Daily Archives: April 12, 2014

Bouteflika accuses Algeria election rival of ‘call to violence’

Abdelmalek Sellal, campaign director of Algerian president and presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika, delivers his speech during a rally meeting in Annaba, east of Algiers April 12, 2014.

Abdelmalek Sellal, campaign director of Algerian president and presidential candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika, delivers his speech during a rally meeting in Annaba, east of Algiers April 12, 2014.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, seeking a fourth term in April 17 elections, accused his main rival Saturday of having called for violence during the campaign.

“When a candidate threatens walis (provisional governors) and the authorities to beware for our families and children in case of (election) fraud, what does that mean?” he asked, speaking on state television.

That’s “terrorism via the television,” said Bouteflika, referring to his chief rival Ali Benflis, who has warned against electoral fraud.

In remarks televised on Wednesday, Benflis said that “fraud is haram,” or forbidden.

“Fraud and usage of fraud is haram. I am speaking to walis: you have family, think about protecting them,” he said.

Bouteflika noted that “at certain moments,” the electoral campaign that ends Sunday has “lacked elegance.”

“There are calls to violence and unorthodox and anti-democratic behaviour,” he said.

Bouteflika, 77, has rarely appeared in public in recent months, and his decision to run for a fourth term has sparked criticism from senior political figures who have questioned his ability to rule after suffering a mini-stroke last year.

But he remains popular with many Algerians who credit him with helping to end a devastating civil war and contain Arab Spring protests.

Benflis’s aides did not immediately respond to Bouteflika’s accusations.

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Violence as thousands march in Rome against austerity

Demonstrators fight with policemen during a protest in downtown Rome April 12, 2014.

At least 80 people – both police and protesters – have been injured as street battles broke out in Rome, with rocks being flung and police deploying pepper spray. Thousands took to the street to march against austerity measures.

Blasts and sirens could be heard as a splinter group of masked protesters launched firecrackers, eggs and rocks at police, who defended themselves with shields. One protester had his hand blown off by a firecracker he was yet to throw. At least six people were arrested, police said.

The march started at roughly 14:00 from Porta Pia, with the crowd stating they were protesting in favor of affordable housing and plans for new labor regulations which would make firing and hiring easier.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is in the process of making mass economic reforms. Youth unemployment has risen to well over 40 percent.

“Renzi’s labour reforms will worsen the situation for workers without job security, hitting young people when they are already struggling. The rage of the people in the squares today is justified,” a 23 year old graduate from Modena named Federico Bicerni told Reuters.

“Unemployment levels are very high. For the time being people can survive thanks to family support…but this is very thin amount of reserves that families can spend to support their family members. At one point in time this could end and people will just be without anything. No job, no house, and no prospective retirement benefits,” Political Analyst Paolo Raffone told RT.

Austerity measures as such are extremely painful if they are not followed by some measures to support people,”
he said. Tens of thousands also marched in France simultaneously. Police stated that some 25,000 joined the protest, while social media estimates placed the figure closer to 100,000.

Protesters in Paris waved banners declaring that “When you are leftist you support employees,” in criticism of Hollande’s business-friendly reforms which are seemingly abandoning the ideals of the left.

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NSA knew about Heartbleed for two years – Bloomberg

The critical “Heartbleed” bug reported earlier this week to have affected the security of most of the internet was discovered by researchers at the United States National Security Agency two years earlier, according to a new report.

On Friday afternoon, Bloomberg News journalist Michael Riley reported that the NSA knew about the monstrous flaw for at least two years ahead of this week’s announcement, but kept it hidden from technologists and instead exploited it to hack the computers and correspondence of certain intelligence targets.

Earlier in the week, the open-source OpenSSL internet security project issued an emergency advisory after discovery of the Heartbleed bug revealed a weakness that may have for years allowed hackers to access online information otherwise thought to be protected by the SSL/TLS encryption standard used by around two-thirds of the web.

But according to sources that Riley says are familiar with the matter, the NSA kept details of the bug a secret shortly after first discovering it in early 2012 so that it could be added to the agency’s toolbox of exploits and hacks.

“The agency found the Heartbeat glitch shortly after its introduction, according to one of the people familiar with the matter, and it became a basic part of the agency’s toolkit for stealing account passwords and other common tasks,” Riley wrote.

“Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost,” he added. “Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.”

Shortly after Bloomberg published their report, agency spokeswoman Vanee Vines told the National Journal that the NSA “was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private-sector cybersecurity report.”

“Reports that say otherwise are wrong,” she said, dismissing Riley’s report.

In December, a five-person review group handpicked by US President Barack Obama to reassess the NSA’s intelligence gathering abilities said that the government must not stockpile details about any so-called “zero day” vulnerabilities, or flaws unknown to computer programs who have thus had “zero days” to patch them.

“In almost all instances, for widely used code, it is in the national interest to eliminate software vulnerabilities rather than to use them for US intelligence collection,” the group told the president. “Eliminating the vulnerabilities — “patching” them — strengthens the security of US Government, critical infrastructure, and other computer systems.”

“We recommend that, when an urgent and significant national security priority can be addressed by the use of a Zero Day, an agency of the US Government may be authorized to use temporarily a Zero Day instead of immediately fixing the underlying vulnerability.”

Pres. Obama has since asked Congress to adhere to one of that group’s recommendations — halting the government’s bulk collection of telephony metadata — but has not publically spoken of zero days before or after this week’s discovery of Heartbleed.

Previously, however, journalists and privacy advocates working with the trove of classified NSA documents disclosed last year by former contractor Edward Snowden said that the secretive intelligence agency had been undermining the very security of the internet by exploiting other flaws to hack targets.

At a security conference in December, expert Jacob Appelbaum from Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said that the NSA had acquired the means to compromise any Apple iPhone in the world and occasionally relied on a number of high-tech tools and implants to hack targets.

“Basically the NSA, they want to be able to spy on you. And if they have ten different options for spying on you that you know about, they have 13 ways of doing it and they do all 13. So that’s a pretty scary thing,”said Appelbaum, who previously spoke on behalf of WikiLeaks at a US conference and is a core member of the Tor anonymity project.

And since June, NSA leaks disclosed by Mr. Snowden have shown that the NSA has done everything from physically tapping into fiber optic undersea internet cables to get further access to the world’s communications, to tricking the systems administrators of private companies into installing malware that would open up their machines to American spies.

via NSA knew about Heartbleed for two years – Bloomberg — RT USA.

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Thousands rally in Donetsk, activists take over govt buildings in Slavyansk

Pro-Russian supporters rally in front a barricade outside the regional state building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on April 12, 2014.

Thousands of people have gathered in Donetsk,in eastern Ukraine,calling for the federalization of the country.The demonstrators also started forming militias to help anti-Maidan protesters in Slavyansk, who seized several government buildings in the city.

Activists in Slavyansk, a city in eastern Ukraine located in the north of the Donetsk region with a population of 120,000, seized the police headquarters and the city council building Saturday. Police said Anti-Maidan protesters also seized the local office of Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU.

They hoisted a Russian flag on top of the police HQ, Slavyansk Mayor Nelly Shtepa said.

“As I negotiated with the activists today, they explained that they represent the Donetsk regional people’s militia. They said that they oppose Kiev authorities and today they are negotiating with them” she said.

Shtepa added that the people of the city support the activists’ calls for a referendum on the region’s federalization, and are urging the police to side with the people.

If the authorities in Kiev will “try to suppress the uprising, many civilians will die, this cannot be allowed,” Shtepa said.

The deputy leader of the self-styled Donbass people’s militia, Sergey Tsyplakov, told RIA Novosti that the activists who stormed the HQ were unarmed.

An armed pro-Russian activists addresses supporters gathered in front of a police station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk after it was seized by a few dozen gunmen on April 12, 2014.

There are reports that the activists in Slavyansk have taken up weapons. However, one of the members of the Donbas people’s militia told media that no one was hurt during the storm of the police HQ, adding that the government building will be under their control until a referendum is held.

Ukraine’s coup-imposed Prime Minister Arsen Avakov wrote on his Facebook page that the raid on police HQ was carried out by masked men with guns. He promised that the government’s answer to the raid would be “very harsh.” Avakov added that a Special Forces unit has been deployed to the scene.

Anti-Maidan protesters stopped two buses full of security forces which were heading from Donetsk to Slavyansk, Rossiya 24 TV channel reported. After negotiations, the security forces turned back to their Donetsk HQ.

“I can’t say there was a conflict between the police and activists, the latter just accompanied the Special Unit forces back to their HQ,” said a Rossiya 24 correspondent, who was at the scene.

A pro-Russian activist reaches through razor wire to receive a ribbon of St. George, a well-known Russian symbol of military valor which has become a symbol of pro-Russian protesters, at a barricade outside the regional state administration building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 12, 2014.

Amid the protests calling for Ukraine’s federalization, acting president Aleksandr Turchinov sacked the head of the SBU security service for the Donetsk region, Valery Ivanov, on Saturday, according to a decree published on the presidential website.

The regional police chief of Donetsk, Konstantin Pozhidayev, said Saturday he was quitting his post after the protesters urged him to step down.

Unrest has gripped eastern Ukraine after the EuroMaidan protests in Kiev, which resulted in a coup on February 22. People in Donetsk, Kharkov, Lugansk and other cities are calling for a referendum to decide on the status of the Donbass regions.

 RT News.

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Those who seized Donetsk prosecutor’s office may be jailed for 5-8 years

DONETSK, April 12, 13:55 UTC+4, ITAR-TASS.
Earlier a group of unknown masked young men with batons in hands broke into the building of the prosecutor’s office

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The Donetsk regional prosecutor’s office confirmed the information that its building was seized overnight.

A group of unknown masked young men with batons in hands broke into the building of the prosecutor’s office. About 40 people began to barricade entrances with furniture. After negotiations, the people left the administrative building.

A criminal case is opened on charges of mass disorders. The Criminal Code prescribes five to eight years’ imprisonment for such actions.

As was earlier reported, unknown people got into the Donetsk regional prosecutor’s office overnight, but shortly after that, law enforcers arrived on the scene and removed all from the building, local media reported.

Meanwhile, a group of unidentified people seized a district police station in Slavyansk, the Donetsk region, on Saturday, an official at the Donetsk regional police department told Itar-Tass on Saturday. “Unknown people have seized a district police station today. They were in camouflage uniform. They remain there now,” he said.

Ukrainian parliament-appointed Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has warned about “tough response actions” against those who have seized the police station.

“Armed people in camouflage uniform have seized a district police station in Slavyansk. Response will be very tough here,” Avakov said. A special police group was sent to Slavyansk, he said.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry would respond toughly to attempts to destabilize the situation, especially in the southeast of the country, the ministry said in a statement on its website on Saturday.

“The Interior Ministry will toughly respond to attempts to intentionally destabilize the situation, violation of public order and mass disorders all over Ukraine’s territory, particularly in regions, where special operations are conducted to settle the situation the Donetsk, Lugansk and Kharkov regions. All who will violate the law, irrespective of declared slogans and party affiliation, will be detained,” the statement reads.

The ministry warned that a “serious” article of the Ukrainian Criminal Code would be applied to organizers of protests.

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US State Department replies to Putin’s ironic remark

WASHINGTON, April 12. /ITAR-TASS/. The United States is entitled to comment on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s letter addressed to European leaders because it was openly published in Moscow, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Psaki’s words were her reaction to Putin’s ironic remark a few hours ago that his letter had been meant for Russia’s partners in Europe rather than Washington.

On Thursday, Putin sent a letter on the situation around Ukraine to the leaders of 18 European countries who buy Russian natural gas. In the letter, he explained in detail the current critical situation with Ukraine’s debt for Russian gas supplies, which could affect gas transit to European consumers.

“It’s no secret… helping the people of Ukraine… is a priority to the United States,” Psaki told a daily press briefing on Friday. “I think commenting on a public letter is hardly an invasion of privacy.” Psaki seemed to have disregarded the ironic tone of Putin’s statement. Speaking at a meeting of Russia’s Security Council earlier Friday, the Russian president called Washington’s reaction to his letter to European leaders “strange”.

“It is strange because it is not nice to read letters addressed to other people,” Putin said. “The letter was not addressed to them but to European gas consumers. Everybody has got accustomed to the fact that our American friends tap conversations. But peeping and spying is not nice at all,” Putin said jokingly, apparently hinting at recent high-profile spying scandals involving the US National Security Agency. Putin again stated the essence of the problem, which consists in Ukraine’s growing debt for Russian natural gas supplied to it, and the pre-default state of the country’s economy.

Earlier, Psaki commented on Putin’s letter and described Moscow’s actions as an attempt to exert pressure on Kiev. “We condemn Russia’s efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine,” she said.

Ukraine is in political and economic turmoil following a coup that occurred in the country in February after months of anti-government protests triggered by Kiev’s decision to suspend an association agreement with the European Union in November 2013 in favor of closer ties with Russia.

New people were brought to power in Kiev amid deadly riots that involved radicals after President Viktor Yanukovich had to leave Ukraine citing security concerns in February 2014. Russia does not recognize the new Ukrainian authorities.

Ukraine’s crisis soured further when the Republic of Crimea, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new self-proclaimed Ukrainian authorities. Crimea held a referendum March 16 in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and reunify with the Russian Federation. The accession deal with Moscow was signed two days later.

Moscow recently substantially raised the price for gas supplied to Ukraine from the figure of $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters agreed last year when the association agreement with the EU was shelved in November 2013.

In the second quarter of 2014, the price for Russian gas for Ukraine was set at $385.5 per 1,000 cu m. Gazprom said earlier that the price rose from $268.5 due to the return to earlier contract agreements, as Ukraine failed to fulfill its commitments under an additional agreement concluded in December 2013, which obliged the country to pay for supplied volumes of Russian gas in time.

On April 2, Putin signed a law on denunciation of the Kharkov Accords with Ukraine, which were struck in 2010 and stipulated that Russia’s lease of naval facilities in Crimea [then part of Ukraine] would be extended by 25 years beyond 2017 – until 2042.

The Kharkov deals envisioned a discount of $100 per 1,000 cu m on Russian gas for Kiev. Now that the accords have been denounced due to Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation, the discount will no longer be applied, raising the gas price by another $100 to $485.5 per 1,000 cu m.

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Armed men seize police department in east Ukraine: minister

(Reuters) – Armed men have seized a police department in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Saturday, the latest public building to be taken over in the east as Pro-Russian protesters stand off against Kiev.

“Armed men in camouflage uniforms seized the police department in Slaviansk. The response will be very tough because there is a difference between protesters and terrorists,” Avakov wrote on his page on Facebook.

A local police spokesman told Reuters the men had not made any demands, but did not give any details on their identity. Slaviansk is in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, about 150 km from the border with Russia.

In eastern Ukraine, government buildings in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have been occupied by pro-Russian protesters who want their regions to split from Kiev.

On Friday, a deadline set by the Kiev authorities for the protesters to end their occupation expired, but there was no sign of action from the Ukrainian police to force them out.

“I will say it again: those who want dialogue… will have dialogue and the search for solutions. Those who are up in arms, set fire to buildings, shoot at people, police, terrorize with bats and masks, these people will face an appropriate response,” Avakov said in his Facebook post.

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​CIA deceived government on torture program according to Senate report

A classified US Senate probe into the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program found that the agency purposely deceived the US Justice Department to attain legal justification for use of torture techniques, according to a new report.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program – active from September 11, 2001 to 2006 – found that the CIA used interrogation methods not approved by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. Ultimately, the Committee found that the “Justice Department’s legal analyses were based on flawed information provided by the CIA,” McClatchy news service reported Friday.

“The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” the report found, according to McClatchy.

The Senate’s probe, which yielded a yet-unreleased 6,300-page report, also found that the CIA distorted how many detainees it held in “black site” prisons throughout the world and how many were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” many amount to torture. The CIA has claimed only about 30 detainees fell under the mercy of such methods.

“[The CIA is] trying to minimize the damage. They are trying to say it was a very targeted program, but that’s not the case,” said a former US official familiar with the Senate Committee’s four-year, US$40 million investigation.

McClatchy’s anonymous sources say the Senate report outlines 20 main conclusions about the post-9/11 torture program that – the investigation found – intentionally evaded White House, congressional, and intra-agency oversight.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, quickly condemned McClatchy’s report on the classified conclusions of her committee’s investigation.

“If someone distributed any part of this classified report, they broke the law and should be prosecuted,” Feinstein said in a prepared statement. “The committee is investigating this unauthorized disclosure and I intend to refer the matter to the Department of Justice.”

McClatchy responded to Feinstein’s threat, asserting journalistic privilege and the public’s right to know in the face of persistent government secrecy and conceit.

“We are disappointed that Sen. Feinstein plans to seek a Justice Department investigation of our journalism,” said James Asher, McClatchy’s Washington bureau chief. “We believe that Americans need to know what the CIA might have done to detainees and who is responsible for any questionable practices, which is why we have vigorously covered this story.”

In justifying its interrogation methods in order to win the Justice Department’s legal approval, the CIA told the Office of Legal Counsel that repeated use of torture like waterboarding “will not be substantial because the techniques generally lose their effectiveness after several repetitions.”

The CIA reportedly waterboarded detainees Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 83 and 183 times, respectively. They weren’t the only prisoners to be waterboarded or subjected to other harsh methods of interrogation, as has been reported for some time.

In its long-suppressed 2002 memo justifying these tactics, the Office of Legal Counsel said that it did not find “harsh interrogation techniques” to be illegal – pursuant to US and international law banning torture – based on information provided by the CIA. The Office of Legal Counsel added that “if these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply.”

A 2004 report by the CIA’s inspector general found that the CIA had gone outside legal parameters in its interrogation activities. The internal watchdog said at the time that the “continued applicability of the DOJ opinion” was in question given the CIA had told the Justice Department that it would utilize waterboarding in the same manner the tactic was used in US military training for personnel in case of enemy capture. The inspector general report found that the CIA used waterboarding in a “manner different” than the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training.

In addition, the CIA did not keep track of detainees captured under the program, the Senate report found, according to McClatchy.

“The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention,” the probe found. “The CIA’s claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced interrogation techniques were inaccurate.”

“The CIA’s records were hazy, inconsistent and at times inaccurate,” the former US official told McClatchy.

In a separate report published by Al Jazeera America on Thursday, US government sources claimed the Senate report also found that Britain had allowed the US to run a “black site” prison on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia in order to secretly hold suspects sans accountability.

The Diego Garcia prison held some “high-value” detainees and was operated under the “full cooperation” of the British government, Al Jazeera America reported citing US officials familiar with the Senate report.

Earlier this month, anonymous US officials with knowledge of the Senate investigation told the Washington Post that CIA officials lied to the government and public about the efficacy of their torture methods in accumulating reliable and valuable information from detainees.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to send their report’s 480-page executive summary, the findings, and conclusions to the White House for potential declassification ahead of public release.

The Committee and the CIA have in recent weeks gone back and forth with accusations of spying, meddling, and misrepresentation, highlighting an ongoing feud between the agency and the Committee since the Senate probe began in 2009.

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‘Try not paying your gas bill for just 3 months, see what happens’

Russia has to stop gas subsidies to Ukraine as it cannot keep supporting the bankrupt anti-Russian regime in Kiev, energy asset manager Eric Kraus told RT, adding that it will be the EU’s problem if Ukraine eventually starts stealing their transit gas.

RT: Ukraine says it wants heavily discounted gas from Russia. Does it have grounds to ask for that?

Eric Kraus: I think it is fairly absurd considering that you have a strongly anti-Russian regime which has been brought into place by the Europeans and by the Americans in Kiev. You can’t really ask the Russians to fund this regime, can you?

RT: On the other hand, Russia has doubled prices in the span of just a few months, perhaps some calling that too harsh?

EK: It is harsh, but basically what they did is not double prices. What they did is they removed subsidies.

Russia has been very heavily subsidizing Ukraine, since Ukraine became independent, because they needed a friendly, at least a neutral state at their border. Now if Ukraine wants to align itself with NATO and basically anti-Russian countries, then they are going to have to pay their own way.

RT: The US says Russia’s blackmailing Ukraine and Europe and says Moscow should not use gas as a political weapon. And president Putin reacted to the statements joking, it is bad to read other people’s correspondence. What is your reaction?

EK: First of all for the Americans to accuse anyone of using economic blackmail is a major case of the pot calling the kettle black. They have been threatening illegal sanctions against Russia for weeks. So, who is using the blackmail here? And secondly, yes, the letter was not addressed to the American president.

RT: Ukraine hasn’t paid for gas in three months. What are Russia’s options now?

EK: Try not paying your gas bill for three months and then see what happens. Basically at some point Russia says it sells gas for money and at some point if the client does not pay, they have to close it off.

The problem is then, the danger is that Ukraine will start siphoning off the Russian gas which is being provided to Europe. And the Europeans brought this upon themselves. It is a European problem. They’re going to have to solve it. They can simply pay for Ukraine’s gas if they wish.

RT: There have been reports that several petroleum companies have allegedly discovered a mother lode of shale gas in Western Ukraine, near the European border. What kind of implications could that bring to the table?

EK: We have been hearing about the Ukrainian shale gas for a long time. All of the attempts to produce thus far have been failures, as has been the case for Polish shale gas. The geology is somewhat different. I don’t know if this time it is for real, but it will have major implications for the European, at least for Ukrainian gas supply. But I would be very skeptical until we see this confirmed.

RT: Who do you think is to blame at the end of the day for the crisis in Ukraine?

EK: I think it has started as a democratic movement against particularly corrupt and incompetent president who was never Mr. Putin’s choice by the way. Mr. Putin never liked Yanukovich.

Unfortunately as the revolutionary movement progressed, it was replaced by a vanguard of neo-fascists of far right wing parties which then took power by violence ,and are now complaining of eastern Ukrainians seeking to take power by that same violence.

The problem has been that the Europeans and the Americans have been attempting to use this. They are not concerned with the interests of the Ukrainian people. There is a game of power politics here and they are trying to push Russia into a corner and Ukraine provides convenient means of doing so.

 RT Op-Edge.

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