Dean explains - Union turns thumbs down - Entertainment Cruises responds *** Union challenges Pritzker to live up to promises

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Handed out at the Indivisible Chicago event last night attended by JB Pritzker…

Background is here. Chicago and Midwest Joint Board of Workers United is part of SEIU, which has endorsed Pritzker.

* Related…

* Employee Accuses Pritzker Group of Union-Busting: “If he’s going to be a businessman and politician who’s campaigning on a progressive platform, you’ve gotta prove that you’re progressive in your business as well,” Dean said Thursday. “He campaigns on unionizing. He says unions are a great thing, they’re what built the middle class. He wants to campaign on collective bargaining rights. And he’s actively union-busting at his own company.”

*** UPDATE 1 *** A commenter pointed to this video of workers confronting Pritzker yesterday

* From the main organizer…

*** UPDATE 2 *** The person who runs the day to day operations of this little company really ought to have his or her head examined. I mean, nobody over there stopped to think that maybe, just maybe fighting a unionization effort might damage the guy who pays all the bills? Anyway, it appears the message finally got through what must be a very thick skull…

At Entertainment Cruises, we know our shipmates make our company great, and we are committed to open and transparent dialogue with our employees. We support the right of our shipmates to engage in organization activities and to make sure that all voices are heard in that effort. If a petition is filed with the NLRB, the NLRB’s process provides a fair mechanism for employees to vote in a secret ballot election. Entertainment Cruises respects this right and will conduct itself throughout the process with integrity and fairness.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From Kathy Hanshew, Manager of the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU…

We are deeply disturbed by the Pritzker Group and Entertainment Cruises’ response to the SeaDog workers’ recent demand for union recognition. Sending workers seeking workplace justice and union representation to Donald Trump’s NLRB for a fair process is akin to sending undocumented immigrants to Donald Trump’s ICE for a fair process. It’s a horrible idea.

Pro-union Democrats, including both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, support the Employee Free Choice Act or EFCA. EFCA would mandate that private sector employers recognize a union based on a simple authorization card count or card check. Bosses love NLRB elections because even though a solid majority of Americans approve of unions, only about 8% of Americans actually belong to them. The Millionaire and Billionaire class and the NLRB are to blame.

We continue to demand that JB and Tony Pritzker and Entertainment Cruises work out a fair process for organizing so that their workers gain union recognition through a simple card count. This was the process recently used by TRONC when employees decided to organize at the Chicago Tribune, and it will work just fine for Entertainment Cruises workers out at Navy Pier.

Will the real JB Pritzker please stand up?

*** UPDATE 4 *** I agree with the gist of this take…


“OK. I stand corrected”

Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I have a gazillion press releases in my inbox from Jim Dodge and the ILGOP touting just one issue: Passing a constitutional amendment to consolidate the treasurer’s and comptroller’s offices into one. Dodge spent days on the road with Darlene Senger touting this single issue. And yet

Republican state treasurer candidate James Dodge acknowledged Thursday he was mistaken over how a hallmark of his campaign — a proposed constitutional amendment to combine the offices of treasurer and comptroller — would go before voters. […]

In discussing the proposal, Dodge told the editorial board that he should be treasurer to act as a point person to assist voters on such a proposed amendment when it “comes out of the House and let’s say the governor signs it.”

Under the Illinois Constitution, governors don’t have signing or veto power over proposed constitutional amendments.

Asked about his comment afterward by a reporter, Dodge said governors “have to sign the legislation to put it in front of the ballot” before voters.

Told he was incorrect, Dodge replied: “OK. I stand corrected.”


Not to mention that he didn’t even support the issue when he ran for comptroller against Judy Baar Topinka in 2010.



Friday, Aug 31, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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* Reader comments closed for Juneteenth
* Cash bail did not necessarily make us any safer (Updated)
* Isabel’s afternoon roundup (Updated)
* GOP poll has Sorensen up by 9 points, but below 50 percent
* Showcasing The Retailers Who Make Illinois Work
* It’s just a bill
* Revenue omnibus includes some little-noticed charitable provisions
* Pritzker teams up with IBM, Discover Financial to push for federal quantum funds
* They’ll come back to it
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* Live coverage
* Selected press releases (Live updates)
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