Poll: Americans’ eclipse viewing plans take shape

About half of Americans (51 percent) have plans to watch the eclipse of the sun happening across the United States on Aug. 21, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That figure climbs to 60 percent among those who live in states touched by the “zone of totality,” where the moon will completely block the sun’s light in the middle of Monday’s solar spectacle.

The survey was conducted in early August. Among those who already had plans in place, most said they were not going to travel for a better view. About four in 10 said their eclipse plans were to stay put, while 8 percent said they had made travel plans to view the “Eclipse of the Century.” More who live in totality states plan to make a pilgrimage than in the rest of the country (15 percent vs. 6 percent), perhaps because a shorter distance will bring them a much better payoff.

Although Laurie Doherty and her husband live in Bend, Oregon, only about 30 miles from the zone of totality, they are among those who plan to do some traveling that day to stake out a good spot. They’ve booked a hotel in nearby Redmond — closer to totality — and are aiming to leave there at 6 a.m. to beat the traffic and claim a prime location from which to experience the view.

Doherty is a native of Oregon and remembers vividly the total eclipse that passed over the state in February 1979. She recalled the corona along the edges of the moon, the “black wavy lines” known as shadow bands that appeared in mid-air, and noted that “once the sun began to come back up, the birds began to tweet like it was first thing in the morning, and the roosters crowed.”

She says she expects this eclipse to be a very spiritual moment, and is looking forward to sharing it with her husband, who has never seen one before. “There are many, many people coming into town, and this area is not very heavily populated, so we’re looking forward to sharing the experience with all of the visitors.”

Excitement for the first eclipse to cross the United States in nearly a century is about the same whether Americans live in or out of the zone of totality: 48 percent describe themselves as excited for the event, while about three in 10 say they are uninterested. A scant 4 percent describe themselves as scared of the eclipse.

Excitement is most prominent among the young. Almost six in 10 under age 35 say they’re excited for it; that dips to 50 percent among those age 35-50, 44 percent among the 50- to 64-year-old block and just 38 percent among seniors.

Crystal Wooten lives in Aiken County, South Carolina, near the border with Georgia, where they’re expecting a near-total eclipse. She and her husband are among those planning to watch, but they’re a maybe on travel. With two toddlers, she’s afraid the little ones “may not have the discipline not to look at the sun.”

If they stay home, she says, “It’ll be our own little science day.” They’ll set up chairs near a sliding door so her children, ages 2 and 1, can watch the shadows change shapes. Wooten, whose husband is retired, said, “Gratefully, it’s pretty accessible to us, and since we’re home with the kids, we don’t have to take off of work or anything.”

Some who do have to go to the office or to school may be experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime lunch break.

Eric Meadows will be watching at his office in Indianapolis, where his employer has planned an event for those interested in watching. In their area, about 90 percent of the sun will be blocked, and his employer will be providing glasses. Meadows’s children will also be able to watch at their school. “I was going to take the kids out of school and drive to the zone of totality,” he said. “But the kids’ school system has a whole program planned around it for them.”

News about the eclipse seems more prominent in the states where the spectacle will be most spectacular. Those living in zone of totality states were far more apt than those in the rest of the country to say they’d heard a lot about the upcoming eclipse — 61 percent in the 12 states where a substantial chunk of the state will pass under the moon’s full shadow vs. just 28 percent outside of that range. Overall, 35 percent have heard a lot about the upcoming event, 41 percent a little and about a quarter (24 percent) said they’d heard nothing at all at the time the survey was conducted.

Those who’ve heard a lot about the eclipse are more apt to have made plans to watch it; 62 percent in that group planned to watch versus 45 percent of those who had heard less about it.

And because virtually nothing in this country is safe from political divisions, this celestial event too sparks a divide. Democrats are more apt than independents or Republicans to have made plans to watch the event (57 percent among Democrats vs. 48 percent each among Republicans and independents), and liberals are nearly twice as likely as conservatives to say they’re excited about it (63 percent among liberals vs. 34 percent among conservatives).

This CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone Aug. 3 through Aug. 6 among a random national sample of 1,018 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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Poll: Americans’ eclipse viewing plans take shape

About half of Americans (51 percent) have plans to watch the eclipse of the sun happening across the United States on Aug. 21, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That figure climbs to 60 percent among those who live in states touched by the “zone of totality,” where the moon will completely block the sun’s light in the middle of Monday’s solar spectacle.

The survey was conducted in early August. Among those who already had plans in place, most said they were not going to travel for a better view. About four in 10 said their eclipse plans were to stay put, while 8 percent said they had made travel plans to view the “Eclipse of the Century.” More who live in totality states plan to make a pilgrimage than in the rest of the country (15 percent vs. 6 percent), perhaps because a shorter distance will bring them a much better payoff.

Although Laurie Doherty and her husband live in Bend, Oregon, only about 30 miles from the zone of totality, they are among those who plan to do some traveling that day to stake out a good spot. They’ve booked a hotel in nearby Redmond — closer to totality — and are aiming to leave there at 6 a.m. to beat the traffic and claim a prime location from which to experience the view.

Doherty is a native of Oregon and remembers vividly the total eclipse that passed over the state in February 1979. She recalled the corona along the edges of the moon, the “black wavy lines” known as shadow bands that appeared in mid-air, and noted that “once the sun began to come back up, the birds began to tweet like it was first thing in the morning, and the roosters crowed.”

She says she expects this eclipse to be a very spiritual moment, and is looking forward to sharing it with her husband, who has never seen one before. “There are many, many people coming into town, and this area is not very heavily populated, so we’re looking forward to sharing the experience with all of the visitors.”

Excitement for the first eclipse to cross the United States in nearly a century is about the same whether Americans live in or out of the zone of totality: 48 percent describe themselves as excited for the event, while about three in 10 say they are uninterested. A scant 4 percent describe themselves as scared of the eclipse.

Excitement is most prominent among the young. Almost six in 10 under age 35 say they’re excited for it; that dips to 50 percent among those age 35-50, 44 percent among the 50- to 64-year-old block and just 38 percent among seniors.

Crystal Wooten lives in Aiken County, South Carolina, near the border with Georgia, where they’re expecting a near-total eclipse. She and her husband are among those planning to watch, but they’re a maybe on travel. With two toddlers, she’s afraid the little ones “may not have the discipline not to look at the sun.”

If they stay home, she says, “It’ll be our own little science day.” They’ll set up chairs near a sliding door so her children, ages 2 and 1, can watch the shadows change shapes. Wooten, whose husband is retired, said, “Gratefully, it’s pretty accessible to us, and since we’re home with the kids, we don’t have to take off of work or anything.”

Some who do have to go to the office or to school may be experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime lunch break.

Eric Meadows will be watching at his office in Indianapolis, where his employer has planned an event for those interested in watching. In their area, about 90 percent of the sun will be blocked, and his employer will be providing glasses. Meadows’s children will also be able to watch at their school. “I was going to take the kids out of school and drive to the zone of totality,” he said. “But the kids’ school system has a whole program planned around it for them.”

News about the eclipse seems more prominent in the states where the spectacle will be most spectacular. Those living in zone of totality states were far more apt than those in the rest of the country to say they’d heard a lot about the upcoming eclipse — 61 percent in the 12 states where a substantial chunk of the state will pass under the moon’s full shadow vs. just 28 percent outside of that range. Overall, 35 percent have heard a lot about the upcoming event, 41 percent a little and about a quarter (24 percent) said they’d heard nothing at all at the time the survey was conducted.

Those who’ve heard a lot about the eclipse are more apt to have made plans to watch it; 62 percent in that group planned to watch versus 45 percent of those who had heard less about it.

And because virtually nothing in this country is safe from political divisions, this celestial event too sparks a divide. Democrats are more apt than independents or Republicans to have made plans to watch the event (57 percent among Democrats vs. 48 percent each among Republicans and independents), and liberals are nearly twice as likely as conservatives to say they’re excited about it (63 percent among liberals vs. 34 percent among conservatives).

This CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone Aug. 3 through Aug. 6 among a random national sample of 1,018 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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Boston, cradle of liberty, braces for white nationalist rally

Conservative activists and leftist protesters prepared for a confrontation on Boston Common that could draw thousands a week after a demonstration in Virginia turned deadly.

Police Commissioner William Evans said Friday that 500 officers — some in uniform, others undercover — would be deployed to keep the two groups apart on Saturday. Boston’s Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, and Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, both warned that extremist unrest wouldn’t be tolerated in this city famed as the cradle of American liberty.

Organizers of the midday event, billed as a “Free Speech Rally,” have publicly distanced themselves from the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others who fomented violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. A woman was killed at that Unite the Right rally, and scores of others were injured, when a car plowed into demonstrators.

But opponents feared that white nationalists might show up in Boston anyway, raising the specter of ugly confrontations in the first potentially large and racially charged gathering in a major U.S. city since Charlottesville.

Events also were planned Saturday for Atlanta and Dallas.

Protesters from Black Lives Matter and other groups denouncing racism and anti-Semitism planned to march from the city’s Roxbury neighborhood to the Common, and another group planned to rally on the steps of the Statehouse overlooking the sprawling park.

The permit issued for Saturday’s rally on Boston Common came with severe restrictions, including a ban on backpacks, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon. The permit is for 100 people, though an organizer has said he expected up to 1,000 people to attend.

The Boston Free Speech Coalition, which organized the event, said it has nothing to do with white nationalism or racism and its group is not affiliated with the Charlottesville rally organizers in any way.

“We are strictly about free speech,” the group said on its Facebook page. “… we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry. We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence.”

But the mayor pointed out that some of those invited to speak “spew hate.” Kyle Chapman, who described himself on Facebook as a “proud American nationalist,” said he will attend.

Black Lives Matter said Friday that members from around the U.S. planned to march Saturday in Boston.

Walsh said the city would do whatever is necessary to head off violence initiated by either side. “If anyone gets out of control — at all — it will be shut down,” he said.

“We will not tolerate any misbehavior, violence or vandalism whatsoever,” said Evans, Boston’s top cop.

Dating to 1634, Boston Common is the nation’s oldest city park. The leafy downtown park is popular with locals and tourists and has been the scene of numerous rallies and protests for centuries.

 

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Trump’s mixed messaging sparks concerns of ’emboldened’ white supremacists

With major cities across the country bracing for an unusual wave of far-right rallies in the coming days, local and federal law enforcement officials are concerned about the potential for more violence amid warnings that white supremacist groups were empowered by President Donald Trump’s response to the deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

There’s evidence to suggest the events in Charlottesville have motivated numerous individuals to join or actively reengage in dark web white supremacist forums.

“The chatter therein indicates that many of these actors feel emboldened and reinvigorated by the rallies and the controversial remarks made by President Trump amidst the unrest,” according to an analysis by the online datafirm Flashpoint, which tracks and monitors activity on the dark web, a part of the internet that’s accessible only by special means.

Trump has faced a wave of bipartisan backlash in the wake of a jaw-dropping press conference Tuesday at Trump Tower in which he blamed the violence that led to the killing of counterprotester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville on both sides of the conflict, not solely on the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who instigated the rally.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now,” Trump said during a contentious back-and-forth with reporters in the lobby of his midtown Manhattan building.

The mixed messages coming from the White House have only fueled the escalating rhetoric from “alt-right” figures and notable white supremacists — many of whom cheered Trump’s statements Tuesday. Law enforcement officials have indicated they are worried about more violence ahead of the widespread alt-right rallies planned in coming weeks across the US.

“I just think the rhetoric has really brought this to a different level, and that’s what we’re worried about,” Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said Friday when asked about an event planned in his city. “I’ve never seen so many people looking, almost looking for confrontation, and we’ve gotta knock it down.”

James Norton, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, said he thinks the President’s remarks “obviously reignited the issue in a not-productive way.”

“It is incumbent on the President to tone down the rhetoric and be clear that the US government has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to racially charged hate group organizations that’s mission is to commit violence, spread fear and divide the country,” he said.

More rallies to come

Several organizers of the upcoming “alt-right” rallies have pledged that their events are about free speech, but that reasoning has done little to mitigate concerns.

“What they’re doing is choosing flashpoints around the country to try to rally their people around,” said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“They do it under guise of free speech or security,” he said. “But really what it is is an opportunity for them to express their hatred in the communities.”

The uptick of white supremacist online activity taking place within these secure chat rooms reflects “a new sense of motivation to either actively re-engage or get started in this community,” according to Alex Kassirer, Flashpoint’s director of counterterrorism.

And that renewed motivation has spawned a number of posts that echo the comments made by one subscriber to the white nationalist site Stormfront on Tuesday.

“Just want to say I’ve been a long time lurker, but with the events in Charlottesville I feel more supportive/compelled than ever. I want to join the fight for a White nation that rules as it was …” the post said.

The decision of several online hosting providers to deny service to alt-right websites in the wake of the events in Charlottesville has resulted in the migration of such communities to the dark web, according to Flashpoint’s analysis.

“Individuals with alt-right sympathies are actively seeking out spaces for interaction with like-minded individuals,” which will “likely result in sustained surges of activity on deep dark web white supremacist forums,” according to their recent report.

Law enforcement response

For the most part, local and federal law enforcement agencies said they will prepare for the upcoming rallies the same way they do for all public protests and rallies.

One law enforcement source at the Boston Police Department told CNN that they anticipate large crowds, but there is no indication of an uptick in white supremacist threats.

Officers “expect good behavior but will be prepared should it go bad,” the source said.

The Department of Homeland Security said it continues to work with federal and local partners “to assess threats and analyze trends in activity from all violent extremist movements, regardless of ideology.”

While law enforcement agencies may not be changing their approach following the violence in Charlottesville, CNN has previously reported that the threat from far-right groups has been on their radar for months, as noted by an internal DHS and FBI memo from May.

The memo, titled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” was obtained by Foreign Policy and shows that white supremacists killed 49 people in 26 separate attacks from 2000 to 2016, more than any other extremist group in the US.

The authors of the memo predicted that attacks from white supremacist groups in the coming year would be mostly “spontaneous and involve targets of opportunity.”

But despite monitoring efforts by law enforcement, alt-right and white supremacist organizers have been clear that they have no interest in deescalating the situation after Charlottesville.

“I think a lot more people are going to die here before we’re done here, frankly,” said Chris Cantwell, a white nationalist and speaker for “Unite the Right” in an interview with Vice News.

Former Ku Klux Klan Wizard David Duke called the deadly protests in Charlottesville “a turning point for the people of this country.”

“We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump,” Duke said in an interview while attending the rally on Saturday.

Duke also praised Trump’s comments on Tuesday, thanking the President for his “honesty and courage” in a tweet.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” read the full tweet from an account that is not verified by Twitter but appears to represent Duke and features videos apparently posted by and of him.

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Charlottesville: A monumental week of debate over the nation’s identity

Violence in Virginia last weekend fanned running national debates about race and free speech, and could resonate politically and socially for weeks or even years to come.

The country watched in dismay on August 12 as right-wing demonstrators — including white supremacists and neo-Nazis upset in part over the city’s plan to remove a Confederate monument — and counterprotesters clashed in Charlottesville. After a car plowed through a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old named Heather Heyer and injuring several, the nation reeled.

Other monuments were torn down, legally and otherwise. Minority groups expressed fear that hate groups were emboldened. Heyer was mourned. And the President who prides himself as a Washington outsider found himself at odds with some of the few political friends he has there.

Here’s a look back at a historic week in the United States:

Monday: 48 hours after rally, Trump finally condemns supremacists

Trump took heat for a statement he made on the night of the rally. He denounced “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” but in that moment didn’t specifically mention the white supremacists who staged the event.

He shifted gears Monday, condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis in a brief statement to reporters.

“Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.

But it was too late for some. Among them: Three business leaders who quit Trump’s manufacturing advisory council on Monday.

That was just a taste of what was to come from that council in the coming days.

Other Monday developments:

• James Alex Fields Jr., accused of killing Heyer and injuring 19 others when he drove his car into a crowd and another vehicle in Charlottesville, made a court appearance and was denied bond. He was held on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death.

• Both the white supremacists and the counterdemonstrators blamed each other for instigating clashes. Both groups accused Charlottesville police of not doing enough to prevent the violence.

• In a moment shared widely on social media, protesters used rope to pull down part of a Confederate monument in Durham, North Carolina. At least eight would be arrested.

• Anti-Trump and anti-racism rallies were held across the United States, including outside New York’s Trump Tower, where the President was staying that night.

Tuesday: Trump: ‘I think there’s blame on both sides’

Even if President Trump appeased some critics on Monday, he kicked a virtual hornet’s nest a day later.

At Trump Tower, he told reporters that he thinks “there is blame on both sides” for the Charlottesville violence.

That outraged Democrats and Republicans alike, who said Trump was wrongly equating white supremacists with the people demonstrating against them.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right?’ Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said. “Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now.”

Trump said some “very bad people” were on both sides, but that some who came out to protest the removal of Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue were “fine people.”

Criticism of the President was swift and broad-based. Some, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, reacted without naming Trump. “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity,” Ryan tweeted.

Others called him out by title or name. “Mr. President,you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain,” US Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida tweeted.

Public figures in Israel, Germany, the United Kingdom and elsewhere also condemned Trump’s remarks.

Former KKK leader David Duke, who didn’t seem to appreciate Trump’s rebuke the day before, now tweeted thanks to the President for condemning “the leftist terrorists in BLM / Antifa.”

Other Tuesday developments:

• Three more business leaders left Trump’s manufacturing council, bringing the total to six. More would soon follow.

• The American Civil Liberties Union took heat for having fought in court for white supremacists’ rights to hold the Charlottesville rally. But the ACLU counters that even hateful, bigoted speech must be aired.

Wednesday: Mourning

This was a day for Charlottesville to try to heal and mourn, starting with a public memorial for Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who lived and worked in Charlottesville. Friends have said she joined the counterprotesters to oppose racism and injustice.

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” her mother, Susan Bro, said to loud applause at the city’s roughly 1,000-seat Paramount Theater.

Later, University of Virginia students and Charlottesville residents marched peacefully on campus, carrying candles to mourn Heyer and two state troopers who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the city hours after the violent rally.

They organized without social media, publicizing only by word of mouth and text message to decrease the likelihood of attracting anyone who’d want to disrupt the event.

Meanwhile, backlash to Trump’s comments continued. As even more people pulled out of Trump’s manufacturing council, the President disbanded that panel and a separate business advisory council.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” he tweeted.

Other Wednesday developments:

• In a rare move, top commanders in the US military — five Joint Chiefs — issued public condemnations of white supremacist groups.

• US Sen. Lindsey Graham got into a tit-for-tat with Trump about the President’s statements.

• Descendants of prominent Confederate figures Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson said they want monuments of the men to be removed.

Thursday: No Mar-a-Lago

Fallout from Trump’s comments appeared to continue. From Thursday to Friday, three organizations announced they were canceling plans to hold events at the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

For one of the groups, the Cleveland Clinic, it will be the first time in eight years that it has not held its fundraiser at the resort.

None of the groups specifically cited Trump’s comments. But one, the American Cancer Society, said that “it has become increasingly clear” that hosting its fundraiser on Trump-owned property presents a “challenge” to its values.

And a US senator who’d maintained a collegial relationship with Trump’s administration gave a blistering assessment of the President’s handling of Charlottesville.

“The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said in a video posted by Chattanooga news website Nooga.com.

Friday: Mayor wants help removing statue

The memorial that ostensibly precipitated last weekend’s rally in Charlottesville — the Lee statue — is now more squarely in the crosshairs of Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer.

The Charlottesville City Council voted in February to remove the Lee statue and sell it. Signer had been against the move, but because of the recent violence, he’s changed his mind.

Signer said Friday that he’s asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special session to change the law so local governments can have more authority in deciding what to do with Confederate monuments.

A judge issued a temporary injunction in May stopping Charlottesville from moving the statue for six months. A court hearing in the lawsuit is set for later in August.

McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said Friday the governor probably won’t call a special session because of the lawsuit.

Other Friday developments:

• Fields, the man accused in the car attack, was charged with five additional felony counts.

• Heyer’s mother, who on Monday thanked Trump for “denouncing those who promote violence and hatred,” said Friday she won’t speak to the President, citing his Tuesday news conference.

• By Friday, many public and private monuments and memorials across the country had been vandalized — and not just Confederate ones.

What’s next

• More rallies coming: A free speech rally is set for Saturday at noon in Boston. A Facebook page purportedly linked to the event has sought to distance itself from last weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Event organizers have invited “libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, (Donald) Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech.”

One organizer, John Medlar, a student at Fitchburg State University, told CNN affiliate WCVB that his group is libertarian and opposes bigotry and the Ku Klux Klan.

A counterdemonstration has been organized by a coalition of mostly left-leaning groups and activists such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rallies are also planned in the Bay Area later this month, with another “free speech rally” scheduled for August 26 in San Francisco and a “No to Marxism” event planned in nearby Berkeley the next day.

• Debates over Confederate symbols will continue: There are 1,500 public symbols of the Confederacy in the United States, including monuments, schools and holidays. Many local government officials are weighing whether to keep memorials in their cities and towns.

• Tech companies are debating whether and how to confront white supremacists. GoDaddy and Google each stopped hosting the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer after it published a derogatory story about Heyer. Facebook has taken down a number of white supremacist Facebook Groups and pulled the Charlotteville rally’s event page after it became clear it was violent.

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