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Asia Pacific World

India Set to Stage an Epic Show, With Trump as the Star


AHMEDABAD, India — The roads are a hive of activity: women hoisting buckets of sand, work crews laying down fresh tar, an army of sweepers attacking debris and a new wall going up in front of a slum, apparently to hide it from passers-by.

President Trump is scheduled to land in the western city of Ahmedabad on Monday for his first presidential visit to India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned an epic spectacle. The city is being scrubbed clean, and thousands upon thousands of Modi loyalists have been drafted to stand for hours on the sun-baked streets, there to shake flags and cheer for a president who loves nothing more than to draw a crowd.

It is the second act of a budding friendship between the two men, leaders of the world’s most populous democracies. Last year, Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi shared a stage in Houston at a rally called “Howdy, Modi!” This one is called “Namaste Trump,” which translates roughly as “Hello Trump.”

But beneath the projected bonhomie lies a pricklier reality. The United States and India are strategic partners, in no small part because of a mutual concern over China, but they still can’t agree on crucial issues. Even a small trade deal that was supposed to be the centerpiece of this trip has collapsed.

“They’ve been hitting us very hard for many, many years,” Mr. Trump said this week of India.

But he was quick to add: “I really like Prime Minister Modi.”

Mr. Modi seems to have enticed Mr. Trump to fly 8,000 miles and spend two days in India by his promise to stage a huge, tightly controlled show, with Mr. Trump at its center. The president has repeatedly claimed that he has been guaranteed a crowd of five million to seven million people lining the roads to greet him, and on Thursday he upped that to 10 million.

Ahmedabad officials said it would be nowhere near that, more like 100,000 along the road and another 100,000 waiting for Mr. Trump in a new cricket stadium, the world’s largest, where he will hold a rally.

Mr. Trump is popular in India, where he is seen as a strong leader, tough on terrorism, pro-business and friends with Mr. Modi. The two share a similar brand of divisive, populist politics. Still, Mr. Modi is taking no chances, fielding tens of thousands of police officers and packing the crowds with people he can trust to cheer enthusiastically for his guest.

Just to stand along the road that Mr. Trump’s motorcade will travel for a few minutes on Monday requires a special pass, given to carefully vetted party members, their allies and special groups handpicked by the government. This is a level of control Mr. Modi can deliver in India that is very different from Britain, for example, where Mr. Trump treaded carefully to avoid the optics of hostile crowds.

The way the Indian government has chosen to present the visit — not as a high-powered summit meeting but as “Namaste Trump,” essentially “Howdy, Modi!” Part 2 — seems to signal that it may shape up as more of a public relations exercise, albeit a memorable one, than anything else.

For both leaders, it’s a welcome distraction. Mr. Trump is eager to change the subject after his impeachment trial, and Mr. Modi would love a reprieve from protests over a new anti-Muslim citizenship law that has ratcheted up tensions between India’s Hindu majority and Muslim minority.

Mr. Modi has also been widely criticized for his crackdown on Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim territory caught up in a generations-long dispute between Pakistan and India. By coming such a distance to see Mr. Modi, the president will be essentially giving him a stamp of approval at a time when his leadership is being called into question.

“There are more questions in the last six months about India’s commitment to democracy,” said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, “than we’ve really seen in the history of the U.S.-Indian relationship.”

But, he added, “The good news for India is that the last person in the world likely to raise any of these issues is Donald Trump.”

The Trump family is involved in more real estate projects here than anywhere else outside of North America, and as Mr. Trump showed at the “Howdy, Modi!” rally in September, he’s eager to court the Indian-American vote. Their numbers aren’t huge — around three million — but they tend to be wealthy and voted overwhelmingly against Mr. Trump in 2016.

Traveling with the first lady, Melania Trump, Mr. Trump will tour several Indian cities, including a jaunt to the Taj Mahal. Where this visit begins, Ahmedabad, is about as safe, pro-Modi and, by extension, pro-Trump as India gets.

A large, dusty city, Ahmedabad is a stronghold for Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, and where a young Mr. Modi rose from humble roots up the ranks of nationalist groups that espoused a Hindu supremacist worldview.

At party headquarters this week, it was all smiles. “This is like a dream come true,” said Bharat Pandya, a B.J.P. spokesman.

American officials are trying to manage expectations. A few arms deals are likely to be announced, but the two sides are struggling on wider trade issues. They nearly worked out a deal in January that would have opened up India to more American farm products and restored preferential trade status for India. What happened next depends on whom you talk to.

American diplomats say the Indians began to act as if they were being taken advantage of and refused to budge on even small things, like reducing tariffs on walnuts. Indian officials say the Americans turned into bullies and made new demands, like a request to buy more turkeys, which Indians by and large do not eat. To help Mr. Trump court voters in key states, the Indians offered to buy more Wisconsin cranberries, Utah cherries and Midwest soybeans.

Both sides then began backing away from commitments, said several people with knowledge of the talks, and now Mr. Trump is suggesting that a final deal will have to wait until after the November election. Still, he’s eager to drum up business and plans to meet with Indian executives on Tuesday about investing in the United States.

India and the United States clearly need each other, but Ashutosh Varshney, the director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia at Brown University, describes the relationship as “two wannabe friends.”

Even if some sticky issues remain, though, the visit clearly demonstrates India’s strategic significance.

“Any presidential visit is important by definition; it is the highest level of diplomacy we have,” said Alyssa Ayres, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In Ahmedabad, no one is talking about geopolitics. Instead, the focus is on arranging the crowd.

Officials with Mr. Modi’s political party said that they, along with Hindu nationalist organizations and community groups, had been ordered to round up thousands of volunteers to line the road and fill the cricket stadium.

Hetal Amin, a fervent Modi supporter who runs a women’s organization, is bringing together 1,000 women to line a segment of the route from the airport. She said that officials were providing food, transport, passes and flags — but no money.

She said that when she sees pictures of Mr. Trump and Mr. Modi standing together, which are now everywhere in Ahmedabad, she sees “two men that God has sent to bring world peace.”

In a slum area along the route of the presidential motorcade, a new gray cement wall has mysteriously appeared, obscuring a warren of makeshift shelters. (The city has said that the wall was planned long ago to protect residents from stepping into a busy street.)

Many Indians now joke that Mr. Trump finally got his wall — and India paid for it.

Jeffrey Gettleman reported from Ahmedabad, India, and Vindu Goel from New Delhi. Maria Abi-Habib contributed from New Delhi, and Hari Kumar from Ahmedabad.



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Television

Elijah Wood criticises unanswered questions in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



Elijah Wood has subtly criticised the most recent Star Wars film on Twitter.

Like may viewers, the Lord of the Rings actor was frustrated with the lack of context and answers provided in The Rise of Skywalker, namely around the return of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

Palpatine is resurrected in the film, but it remains a mystery as to how exactly that happened. It also is not known how, after his return from the dead, he acquired a huge fleet – but it turns out, The Rise of Skywalker‘s Visual Dictionary reveals that very information.

A Star Wars fan account on Twitter highlighted this, writing: ”Did you know? The Sith Eternal fleet… was created by Sith cultists on Exegol, who indoctrinated Exegol’s population with Sith values and raised and trained their children to become officers, mechanics and soldiers for the Final Order?”


In response to the tweet, Wood wrote: “No. How could we have known?”

His comment echoes the sentiments of many Star Wars fans whose criticism with JJ Abrams’ concluding chapter to the Skywalker saga is that it relies on other mediums – tie-in novels, interviews – to fill in the gaps.

Earlier this year, the script for Colin Trevorrow’s scrapped Star Wars film, which was abandoned in favour of The Rise of Skywalker, leaked online.

Jurassic World director Trevorrow stepped down from the project in September 2017, after reportedly clashing with Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy.

The most interesting aspect from the screenplay, which is said to have been co-written by Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, is the absence of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Save for a mention in the breakdown, he doesn’t appear to feature in the film.



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Baseball Sport

Katsuya Nomura, 84, Enduring Star of Japanese Baseball, Dies


TOKYO — Katsuya Nomura, a mainstay of the baseball world in postwar Japan who was one of the country’s greatest catchers before going on to a long second career as a manager, died on Tuesday in Tokyo. He was 84.

The cause was a heart attack, his son Don Nomura said.

In his 26 years as a player and a player-manager, Nomura hit 657 home runs and had 1,988 runs batted in, both second on the all-time list behind the great slugger Sadaharu Oh. He also collected 2,901 hits in 3,017 games, also the second-highest totals in Japan.

Nomura’s best season was 1965, when he became the first Japanese player in the postwar era to win the triple crown, hitting 42 home runs, driving in 110 runs and batting .320. He led the Pacific League in home runs nine times and was the league’s Most Valuable Player five times.

He was voted the best catcher in Japanese baseball 19 times and elected to Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

For all his success on the field, though, Nomura never achieved the celebrity status of stars like Oh and Shigeo Nagashima, who played for the more glamorous and successful Tokyo Yomiuri Giants of the Central League.

Nomura spent the bulk of his playing days with the Osaka-based Nankai Hawks. (The team later moved to Fukuoka and is now owned by the technology giant SoftBank.) The Hawks dominated the less popular Pacific League during most of Nomura’s tenure with the club, winning two championships but also losing four times to the Giants.

“When I first met him, he was the all-time leading home run hitter, but I had never heard of him,” Don Nomura said of his future stepfather. (Katsuya Nomura later adopted Don and his brother Kenneth, the sons of his second wife.) “All I knew was Oh and Nagashima, because they were always on TV. I had to go to the bookstore and look him up.”

Nomura’s stature grew after he retired as a player at 45 in 1980. He became a full-time manager after a decade as a baseball analyst, starting with the Yakult Swallows, perennial cellar-dwellers who also played in the shadow of the Giants, their crosstown rivals in Tokyo.

According to Robert Whiting, who has written about baseball in Japan for five decades, Nomura learned about the use of statistics from his Hawks teammate Don Blasingame, a former infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants, who had also served as a head coach during Nomura’s tenure as player-manager, from 1970 to 1977. Nomura used that knowledge to lead the Swallows to championships in 1993, 1995 and 1997. (He had also won a Pacific League crown with the Hawks in 1973.)

Nomura spent three years with the Hanshin Tigers, from 1999 to 2001, but resigned after his second wife, Sachiyo, a television commentator, was convicted of tax evasion. (He stepped down as manager of the Hawks in 1977 because of reports that his wife had meddled in club affairs.)

After managing in Japan’s industrial league from 2003 to 2005, Nomura returned to the pro ranks in 2006 to manage the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who had entered the Pacific League a season earlier. After three losing seasons, the Eagles made the postseason in Nomura’s fourth and final year with the team.

As a manager, he won 1,565 games, lost 1,563 and tied 76 times.

Nomura was often called “Grumpy Grandpa” for his gruff and unsparing manner. Some players felt the tough love helped them.

“Nomura taught me what pitching is and what baseball is from scratch,” said the Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who started his career with Rakuten. “That I met Nomura from my first year as a pro when he instructed me was the luckiest thing in my baseball life.”

Other players saw Nomura’s style differently, particularly those he berated in person and in the news media. He was also cold to some foreign players, according to Robert Whiting. After taking over the Swallows, Nomura released Larry Parrish, another former Major League Baseball infielder, who had led the league in home runs the year before. He also released Tom O’Malley, who hit over .300 in his two seasons with Yakult. When the Hanshin Tigers refused to release the pitcher Darrell May in 1999, he issued a statement that accused Nomura of being xenophobic.

Katsuya Nomura was born on June 29, 1935, in Amino, a town in Kyoto Prefecture near the Sea of Japan. Nomura’s father, who was stationed in China, died when his son was a boy.

After graduating from Mineyama High School, Nomura joined the Nankai Hawks. He went hitless in nine games in 1954 and was demoted for a season, then returned to the top club for good in 1956.

Nomura had one son, Yoichi, with his first wife. He and his second wife, Sachiyo, had a son, Katsunori Nomura, a backup catcher who is now a coach with Rakuten. Nomura adopted Sachiyo’s sons after he married her. She died in 2017. In addition to his sons, Nomura is survived by seven grandchildren.

After he retired from baseball, he became a television analyst and at times was overshadowed by his wife, who had become a celebrity for her caustic commentary.

Baseball remained in his blood until the end.

“Nomura minus baseball equals zero,” he once said. “There would be nothing left if you take baseball away from me.”

James Wagner contributed reporting.



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Culture

Madonna makes risqué Game of Thrones joke during gig with star Gwendoline Christie: ‘Winter’s coming’



Madonna shared some friendly conversation – and a risqué joke – with Game of ThronesGwendoline Christie during a recent show.

The singer was performing at the London Palladium when she took time to chat with Christie.

Both artists are fans of each other – Madonna previously brought Christie on stage during a gig in Australia, back in March 2016, while Christie has said she’s loved Madonna since she was a child.

Madonna shared footage of her recent conversation with Christie on Instagram on Thursday, captioning it: “Madame X plays a Game Of Thrones with one of her favorite Knights!” – a reference both to her Madame X Tour and to Christie’s role as Brienne of Tarth in the series.


In the video, Madonna can be seen sitting down next to Christie for a casual chat, with Christie at one point telling her: “I love you!”

“Are you enjoying the show?” Madonna asks, to which Christie promptly replies: “You are so phenomenal tonight.”

Madonna later asks Christie: “Where’s your drink?”, prompting Christie to pull out a small beer bottle, in turn asking the singer: “Is this OK? Do you like beer?”

In response, Madonna takes a sip from the bottle before jokingly gargling with the liquid.

Some of the drink appears to spill onto Madonna’s face, leaving Christie to wipe it off, after which Madonna quips: “Winter’s coming.”

The joke is quickly met with laughs from Christie and the rest of the audience.



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Culture

Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown reveals ‘frustration’ over being sexualised and insulted as she turns 16



Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown has revealed the sexualisation she has been subject to over the years, in an Instagram post shared on her 16th birthday.

The actor, who has played Eleven in the hit Netflix show since she was 12, shared a video on Wednesday (19 February) with Justin Bieber’s new song “Changes” played over a montage of her rise to fame.

In the caption, Bobby Brown wrote: “16 has felt like a long time coming. i feel like change needs to happen for not only this generation but the next. our world needs kindness and support in order for us children to grow and succeed.


“The last few years haven’t been easy, I’ll admit that. there are moments i get frustrated from the inaccuracy, inappropriate comments, sexualisation, and unnecessary insults that ultimately have resulted in pain and insecurity for me.” 

She added: “but not ever will i be defeated. ill continue doing what i love and spreading the message in order to make change. let’s focus on what needs changing and I hope this video informs you on the things that go on behind the scenes of the headlines and flashing lights. Dont worry I’ll always find a way to smile 😉 leggo 16.”

Bobby Brown became one of the youngest nominees in Emmy history when, aged 13, she was shortlisted for her performance in Stranger Things.

Netflix recently unveiled the trailer for Stranger Things season four, which seems to answer the mystery surrounding what happened to David Harbour’s character Hopper.

Find all the season four details we know so far here.



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Television

Misbehaviour star Keira Knightley says 1970 Miss World competition was ‘bigger than the World Cup’



New film Misbehaviour, which stars Keira Knightley, might just change your way of thinking.

Set in 1970, the comedy-drama follows the events of that year’s Miss World competition, which was disrupted by a group of feminist activists who wanted to “overthrow the patriarchy”.

The film is told through the perspectives of members of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Miss World contestants and the ceremony’s host, Bob Hope (here played by Greg Kinnear).

In an exclusive featurette, the film’s cast reflect upon the importance of the event, which came as the movement began to affect great change to women’s rights throughout the world.


“It was bigger than the World Cup – it was bigger than the Olympics,” Knightley says, with co-star Jessie Buckley adding: “In the 1970s, women weren’t allowed to dream beyond making a cupcake.”

Knightley says that placing the spotlight on such an event will “make you question what you think” regardles of “who you agree or sympathise with”.

For Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays Jennifer Hosten – the first woman of colour to win Miss World – it was important for the film to have a crew comprised of women.

“[It has] female writers [Gaby Chiappe, Rebecca Fray]), a female director [Philippa Lowthorpe], all female producers [Suzanne Mackie, Sarah-Jane Wheale] – the female gaze is so strong in this film,” she said.

Misbehaviour arrives in UK cinemas on 13 March.



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Africa World

Nikita Pearl Waligwa, Star of ‘Queen of Katwe,’ Dies at 15


Nikita Pearl Waligwa, the young Ugandan newcomer who starred in “Queen of Katwe,” the 2016 Disney film about a chess champion’s coming of age, has died of a brain tumor. She was 15.

Her death was announced on Sunday by Gayaza High School, an all-girls boarding school outside the Ugandan capital of Kampala where Ms. Waligwa had been a student.

“You were a darling to many and we have lost you to a brain tumor at such a tender age,” the high school said on Twitter.

The announcement prompted an outpouring of tributes from some of Ms. Waligwa’s co-stars in “Queen of Katwe,” which was based on a 2011 essay in ESPN The Magazine about a chess prodigy in Uganda who grows up in a slum and wins international competitions. The film starred Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. It was listed as Ms. Waligwa’s only film credit.

In the movie, Ms. Waligwa played Gloria, a friend of the protagonist, Phiona Mutesi, who was played by Madina Nalwanga.

Phiona becomes a chess whiz with help from Gloria and under the tutelage of Robert Katende, played by Mr. Oyewolo.

The film was directed by Mira Nair and starred Ms. Nyong’o, an Oscar winner for “12 Years a Slave,” as Phiona’s mother.

“She played Gloria with such vibrancy,” Ms. Nyong’o said on Instagram. “In her real life she had the enormous challenge of battling brain cancer. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and community as they come to terms with having to say goodbye so soon.”

“Queen of Katwe” was the film debut of both Ms. Waligwa and Ms. Nalwanga.

“We mourn the loss of our beautiful Nikita Pearl Waligwa,” Mr. Oyewolo wrote on Instagram. “She was a ball of light in @queenofkatwemovie and in life. Her battle with a brain tumor was humbling to witness. Her light will live on.”



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Fashion & Style

Caroline Flack: Love Island star Molly-Mae Hague donates 100% of profits from clothing range to mental health charity



Former Love Island contestant Molly-Mae Hague has announced that 100 per cent of the profits from her latest Pretty Little Thing clothing range are to be donated to mental health charity Mind following Caroline Flack‘s death.

On Saturday 15 February, it was reported that Flack had been found dead at her London home at the age of 40, having taken her own life.

Numerous celebrities have paid tribute to the late television presenter, including Laura Whitmore, Iain Stirling and Myleene Klass.


On Monday, fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing released a statement concerning its latest collaboration with Hague.

“In light of recent events we have decided with @mollymaehague to donate 100 per cent of the profits from our latest edit together to @MindCharity,” the announcement read on Twitter.

“Launching today, donations will help Mind provide advice and support to those who need it. Remember, Always Be Kind.”

Hague also tweeted about the joint decision, saying the course of action was “the least that can be done to make a small difference to this out of control issue”.

“Caroline’s death has completely rocked me… thank you PLT for always being incredible,” the 20-year-old added.

Following Flack’s death, Hague shared a heartfelt Instagram post in homage to the former Love Island presenter.


“I’m utterly shocked and heartbroken,” the 2019 Love Island runner-up wrote in the caption.

“Caroline you were such a special woman. Your huge smile will stay with me forever… Rest in peace.”


Over the weekend, ITV announced that the Sunday episode of Love Island would not be broadcast “out of respect for Caroline Flack’s family”.

The reality dating show returned a day later on ITV2, including a tribute to Flack at the beginning of the episode.

“Caroline and me were together from the very start of Love Island, and her passion, warmth and enthusiasm were what connected the show with millions of viewers,” Stirling, the narrator for the programme, said during the tribute.

“My only hope, is that we can try and be kinder, always show love and try and listen to one another. Caroline, I want to thank you for the fun times we had making our favourite show. You meant everything to me. I’m gonna miss you, Caz.”

Some Twitter users voiced their opinion that it was too soon for Love Island to return.

Love Island coming back tonight still feels too soon, in my opinion,” wrote television critic Scott Bryan.

“Personal opinion: Tonight feels too soon for the return of #LoveIsland and yet I’m aware that there will never be a good time in this kind of situation,” commented digital and radio journalist Rebecca Lewis.

“I worry the disconnect between the tribute and show will ruin the poignancy.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email [email protected], or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

For services local to you, the national mental health database – Hub of Hope – allows you to enter your postcode to search for organisations and charities who offer mental health advice and support in your area.



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Television

Nikita Pearl Waligwa death: Queen of Katwe child star dies, aged 15



Child star Nikita Pearl Waligwa has died. aged 15.

According to Ugandan media, the actor – who appeared in Disney film Queen of Katwe, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016.

She is said to have made a recovery a year later after receiving treatment in India, but the tumour returned in 2019.

Queen of Katwe is based on the story of real-life chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, who began playing the game at the age of nine and went on to compete internationally.


In the film, which stars Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, Waligwa played Phiona’s friend Gloria, who was portrayed by Madina Nalwanga.

Gloria’s big moment comes when she helps her friend out with advice, telling her: “The small one can become the big one.”

Gayaza High School, where Waligwa received education, wrote on Twitter: “No words can explain the pain at the moment.”


Nikita Pearl Waligwa in ‘Queen of Katwe’ (Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture)

They called her “a darling to many”.


Queen of Katwe, directed by Mira Nair, was shot in the slum in Kampala, which is the capital of Uganda.  



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Television

‘I have no f***ing idea what a Force ghost is’: Harrison Ford addresses Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker cameo



Harrison Ford has revealed he was as surprised as anyone about his unexpected cameo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

In the divisive ninth entry in the hugely popular sci-fi film saga, Ford’s character, Han Solo, returned for a conversation with his son, Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver.

Fans have been split over whether the scene was meant to have taken place inside Kylo’s imagination, or whether Han had returned as a “Force ghost.”


“A Force ghost? I don’t know what a Force ghost is,” Ford told USA Today. “I have no f***ing idea what a Force ghost is. And I don’t care.”

In Star Wars lore, a Force ghost is when a character returns in a ghost-like form through the power of the Force.

“When [director JJ Abrams] asked me to do it,” Ford revealed, “I said, ‘Are you kidding? I’m dead!’”

But he was eventually convinced: “If JJ asked you do something, you’d probably do it too. He’s a very persuasive guy.”

Ford’s comments should come as no surprise to Star Wars fans. The actor has long been known for his unenthusiastic attitude to the Star Wars films, and he had argued for his character to be killed back in the original trilogy. 

Ford can currently be seen in The Call of the Wild, which is out in cinemas on 19 February.



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