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(506) 2223-1327         Published Friday, May 30, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 107         E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Alma never made it to hurricane status
Freak tropical storm slugs country from the west

By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica has never experienced a phenomenon like the tropical storm that pounded the Pacific coast Wednesday night and into Thursday, said the director of the national emergency commission. 

Tropical storm Alma came in from the west, flooded 150 homes in Parrita and drove 890 people to emergency shelters, said Daniel Gallardo, director of the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias. At least 2,500 people were directly affected by the damage caused by the storm, said Gallardo.

Alma's water swept down mountainsides to block roads and roared throughout the night flooding homes and burying bridges under water. Boats were sunk in the Playa Garza harbor.

Parrita on the central Pacific was hit the hardest, said Gallardo. The storm also slammed Quepos, Guanacaste, and San Isidro de El General.

Officials will not be able to fully assess the damage until today, they said. The high waters, especially in Parrita, make getting a complete idea of the destruction difficult, said Gallardo. But the worst was over by Thursday afternoon, he said, and the storm had moved north.

“We have things under control,” said Gallardo at an unusual Casa Presidencial press conference Thursday evening. He added that emergency teams were helping families and that there were no lack of supplies.

By midday Thursday most communities on the central Pacific coast that could be reached reported to A.M. Costa Rica that the rain had slowed or stopped and that the wind was much weaker than the previous night. Many areas were left without electricity, however. Outages affected 8,500 people on the coast, reported a release from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

Some communities had no means of communication after the storm, and residents were not sure what to expect. Some residents in Sámara were digging trenches around their home and preparing their area for another hard hit, reported one woman, who said she endured 24 hours without electricity.

“The rains are sure to start again,” said a Fuerza Pública officer in Cañas Thursday afternoon. The red weather alert was not lowered officially in Guanacaste until Thursday evening.

No fatalities had been reported by Thursday afternoon, but a number of cars had accidents said Gallardo. “We warned people not to cross the rivers, and they did anyway,” he said. “And we warned them not to cross bridges, but they did.”

For example, the Río Parrita was lapping at the steel deck of the bridge in that community.
Tropical Storm Alma's track
U.S. National Hurricane Center graphic
Expected track of Tropical Storm Alma
Brian Phelps, a Jacó resident with a weather center perched atop a school building, reported that from midnight until 4:27 p.m. Wednesday, Jacó received 5.9 inches of rain and had top winds of 33 mph at 12:43 p.m. Phelps estimated the city had 8 inches of rain by Thursday afternoon, he said in an e-mail.

Gallardo praised the Arías administration for its millions of dollars in investments for emergency preparations. Dredging rivers and protecting dams and bridges had paid off. The minister of the presidency, Rodrigo Arías, said in the same press conference that he had not slept the previous night.

Although Alma has now moved away from Costa Rica into Nicaragua and Honduras, the weather experts said that off-and-on rain and heavy downpours would affect the Pacific, Central Valley, northern zone, and the central and southern Caribbean today.

At least 11 rivers overflowed, six bridges were damaged, 24 areas on various highways were affected, and seven emergency shelters were full of people, said an emergency commission spokesperson Thursday evening. Officials said routes in the following areas are affected, mostly by landslides:

Puntarenas: Playa Naranjo-Paquera, Paquera-Cóbano, Guácimal, Parrita, Paquera

San José: Pérez Zeledón, Villa Mills, El Empalme

Guanacaste: Esparza of Hojancha, Carmona, Garza-Nosara,  Ostional of Santa Cruz, Zapotal de Nicoya, Calle Zamora of Nandayure

Alajuela: Barrio Holandés, Bajo Cacao, Río IV, Valverde Vega, Naranjo
Rivers that flooded included:  The Montaña and Rosario in Santa Cruz; the Tempisque around Filadelfia; the Grande in Paquera on the Nicoya Peninsula; the Pánica, also Paquera; the Barranca in Puntarenas; the Parrita in Parrita; the Paquita in Quepos; the Naranjito, also Quepos; the Buena Vista in Pérez Zeledón, and the Río General, also Pérez Zeledón.

Ferry, hydro work and big soccer match all were affected by Alma
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is a quick summary of events linked to the storm:

Naviera Tambor suspended its ferry service between Puntarenas and the Nicoya Peninsula at noon Thursday because the tropical storm was whipping up the Gulfo de Nicoya.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad evacuated 1,100 workers from the Pirrís hydroelectric project Thursday morning in the face of the storm. The workers were sent home. The area of the dam construction was cut off by landslides, and normal vehicles could not enter, but the power company used its heavy equipment to open the way, it said.

A key championship game between rivals Deportivo Saprissa and the Liga Deportiva
Alajuelense was postponed from Thursday night until Sunday at 11 a.m.

A Sámara reader said her lights came on at 5 p.m. exactly after being off for 24 hours.

The U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami said that the government of El Salvador discontinued a hurricane watch for the coast at 3 p.m. Costa Rican time. The governments of Nicaragua and Honduras replaced their hurricane warning with a tropical storm warning at 3 p.m.

At 3 p.m. Costa Rica discontinued the tropical storm warning south of Jacó. At 5 p.m. the storm was moving due north at 8 kph or about 5 mph.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 55 kph with gusts up to 65 kph.

The storm came ashore in Nicaragua about 2 p.m.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 107

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Coastal developer faces
Florida racketeering count

By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An American man linked to a development company that owns projects on the Pacific coast has been arrested in
Jeffery Goldberg Broward Co. Sheriff photo
Jeffrey Goldberg
Florida on four charges of racketeering and money laundering.

The man, Jeffrey Martin Goldberg, was confirmed to be one of the owners of Costa Developers by a representative of the company's San José office Thursday.

The company owns Costa Esterillos and Costa Reserva, two gated communities near Esterillos on the central Pacific Coast, and Costa Montana, a hilltop development in the same area which was recently
singled out by the government's Tribunal Ambiental for damage to the environment.

Said to work mainly in the company's Florida office, Goldberg's charges appear to come from his involvement with a sports gambling ring there which used a betting service operating out of Costa Rica.

Chappy Sports Gambling and Bookmaking Enterprise, which has been running for about eight years in Costa Rica, was handling bets for an organized crime group that was broken up by Broward County, Florida, Sheriff's Office May 22, officials there said at the time.

Goldberg, 59, and his son Jason, 32, got involved when the ringleader Norman Weissman ran into money troubles, according to the Miami Herald. The two then “shared in the profits from losing bets and high-interest payments collected from the bettors who lost,” reported the newspaper.

Officials suspect that the enterprise earned millions of dollars a year from its customers, who made Internet or telephone bets through Costa Rica. In total, 12 people who worked for the Florida betting ring were arrested and remain in custody in Broward's main prison.

Goldberg's charges are for racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, money laundering of over $100,000 and conspiracy to commit money laundering. His bail is set at $1.6 million.

Nine show their piano skills

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nine Students of Carol Wunderle from 5 to 10 performed in a recital in her studio. Those presenting selections from the Suzuki Piano School were:

Christopher Felipe Winsted, 5, of Curridabat, son of Wayne Winsted and Bibiana Echeverry; Michelle Beck, 5, of Rohrmoser, daughter of Eberhard Beck and Magaly Vega; Scarlet Weidig, 6, of San Antonio de Belén, daughter of Randel Weidig and Andrea Velazquez; José Leonardo Brenes, 7, of Escazú, son of Roger Brenes and Maria Auziliadora; Couloir Hanson, 9, of Escazú, daughter of Isaac Shisler and Cornelia Weiss; Stacey Volandi, 10, of Escazú, daughter of Ralph Volandi and Stacey Araya; Tania Montoya, 9, of Escazú, daughter of Felipe Montoya and Alejandra Garcia;  Emma Cazzulini, 13, of Heredia, daughter of Carlo and Fiona Cazzulini; and Alejandro Faerron, 10, of Escazú, son of Rogelia Faerron and Loren Matamoros. 

The recitals are free and open to the public.  The next one will be Aug. 14.  Contact Carol Wunderle at 2232-3999 for directions.

Our reader's opinion
Anti-smoking campaign has
little basis in scientific fact

Dear AM Costa Rica:

It looks like the anti-smoking nazis have landed in our free country, anxious to take away a freedom. These people actually buy the propaganda that people in ventilated areas suffer smoke-related illnesses from second-hand smoke.

During our fight against this stupid legislation in Massachusetts we uncovered two very important facts:

(1.) The die-hard proponents were getting paid, as were the doctors (and I suspect legislators also) who rubber-stamped the legislation;

(2.) They totally ignored the study done by UCLA and published in the British Medical Journal stating that out of a control group of 35,000 non-smokers, not one case of second-hand smoke related disease was reported.

All over the world freedoms are being taken away by disgruntled, bored people with nothing better to do than make things difficult for others. 
Barry Schwartz

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 107

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Off-duty policeman killed when his car collides with train
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A train crushed a car carrying three police officers on their way home from work Thursday morning. One officer died on the scene and the other two were hospitalized, said the director of Fuerza Pública in Pavas.

“It was his last day of work before his day off,” said Delroy Hernández, speaking of officer Eliécer Abarca Bolívar, who died in the accident. Arbarca had served in the Fuerza Pública for more than 20 years, said Hérnandez. “He was very dear to us. He was a serious man and a hard worker.”

Arbarca, was in his 40s and had two children, a boy and a girl, said Hérnandez. The three officers had just finished their night shift and were on their way home about 8:30 a.m., said the director. The police officers all lived near each other in Alajuelita, so Arbarca always gave his 
younger companions a ride home, said Hérnandez.

“They were probably talking and not paying attention when it happened,” said Hérnandez, “it was all very fast.”

Crossing the tracks, Arbarca's Hyundai was smacked over and crushed by the train, said the police director. The vehicle appeared to be wedged between the train locomotive and a wall.

The train was part of the valley passenger service operated by the government railway agency, the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles.

Paramedics took the other two officers, Gilbert Morales and Enrique Gonzáles, who were both hurt, to the hospital. The officers are now reported to be in stable condition said a security spokesman. Morales has been with the Fuerza Pública for 12 years and Gonzáles for three, said Hernández.

Playas del Coco families to honor ocean on its day June 8
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Sharks, sand and all things related to the sea will be the focus of celebrations for World Ocean Day June 8. A weekend of activities for families in Playas del Coco will mark the day, which was started in 1992 as a way for people to consider and appreciate the products and natural diversity that the world's oceans provide.

“Sharkwater,” the film that includes footage of Costa Rica's Isla del Coco in its condemnation of shark-finning, will be screened at Ocotal Beach Resort June 7, followed by a presentation about the much-feared fish by marine conservation charity Programa Restauracion de Tortugas Marinas.
Children from the local school will be helping out with a beach clean-up from 9 a.m. June 8. Fun activities such as making sand sculptures and ocean art take place afterwards until 3 p.m on the strip of beach by the town's park, and people can watch as Carlos Hiller paints an ocean-themed mural on the side of the Rich Coast Diving building.

Live music, drinks and snacks with an art auction take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to raise money for Projecto de Luz, a children's charity which is also organizing many of the activities.

More information and reservations for the shark presentation can be made by e-mailing

Jo remembers her mother and her nearly 100 years of life
This past week my mother died.  She left this life and this planet very quietly in her sleep this past Tuesday, just a month and a half before her 100th birthday.  She left behind three daughters, Annetta, Donnetta, and myself.  (Once someone asked me how many brothers and sisters I had, and I said, “One brother and three sisters.”  Then I thought a moment and added, “Well, I’m one of sisters.”)

Mom also left one living sister, Grace, 13 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and 30 great-great-grandchildren.  I’m not sure that all of them knew her, but those of us who did loved her very much.

She wanted to be a dancer and an actress, and one of her great memories was when Charlie Chaplin came to Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania (I wonder now if he really did go to that small town.).  Anyway, she saw him in the local movie house when they had live entertainment, and later on she saw him walking down the street, “swinging his cane, just like in the movies.”

But she was married at the age of 15.  It was more of an arranged marriage by the two families rather than a love match.  She was left a young widow with four children under 10 when she was barely in her 20s. This was in the middle of the Great Depression. Fortunately, some time in her busy life she had studied to be a beautician and was able to support all of us by opening a beauty shop in our home on South Main Street in Mayville, New York.

She was successful, partly because she was very good at what she did, and partly because she was a joy to be around –— besides being beautiful, she was a very funny lady.  Not when she was angry with us kids, though.  Then her brown eyes would turn to black, and sparks seemed to fly out of them, and out would come the wooden spoon, something most Italian mothers made do double duty, I have learned. Ours used it on the palms of our hands.  Sometimes she simply lined us up, and everyone got it.  I guess it was to teach us that we were each responsible for the behavior of one another.

She remarried at the age of 47 and was happily married until she was widowed again in 1960. 

Mom visited me just once after I moved to Costa Rica.  She was 86 and had just gotten her first passport in order to come.  She was afraid of just two things in life: deep water and snakes.  She was fearful of running into a snake here because she had read that Costa Rica has many
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

Mrs. Carlson
Margaret Roda Carlson

poisonous ones.  I assured her that there were no snakes in the city. (“Trust me, Mom,”) On the second day of her visit we were walking down a deserted street.  I had paused and she was a little ahead of me when she stopped. When I caught up with her, there, in the street, coiled and staring at her was a bright green snake.  You can imagine the mother-daughter conversation after that.  But she never lost her sense of humor, even when it came to snakes.

There are many stories my sisters and I will be sharing about our mother in the months to come, but right now we have to do it via e-mail because we live so far from each other.  Meanwhile, this long rain and these gloomy days reflect how I am feeling at the moment.  A considerable bit of sunshine has left our lives.

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

Jaco Towers

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 107

Tourism firms will have to measure greenhouse gas output
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On a day when Costa Rica was facing the effects of a severe weather system similar to those that could be caused by climate change, the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo presented its plan to combat the phenomenon.

As part of Costa Rica's Peace with Nature initiative that aims to make the country carbon neutral by 2021, the tourism institute has put together a vague plan that outlines its intention to educate people working in the sector and monitor the use of more sustainable methods.

Tourism is Costa Rica's most lucrative sector, and worldwide tourism is deemed to pump out 5 percent of the total greenhouse gases that are said to be the root of global warming.

Sustainable development is top of the bill for upmarket tourist destinations as consumers become more aware of their own effects on the environment. Carlos Ricardo Benavides, minister of tourism, pointed to figures that show that 19 percent of tourists would be happy to spend more money than average in places that use environmentally- friendly practices.

Benavides' plan bases itself around five “axes,” including mitigation, vulnerability, adaptation to change and education.

By 2021, every tourist business operating in Costa Rica should be able to measure its own output of greenhouse gases and take steps to compensate for these emissions, according to the document.
At first the institute will be working with hotels and transport services, moving on to tour operators, adrenalin sports, theme parks, restaurants and administrative offices in a later phase.

Reducing energy consumption, treating and re-using water, contributing to the reforestation of tourist zones, and changing electrical appliances to those with low energy use are measures that businesses are advised to take to reach the carbon-neutral goal. Projects in construction will also be expected to provide studies of their projected energy usage.

The next generation will be taught about climate change and how to avoid it, with students at schools in tourist zones the first to have the subject added to the curriculum.

“There is not one level that we can say is sustainable for each place,” said Benavides, when asked about the frictions that the Guanacaste town Sardinal is experiencing between locals and touristic enterprises. “The challenges we must meet are different in the mountains than they would be at the beach.

“If we had started our tourist development with more foresight in the first place, we wouldn't be experiencing difficulties such as we are seeing in Sardinal. What we know is that tourism development is essential for bettering peoples' lives, and well-planned development can be environmentally sustainable.”

The tourism ministry's document was delivered Thursday to the Oficina Nacional de Cambio Climático, part of the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía, to be incorporated in the country's Estrategia Nacional de Cambio Climático del Gobierno.

Fair to show off good environmental works is next week
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The utilities companies are planning an environmental fair, but managers are hoping that those who attend come in a group to save on gasoline and reduce their impact on the environment, they said.

The event is the III Feria Ambiental that will be in the Antigua Aduana in Barrio Aranjuez from June 5 to 9. Sponsors are the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz and Radiográfica Costarricense S.A., all part of Grupo ICE.

Some 65 exhibits are planned, said an announcement.

Grupo ICE plans to show off some of its efforts to generate positive impact in the environment, it said. Among these are the installation of biodigesters on farms and ranches to
handle animal waste and produce methane gas for energy use.

June 5, next Thursday, is the World Environment Day, and that is the kickoff event of the fair. The fair also is linked with the central government's "peace with nature" initiative.

Included in the event are workshops for youngsters on a number of practical concepts in environmental management, such as climate change and conservation of energy. Other environmentally oriented organizations also are participating.

The Antigua Aduana, once known as FERCORI, is located in northeast San José on Calle 23 opposite the east side of the Estación al Atlantico, the former train station for trips to the Caribbean. The historic Aduana or customs house facility has been remodeled recently.

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Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


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Dos and don'ts for women
polarizing Turkish society

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs, the Diyanet, has sparked a controversy in a declaration on how women should behave in public life. The Diyanet, which controls the Muslim faith in Turkey, has been sharply criticized by women's groups and supporters of the secular state.

In a Web site declaration, the Diyanet has given a long list of dos and don'ts on how women should behave in public life.

Among the most controversial are directives saying women should not wear perfume in public and that they should not be alone with men.

In the heart of Istanbul, there was general disbelief among women. This response was typical:

"It is really unbelievable, but nobody is listening to them, especially in big cities, nobody. But it is strange, they are going more crazy everyday, and I do not believe anybody will stop because of this declaration, because it is stupid."

The woman speaking was wearing a short-sleeve T-shirt, to cope with hot weather. But, according to the Diyanet, that, too, is forbidden. It says women should always cover up.

While the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party does not directly control the Diyanet, observers say its declaration will add to growing concerns among supporters of secularism about the direction the country is moving. The ruling party is facing closure by the country's supreme court on charges of threatening the secular state.

The Diyanet's declaration, which has no legal authority, has once again revealed the deep polarization in Turkish society. Much of the religious press welcomed the measures, but the secular media strongly condemned them.

The Diyanet, which also approved appointments of Imams, has in recent years been advocating progressive policies that include campaigning against the killing of women in the name of family honor.

Liz Amado of the Istanbul based Women for Women's rights fears the declaration is part of a worrying new trend.

"They do talk about girls education, they had to talk about honor killings," said Ms. Amado. "But this past year we have been witnessing a more of a backlash in terms of approach and declarations against gender equality. Against things such as wearing perfume, saying it is sacrilegious or flirting is the same as adultery etcetera."

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan provoked anger from women's-rights groups when he repeatedly called for all married women to have at least three children. According to observers, because the ruling party is facing closure, its leadership is increasingly courting its religious voter base.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, May 30, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 107

U.S. Olympic baseballers seek a medal and to save the sport
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The U.S. national baseball team will be seeking its second gold medal — and redemption — at the Beijing Olympics in August. The United States won the gold medal in 2000, but failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Games. Baseball is making what could be its final appearance as an Olympic sport following the International Olympic Committee's decision to drop it from the 2012 Games in London.

The committee will vote next year on whether to reinstate baseball for the 2016 Olympics, and beyond.

American Alexander Joy Cartwright invented modern baseball in 1845. Over the last 163 years, its popularity has spread across the globe, especially throughout the Americas and Asia.

But a sport that's been described as "Ballet without music. Drama without words," (Ernie Harwell, "The Game for All America," 1955) and "Heaven's gift to mortals" (George Will, "Bunts," 1999) apparently has not become international enough for Olympic organizers. In 2005, the International Olympic Committee voted, albeit narrowly, to cut baseball from the 2012 Olympics. Women's softball also was cut.

The international governing bodies for both amateur baseball and softball can apply for reinstatement in 2009 when the committee votes on which sports to include at the 2016 Summer Games.

U.S. Olympic baseball team general manager, Bob Watson, says USA Baseball was very disappointed by the committee's decision, but he is looking to the future.

"With the vote coming up in '09, we feel that our performance in the '08 Olympics will go a long way," said Bob Watson. "The bottom line is this: baseball needs to be in the Olympics."

Baseball and softball became the first sports to be voted out of the Olympics since equestrian polo was eliminated in 1936.

While polo is known as the "Sport of Kings," baseball is considered a game just about anyone with a bat and a ball can play.

Baseball's triumphs and woes have been a metaphor for life's most important lessons. As an icon of popular culture,
the sport has inspired everything from poetry to beer commercials to award-winning films. The game even originated one of the world's most universal and ubiquitous fashion trends: the baseball hat.

Baseball debuted at the Olympics as a demonstration sport in 1984 in Los Angeles and was demonstrated again at the 1988 Games in Seoul. It became a full-medal Olympic sport in 1992 in Barcelona with Cuba winning the gold medal. The Cubans would go on to win in 1996 and 2004. The United States won the gold medal in 2000.

U.S. baseball team manager Davey Johnson says international baseball is growing in popularity all around the world, but the United States must do well in Beijing if the game has a chance for reinstatement.

"It is very crucial for us to make a good showing over there," said Johnson. "I hope like heck that they can at least have some sort of softball and baseball back on the venue for Oh-16. I sure hope so."

Major League Baseball's refusal to allow its top talent to play in the Olympics during the height of its season, and the recent doping scandals in the sport are two main reasons the Olympic committee decided to drop baseball for 2012.

Criminal investigations and U.S. congressional hearings into the use of steroids and illegal performance enhancing drugs by major league players have made global headlines at a time when the Olympic committee is cracking down on doping by athletes.

Even though Major League Baseball recently toughened its drug-testing policy to include more random testing under tighter controls, its rules are still less stringent than those of the World Anti-Doping Agency. The agency, which oversees Olympic drug testing, plans on taking an unprecedented 4,500 drug tests in Beijing.

The committee opened the Olympics to professional baseball players in 2000, but Major League rules drastically limit how many players actually participate. Watson says most of the U.S. team's 24-man roster for Beijing will be minor league players.

So in August, the United States will play in what could be baseball's fifth and final appearance as an Olympic medal sport. Twenty-four-man teams from South Korea, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Japan, Taiwan, and defending champion Cuba also will be contending.

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