Harvard Researchers Reverse Aging

antiaging… in mice.

Anti-aging researchers at Harvard University note, “Current
dogma is that aging is irreversible.” But maybe that dogma is
wrong. In a new
study
in the journal Cell, the researchers report that
they have found a way to manipulate a molecular pathway such they
can restore “key biochemical markers of muscle health in a
22-month-old mouse to levels similar to a 6-month-old mouse.” The
biochemical markers were inflammation, insulin resistance, and
muscle wasting. They did not observe an increase in muscle
strength.

The researchers identified how the decline of a specific
compound – nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) – results in
the disruption of molecular commication between the nuclear genomes
in cells and their mitochondrial genomes. Mitochondria are the
powerhouses of cells. Falling NAD leads to decline in mitochondrial
function that eventually produces the cellular breakdowns that are
associated with aging.

Seeking to reverse the decline in NAD, the researchers injected
the NAD precursor nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) into the mice
for one week. It worked, at least in their muscles. Now the
researchers plan to administer the treatment longer term to see if
it will give the mice longer, healthier lives.

H/T Nick Schulz

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/harvard-researchers-reverse-aging
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Book Censorship Spiked in 2013

Censorship of books rose
dramatically in the U.S. in 2013, according to a major watchdog and
advocacy organization.

The Kid’s Right to Read Project (KRRP), an arm of the National
Coalition Against Censorship, reports that, compared to last year,
it has investigated 53 percent more cases of books being
“challenged.” Shelf-Awareness, an industry newsletter,
states
that in November alone, KRRP “investigated three times the average
number of incidents,” and that “during the second half of 2013, the
project battled 31 new incidents, compared to only 14 in the same
period last year.” In total, they’ve grappled with 49 incidents in
29 states. Luckily, many of their efforts have successfully put
books back on the shelves.

KRRP coordinator Acacia O’Connor told the newsletter, “It has
been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,” said
O’Connor. “We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning
to find out another book was on the chopping block.” She
highlighted that the majority of books that were challenged dealt
with sensitive topics like race and sexuality.

The KRRP warns of the
serious repercussions that come with restricting children’s access
to literature:

Censorship is about more than a single book. It is about the
intellectual, cultural and political life of the community and the
people in it.

Each time a book is a removed it reinforces the idea that books
and ideas are off-limits if someone doesn’t like them. It
contributes to a culture where it’s better to hide from
controversial or difficult topics, than to acknowledge or discuss
them.

[…]

It’s censorship whenever anyone in the government – including
public schools and library – restricts access to a book because
they dislike it or disagree with what it says.

Who is trying to ban books? “Most of the challengers were
parents of district students or library patrons, though a handful
were local or state government officials,” according to The
Guardian
. As little provocation as a single complaint can take
books out of classrooms. A notable
case
 of this happened to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
in a New Mexico high school in October.

Although the advocacy group suggests that determining the merits
of a book should not be left up to “squeaky wheels” or “majority
opinions,” they believe in “the professional judgment of
individuals with training and expertise.” This stance,
unfortunately, also falls short of actually preventing censorship.
The real way to protect books is by not putting authority in the
hands of any, but by allowing each individual to decide for
himself—and only himself—what information he consumes.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/book-censorship-spiked-in-2013
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Ron Bailey on Saving the American Chestnut Tree

American chestnutIn the
early 20th century, chestnut blight fungus introduced from overseas
devastated American chestnuts—the then-dominant trees in eastern
forests stretching from Maine to Mississippi. Crossbreeding and
genetic engineering efforts promise to return the tree to American
forests, but University of Vermont emeritus biologist Bernd
Heinrich declares such efforts a “Trojan horse” and a threat to his
“sacred” naturally evolved nuts. But, as Ron Bailey points out,
it’s likely that only human ingenuity can restore these majestic
trees to their rightful place.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/ron-bailey-on-saving-the-american-chestn
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Judge Says the NSA Can Look at Your Phone Records Because They’re Not Yours

Today a
 federal judge in New York
rejected
the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge to the
National Security Agency’s routine collection of information about
every telephone call placed in the United States. U.S. District
Judge William H. Pauley conceded that “such a program, if
unchecked, imperils the civil liberties of every citizen,” since
“such data can reveal a rich profile of every individual as well as
a comprehensive record of people’s associations with one another.”
But he said he was bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1979
case
Smith v. Maryland
, which held that the Fourth
Amendment does not apply to telephone metadata indicating who calls
whom, when, and for how long. “This Court consistently has held,”
the justices said in Smith, “that a person has no
legitimate expectation of privacy in information
he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” Under this
precedent, Pauley said, no one has a Fourth Amendment right to stop
the government from examining his telephone records, which are not
really even his:

The ACLU’s pleading reveals a fundamental misapprehension about
ownership of telephony metadata….

The business records created by Verizon are not “Plaintiffs’
call records.” Those records are created and maintained by the
telecommunications provider, not the ACLU. Under the Constitution,
that distinction is critical because when a person voluntarily
conveys information to a third party, he forfeits his right to
privacy in the information….

The collection of breathtaking amounts of information
unprotected by the Fourth Amendment does not transform that sweep
into a Fourth Amendment search.

Pauley seems uncomfortable with this conclusion. He emphasizes
that the government uses the phone call records sparingly, uses
them only to investigate terrorism, needs a comprehensive database
for that purpose, follows “rigorous minimization procedures,” and
unnecessarily compromises innocent people’s privacy only by
accident. Under the “third party doctrine” enunciated in
Smith, none of those debatable points matters, because the
government’s perusal of information you voluntarily share with
someone else cannot possibly implicate your right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Whether the Fourth Amendment protects bulk telephony metadata
is ultimately a question of reasonableness,” Pauley says toward the
end of his 54-page
opinion
. Not really, at least not in the sense of balancing the
government’s interests against an individual’s privacy claim.
According to Pauley’s reading of Smith, the
relevant question is whether you have undergone a search when
the government looks at your phone records. The Supreme Court says
you haven’t, so neither reasonableness nor the Fourth Amendment
enters into it.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who issued a
preliminary injunction
against the NSA’s phone record dragnet
last week, tried to escape the implications of
Smith by arguing that the information at issue in
that case (the numbers dialed by a robbery suspect over a two-day
period) was much narrower than the information collected by the NSA
(metadata for every phone call made during the last five years).
Leon also argued that the ubiquity of cellphones has dramatically
increased the volume of metadata and therefore the potential for
invading people’s privacy. But as I
noted
 in my column last week, the sweeping terms of the
third party doctrine do not seem to leave any room for such
considerations.

As the ACLU pointed out, five justices indicated in the 2012
case U.S.
v. Jones
 that the sheer volume of information
collected can make a constitutional difference, impinging on a
legitimate expectation of privacy that would not be implicated by a
smaller amount. But the Court’s decision in that case, which held
that using a GPS device to track a suspect’s car for a month counts
as a search under the Fourth Amendment, hinged on the physical
intrusion required to attach the device. The Court has not yet held
that collecting the same sort of information through methods that
do not require such a trespass implicates the Fourth Amendment, let
alone overturned Smith or renounced the third party
doctrine.

It really should, especially since phone records are just one
small part of the personal information that the doctrine leaves
vulnerable to government snooping. According to the Court, unless a
statute says otherwise, the government is free to collect, examine,
and analyze any information about you that is not stored on your
own property. That includes cellphone location data, email, text
messages,  photos, videos, journals, Web searches and
browsing histories, financial and medical information, and
literally anything else you have stored on a remote server or a
computer in someone else’s possession. All of that information gets
only as much protection as legislators decide to give it—which in
some cases is
a lot less than you might think
.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/judge-says-the-nsa-can-look-at-your-phon
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Judge Says the NSA Can Look at Your Phone Records Because They're Not Yours

Today a
 federal judge in New York
rejected
the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge to the
National Security Agency’s routine collection of information about
every telephone call placed in the United States. U.S. District
Judge William H. Pauley conceded that “such a program, if
unchecked, imperils the civil liberties of every citizen,” since
“such data can reveal a rich profile of every individual as well as
a comprehensive record of people’s associations with one another.”
But he said he was bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1979
case
Smith v. Maryland
, which held that the Fourth
Amendment does not apply to telephone metadata indicating who calls
whom, when, and for how long. “This Court consistently has held,”
the justices said in Smith, “that a person has no
legitimate expectation of privacy in information
he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” Under this
precedent, Pauley said, no one has a Fourth Amendment right to stop
the government from examining his telephone records, which are not
really even his:

The ACLU’s pleading reveals a fundamental misapprehension about
ownership of telephony metadata….

The business records created by Verizon are not “Plaintiffs’
call records.” Those records are created and maintained by the
telecommunications provider, not the ACLU. Under the Constitution,
that distinction is critical because when a person voluntarily
conveys information to a third party, he forfeits his right to
privacy in the information….

The collection of breathtaking amounts of information
unprotected by the Fourth Amendment does not transform that sweep
into a Fourth Amendment search.

Pauley seems uncomfortable with this conclusion. He emphasizes
that the government uses the phone call records sparingly, uses
them only to investigate terrorism, needs a comprehensive database
for that purpose, follows “rigorous minimization procedures,” and
unnecessarily compromises innocent people’s privacy only by
accident. Under the “third party doctrine” enunciated in
Smith, none of those debatable points matters, because the
government’s perusal of information you voluntarily share with
someone else cannot possibly implicate your right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Whether the Fourth Amendment protects bulk telephony metadata
is ultimately a question of reasonableness,” Pauley says toward the
end of his 54-page
opinion
. Not really, at least not in the sense of balancing the
government’s interests against an individual’s privacy claim.
According to Pauley’s reading of Smith, the
relevant question is whether you have undergone a search when
the government looks at your phone records. The Supreme Court says
you haven’t, so neither reasonableness nor the Fourth Amendment
enters into it.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who issued a
preliminary injunction
against the NSA’s phone record dragnet
last week, tried to escape the implications of
Smith by arguing that the information at issue in
that case (the numbers dialed by a robbery suspect over a two-day
period) was much narrower than the information collected by the NSA
(metadata for every phone call made during the last five years).
Leon also argued that the ubiquity of cellphones has dramatically
increased the volume of metadata and therefore the potential for
invading people’s privacy. But as I
noted
 in my column last week, the sweeping terms of the
third party doctrine do not seem to leave any room for such
considerations.

As the ACLU pointed out, five justices indicated in the 2012
case U.S.
v. Jones
 that the sheer volume of information
collected can make a constitutional difference, impinging on a
legitimate expectation of privacy that would not be implicated by a
smaller amount. But the Court’s decision in that case, which held
that using a GPS device to track a suspect’s car for a month counts
as a search under the Fourth Amendment, hinged on the physical
intrusion required to attach the device. The Court has not yet held
that collecting the same sort of information through methods that
do not require such a trespass implicates the Fourth Amendment, let
alone overturned Smith or renounced the third party
doctrine.

It really should, especially since phone records are just one
small part of the personal information that the doctrine leaves
vulnerable to government snooping. According to the Court, unless a
statute says otherwise, the government is free to collect, examine,
and analyze any information about you that is not stored on your
own property. That includes cellphone location data, email, text
messages,  photos, videos, journals, Web searches and
browsing histories, financial and medical information, and
literally anything else you have stored on a remote server or a
computer in someone else’s possession. All of that information gets
only as much protection as legislators decide to give it—which in
some cases is
a lot less than you might think
.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/judge-says-the-nsa-can-look-at-your-phon
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Seasteading New Nations Becomes a Practical Engineering Challenge

SeasteadWhen it comes to large numbers
of people living in close proximity to the ocean, few people can
beat the Dutch for experience. So, it makes sense that a Dutch
engineering firm, DeltaSync, which
specializes in “floating urbanization,” was hired by the
Seasteading Institute to develop initial plans for habitations at
sea that would be safe, practical and meet the institute’s goal “to
guarantee political freedom, and thus enable experimentation with
alternative social systems.” With initial designs and
specifications now delivered, the dream of floating political
experiments takes an important step toward becoming reality.

DeltaSync’s Seasteading
Implementation Plan
works from the premise that early
efforts will be anchored in sheltered harbors—specifically, the
Gulf of
Fonseca
, bordering El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua—until
more experience is acquired. The modular design is still intended
to be mobile, however, and potentially suitable for deep-sea
location if surrounded by a breakwater.

The first-draft design assumes the construction of concrete
modules, 50 meters by 50 meters, each with a population of 225
people, which can be easily connected and disconnected. The modules
could be moved by tugboat and linked in various configurations as
needed. And those configurations could then be rearranged to suit
the needs and preferences of community members.

In terms of sustainability, the plan envisions algae farming,
aquaculture, and aquaponics for growing fresh vegetables, so that
at least some food could be locally sourced. Rainwater would be
collected for freshwater and as an alternative to energy-intensive
desalination or importation.

Speaking of energy, a tropical, oceanic location lends itself to
solar power collection, with battery storage and backup diesel
generators.

And the “why” of all this? That is, what’s the motivation to
wave goodbye to friends, family, and the nice people in the local
bureaucracy to set up shop on a man-made island, far from tax
collectors, regulators and— Wait, That answers itself, doesn’t it?
Nevertheless, the plan considers the question.

While experimentation with rules and new forms of government is
the highest priority for the seastead, economic influences cannot
be ignored. This means the city should be attractive for a diverse
array of manufacturing and service-based companies. Also sufficient
incentives should be developed for companies and entrepreneurs to
move to the seastead. Such incentives should include: clear and
simple legislation, low taxes, lower office rents than in the city
center, a diverse and well-educated work-force, access to
knowledge, technology and innovation, good (public) transport
connections to the wider metropolitan area, especially when the
city is small at the beginning. Another important asset is the
access to global markets by connections to an airport and seaport.
The marketing to attract these businesses to the floating city
should be very good. The first floating city in the world will also
attract a large number of tourists, in order to create
opportunities for recreational businesses like hotels and
restaurants.

None of this is a done deal, yet. Barriers remain to creating
independent or semi-independent new communities at sea. And while
those barriers are real, they increasingly look political, and
surmountable, as the engineering and economic hurdles to such
projects are understood and overcome.

What’s interesting about seasteading is that the mere ability to
create new nations where innovators and dissenters might find
refuge could put pressure on existing nations to at least moderate
their excesses, even if the floating communities don’t attract vast
numbers of residents. The United States and Europe have been trying
to reduce policy competition in recent years,
specifically targeting “tax havens
.” Seasteading could blow
that all open again, by creating new competitors.

Don’t miss
Brian Doherty’s coverage
of the early
days
of the
seasteading movement
.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/seasteading-new-nations-becomes-a-practi
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Slate’s Yglesias Gets It Right on Uber, E-Hailing Regulation

I’ve jabbed at Slate‘s Matthew Yglesias in the past
over things like his uncomprehending and unreasoned
hostility toward gold-as-money
, but when he’s right, he’s
right,
getting exactly to the point
on the supposed desperate need to
regulate such smartphone-app hired ride hailing services as
Uber:

The regulatory issue around Uber is whether the rules
governing rides-for-hire need to be drastically different than the
rules governing driving-yourself-around.

….my answer is always the same: Of
course
 there are significant public safety concerns
about people driving vans. But the concerns are essentially the
same whether it’s a delivery van or a dollar van. You need rules
about what’s an acceptable vehicle, who’s an acceptable driver, and
what’s an acceptable way to pilot the vehicle.

But you don’t need rules that specifically discriminate against
rides for hire. The right way to think about this panoply of rules
is that it’s all part of a regulatory structure designed to make
single passenger automobile traffic and one-car-per-adult the
normative American lifestyles. Anything you want to do around
driving yourself is presumptively legal, and anything you want to
do around hiring someone else to drive you is presumptively
illegal. That’s a worldview that’s bad for the environment, bad for
cities, bad for the poor, bad for many classes of physically
impaired people, and all-in-all bad for America. But by all means,
regulate cars-for-hire. Just regulate them the same way you
regulate the other cars.

This is not necessarily endorsing his particular vision of what
regulations are appropriate for private drivers, which he goes on
about in his article, just the point that drivers for hire don’t
need any more regulation than drivers not for hire.

Not that Yglesias would be the one to notice this, but Ayn Rand
was on to something in noting there is a psychological block and
objection to anything people perceive as done to earn
money
that haunts and warps too many Americans’ ability to
make intelligent judgements involving what behaviors do or
don’t need to be “regulated.”

As cartoonist Chester Brown argued in his
graphic memoir Paying For It,
if people can wrap their
heads around the fact that you should be able to choose who to have
sex with for free, why shouldn’t you be able to choose who
you have sex with for money?

I wrote here on California’s
regulatory regime on the likes of Uber and Lyft
back in
October.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/slates-yglesias-gets-it-right-on-uber-e
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Slate's Yglesias Gets It Right on Uber, E-Hailing Regulation

I’ve jabbed at Slate‘s Matthew Yglesias in the past
over things like his uncomprehending and unreasoned
hostility toward gold-as-money
, but when he’s right, he’s
right,
getting exactly to the point
on the supposed desperate need to
regulate such smartphone-app hired ride hailing services as
Uber:

The regulatory issue around Uber is whether the rules
governing rides-for-hire need to be drastically different than the
rules governing driving-yourself-around.

….my answer is always the same: Of
course
 there are significant public safety concerns
about people driving vans. But the concerns are essentially the
same whether it’s a delivery van or a dollar van. You need rules
about what’s an acceptable vehicle, who’s an acceptable driver, and
what’s an acceptable way to pilot the vehicle.

But you don’t need rules that specifically discriminate against
rides for hire. The right way to think about this panoply of rules
is that it’s all part of a regulatory structure designed to make
single passenger automobile traffic and one-car-per-adult the
normative American lifestyles. Anything you want to do around
driving yourself is presumptively legal, and anything you want to
do around hiring someone else to drive you is presumptively
illegal. That’s a worldview that’s bad for the environment, bad for
cities, bad for the poor, bad for many classes of physically
impaired people, and all-in-all bad for America. But by all means,
regulate cars-for-hire. Just regulate them the same way you
regulate the other cars.

This is not necessarily endorsing his particular vision of what
regulations are appropriate for private drivers, which he goes on
about in his article, just the point that drivers for hire don’t
need any more regulation than drivers not for hire.

Not that Yglesias would be the one to notice this, but Ayn Rand
was on to something in noting there is a psychological block and
objection to anything people perceive as done to earn
money
that haunts and warps too many Americans’ ability to
make intelligent judgements involving what behaviors do or
don’t need to be “regulated.”

As cartoonist Chester Brown argued in his
graphic memoir Paying For It,
if people can wrap their
heads around the fact that you should be able to choose who to have
sex with for free, why shouldn’t you be able to choose who
you have sex with for money?

I wrote here on California’s
regulatory regime on the likes of Uber and Lyft
back in
October.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/slates-yglesias-gets-it-right-on-uber-e
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Steven Greenhut on Excessive Public Pay

Cash“The
art of government is to make two-thirds of the nation pay all it
possibly can pay for the benefit of the other third,” mused
Voltaire. Even that cynical French Enlightenment writer couldn’t
imagine what would transpire one day in California, where a portion
of the mere 15.3 percent of the public that works for government
has gotten the rest of the public to pay for an eye-popping level
of compensation. Increasingly, writes Steven Greenhut, the public
may be seeing that the problem isn’t a handful of officials who
illegally gamed the system, but a system that—as Voltaire
understood—allows a powerful minority to legally game the
majority.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/steven-greenhut-on-excessive-public-pay
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What Does Government Do When People Start Living Healthier? Tax That, Too, Obviously.

Then the libertarian turned to the progressive and asked, "But who will pay for the roads?"When you tax something, you get
less of it. It’s a fundamental rule most creators of government
economic policy know or at least claim to know. The rule has been
used for Nanny State meddling for ages, piling on bigger taxes on
disliked consumer goods like cigarettes, gasoline, and alcohol. The
revenue can be used for good things, proponents say, like
government programs to help children, the environment, and improve
citizens’ health.

There’s an obvious flaw here – if the paternalistic nudging
works, less money will be spent on the taxed goods, which then
reduces the revenue for government programs (and the employees –
both public and private – whose livelihoods have grown dependent on
them) the taxes created in the first place. California has seen
this in its
children’s programs
funded by the state’s cigarette taxes.

California’s gas taxes
went from the second-highest in the
country to the highest in the country entirely to make up for the
loss of revenue caused by people buying less gas, an obvious and
predictable outcome of having such high gas taxes.

So what happens when the government’s grand Nanny State plan
works and people start living the healthier, more environmentally
friendly lives city and state functionaries want for us? Will they
start scaling back all these programs funded by those now-redeemed
sinners? No, don’t be silly. They’ll start looking for new ways to
tax them. Several states and municipalities are looking for ways to
drag revenue off of bicyclists. A Chicago City Council member
proposed a $25 annual tax for cyclists. The Associated Press

notes
:

A city councilwoman’s recent proposal to institute a $25 annual
cycling tax set off a lively debate that eventually sputtered out
after the city responded with a collective “Say what?” A number of
gruff voices spoke in favor, feeding off motorists’ antagonism
toward what they deride as stop sign-running freeloaders.
Bike-friendly bloggers retorted that maybe pedestrians ought to be
charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks.

“There’d be special bike cops pulling people over? Or cameras?
What do you do (to enforce this)?” asked Mike Salvatore, owner of
Heritage Bicycles, a new Chicago hangout that neatly blends a
lively cafe with a custom bike-building workshop in a 19th-century
building.

Chicago is by no means the only place across the U.S. tempted to
see bicyclists as a possible new source of revenue, only to run
into questions of fairness and enforceability. That is testing the
vision of city leaders who are transforming urban expanses with
bike lanes and other amenities in a quest for relevance, vitality
and livability – with never enough funds.

Two or three states consider legislation each year for some type
of cycling registration and tax – complete with decals or
mini-license plates, National Conference of State Legislatures
policy specialist Douglas Shinkle said. This year, it was Georgia,
Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The Oregon legislation, which
failed, would even have applied to children.

“I really think that legislators are just trying to be as
creative as possible and as open to any sort of possibilities to
fill in any funding gaps. Everything is on the table,” he said.

Oops. If cities and states wanted more of this behavior and less
of the “naughty” (imagine an army of scare quotes around that
word), shouldn’t they have prepared for declining revenue? Now that
they’ve taken cars off the streets, how do they pay for the roads
the bicyclists are using? Tax them, too, and watch as the Nanny
State mask slips. The money was always more important than
encouraging healthy living.

Tying infrastructure taxes to the citizens who use such
infrastructure isn’t itself a bad idea, but that doesn’t seem to be
the approach most governments are taking. The AP notes Colorado
Springs has a special sales tax for bicycles that the community
accepts as a way to help fund cycling projects. Other cities and
states, though, seem to just be trying to get money.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/27/what-does-government-do-when-people-star
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