Tyler LePard

Tyler LePard has worked in and volunteered with a variety of reproductive health organizations, as well as in other progressive causes. Her background includes advocacy, public policy, communications, and health services.

Tyler is currently working in Global Health Policy & Advocacy.  Previously, she was Associate Editor for Rewire and then the Media Manager for Population Action International. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Public Policy from George Washington University. See Tyler’s blog at Rewire.  

All Work

World AIDS Day Preview

Tyler LePard

World AIDS Day is tomorrow, December 1. Activists, organizations, and ordinary people around the world will recognize the day in myriad ways, all aware that the disease claimed 3 million lives last year and that over 4 million people were newly infected with the HIV virus.

Healy Thomspon of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) blogged about some of the wider issues they will be bringing to people's attention tomorrow morning with For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Also, check back tomorrow for World AIDS Day coverage from Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Sharon Camp, President of the Guttmacher Institute.

Snapshot on the Steps of the Supreme Court: Debating Late-Term Abortion

Tyler LePard

Clusters of umbrellas gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday's rainy DC morning. Advocates from both sides of a controversial issue waited in line to hear the oral arguments in the two cases challenging the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003. On one side of the steps, people from the National Organization of Women marched in support of women's right to late-term abortions. In the middle of the crowd, the supporters of the ban held a press conference. The usual slogans, rhetoric, and graphic signs were in play as everyone waited for the case to begin.

Spirits were high on both sides, despite the huge losses suffered by conservatives in yesterday's elections. Rev. Patrick Mahoney, from Christian Defense Coalition, held a press conference at 9 a.m., which raised a loud ruckus. Decrying the results of the election and blaming Republicans for failing the far-right, he confirmed his community's commitment to conservative principles and values, not to a political party. (I know they won't be supportive of the Democratic Party anytime soon, so where does that leave them?) Rev. Mahoney expressed disappointment in South Dakota, but rallied hope for other states to ban abortion in the future and declared, "Roe v. Wade is crumbling."

Reproductive Justice: 3-0

Tyler LePard

As a progressive political wave washed across the country yesterday, reproductive justice advocates experienced three major victories. Voters in South Dakota, California, and Oregon rejected ballot measures that would have restricted abortion in their states.

The most publicized ballot measure - the one that would have banned abortion (except to save a woman's life) in South Dakota - was defeated. Sara Stoesz, President of the Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, announced this victory:

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people across the state of South Dakota came together to overturn the most far-reaching abortion ban in many decades. Our coalition of men and women, faith leaders, business professionals and healthcare professionals sent a strong message to their legislators -- don't use our state to push an extremist agenda.

Supreme News Roundup: From the Left

Tyler LePard

Congratulations on surviving the midterm elections! But wait a sec - we're not done with the big news yet. Today is critical for reproductive health. With the news circus leading up to yesterday's elections, today's Supreme Court case on the federal abortion ban hasn't garnered much press. Ian wondered where the "pro-life" lobby has been, but it turns out that the pro-choice lobby hasn't been very vocal on this issue either (as of Tuesday afternoon). Let's take a quick look at news from our side of this important case.

With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility: Lancet Series on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Tyler LePard

According to a new series in Lancet, a well-respected, peer-reviewed, medical journal:

"Every year, 340 million new patients acquire gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia, or trichomonas, more than 120 million couples have an unmet need for contraception, 80 million women have unintended pregnancies, and an estimated 19 million women undergo unsafe abortions; 70,000 of them die as a result."

There are cheap and effective ways to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, provide safe abortions, assist healthy pregnancies and delivery, and support children and families. With advances in medicine, access to health and education, why do these critical issues still threaten women's health? Politics. Clear and simple. Conservative ideology endangers women's health.

Yesterday, Lancet launched the new series on sexual and reproductive health worldwide. This study is based on the first ever global research of this kind - real data from researchers who took a fact-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and practices around the world.

When Was Your First Time?

Tyler LePard

Not to show my age, but my first time was 1996. It was great and made me feel like a responsible adult. Now, some people have taken offense to the ad below, but I don't think there's anything wrong with implying that voting is sexy. That's the beauty of feminism - it encompasses such a wide variety of perspectives - the main point is equality. And when it comes to voting, women haven't been stepping up equally with men. 20 million women did not vote in the last election, which means that they chose not to make a difference on reproductive health, among other issues.

[img_assist|nid=1354|title=Watch These Women Talk About Their First Time|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=400|height=325]

20 Million Women

Tyler LePard

We have the power. We can make a difference. On issues like reproductive health - contraception, abortion, sexuality education, HIV & STI prevention, access to healthcare... the list goes on and on. Voting is important. But for some reason, 20 million women choose not to exercise that power. They don't act to make a difference.

The ad below is one in a series of Public Service Announcements by "Women's Voices. Women Vote." designed to reach these 20 million women, in the hope that in this critical upcoming election they will get out and vote.[img_assist|nid=1339|title=Watch the PSA.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=382|height=314]

New NARAL Ad Exposes Kyl’s Anti-Choice Record

Tyler LePard

Arizona Senator John Kyl has been attempting to hide his extreme views recently, but his anti-choice record is undeniable. According to Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America:

“Jon Kyl is one of the most rigid anti-choice senators in Washington and his actions have real consequences for women’s everyday lives. Arizona women need to know Kyl’s anti-choice record before they vote in November.”

Check out the new TV ad released by NARAL to highlight Kyl's opposition to abortion, even when a woman's health is at risk.[img_assist|nid=1312|title=Watch the New NARAL Ad Opposing Sen. Kyl|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=398|height=324]

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in South Dakota

Tyler LePard

Supporters of anti-choice legislation have sunk to new lows this week. The anti-choice campaign in South Dakota used to rely on distorting the facts, but now they are getting desperate and resorting to bald-faced lies.

What Teenagers Learn (and Don’t Learn) In Sex Ed

Tyler LePard

Bill Smith of SIECUS opened the 4th Annual "Back to School" briefing last week by saying, "Abstinence is a great thing, a wonderful choice - but it shouldn't be the only thing being taught." This is the major disconnect between advocates for comprehensive sex ed and abstinence-only sex ed: the latter group thinks that the former one does not value or teach abstinence. To the contrary, we gladly support abstinence as it delays sexual behavior and decreases the risk of pregnancy and disease. And comprehensive sex ed programs do stress the importance of abstinence, as well as providing vital knowledge about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. However, what abstinence-only advocates ignore is that not everyone chooses abstinence -- regardless of their education -- and even those who do will most likely become sexually active at some point outside of marriage.

This critical lack of information is not the only problem with abstinence-only programs. Ab-only advocates also blame comprehensive sex ed for all sorts of irresponsible behavior, including an outrageous link to pedophilia (see the video below of Wendy Wright's offensive comments). Add the fact that many abstinence-only programs rely on shame and fear to try to manipulate adolescents into abstaining from sex and, well, we've got a serious problem with sex ed in our nation's schools.

Cecile Richards Discusses California’s Prop. 85

Tyler LePard

Rewire has featured several guest bloggers writing about Prop. 85. If passed, this ballot initiative would prohibit abortions for California teens until 48 hours after their parents have been notified.

These videos, made for the No on 85 Campaign, highlight the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Watch Cecile Richards explain why she opposes parental notification initiatives.

[img_assist|nid=931|title=Watch Cecile Richard's TV Ad|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=600|height=474]

Should You Be Worried About a Full Frontal Attack on Contraception?

Tyler LePard

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]If, as a conference held September 22nd-23rd stated, "Contraception Is Not the Answer," what on earth is the question? Surely it was not, "What is the best way to reduce abortion?" No, the focus of the conference was the evil of contraception throughout society. The speakers presented a comprehensive attack escalating a new political strategy of the far right.

The pro-life organizers of the conference called the decidedly middle-class, white audience "brave" for making history attacking the "golden calf of contraception." According to the Centers for Disease Control, most American women who have had sex have used at least one contraceptive method at some point in their lives. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer told the gathering, "When you sow contraception, you reap abortion." Holding the majority of women in this country responsible for abortion demonstrates the extremism of their agenda.

Using Religion Against Contraception: Part 2

Tyler LePard

Editor's note: Some of the links in this post are audio clips; click on them to listen to Allan Carlson in a new window.

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]Welcome back to Rewire's series about the emerging war on contraception. In this episode, I will analyze Allan Carlson's presentation on "The Emptied Quiver: The Protestant Embrace of Contraception." As the daughter of two Lutheran ministers, I found Carlson's narrow take on Christianity, Martin Luther and the burden of families on clergy particularly interesting. His anti-feminist lecture examined Protestant roots against contraception and celibacy and their departure from that position, ending with an appeal for Protestants to return to their original opinion.

Using Religion Against Contraception: Part 1

Tyler LePard

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]Two speakers at the "Contraception Is Not the Answer" conference used religion as their main argument against contraception. They used religion as a weapon to attempt to manipulate people into following their narrow beliefs. But it is important to remember that they do not represent the majority of conservatives, nor of Christians. This reality check is for the right and the left.

Anti-Contraceptionists Take on “Men’s Rights”

Tyler LePard

Editor's note: Some of the links in this post are audio clips; click on them to listen to Lionel Tiger in a new window.

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]At "Contraception Is Not the Answer", Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League introduced Lionel Tiger (his real name, I swear) as "an honest scientist" who was NOT coming from a religious conservative perspective. Every other speaker at the anti-contraception conference was from a conservative group or religious institution and obviously pushing an ideological agenda. But Lionel Tiger (and bears - oh my!) is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He was there because of his book "The Decline of Males", which Amazon describes as a counterpart to feminism ("masculinism") that chronicles the decline of men and the ascendancy of women - due to reproductive technology.

Pollard: Contraception Causes Immigration and Terrorism

Tyler LePard

[img_assist|nid=598|title=Special Series|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]There has been a lot of news lately about declining birth rates and changes in population in various countries. Pro-population groups have used this opportunity to predict doom and gloom if people don’t start having more babies. Taking that approach, a demographer named Andrew Pollard discussed “Societal Suicide: The Profound Demographic Impact of Contraception” at the Contraception is Not the Answer conference. In contrast to the friendly, cheerful demeanor of the other speakers, Pollard sounded angry and vehement. He made some of the most outrageous statements I heard during the entire conference, which you can listen to in the audio clips at the end of this post.

Do I Look Conservative Enough?

Tyler LePard

Going into the anti-contraception conference in Chicago, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wanted to blend in, so I packed clothes that I deemed to be slightly formal, but wouldn't stand out. I wanted to look conservative and professional, but not too much like I'm from Washington, DC. Oh, and I needed to hide my tattoos and piercings, which involved wearing long-sleeve shirts and not opening my mouth too wide (which was an additional barrier to speaking up when I heard outrageous statements). I put on my cross necklace, wore skirts and plain tops, and ventured into the belly of the beast.

Since many anti-abortion groups have shied away from taking on contraception, I thought only radical extremists would gather to oppose something that is used by the majority of Americans. To my surprise, that was not the case.

Teenagers Think Abstinence Is Cool?

Tyler LePard

As Scott mentioned when he introduced this series yesterday, I attended a conference in Chicago last weekend titled "Contraception Is Not the Answer." You may be wondering who would oppose an essential part of many Americans' lives - one that protects people from disease and helps them plan if, when, and how many children to have. Ian provided an insightful preview to the event with background information in Friday's blog. In this series I will address the main themes of the conference and provide a much-needed reality check on their arguments.

Preview: CDC Recommendations for HIV Testing

Tyler LePard

The Centers for Disease Control have revised recommendations for HIV screening in healthcare settings. According to a telephone briefing on Thursday:




Recommendations are designed to make voluntary HIV screening a routine part of medical care for all patients ages 13 to 64. With these Recommendations, CDC aims to simplify the HIV testing process in health-care settings and increase early HIV diagnosis among the more than 250,000 HIV-positive persons in the U.S. who remain unaware of their infection. The Recommendations also include new measures to improve diagnosis among pregnant women in order to further reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission.

Condom Video Sure to Be Ignored

Tyler LePard

[img_assist|nid=577|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=116|height=177]One of the two groups that formed to sue Montgomery County, Md. public school system over the sex ed curriculum has given the newly-revised condom video positive reviews. Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) thinks the latest version is more clinical and less MTV. The video no longer has "a cute little blonde with a cucumber," according to the president of CRC. Now the demonstration about the correct use of prophylactics only shows a pair of hands putting a condom on a wooden penis and is narrated by a male voice. Maybe the right-wingers substituted a woody...oops, i mean wooden model for the cucumber because they worried about engorged, ...er high expectations. Or, they thought the woman health education teacher was too suggestive (though I guess they aren't worrying about splinters).

McPregnancy Centers

Tyler LePard

Apparently it's not good enough to give out false information about abortion. Nor are they satisfied with using taxpayer money to offer religiously-motivated "counseling." No, they are taking it further. So-called pregnancy resource centers (or crisis pregnancy centers) are also targeting inner-city neighborhoods, specifically to restrict the pregnancy options of poor women & girls of color. But wait - that's not all! The Washington Post reported Saturday that these offices are adding "health" services and locating their centers as close as possible to real medical clinics (even taking over their space when clinics move) in the hope that confused patients accidentally go to the wrong office.

That's right, folks - pregnancy resource centers have adopted a business plan similar to a certain fast food giant: set up next to competitors and try to steal their business.

Invisible Women

Tyler LePard

On Wednesday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) held a briefing on its State of World Population 2006 report, which focuses on women and international migration. Titled "A Passage to Hope," the report highlights the role that women play in migration and its affect on their lives. The briefing featured Maria Jose Alcala (principal author of the report), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY), Kathleen Newland (Director and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute), and Professor Susan Forbes Martin (Georgetown University), moderated by Sarah Craven (UNPFA). [img_assist|nid=538|title=State of the World Population Report|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=125] This articulate group of women spoke up about the benefits of migration for immigrants and their adopted countries, as well as the darker side of this issue.

Did you know that women making up half of all international immigrants in the world? This is no minority group with "special needs," as Newland pointed out. Women migrants may not be as visible as their male counterparts, but they outnumber men migrants in the United States. They typically work in less noticeable jobs - domestic and care-giving positions with private or semi-private employers instead of out in the public view. And yet they often don't have access to health services and are ignored by policy-makers.

India Schools the U.S. in HIV Prevention

Tyler LePard

In the spirit of back-to-school week, here is a quick RH pop quiz:

Question: Which country just announced a five-year, $2.5 billion campaign against HIV/AIDS?

Answer: India, the second-most populous country.

Question: What is the focus of that campaign?

Answer: Prevention. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss announced that 80% of a new national campaign will focus on condoms as the best defense against HIV/AIDS. This is especially significant for the country with more HIV-positive people than any other country.

Question: How does this compare to HIV prevention strategy in the United States?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Tyler LePard

Abstinence-only education has been under fire frequently of late - in Toronto at the IAC, in Africa because of PEPFAR, and recently in Canton, Ohio. After learning last fall that one in seven girls attending Timkin High School were pregnant, the school board decided that maybe abstinence-only education wasn't working after all. Surprise! You can tell a teenager "NO", but do you really think that's going to work? Well, gee - when I was a young adult, being told not to do something just increased my desire to do it. Maybe adolescent attitudes have changed... but from the look of things... maybe not.

Keeping Women Barefoot and in the Kitchen

Tyler LePard

Concerned Women of America (CWA) held a meeting earlier in the month to express concern about a weapon that threatens the American way of life. Is it terrorism... missiles... drugs?? No. Prepare yourself. Are you sitting down? Ok, here goes - it's the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Terrifying, I know. The treaty (ratified by 184 countries, but not the U.S.) would involve the U.N. in "our homes, our families, our marriages," according to the conservative group. They even use the ‘F' word - yes, that's right: feminists. They say that the socialist feminists (*double shudder*) want to impose a radical liberal agenda around the world.

Never mind that one of the major focuses of the recent International AIDS Conference was that women and girls are a vulnerable population and have an increasing risk for HIV/AIDS... that this is often due to gender inequality, gender-based violence, economic disparity, being forced to obey their husband, and lack of education (to name just a few minor reasons)... Why would such a large women's group not want to acknowledge that a treaty is needed to protect women and stop gender discrimination around the world?

Condoms Still Newsworthy

Tyler LePard

A recent New York Times article confirmed what most of us know already: condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. One doctor in the article even goes so far as to nominate the condom for "the greatest technological invention of the past 2,000 years." Why? They don't need a prescription, they don't have an age limit, they're affordable, they can fit in your pocket, they're not messy, they save lives... the list goes on and on. So why is this news?

Because despite all of the progress in sexuality education and in preventing pregnancy and disease, there are still many misconceptions floating around about condoms.

Déjà Vu: Guilt Trippin’

Tyler LePard

A gal finds herself pregnant, looking for some advice. She finds a pregnancy counseling center, thinking they will give her accurate, nonjudgmental advice about her options. She has a tough decision to make and she wants some facts and medical referrals. Imagine her surprise when the "counselor" calls her a murderer for considering abortion and gives her inaccurate information intended to intimidate and scare her into continuing her pregnancy.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Sounds an awful lot like what Congressman Waxman discovered about crisis pregnancy centers in the United States - that they accept federal funds and then give biased, inaccurate advice. Only, this scenario and others like it are happening in Australia.

A report released by the South Australia Government's Pregnancy Advisory Centre says that "various bodies and agencies, both private and public, have given women false information on the physical and mental health risks of abortions." But that's no big deal, right? I mean, it's not like pregnancy is a decision that can completely change a woman's whole life. No, wait... it is.

More Like Plan V…

Tyler LePard

This must be plan V... or at least plan P for the Bush administration.

After repeatedly politicizing emergency contraception, pressuring the FDA into going against recommendations by their own scientists, and trying in vain to establish Andrew von Eschenbach's independence, Bush finally decided to try something different. During Monday morning's press conference, Bush stated:

"I believe that Plan B ought to be -- ought to require a prescription for minors, is what I believe. And I support Andy's decision."

Wait - did I just hear that correctly? Listen to that little space between what he said... right there - the part where he implied Plan B ought not to require a prescription for adults.

What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas

Tyler LePard

This week, a Ugandan pastor was in Las Vegas giving talks about AIDS. Martin Sempa is a long-time AIDS activist who credits abstinence-only programs and Christian values (like fidelity and matrimony...not so much care for the vulnerable) for Uganda's success in the fight against AIDS.

Now you may be thinking: AIDS... International activist... wait a second - why wasn't he in Toronto at the International AIDS Conference? Oh yeah, it's because "hatred of motherhood and the family, a pathological fear of fidelity and sexual continence and loathing of traditional Christian values are the defining forces in the international fight against AIDS" - not a place for a guy like Sempa.

Avoiding Toronto because of expected hostility to his message, Sempa spoke from Las Vegas. Maybe you've heard of it? City of casinos, nude dancers, Elvis impersonators and quickie weddings, nicknamed "Sin City." Seems like kind of a funny place for a pastor to take haven from those wacky International AIDS activists and speak out about "Christian values" and preventing HIV, doesn't it?

Solidarity in Toronto

Tyler LePard

Isn't it amazing when different social movements work together in peace and justice? This past week, 2,000 hotel employees in Toronto voted to authorize a strike, but after considering the havoc this would wreak on the HIV/AIDS conference (you know, the one that we keep gabbing about) they instead deferred the strike and declared their solidarity with people living with HIV/AIDS.

Show Me the Lies

Tyler LePard

Missourians will be able to vote on the Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative this fall, since it was certified by the MO Secretary of State on Tuesday. Supporters gathered more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, despite lies put out by the opposition.

Focus on the Family sent out over 90,000 brochures to Missouri residents, with quotes from women's organizations to strengthen opposition to the stem cell initiative. When the Center for American Progress contacted several of the women's organizations, they said their quotes had been taken out of context in order to misrepresent their views. In fact, these women's organizations are supportive of stem cell research. They do NOT think it is "exploiting women in the name of science" as the brochure says. Looks like Focus on the Family was exploiting women's health advocates!

Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All

Tyler LePard

It seems like for the past several years Americans have become more polarized by a great divide deepening between the right and the left, conservative and liberal, red states and blue states. The myth of a dramatic culture war has become pervasive in the popular consciousness. But that's exactly what it is - a myth.

A poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center shows that most Americans fall in the middle on many hot issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial social issues. Though the country is still split on the topic of abortion (51% think it should be available compared to 46% who think it should be illegal), 66% of Americans believe that we need to find a middle ground. This solid majority willing to consider opposing views comes from a varied background - including different religions, political party, race, age, and geographical location.

Syringes in Sacramento

Tyler LePard

Public health advocates in California have been working to prevent the spread of disease among injection-drug users by making needles available at pharmacies without a prescription. Unfortunately, when the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors had the opportunity to legalize sales of needles last year, they gave in to misinformation and fear that increasing access to clean needles would increase drug use. Studies have found that increased syringe access decreases infection such as HIV and Hepatitis C - not that it encourages people to do more drugs.

Decision-making in the Dark

Tyler LePard

When a government agency makes a decision, they complete an unbiased analysis based on scientific data... right? I mean, the FDA decides whether Americans have access to various medications - so one would think that they must really be grounded in science and not be influenced by little things like politics. No?

Court documents recently released by the Center for Reproductive Rights confirm that FDA officials decided against approving Plan B for over-the-counter use WELL BEFORE the data review was finished by agency scientists.

The View Erupts Over Plan B

Tyler LePard

"Everybody has strong opinions... There are many other arguments people could give you. I think the most important thing, which is what we see here today, is we've got to be able to have these discussions and listen to other people's opinions and not go so crazy," said Barbara Walters, host of The View, after a segment she introduced to discuss Plan B was high-jacked by the anti-choice passion of guest panelist and GOP pinup Elisabeth Hasselbeck.




Don’t Believe the Hype

Tyler LePard

Editorial Note: With this post Rewire welcomes its newest staff blogger, Tyler LePard. Tyler has worked in and volunteered with a variety of reproductive health organizations, as well as in other progressive causes. She has her BA from Wesleyan University and a Masters in Public Policy from George Washington Univeristy. We are pleased she has joined our team and we know you will look forward to reading her posts.

If you happened to read a press release from Instead Sciences, Inc. on Business Wire a couple of days ago, you may have gotten very excited about the first approved microbicide about to hit the market. But hold on a minute - settle down and prepare for disappointment. This was just a misunderstanding - a tweaking, if you will, by some PR people.

When Tommy Thompson (the Chair of Instead Sciences, Inc.) said "Amphora -- which already has FDA safety clearance for human use -- is in the best position to be the first approved microbicide", apparently what he really meant is that Amphora has been approved as a sexual lubricant... and that they might know something about its effectiveness in preventing infection (such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea) by the year 2010. MAYBE.

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