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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Getting Automated Rail Running In 6 Weeks

For many years I've been pushing the idea that there is no real reason why rail transport cannot be fully automated. This would allow rail to run 24/7 at lower cost and most importantly with lots of single carriage units, which could be much lighter built like buses, able to leave every few minutes. It would thus greatly increase carrying capacity at reduced cost and turn rail into a popular mass transit system.

     However recently I had started thinking this was a technology whose time was passing because, the computer capacity to do this having existed for decades, has now improved so much that the enormously more complicated task of driving road vehicles automatically was about to make improving rail redundant.

     I have praised the DARPA road X-prize of $3 million which developed the first automated road system (and which they said would have cost $100 million and not necessarily been successful if done by conventional funding) so if you can't beat them, join them.

     I suggest offering a £3 million prize to whoever can retrofit a conventional train with automated or remote controls and run it on current track to the commercial timetable for 6 weeks safely and late no more than 75% as much as is average for that line. Note, for example, the recent Oxford University experiment which decided they could retrofit a car for about £5,000. Since trains don't have to worry about lane discipline or indeed tailgating an automated train should be much simpler. Making it simpler yet is the ability to remotely transfer information (as with the dongle currently connecting me to the net). While controlling and monitoring all road traffic would be impractical all trains total a far lower number.
Network Rail or Network Rail Scotland would be required to make facilities available. Perhaps the Dumbarton to Oban line would be a good testbed, particularly if this train was put on in addition to normal trains as might be necessary to assuage worriers. By making it a matter of law that they must facilitate the experiment, which would in turn make the carrier liable to pay damages if they drag their feet, we should cut through bureaucratic conservatism.

      In addition when the prize has been won and the train run for 6 weeks the carrier shall be under an obligation to do it with 2 trains for another 6 weeks, at negotiated commercial rates (which would entail them not being committed to using the same system if a competitor seriously undercut). And so on, so long as the 6 weeks trials were successful, at least as fast as retrofitting can be done. Thus after 54 weeks we could have 512 trains automated, if we had that many in Scotland.

      In addition to this there is a particularly valuable place for X-prizes in rail technology. This is because, while road transport is run bottom up, which facilitates innovation, rail has to be run from the top. This is why a car today is nothing like one in 1900 while trains are visibly very similar. Thus I suggest that 1% of annual public subsidy of rail, currently £3.73 billion , be devoted to technology prizes to catch up with the over a century of technological backlog. That would be £37 million.

     "Public subsidy in 2011-12 was £2.27 per passenger journey in England, £7.67 in Scotland, and £9.15 in Wales."
      So if overall subsidy in Scotland is over 3 times higher that is £900 million so 1% would be £9 million a year, easily able to fund the prizes.
      " If, as I strongly suspect, technology improved so as to make rail competitive again and the running subsidies could be removed contributions to the prize fund would have to be guaranteed, since anything else would penalise success.
     The next thing I would offer prizes for would be for cutting stopping distances of trains or single carriage units since line capacity obviously is inversely proportional to stopping distance. And another for designing a good through ticketing system so that you can buy a ticket that will take you to anywhere in the country from any station.
       I'm sure there are many other technological improvements possible and will probably think of some in due course but this seems enough to quickly revolutionise our entire transport system for a small fraction of what we spent on the Edinburgh trams.
      This could be done at a UK level but since rail transport in Scotland was, a few years ago, devolved to Scotland we could do it alone and give this country easily the best rail transport system in the world.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Asking The BBC If They Want To dispute Their Own Admission of Censoring Dissidents

Dear BBC,

A few weeks ago I was at a "Brian's Big Debate" in which I said that the BBC provide far less airtime to UKIP spokespeople than our standing in the polls warrants and that the BBC was thereby failing to live up to its legal Charter duty of "balance". He forcefully replied that the BBC select for coverage on the basis of elected Parliamentary representation (though I assume he meant purely the Holyrood and Westminster Parliaments & for programmes not originating in Scotland, purely the Westminster parliament As you may know UKIP is the 2nd party, currently, in the EU Parliament, the only UK body in which results are proportional to voters wishes so I assume that has never paid any part in your calculations .In the most recent council elections all 3 main parties posted within 6% of each other but presumably those elections don't count towards your formula either. At the time Mr Taylor cut off any further debate on that subject.

However it is clear from what he said that far from this being a denial of bias it is an open official admission of it. That you do indeed quite deliberately censor coverage according to some formula, ignoring the interest of voters, who are your customers and from whom you demand a licence fee not varied according to electoral representation. For example UKIP is clearly among the main 3 parties in polls for UK coverage and at 8-9% regularly in Scotland, also outpo9lling the LDs & Greens, yet UKIP's coverage is well under 1% of UK, let alone Scotland, making the BBC mathematically at least 95% corrupt.

Not, in principle, different from the way broadcasters in the old USSR used to limit news coverage to what leaders of the elected party wanted ignoring both facts (in the way the BBC openly censor dissent and lie to promote the evidence free catastrophic global warming scare) and what their listeners might have wanted (granted more difficult to measure there).

Doubtless if you wish to retract this admission of censorship you will let me know, with full details.

I would like to ask, under the Freedom of Information Act, what that mathematical formula is and when it came into effect? For example when the SDP was formed, or even before, it was not censored from the airwaves on the grounds that zero people had been elected under their standard. Since this is entirely an editorial matter the exception of protecting journalistic sources, regularly used by the BBC, cannot be applicable to the formula.

A further point is that pure amounts of coverage do not reflect the attitude applied. For example most interviews with UKIP seem to ignore policies (such as our economic policies which, as you know, could get us out of recession very quickly if the ruling parties wished) in favour of some variety of "some people say you are racists, how do you answer them". If unbiased you must usually open interviews with Tory/Labour/LibDems with a variant of "Some people say yours are a party of war criminals and produce unrefuted evidence for it" or greet Green representatives with "Some people say that the green movement has killed more people than Hitler and Stalin combined and can prove it".

Again, under the Freedom of Information Act I would like to request examples of when this has been done - mathematically the BBC must have tens of thousands of examples, though I confess to never once having heard one.

I await your response, within 20 working days if confining yourself to the FoI matters or within a week if disputing Mr Taylor's open admission of bias, in despite of your Charter and legal duties.

Neil Craig

      The BBC don't usually reply to queries and I certainly to not expect a responsive answer to when they last treated a politician of the cartel parties as they normally treat ours.

      On the other hand if they can't answer then Brian's remarks stand as an admission of a deliberate and calculated censorship of dissent.

       Incidentally this from the New Statesman does a rundown on the last 704 appearances on Question Time and finds:

 "leading trade unionists combined have been on less than Nigel Farage! In case anyone needs reminding, trade unions are the largest voluntary organisations in civil society with a combined membership of some six million. Farage is the leader of a party whose supporters can fit into my living room. And if that wasn't bad enough, his odious minion Paul Nuttall has been on twice too. So why are UKIP way overrepresented on the panel and a mass movement of millions virtually ignored?"

     That's 11 out of 704, 1.5% out of a party with about 15% of the country.

      To be fair the twat who wrote the article is, not uncommonly for the "new left", a double barrelled twat so he may have a very big living room.

     He does manage to find a right wing bias but only by saying that the historians, scientists, economists and suchlike serious people are right wing and pretending that the BBC  Labour with 148 slots approved "comedians" do not have BBC approved politics.

    Doubtless BBC supporters would hold this up as the "we are criticised by both sides so we must be right" defence whereas I take it as the "when you are complaining when the only possible bias is already in your favour it is evidence that you are used to extreme and unrelenting bias in your favour" - see also the Green woman complaining when Peter Sissons asked her a real question.

    Si is, arithmetically,"Labour with 148 slots" and the support of over 30% of the electorate really underrepresented compared to UKIP with 11 and about 15%. Or is Labour getting 5.7 times more than they should?

      Perhaps as a scientific experiment the BBC could spend 6 months reversing the ratios (Labour with 26 and UKIP with 148) and the same in the rest of their coverage and see how the polls move? Who could object to trying that?

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Getting Out Of Recession 2 - longer than my actual speech

As Bill Clinton so charmlessly acknowledged the prime issue in almost any peacetime election is "the economy, stupid". This will be so in spades in Britain because after 5 years and counting of recession none of the traditional parties claim to have any ideas of how to achieve growth. Looking at growth in the rest of the world it is obvious that growth is possible, if the will is there.

Britain and the EU are in recession but the "world recession" which is so often blamed is a myth. The IMF recently put world growth at 4.8% and growth in the Commonwealth at 7.3%. The EU & UK being respectively parts of these groups and in recession means that you can add at least 1% point to reach the averages of the rest of the world and rest of the Commonwealth.

This is an average world growth rate unmatched in human history and suggests that far from growth being unsustainable and us being in an era of "Limits to Growth" - this year being the 40th anniversary of that infamously well publicised "computer model" that proved we we had no more than 20 years until resources run out and civilisation collapses. I believe that, at least since then, western civilisation has had 40 years of unnecessary low growth sold on a deliberately promoted false pseudo-environmentalist scare story. In the rest of the world growth is on a rising trend that can continue for perhaps centuries. That will make everybody alive then as rich as today's billionaires in the same way that everybody in Britain today is, in most material terms, now richer than Alexander the Great.

There are a number of factors producing such economic success and I hope we will get a chance to discuss in a more serious way than in what normally passes for politics, what we can do to promote progress in an era when our political classes, particularly those who call themselves "progressives" seem to have set their faces firmly towards a return to the middle ages.
Scots Professor Peter Cameron, professor of international energy law and policy at the University of Dundee said "In modern times the main driver of economic growth has been, and continues to be, energy" and Mike Haseler, UKIP's Scottish Energy spokesman will discuss the implications of that and of UKIP's policy of free marketism in energy, as outlined by Roger Helmer.

Another Scots professor, Adam Smith, writing in an era when electric power was not a consideration put economic freedom at the heart of economic success saying

"Little else is requisite to carry a nation to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things"

He was writing just before the era when steam engines started making energy, other than muscle power, widely available so he cannot be faulted for not knowing the transformative effect modern energy sources would have. But even then, generally, the societies with the most economic freedom have been most able to develop plentiful inexpensve energy sources.

Thus over 2 centuries later a statistical examination of the world's various economies, available online under the title "Habits of Highly effective Countries" came, once again, to the conclusion that "economic freedom is a necessary and perhaps sufficient condition" for economic success.

Ivor Tiefenbrun who has hands on experience of exactly what is required to build up a world class company from nothing, will be speaking on the value of economic freedom.


I would now like to take this opportunity to speak a few words in favour of technology as the 3rd necessary and sufficient driver of growth and in turn of X-Prizes as a little used & valuable tool in promoting it.

An X-Prize is an award given for a specific proven usually technological achievement, such as the first non-governmental vehicle to enter space. It need not be intended for a vehicle which is itself commercial, though it may be, but usually for a breakthrough which can then be developed into a commercial industry. It is open to anybody, or anybody within the national community, to win. It should not involve government oversight for anything other than confirming the objective has been achieved and the winners are eligible. For a true X-prize the innovators would tell any government bureaucrat who tried to muscle in beyond that to go to Hell.

They are usually not intended to defray all the costs of the inventors - it is a way to encourage what will ultimately be commercial development not to replace free market pressure.

One major advantage is that if an objective chosen is not possible under current technology, as an early Spanish Longitude prize wasn't it will not be won. Ditto if it is impossible, like finding fairies at the bottom of the garden or building a commercial sea-turbine. In which case the nation bears no costs - as they do when government offers grants for such "research". There is, literally, no national downside to X-Prizes.

Almost all economic progress over the long term depends on technological and scientific progress. Alexander the Great did not lack mobile phones because there was nobody with money to invest in them or because the unions had not been able to negotiate enough pay for Macedonians to afford them, but because the technology didn't exist. Patents were developed in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages as a way of rewarding and thereby encouraging invention. However they aren't and almost certainly can't be as effective at rewarding invention as Capital & Labour are rewarded for their efforts.

There is a long record of X-Prizes working spectacularly well compared to the more traditional government grants. This is not so surprising because grants tend to go only to the great and connected whereas prizes are open to anybody; grants are given, for the promise of activity, while prizes only go for actual achievement. Prizes work most cost effectively when they do not fully match the money invested and thus enhances rather than replacing the commercial case whereas cost plus government grants can make any sort of idiocy, like windmills, into a good investment.

Traditional government grants, give the state power of patronage, a considerable influence over establishing a "scientific consensus" and in some cases such as America's Mohole project, a blatant way to reward donors.The usually require significant administration by government bureaucrats. This explains why grant funding is greatly preferred by government bureaucracies even though it doesn't work as well.

Politics being what it is this means that politicians sometimes talk the talk of prizes while in fact sticking to grants.

For example the original American programme of X aircraft (not actually paid through prizes but done in the proper hands off manner) was wildly successful up until the name was appropriated for conventional programmes.

Alex Salmond has, several times, made speeches about the Saltire prize for developing a commercial sea turbine in terms of it being an X-prize but in fact it is not - it does not have specified winning conditions (I suspect a commercial turbine is impossible but they could at least have specified the amount of power produced and the period of time it had to stay operational). Also this scheme is closely overseen at every level by civil servants which is not conducive to innovation and very expensive.

In even sillier vein David Cameron has said he wishes to offer a prize for a range of unspecified challenges such as "the next penicillin" (penicillin having saved hundreds of millions of lives). For whoever invents this Cameron intends to offer the magnificent sum of "one million pounds". The only actual idea he has suggested is that somebody needs to invent an intercontinental aircraft which gives off no CO2 which would effectively be a high powered perpetual motion engine. Such is the downside of having political leaders who studied PPE and are thus complete scientific illiterates.

Real X-prizes involve simply a very specific technological winning tape and only enough administration to ensure the winner is a qualified British person or citizen. This is the wording proposed by Pournelle for an orbital shuttle:
"The Treasurer of the United States is directed to pay to the first American owned company (if corporate at least 60% of the shares must be held by American citizens) the following sums for the following accomplishments. No monies shall be paid until the goals specified are accomplished and certified by suitable experts from the National Science Foundation or the National Academy of Science:

1. The sum of $2 billion to be paid for construction of 3 operational spacecraft which have achieved low earth orbit, returned to earth, and flown to orbit again three times in a period of three weeks.

2. The sum of $5 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a space station which has been continuously in orbit with at least 5 Americans aboard for a period of not less than three years and one day. The crew need not be the same persons for the entire time, but at no time shall the station be unoccupied.

3. The sum of $12 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a Lunar base in which no fewer than 31 Americans have continuously resided for a period of not less than four years and one day.

4. The sum of $10 billion to be paid for construction and maintenance of a solar power satellite system which delivers at least 800 megaWatts of electric power to a receiving station or stations in the United States for a period of at least two years and one day.

5. The payments made shall be exempt from all US taxes.
That would do it. Not one cent to be paid until the goals are accomplished. Not a bit of risk, and if it can't be done for those sums, well, no harm done to the treasury."

He has since said that, with the scientific progress, particularly in materials science, since he first put up that proposal, that $500 million (£300 million or less than 1 year of what we give to ESA) would suffice to produce a spacecraft to low orbit.

The Ansari X-Prize - led to Virgin galactic

The Longitude Prize offered by the British government and won by John Harrison - the exploration of the Pacific and discovery of Australia and new Zealand can be directly credited to that so it was worth the money.

The Ortega Prize won by Lindberg

The king of Syracuse offering money to whoever could come up with a way of determining if gold was pure - won by Archimedes.

The M-Prize for extending the life of a mouse - something vital in experimental search for a way of extending human life span but not instantly commercial.

Napoleon's prize for a way of preserving food, from which the whole canning industry was developed and, less importantly, helped supply his armies and so conquer Europe.

The billiard ball prize - a non-governmental prize put up by a billiard ball manufacturer in 18-- worried about a coming shortage of elephant tusks from which balls were made - this was won by the inventor of celluloid, progenitor to the entire plastics industry.

A whole range of aerial prizes in between 1900-1920 by Lord Rothermere and others which certainly enhanced the air travel industry.

Most recently DARPA put up a prize of £$3 million for development of a computerised system that could drive 50km without a human driver. They said that it would have cost $100 to attempt this with conventional funding, and they might well have spent the money without result. Already such vehicles are road legal in Nevada Silicon Valley and within a few years will probably be a new mass industry.

I'm not sure if Lord Wolfson's £25K prize for how to leave the Euro counts. It probably depends on how much economics is a science rather than an art.

A recent Harvard study of a century of small prizes totalling £1 million put up by the Royal agricultural society showed that they had had a significant effect,out of proportion to the cost, in advancing agricultural technology. Or as one already established manufacturer complained prizes had proven to be "an undue stimulus to innovation"

All in all these and other small prizes previously put up have had an enormous effect in establishing new industries and a new continent, out of all proportion to their cost.

I believe we should have a number of British X-Prize Foundations funded with a significant proportion of taxes from high tech industries, even were it only a few % of what we spend on useless quangos. For example the £300 million a year given to the ineffective and bureaucratic ESA put into such a foundation would get Britain a commercial orbital shuttle. Nigel Farage has committed UKIP to doing this with ESA funding and Lord Monckton has expressed his enthusiastic approval of such prizes as a general principle of public funding.

This "undue stimulus to innovation" would be a massive "undue" stimulus to the UK economy and indeed a secondary but perhaps unmatched, contribution by us to the technological development of the entire human race. A stimulus that will be applied by UKIP and no other party's leaders and which, after 5 years of recession and 65 years of lowering growth - is long overdue.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting Out Of Recession 1

Last night UKIP in Glasgow ran 3 talks on How To Get Out of Recession. The 3 speakers were myself, Mike Haseler (UKIP energy spokesman) & Ivor Tiefenbrun, owner of Linn Products and a prominent Conservative. We spoke respectively for X-Prizes, letting market freedom increase energy availability; and pure economic liberalism in the Scots tradition running back to Adam Smith.

I think we had a very good discussion. Not alone in this - a new member said it was "infinitely" better than Labour party meetings he had attended (which apparently are out of Life of Brian except only such as those get to speak). I don't think a discussion as serious and constructive could have happened in any other party even at conference.

I'll put my speech up in full tomorrow. If you have read what I have written of X-Prizes you'll know it already. Questions were on whether patents would still rest with the inventor - yes, prizes are there to enhance the rewards of patents rather than replace them - and how to ensure politicians don't put up silly politically correct prizes - not absolutely possible even with an independent foundation running it but unlike grants, if the objective is unachievable it won't be won whereas with conventional grant funding the money gets spent anyway.

Mike introduced a number of graphs you will see later which I find absolute proof that GDP and energy use are Siamese twins.

Ivor was no holds barred in support of the principles of Adam Smith and other Scots of the liberal tradition.

I believe that it was reasonably proven that each of the 4 strategies would be enough to get us out of recession. Certainly nobody in the audience came up with anything to the contrary. Of course if any part of our state broadcasting monopoly or press or indeed any 1 of the 129 MSPs in Scotland feel that it is debatable that each of these strategies would make get Scotland out of recession I invite them to broadcast, publish or participate in such a debate - but I won't hold my breath that a single one does.

    I grant that there isn't such overwhelming evidence of X-Prizes working repeatedly on a national scale because it hasn't been tried. However there is ample evidence of prizes, small by the standard of government spending, producing massive effects - the plastics industry, food canning and discovering Australia.

    Not discussed because we are all already convinced (& the rest of the political class must also be convinced because they refuse to discuss it) is the cost to our economy of the EU. Tim Congdon has calculated this, giving the EU the benefit of what doubt exists, as 10% of gdp.  By thus limiting investment money this must take at least 10% off growth but by making us generally uncompetitive, will have a considerably greater effect.

     If any one of them would produce real growth all four, done together with determination, could hardly fail to give us an economy leaving China in our wake.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The State Supported Parties Plans To Drive Up Electricity Prices

This is the extent to which our ruling class intend to push up electricity prices. They intend to "guarantee" this level of subsidy. Which produces a constitutional problem
 contracting such prices decades ahead is Parliament trying to bind its successor, which is unconstitutional, but is also part of the law of contract - not to be lightly broken.
    On the 3rd hand can anybody expect a corrupt pork barrel deal to bind a party with a government elected on an anti-corruption, anti-Luddite ticket? 
    From this graph we can see why, as I reported a few days ago, our electricity prices are currently 25% above Germany's already extortionately high ones but will rise to 85% above.

Scots Professor Peter Cameron, professor of international energy law and policy at the University of Dundee said "In modern times the main driver of economic growth has been, and continues to be, energy"
  Quoted approvingly in Holyrood by Jim Mather, who, before retiring, was the best the SNP had.
 Nobody disagreed. Can there be any doubt that that all 3 state subsidised, BBC approved parties know perfectly well that they are deliberately deepening recession and that only UKIP's policies will get us out.

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Monday, July 08, 2013

UK Space Conference in Glasgow

      This is being held next week. Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th.

The 2013 UK Space Conference, which takes place in July over two days, will focus on realising the UK’s ambitions in space – including making a global impact with science and research, contributing to the UK’s economic growth by developing new commercial applications and businesses and developing the interactions between these activities. Book now

The conference programme will be configured to:
  • facilitate interactions between communities from academia, the space industry, end-users, financiers and government
  • provide a platform for reporting on the Innovation and Growth Strategy Re-stack and on implementation of the actions arising from it.
  • attract international delegates and speakers wishing to find out more about developments in space policy and activities in the UK
The programme is expected to include:
  • special feature sessions
  • VIP presentations and plenary sessions focusing on:
    • exploration, inspiration and challenges
    • growing our global business
    • the IGS Re-stack and beyond
  • Parallel sessions focusing on:
    • science and technology
    • growth and finance
    • supply and demand
  • Conference dinner and Sir Arthur Clarke Awards
Contributions will be made from across the sector including academia, industry and government.

   At £95 per I can't justify it, or the time, but I will be interested in seeing what, if anything, happens.

  One thing that has happened is this Herald article.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

Cameron Promises Latest Referendum Pledge Won't Be Respected Either

    This is a letter I sent to the entire national press but which inexplicably appears not to have been published.

      Recently the prime minister, after some months of swithering but under the pressure of seeing UKIP coming close to matching his party's support (23% UKIP, 25% Tory at the recent council elections) appeared to make the "concession" that he would allow the British people a referendum on EU membership - in the next parliament in the unlikely position of him being in power with a majority.
     Even this, Cameron's second promise of a referendum has already been proven false. The Previous one being what he called a "cast iron" promise of a referendum over the Lisbon Treaty.
     He has no intention of honouring an out vote in the unlikely event one occurs. In an interview with the Spanish El Pais  he said “The best solution for the UK is to stay in a reformed EU”
      He was asked the following (via Google translate):
In case of a Yes victory in the referendum that you will organize on leaving the EU, would you be willing to withdraw from the Union?
And Cameron’s response:
"I would not." (No me gustaría)
That Cameron makes such an admission – of wilfully ignoring a referendum vote – in a foreign newspaper is revealing. Truly he’s the child of Europe, his hero evidently instead is Barroso (EU Commission President) who said of the Irish
“They must go on voting until they get it right.”

Slightly amazingly “cast-iron” has managed to sink even lower.
Neil Craig (UKIP Glasgow secretary)
Posted by The Boiling Frog here though for some reason this has not become UK headline news
    John Redwood is clearly unaware of this having just denied it - comment 8.54 today.

UPDATE John Redwood has put these replies to my comment and following ones which seems unpersuaded:

Reply Mr Cameron’s position is very clear. He thinks he can negotiate a decent deal which he then will support and wants the Uk to vote for. He has also said that he cannot accept our current position. Of course he would accept the verdict of the Uk voters in any referendum.
  • Reply I can assure you he knows he will have to follow the results of the referendum – what’s the point of one if we don’t do that? I have no idea what happened with a Spanish journalist and the translation.


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