Monthly Archives: September 2015

Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II

 by Wil S. Hylton.
Interview with Dr. Patrick J. Scannon Palau Explorer & Founder of Bent Prop

Are their spirits waiting to be remembered, or at least not forgotten?” 

Vignette Editor: https://www.tuxpi.com/photo-effects/vignette

B24-42-73453

        

At the end of World War II, 78,750 Americans were listed as Missing In Action (MIA) with roughly half in Pacific.

In 1993, Dr. Pat Scannon traveled to the Pacific and the Palau Islands as part of a search team looking into the first combat kill of tvanished with framehe young naval aviator, George H.W. Bush. Bush’s plane was on a photographic mission in the summer of the 1944 when he sank a 150-ft fishing trawler. Their search concluded when the wreck was located and weapons were found among the debris verifying the validity of the air strike and clearing controversy that innocents were killed.

Following the completion of the trawler mission, Pat and his wife hired a guide to explore the islands and other war wrecks.  As fate would have it, the guide took them to a beach to view a section of an aircraft wing.  The sudden realization that it was a downed American aircraft changed Pat’s life forever.   Pat’s detailed journal reports, ”I just came around that bend in the coral, and I was a different person.”

Hylton has crafted a remarkable narrative from Scannon’s dedicated research and personal journals.  As a fairly uninformed American, I was mesmerized and held captive reading about the little covered Pacific battles.; shocked by what now appear primitive, WWII aircraft and equipment used by our military.

Pop on Saipan

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The story flows backward and forward through the lives of the lost servicemen still haunting these Pacific islands, their families still waiting for information 60 years after last contact and with Pat Scannon’s dedication to finding answers.  Scannon’s integrity, patriotism, tenacity and ingenious methods have led to the recovery of many lost war heros.   We follow Pat from his initial curiosity to the founding of the Bent Prop Project dedicated to locating and assisting with identifying American prisoners of war (POW) and missing in action (MIA) from World War II and other conflicts around the world.

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This slim 272 page book will stir your emotions.

SGT Donald Delorm outside Saipan cave

SGT Donald Delorm outside Saipan cave ©itzeyblog

It has deeply stirred mine.  Unbeknownst to me, my family had a WWII link to this Pacific timeline.  My father, a WWII veteran, was very silent about his war experiences. Reading this book has given meaning and answers to some of my own questions.

Highly recommend reading.

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We Never Asked For Wings

Very good“A life time of mistakes had taught her what
everyone around her already believed: that she couldn’t do it; that alone, she wasn’t enough…”  so states 33-year old Letty Espinosa

                PROLOGUE

Maria Elena and Enrique Espinosa lived a prosperous and happy life in STORYTHEMESMexico. Enrique, a highly successful artist was known for his skilled artwork created from bird feathers.  In time, that type of art fell out of favor and he was unable to support Maria Elena and their extended families. Leaving Mexico to seek work, the couple crossed into the United States illegally and found a home in a run-down apartment building near the San Francisco International Airport. A daughter, Letitia (Letty) was born soon after their arrival.  By all accounts, Enrique was heartbroken to leave Mexico and his beloved mother; often dreaming of the day he would return.  It wasn’t all that clear if Maria Elena cared one way or the other, as long as she was with her beloved, Enrique.

When Enrique learns that his mother is ill, he hires a coyote to take him back across the border and to provide a safe escort back to his family when his mother is well again.  Six weeks have gone by and no word from Enrique. Maria Elena is frantically worried. She packs a bag, leaves a note for Letty explaining that she has gone to Mexico to find her husband.

Letty, now 33, is out partying and returns home to find the note.  She is stunned that Maria Elena has walked out in the middle of the night leaving Letty’s two children upstairs asleep.  She is shocked when she realizes that she must now care for her own children, something she has not done for 15 years.boy-thinking

Letty hastily adds a note on the bottom of Maria Elena’s letter leaving it on the kitchen table for her 14-year old son, Alex, to find when he awakens.  She barrels out the front door and crying girlraces to the bus station where she finds her mother about to board the bus.

Unable to convince her mother to return, she offers to drive her mother across the border, find her father and bring them both back. Knowing her mother would come unglued if she knew the children were alone, she lies telling Maria Elena they are with her best friend, Sara.

After driving for several days, they arrive at the old family estate to find Enrique mourning the death of his mother.  Shortly after the funeral, Maria Elena tells Letty that she must return home and care for her children as she will not be returning.  The parents are going to stay in Mexico.

Letty freaks out and hopes to get her mother to return by revealing her lie; the children have been alone all along.  Maria Elena reaches the end of her proverbial knot and physically forces Letty outside. She tells her to go home and raise her children… then locks the door.

A terrified Letty retraces her drive back home to her children.  She can’t imagine how they feeling knowing Nana won’t be back. Her greater fear is their reaction toward her after her years of unreliable behavior and disaffection. She loves her children; she just hasn’t shown them she values their affection.

she tried to imagine her children’s faces when she walked through the door, but she’d spent so many years trying not to look at them that she couldn’t picture the clearly.

Little Letty…

Letty’s parents were so proud of their young daughter as she grew in the American culture. They were so supportive that they stopped speaking Spanish in the home when she started school. She excelled academically and her teachers foresaw such a promising future for her.  Wes Riley entered her life in high school and became a great friend. They grew closer over time and fell in love.  Without proper guidance they had premarital sex.  Wes headed off to check out college in the east over the summer. Letty discovered she was pregnant shortly after he left town.

In what Letty would like us to believe was a selfless act, she decides she is not going to tell Wes about the pregnancy.  She says she wants him to return to her willingly, without pressure or obligation.  Telling him would change his plans for the future and he would sacrifice his dreams to help her raise the child.  Letty lies to her mother and tells her that Wes knows but now wants nothing to do with her.  Maria Elena blocks contact with her daughter when Wes calls repeatedly to try to talk Letty into joining him.

Without a clue, Letty tries to plan a life with her baby boy she names Alex. She purchases a baby bed and places it in her bedroom.  The first night home from the hospital, Letty finds that Maria Elena has moved the baby bed into her room.  She tells Letty that it would be best if she took care of the child.  Letty is hurt but doesn’t argue or fight for her child.

Enrique informs Letty that if she isn’t going to help raise her child, she will have to find work to help with his financial support. Letty’s work choices are limited.  She is 18 and unskilled in any trade or profession.  As she feels more and more worthless she begins drinking herself into oblivion. As the years click along, she sinks lower and lower. Somehow she manages to earn a little money from menial jobs. During one night of debauchery with an assortment of degenerates, she has sex with some stranger and becomes pregnant again.  Letty has a daughter she names Luna. Letty sees Luna’s birth as a second chance to become a responsible mother but as soon as Maria Elena takes over Luna’s care, it doesn’t take long for her to slid into old habits.

During all these many years of irresponsible behavior, Maria Elena has raised the children in love, never forcing Letty to have any part in their lives.  They crave the love and attention of their mother and savor the few moments she spends with them.  Somewhere deep her in heart, Letty wants to be a good mother.  She just can’t seem to pull it together to learn how.

So the day of reckoning arrives for Letty when Alex is 14 and Luna is 6.  Her parents have moved back to Mexico and the ball is in Letty’s court.

Alex’s Story: The morning after…

The  morning after the grownups in his life have walked away, Alex comes down for breakfast and finds his grandmother’s letter.  After reading it, he knows that his life has changed forever.  When he sees that his mother has abandoned them too, without a word, to follow his grandmother he knows that somehow he has to take care of Luna and avoid anything that would call attention to their situation.  Will his mother come back?  How will he survive?

Luna is an emotionally high-strung child wearing her stress on the outside.  Much loved by her grandparents, it isn’t enough.  She is starved for her mother’s love and attention. She is not going to take the news that everyone  has abandoned them in stride.

He can’t believe that his beloved grandparents would leave him without saying goodbye. They have raised him to be a respectful child, showered him with love and helped him develop a strong sense of right and wrong. He and his grandfather have an especially close bond as they share a mutual love of birds.  They have spent hours recording sightings and collecting feathers together.  When Alex reflects on their time together and looks at the boxes of feathers, he spots a note in one of the boxes left by his Grandfather…“For My Alex. Make Wings.”  He thinks…my grandfather had no intention of returning when he left.  He has given me his feather collection.

Over the first few weeks, Alex does his best to give the appearance that he and Luna are not alone.  He has watched his grandmother perform her daily routines and tries to emulate them. They manage for a time.  His grandmother has prepared meals for a month and frozen them.  Alex keeps things together but eventually resources are depleted.  Yet, no word from his mother.  The light at the end of the tunnel is getting harder to see.

Then one day he hears a knock at the door!  Assuming it was his mother returning, he opens the door to find Sara.  “Your mother has been in an accident.”

Letty As Mom-in-Charge

“You canStressed_9_tnb (1)‘t leave me.  I can’t do anything without you.”
“If you can’t, it’s my fault.”  Maria Elena looked at Enrique, her expression half accusation, half surrender. “Your father thinks I have ruined your life.”

On her ride back home, Letty has totaled her car and suffers a head injury in a car accident in Mexico.  Sara has found the children alone and takes them back to her apartment.  When she is well enough, Letty flies home with money sent by Sara.

Rejoined, the small Espinosa family of California enters their apartment.  Stare at each other.  What now?

So, have you, dear reader, been following along with the background of these characters?  Something I guess I should have mentioned earlier in this review, the novel speaks in alternating perspectives, Letty then Alex.   This becomes most interesting now that Letty is in charge.

Things at home start out about as badly as you expect.  Alex is very nervous and wary of his mother.  How do you trust someone that has ignored you all your life, is an alcoholic, and has recently abandoned you without a thought?  Letty wants to start over but the hurdles are high.  Luna is ready to love and be loved.  As I see it, it is time for Letty to put on her big girl panties and get her act together.

She knows she needs to sober up, take charge of the household,  bring in the bacon, and raise the kids. She stumbles and fails as much as she succeeds but progress incrementally with the help of a friend from work.  She handles some things well and does poorly with others.  Single moms will relate to the scenes with child care issues.

Alex is not sure his Mom has the ability to pull off the Mother gig.  He needs adult guidance and supervision. After getting stewed with his Mom one night, he’s not sure she is the best one for the job.  But who else is around to help?  Is it time to find your father and see if he’s up to the task?  Digging around, Alex finds his father and enlists his friend, Yesenia, in a stealth campaign to discover more about him before approaching him.  Alex and Yesenia are not the best private eyes and his father, Wes, shows up at the apartment with the question, Say…Letty..do I have a son I don’t know about?

So enter the vacant father into the story and one more issue for Letty to face.  She has to start with explaining why she never in 15 years told Wes he had a son.

Here’s where I get a little annoyed.

The friend at work becomes the boyfriend and is deeply involved with the children.  Letty knows that he has a secret about his life as he dresses too fancy for a bartender in a middle class neighborhood.  Now that Alex’s father is hanging around the house, she just might still love him too.  Decisions. Decisions.

Out of the blue she finds out that Rick, the boyfriend, comes from a rich family with contacts and friends in high places.  Very convenient when she enrolls Alex into a snobby school and needs to find a place to live in an area she can’t afford.

And then there’s Wes, the doctor, jumping straight into Alex’s life.  When Alex makes a terrible decision that results in his girlfriend finding out that she is an undocumented immigrant and is taken away by ICE, Wes and the boyfriend, Rick, are there battling for Letty, Alex, and Yesenia.

HOLD ON

What would I like to have seen handled differently?

  • More discussion on illegal immigration.  We see it from Yesenia’s point of view but Diffenbaugh has Carmen, Yesenia’s mom cowering while other take up the battle for her.  I would like to hear more from her.
  • I would like to have seen Letty progress toward recovery in a more mature fashion.  There are so many roadblocks that constantly appear in her way.  Life can be unfair, but Letty could have matured faster and be less unsympathetic and needy.
  • Elena and Enrique play such a significant role in the children’s lives.  Alex, in particular, has become a resilient, intelligent, and responsible young adult.  Why did Letty turn out the way she did?
  • The boy friend, Rick, struck me as too involved with the kids, particularly Luna.  Why did Letty, once again, let someone else comfort her child?
  • Too many issues! Phew.

I liked the story.  I would have preferred a little less drama and more in-depth coverage of specific issues such as immigration, unprotected sex and the lack of sex education, and the varying styles of parenting.

Bottom line: If you liked Language With Flowers, you will enjoy this book too.  Would I recommend it to my book club?  Sure thing.

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Blue Ribbon Canning

state fair Pie Eating Contests  and Preserved Food Judging.

As I took my first glance into Linda Amendt’s Blue Ribbon Canning, I swear I could hear the Carnival Barker shout…STEP RIGHT UP! View the One, The Only Book you will ever need for perfect canning!

coverNot only will you learn all you need to know to successfully and safely can preserves but you will have over 130+ prize winning recipes shared by their winners for you to amaze your family and friends.

Straight from Taunton Press, Blue Ribbon Canning will tempt you to pick those blueberries, hull those plump strawberries, peel those ripe Georgia peaches, sterilize those glass jars and fill your kitchen with the heavenly smells of warm jam.

The photographs are stunning and transport you to happy times and warm summer nights at the county fair.

Highly recommend for anyone interested in learning canning. Are you looking for that perfect Christpreserve winnersmas gift for that fruit stand lover in your life? Look no more. Here it is!

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Learning to save your life in winter can be fun!

“the driving force behind primitive survival is that all of our needs can be met through a deep and meaningful relationship with the earth…without the aid of gear or technology.
The purpose of this book is to go beyond the fundamentals of winter survival and introduce readers to this relationship.”  Winter in the Wilderness

If you walk or drive into any wilderness to play… you need this book!Very good

Winter has always been my favorite season for outdoor activities. Somehow I managed to survive my early years in the brutal Adirondack winters despite some pretty stupid mistakes in judgment.

As a child,
no guidebook could have helped me prepare for winter’s first cruel lesson. Don’t lick snow off a metal porch railing or stick your tongue on a flagpole in the school yard. I think the urge to lick a frozen metal object must be related to every child’s urge to stick beans up their nose.

Thankfully I outgrew my need to peel skin off my tongue and found healthier winter sports.

My year-round Adirondack Mountains playground tested my strength and ability to adapt to brutal winter conditions. Somehow I survived a cross country ski trip through Avalanche Pass to the Flowed Lands wearing wet blue jeans or my climb over the Dix Mountains in a freezing drizzle after forgetting my rain gear. Thank God for a plastic bag pack liner!

The last 25+ years I have lived in Georgia where I spend time backpacking the wilderness trails in the Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and southern Virginia mountains.

My husband and I hiked out of Georgia in the dead of winter to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Our northward progress ended after 1800+ miles when I was injured on Mt. Washington, NH.

My years of cold weather observations have left me amazed at the poor choices people make when facing winter conditions. Before and after we returned from our AT adventure, my husband and I shuttled hikers to the remote southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It is not uncommon to find people heading out on a six-month odyssey without rain gear, without any type of portable shelter, inadequate winter clothing and no method of heating water or cooking a hot meal. We have been called to rescue hypothermic hikers caught in unexpected wet weather. We have shared food with hikers stranded by a winter storm. We’ve built fires in the rain to help soaked hikers in near freezing temperatures warm themselves.

Why, you might ask, would Georgians find a winter survival guide interesting? Most people don’t associate snow storms with Georgia. Granted, our winter storms aren’t as frequent or severe as my native New York State but they do happen and they shut the state down. Just as dangerous, if not more so, are the freezing rain and ice storms. Fat chance for a quick rescue if the eroded and remote Forest Service Road you drove to the trailhead becomes iced over or clogged with downed trees.

A guidebook to surviving an unexpected winter emergency in any of the wilderness areas of Georgia is just as important as one aimed at keeping you alive in the Adirondacks.
The summary of Winter in the Wilderness: A Field Guide to Primitive Survival Skills by Dave Hall with Jon Ulrich led me to request a pre-publication copy from Netgalley and Cornell University Press. I am very grateful that I was approved.

DAVE HALLDave Hall is resident of the Adirondacks and has spent years learning primitive outdoor skills, enjoying many a bitter night in a snow cave without benefit of a sleep bag or warming fire. He has studied with other nationally known survival experts and is a popular instructor for the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Cornell Outdoor igloo-mdEducation program. He shares his well honed skills with the youth of his community through Primitive Pursuits, an afterschool program he began in 1999. His 20+ years of mastering primitive survival skills have led him to become a known authority.

I highly recommend reading the introduction before jumping ahead to any of the seven chapters. He tells us that developing primitive survival skills is more than knowing what to do in an emergency; it is doing it competently in an emergency. The specific skill needed in any particular situation must have been practiced in advance that it becomes second nature. Mastering the skills can be enjoyable in a controlled setting.

The book is written in an easy conversational style. Dave reveals his own failings in the past that led him to improve those weaknesses in his survival skill set. I felt like I was sitting down at campfire, listening to someone comfortable in his own skin and willing to share his knowledge without shoveling it down my throat.

If you are a gear freak and devoted to the newest fabrics and lightest weight equipment, you will be disappointed. If you are thinking about what you need for winter hiking and what dangers can befall you, here you go. The gear lists and recommendations in the book are meant to provide guidance. Readers planning to head out to recreate or travel must prepare in advance. What if?

When I grew up in the dark ages, cell phones and GPS devices weren’t available. I have found, in the past few years, having those devices has created a false sense of security. There is a danger in relying on them as the only source of directions or help. The author acknowledges that they have their place but should not be seen as a sure method of securing help.

Chapter 1 discusses Priorities
In my mind, this is the most important section. He covers basic needs and dangers; avoid panic, hypothermia and frostbite, clothing and attire, worst case scenarios as examples. If you can’t see yourself taking this chapter seriously, you need to stay home, don’t endanger the lives of your rescuers and enjoy the wilderness from your lounge chair watching the Discovery Channel.

Chapters 2- 7 cover individual skills in deeper detail. There are plenty of hand drawn graphics. They are Fire, Shelter, Water, Sustenance, Helpful Crafts and Skills, Navigation and Orienteering.

Additionally there are four handy appendices.
Appendix A: What to do if you are stranded in your vehicle. Very useful suggestions!

Appendix B: Survival Kits

Appendix C: Winter Gear Checklist. Many will scoff at the list and consider it overkill. If you haven’t been in a 30-below zero storm overnight don’t mock it! Better to have than have not. You can modify it with experience and weather conditions.

“Information is pretty thin stuff until mixed with experience”

Clarence Day

Appendix D: Suggested Reading.
There is also a bibliography and a handy index.

There are a couple of suggestions and comments I would make to improve the next edition of this book.
• The hand drawn graphics are well done, but I personally would like to see color photographs with close-ups. Jazz it up and make it inviting to practice.

• A photograph on the cover.

• More discussion on survival techniques in areas where trees and kindling are not available.
• My what-ifs include winter in warmer climates.

My overall rating is thumbs-up.
Recommend for families interested in primitive camping and individuals willing to challenge themselves and expand their seasonal activities. I have placed my order for the paperback copy!

As mentioned before, thanks you, Netgalley and Cornell University Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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The Girl on the Train

Is a mystery a mystery if you figure out who dunnit it before someone is killed?

easystreet Author's Debut Thriller Fiction

One fine day in July of 2013 Rachel, face planted against the train window, spots “a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks. Light-blue cloth – a shirt, perhaps – jumbled up with something dirty white.”

She points out the fact that she has an overactive imagination (and she tells us that Tom thought so too).  Did something nefarious happen here or did a trainman discard some soiled garment?

Rachel is traveling toward London on the slow lurching 8:04 morning train from Ashbury. The train judders along each day and at one point passes modest Victorian houses backed up against the tracks.  In the evenings, the 5:56 train creeps back past the same houses and over time she has crafted a fictional existence for the residents. Every day, coming and going, the train stops at a faulty signal for a few seconds and she gets a little more time to watch her favorite trackside house: number fifteen.   Rachel doesn’t know the couple but she has named them “Jess and Jason”.   In her mind’s eye, this is the idyllic couple. Jason works hard to support Jess, serves her coffee in bed and anticipates her every need.  Jess stays home and  languishes until Jason returns every night to keep her safe and comforted.

The train also passes by house number twenty-three.  It just so happens that this was Rachel’s first home.   Now divorced and despite the pain it brings, Rachel can’t pass the house she loved so much without looking at it from the train window.  This day in July of 2013, Rachel observes the wife (whose name we learn is Anna) watering roses; roses that Rachel planted years ago.   She also knows Anna’s husband, Tom.  He had been Rachel’s husband and they had lived in that house too.

Rachel’s home for the past two years has been a spartan room rented from an old college acquaintance.  They really were not friends in college and still are not although they live under the same roof…for now.

Rachel travels back and forth on the train with her favorite crutch every day; a bottle or two of booze.  It is readily apparent that Rachel likes to drink. Often. A lot. Anywhere. She drowns her pain and misery and at some point most days, her memory.

The story shifts back a year to March 2012 and shows up in the master bedroom of house number fifteen.  Rachel’s “Jess” is actually named Megan and she, too, uses the rhythm of the rails to stimulate her imagination.  She dreams of an exotic life of adventure much further down the line; far away from the raucous train sounds.  As she plans for an evening out with her husband, Megan hears loud screams and the sound of a child crying in the backyard of house number twenty-three.  She observes two women struggling over a child.  Finally one walks dejectedly away and the mother we know is named Anna scrambles into the house carrying her crying child.  Megan becomes curious and volunteers to baby-sit to find out what the ruckus was about…

Rachel was happily married to Tom.  Or so she thought. As time passes, her life crumbles as she realizes that she is incapable of bearing a child and Tom becomes disgusted and unhappy with her. She changes from an attractive wife to a frump and a drunk in Tom’s eyes.  He wanders into Anna’s arms and eventually out of Rachel’s life.  But not before he destroys Rachel’s confidence and mental stability. She turns to alcohol to sooth the rough edges.  The deeper she falls in her depression and drunkenness, the more she loses.  Eventually she loses everything including her husband, her job, her credibility her self-respect and very nearly her only friend.

Anna is supremely happy as a mistress and falls for Tom’s charms and false adoration.  She is convinced by Tom that Rachel’s alcoholism has crushed his marriage.  Tom spreads the charm deep enough to swallow up Anna’s life just as he had previously with Rachel.  Anna becomes pregnant. In her mind, the perfect marriage has become the perfect family.  Trouble blooms in paradise when Rachel refuses to believe that Tom doesn’t still love her and begins to stalk the Anna, Tom and the baby.  Rachel begins to call late at night, over and over.

Down the street in house number fifteen, Megan and Scott present the image of a happily married couple.  Megan, however, leads a duplicitous life that she struggles to hide from Scott.  Would it be fair to say that Megan is a closet nymphomaniac?  Or perhaps in a kinder vein, just plain messed up and seeks pleasure in all the wrong places?  Scott is very insecure and has a jealous streak a mile wide.  A large imposing man, he reacts violently when provoked.  Scott unable to decipher why he feels Megan is unhappy and encourages her to seek therapy.  When it appears that she is happier, he is comforted.  Right up until the day that she disappears.  Did she run off with the therapist?  Or has she become the victim of horrible tragedy.

These three households swirl in a tragic symbiotic universe where one of them pays the ultimate price with their life.

Each of the major characters is severely flawed and socially immature.  Having said that, I found that the flaws of each were so similar that I had difficulty separating them and at times not sure who was speaking.   They all desperately try to find individual fulfillment through the lives of someone else.  They are sad group of people.

I can’t say I totally disliked the book because that is not true.  I just grew weary of the Debbie-downer dreary story and had to put the book down many times to take a breather.  Women having to define their image through the eyes of their husbands depress me.

The scenes that were intended to be suspenseful just seemed drawn out to me. Unlike some very well crafted psychological thrillers that give me goose bumps, I just couldn’t get invested in the story, as it was clear to me early where the story would lead.

In all I would judge the book readable but not terribly fulfilling.  But undoubtedly it will make a popular film.

Girl On The Train is the author’s first thriller fiction.  A good starter book and she should try again…soon.

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