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PODCAST PLAYBACK -- CNN host Jake Tapper joined The Axe Files with David Axelrod where he recalled his Jewish upbringing: “My mom converted to Judaism and my dad was raised conservative-Jewish, but probably not really all that observant. They divorced when I was about 7 or 8 and around that time my dad started getting more in touch with his Jewish roots, and so I started going to Jewish camps and then I ended up in Jewish school from 6 through 12. There was some sort of awakening that my dad went through, maybe right before or during the divorce, and so I learned a lot about Judaism and I spoke semi-fluent Hebrew for a while when I was in college. Not really anymore”
Axelrod: And was there a spiritual component to it? I mean, I was Bar Mitzvah’ed and all of that, and I feel culturally akin, but it was kind of a compulsory thing, and being compulsory I was resistant to it.
Tapper: “That's probably what my kids are going through right now. For me it was different because I guess like any other spiritual journey, I went through periods where I was very into it. When you go to Jewish camps - and when I say Jewish camps I don't just mean like everybody there was Jewish. I mean, we'd get up and we would pray every day, every day of the week. Then on the Sabbath it was a very intense situation where you couldn't use electronics and all that. There would be a lot of praying. There were times in my life that I was really into it and other times that I'm not.”
Tapper on practicing Judaism today: “I would say right now it's important to me, but I'm also at the phase of my life, and maybe this is a silly phase, where I don't really think God cares too much about what I eat and put in my body. I think that God probably, if there is any sort of sense of justice in this universe, would prefer that I spend more time devoted to doing good deeds, which is part of Judaism, than praying”
Axelrod (joking): Do you have proof of this? Do you have two sources on this?
Tapper: “I have no sources on this. I have not reported this (laughter). I think a lot of the lessons of Judaism have stayed with me in terms of trying to be a good person and trying to give people the benefit of the doubt in terms of charity, and that part of Judaism and the intellectual debate - that's part of Judaism as well - that has stayed with me much more than the religious part of it, just in terms of observance. So we go to synagogue. My kids go to Hebrew school and all that but”
Axelrod: Yeah, you're reaching for the deeper -- You're reaching for the sort of more spiritual elements, the ethical constructs and so on.
Tapper: “Yeah. Sometimes I'll see -- I see some very unethical behavior by people who think that they are very observant. Not just Jews but all sorts of religions. I was just thinking it today, somebody who looks as though he is an Orthodox Jew on Twitter was attacking me”
Axelrod: How does one look like an Orthodox Jew on Twitter?
Tapper: “Well, his avatar was a guy with the hat and the payos and all of that. All I could think of was this is not what I learned is being Jewish I've seen a lot of that behavior. Again, not just Jews. Christians, Muslims, certainly Muslims, and a lot of people who consider themselves to be very pious doing some pretty horrific things.” Listen to the episode [JewishInsider]
MUNICH RECAP: “Witnessing the Collapse of the Global Elite” by Eliot Cohen: “At events like the Munich Conference, it is no coincidence that the word “networking” has largely replaced the word “debate” among global elites. Most of the faces in attendance you could see at other, similar gatherings, like the World Economic Forum in Davos. You could sense the same frenetic socializing among those more eager to be seen than to make a point, more likely to ponderously recite conventional wisdom than to doggedly defend a point of view. When the Polish prime minister declared that Jews were also perpetrators of the Holocaust, there were mere tut-tuts in response. It is a far cry from the Wehrkunde founded by Kleist. His successor is a bland former German diplomat who greets everyone—free citizen or dictator’s henchman—as a long-time friend of the conference, to be cherished for that reason alone, rather than for what he or she says or believes.” [TheAtlantic]
MUNICH ATTENDEES included... Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of the Conference of European Rabbis'; Woodrow Wilson Center's Jane Harman; Palantir's Alex Karp; Ron Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress; former Sen. Joe Lieberman; Israeli Knesset Member Tzipi Livni; Gen. David Petraues; Wendy Sherman... [FullList] Bibi and Sara Netanyahu attended a Shabbat dinner at the conference [Pic; Video]
“Polish leader denies being a Holocaust revisionist after blaming ‘Jewish perpetrators’” by Avi Selk: “Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was speaking in Munich on Saturday when a journalist [Ronen Bergman] asked about a new Polish law that bans accusations the country collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II “You’re not going to be seen as criminal [if you] say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators not only German perpetrators,” Morawiecki said Netanyahu called his Polish counterpart’s comments “outrageous” and gave Morawiecki a history lesson the next day Since then, Morawiecki has appeared at pains to demonstrate he knows the difference. “The Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews committed by the German Nazis, was a horrific crime,” he wrote on Twitter” [WashPost]
“Israel, Saudis Find Common Cause in Warning of Iran Expansionism” by Marc Champion, Jonathan Ferziger and David Wainer: “Netanyahu evoked the West’s appeasement of Nazi Germany before World War II in a speech that described Iranian aggression as “the greatest threat to our world” and warned that Israel would resist it. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, addressing the event later Sunday, said Iran needs to pay a price for its “aggressive behavior.” Netanyahu interrupted his speech to hold up a piece of metal he said came from the drone and asked if Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif recognized it.” [Bloomberg; NYTimes] Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif: Israel ‘will see the response’ if they act against Iran [NBCNews]
“Iran, Deeply Embedded in Syria, Expands ‘Axis of Resistance’” by Ben Hubbard, Isabel Kershner and Anne Barnard: “Some people in Israel have started referring to a potential “First Northern War,” meaning that Israel will have to fight across both the Lebanese and Syrian frontiers. And many Israelis say the danger is not just from the new Iranian-backed militias, but also from the Iranian efforts to give advanced, high-precision weapons capable of hitting sensitive infrastructure to Hezbollah “Israel will face not only quantity, but the threat to vulnerable strategic sites,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser “Each one is problematic; together, they are devastating.”” [NYTimes] Israel’s Deepening Involvement with Syria’s Rebels [WarOnTheRocks]
DRIVING THE DAY -- "Kushner among White House officials attending Abbas U.N. speech" by Barak Ravid: "In a surprise move, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt will attend Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's speech this morning at the U.N. Security Council in New York..." [Axios] Kushner in attendance [Pic]
From Josh Raffel, White House Spokesperson: “As we continue to finalize our plan, we came to the United Nations to hear President Abbas’ speech. We strongly hope that he shares fresh and constructive ideas that can create a comprehensive and lasting peace for both sides because merely recycling the same talking points has not led to peace for decades."
Spotted: Jason Greenblatt chatting with Amb. Nikki Haley [Pic]
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge international involvement in peace process at the UN: "Addressing the council for the first time since 2009, Abbas will call for a new collective approach in a bid to salvage the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour... In this new approach, the United States "will not have the only control. They will be part of the collective process for sure," said Mansour." [Ynet]
Abbas to seek wider peace process in rare UN speech: "We can live with different formats, the P5, P5+1, expanded Quartet, we can live with an international peace conference,” [Senior Palestinian official Nasser al-]Qudwa told a news conference in Ramallah. “Anything that can do the job, provide a reasonable basis for negotiation and follow up the process -- sponsor it until it successfully concludes.” Watch the speech [CSPAN]
“Abbas draws two-year timeline” by Uri Savir: “Abbas is disappointed He follows closely and with some delight the legal troubles that Netanyahu is undergoing, but he believes that with or without Netanyahu, the Israeli right led by the settlers will continue to have the upper hand. Abbas spoke about a time framework of two years until 2020, which according to the PLO official could indicate a timeline to resignation Abbas, surprisingly to his PLO confidant, did not rule out a violent intifada. If everything else fails, that may be the last resort.” [Al-Monitor]
"In Ramallah, Israeli finance minister urges Palestinians to return to US-led peace talks" by Adam Rasgon: "Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Monday called on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table under the patronage of US President Donald Trump’s administration." [JPost]
REPORT -- “U.S. ambassador to Israel says massive settlement evacuation could spark civil war” by Barak Ravid: “According to three people who attended the meeting, of the conference of presidents [David] Friedman said that the approximately 400,000 settlers who live in the West Bank "are not going anywhereand significant evacuation could result in a civil war. This is my opinion"... More from Friedman's remarks: The claim that a peace deal is needed to keep Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is a platitude because for 25 years people have been saying that and Israel has only thrived and prospered.” [Axios; Nana10]
DAMAGE CONTROL -- “A U.S. Embassy spokesperson pointed out that Channel 10 based their report "upon three attendees at the conference who failed to provide much of the context behind Ambassador Friedman’s comments” The spokesperson added that "the Ambassador believes that unrestrained settlement growth is not helpful for peace." Stephen M. Greenberg and Malcolm Hoenlein... refuted the report and said that "the words attributed to him [Friedman] were taken out of context, are incomplete, and are therefore a distortion of the ambassador’s remarks.” [Haaretz]
Former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk emails... “It depends what Friedman means by ‘significant evacuation.’ Since the vast majority of settlers live in the large settlement blocs, it would be possible to create a Palestinian state on some 94% of the West Bank and only some 20% of settlers would have to be evacuated. The argument about the threat of continued occupation to Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature refers to the next 25 years, not the last 25 years. That’s when the failure to resolve the Palestinian problem will present a profound threat.”
THE DAILY KUSHNER -- “Mueller's interest in Kushner grows to include foreign financing efforts” by Shimon Prokupecz, Kara Scannell and Gloria Borger: “Special counsel Robert Mueller's interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition It's not clear what's behind Mueller's specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller's team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives.” [CNN]
“New White House security clearance policy could put ‘bull’s eye’ on Kushner” by Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa: ”White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly announced Friday that beginning next week, the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-secret information — a move that could threaten the standing of Jared Kushner A senior administration official said that the chief of staff has been frustrated with Kushner’s high level of access without a final clearance and that he was aware the new policies announced Friday could jeopardize Kushner’s ability to carry out his duties in the West Wing. The move puts a “bull’s eye” on Kushner.” [WashPost]
“Reed Cordish to leave White House post” by John Fritze: “Cordish, 43, said in an interview that he never intended to stay in the job for more than a year. He said that the time was right to move on partly because the White House recently sent its framework for overhauling infrastructure to Congress Cordish, whose last day will be later this month, will be replaced by Brooke L. Rollins, a former aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the White House said. Cordish said he would return to the private sector, but would not say whether that meant returning to the Cordish Companies.” [BaltimoreSun]
"Trump’s rebuke of McMaster was months in the making" by Eliana Johnson: "Back in November, Trump and a small circle of senior aides involved in the conversation about McMaster's fate, including Kelly, ultimately decided to keep McMaster in place. Among their reasons for doing so: Removing him would have launched them on a search for the president’s third national security adviser in a year, and Trump and Kelly could not agree on a replacement... Trump, according to two administration officials, was looking to tap former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose frequent Oval Office visits ended when Kelly became chief of staff last summer. Kelly opposed his appointment." [Politico]
Tom Friedman writes... "Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now: Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history..." [NYTimes]
INSIDE THE ADMIN -- “Under fire for travel expenses, Pruitt cancels trip to Israel” by Juliet Eilperin and Ruth Eglash: “Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly week-long trip to Israel Pruitt was to arrive in Israel on Sunday and would have stayed at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem from the time of his arrival until Thursday... He had been slated to meet with Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin... as well as private-sector representatives and visit multiple sites in Israel “to gain an understanding of Israel’s unique infrastructure and environmental challenges.” [WashPost]
“Shhh! The back story of EPA chief Scott Pruitt's highly secret, on-and-off, official non-visit to Israel“ by Noga Tarnopolsky: “All attempts to get a schedule, discover his arrival time or the members of his entourage — all information usually made available — failed. Nor were officials forthcoming about why the visit was so hush-hush Sunday arrived — and no Pruitt.” [LATimes]
Jennie Shulkin, the daughter of embattled VA Secretary David Shulkin, writes on Facebook “A few years ago, my father left his career in the private sector when President Obama called on him to serve and fix the VA. He stayed on under President Trump to continue this important work. You see, my dad likes to finish what he starts. Unfortunately, under the guise of "ethical violations" - involving an approved coach airfare for my mother to accompany him on an official VA trip to London and a weekend afternoon Wimbledon match attended with friends - he may not get the chance This is a full-scale political attack waged by right-winged, pro-privatization Trump appointees, designed to uproot an Obama holdover, who prioritizes bipartisan collaboration, and has refused to privatize the VA.” [Facebook]
BUZZ ON BALFOUR -- "Netanyahu Faces New Accusations: Did His Adviser Try to Bribe a Judge?" by David Halbfinger: "The new allegations significantly raise the level of political and legal peril he faces, suggesting that Mr. Netanyahu or his camp could be exposed to obstruction of justice charges. According to the police and Israeli news reports, Nir Hefetz, a top adviser to the prime minister, passed a message to a former judge, Hila Gerstel, through an intermediary in late 2015: Would she drop the case against Sara Netanyahu in exchange for being named attorney general? The case was not dropped, and Judge Gerstel, who was Israel’s commissioner for prosecutorial oversight, did not become attorney general." [NYTimes] Scandals highlight Israeli leader’s media obsession [AP]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Barry Sternlicht Ventures Into Airbnb’s Territory [WSJ] The Cordish Cos. is planning a two-level collaborative workspace in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Called Spark KC [CPExecutive] Plan exists for $4-5b Intel investment in Israel [Globes] MedTech Opportunity Pushes Israel-China Romance to Next Level [Bloomberg]
"Israel to Export Natural Gas to Egypt in $15 Billion Deal" by David Wainer and Yaacov Benmeleh: "Noble Energy Inc. and Delek Drilling-LP said they plan to supply around 64 billion cubic meters of natural gas over 10 years to Egypt’s Dolphinus Holdings Ltd. from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan reservoirs.. .“This paves the way for further deals and cements Egypt as a regional energy hub,” Yossi Abu, Delek Drilling’s chief executive officer, said... “This will be an engine for both the Egyptian and Israeli economies alike."" [Bloomberg]
“The WeWork Manifesto: First, Office Space. Next, the World” by David Gelles: “In September, WeWork will open its most ambitious project to date: a kindergarten The creation of Neumann's wife, Rebekah, 39, the school is known as WeGrow. It promises a well-designed space with a curriculum that emphasizes socializing and entrepreneurship for 3-year-olds on up. WeGrow fits neatly into Adam Neumann's expansive vision for creating a generation of empathetic social impact entrepreneurs. But the risk-reward calculus is different when starting a school. WeGrow won't scale as rapidly as WeWork has, so the financial upside is limited Although Rebekah Neumann has no background in education... she has applied for accreditation from the state, has hired a team of career educators and is accepting applications for the coming school year. Tuition for toddlers: $36,000 a year.” [NYTimes]
"For tech entrepreneur, ancient Purim saga a modern wake-up call" by Tracy Frydberg: "The story of Purim is less a miraculous saga about a group of courageous Jews triumphing over evil, and more about what happens when a Jewish community assimilates in a land outside of their own. At least, that’s the story tech giant Michael Eisenberg aims to tell in his new book published in both English and Hebrew, “The Vanishing Jew: A Wake-Up Call from the Book of Esther.” ... “Michael’s book is without any humor at all,” warned Rabbi Benny Lau... Eisenberg is a venture capitalist with his fund, Aleph Partners." [ToI]
SPOTLIGHT -- ”Thomas Heatherwick, Architecture’s Showman” by Ian Parker: “Stephen Ross, the seventy-seven-year-old billionaire property developer and the owner of the Miami Dolphins, has a winningly informal, old-school conversational style. On a recent morning in Manhattan, he spoke of the moment, several years ago, when he decided that the plaza of one of his projects, Hudson Yards—a Doha-like cluster of towers on Manhattan’s West Side—needed a magnificent object at its center Before long, he met with Thomas Heatherwick, the acclaimed British designer of ingenious, if sometimes unworkable, things Ross looked down on a model of the plaza, which featured a miniature version of the structure commissioned from Heatherwick: a copper-colored, urn-shaped lattice of a hundred and fifty-four staircases and eighty landings Ross called it “my baby.” For the moment, it’s known as Vessel..."
“I asked Heatherwick about the way the planned bridge had become known, fairly or not, as a symbol of privilege. He answered by saying, “I never went to school with Boris [Johnson], or anyone from power... My grandmother was a servant at Windsor Castle. My other grandmother was a German Jewish refugee who fled for her life.” [NewYorker]
LongRead: “When our woman in Havana asked Fidel Castro to the synagogue Hanukkah party” by David Horovitz: “Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community, is not shy. When she found herself face-to-face with Fidel Castro for the first time, at a meeting he initiated with religious leaders in 1998, she immediately invited him to come and meet Havana’s Jews at the capital’s Beth Shalom synagogue Join us for our Hanukkah party, she suggested. To which he replied, “What’s Hanukkah?” Dworin says she knew she had to think fast. Castro’s aide was already motioning impatiently to her that the president’s time was short. “Hanukkah,” she managed, “is revolution for the Jews.” “I’ll come,” said Castro Come he did The notoriously long-winded revolutionary spoke for two hours — about Judaism.” [ToI]
HOLLYWOOD -- HBO Developing ‘Stuxnet’ Miniseries Based On Alex Gibney’s ‘Zero Days’ With Carnival Films" by Peter White: "Stuxnet is based on Gibney’s cyberwarfare documentary Zero Days, which came out in 2016 from Showtime Documentary Films... The dramatic thriller will focus on the spread of a self-replicating computer virus developed by the West to disable and destroy nuclear facilities in the Middle East... It is now generally acknowledged that in the mid-to-late 2000s, the U.S. and Israel jointly developed Stuxnet, one of the most elegant, ingenious and terrifying pieces of malware ever created, which was used to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program." [Deadline]
TRANSITION -- Former Director of National and Legislative Affairs at the
American Jewish Committee Richard Foltin emailed on Friday... "As of yesterday, I closed out my many years with AJC—although those years now seem very short. I am at once sad to be leaving this great organization and very much looking forward to new challenges and opportunities."
REMEMBERING: "West Coast Developer Used Real-Estate Wealth to Support Medical Research" by Austen Hufford: "When Sanford Diller had an idea for a real-estate project or philanthropic initiative, he would spell them out in long, detailed voicemail messages to family members and employees. Sometimes his daughter, Jackie Safier, spent her entire 45-minute commute listening to messages filled with aphorisms that his loved ones called “Sanford’s Rules.” “In the era of brevity, he was a brilliant writer and a brilliant speaker,” she said. Mr. Diller died Feb. 2 at the age of 89. The founder of Prometheus Real Estate Group was known for his design-focused approach to developing rental apartment buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area. With his wife, Helen Diller, Mr. Diller was also a major donor in support of medical research, Jewish causes and the arts." [WSJ]
SPORTS BLINK -- Bob Kraft among the celebs who showed up for the NBA All-Star Game in LA: “Stars came out for Hollywood’s NBA All-Star Game, but the weekend belonged to Hollywood blockbuster ‘‘Black Panther.’’ Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also seen in attendance, at one point taking a photo with Snoop Dogg.” [BostonGlobe] Kraft showed off his Super Bowl ring to comedian Tracy Morgan and other onlookers. [Video]
“‘I remembered her’: During trip to Israel, Josh Norman reunites with one of his biggest fans” by Scott Allen: “Eliana Pieprz said she figured meeting Josh Norman and receiving a pair of autographed gloves from the cornerback at Redskins training camp in Richmond two years ago would be a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.” On Wednesday, Norman returned the favor, reuniting with Pieprz, 14, in the ancient city of Shiloh during a surprise visit to Israel with six other current and former NFL players.” [WashPost]
TALK OF THE TOWN: “Ancient beard traditions shape the face of modern Jerusalem” by Ian Deitch: “In Jerusalem wearing a beard can also reflect political sentiments. "In the 1980s religion begins to be intertwined with political orientations and this is reflected with the rise of the beard among the more right-wing oriented and religiously oriented, both Jews and Muslims," [Michael] Silber said. Tal Johnson, a barber in the Israeli city of Holon, said growing one is not as easy as it looks. "You can't eat with it ... there are lots of things that are terrible, like hummus ... or fried egg that is runny, and you need to wash it afterward, all of this, it's very complicated. Eating soup is awful," he said.” [AP]
DESSERT -- “Modern Kosher Deli Fleishik’s Lasts Under a Year in Beverly Grove” by Farley Elliott: “Ownership had been quietly shopping the Fleishik’s space... for a couple of months after chef Eric Greenspan stepped away from the project to pursue other interests. Now it seems partners Avi Heyman and Daniel Uretsky may have found a buyer, as the phone number is disconnected and a tipster says the place is locked up tight The shutter of Fleishik’s comes less than a year after first opening in March of 2017. At the time, the place got an initial bump from the prodigious conservative Jewish population living nearby.” [EaterLA]
Watch: In episode 9 of Kevin Durant's "Parking Lot Chronicles," Omri Casspi of the Golden State Warriors offers a primer on keeping Kosher. [Video]
BIRTHDAYS: Born in Tehran, Iran, emigrated to the US in 1950, co-owner of NYC-based TF Cornerstone, owner of 8 million square feet and 7,000 apartments in NYC and DC, Kamran Thomas Elghanayan turns 73... Brown University Professor, winner of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, David Kertzer turns 70... Andrea Kachuck turns 67... Founder of 18 Media, Inc. whose titles include the Gentry lifestyle magazines directed at affluent readers in the San Francisco Bay Area, M. Sloane Citron turns 62... SVP of News at CBS-owned local television stations, David M. Friend turns 62... Senior editor at Politico since 2010, David Cohen turns 55 (h/t Playbook)... Cantor at University Synagogue in West LA's Brentwood area, Kerith Carolyn Spencer-Shapiro turns 48...
Comedienne, actress, and writer, best known for portraying Gina Linetti on Fox's series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," Chelsea Peretti turns 40... Former starting pitcher for the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies, Jason Hirsh turns 36... Press secretary to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Amy Spitalnick turns 32 (h/t Playbook)... Ethiopian-born Israeli fashion model and television personality, winner of the Israeli version of "Big Brother," Tahounia Rubel turns 30... Levi Shemtov (but not DC's Chabad leader) turns 25... Senior Program Officer at Maimonides Fund, Aimee Weiss...
BDAYS YESTERDAY: Founder of NYT's DealBook and co-creator of Showtime's "Billions," Andrew Ross Sorkin turns 41... Founder and president of the eponymous Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, she is on the boards of the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Aspen Institute, Laurie M. Tisch...
and also the birthday of her first cousin once removed, founder and CEO of the e-commerce app, Spring, Alan Tisch who turned 30...
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