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Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

U.S. President Obama To Request $1.8B In Emergency Funding For Zika; CDC Raises Emergency Operations To Highest Level

News outlets report on the Obama administration’s announcement of a request for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to respond to the Zika virus, as well as the CDC’s activation of the agency’s highest emergency operations level.

ABC News: Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level
“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency’s highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said [Monday]. … The highest level activation means the CDC staff will work around the clock to combat a critical emergency. The three other Level 1 activations have been to combat Ebola, to combat H1N1 influenza in 2009, and after Hurricane Katrina…” (Mohney, 2/8).

Agence France-Presse: Obama calls for $1.8 billion to fight Zika
“President Barack Obama on Monday asked for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funds to tackle the fast-spreading Zika virus in the United States and beyond…” (Beatty, 2/8).

The Atlantic: The White House’s Plans for Zika
“…The proposal [for $1.8 billion in emergency funding] wasn’t unexpected, as members of Congress in recent days had been asking the administration to lay out its next steps and keep Congress updated on the anti-Zika effort. Now, the White House is telling members not to delay in approving the funding…” (Kelly, 2/8).

CIDRAP News: Obama seeks $1.8 billion for Zika response; CDC ups emergency level
“…The largest chunk of the funds — $1.48 billion — would go to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and within it, the CDC. Funding is targeted, for example, to improving mosquito control efforts, improving surveillance, boosting lab capacity and infrastructure, establishing rapid response teams if clusters are detected in the United States, and monitoring for pregnancy and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) risks…” (Schnirring, 2/8).

Financial Times: Obama asks Congress for $1.8bn to battle Zika virus
“… ‘Congressional action on the administration’s request will accelerate our ability to prevent, detect, and respond to the Zika virus and bolster our ability to reduce the potential for future infectious disease outbreaks,’ the White House said…” (Jopson, 2/8).

The Hill: Obama launches Zika funding push
“…Several lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), were quick to support the White House’s emergency funding request. But leaders of the health and national security committees were noncommittal about the funding package, saying they will wait to hear directly from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a Tuesday briefing…” (Fabian/Ferris, 2/8).

The Hill: Obama: Zika is not Ebola
“President Obama says that the Zika virus that is spreading quickly across the Western Hemisphere is not as dangerous as Ebola, but is stressing on his administration is taking it seriously…” (Fabian, 2/8).

Newsweek: Obama Asks Congress for $1.8 Billion in Emergency Funding to Fight Zika Virus
“…Obama’s proposal also includes an appeal for an additional $250 million in federal assistance in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico for women and children who are at risk of infection or have been diagnosed with microcephaly…” (Gorman, 2/8).

New York Times: Obama Asks Congress for $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika Virus
“…An additional $200 million would go to research and development of a vaccine. That process could take some time, the officials said…” (Landler, 2/8).

Reuters: Obama seeks funds to fight Zika; sees no cause for panic
“…Obama’s funding request to Congress includes $335 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development to support mosquito-control, maternal health, and other Zika-related public health efforts in affected countries in the Americas…” (Rampton/Hirschler, 2/8).

Roll Call: Zika Virus Funding Met With Caution in Congress
“…Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is set to brief Senate leaders and relevant committee leaders Tuesday on the virus … ‘The two areas where we’ll want to get a better understanding at the briefing: Number one, what are the preparations being made to protect Americans? Number two, what are the administration’s funding priorities given limited federal resources?’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday…” (Bowman, 2/8).

Wall Street Journal: White House to Request $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika Virus
“…A robust federal response by the Obama administration is especially critical to Democrats, who were stung by criticism over the administration’s response to the Ebola crisis in the U.S. Senate Democrats are urging the president to learn from that experience, and a Senate committee is planning a Feb. 24 hearing on the virus…” (Armour/Lee, 2/8).

Washington Post: $1.8 billion to fight Zika: CDC moves to highest alert level
“…The administration said the money it has requested would go to expanding mosquito-control programs; accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development; enabling the testing and procurement of vaccines and diagnostics; educating health care providers, pregnant women and their partners; improving epidemiology and expanding laboratory and diagnostic testing capacity; improving health services and supports for low-income pregnant women; and enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission…” (Mufson/Sun, 2/8).

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Calls For Women To Postpone Pregnancy During Zika Outbreak Complicate Latin American Nations' Policies On Contraception, Abortion

New York Times: Growing Support Among Experts for Zika Advice to Delay Pregnancy
“Health officials in several countries stricken by the Zika virus have given their female citizens an unprecedented warning: ‘Don’t get pregnant.’ This startling advice has been greeted in many quarters with a mix of shock and derision. Medical historians said they had never heard the like. Advocates for women mocked it as unrealistic, disconnected from the difficult lives of women in a part of the world where contraception can be hard to obtain and abortion is often illegal. Yet a growing number of infectious disease experts say that delaying pregnancy could work — and may be the most effective way to break the back of this global epidemic…” (McNeil, 2/5).

U.S. News & World Report: Zika Posing a Crisis For Motherhood
“…Women in Brazil are facing maternity with new levels of anxiety. And as the Zika virus underscores the gulf here between rich and poor, a new debate is beginning to take shape on the country’s abortion laws, already among the strictest in Latin America. … Millions of women lack access to contraceptives and other reproductive health services; many also lack control over their fertility, due to a high rate of sexual violence, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report released last week. ‘Introduce something like Zika into a community, and those least able to protect themselves are going to be disproportionately affected,’ says Jennifer Kates, Kaiser’s director of global health and HIV policy…” (Sternberg, 2/8).

U.S. News & World Report: Countries Where Abortion Is Illegal Under Most Circumstances
“The abortion debate has intensified in South and Central America as the Zika virus, linked to severe birth defects, spreads throughout the region. Latin America has the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, according to Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focusing on U.S. and global health issues…” (Haynie, 2/8).

Washington Post: Zika prompts urgent debate about abortion in Latin America
“Across Latin America, calls to loosen some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world in the face of the Zika virus outbreak are gaining momentum but encountering strong and entrenched opposition. … Nearly everywhere in Latin America, including in those countries hit hardest by Zika, women who wish to terminate their pregnancies have few legal options. But as U.N. health officials have projected as many as 4 million infections in the Americas this year, activists are pressing lawmakers to act as swiftly as possible to ease rigid restrictions…” (Phillips et al., 2/8).

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WHO, Drug Companies, Researchers Focus On Zika R&D Priorities, Virus's Potential Links With Microcephaly, Guillain-Barré Syndrome

CIDRAP News: WHO lists Zika R&D priorities; groups probe microcephaly, GBS
“The World Health Organization (WHO) said today it is mapping research and development (R&D) projects under way for Zika virus and will be prioritizing some for fast-track development, similar to the role it played when Ebola vaccines and therapeutics were first discussed. In other international developments, the WHO and other groups highlighted new information that speaks to the complex task health officials have in probing the possible links between Zika virus and two neurologic conditions — microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)…” (Schnirring, 2/8).

NPR: World Health Organization Focuses On Zika-Linked Microcephaly Cases
“NPR’s Audie Cornish talks to David L. Heymann, chair of the World Health Organization emergency committee on the Zika virus, about what it’s doing about the spread of the virus…” (2/8).

Reuters: Race to fast-track Zika trials as 12 groups seek vaccine
“At least 12 groups are now working to develop a Zika vaccine and health authorities said on Monday they were working to ensure development proceeded as rapidly as possible. The World Health Organization said it was important to establish speedy regulatory pathways, although all the vaccines remained in early-stage development and licensed products would take ‘a few years’ to reach the market…” (Hirschler, 2/8).

Reuters: Brazilian studies aim to unravel Zika’s link to birth defects
“…[Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil,] is one of three in this city on Brazil’s eastern coast where investigators are studying the most urgent question of the Zika outbreak: Is the virus causing a spike in birth defects, and, if so, how great is the risk?…” (Steenhuysen, 2/9).

TIME: Here’s the Other Zika Problem Experts Are Worried About
“…In addition to the abnormally small heads and associated brain damage that characterizes microcephaly, experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently completed the initial stages of a trial looking at the connection between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)…” (Sifferlin, 2/8).

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World Bank Working With WHO, PAHO, Affected Nations To Determine Zika Response

Devex: World Bank ramps up discussions on Zika response
“Zika-affected countries have requested assistance from the World Bank to respond to the outbreak, and the global financial institution is in close communication with the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization, and affected countries to determine what its response will look like. … While the specifics of the World Bank’s response to Zika is still being determined, the global financial institution is working with the WHO and other partners to develop a Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility that would provide quick funds to countries and health care responders in order to help tackle future pathogen outbreaks such as the Ebola crisis — which for months affected West Africa…” (Tyson, 2/9).

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Devex Previews Key Foreign Aid Portions Of White House FY17 Budget Request

Devex: What to expect from Obama’s FY17 budget request
“President Barack Obama will release his 2017 budget request Tuesday, and U.S. aid advocates are eagerly waiting to see how key program areas fare. Already Obama has offered hints — and even some clear indications — of what he will ask Congress to fund in the next fiscal year. … Here’s what we know so far: Taking Zika seriously … Responding to the Syria call … The beginning of the end of malaria … Ratcheting up on climate change…” (Igoe, 2/9).

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WHO Needs Reform To Remain Viable, Experts, High-Level U.N. Panel's Draft Advance Report Say

Reuters: The World Health Organization’s critical challenge: healing itself
“…Public health specialists, non-governmental organizations, and some of the WHO’s biggest donors say the organization is unwieldy, poor at coordinating responses to epidemics, and too thinly spread. And increasingly it struggles to set its own priorities because many of its donors give it money earmarked for specific projects. Some experts inside and outside the organization say those flaws mean the WHO’s lead role in global health is now at risk. … Reuters spoke to more than a dozen people who know the WHO and its leadership well. All said the world needs the WHO to succeed…” (Kelland, 2/8).

Reuters: Lives at risk unless WHO reforms, U.N. report says
“The World Health Organization needs urgent reform to boost its ability to respond to crises, and failure to act now could cost thousands of lives, according to an advance copy of a high-level U.N. report. The report, entitled ‘Protecting Humanity from Future Health Crises,’ is the latest in a series of reviews by global health experts which have been sharply critical of the WHO’s response to the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa. ‘This may be the last opportunity to ensure the WHO is empowered’ to build an effective emergency response capacity, warned an advance, unedited copy of the report by a U.N. panel, made available online over the weekend in a link on the United Nations’ Daily Journal website…” (Kelland, 2/8).

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Conflict, Drought Contribute To Food Insecurity Across Horn Of Africa, South Sudan, U.N. Agencies Warn

Agence France-Presse: 40,000 starving to death as S. Sudan teeters on famine: U.N.
“At least 40,000 people are being starved to death in South Sudan war zones on the brink of famine, the United Nations said Monday, in a plea to rival forces to let aid in…” (2/8).

Agence France-Presse: Children in Somalia starving amid ‘alarming’ drought: U.N.
“Over 58,000 children will starve to death in Somalia without urgent support, the United Nations warned Monday, amid severe drought in the impoverished and war-torn Horn of Africa country…” (2/7).

Bloomberg Business: U.N. Says 40,000 in South Sudan Face Food Shortage Catastrophe
“…The numbers are ‘particularly worrisome because they show an increase in hunger during the post-harvest period — a time when the country is traditionally most food secure,’ the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, Children’s Fund, and World Food Programme said Monday in a joint e-mailed statement…” (Francis, 2/8).

Deutsche Welle: Drought and war spark famine across Horn of Africa and South Sudan
“Millions of people are on the brink of famine across the Horn of Africa and South Sudan. The crisis in Ethiopia is driven by drought, in Somalia by drought and war; in South Sudan, it is driven exclusively by war…” (2/8).

U.N. News Centre: Unprecedented food crisis looms over strife-torn South Sudan, U.N. agencies warn
“…The numbers are expected to peak during the coming lean season, traditionally worst between April and July, when food availability is lowest. Humanitarian partners project that the lean season will start early this year, and the hunger period will be longer than in previous years…” (2/8).

U.N. News Centre: In Somalia, food security and malnutrition situation is ‘alarming’ — U.N. report
“…This latest assessment confirms persistently high and alarming levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in Somalia, with an estimated 4.7 million people — nearly 40 percent of the Somali population — in need of humanitarian assistance…” (2/8).

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U.N. SG Ban Calls For New, Unharmful Rites Of Passage To Replace FGM

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Replace female genital mutilation with new rites of passage, says U.N. chief
“New, unharmful rites of passage should replace female genital mutilation, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said on Monday after new data showed there were more victims of the custom than previously estimated. The call by the U.N. Secretary-General was heard by diplomats, campaigners, and survivors gathered at the U.N. headquarters in New York to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, which fell on Saturday…” (Malo, 2/8).

U.N. News Centre: Special U.N. event mobilizes action towards ending female genital mutilation within 15 years
“…According to a new report by the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of [the at least 200 million] who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 percent, Mauritania 54 percent, and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice…” (2/8).

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Sierra Leone's Last Known Ebola Patient Released From Hospital; Ebola Widows Struggle To Survive In Liberia

Reuters: Sierra Leone discharges last known Ebola patient
“Sierra Leone’s last known Ebola patient has been released from hospital, medical officials said on Monday, allowing authorities to begin a six-week countdown before declaring the West African country free of the virus once more…” (Fofana, 2/8).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: Liberia’s Ebola widows learn to become the new breadwinners
“…As the West African country begins to recover from the crisis, many women … struggling to face a future without their husbands or fathers — the main breadwinners in their families. About half of Liberia’s 6,000 Ebola survivors are women. Besides financial hardships, many must also endure rejection from their friends, families, and communities…” (Giahyue, 2/8).

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Private Sector Can Play Larger Role In Family Planning, SRHR Programs, Experts Say

Devex: The case for a ‘greater’ private sector role in family planning
“…Although private sector engagement is not a new concept — with myriad programs and initiatives now routinely cofinanced or supported through corporate social responsibility activities — [Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver,] sees a much greater and more engaged role for the private sector in development programs, including family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights projects. Other stakeholders such as governments and civil society should recognize that. … Kellie Sloan, director of family planning at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told Devex that one of the key roles the private sector has played is by ‘making services more affordable’ — and more efficient…” (Santos, 2/8).

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More Severe H1N1 Cases Recorded Across Europe, Middle East

The Guardian: Swine flu spreading across eastern Europe and Middle East
“Swine flu has killed 183 people in Ukraine this winter and is spreading rapidly across eastern Europe and the Middle East. At least 107 people have died in Russia after contracting the disease, 18 in Armenia, and 10 in Georgia, according to government figures. In the Middle East, 112 deaths from the virus have been reported in Iran, and there are unconfirmed reports of dozens more deaths in areas of Syria and Iraq occupied by Islamic State. Rates of severe H1N1 infection have spiked within the E.U…” (Tucker, 2/9).

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E.U. To Provide $40M To Zimbabwe's Health Development Fund To Boost Maternal, Adolescent Health, Related Issues

VOA News: E.U. Unveils $40 Million for Zimbabwe Health Development Fund
“The European Union has unveiled $40 million for Zimbabwe’s Health Development Fund catering mainly for maternal health, adolescents, and related issues…” (Chigoriwo, 2/8).

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Vanessa Kerry Discusses Seed Global Health, Health Worker Training In Boston.com Interview

Boston.com: Vanessa Kerry is determined to transform global health
“Vanessa Kerry was raised in Boston with a name synonymous with politics and public service. She’s the younger of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s two daughters, and is charting a path that is very much her own — one that combines her devotion to medicine with her family’s tradition of public service. … Her true passion, though, is Seed Global Health, a public-private partnership she founded in 2012 that focuses on training health professionals in the developing world…” (Sargent, 2/8).

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Editorials and Opinions

Questions Remain About Power Africa's Long-Term Development Implications

Devex: Power Africa: Deals or development? 5 questions for the U.S. government
Dahlia Rockowitz, policy adviser at American Jewish World Service

“…[M]issing among all the data-driven discussions of megawatts and connections, feasibility and financial closure, are concrete projections on how this increased energy access [from Power Africa] will help African citizens — particularly the poorest people, who have either little or no access to affordable, reliable electricity. … Implicit in all of these initiatives [focused on energy access] is the assumption that more energy will improve lives. But without the proper planning, implementation, and oversight, we need to ask whether these efforts really foster thoughtful and beneficial development — or simply more business deals? … With the Electrify Africa Act headed to Obama’s desk for his signature, now is the time for the U.S. government and Power Africa partners to roll up their sleeves and tackle these critical questions…” (2/8).

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International Regulations Needed For Gene-Editing Systems Used To Alter Disease-Carrying Vectors Such As Mosquitoes

The Guardian: Gene drives need global policing
Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester

“…Using [the gene-editing technique known as] CRISPR to combat disease-transmitting mosquitoes could have a massive health benefit for millions of people around the world, and would probably prove less ecologically destructive than our current insecticide-based approaches. … CRISPR gene drives have amazing potential, but raise major questions … We need to have a good ecological understanding of the system we are trying to manipulate, long-term monitoring plans to ensure unforeseen changes can be rapidly detected, and plans for fixing what we have changed if it goes wrong. … [T]he only sustainable and safe way of applying this potentially transformative technology will involve international regulations, based on careful study and continual ecological monitoring, coupled with the rights of local communities to veto such projects if they so desire. This is an urgent task that an accepted international structure such as the United Nations needs to address as soon as possible…” (2/9).

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Global Community Should 'Confront Our Fears,' Address Zika To Protect All Individuals

The Guardian: We are menaced by ever more diseases. But Zika, like most, hits the poor hardest
Mark Honigsbaum, Wellcome Trust research fellow at Queen Mary University of London and author

“…Zika is not a ‘fright and flight’ disease like Ebola; it does not spread rapidly from person to person via bodily fluids or provoke terrifying symptoms. Nor is it thought to be particularly harmful to adults … Indeed, it is hard not to resist the conclusion that, like HIV/AIDS, it is the specter of sexual transmission and the heartbreaking and highly visible defects in infants that are fueling widespread dread of the disease, not the known risks. Those risks, of course, are far lower if you are wealthy and can afford air-conditioning. … [R]ather than recoiling from Zika and seeking to insulate ourselves from the planet’s multiplying disease threats, we should recognize that we are all in the same fight and confront our fears. Stay away from Rio this summer if you are pregnant, by all means. But for the rest of us, cancelling holidays to South America or the Caribbean because of a few hysterical headlines is unlikely to help anyone’s cause, least of all our own” (2/7).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Blog Posts Discuss Issues Surrounding Zika Virus

White House Blog: The Zika Virus: What You Need to Know
Amy Pope, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security, answers “some questions that many Americans may have about the Zika disease and who it could impact…” (2/8).

Center for Global Development’s “Global Health Policy Blog”: Another Emergency Funding Request for Global Health. Can’t We Do Better?
Amanda Glassman, vice president for programs and director of global health policy at CGD, discusses the Obama administration’s request to Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to support the Zika response, writing, “The U.S. government needs to lead and invest permanently in public health preparedness and outbreak response, both domestically and overseas. Ditch the ad hoc interagency task forces and emergency budget requests. Instead, let’s get our act together and build a whole-of-government permanent response…” (2/8).

Council on Foreign Relations’ “Women Around the World”: Zika Virus and Reproductive Health Access in Latin America
Catherine Powell, fellow for women and foreign policy at CFR, discusses the Zika virus and its implications for women’s rights and access to reproductive health services in Latin America (2/8).

Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks”: ‘I wish we knew more … I wish we could do more,’ a White House request, and more, We’re reading about Zika virus, and the questions it raises
Antigone Barton, senior writer and editor of “Science Speaks,” discusses news surrounding the Zika virus, including CDC Director Tom Frieden’s remarks on what is needed to control the spread of the virus; a White House announcement on a planned request for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to respond to the virus; and a piece by J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), on the responsibilities of the WHO in its Zika response (2/8).

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New Initiative Aims To Help Governments, Funders Move Toward Most Cost-Effective Health Interventions

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists”: The International Decision Support Initiative Is Scaling Up — That Means Better Decisions and Better Health
Amanda Glassman, vice president for programs and director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development (CGD), discusses the scale-up of the International Decision Support Initiative (iDSI), which works with low- and middle-income governments and funders to move toward universal health coverage and fund the most cost-effective health interventions (2/8).

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Health Affairs' February Issue Focuses On Vaccines

Health Affairs Blog: Health Affairs February Issue: Vaccines
“The February issue of Health Affairs explores the current environment in which vaccines are discovered, produced, and delivered. The issue also contains several studies examining the economic benefits and value of sustainably financing vaccinations in the United States and globally. This month’s DataGraphic provides a pictorial view of key facts about vaccines, including data from several studies in this month’s issue,” Chris Fleming, social media manager at Health Affairs, writes (2/8).

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