Review Category : National News

The Supreme Court: Facts to Know About the Highest Court in the Land

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — With all eyes on the United States Supreme Court because of President Trump’s announcement of his nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, here are a few facts about the nation’s highest court:

How the Supreme Court Came to Existence

Article III of the U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court and the judicial branch.

While it states that the “judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court,” the Constitution didn’t lay out the number of justices on the bench. Congress initially set the number of justices at six — a chief justice and five associate justices.

The number of justices varied over time until Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1869, which upped the number to the current total of nine — eight associate justices and one chief justice.


Once appointed and confirmed, a Supreme Court justice traditionally serves for life until they step down or die.

“[T]he Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” the Constitution states.

The longest serving associate justice was William O. Douglas. Nominated by President Roosevelt, Douglas was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1939 when he was 40 years old. He served for 36 years, retiring from the court in 1975, when he was 77 years old.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes served until he was 90, earning him the title of oldest justice to sit on the Supreme Court.

A justice can also lose his or her spot on the bench if impeached. In 1803, Samuel Chase became the first, and only, justice to be impeached. President Thomas Jefferson suggested that Congress impeach Chase after the associate justice used a grand jury charge to chastise Republicans for repealing the Judiciary Act of 1801. The House impeached Chase, but he was later acquitted by the Senate.

The Firsts

The first ever chief justice was John Jay, nominated by President George Washington and confirmed by the Senate in 1789. The other original justices that made up the first Supreme Court were William Cushing, James Wilson, John Blair, John Rutledge and James Iredell.

The first African American to serve on the Supreme Court was Thurgood Marshall, nominated by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

The first Hispanic justice was Sonia Sotomayor, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama.

The Court Building

From its creation as a government branch, the Supreme Court was without a permanent building of its own for 146 years. During that time, as our nation changed capitals, the Supreme Court used a variety of buildings — the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City, Independence Hall and then later City Hall in Philadelphia, and then the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t until 1929 that Congress approved the building of a lasting home for the Supreme Court, thanks to the efforts of Chief Justice William Taft, also a former president. Construction started in 1932 and the completed Supreme Court building opened in 1935.

When you walk up to the Supreme Court building on 1 First Street, you’re greeted by two large statues. The statues, sculpted by artist James Earle Fraser, are the Contemplation of Justice, on the left, and the Authority of Law, on the right.

In addition to the courtroom, the building also houses a library and reading room, a dining room for the justices, a basketball court, and a cafeteria that includes a frozen yogurt machine.

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Wife of Pulse Nightclub Gunman Seeks to Be Released on Bond

Facebook(SAN FRANCISCO) — Noor Salman, the jailed widow of Orlando, Florida nightclub gunman Omar Mateen, is set to appear in federal court in California Wednesday where her lawyers intend to fight for her release on bond.

Salman, who has been in custody since she was arrested by the FBI in the San Francisco area last month, has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg said in court that Salman knew her husband was going to carry out the attack.

The U.S. attorney’s office claims Salman aided and abetted Mateen’s “provision of material support” to the terrorist group ISIS, also known as ISIL, for which she could face life in prison if convicted.

Salman is also accused in the indictment of misleading federal agents and Fort Pierce, Florida, police officers who questioned her about Mateen’s attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016.

The mass shooting killed 49 people. Mateen was killed in a police shootout after the attack.

Salman’s defense attorneys are expected to ask the judge Wednesday to release her on bond into the custody of her mother or uncle, both of whom say they are willing to put up their houses as collateral.

Salman’s attorneys said in court papers that she “poses no danger” and is only connected to the crime through what they called “her tragic marriage” to Mateen. She was, the defense argued, “only present as a wife and an abused wife at that.”

The defense says it is also prepared to challenge the substance of the charges and what it describes as the public narrative of Salman’s purported involvement. Defense attorney Charles Swift cited what he called erroneous reports that Salman drove Mateen to Pulse nightclub for Mateen’s “purported scouting trip.”

“The defense proffers that the evidence will show that the purported scouting trip occurred while the family was on their way home from babysitting the children of a relative, that Mateen chose to drive into Orlando and to pass by the Pulse Night Club, and that Noor, who did not possess a driver’s license at the time, was at most a reluctant passenger who wanted to go home,” the defense said.

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Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch as his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.

“The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute,” Trump said in his introduction of Gorsuch in the East Room of the White House Tuesday night.

Hope you like my nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court. He is a good and brilliant man, respected by all.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 1, 2017

Trump described Gorsuch as someone “who loves our Constitution and someone who will interpret them as written.”

“I made a promise to the American people if I were elected president, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court,” Trump said.

Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee since Clarence Thomas was nominated in 1991 at the age of 43.

Gorsuch clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar. In legal circles, he’s considered a gifted writer. Like Scalia, he’s both a textualist and an originalist.

He is the author of The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, which looks at the legal and ethical issues surrounding assisted suicides. In the book, he concludes that any form of euthanasia should not be legalized.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would be the first Supreme Court justice to serve alongside his former boss — a justice for whom he/she clerked.

The court has had only eight justices since Scalia’s unexpected death last February. President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the bench in May, but Senate Republicans denied him a vote, arguing that because the vacancy occurred during an election year, the next president should be the one to pick Scalia’s replacement.

Gorsuch gave some insight into what he feels is the appropriate work of a judge, who should “apply, not alter, the work of the peoples representatives.”

He said that judges are called to rely on their “impartiality and independence” and that a bad judge will be found “stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.”

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US Holocaust Museum Urges Lawmakers to Protect Refugees

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a statement Tuesday addressing the global refugee crisis, urging lawmakers to craft policy that addresses national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees, regardless of nationality or religion.

But the 183-word statement curiously makes no reference to President Donald Trump’s recently-executed executive order, which temporarily suspends immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.

“The Museum continues to have grave concern about the global refugee crisis and our response to it,” reads the statement. “During the 1930s and 1940s, the United States, along with the rest of the world, generally refused to admit Jewish refugees from Nazism due to anti-Semitic and xenophobic attitudes, harsh economic conditions, and national security fears.”

Read #USHMM‘s full statement on #refugees.

— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) January 31, 2017

Directly acknowledging Syrian refugees — who have been adversely impacted by Trump’s travel ban — the statement reads, “In our view, there are many legitimate refugees fleeing the Assad regime’s sustained campaign of crimes against humanity and the genocidal acts perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities.”

The statement continues, “American policy should fully address national security concerns while protecting legitimate refugees whatever their national or religious identity.”

This is the second statement released by the museum within the past week that seems to be taking issue with Trump administration.

“Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”
—Elie Wiesel#USHMM‘s full #HolocaustRemembrance statement➡️

— US Holocaust Museum (@HolocaustMuseum) January 30, 2017

After the White House released a statement last week acknowledging International Holocaust Remembrance Day — but not referencing the six million Jews killed by the Nazis — the museum issued a statement that while “millions of other innocent civilians” were murdered during the Holocaust, “the elimination of Jews was central” to the acts of Nazi Germany.

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President Trump Nominates Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch, 49, is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He was nominated by President George Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.

Gorsuch clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar. In legal circles, he’s considered a gifted writer. Like Scalia, he’s both a textualist and an originalist.

He is the author of “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” which looks at the legal and ethical issues surrounding assisted suicides. In the book, he concludes that any form of euthanasia should not be legalized.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would be the first Supreme Court justice to serve alongside his former boss — a justice for whom he/she clerked.

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After Fire Destroys Texas Mosque, Donations Pour In to Help Rebuild

iStock/Thinkstock(VICTORIA, Texas) — Just days after a fire destroyed a mosque in Victoria, Texas, a GoFundMe page set up by a mosque member has raised nearly $1 million to help rebuild the mosque — a response the congregation’s president called shocking and “beautiful.”

The fire at the Islamic Center of Victoria was reported around 2 a.m. Saturday when a store clerk at a nearby convenience store noticed heavy smoke coming from the building, according to O.C. Garza, communications director for the city of Victoria. It took crews about four hours to extinguish the blaze, Garza told ABC News. Only the mosque’s outside facade survived.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, Garza said, and footage from surveillance cameras retrieved from the site will be used in the investigation.

Omar Rachid, a member of the congregation for 23 years, told ABC News he received a call in the middle of the night about the fire. He immediately drove over to the burning building to assess the damage.

“After the shock of seeing the mosque burning at 3 in the morning,” he said, “it became clear we needed to have an action plan … a quick action plan in place to provide us some funding so we can start the rebuilding process.”

Rachid launched a GoFundMe page that has raised over $971,000 so far. More than 20,000 people donated to the cause.

The president of the Islamic center, Shahid Hashmi, told ABC News that the mosque did not have insurance and that he was shocked by the generosity of the GoFundMe donors, calling it a “beautiful response.”

Rachid added: “I never thought that it would really raise that much. I knew that people would respond and I knew that it would have some traction, I just never imagined it would have that kind of response.”

Rachid said the mosque was built in 2000; prior to that, the congregation used a rental home. He said building the mosque in 2000 gave members “a little bit more of an identity, a presence. And gives you a sense of belonging in a community.”

According to Rachid, the Islamic Center of Victoria hosted study groups for people with different religions so that they would better understand Islam. Non-members would stop by the mosque to share a meal during Ramadan, and every Friday evening the center would host a potluck dinner for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

“A lot of fellowship education and information [was] shared at the mosque,” he said. “It’s not just a building of worship, [it’s] also a place of interfaith understanding, and it just gives you a sense of belonging in the community when you have a place of worship that is known.”

The congregation plans to rebuild the mosque at its current site, Hashmi said. In the meantime, he and other members will meet in a mobile home next to the destroyed mosque.

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In First 72 Hours of President Trump’s Travel Ban, Refugees, Asylum Seekers Describe Chaos, Confusion

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Abdallh Khadra’s 3-year-old daughter Muna has gone to bed thousands of miles away from him every night for the past three months. Her pink Barbie bed back home in North Carolina lays empty.

Khadra’s fight to get Muna back took a desperate turn Friday when President Trump signed an executive order to instate an immediate travel ban on refugees and people traveling to the U.S. with visas from seven majority Muslim countries, including Syria, where Muna was born.

“We don’t believe that we cannot get her,” Khadra said. “We have to get her.”

Khadra fled his home country of Syria after speaking out against the Assad regime. He was vetted and cleared for U.S. entry in 2011 on a religious work visa, and his family joined him in 2013.

On an October trip to see family in Lebanon, Muna was the only member of his family denied entry back to the U.S., he says, because of a visa snafu. She has been living with her grandmother ever since, but on Monday, he says he was told his daughter is now “ineligible” for U.S. entry.

“This is heartbreaking, we cannot believe this happened,” he said. “What will a 3-year-old child, what threat would she pose?”

Trump Fires Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for Refusing to Defend Immigration Order

Trump’s Order Heightens Risk of Extremist Attacks in the US, Counterterror Expert Says

This past week alone, over 800 refugees were on their way to the U.S., according to an estimate from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The executive order by President Trump on Friday changed everything in an instant.

“This policy in regard with my family — it’s breaking my family, it’s breaking our hearts,” Khadra said.

The order bars admission to the U.S. of all people with non-immigrant or immigrant visas from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days. It also bars entry to all refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days, and places an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

Suddenly, people’s lives were held in limbo. On Saturday, a senior Department of Homeland Security official told ABC News that 375 travelers were affected by the executive order at airports across the country.

Within that group, 109 people were in transit and then denied entry to the U.S., 173 were denied entry to the U.S. before boarding their flights in a foreign port, and 81 were granted waivers because of their legal permanent resident or special immigrant visa status.

Department of Homeland Security officials on Tuesday said that 872 refugees will be allowed to enter the U.S. this week, while defending President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees.

A number of travelers to the U.S., including children, were detained upon landing. Some on those incoming flights were barred from entering the country at all, including Fuad Sharef Suleman, who had risked his life working with the U.S. government as a former subcontractor and had to return to Iraq despite receiving a visa to enter the country.

“I don’t know what to do. Because I sold my house. I quit my job. My wife quit her job. And kids left school,” he said.

On Monday, President Trump fired acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to defend his immigration order after she said she was not convinced it was “lawful.” In a statement, the White House said Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice” and was “weak on borders” and replaced her as acting attorney general with by Dana Boente, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Abdallh Khadra was vetted. He has been living in the U.S. for six years, coming into the U.S. as an imam on a legal religious workers visa and later applying for political asylum. He said he loves this country but doesn’t think this policy will abate terror.

“This type of decision, it will only promote hate and fear and it will not solve the problem of extremists,” he said. “Just the other day, that Canadian white man, he entered the mosque in Quebec and killed … people while they were praying … so we don’t say, ‘White men are terrorists.’ That is just foolish. That is very unjust and very unfair. This decision is very discriminatory, very unjust, very inhumane.”

Khadra was among those protesting the ban in Raleigh, North Carolina, like thousands of others around the country from New York, under the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, to the gates of the White House and at several major airports.

Around the globe, just as with the Women’s March demonstrations the weekend before, people in other countries joined in. A reported 10,000 anti-Trump protesters took to the streets in the United Kingdom. Outrage was also expressed in Hollywood, where several actors voiced their opposition to the executive order during their Screen Actors Guild award speeches on Sunday night.

And in a rare move, just days into a new presidency, former President Obama spoke out with some harsh words for President Trump, saying he fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

But there is also a strong chorus of voices across the U.S. that are in support of the travel ban.

“Take care of our own first, and then take care of others,” Lou Colon of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, told WNEP-TV. “It’s just like … when a plane goes into a crash mode, first you have to put on your mask to help your child.”

“I think we need, first and foremost, to keep our country safe,” Valery Brussat told ABC Milwaukee affiliate WISN-TV.

But hours after issuing the executive order, the White House began to walk back part of that sweeping edict, now saying green card holders – permanent legal residents — will be allowed to re-enter the country.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the policy on Monday, telling reporters, “I’m sorry that some folks may have had to wait a little while, but I think the president would much rather know that he’s not placing a call to someone who was killed because someone was let into this country to commit a terrorist act.”

The order grants some exceptions, giving priority to refugees from religious minorities, like Christians living in majority Muslim countries.

Nermeen Arastu, a clinical law professor and attorney, said she believes the mandate is unethical and unlawful.

“We’ve seen post-9/11 that in the name of security our country has allowed itself to erode many of its values,” Arastu said. “If the U.S. is now going to prioritize that they’re going to take refugees that are Christian over refugees that are Muslim that in and of itself is discriminating based on religion.”

But President Trump claimed the ban had nothing to do with religion, telling reporters, “It’s not a Muslim ban, but we’re totally prepared and it’s been working out very nicely.”

The executive order unleashed a crush of bipartisan criticism, from Democratic lawmakers protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court Monday night to Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham writing in a joint statement: “It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted… Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.”

President Trump fired back at them on Twitter saying, “John McCain and Lindsey Graham… should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.”

The president later adding on Twitter, “If the ban was announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there.”

Today, people like Sufyan, who asked that his last name not be used, remain caught in the crossfire of this debate. He worked as a translator for the U.S. Army in Iraq and worked with the American forces for seven years, and said he risked his life every day for dangerous assignments.

“I still remember when my brother got kidnapped because they were thinking that he was me,” he said. “It is a dangerous place but it’s a must.”

He got out of Iraq using a special immigration via, which allowed him to get a green card. But for now, those like him who risks their lives to help American forces or companies would not be allowed into the U.S.

Sufyan now lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and three children. His youngest daughter is an American, born in the U.S. He said the president’s executive order is difficult for him.

“Don’t judge 95 percent of the good people the same as 5 percent bad people,” he said.

For Khadra, his foremost concern is the safety of his little girl, still stranded half a world away.

“For me personally, I want my daughter back,” he said.

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Three New Breeds Are Eligible for 2017 Westminster Dog Show

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Three new dog breeds — the Sloughi, the American hairless terrier and the Pumi — are eligible to compete at the annual Westminster Dog Show this year.

The breeds were recently added to the American Kennel Club, which is the governing body of the dog sport, said Brandi Hunter, vice president of public relations and communications for the American Kennel Club.

“These breeds are beautiful, unique and have met the requirements to be fully recognized by the AKC,” Hunter told ABC News.

These breeds were recognized by the AKC in 2016, which makes them eligible to compete in this year’s Westminster Dog Show and all other AKC sanctioned events, Hunter said.

The Sloughi is a “reserved” and “graceful” breed that originated in North Africa and was used to hunt game, according to the AKC’s website. The American hairless terrier is described on the site as “energetic, alert, curious and intelligent.” The Pumi is a Hungarian breed, adept at keeping livestock under control, according to the AKC.

PHOTO: The new Westminster Kennel Club dog show eligible breed the Sloughi. American Kennel Club
The new Westminster Kennel Club dog show eligible breed the Sloughi.

The 2017 Westminster Dog Show begins Saturday, Feb. 11.

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Man Speaks Out After Being Trapped in His Car Following Crash

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — A California man found alive three days after falling asleep while driving, swerving off a road and crashing into a ravine spoke about his experience for the first time in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America that aired Tuesday. He said he felt lucky to be alive.

“I’m going to change a few things and how I live from here on out because of this experience,” Hunter Kittle, 24, said, adding that during the ordeal, “I was seriously asking for God to make a decision and either get me off the hill or kill me now because I didn’t want to keep dealing with the pain and dealing with if I was going to be saved. And he made a decision. Apparently he wants something left for me to do on this earth.”

Kittle said that he had been heading home when the incident occurred a little over a week ago on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 22, in Mount Baldy, California.

“I was driving home up Mount Baldy Road, and I hydroplaned and fell off the embankment about 70 feet and slammed into a tree with the back of my car and ended up rolling over onto the passenger side, and when I came to it was the next morning,” he said.

Kittle said that he waited in his car, debilitated by his injuries and in extreme pain, for approximately three days before a passing motorist noticed his vehicle and called for help.

“It was horrible, horrible, pain,” said Kittle, who suffered injuries including a collapsed lung, fractured skull and broken leg. “I was thinking either kill me now or get me off this mountain because I can’t, I can’t do this.”

“My phone was dead and even just yelling for help after, after a few minutes of yelling, I just got extremely exhausted,” Kittle added.

Kittle said he surprised even himself that he was able to pull through and survive the incident.

“Mainly it was mind over matter, me wanting and willing myself to survive long enough to get down that hill, one way or another,” he said. “I didn’t want that to be my final chapter in my life.”

Camie Kittle, Hunter’s mom, said in an interview with GMA that her son’s story was a “miracle.”

“I don’t know any other answer,” Camie Kittle said. “The trauma doctor couldn’t believe that he sustained these amount of injuries and lived through it.”

The California Highway Patrol said in a statement that Kittle had reportedly fallen asleep, allowed his vehicle to veer off of the road, and then overturned and struck a tree on Jan. 22, 2017.

The CHP added that he was rescued on Wednesday, Jan. 25, after a passing motorist flagged down a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy.

Rescuers carried Kittle up the mountain before airlifting him to a hospital.

Kittle described himself as “elated” at the moment the passing motorist and rescuers helped save his life.

“I was so happy, you know, that I was finally being saved,” he said. “That I still had a chance left to survive.”

The highway patrol said alcohol or drugs were not suspected to be a factor in the accident, which remains under investigation.

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DHS Chief: Trump Executive Order ‘Not a Ban on Muslims’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — John Kelly, secretary of Homeland Security, defended President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees on Tuesday, saying that it is “not a ban on Muslims.”

Kelly, who addressed reporters along with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), added that he would enforce the president’s executive order “humanely.”

Kelly said the order was enacted to “protect the homeland.”

There was widespread confusion over the weekend at airports around the world after Trump signed the executive order last Friday. The directive prohibits citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also temporarily suspends admission for refugees for 120 days and indefinitely bars refugees from Syria.

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