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The Weak Link: Winning State Elections

April 7th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, rightwing, Voting Rights

By Gloria Totten

Campaign for America’s Future

April 7, 2015 – This has not been a positive year in state legislatures, and there’s a good chance that, for progressives, this may be the worst session in decades.

Wisconsin imposed “right-to-work.” Nevada suspended prevailing wage rules for school construction projects. South Dakota lowered the minimum wage by a dollar an hour for workers under age 18. Many states are slashing funds for public education and social services. Several are legalizing the carrying of guns on college campuses or abolishing the 80-year-old requirement of a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Utah brought back firing squads as a means of execution. Even the Indiana “religious liberty” battle didn’t have a happy ending: the law they passed is not a good one, it’s just less bad.

The reason for the states’ lunge to the right is clear—the GOP gained more than 300 state legislative seats in the 2014 elections. Republicans now control 69 of the 99 state legislative bodies in the U.S. (if we include Nebraska, where lawmakers are technically nonpartisan but effectively Republican), while Democrats control only 30. That’s the most legislative chambers Republicans have ever held.

Put another way, there are now 25 states where both the legislative and executive branches are entirely controlled by Republicans, if we include Nebraska and Alaska (where the governor ran as an independent but is effectively a Republican). In contrast, there are only seven states with a Democratic legislature and governor: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In four additional states (Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey), Democrats control the legislature but progress is stymied by a GOP governor.

It should be obvious that progressives desperately need to engineer a strong comeback in 2016. It’s not just that 150 million Americans living in GOP states are subject to regressive rule. The longer the right wing holds power, the more “gamechanger” policies they enact—like voter ID and union busting—designed to rig the electoral game for the long term. Even more important, it’s nearly impossible to take back the congressional redistricting process in 2021-22 unless we start winning state legislative seats in 2016. Progressives need to put in place strong incumbents who can withstand a difficult 2018 election cycle. It would be sheer folly to wait until 2020 to try to win back legislative chambers for reapportionment.

The old saying goes, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” In state politics, progressives have some very strong links indeed. Over the years, our movement has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in terrific policy research, excellent polling, and a lot of hardworking grassroots organizations and activists. But because of one glaring weak link, conservative majorities block good policies and enact bad ones. Progressive investments at the state level are stymied by a distinct lack of focus on winning elections there.

The good news is that our movement could do very well in 2016. We could conceivably move legislatures from split to Democratic control in seven states: Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, and Washington. And we could possibly move legislatures from Republican to split control in eight others: Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin (although half of these are longshots). (more…)

The Christian Right Still dominates the GOP — Is There Any End in Sight?

March 19th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, Fascism, GOP, rightwing

 

By Amanda Marcotte
Progressive America Rising via AlterNet

March 18, 2015 – In a recent interview on Fox, Christian right writer [3] James Robison went off on a rant about how Christian conservatives need to take over the government: “There are only 500 of you,” Robison said of Congress. “We can get rid of the whole bunch in one smooth swoop and we can really reroute the whole ship!”

He added that this takeover would cause "demons to shudder" and the "gates of hell to tremble," but what was really delusional about it was the idea that Congress is somehow devoid of Christians. In reality, 92% of Congress people identify [4] as Christian. More to the point, nearly every Republican, regardless of their sincerity in saying so, aligns with conservative Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, an affiliation reflected in their policy preferences. (One solitary Republican is Jewish.) The Christian right might not own all 535 members of Congress, but with Republicans in the majority, the Christian right is also in the majority.

And yet, as New York Times writer Jason Horowitz explained in a recent profile piece about evangelical organizer David Lane, Lane feels quite similarly: “For Mr. Lane, a onetime Bible salesman and self-described former “wild man,” connecting the pastors with two likely presidential candidates was more than a good day’s work. It was part of what he sees as his mission, which is to make evangelical Christians a decisive power in the Republican Party.”

Say what, said any reader who has cracked a newspaper, the New York Times or otherwise, in the past four decades. Making the Republican Party beholden to the Christian right is like making the sky blue or making cats stubborn. Can you really make something be what it already is?

That the evangelical right already controls the GOP shouldn’t really be in dispute. Not only do the Republicans do exactly as the Christian right tells them on every social issue, such as reproductive rights or gay rights, but Republicans also pay fealty to the Christian right by targeting Muslim countries with their hawkish posturing or using [5] Christian language to rationalize slashing the social safety net. If you were trying to come up with a quick-and-dirty description of the Republican Party, “coalition of corporate and patriarchal religious interests” would be it. (Continued)

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The Dangerous Candidacy of Scott Walker

February 26th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, GOP, rightwing

By John Cassidy

Progressive America Rising via the New Yorker

Feb 24, 2015 – Let’s stipulate up front that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is an odious politician whose ascension to the Presidency would be a disaster.

Set aside, for a moment, his repeated refusal, in the past few days, to say whether he believes that President Obama loves America, or whether he believes that the President is a Christian, and look instead at Walker’s record running what used to be one of America’s more progressive states. Having cut taxes for the wealthy and stripped many of Wisconsin’s public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights, he is now preparing to sign a legislative bill that would cripple unions in the private sector. Many wealthy conservatives, such as the Koch brothers, who have funnelled a lot of money to groups supporting Walker, regard him as someone who’s turning his state into a showcase for what they want the rest of America to look like.

But just how threatening is he? If you’ve been following the political news during the past week, you may well have the impression that he’s stumbling in his campaign for the 2016 G.O.P. nomination. Among the political commentariat, the consensus of opinion is that Walker’s repeated refusal to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani’s incendiary comments about Obama, and his subsequent encounter with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Robert Costa, during which he appeared to question Obama’s religious faith and took some shots at the media for asking him silly questions, weren’t merely reprehensible: they were serious gaffes that raised questions about Walker’s political abilities.

It wasn’t just liberal columnists who piled on. In a column at the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis, who also writes for the Daily Caller, said that Walker’s comments raised the question of whether he “might not be ready for prime time on the national stage.” Lewis went on: “Conservatives should be worried that Walker hasn’t proven capable of navigating these land mines.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who is a former G.O.P. congressman, wrote at Politico: “Good candidates know how to make dumb questions look, well, dumb.”

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Americans Are Fleeing Religion and Republicans Are To Blame

February 18th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in GOP, rightwing

By Lisa Wade, PhD,

Progressive America Rising via Sociological Images

Over the past 40 years, Americans have become increasingly likely to deny an affiliation with a religion. The graph below shows that people with “no religious preference” rose from about 5% of the population in 1972 to about 20% today. Overall, however, Americans do not report a corresponding decline in the a belief in God, life after death, or other religious ideas. What’s going on?

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Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer — the guys who made the graph above — argue that the retreat from religious affiliation is essentially, a retreat from the political right. Religion has become strongly associated with conservative politics, so left-leaning people are choosing, instead, to identify as “spiritual but not religious.”

Here is some of their evidence. The data below represents the likelihood of rejecting a religious affiliation according to one’s political views. The more politically liberal one is, the more likely they have come to reject religion.

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Using fancy statistical analyses, they explain: “generational differences in belief add nothing to explaining the cohort differences in affiliation.” That is, people haven’t lost their faith, they just disagree with religious leaders and institutions.  Hout and Fischer conclude:

Once the American public began connecting organized religion to the conservative political agenda — a connection that Republican politicians, abortion activists, and religious leaders all encouraged — many political liberals and moderates who seldom or never attended services quit expressing a religious preference when survey interviewers asked about it.

Democrats have wondered how to break the association of the right with religion and claim a little bit of moral authority for themselves. It looks like they may not need to or, even, that having failed to do so has a surprise advantage.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Moral Mondays’ Barber Says America’s Political System Suffers From a ‘Heart Problem’

February 16th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

Saturday’s Moral Mondays march once again brought a multicultural crowd of thousands to Raleigh, N.C., protesting budget cuts and voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican Legislature.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and NAACP National President Cornell Brooks (far right) listen to the North Carolina NAACP’s the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak at the Moral Mondays march in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 14, 2015.

By David Swerdlick
The Root

Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 14: An African-American Muslim imam, Oliver Muhammad, offered the call to prayer; members of black Greek-letter fraternities served as event marshals; and as marchers in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement began their walk across downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital, Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Teresa Palmer announced—in Spanish—that “interpreters will be available at the intersection of Hargett and Fayetteville.”

It’s that kind of come-one, come-all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

And while the Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem or a right problem or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem. When money and greed and political hubris and pride and ego and beating your opponent become more important than working together to uplift humanity, we’ve got a heart problem.”

For the movement, the stakes haven’t changed.

Barber called on legislators to “fund Medicaid expansion, raise the minimum wage, index it with inflation—put it on the ballot and let the people vote,” as well as “restore cuts to public education,” reject “the attacks on women’s health and environmental protection, repeal the death penalty, reform the criminal-justice system,” enact “fair immigration reform, and respect the constitutional rights of all humanity, regardless of race, creed, color and sexuality.” (Continued)

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If Voting Means Little, Why Is the Right Working So Hard to Suppress It?

February 10th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in racism, rightwing, Voting Rights

Selma and Shelby: The Fight for the New South

BY JESSE JACKSON
Progressive America Rising

Feb 10, 2015 – What time is it?  It’s important to be clear.  Is it mid-day and our labors still have hours to go?  Or is it evening, our work done, and we can rest our weary heads?  What time is it for the New South?  Is it time to celebrate Selma, Alabama – and the triumph of the Voting Rights Act?  Or is it time to mourn Shelby, Alabama – and the radical backlash against voting rights?

Fifty years after Selma’s Bloody Sunday that led directly to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, many will gather to celebrate that victory.  But we should understand that our work is not done. With the Shelby decision of the Supreme Court, the struggle for equal rights must go on.

Too often, we remember the triumph and ignore the backlash.  In 1870, the 15th Amendment, codified in in the blood of the Civil War, was ratified to give African Americans the right to vote.  It declared that the right to vote shall not be denied “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

But the triumph was immediately challenged by the backlash.  Across the South, states controlled the structure and laws of voting.  They immediately set up seemingly neutral barriers to voting – poll taxes, literacy tests and more – that were used to disenfranchise black voters.  The reconstruction of the South was ended as the Supreme Court ratified legal apartheid, and segregation was brutally enforced.

It took nearly a century, a mighty civil rights movement, Bloody Sunday and other sacrifices, to pass the Voting Rights Act that gave the Justice Department the right to pre-screen any changes to voting laws in states with a history of discrimination, and ban those that would have a discriminatory effect, even if they looked neutral on their face.

Two years ago, however, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, the five conservative judges on the Supreme Court effectively gutted preclearance laws, arguing in essence that there as a new South that had moved beyond racism.

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The NYPD’s Mini-Rebellion, and the True Face of American Fascism

January 6th, 2015 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Fascism, Police Crimes, rightwing

By Andrew O’Hehir
Progressive America Rising via Salon

Jan 5, 2015 – In 1935, with Hitler and Mussolini forging a historic alliance in Europe and the world sliding toward war, Sinclair Lewis published the satirical novel “It Can’t Happen Here,”which depicted the rise of an indigenous American fascist movement.

Lewis is a fine prose stylist, but this particular book has an overly melodramatic plot, and is highly specific to its era. It has not aged nearly as well as “Brave New World” or “1984,” and not many people read it today. (At the time, it was understood as an attack on Sen. Huey Longof Louisiana, the populist firebrand who was planning to run against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, but was assassinated before he could do so.)

But certain aspects of Lewis’ fascist America still resonate strongly. His clearest insight came in seeing that the authoritarian impulse runs strong and deep in American society, but that because of our unique political history and our confused national mythology, it must always be called by other names and discussed in other terms.

Oh, yeah — Happy New Year, everybody! Now let’s get back to fascism. When the “Corpo” regime installed by tyrannical President Buzz Windrip in “It Can’t Happen Here” strips Congress of its powers, tries dissidents in secret military courts and arms a repressive paramilitary force called the Minute Men, most citizens go along with it. (Yeah, some of that sounds familiar — we’ll get to that.) These draconian measures are understood as necessary to Windrip’s platform of restoring American greatness and prosperity, and even those who feel uncomfortable with Corpo policies reassure themselves that America is a special place with a special destiny, and that the terrible things that have happened in Germany and Italy and Spain are not possible here. No doubt the irony of Lewis’ title seems embarrassingly obvious now, but it was not meant to be subtle in 1935 either. His point stands: We still comfort ourselves with mystical nostrums about American specialness, even in an age when the secret powers of the United States government, and its insulation from democratic oversight, go far beyond anything Lewis ever imagined.

I’m not the first person to observe that the New York police unions’ current mini-rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio carries anti-democratic undertones, and even a faint odor of right-wing coup. Indeed, it feels like an early chapter in a contemporary rewrite of “It Can’t Happen Here”: Police in the nation’s largest city openly disrespect and defy an elected reformist mayor, inspiring a nationwide wave of support from “true patriots” eager to take their country back from the dubious alien forces who have degraded and desecrated it. However you read the proximate issues between the cops and de Blasio (some of which are New York-specific), the police protest rests on the same philosophical foundation as the fascist movement in Lewis’ novel. Indeed, it’s a constant undercurrent in American political life, one that surfaced most recently in the Tea Party rebellion of 2010, and is closely related to the disorder famously anatomized by Richard Hofstadter in his 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.”

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Hard Challenges for Progressives

October 28th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, rightwing

Lots of Americans don’t trust either party to do much of anything. They are voting for Republicans.

By Philip Bump

Progressive America Rising via The Fix

October 28, 2014 – Among the many reasons that Republicans will be happy next Wednesday is that the likely voter pool skews to the right. But buried in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll is another reason: Even people who don’t trust either party plan to give their trust to the GOP.

If you ask American adults which party they trust more to handle the country’s problems, Democrats do better by a two-point margin. (Which is within the margin of error.) Narrow that down to registered voters, and it’s even, 39 percent to 39 percent, with 3 percent saying "both" and 13 percent saying "neither." Narrow that down again to people likely to vote next Tuesday, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus starts doing a little jig: 42 percent of likely voters trust the Republicans more, while 37 percent trust the Democrats.

Go another level deeper, and that jig turns into the Macarena, or whatever dance comes naturally to older dudes at wedding receptions. (Editor’s note: As an "older dude," I am a big fan of the Electric Slide.) Of the 13 percent of likely voters who don’t trust either political party, more than half plan to vote Republican.

Why the distrustful voters plan to vote Republican is open to interpretation, but it seems likely that it’s in part a protest vote. A quarter of independent voters see their vote as expressing opposition to Obama, far less than the half of Republicans, but far more than the 8 percent of Democrats.

Regardless, that question probably isn’t keeping Reince off of the dance floor.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.

Terror … and Racial Terror

October 26th, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in Civil Rights, racism, rightwing

Photo by Stephen Melkisethian.

 

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising

This article was originally published at ZNet.

With all of the discussion about ISIS/ISIL, Al Qaeda, etc., one would think that the only terror on this planet is that derived from relatively small numbers of criminal fascists roaming the planet who claim to be Muslims.  Yet that is not the only location of terror.  In West Africa, for instance, millions live in terror as the horrific virus, Ebola, spreads, killing more than 3,000 people.  Due in large part to the devastation wrought by neo-liberal policies on the health care systems of West African nations, Ebola has been spreading at an unanticipated rate.

There are other forms of terror, of course.  Environmental devastation and climate change, which capitalism seems unable to stop but has also played a major role in advancing, threatens billions.  Islands across this planet are threatened as water encroaches on coastal regions.  And one need not be a rocket scientist to know that it is the working classes, the farmers and many other impoverished segments of society that will suffer on a scale beyond anything that will afflict the rich and powerful.

There is, however, a form of terror at work within the USA that is not named but are every bit as deadly and destructive as anything that ISIL and Al Qaeda can produce.  This terror is racial terror, a reality that shapes the lives of millions of people of color.  It is racial terror that helps to explain the shortened life spans of African Americans; the prevalence of various illnesses, or at least the high rate of illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, among people of color; and the flinch which we of color all experience in the face of racially-inspired insults, humiliations and micro-aggressions.

It is difficult for most white people to appreciate the racial terror with which people of color live.  There are certain things that do not generally concern whites.  They do not, generally, have to worry about the race or ethnicity of the person with whom they are driving.  They rarely have to worry about being pulled over by the police when driving through a neighborhood that is not their own.

I frequently tell the story of attending the first Labor Notes conference in Detroit, Michigan in 1981.  At the end of the conference a blond, Scandinavian woman was looking for a ride back to the East Coast.  I had driven to Detroit from Boston with another African American man.  We were asked if we could take her back to the East Coast.  My friend and I looked at one another and, at about the same time, shook our heads “No.”  It was not personal; the idea of two African American men driving across several states with a very attractive, blond woman was something that set off all sorts of bells and whistles.  Yet, this is an experience that most whites would find difficult to fathom.  In my mind’s eye, and that of my friend, we could imagine being pulled over by the police or being pursued by white men who were not particularly excited about the imagery, let along reality of two black men driving cross country with a white woman.

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Rev. William Barber’s New Book Reminds Us Why We Must Vote

October 23rd, 2014 by admin | Comments Off | Filed in 2014 Election, racism, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

 

441_Forward_TogetherBy Terrance Heath

Progressive America Rising via Ourfuture.org

Oct 22, 2014 – With Election Day just two weeks away, the words of Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award  recipient and Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber remind us, “If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now!” His new book reminds us of the moral power of progressive values when we march “forward together.”

Rev. Barber’s words come from his 2012 address to the NAACP, but as timely as ever with so much at stake in this election, as Denise Oliver Velez writes:

Election Day 2014 is on Tuesday, November 4, a little over two weeks away. This election will make a profound difference in the lives of many of our citizens. For some, it is a matter of life and death—given the refusal of some states to accept Medicaid expansion. We are all too aware of right-wing extremist efforts in many of those same states to suppress the vote, and to construct obstacles to voting.

One of the most powerful voices in the nation, fighting to mobilize a broad-based coalition of social activists to fight voter suppression, is that of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. What is disconcerting is that with only a few exceptions, the major traditional media have managed to ignore his voice and the Moral Mondays movement he is leading—from his home base of North Carolina, to as far north as Wisconsin.

How did much of the press manage to ignore 80,000 people who marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, back in February?

While the traditional media is willing to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in memorials and tributes, journalists are far too willing to pretend that the civil rights movement was buried with Dr. King. Contrary to those who speak as if the movement ended in 1968, it is alive and growing. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, women and men—straight and LGBT, religious and non-religious, young and old—have come together in a breathtaking and extraordinary fusion movement, Moral Mondays, spearheaded by the Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP. His book about that movement, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, is being released by Chalice Press November 1.

Just in time for the election, Rev. Barber’s new book from Chalice Press, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, recalls the beginnings of the historic Moral Mondays movement, puts progressive values in a moral context we can take with us into the voting booth.

Last summer, after seven years of grassroots organizing, “Moral Mondays” grabbed the nation’s attention as thousands protested North Carolina’s General Assembly in Raleigh in support of the poor, voting rights, health care, immigrant rights, and other issues. Over 13 consecutive weeks, the protests against legislative extremism resulted in the arrests of nearly 1,000 people, making it one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. As thousands more gathered in support each Monday, Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, became widely recognized as the leader of a new civil rights movement in the South. More than 100 “Moral Monday” connected events have since taken place, and the spirit of the movement has spread to Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, and New York. This reflection on the movement’s beginnings introduces Barber, the sources of his courage from both a biblical imagination for justice and a deep connection to “fusion” civil rights history, and the inspiring story of the Southern freedom movement’s revival.

Barber invites readers into a big-tent, faith-based movement for justice that has room for black, white, and brown, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats, people from all walks of life. Offering his unique analysis of what he has called the “Third Reconstruction,” Barber locates North Carolina’s struggle in the spiritual and political landscape of 21st-century America. With civil rights and social justice battles with a deep moral narrative, particularly in southern statehouses that then move to federal courts on appeal, what happens in North Carolina can shift the center of gravity in political discourse, debate, and decision—and thereby change the nation.

“Messages of moral dissent are designed not to just be spoken and heard but to shape the prophetic consciousness of a movement and of society,” says Barber. “The prophetic voice rises when government systems and sometimes even religious systems have abdicated their responsibility to the least of these. When the forces of extremism have become so overwhelming and have depressed the hope of the people, the prophetic voice and mission is to connect words and actions in ways that build restorative hope so that there can be a movement for restorative justice. So this book is an attempt to capture the practice of ‘preaching’ in the public square, which is where prophetic inquiry and critique must function.”

Check out Rev. Barber’s book when it drops on November 1st and take his message into the voting booth on November 4th!

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