Archive for the ‘business and economics’ Category

New From the GAO

September 28, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Warfighter Support: DOD Should Improve Development of Camouflage Uniforms and Enhance Collaboration Among the Services. GAO-12-707, September 28.
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2. VA and DOD Health Care: Department-Level Actions Needed to Assess Collaboration Performance, Address Barriers, and Identify Opportunities. GAO-12-992, September 28.
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3. Government Contracting: Federal Efforts to Assist Small Minority Owned Businesses. GAO-12-873. September 28.
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4. Trade Adjustment Assistance: Changes to the Workers Program Benefited Participants, but Little Is Known about Outcomes. GAO-12-953, September 28
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5. Trade Adjustment Assistance: Labor Awarded Community College Grants in Accordance with Requirements, but Needs to Improve Its Process. GAO-12-954, September 28.
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6. Department of Homeland Security: Efforts to Assess Realignment of Its Field Office Structure. GAO-12-185R, September 28.

Strengthening Pre-Departure Orientation Programmes in Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines

September 28, 2012 Comments off

Strengthening Pre-Departure Orientation Programmes in Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines (PDF)

Source: Migration Policy Institute

With overseas employment a more permanent feature of the development strategies of a number of Asian states, predeparture orientation programs have emerged as an important tool for the protection of migrant workers. This brief examines the strengths, limitations, and areas for improvement of this intervention, based on findings from field research conducted in Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines.

2012 Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Awards

September 28, 2012 Comments off

2012 Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Awards

Source: Nielsen

Finding ways for a product to succeed in a beleaguered marketplace takes a mix of pragmatism and creative genius. And the winners of the 2012 Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Award did just that. In contrast to innovation awards focused on one-year wonders, the Nielsen Breakthrough Innovation Award honors new products that succeed on multiple dimensions over multiple years.

Nielsen analyzed more than 11,000 new products in the U.S. between 2008 and 2010 to find the 2012 winners. Of the products evaluated, only 34 products met award criteria. These products totaled less than 0.5% of all new product introductions during the period.

The study revealed that there are no easy formulas on the road to successful innovation, and many common pitfalls. Of the product launches that didn’t meet award criteria, one trap many companies fell into was losing sight of consumer needs. Often– to save time and money, attract a certain demographic group, or respond to competitors in the market– new product teams added features that consumers don’t value, or shifted product focus away from what made the original concept a fresh, viable solution.

Free registration required to download full report.

Excluded Individuals Employed by Providers Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Entities

September 28, 2012 Comments off

Excluded Individuals Employed by Providers Enrolled in Medicaid Managed Care Entities (PDF)

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General


OIG is authorized to exclude certain individuals and entities (providers) from participating in federally funded health care programs, such as Medicaid managed care. These programs are generally prohibited from paying for any items or services furnished, ordered, or prescribed by an excluded provider or paying anyone who contracts with an excluded provider. In Medicaid managed care, States contract with managed care entities (MCE) to provide healthcare services to enrolled beneficiaries. The managed care entities create and manage networks of providers who deliver healthcare services to the enrolled beneficiaries. Since the providers in the Medicaid managed care networks are not under direct oversight by the States, we wanted to determine if the provider networks are vulnerable to excluded providers.


This is the second of two evaluations related to excluded providers in Medicaid managed care. In the prior study, entitled Excluded Providers in Medicaid Managed Care Entities (OEI‑07‑09‑00630), we compared the provider networks of 12 selected MCEs to the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) to identify excluded providers. In the current study, we selected a stratified random sample of 500 hospitals, nursing facilities, home health agencies, and pharmacies from the population of providers enrolled in the 12 MCEs. From each of the 500 sampled providers, we collected rosters of employees in 2011, and responses to a survey on the safeguards they used to ensure that excluded individuals are not employed. We compared the employee rosters to the LEIE to identify excluded individuals.


Of the 248,869 individuals listed on the employee rosters requested from sampled providers, we identified 16 individuals who were excluded among the employees of 14 sampled providers. Incorrect names and failure of contractors to follow procedures contributed to the employment of the excluded individuals. Most providers reported using a variety of safeguards to ensure they do not employ excluded individuals, but identified costs and resource burdens as challenges in executing those safeguards. Seven percent of providers in the 12 selected MCEs do not check the exclusions status of their employees; most of these providers lacked knowledge regarding exclusions.

This report does not contain recommendations.

Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy

September 28, 2012 Comments off

Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy

Source: National Academy of Engineering

Manufacturing is in a period of dramatic transformation. But in the United States, public and political dialogue is simplistically focused almost entirely on the movement of certain manufacturing jobs overseas to low-wage countries. The true picture is much more complicated, and also more positive, than this dialogue implies.

After years of despair, many observers of US manufacturing are now more optimistic. A recent uptick in manufacturing employment and output in the United States is one factor they cite, but the main reasons for optimism are much more fundamental. Manufacturing is changing in ways that may favor American ingenuity. Rapidly advancing technologies in areas such as biomanufacturing, robotics, smart sensors, cloud-based computing, and nanotechnology have transformed not only the factory floor but also the way products are invented and designed, putting a premium on continual innovation and highly skilled workers. A shift in manufacturing toward smaller runs and custom-designed products is favoring agile and adaptable workplaces, business models, and employees, all of which have become a specialty in the United States. Future manufacturing will involve a global supply web, but the United States has a potentially great advantage because of our tight connections among innovations, design, and manufacturing and also our ability to integrate products and services.

The National Academy of Engineering has been concerned about the issues surrounding manufacturing and is excited by the prospect of dramatic change. On June 11-12, 2012, it hosted a workshop in Washington, DC, to discuss the new world of manufacturing and how to position the United States to thrive in this world. The workshop steering committee focused on two particular goals. First, presenters and participants were to examine not just manufacturing but the broad array of activities that are inherently associated with manufacturing, including innovation and design. Second, the committee wanted to focus not just on making things but on making value, since value is the quality that will underlie high-paying jobs in America’s future. Making Value: Integrating Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation to Thrive in the Changing Global Economy summarizes the workshop and the topics discussed by participants.

New From the GAO

September 27, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Reports

Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Human Capital: DOD Needs Complete Assessments to Improve Future Civilian Strategic Workforce Plans. GAO-12-1014, September 27.
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2. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Additional DHS Actions Needed on Foreign Worker Permit Program. GAO-12-975, September 27.
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3. Civilian Service Contract Inventories: Opportunities Exist to Improve Agency Reporting and Review Efforts. GAO-12-1007, September 27.
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4. Community Reinvestment Act: Challenges in Quantifying Its Effect on Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Investment. GAO-12-869R, August 28.

5. Managing for Results: Key Considerations for Implementing Interagency Collaborative Mechanisms. GAO-12-1022, September 27.
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6. Medical Devices: FDA Should Expand Its Consideration of Information Security for Certain Types of Devices. GAO-12-816, August 31.
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A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt

September 27, 2012 Comments off

A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt

Source: Pew Social & Demographic Trends

About one out of five (19%) of the nation’s households owed student debt in 2010, more than double the share two decades earlier1 and a significant rise from the 15% that owed such debt in 2007, just prior to the onset of the Great Recession, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data.

The Pew Research analysis also finds that a record 40% of all households headed by someone younger than age 35 owe such debt, by far the highest share among any age group.

It also finds that, whether computed as a share of household income or assets, the relative burden of student loan debt is greatest for households in the bottom fifth of the income spectrum, even though members of such households are less likely than those in other groups to attend college in the first place.

Since 2007 the incidence of student debt has increased in nearly every demographic and economic category, as has the size of that debt.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Study Finds Credit Scores Used by Consumers and Lenders Can Differ

September 27, 2012 Comments off

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Study Finds Credit Scores Used by Consumers and Lenders Can Differ
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a study comparing credit scores sold to creditors and those sold to consumers. The study found that about one out of five consumers would likely receive a meaningfully different score than would a lender.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act directed the CFPB to compare credit scores sold to creditors and those sold to consumers by nationwide credit bureaus and to determine whether differences between those scores harm consumers. Today’s study analyzes credit scores from 200,000 credit files from each of the following credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. It is a follow up to a study the Bureau released in July 2011 that described the credit scoring industry, the types of credit scores, and the potential problems for consumers that could result from differences between the scores they purchase and the scores creditors use.

The study released today determined:

  • One out of five consumers would likely receive a meaningfully different score than would a creditor: When consumers purchase their score from a credit bureau, the score they receive may be meaningfully different from the score that a lender would consult in making a decision. A meaningful difference means that the consumer would be likely to qualify for different credit offers – either better or worse – than they would expect to get based on the score they purchased.
  • Score discrepancies may generate consumer harm: When discrepancies exist between the scores consumers purchase and the scores used for decision-making by lenders in the marketplace, consumers may take action that does not benefit them. For example, consumers who have reviewed their own score may expect a certain price from a lender may waste time and effort applying for loans they are not qualified for, or may accept offers that are worse than they could get.
  • Consumers unlikely to know about score discrepancies: There is no way for consumers to know how the score they receive will compare to the score a creditor uses in making a lending decision. As such, consumers cannot exclusively rely on the credit score they receive to understand how lenders will view their creditworthiness.

The Bureau recommends that consumers consider the following in evaluating the credit score they receive:

  • Shop around for credit. Consumers benefit by shopping for credit. Regardless of the scores different lenders use, they may offer different loan terms because they operate different risk models or face different competitive pressures. Consumers should not rule out of seeking lower priced credit because of assumptions they make about their credit score. While some consumers are reluctant to shop for credit out of fear that they will harm their credit score, that negative impact may be overblown. Inquiries generally do not result in a large reduction in a consumer credit score.
  • Check the credit report for accuracy and dispute errors. Credit scores are calculated based on information in a consumer’s credit file. Inaccurate information may be the difference between a consumer being approved or denied a loan. Before shopping for major credit items, the Bureau recommends that consumers review their credit files for inaccuracies. Each of the nationwide credit bureaus is required by law to provide credit reports for free to consumers who request them once every 12 months.

Hearing — Taking Consumers for a Ride: Business Practices in the Household Goods Moving Industry

September 26, 2012 Comments off

Taking Consumers for a Ride: Business Practices in the Household Goods Moving Industry

Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold a hearing and release a staff report on how online moving companies have successfully taken advantage of many consumers. The hearing will explore complaints that some “moving” companies quote a low dollar rate to move goods but then charge a sharp markup in order to physically deliver and unload the goods.

“Far too many consumers are duped by abusive moving companies in tactics that should be, and in some cases are, against the law,” said Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV. “Companies that take advantage of Americans during moves, whether they are across the country or across town, must be held accountable. That’s the purpose of this hearing.”

Archived hearing webcast available.


Global Financial Stability Report: Restoring Confidence and Progressing on Reforms

September 26, 2012 Comments off

Global Financial Stability Report: Restoring Confidence and Progressing on Reforms

Source: International Monetary Fund

Chapter 3 of the October 2012 Global Financial Stability Report examines whether the regulatory reforms designed to make the financial system safer are moving the system in the correct direction, using a benchmark set of features that include financial institutions and markets that are more transparent, less complex, and less leveraged. The analysis suggests that progress has been limited so far, in part because many of the reforms are still in the early stages of implementation. Chapter 4 evaluates how aspects of current changes to financial structure, including those elicited from regulatory reforms, may be associated with economic outcomes. Both chapters stress that the success of measures to produce a safer financial system depend on effective implementation of reforms and strong supervision.

2011 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report

September 25, 2012 Comments off

2011 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report

Source: Health Care Cost Institute

The Health Care Cost and Utilization Report: 2011 provides the first broad look at 2011 health care spending among those with employer-sponsored insurance (ESI). HCCI found that average dollars spent on health care services for that population climbed 4.6 percent in 2011, reaching $4,547 per person. This was well above the 3.8 percent growth rate observed in 2010.

Key Findings from this Report

  • Regional spending gap widening
  • Spending on children’s health care rising fastest
  • Cost sharing between patients and payers remains stable
  • Use of health care services up, particularly outpatient care
  • Rising prices were the primary driver of spending growth
  • Prescription spending slowed, growing just 1% from 2010 to 2011

Population Aging Will Have Long-Term Implications for Economy; Major Policy Changes Needed

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Population Aging Will Have Long-Term Implications for Economy; Major Policy Changes Needed

Source: National Research Council

The aging of the U.S. population will have broad economic consequences for the country, particularly for federal programs that support the elderly, and its long-term effects on all generations will be mediated by how — and how quickly — the nation responds, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. The unprecedented demographic shift in which people over age 65 make up an increasingly large percentage of the population is not a temporary phenomenon associated with the aging of the baby boom generation, but a pervasive trend that is here to stay.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are on unsustainable paths, and the failure to remedy the situation raises a number of economic risks, the report says. Together, the cost of the three programs currently amounts to roughly 40 percent of all federal spending and 10 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Because of overall longer life expectancy and lower birth rates, these programs will have more beneficiaries with relatively fewer workers contributing to support them in the coming decades. Combined with soaring health care costs, population aging will drive up public health care expenditures and demand an ever-larger fraction of national resources.

Population aging is also occurring in other industrialized nations, so any consequences for the U.S. must be considered in the broader context of a global economy. Adapting to this new economic landscape entails costs and policy options with different implications for which generations will bear the costs or receive the benefits. Recent policy actions have attempted to address health care costs, but their effects are as yet unclear. According to the report, the ultimate national response will likely be some combination of major structural changes to public support programs, more savings during people’s working years, and longer working lives.

New From the GAO

September 25, 2012 Comments off

New GAO Report

Source: Government Accountability Office

Grants to State and Local Governments: An Overview of Federal Funding Levels and Selected Challenges. GAO-12-1016, September 25.
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The New American Family: The MetLife Study of Family Structure and Financial Well-Being

September 25, 2012 Comments off

The New American Family: The MetLife Study of Family Structure and Financial Well-Being
Source: MetLife

Key Findings

  • Retirement security remains a major concern for a large percentage of Americans across all family types, particularly concerns about being able to maintain a “reasonable” standard of living for the rest of their lives.
  • The presence of children is both a financial burden (half of those with adult children have provided them some financial assistance) and a potential source of support (one-fourth of respondents expect children to help retired parents in need).
  • More couples than non-couples have taken action to lower their debt, have met with a financial advisor, and have invested for their retirement.
  • More single women believe it’s harder for them to save for retirement than respondents who are married or have a blended family.

Hidden Dragon, Crouching Lion: How China’s Advance in Africa is Underestimated and Africa’s Potential Underappreciated

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Hidden Dragon, Crouching Lion: How China’s Advance in Africa is Underestimated and Africa’s Potential Underappreciated

Source: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College

The explosive growth of China’s economic interests in Africa—bilateral trade rocketed from $1 billion in 1990 to $150 billion in 2011—may be the most important trend in the continent’s foreign relations since the end of the Cold War. In 2010, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s top trading partner; its quest to build a strategic partnership with Africa on own its terms through tied aid, trade, and development finance is also part of Beijing’s broader aspirations to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower. Africa and other emerging economies have become attractive partners for China not only for natural resources, but as growing markets. Africa’s rapid growth since 2000 has not just occurred because of higher commodity prices, but more importantly due to other factors including improved governance, economic reforms, and an expanding labor force. China’s rapid and successful expansion in Africa is due to multiple factors, including economic diplomacy that is clearly superior to that of the United States. China’s “no strings attached” approach to development, however, risks undoing decades of Western efforts to promote good governance. Consequently, this monograph examines China’s oil diplomacy, equity investments in strategic minerals, and food policy toward Africa. The official U.S. rhetoric is that China’s rise in Africa should not be seen as a zero-sum game, but areas where real U.S.-China cooperation can help Africa remain elusive, mainly because of Beijing’s hyper-mistrust of Washington. The United States could help itself, and Africa, by improving its own economic diplomacy and adequately funding its own soft-power efforts.

Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011 and Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2010–11 – First Lo ok (Provisional Data)

September 25, 2012 Comments off

Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011 and Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2010–11 – First Look (Provisional Data)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This provisional First Look is a revised version of the preliminary report released August 7, 2012. it presents fully edited and imputed data findings on the number of staff employed in Title IV postsecondary institutions in fall 2011 by occupational category, length of contract/teaching period, employment status, faculty and tenure status, academic rank, race/ethnicity, and gender. The report also contains data on student financial aid, including the number of undergraduate students receiving aid and the amount of aid received by those students for the 2010-11 academic year.

NCES Releases New Data on Postsecondary Tuition, Fees and Degrees

September 25, 2012 Comments off

NCES Releases New Data on Postsecondary Tuition, Fees and Degrees

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This provisional First Look is a revised version of the preliminary report released July 12, 2012. it presents fully edited and imputed data findings from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2011 collection, which included three survey components: Institutional Characteristics for the 2011-12 academic year, Completions covering the period July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, and data on 12-Month Enrollment for the 2010-11 academic year.

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities

September 24, 2012 Comments off

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities
Source: Brookings Institution

The defining narrative of the United States of America is that of a nation where everyone has an opportunity to achieve a better life. Americans believe that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed through talent, creativity, intelligence, and hard work, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. Our leaders share this support for opportunity. In a speech last fall, President Obama said that Americans should make sure that “everyone in America gets a fair shot at success.” Mitt Romney has repeatedly spoken about an opportunity society, where people can “engage in hard work, and pursue the passion of their ideas and dreams. If they succeed, they merit the rewards they are able to enjoy.”

Americans have an unusually strong belief in meritocracy. In other nations, circumstances at birth, family connections, and luck are considered more important factors in economic success than they are in the U.S. This meritocratic philosophy is one reason why Americans have had relatively little objection to high levels of inequality—as long as those at the bottom have a fair chance to work their way up the ladder. Similarly, Americans are more comfortable with the idea of increasing opportunities for success than with reducing inequality. When the American public is asked questions about the importance of tackling each, a far higher proportion is in favor of doing something about ensuring that more people have a shot at climbing the economic ladder than is in favor of reducing poverty or inequality.

One way of thinking about opportunity is in terms of generational improvement in living standards. Among today’s middle-aged Americans, four in five households have higher incomes than their parents had at the same age, and three in five men have higher earnings than their fathers. The extent to which this will be true for today’s children remains to be seen. More importantly, if everyone grows richer over time, but the economic fates of Americans are bound up in their family origins, then in an important sense opportunities are still limited. If a poor child has little reason to believe she can “grow up to be whatever she wants,” it may be of little comfort to her that she will likely make more than her similarly constrained parents. A better-off security guard may still have wanted to be a lawyer.

The reality is that economic success in America is not purely meritocratic. We don’t have as much equality of opportunity as we’d like to believe, and we have less mobility than some other developed countries. Although cross-national comparisons are not always reliable, the available data suggest that the U.S. compares unfavorably to Canada, the Nordic countries, and some other advanced countries. A recent study shows the U.S. ranking 27th out of 31 developed countries in measures of equal opportunity.

2012 Health Confidence Survey: Americans Remain Confident About Health Care, Concerned About Costs, Following Supreme Court Decision

September 24, 2012 Comments off

2012 Health Confidence Survey: Americans Remain Confident About Health Care, Concerned About Costs, Following Supreme Court Decision
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute

Executive Summary

  • Confidence about various aspects of today’s health care system has remained fairly level before and after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and has not apparently been impacted by the June 2012 Supreme Court decision.
  • Asked to rate the health care system, Americans offer a diverse perspective: 28 percent consider it to be “good,” 28 percent say “fair,” and 26 percent rate it “poor,” while 12 percent rate it very good and 5 percent say it is “excellent.” However, the 2012 Health Confidence Survey finds that the percentage of
  • Americans rating the health care system as poor doubled between 1998 and 2004 (rising from 15 percent to 30 percent).

  • In contrast with the ratings for the health care system overall, Americans’ rating of their own health plans continues to be generally favorable—more than half of those with health insurance are extremely or very satisfied with their current plans, and a third are somewhat satisfied.
  • Dissatisfaction with the health care system appears to be focused primarily on cost.
  • Among those experiencing cost increases in their plans in the past year, 31 percent state they have decreased their contributions to retirement plans, and more than half have decreased their contributions to other savings as a result.

Policy Intervention in Debt Renegotiation: Evidence from the Home Affordable Modification Program

September 24, 2012 Comments off

Policy Intervention in Debt Renegotiation: Evidence from the Home Affordable Modification Program

Source: Social Science Research Network

The main rationale for policy intervention in debt renegotiation is to enhance such activity when foreclosures are perceived to be inefficiently high. We examine the ability of the government to influence debt renegotiation by empirically evaluating the effects of the 2009 Home Affordable Modification Program that provided intermediaries (servicers) with sizeable financial incentives to renegotiate mortgages. A difference-in-difference strategy that exploits variation in program eligibility criteria reveals that the program generated an increase in the intensity of renegotiations while adversely affecting effectiveness of renegotiations performed outside the program. Renegotiations induced by the program resulted in a modest reduction in rate of foreclosures but did not alter the rate of house price decline, durable consumption, or employment in regions with higher exposure to the program. The overall impact of the program will be substantially limited since it will induce renegotiations that will reach just one-third of its targeted 3 to 4 million indebted households. This shortfall is in large part due to low renegotiation intensity of a few large servicers that responded at half the rate than others. The muted response of these servicers cannot be accounted by differences in contract, borrower, or regional characteristics of mortgages across servicers. Instead, their low renegotiation activity — which is also observed before the program — reflects servicer specific factors that appear to be related to their preexisting organizational capabilities. Our findings reveal that the ability of government to quickly induce changes in behavior of large intermediaries through financial incentives is quite limited, underscoring significant barriers to the effectiveness of such polices.


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