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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 19, 2001
1:05 P.M. EDT
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's good to be with you again to give you another update on homeland security. As I mentioned to you yesterday the President wants us to continue to update the American people with as much factual information as we can, as often as we can. So, today the senior officials you see here will give you the latest updates from their various areas of responsibility.
But before they brief I want to update you on a few very specific items. Later this afternoon FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh and I will hold a conference call with our nation's governors to brief them on the latest federal efforts to protect our homeland. We are working closer than ever with our state and local governments, and as I mentioned to a few yesterday, the President's assignment to me was to coordinate a national strategy, not a federal one; national strategy meaning we've got to pull in our state and local counterparts as well to help us protect against threats and improve our ability to respond to them. You can well appreciate that point of view, not only from the President of the United States, but the Director of Homeland Security, having both seen in our own professional lives the importance of a strong state and local capacity to both prevent and respond.
We understand just how important it is that governors get the assistance they need, when they need it, and how they need it. This afternoon I plan to brief the governors with the latest information on our homeland security efforts. I also, and probably just as importantly, want to solicit their input on how we can strengthen our coordination at the federal, the national -- excuse me, the federal, the state and the local level.
I will also let them know that we are announcing today that we have worked with Joe Allbaugh and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish a new homeland security support team that will serve as a central point of contact for governors and other state and local officials. This new team will complement the current and very successful public health network. FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh is here with us today to give you more details on this new team. Director Allbaugh will also have some other announcements of new FEMA activities to help protect our homeland.
FEMA's new team is just one more example of how FEMA is doing a great job to meet their new and challenging mission. FEMA Will be called upon time and time again as we continue to improve our domestic security.
FEMA had a 20th Century role, a very important role, to respond to natural disasters and to prepare for the threat of natural disasters and respond to them when they occurred. The 21st Century role of FEMA will be enhanced and, therefore, its abilities to both prevent and respond to man-made disasters will have to be enhanced as well.
So we've got a new mission. And frankly, one of my strong beliefs is that we will have to make FEMA an even bigger and stronger agency in the future to deal with its dual mission.
FEMA has done a fantastic job of meeting their 20th Century mission, and now we must help them prepare for their 21st Century mission.
Let me update you on our efforts to support that mission. To date we have released $2 billion to FEMA, another nearly $5 million for FEMA is pending before Congress. We will also be providing, and Director Allbaugh hopefully will spend a few moments explaining this to you, but we are also going to provide over $500 million, 550 to be exact, through FEMA, in grants to state and local communities to help them identify and then strengthen their own needs back home. We will also be giving an additional $296 million to Health and Human Services. For that agency, Secretary Thompson is here and ask him to share a few thoughts about that. But for that agency to use for state and local grants for emergency preparedness.
Again, not just training and equipment, trying to tie our local and state first responders in emergency management network to our federal system.
As I said, we are working hand-in-hand with local governments. The federal, state and local team is more coordinated than ever. Let me give you just one more example of that coordination. During the past several days I have been in fairly frequent contact with Mayor Giuliani, Governor Bush, Governor Pataki. My last conversation I had with Governor Pataki, he mentioned there was a Coast Guard cutter, the Tahoma that was on protecting the shores and some infrastructure. He asked if the Coast Guard cutter that was scheduled to leave on Friday -- it's stay could be extended. I want to thank Admiral Lloyd, the Coast Guard for responding so quickly to the request from the governors so the Coast Guard cutter will remain in New York longer. That's just one example, and I suspect there will be many more that we can highlight over the days and weeks ahead.
I do think it highlights how closely we are working with state and local officials as we try to respond as quickly as possible to their needs. America's state and local officials are doing an extraordinary job of responding to their citizens' needs.
As the first to experience the anthrax situations, Florida's government and public health officials have responded well to difficult and extremely challenging circumstances. They responded immediately when a mysterious disease took the life of one of their citizens. They controlled the situation. They controlled the situation and then they got immediate help to their citizens who needed treatment. They remained calm. They had been reassuring. And most importantly they have been very, very effective.
Lately, the American people are hearing a lot about potential anthrax threats, and our government is taking every step possible to protect them. Secretary Thompson and Surgeon General David Satcher are here today to give you the latest update with regard to our outstanding public health network as well.
Everyday the Office of Homeland Security is looking to enhance or improve our prevention capability and our response capability, our borders and our ports of entry are tighter. Our airports and aircraft get progressively more secure. As reported today, Reagan National Airport is now expanding it's flight operations to include more flights, and our water supplies, power plants, dams, and other critical infrastructures are being guarded and strengthened as well. Many of these new security measures are clearly visible, but many, many more are not.
Yesterday, EPA Administrator Whitman briefed the American people on the safety of their water systems. And today I've asked Linda Fisher, EPA's Deputy Administrator, to be here to answer any further questions you may have about our efforts to protect our nation's water supply.
Before I ask the individuals with me to step forward and to give you a little bit more detail about what their respective agencies are doing to strengthen our homeland security, I want to bring you up to date with a conversation I had with the FBI Director, Bob Mueller, about the ongoing anthrax investigation. The tests to date, and we finally have -- we have the anthrax strains from AMI in Florida, from the Brokaw letter in New York and the Daschle letter here in Washington -- the tests to date have concluded that the strains are indistinguishable. They are similar. The tests to date also have shown, and it's a word that I put quotes around, a term of art in -- new language -- the tests have shown that these strains have not been "weaponized." That's the latest report from FBI Director Robert Mueller.
So I wanted to ask FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh --
Q You say they're indistinguishable. Does that mean they are the same?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Similar. Yes. The test to date -- perhaps I'll let Dr. Satcher respond to that, but as Director Mueller said to me, very precisely, the strains are indistinguishable; all three, AMI, New York, Brokaw letter, Daschle letter.
Why don't we get -- I'll be happy to get to the questions after I have these other three individuals spend a little time with you. Okay, thank you.
DIRECTOR ALLBAUGH: Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon. At the Governor's request, which was an outgrowth of a conversation he and I had on Tuesday afternoon, we have begun today operations of the Homeland Security Emergency Support Team with FEMA. This will serve as the central coordination point for all consequence management information. The Homeland Security Emergency Support team will report to the Governor's office with the latest information in a timely fashion from all federal agencies, state and local governments.
As I said, we began operations at noon today at FEMA headquarters with representatives from the Departments of Defense, Justice, HHS, Veterans' Affairs, Energy, EPA, Corps of Engineers, United States Postal Service, United States Capitol Police and the D.C. Emergency Management Department. This team will not be making public statements. Public announcements will continue to be made by Governor Ridge, his office, The White House and relevant agencies.
Additionally, we will be discussing with the nation's governors this afternoon better ways to coordinate state and local information with our information.
FEMA is currently working on a capability assessment plan for all 50 states. Starting next week, our teams will fan out to the 50 states to assess their ability to respond to an event, and to assess where we think they should be and/or how they should get there. We will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with you, Governor, and other federal agencies, Secretary, and the states to provide the best protection and response for the American people. Thank you very much.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm always happy to work shoulder-to-shoulder with you. I am always happy to do that.
Secretary Thompson. Tommy.
SECRETARY THOMPSON: Thank you very much, Tom. I feel like I spent most of the evening with you last night. It ended up, I think, 11:30 quarter to twelve last night talking to you and certainly want to take this opportunity to congratulate my old friend Governor Ridge. I don't think President Bush could have picked a better person to head the Office of Homeland Security than Governor Tom Ridge, and I thank you very much for accepting it, Tom.
It is important to note that the federal and the state and local governments are working extremely well together beginning September 11th, including each of the cases of anthrax or anthrax exposure around the country. Yesterday, Jeff Copeland from CDC and myself talked to American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association. And the American Medical Association indicated to CDC and to Jeff Copeland that approximately 50,000 doctors and other medical personnel was on that teleconference.
The public health infrastructure I want you to know full well is responding extremely well to this threat. Americans should rest assured in knowing that we are responding quickly and effectively both at the local and federal levels. Local health officials are doing an excellent job in some very difficult circumstances. And as I have reminded them during meetings in recent days, we will respond whenever they request with personnel, with medication and expertise wherever and whenever it is needed.
As we repeatedly said, we are prepared to respond to any case around the country, and we are responding, but we must do more, and we are doing more.
We have sent Congress a $1.5 billion for my department's efforts to combat bioterrorism. Our proposal significantly enhances state and local preparedness, while boosting our national pharmaceutical stockpile. The package also accelerates and increases production of the smallpox vaccine, strengthens the Health Alert Network and the early surveillance programs in coordination with state and local public health systems.
And I had a teleconference at 11 o'clock this morning with the nation's governors and their staff and the state health departments, and they all complimented the President and the administration for supporting the improvement in the strengthening of the public health system.
We are also going to be strengthening the hospital preparedness across America with more educational courses. And we are also, of course, going to be doing something about protecting and enhancing our inspections on food supply, strengthening state and federal laboratory capacity and technology. And we're going to add more epidemiologists who are trained by CDC and put them in state public health departments across America in order to be able to be the first line defenders and those individuals that know more about infectious diseases, and improve our laboratory security.
Also today I would like to repeat a few key facts. Anthrax is not contagious. We have had thousands and we have thousands of tests done and so far we have only six confirmed cases of the anthrax disease. We still have a couple other cases that we are reviewing right now, but at the present time there are only six confirmed cases of anthrax.
As a reminder, there are two cases of inhalation anthrax in Florida at America Media, a 63 year old man who passed away and a 73 year old man who is recovering and is being treated on antibiotics.
In New York, there are three cases at NBC, ABC, and CBS. Each are being treated with antibiotics, and the sixth case confirmed by the CDC is a postal worker in Trenton, New Jersey who also has been treated with antibiotics.
And finally today, will be the last day of Congressional staff's swab tests, and tests of nasal swabs collected on Monday will be completed by the end of the day today. And testing also continues on the approximately 1,400 tests that have already been collected on Tuesday.
Preliminary results on about 600 have produced no new positives, and I just spoke with the deputy surgeon general who I assigned to the Congress and who's got a full time office up there, who notified me that of the 31 people who tested positive for exposure in Senator Daschle's office, at least one has tested negative after further testing.
I'd also like to introduce D.A. Henderson, and he is the father of the eradication of smallpox and he is the head of my science advisory committee and also science advisor and of course, Surgeon General David Satcher is here. I would also point out of the two tests in Florida and New York which have been conducted by CDC, there are 30 items that are checked on a particular to make the comparison, and those 30 things have compared equally the same; the 30 tests that are taken on the Anthrax in Florida and New York. We have not finished our confirmation testing on the one from Fort Dietrick.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: My pleasure to introduce one more guest, Surgeon General David Satcher.
GENERAL SATCHER: Thank you. I want to primarily support what secretary Thompson has said. I want to say just a word about tests because I think there has been some confusion about the point in time in which we report on a test. For example, the initial nasal swabs that we report, and I think initially we reported 31 positive out of Senator Daschle's area, and that number is probably going to end up being less than that because the first test is a screening test, and as a rule, screening tests are very sensitive, and they are so sensitive that you do sometimes have false positives. And then follow-up tests may well turn out to be negative. And that's what you want.
You don't want the screening tests to miss anybody. So you want to be exceptionally sensitive; and, therefore, you sometimes get false positives. You've got people who appear to be positive who, later on, with further testing, after you've been able to grow the organism in culture, you will find that they are negative. And that's what we have here. So each one of these tests, as we go further, reveals new information. And that will continue even. I'm sure the tests at Fort Dietrick are not complete, even though at this point, as you've heard, there is no evidence of differences in strain. Certainly nothing that would imply any differences in responding to antibiotics. So, we feel very comfortable with that.
But in terms of the specificity of the tests, as we move forward with DNA fingerprinting and things like that, there might be minor differences. But as the Secretary said, to this point, if you look at the Florida and New York strains, even after 31 tests they are identical.
But we are going to hear that maybe 31 were positive, and then later on we found that some of those were, in fact, negative because of the nature of the tests.
The public health infrastructure takes very seriously the responsibility for early detection, for investigation, for laboratory diagnosis and then for responding appropriately to the challenge. And that's what we've been trying to do. And I think so far we should be very comfortable that the system has responded very well in terms of getting epidemiologists on site to do those investigations, but also to deliver the antibiotics.
And the other thing that I think is worth repeating that we said yesterday, a negative nasal swab does not mean that people will not be put on antibiotics. What we are looking for is exposure. One can, in fact, be exposed to anthrax and be at risk if not put on antibiotics. And so many of the people out of Senator Daschle's office who had negative nasal tests will, in fact, be continued for 60 days because we have been able to demonstrate that there was, in fact, in that area the anthrax bacteria. Thank you.
Q Can you explain to us what you mean when you say that it was not "weaponized?" Does that mean that the spores were not small enough to be inhaled? Does it mean that the anthrax wasn't produced in a factory-like setting? What does it mean?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The term, as I think people have been using it, it relates to some kind of reduction in size and then coating with another substance that makes it easier to release with less energy. And so far as they've been able to detect will all the tests they've run, and they continue to run tests, there is no results that would suggest that it has been "weaponized". That's not necessarily a scientific term or a medical term but --
Q One follow-up if I may. If that's the case and this is the same or indistinguishable strain that appeared in Florida, in Florida you had two cases of inhaled anthrax. So somehow they managed to inhale it even though it's not --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Correct. Clearly you can have, and I'll let the Surgeon General speak to that if I might -- as a matter of fact, I think that is exactly what I will do. (Laughter.)
GENERAL SATCHER: You can certainly have inhaled anthrax without having "weaponized" anthrax, and I think it just means that the -- when the agent is "weaponized," as you are calling it, that means the likelihood of inhaling the exact sizes -- and generally ideally it's somewhere around 5 microns. You think about the fact that a human hair is about 100 microns. So a certain size of anthrax is much more efficient in terms of infecting a person than clumps of spores if you will. So it means that the risk of, in fact, getting an infection would be greater certainly if it's aerosolized and certainly if the sizes have been reduced that way.
Q So what is the size of the microns of the samples that you all have?
GENERAL SATCHER: Well, they are various sizes. But I think what we are saying is if they are "weaponized," there will be more of the optimal size for infection. But if they are not, then you are going to get clumps. That means that it depends on the number of spores in a clump, for example, in terms of the size and whether it easily gets into the alveoli of the lungs. Those are the issues I think that we are talking about.
Q The samples from New York and Florida were different sizes?
Q Are you any closer to knowing whether it came from a foreign source or a domestic source?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I can't give you any information on that at all today.
Q I think they're all the same strain, does that mean they come from the same supply point? And why are you so slow in finding the actual source? I mean, is it that difficult really? Is it all in New Jersey and so forth?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think, first of all, the process of -- of course we're moving as quickly as possible to identify, first of all, the strain to determine whether or not there is any characteristics that suggest it has been altered so that it would be easier to inhale and, therefore, to infect. And if you watched -- in seeing what the Justice and FBI are doing, they've been able to trace back to try to find where the letters were mailed. So that investigation is ongoing. But I can't report anything to you on that. But medically, I --
Q Do you think they all came from the same supply point?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: One could draw that conclusion. It does appear that it may have been from the same batch, but it may have been distributed to different individuals to infect and to send into the different communities.
Q Where do they have these batches? Where would these be available?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, I can't answer that question. But I think when the Justice and the FBI get done, they will be able to do that. That's their goal.
Q Governor, a question for you and a question for Secretary Thompson. First of all, there is a lot of dispute of whether people at the airport in charge of security should be federalized or not. A lot of people are saying they should be federalized, but there seems to be dispute between The White House and the Republican Congress with the Democrats. How do you fall in this line? Are you for federalized or for keeping them the way they are with more training?
And for Secretary Thompson, there is a lot of talk out there about the Cipro and other antibiotics. A lot of people are saying Cipro -- one company has the patent --should they be asked to allow a generic drugs of Cipro to also be available to the population?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: My point of view, and I did express this say yesterday, and hopefully it will be perhaps clearer. I believe that the source of the paycheck isn't as important as the need for the Federal Government to set standards so that whomever the employer is, that the men and women who take upon -- who are given the assignment, the task of providing security, meet a standard of competency and training. There has been a lot of discussions that whether these people are barely paid above the minimum wage and they're not competent, they don't have adequate training.
My view about federalization -- we'll let the Congress work it's will. Having been -- spent 12 years up there, I'm not surprised that one chamber has a different version than the other chamber. That's probably not news. But I do think that the Federal Government has a role to saying, "From this day forward in the 21st Century, if airline and airport security is critical to us, and it obviously is, then the Federal Government should set minimum guidelines and minimum standards."
Q How about a background check, General?
GENERAL SATCHER: That would be included. I mean I do think there is a secure area, not just in terms of passengers but those who have access to the planes. There is an area around which the Federal Government should be able to set the standards, the regulations, require the background checks. And when I use the term "federalized," that is what I mean.
SECRETARY THOMPSON: First off, all of these strains are very sensitive to a lot of antibiotics. Cipro, doxycycline and penicillin. The FDA just issued, and I announced it on Capitol Hill, that doxycycline and penicillin are as effective as ciprofloxin is in order to treat anthrax poisoning. That is point number one.
Second point is that we have negotiated and are in the process of negotiating with all of these companies, generic companies as well, in regards to purchasing antibiotics, an enhanced purchase, going from 2 million individuals up to cover an additional 10 million or 12 million. And we are going to be purchasing generic drugs as well as some prescription drugs under ciprofloxin.
Number three, some of the legal problems set out by our legal counsel and FDA under the law says that if we would go against the patent, we would still have to pay damages and, therefore, it may be more costly than going in and purchasing generics. When you have other generic drugs that we can purchase such as doxycycline which are effective as ciprofloxin is in treating anthrax. And it is also put out by FDA that those are very effective. And CDC has confirmed that all of the anthrax are sensitive to these.
The fourth thing is we are negotiating a price, and I think you would be very satisfied with that price once I get done, and the price may be very much in line with the generics, but those negotiations are going on.
Q Secretary Thompson, where did you get the 12 million figure? How did you arrive at that, decide that -- on what --
SECRETARY THOMPSON: We had a scientific review committee composed of some scientists in CDC and people in Department of Health and Human Services who decided that if you were really going to have a widespread break out of anthrax, how many would you actually -- the worst case scenario, how many would you have, and that was the risk analysis that we came up with, and that's why we decided to go and purchase. And there is no evidence whatsoever we would ever hit that, but the scientists made that determination.
Q But then you have -- you're talking about smallpox for the entire country.
SECRETARY THOMPSON: See, but smallpox is contagious. Anthrax is not contagious, and that's a big difference. And therefore, you would be able to handle the anthrax much easier than if you had an outbreak of smallpox because of the contagious factor. And we're not going in and inoculate the people, we're just going to have it available.
Q Governor Ridge, what can you tell us about the employee for the New York Post who has tested positive for skin anthrax, and how many other cases are you looking at of possible positive tests for anthrax infections.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I missed the first part of the question.
Q An employee with the New York Post who apparently has tested positive for skin anthrax.
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not sure I have that latest information. We knew that there had been six confirmed exposures, and there are, to my knowledge, the last information that I received was that there are tests pending on three additional individuals.
Q And where are those individuals? Are they connected with --
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't have that information to share with you. I just don't have it.
Q Can you give us an update on New Jersey involving the postal inspectors and the FBI, what they're doing, what they're searching for, and whether or not they're successful?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: The FBI has been able to identify the site where the letters were mailed, and that's the only specific piece of information I can give you. It is an ongoing investigation and until -- again, one of the challenges of a meeting like this is to give you information that's relevant and available, and that's all I can give you right now. It's an ongoing investigation. We have several hundred agents working that part of the case, and if there's additional information, I'll be sure to get back to you.
Q The mailbox or the post office?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Mailbox.
Q Given the tests that have been taken so far both on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, who's being given what antibiotic and in what dosage strength? Is it three days? Is it six days? Is it sixty days? Who's getting what and for how long?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I will let the Surgeon General respond to that, but I think they --
GENERAL SATCHER: Let me just say, Governor Ridge, the most recent data that I have is that the person from the New York Post tested negative. That doesn't mean, as I said before, there will be a later test. But what we have right here is that person tested negative.
I think, as you know, all the people in the area were put on Cipro, and they were given doses for three days. The idea was to assess the environment, and if it turned out that there were, in fact, anthrax in the environment -- I believe in this case of Senator Daschle on the fifth and sixth floor -- so anybody who had been in that area on Monday, I believe October 15th, was tested and put on Cipro, and other people were, too, as they checked to see if there was evidence of anthrax in their environment.
After they determined that the exposure area was limited to the fifth and sixth floor, then all of those people who were on the fifth and sixth floor who came to the fifth and sixth floor, would be treated for 60 days. And, as you know, most of those people will have negative nasal swabs. But the idea of the nasal swab, among other things, is to help localize the place of exposure. But once you determine that there was probable exposure, because you know that there was anthrax in that area, then we treat those people for 60 days.
Q Are there any other postal workers outside of New Jersey being tested for infection from anthrax?
GENERAL SATCHER: I can't answer that because I don't know all of the people who are being tested right now because it's dynamic, it's changing all the time.
Q How about in Washington?
GENERAL SATCHER: There are people being tested, there are people who have lined up to be tested because they feel that they could have been exposed, and in most cases we're allowing them to be tested. I believe in the department yesterday people were tested.
Q What about the Grand Hall and the first floor of the department, are there any individuals who want to come in and be tested?
Q My point is that have you -- are there any indications that other postal workers who may have handled letters with anthrax have been infected in any other places besides New Jersey?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: We are reviewing some cases.
Q Why were they given Cipro if penicillin and doxycycline work as well?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: Because that was what Majority Leader Daschle had requested and we furnished it.
GENERAL SATCHER: And often, though, we start with Cipro until we get the sensitivities. And once we get it's clear --
Q Do they stay on Cipro?
GENERAL SATCHER: Not necessarily. You begin with Cipro until you determine that they are sensitive to penicillin and doxycycline and then you can make a decision to change if indicated. For example, you wouldn't want to continue a child in any case on Cipro beyond the first few days if they were sensitive. But in other cases you may continue an adult.
Q Governor Ridge, given the high profile nature of all the people that have been targeted with these anthrax letters, it is pretty reasonable to assume that someone in The White House would have also been targeted. Can you tell us definitively that no one, neither the President, Vice President or anybody else in the Executive complex here has received a suspicious letter here or a tainted letter? And do you know if the President and Vice President are taking Cipro?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I can tell you definitively that no one has been tested, not necessarily tested, no one has the anthrax disease in The White House, and I cannot tell you what Dr. Tubbs has -- I can't tell you what the President and the Vice President's doctors have prescribed. I have no idea.
Q Are the letters continuing to come or do you think that they will stop now?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: I wish I could tell you that we've seen the end of it, but we obviously are preparing for more. That's why we have decided to increase the supply of the antibiotics, and that is why we are pursuing lead as aggressively as possible to see if perhaps we can apprehend those that sent those earlier letters. So we have to proceed --
Q Governor Ridge, one of the bottlenecks that is emerging in producing vaccines or antiviral agents to treat a disease such as smallpox is the FDA regulations themselves. Will you order the FDA to streamline or facilitate testing and production of vaccines at this point?
GOVERNOR RIDGE: That is something that Secretary Thompson has been working on quite vigorously now for a couple of weeks, and I am going to ask him to respond.
SECRETARY THOMPSON: We have already done that. We have had the FDA in and we have negotiated with FDA. We have had FDA in. We have had the pharmaceutical companies that want to produce it. We have sat down, ironed out all the protocols, all the difficulties, and I can assure you that we are going to be able to start manufacturing smallpox vaccine yet this year.
Q When will the first doses be rolling off the production lines do you estimate?
SECRETARY THOMPSON: Sometime in December of this year.
END 1:32 P.M. EDT
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