Monday, November 14, 2022

This is war: Renewables vs the West

The future of renewable energy is laid out before us, bound by inevitable consequences and engineering restraints. It is a failure of concept, buoyed by trillions of dollars in public money and the artificial destruction of its market competitors. The result is an energy crisis which is hastening the end of virtue-seeking energy systems that have benefited nobody except crafty investors and billionaire green playboys.

The public will pick up the bill for their hubris, as is always the case with political errors. Australians have been left sitting at the table with the scraps of the meal that was ‘renewable energy’ – bones picked clean by bankers, mining giants, bureaucrats, and diplomats.

State Premiers lie whenever they describe solar and wind as ‘cheap energy’, conveniently restricting their costings to the initial construction of the project while ignoring the required backup battery farms, re-wiring of the grid, and cyclic nightmare of the ‘rip out and replace’ reality of technology with a 20-year lifespan. Experts call this ‘re-powering’. Normal people call it madness.

This delusion is how we end up with the embarrassing antics of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declaring Brisbane Airport will be running on ‘100 per cent’ renewable energy for the bargain deal of $4.5 billion – except for the planes, of course. And no, the airport is not going to operate on an isolated renewables-only grid to prove the point. Are you crazy? What if the wind died in the middle of the night?

The ABC are too friendly with green ideology to ask the obvious question: why are the Pacific Islands and other third-world despots asking for billions in reparations while selling their fossil fuel and rare earths assets under the table to the world’s largest polluter, China? Or the follow-up: what happens if we end up at war with China over Taiwan and they won’t sell us any solar panels? Or the follow-up to the follow-up: will Australia be able to defend the Pacific with a ‘made in China’ sticker on our power grid?

It is a contradiction that speaks to profit, not apocalypse. The insulting paternalism of Labor’s attitude toward ‘those poor people’ on ‘sinking flooded islands’ leaves Australia as a victim of politicians who are more concerned with ‘looking good’ and shaking all the right hands at the United Nations than taking care of the Australian people, whose money they throw away like confetti at the monstrous wedding of globalism and eco-fascism.

As the human population grows, civilisation requires an energy grid with a dense fuel source – something that takes up as little of our productive land as possible. Covering river deltas and prime agricultural fields with solar panels and wind turbines is the work of morons who have confused steel bird mincers with chapel steeples. These are not monuments to the Green religion, they are symbols of inexhaustible human idiocy that will be rusting long after the climate apocalypse fails to manifest.

Why must we be polite about the vandalism of Western Civilisation? Why do conservatives tolerate the gutless, mute, spineless, and soulless Liberal Party playing along because they are too embarrassed to apologise for trying to gain political traction from the same green fibs as Labor?

Climate Change has drifted into a religion of convenience – an ‘Edenism’ that ignores basic geological history and makes unkeepable promises about the fate of humanity. We have transferred our personal fear of mortality onto the Earth, terrified of a terra hellfire (or is it another Noah-style flood?) instead of the metaphoric flames of the old religions.

The planet is not a sentient being, it is a self-destructive rock that cares very little for our survival and would sooner hurl an asteroid or open a flood basalt rift than thank us for the sacrifice of university virgins.

Try telling that to a screaming activist glued to a Renoir with bits of horse and petroleum…

Instead of transferring the innards of third-world mountains to Australian landfills – or listening to scientists talk about melting wind turbines down into gummy bears for our children to eat – why not skip to the end?

The answer to our energy woes was revealed last century – a solution so simple, clean, and practical that its existence threatens the survival of all other energy sources. Nuclear. With billions of years in fuel reserves, nuclear will outlive humanity.

It doesn’t matter that the argument in favour of nuclear is unshakable, whether you believe in the apocalypse or simply want to restore light to the West, nuclear must first win the culture war that was started by jealous fossil fuels companies and is being continued by renewables barons.

We have seen conflicts like this before.

In the 19th century, a clash of profitable scientific ideas slammed into the middle of another culture war. Society was turned into a stage upon which charismatic showmen, backed by competing corporate interests, fought for the future of human civilisation. Energy was then, as it is now, the most valuable commodity.

The War of the Currents between beloved American Thomas Edison and competing energy merchant George Westinghouse changed the world, in large part due to outspoken Serbian migrant Nikola Tesla. It was a showdown between Direct Current electricity and the mysterious Alternating Current motors devised by Tesla that came with distinct advantages. Merit won out, but the battle was an expensive mess that claimed many lives. Friendships were destroyed, fortunes lost, and barbaric acts committed within the hysteria.

Edison championed Direct Current. His business interests, and those of his corporate investors, were entrenched in the technology. Alternating Current was a superior product and the obvious answer to the technical issues that plagued Direct Current systems. From a logical perspective, if America wanted to become an energy empire, it would have to rip up its old DC systems and replace them with an AC infrastructure.

Obvious solutions are often hated.

Unable to dismantle AC with sensible arguments, Edison sought ways to frighten the public over to his side – playing on the cheapest of human emotions in the hope that public fear would put political pressure on the scientific realm and cause lawmakers to act as AC’s executioner. To spread fear you need victims, so Edison Electric arranged public demonstrations in which AC current could be shown frying animals to death. Eventually, AC was used in the creation of the first electric chair, ensuring that the technology became synonymous with killing.

Edison took the culture wars too far. His antics painted him as unhinged and childish, deliberately contriving acts of cruelty for corporate interest while Westinghouse and Tesla improved the safety profile of their generators. Westinghouse secured the contract for the Niagara Falls system with Tesla’s motors, finishing the argument. The loss was so complete that the war is often forgotten.

We see a similar level of moral panic levelled at nuclear, with the combined forces of international bureaucracies and the corporate elite inciting the useful idiots on social media to arms. Propaganda and political power are the glue that holds renewables together. A bit of sensible jostling would easily snap it apart.

Anyone in love with renewable energy should be afraid of nuclear energy. It is coming to murder the solar, wind, and battery industry. As Europe is swiftly learning, nuclear is the only solution to our immediate energy crisis – the way for humanity to advance with its standard of living intact.

Those who get themselves caught up in this new war of the currents – misguided citizens who lean into fear porn, apocalyptic rhetoric, and socially destructive activism – will look as foolish as the men electrocuting small animals to scare the mob.

Yes, this is a war, but it has already been won in the eyes of history. It is only the final bill that remains to be counted. ?


Gender quotas have no place in science funding


The latest Leftist policy of destruction

To fund their medical research in Australia, male scientists may have to start identifying as trans or “non-binary” to get a fair shake.

This is because the nation’s largest body that administers medical research funding – the taxpayer-funded National Health and Medical Research Council – has decided to impose gender quotas on the awarding of funding for research, even though female researchers are already more likely to receive funding.

The NHMRC typically awards about $370m in investigator grants to medical researchers every year. Starting from next year, these grants must be awarded equally to male and female researchers, even if applications are not evenly split. The NHMRC also has announced: “For the first time, non-binary researchers will also be explicitly included in this and other measures to foster gender equity in NHMRC funding, recognising the systemic disadvantage that they experience.”

Of course, nobody wants women to miss out on fair opportunities for research funding. And if high-quality applications can be split perfectly down the middle to ensure a perfect 50-50 ratio between male and female researchers, I don’t think anyone would have a problem with it. If 70 per cent of applications were from female scientists and only 40 per cent of the grants were awarded to them, I think all of us would understand the policy’s rationale.

But that is not the case. According to an editorial recently published in Nature, last year only 20 per cent of the applicants in the most established research group were women. How the NHMRC will achieve a 50 per cent gender ratio out of a 20 per cent female application rate at this level has not been made clear. (At least they’ve included the non-binary category for some wiggle room.)

What is clear is that when women apply for funding, they are just as likely as men to receive it. According to Nature: “From 2019 to 2021, more applications for investigator grants at the earliest career stage came from women – who were awarded 137 grants, compared to 123 for men.”

And according to table five of the NHMRC’s Investigator Grants 2022 Outcomes Fact Sheet, women are already more likely to be funded. This year, although the total number of female applicants was fewer at the top level, when they did apply 41.7 per cent of women won grant funding compared with 23 per cent of men. At the mid-career level, 26.6 per cent of women were successful in getting their research funded while 12.6 per cent of men were. And at the junior level, where more women apply for funding than men, 11.8 per cent of women were funded compared with 8.8 per cent of men. If women are already more likely to receive funding then the disadvantage that the quota is apparently correcting for is ambiguous.

The usual argument is that there are fewer women applying for grant numbers at the top level because they have faced disadvantage throughout their careers and so it is justifiable that some form of affirmative action is required to even the playing field.

As a working mother I am sympathetic to the argument that women face challenges that are unique to their sex. But while it is true that women once faced systemic barriers in the past it is not clear that these barriers still exist.

More women than men earn PhDs, including in science, technology, engineering and maths disciplines, and female doctoral graduates out-earn men. In the early stages of their careers more women than men apply for grants and receive them. The NHMRC’s data shows that last year 181 junior women applied for funding compared with 167 men. If more women earning PhDs, applying for grants and winning grants counts as structural disadvantage, then the patriarchy really does work in mysterious ways.

Two research scientists writing in Quillette, the online magazine of which I am editor, have argued the reason for the discrepancy at the top levels is simply an artefact of a generational shift.

Decades ago there were fewer women earning PhDs and undertaking science careers. This discrepancy shows up today when looking at senior levels of the profession. But this discrepancy is not necessarily evidence of unfair treatment. It could be, but to assert that it is without conducting the appropriate study is unscientific – not what we would expect from a leading scientific body.

Former NHMRC grant recipient and University of Melbourne emeritus professor Anthony Jorm writes in Quillette: “The new policy champ­ioned by the current CEO (Anne Kelso) means that gender equity will override quality. Any adjustment of grant outcomes by gender necessarily requires that some women with lower quality applications will be favoured over some men with higher ones.”

We already have dubious research being produced within scientific fields from “feminist glaciology” to “the Racialisation of Epistemology in Physics”. We hardly need incentives for more.

And it is likely the public would prefer that its money were spent on the highest quality medical research – regardless of the gender of the lead researcher. Funding for scientific research is a public good, not a mandate for preferencing one set of researchers over another. The prestige of science rests on its perceived impartiality and meritocracy. While bias can and does exist in any human endeavour, custodians of our institutions have a duty to reduce bias, not exaggerate it.

The high status afforded to science in our society exists because it is seen as being above politics. Enforcing quotas to satisfy political objectives such as gender equity erodes the perception that science is above politics and reduces its status. By awarding funding for any reason other than merit, Australia’s leading body of funding for medical research undermines the principles on which the scientific enterprise rests.


Australia's education trainwreck

Our economy is jittery, so new workers must be exceptionally prepared just to get a job covering inflation. That green jobs transformation arising miraculously from the ruins of fossil ruins will greedily demand students with advanced techno-scientific competencies. Globally, we need Australians so skilled they can compete with brainboxes from Taiwan and Germany, not just the kid in the next suburb.

So, in challenging times, it is deeply concerning we have either wrecked or are wrecking every component of our educational system. TAFE is a smouldering ruin, schools overrun with outdated education practices, and prestigious universities more interested in self-aggrandisement than the national good.

Of course, TAFE is the starkest example. Governments have trumpeted for years the importance of skills-based TAFE, so naturally it has been left to rot.

The problem politicians have with TAFE is that good TAFE is expensive. You cannot train sophisticated workers for the tech industry, let alone boilermakers, from pocket money. The paradoxical result is that governments have funded the vital TAFE sector like an importunate beggar.

As costs for things such as technology went up, politicians forced funding down. Foolishly, they opened the market to shonky private competitors who undercut public TAFEs by providing two-dollar shop training. Many of these were simply fronts for dodgy immigration schemes, and dragged the entire sector down in scandal and confusion. High-quality public TAFEs with decades of reputation wept.

Now, every government promises to support TAFE, including the new Albanese government. But each year it sinks further beneath the water.

Saving TAFE will involve more than the occasional budget handout and a few kind words. There needs to be a comprehensive strategy. That strategy must guarantee long-term funding, protection against educational leeches and strong incentives for universities to partner with TAFE for valuable, mutually advantageous dual credentials. This involves hard work, not flowery commitment.

Schools’ education is less in flames than an intense slow burn. The heat is not so much from a dumbing down as a hollowing out of curriculum. The packaging is fine but the contents problematic.

A central issue is that actual education in deep capacities such as language and mathematics has been neglected for much vaguer, almost conversational techniques. Note that the terms literacy and numeracy are not used here. These are mere thresholds to attainment. We do not want a population that can just add up and read. We need one that grasps mathematics and is grounded in English, history and geography.

For this, students must be challenged. Personally, every form of mathematics is an existential challenge. But in language, why do we feed students second-rate novels, fifth-rate plays and no poetry? Why do we assume no kid from Kellyville could respond to Yeats?

Tests of literacy and numeracy such as NAPLAN are interesting, not as assessments of final capacity but as glimpses of future attainment. These portents are not good. Results struggle to go up, and easily fall.

There is wider cultural failure in curriculum. In civics, we have a school population that is determinedly ignorant. Few adolescents could tell you who Lachlan Macquarie or Bennelong was, or whether Australia has a constitution (it does).

Other failures concern the teaching work-model. Teachers spend inordinate time preparing multiple lesson plans to satisfy vague curriculum envelopes. If the teacher is talented, this produces marvellous classes. If not, something is pulled from the internet and released on listless students.

These problems are not easy, but are soluble. Why not populate curriculums with standard expert-crafted lesson plans? This would enhance lesson quality and relieve teachers (especially new teachers) of the crippling drudge of constant lesson preparation. That time could be transferred to developing new, quality teaching skills.

Why not a serious approach to civics? The argument is the curriculum is already crowded. But it is a question of priorities. Knowledge and critiques of one’s own country is vital. Do it.

Then there is the perennial rancour over teacher education. This spans both schools who employ teachers and universities producing them. It is suffused with ignorance and prejudice.

For over a decade we have been obsessed not with actual teacher quality, but with the means of selecting them. It is like arguing over the cultivation of a pineapple rather than its taste.

The prime point of contention has been the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, a rather rough measure of ranking student performance in year 12. The argument goes that only a person with an ATAR of 146 out of 100 is clever enough to be a teacher.

Put aside hysterics over hypothetical education students with an ATAR below 50. These are rare, overwhelmingly involving special disadvantage schemes. Typically, university education students with an ATAR fall between the mid-60s and 70s.

You then face two confronting realities. First, most students will not enter teaching simply with an ATAR. Yes, there may be an ATAR, but only as one part of an entry package including interviews, aptitude testing and community service. Prestige courses such as dentistry, medicine and law do this. Where is the hysteria? A stupid, underqualified dentist is a nightmare.

Second, there is no research-based evidence that high ATARS make better teachers.

Teaching is a vocation demanding absolute commitment. Provided a student has a decent school performance and a serious university education, it is this human bond to students that makes the difference, not a raw score in year 12. Think of your finest teacher. Do you know their results in the final year of school? Do you care?

This ATAR compulsive disorder has caused the current crisis in teacher supply. Embarrassed politicians and bureaucrats do not admit it, but their fanaticism over ATAR has produced the personnel crisis meaning bigger class sizes and less educated kids.

The correlation is simple. If, like former NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli, you run a propaganda campaign that all new teachers are stupid ATAR refugees, it will have entirely predictable results. It will not increase the quality of new teachers. Instead, clever students will disdain teaching as a career because they do not want to be vilified as dumb. They will be led by the cleverest students, who are prouder and have more options.

This is the reality. In NSW, the number of students entering teaching degrees has collapsed. So have their ATARs. So has the proportion of high ATAR students.

The same pattern applies across Australia.

The worst thing is that this crash, followed by massive teacher shortages, was completely predictable. Indeed, it was predicted, repeatedly, by university education faculties. Smug ministers and bureaucrats retorted there was no possibility of a teacher shortage.

Now they are propounding exactly the hopeless alleviating measures foretold by their critics. Irish teachers are imported with no ATAR, who will skedaddle after their all-expenses-paid holiday. Mid-career engineers are teaching maths. In Germany, this has worked well with genuine would-be teachers; less well with failed professionals sporting a meth habit.

Remarkably, new Education Minister Jason Clare has appointed one of the haughtiest architects of the teacher shortage to review teacher education. As Director-General of Education in NSW, Sydney University vice-chancellor Mark Scott was a doctrinaire enthusiast for ATAR eugenics and confidently predicted there would be no teacher shortage.

Then we have university education. It is the sort of rolling crisis that beset the late Roman Empire.

The university sector effectively has two components. The first is the rich, prestigious, endowed sandstone universities. They traditionally have blocked economically disadvantaged students (who typically have lower ATARs) in favour of harvesting huge numbers of wealthy overseas students, particularly from China. Think Melbourne and Sydney.

Their most recent achievement was to put the whole sector into crisis when Covid collapsed their lucrative international market. With Covid (sort of) over, they are again revving up their proportion of overseas students to dangerous proportions.

The other type of Australian university is a “working” or “service university”. They make their money by educating students, often from parlous backgrounds. In both teaching and research, they serve a community, regional or categorical. Think Newcastle and Western Sydney.

These were the universities that dramatically widened participation over the past decade, enabled the children of workers and welcomed refugees. They are definitionally more interested in mission than money.

Nevertheless, governments and policymakers typically begin their account of Australian universities with the sandstones, the Group of Eight. Everyone is flattered by cloisters, cash and condescension. Ministers go gooey when they smell ivy.

They miss the reality that it is universities of service that will educate most Australians, pluck them from social disadvantage, and focus research on their problems. Why not start with these engines of opportunity and social justice, rather than the university equivalent of a yacht club?


Federal Labor must back resources sector, not punish it

Australia exports more liquefied natural gas than any other nation in the world. We are a vital energy security partner to nations such as Japan and South Korea. We also supply coal for power generation and steel-making.

Australia is a resources powerhouse yet we are about to engage in another round of confidence-sapping investment uncertainty and policy back-flipping. All this in a desperate attempt to manage a federal budget in disrepair and a knee-jerk reaction to the loudest voices in the room on gas prices.

The Australian Workers’ Union has rightly been raising the issue of gas prices and domestic production at state and national forums of the ALP for years. These calls have routinely been rejected by many of those now serving on Labor’s frontbench, including Treasurer Jim Chalmers.

The self-serving, largely under-invested manufacturing sector has tagged along in the hope of cheap energy to produce a profit rather than innovate and embrace renewable energy.

Meanwhile, the peak body for oil and gas, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, has com­pletely dropped the ball in representing its members’ interests. Its government relations “strategy” in Canberra seems to have been reduced to handing out free seats to backbenchers at Canberra’s Midwinter Ball.

Gone are the private sector energy champions such as Shell’s Andrew Smith, who actively used to promote the contribution to our nation, especially in regional economies, of his company and the wider resource sector. He was prepared to stand up to the activists and take on the naysayers.

The sector’s political weakness couldn’t come at a worse time as the Albanese government is under extreme pressure to be seen to act from the teals, the Greens and rent-seekers. Labor’s actions in coming days to be seen to “do something” may well do ­irreparable harm to Australia’s reputation as a stable place to ­invest in big and economically transformative resource projects like those we’ve seen in Queensland and Western Australia.

It comes as ALP national president Wayne Swan, doing his best to channel Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, declared on the public broadcaster that gas companies were profiteering from the war in Ukraine. It was an unedifying performance that then segued into an all too familiar Bernie Sanders-style “tax the rich” call on gas companies.

It’s ironic Swan’s Cbus superannuation members have done very well with the capital appreciation and dividends paid by their significant exposure to resources companies, including those that mine coal and produce oil and gas. Swan, a self-acknowledged mentor of Chalmers, obviously had a healthy heads-up on the Tuesday statement to the Senate committee by Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy that echoed Swan’s call – with a justification of “war-driven shocks” – for massive government intervention including new taxes in the coal and gas sector.

Kennedy’s commentary on gas and thermal coal prices sits totally at odds with the same Treasury predictions contained in this October’s budget that tip thermal coal to drop from the current $US438 to just $US60 and gas also dropping by some 33 per cent by March 2023. You really do wonder how they make all this up and keep a straight face. Their low-ball commodity prices were just a lazy revenue kicker for their Treasurer come May next year.

So, just a fortnight later, we are now supposed to believe there’s a “war pricing profit cycle”. This is the one Treasury’s own estimates says will collapse within the next five months, but is now justification for massive market intervention and targeting of specific companies that have invested billions into our economy. Companies that throughout the depths of Covid and massively depressed resource prices only two years ago kept Australians in work.

You only get to traduce your investment-grade standing and sovereign risk profile once. Rather than recognising we need more supply, not more investment-killing taxes and regulations like price caps, the federal government seems determined to declare a war on success. Such a move might well appeal to short-term populism. Focus groups are currently littered with support for a “windfall tax” and it would no doubt be a populist sugar hit for the Albanese government.

What a price cap, super profits tax or domestic quarantining of gas and coal won’t do is provide the long-term framework for ongoing investment in our resources; a sector that has driven inter­generational growth and helped Australia avoid the worst economic shocks of the GFC.

The resources sector should be supported with more expansions to provide energy security for our nation and our allies. Energy security is as important as physical security through increased defence spending and capability.

The example of Western Australia often used to support domestic gas reservation is not com­par­able to the multi-state juris­diction on the east coast. Queens­land has produced a global gas export industry while Victorians cheer on gas moratoriums as they demand cheap gas for their cold winters and cottage industries.

NSW isn’t much better. It has plenty of gas but would prefer to cry poor and ask for handouts from Queensland taxpayers to support its energy-starved manufacturers and homes.

Federal Labor must decide whether it wants to tax Queensland with a triple whammy of domestic reservations, price caps and windfall taxes on companies daring to be profitable. Such a move would be cheered on by the chattering classes and the billionaire-backed teals in parliament. Just like the carbon tax and the mining tax before it, this won’t quickly be forgotten in the must-win state of Queensland.

That not one, but potentially two Labor federal treasurers from Queensland could so happily work against their own state’s interests might well explain why the last time federal Labor in Queensland had more lower house seats in federal parliament than the conservatives was 1993. That’s despite Labor at the state level having governed for 24 years in the same period.

Federal Labor should support the resources sector wholeheartedly and recognise the vital role it plays in supporting jobs and investment, not single it out for short-term punishment in the vain attempt to be populist.


Australian actress reveals why she refused to get a Covid jab and how she knew she 'wouldn't get another TV job' because she dared to lash out at lockdown lunacy

Australian actress Isabel Lucas sparked widespread backlash in 2020 after coming out against vaccine mandates and lockdowns amid the Covid pandemic.

And now the former Home and Away star has opened up about her decision to jib the jab, admitting that she knew it was 'highly likely I won’t work for years if I share this'.

Speaking to Stellar magazine, the 37-year-old said that she had 'several' vaccines when she was growing up, but chose not to get vaccinated against Covid.

'For me, I appreciate, what might be right for you may not be right for me, but it’s not right that either of us are being stripped of the freedom to choose,' she explained.

'Our relationship with our body is very personal and it’s deeply complex and so are our choices, and we’re claiming to engage in conversations about inclusion and diversity – you know, gender, religion, sexuality, race – without allowing our beliefs or observations to be acknowledged,' she continued.

'The diversity of choice is yet to be included, in my experience.'

Last November, Isabel said that she was 'pro-choice' when it came to the Covid vaccine. She later clarified her remarks on Instagram, saying she has 'concerns around "mandatory" vaccination, not vaccination itself'.

At the time, the star joined hundreds of people at a rally to protest Australia's Covid-19 vaccine mandates at the New South Wales-Queensland border.

In 2020, Isabel hit headlines when she shared anti-vaccination views on Instagram while commenting on a post by controversial chef Pete Evans.

Throwing her support behind the former MKR judge, she wrote: 'Freedom of choice is every human's right. I don't trust the path of vaccination.'

She received widespread backlash for her stance, and as a result was dropped as an ambassador for the charity Plan International Australia, which ironically champions equal rights for young girls.

Isabel has a long history of activism dating back to 2007, when she and fellow actress Hayden Panettiere joined activists on surfboards to try and stop a pod of dolphins being slaughtered in Japan.

In 2020, Isabel also attended a 'peaceful' anti-5G protest in Byron Bay, marching from the Jing Organics health food store to the proposed location of a 5G tower.

The Sydney-born beauty got her big break in acting playing Tasha Andrews on Home and Away from 2003 to 2006.

From there, she found stardom in Hollywood in films like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Daybreakers, and Red Dawn.

More recently, she played Samantha Cage in season two of the MacGyver TV reboot.

Isabel has since left Los Angeles and moved back to Australia to start a new life in Byron Bay


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