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Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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Thursday, November 14, 2019 11:58 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  — South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has joined former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at the top of the leaderboard in the third Monmouth University Poll of the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses. Buttigieg’s gains since the summer have been across the board, with increasing support coming from nearly every demographic group.  Regardless, less than one-third of likely caucusgoers say that they are firmly set on their choice of candidate and most would not be too disappointed if they had to switch their support.  
  • Atomic! Pete & Joe's cabinet; Trump's Michigan caper; Christie, Hogan on GOP 'embarrassment'; Young, Braun silence
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Mayor Pete & Biden's cabinet: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Axios reported earlier this month that former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg is a virtual lock for President-elect Joe Biden's cabinet. But as names leaked out over the weekend ahead of Tuesday's first rollout, Buttigieg is off the speculation lists for United Nations ambassador and Homeland Security. That leaves Veterans Affairs or HUD as likely destination points. Native Hoosier Ron Klain has been named chief of staff and Jake Sullivan is expected to be named national security adviser. NBC News on Sunday confirmed reports that Biden is expected to name veteran diplomat Antony “Tony” Blinken secretary of state and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. ambassador. On Monday, Biden nominated Alejandro Mayorkas to head Homeland Security, and Avril Haines as his director of national intelligence.
     
  • Atomic! Vaccine to FDA; No Biden lockdown; Trump plots; Rudy's madcap presser; Holcomb
makes key hires

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis


    1. COVID crisis: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Pfizer and BioNTech will seek emergency authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine today. Vice President Pence presided over the first White House coronavirus task force in months on Thursday. President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team are still locked out of federal data, including vaccine distribution plans. Biden also ruled out a national lockdown as COVID engulfs the nation, straining hospitals, calling it “counterproductive.” And what of President Trump, who hasn’t attended a task force meeting in months or acknowledged the growing crisis to his country? His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, held a madcap presser devoid of any evidence of election fraud. Wall Street Journal: "President Trump has broadened his push to overturn the election outcome and threatened Republicans who challenge his refusal to concede, as looming deadlines for key states to certify their results are set to narrow the path for his legal challenges. Some Trump advisers say they are concerned the continued push risks giving false hope to millions of Mr. Trump’s supporters."


  • HPI Analysis: As coronavirus pandemic engulfs state, a look at General Assemblies in times of crisis
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – When Speaker Todd Huston walked out of the Indiana House of Representatives on March 11 with the COVID-19 pandemic just beginning to get a death grip on his state, he recalled, “I remember leaving this chamber believing something historic could be taking shape.” Huston’s premonitions might have matched those of his predecessors like Republican Speaker Cyrus M. Allen in November 1860, or Democrat Speaker Samuel Hamilton Buskirk who took the reins on Nov. 5, 1862, or Speaker Henry C. Crawford in 1932, James Merrill Knapp in October 1929 and again in December 1941, Speaker J. Roberts Dailey in December 1982, or Speaker John Gregg on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • John Gregg making calls on open Indiana Democratic chair race

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - While Karlee Macer and Josh Owens have broached the sprawling subject as to how the barely credible Indiana Democratic Party recovers its relevance, informed and reliable sources are saying John Gregg, former speaker and gubernatorial nominee, is making calls about entering the race. As the Woody Myers gubernatorial campaign struggled with fundraising in September, it was Gregg who lamented that Indiana Democrats "are sitting this election out. It's a missed opportunity." Democratic sources tell HPI that Gregg has begun to reach out to office holders, signaling his interest in leading the party.   

  • Atomic! Sophomoric loser; Pistole warns; Dr. Carroll's 'OMG' pandemic take; Owens eyes INDem void
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The sophomoric loser: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Just after nine this morning, President Trump tweeted, "I won the election!" This is a sophomoric, ludicrous and dangerous assertion from an apparently unhinged leader. President Trump lost to Joe Biden the Electoral College 306-223 and is trailing in the popular vote 78.7% million to 73.1 million, or 50.9 to 47.3%. Not only is Trump the first American president unwilling to participate in the transition, he appears to have already checked out, refusing his daily intel briefing, not attending the COVID task force meetings, all of this coming as the pandemic is engulfing the nation, with hundreds of hospital ERs running out of ICU beds. Anderson University President John S. Pistole, who as a former deputy FBI director once gave presidents their daily briefing, told the Herald Bulletin's  Rebecca Bibbs, "Every day that goes by that the smooth transition does not take place puts us at greater risk. The key is for the incoming administration to be briefed on the latest most relevant national security intelligence. It’s so the incoming admin is poised on their first day that they can make informed timely decisions. Then it becomes a question of are there some gaps that might be missed? That’s the last thing we need is for something to be missed and not acted upon during what typically is a vulnerable time for the nation.” Pistole added, "It’s recalcitrant, it’s stubbornness. It undermines confidence both within the U.S and in our foreign partners and our adversaries. Any time there is a gap or perceived gap from one administration to another, whether that’s real or perceived, our enemies will seek ways to exploit that.”
  • Atomic! Pandemic General Assembly; Trump MIA; No Joe briefings; Mayors shutting down

    By BRIAN HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The Pandemic General Assembly: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: The Indiana General Assembly reconvenes for Organization Day next Tuesday, the first time since Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state lockdown in mid-March, in preparation of its long biennial budget session which runs from January through late April. It will occur during this ferocious pandemic (5,708 new infections on Friday; 50 more deaths), which has claimed more than 4,500 Hoosier lives. The Legislative Continuity Committee met Thursday afternoon and determined that the 100-member House will meet in Government Center South, where an additional three rooms will be used for committee hearings. So will the House chambers. The Senate will meet in its Statehouse chamber, with 30 senators on the floor and 20 senators seated in the gallery. There will be no legislation passed on Tuesday, and during the session, no resolutions presented. The headline from the committee was this: Face masks are not mandatory, as is the case in the U.S. Senate. Majority Floor Leader Matt Lehman said members will be strongly encouraged to wear masks. “I hope we can do this without that mandate,” Lehman said. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has become the chief proponent of masks, told the IBJ  in September, “They rule their own roost.” Many of us have gazed back in history at the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic to gain perspective. When historians do the same during the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic, they will discover one of the glaring contributing factors will be how the most simple and effective precaution - the wearing of a face mask to stop of spread of aerosol microbes to your neighbors - became a political wedge issue and contributed to the current deadly spike we are currently enduring. Now we watch the Indiana General Assembly pass on this simple act and are left to wonder, why is this lesson so hard to learn? Here's a prediction: A COVID spike amongst legislators, staff, lobbyists, the press and public will be inevitable at the very moment the public is depending on them to deal with the pandemic fallout, and masking rules will be revisited. I'm taking money bets on this.

  • HPI Analysis: Trump lost independents due to pandemic; masks cost Holcomb plurality record; 5th CD nationalized
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – We’ve just experienced a historic election, with 66.4% turnout, the most since 1900. But with President-elect Joe Biden currently at a record 77.55 million votes and President Trump’s 72.34 million votes giving the former a 5.2 million lead as of this morning (and 279 to 217 in the Electoral College), America remains a sharply divided nation. Gov. Eric Holcomb and President Trump won landslide victories in Indiana last week. But Holcomb appears to have missed Gov. Evan Bayh’s 25.1% plurality record, winning 56.6%-32% over Democrat Woody Myers, with Libertarian Donald Rainwater picking up 11.4%. Holcomb’s 1,702,902, with 99% of the vote reporting, did set a new record while winning 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties. Holcomb carried St. Joseph County with 52.9%, despite local health officials’ and South Bend Mayor James Mueller’s criticism over his handling of the pandemic. President Trump defeated Joe Biden in Indiana, 57% to 40.9% in winning 88 counties, compared to his 56.5% to 37.5% win over Hillary Clinton in 2016 (Libertarian Gary Johnson picked up 4.9%). Trump’s 1.727 million votes eclipsed the 1.557 million votes four years ago, meaning that he was able to enlarge his totals after four years when critics said he was not focused on expanding his base.

  • Statehouse: Reps. Lucas, Jacobs face GOP caucus expulsion
    Howey Politics Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS – Informed and reliable Statehouse sources tell Howey Politics Indiana  that after a stormy two and a half hour caucus Tuesday, House Republicans are on the verge of booting out State Reps. Jim Lucas and John Jacobs from their majority caucus. The source said that number could grow to three members. It appears to be Speaker Todd Huston’s attempt to gain control of the fringe of the caucus, which expanded to 71 members after last week’s election. He can afford to lose three votes on critical caucus issues due to the super majority status. 
  • Atomic! Vaccine viable; Indiana messaging dilemma; Dr. Box's appeal; Mayor Pete for cabinet
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Vaccine and messaging

    Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: On the day after Indiana reported almost 10,000 new COVID cases over the weekend, and two days after Joe Biden was declared president-elect, Pfizer announced that its coronavirus vaccine has proven to be 90% effective. Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, hailed the development as a “great day for science and humanity.” It will probably be next spring before the vaccine is widely available. But it is the top agenda item for the incoming Biden administration. The Biden team announced David Kessler, Vivek Murthy and Marcella Nunez-Smith will be the co-chairs for his COVID-19 advisory board. Kessler served as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Also named are two Trump era officials: Luciana Borio was director for medical and biodefense preparedness on Trump’s National Security Council, and immunologist Rick Bright, who was ousted by President Trump last April. Look no further than Indiana to understand the messaging and policy dilemmas facing Biden until the vaccine is available widespread. When Notre Dame upset No. 1 Clemson Saturday night, the world witnessed students storming the field, with no social distancing. And in Fountain and Warren counties (where President Trump won with 76% and 77% of the vote, health officials are pleading with citizens to take the pandemic seriously. "In October Fountain & Warren County moved into a new stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic," said Dr. Sean Sharma, the health officer for the counties. "The rate of infections increased significantly, from among the lowest in the state to among the highest. The virus has spread into our schools, our nursing homes, and our businesses. Local and regional medical systems and public health resources are strained. The pandemic will worsen over the coming months. Now is the time for action." Fountain County Clerk Paula Copenhaver has said she will "not be part of the government overreach" and defiantly refuses to wear a mask.
  • Atomic! WH race on brink; Trump cites 'rigged' election; Biden urges calm; Super majorities persist; INDem county erosion
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Biden overtakes Trump in PA, GA: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Democrat Joe Biden overtook President Trump in Georgia and Pennsylvania, though AP and network decision desks haven't declared a winner. Here's where the presidential race stands at 10:30 a.m. Friday: Arizona: Biden is ahead by 47,052 votes, 50% to 49% (90% in); Georgia: Biden is ahead by 1,096 votes, 49% to 49% (99% in); Nevada: Biden is ahead by 11,438 votes, 49% to 49% (89% in); North Carolina: Trump is ahead by 76,737 votes, 50% to 49% (95% in); Pennsylvania: Biden is ahead by 5,587 votes, 49% to 49% (95% in); and Alaska: Trump is ahead by 51,382 votes, 63% to 33% (56% in). As he promised to do, President Trump alleged the election was "rigged," saying from the White House briefing room at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, "This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election.” 
  • HPI Analysis: Holcomb leads INGOP to its apex with landslide victory
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – Gov. Eric Holcomb became the sixth governor to win reelection with a victory that could establish a modern plurality record once all the votes are tabulated sometime between now and Friday. In doing so, he led the Indiana Republican Party to its apex, controlling both General Assembly chambers with three consecutive super majorities, a 9-2 edge in in the state’s congressional delegation, all of the Statehouse constitutional offices, and between 80% to more than 90% of county courthouse offices and county commissioners. He will govern a state that is part of the Divided States of America. The map across the nation has become a sea of red, with blue islands. The defeat of Democratic State Rep. Terry Goodin by Republican Zach Payne means the Indiana Democratic Party has been essentially scoured from the last rural district the party represented and is now firmly relegated to Lake and St. Joseph counties, Indianapolis and the university cities. Holcomb defeated Dr. Woody Myers by a 57%-32% margin, with Libertarian Donald Rainwater picking up 12% with 92% of precincts reporting.
  • Horse Race: Spartz defeats Hale to win 5th CD
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – The suburban female college-educated vote was supposed to deliver Democratic victories to candidates like Christina Hale in Indiana’s 5th CD. But when the dust settled Wednesday evening, Republican Victoria Spartz declared victory. “I am so honored and humbled by the trust the people of Indiana’s 5th District have placed in me,” Spartz said. This has been a long, tough campaign and I look forward uniting Hoosiers around real solutions and serving every resident of Indiana’s 5th District by ensuring we have the right policies for a strong economy, good schools, affordable healthcare and a great quality of life.” Spartz won the open seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, 50-46%, or by 206,879 to 188,928 with 99% of the precincts reporting. 
  • Horse Race: Qaddoura defeats Sen. Ruckelshaus; Gore poised for upset of Kirchhofer
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Two Republicans, State Sen. John Ruckelshaus and State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer were defeated for reelection after Marion County results were tabulated on Wednesday. State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, the Marion County Republican chairwoman, was trailing Democrat Mitch Gore with 97% reporting 13,651-13,024 or 51-49%. With Kirchhofer’s apparent loss, it appears Republicans will control the House 70-30 with the defeats of Democratic Reps. Terry Goodin, Chris Chyung and Lisa Beck.
  • Indiana delegation mum on Trump's vote count declaration
    By MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    WASHINGTON  — Republican members of the Indiana congressional delegation are staying silent about President Donald Trump’s declaration of victory and his call to stop the vote counting prematurely. Early Wednesday morning, Trump asserted he had prevailed over Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden even though hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots had not been tallied. He said any votes tabulated beyond that point would be fraudulent. “Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said at a White House event. “So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. So, we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all the voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”
  • Atomic: Trump, Biden closing; Indiana COVID explosion; 5th CD tossup and down ballot signals
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Closing arguments: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Weekends before elections are often when landslides form and undecided bolt mostly in one direction. In the epic race between President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, here are the data sets: FiveThirtyEight: Biden has an 89% chance of winning; Economist: Biden has 95% chance of winning Electoral College, 99% of winning the popular vote; Real Clear Politics: National polling composite has Biden leading Trump 51.3% to 43.5%. In key swing states: Pennsylvania Biden up 3.6%, Florida Biden up 1.2%, Georgia Biden up 0.4%, Arizona is tied, Wisconsin Biden up 6.4%, Michigan Biden up 6.5%, Ohio tied, and Pennsylvania Biden up 3.6%. Both Trump and Biden were in Tampa on Thursday; both in the Midwest "Blue Wall" states today. Joe Biden: "I know it's hard. Over the past few months there’s been so much pain, so much suffering, so much loss. Millions of people out there are out of work, on the edge, can’t see the light of the end of the tunnel, and Donald Trump has given up." President Trump: "You know the bottom line, though? You're gonna get better. You're gonna get better. If I can get better, anybody can get better. And I got better fast.” The elephant and donkeys on the table: For Trump, it's the pandemic, where the death toll stands at 229,934, with 1,074 dying in the previous 24 hours and swamped medical systems are setting up COVID tents in Utah, Wisconsin and Texas parking lots. For Biden, it's a 33% jump in the 3Q GDP, after a 31.4% plunge in 2Q.

  • HPI Analysis: Trump v. Biden homestretch
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – And now the hard part: Telling my readers what to expect on Election Night and the mysterious beyond, which might last hours, or months. While 2016 was the “Anything Can Happen” election between two historically loathsome nominees, 2020 has become a referendum on President Trump, and, specifically, his handling of the unprecedented pandemic and simultaneous economic meltdown. Had the pandemic not happened, President Trump probably would have been zeroing in on reelection, becoming the unprecedented fourth consecutive two-termer, topping the Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe trifecta. While Trump tried to perpetuate the aura of his greatest ever economy, he has yet to escape the deadly grip of the pandemic. Last February and early March, he frequently said it would “mysteriously go away.” Even during the nationwide shutdown, he said he expected normalcy by Easter. Vice President Pence said in May it would be in the rearview mirror by Memorial Day. In a mid-June Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pence insisted the “second wave” was a concoction of the news media. These past two weeks, Trump conveyed that America had “turned the corner” on the pandemic that is now infecting 70,000 people a day, killing upwards of a thousand.
  • Horse Race: Late legislative money spills into 5th CD footprint
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Late last spring after the pandemic-delayed primary, Howey Politics Indiana isolated five Indiana Senate races and 16 House races (including open seats), likely to be in play on Nov. 3. That bit of prognostication appears to be mostly on target as we monitor the late money flooding into a dozen House seats and those five in the Senate. The true tossup Senate seats are clearly SD30 where Democrat Fady Qaddoura is challenging State Sen. John Ruckelshaus, and SD30 where Republican State Sen. Jack Sandlin is trying to fend off Democrat Ashley Eason. SD30 has attracted $441,396 in late money, with $325,134 going to Ruckelshaus. While the incumbent has gone negative against Qaddoura, he is finishing with a posthumous endorsement from the late U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (via taped remarks used in a TV ad).
  • Horse Race: ACA, pot late attorney general issues
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana attorney general's race enters its final stretch with Obamacare and marijuana as the hot topics. “I think it’s going down to the wire,” Democrat attorney general nominee Jonathan Weinzapfel told HPI Wednesday afternoon, a day after he called for marijuana reforms. He said the reaction has been “very positive,” with “most of the feedback saying it’s about time.” The former Evansville mayor said not only would legalization bring $177 million in tax revenue, “it will reduce pressure on our jails and prisons.” Weinzapfel has also made Attorney General Curtis Hill’s participation in a lawsuit to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court a week after the election that could end the Affordable Care Act an issue. “Ending the ACA could end HIP2.0,” Weinzapfel said. “Some 580,000 Hoosiers would lose their insurance the day the Supreme Court finds it unconstitutional. Removing the ACA would be devastating.”
  • Atomic! Justice Barrett; Money spills into legislative races; INGov debate tonight; Long Indy lines
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Justice Barrett: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: On Monday night, she became Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a party line 52-48 vote, the jurist from South Bend who forged her Supreme Court bound credentials at the Notre Dame Law School, becomes the second Hoosier to serve on the nation’s high court, joining the late Justice Sherman Minton. She is the lone non-Ivy League justice. Justice Barrett was sworn in late Monday night by Justice Clarence Thomas, as President Trump and her husband looked on at the White House before a crowd of 200.  “I will do my job without any fear or favor,” Justice Barrett said. When she took the oath, it became the capstone of the pro-life movement four decades in the making, forging a 6-3 Supreme Court conservative majority.
  • Atomic! COVID Mike; 'Justice Barrett' tonight; IN vote hack; Weinzapfel calls for marijuana reform
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis 

    1. Pence & COVID: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: President Trump has spent months trying to change the homestretch narrative to antifa, race, crime ... and the pandemic keeps interfering. The latest is the COVID outbreak on Vice President Mike Pence's staff, said to number five aides, includingChief of Staff Marc Short and key operative Marty Obst. It didn't help the MAGA cause when Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN, "We’re not going to control the pandemic" because  “it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”  Mike and Karen Pence continue to travel the nation campaigning as "essential employees" and potential petri dishes of COVID. Gov. Eric Holcombtested for COVID "as a precaution" after appearing maskless with Pence at a Fort Wayne rally last Thursday. He tested negative. Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University, called Pence’s decision to travel “grossly negligent," adding, “It’s just an insult to everybody who has been working in public health and public health response. I also find it really harmful and disrespectful to the people going to the rally.” Under CDC guidelines, Pence should be in quarantine for 14 days after his close contact with Short. Pence heads the White House coronavirus task force. When the history of the pandemic is written in the next two to five years, Pence's decisions and behaviors in this out of control pandemic (there were 88,000 cases reported nationally on Sunday and another 2,175 in Indiana on Sunday and 2,765 cases on Saturday) are going to be conspicuous ... just as he mounts his own presidential bid in 2024.
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  • 65% of Hoosiers voted in November election
    “We continue to see that candidates and issues drive turnout. Presidential elections tend to have higher turnout rates. That held true this year with 65% of Hoosiers turning out to vote, the highest percentage we’ve seen since 1992.” - Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, releasing totals for the Nov. 3 election which saw 4.7 million Hoosiers vote. In 2016 and 2012, voter turnout was at 58%. In 2008, 62% of registered Hoosiers voted in the General Election. Hamilton and Wells Counties had the highest turnout in the state with 75% turnout, followed by Greene, Hancock, Whitley at 74%.
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  • Trump and Biden priorities

    With American pandemic deaths crossing the 250,000 threshold, President Trump made calls to Michigan local election officials and is inviting legislators to the White House, while President-elect Joe Biden was talking to stressed out front line medical workers. That explains their priorities. Trump is attempting to undermine the American election system, with a Reuters/Ipsos Poll showing that 68% of Republicans now believing the election was "rigged."

    There are Republicans beginning to speak up (though none from Indiana). “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," said Sen. Mitt Romney. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.” And Sen. Ben Sasse said, "President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence. Wild press conferences erode public trust. We are a nation of laws, not tweets.” The damage to our most precious American cornerstone is stunning, disgusting and sad, and the whole world is watching. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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