Summary – For over 10 years Gary Weiss (once a reporter with BusinessWeek, and recently, a columnist with Forbes) has been posting under fake names to confuse, distort, and hijack Usenet groups, stock message boards, and Wikipedia, using social media to prevent the public from understanding criminal activity.
I now turn to Gary Weiss. Last year one of the most prominent journalists on Wall Street warned me, “I’ve known Weiss for years. Be careful. He’s a psychopath.” As you will see, he was neither joking nor exaggerating. I think, however, that Gary is better described as a “Scaramouch.”
In a series of brilliant investigations, Judd Bagley, a reporter-investigator-technologist friend of mine (and more recently, I am proud to say, a colleague) studied the IP footprints Gary’s computers have left scattered across the Internet for over a decade, and posted his extraordinary analyses of them on his cleverly-titled site, “Antisocialmedia.net”. Judd’s posts are as disturbing with regard to what they reveal about our society’s discourse, as they are regarding the activities of Gary himself.
It is a complex story that I recount below in as clear and straightforward a manner as I can muster. The best way for me to do that is to break it into 7 short stories. Embedded within each are links to carefully documented research . I respectfully suggest the reader try to understand these as individual stories, before synthesizing them into one complete picture.
#1) Gary’s start in social media
Gary started with simple Usenet group posting in the mid 1990’s, often making productive contributions to newsgroups devoted to matters Judaic. However, as this analysis shows, by the late 1990’s Gary had become a chronic “sock-puppeter,” that is, he maintained a stable of identities and personalities under which he could post in order to steer conversations to his ends (Gary even posted anti-Semitic statements that he could then respond to under other names). Another user caught Gary red-handed and confronted him. Establishing a pattern that would become Gary’s hallmark, when he was caught red-handed Gary Weiss practiced the “deny-deny-deny-then-disappear” school of personal responsibility.
Another pattern of Gary’s emerged as well: that of accusing anyone who disagrees with him about anything as being anti-Semitic. One person whom he has accused of hundreds of times of anti-Semitism complained to the Anti-Defamation League. Showing immense class, the ADL looked into it all and dismissed Gary out-of-hand. Notwithstanding this, Gary continues to level this allegation against that same man (under the assumption, presumably, that he understands anti-Semitism better than the ADL).
#2) Gary’s manipulation of Amazon reviews
For years Gary posted numerous reviews on Amazon praising his own books and trashing the work of other business journalists, as this analysis shows. While Gary’s sock-puppets trash other journalists (e.g., Charles Gasparino), there is one journalist whom he never bashes, but whom he uses his sock-puppets to promote: Jim Cramer. Hilariously, though they were supposed to be the work of various disinterested strangers, Gary’s sock-puppets’ glowing Amazon reviews of his own work began disappearing the moment Judd began exposing Gary’s methods.
#3) Gary goes beserk against another journalist and that journalist’ wife at the United Nations
a) Ian Williams, a British journalist, was president of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) and UN correspondent for The Nation. Mr. Williams’ wife, a BBC World Service journalist (and native of Uzbekistan), also held a position within the UNCA.
b) Gary’s wife (an Indian national holding herself out as a correspondent for the Indian newspaper The Pioneer of India) applied to work within the United Nations Correspondents Association. To be admitted to the UNCA she had to demonstrate that she was in fact a journalist who covered the UN. Towards that end she submitted copies of her stories from the front page of The Pioneer of India, along with a letter from The Pioneer‘s editor, Chandan Mitra, attesting to her employment there. On that basis she was admitted to the UNCA and began working in the UN offices in Manhattan.
c) Gary’s wife coveted the UNCA position above her that was then held by Ian Williams’ wife. Gary attempted to dislodge Ian Williams’ wife from that position by claiming that Mrs. Williams had lied in order to get her visa to enter the US, so as to create an opening which his own (Gary’s) wife could take. Gary’s allegations proved false.
d) Journalists at the UNCA noticed that the stories which Gary’s wife was regularly submitting from The Pioneer to document her ongoing UN coverage were of identical size and location on the front page of The Pioneer. A bit of investigation proved that they were all forged, and had been photo-shopped on a computer. The Pioneer was contacted, and its Editor Chandan Mitra stated that Mrs. Weiss had “never been engaged by The Pioneer for any purpose,” his signature on her documentation was “an outright forgery,” as was the letterhead upon which it had been generated. Simply put, Gary’s wife was a fake : she never was a reporter for The Pioneer of India. Gary’s wife’s UN credentials were revoked and she was escorted from UN premises under armed guard.
e) Within days of the exposure of Gary’s wife and her being escorted out of the UN, Gary was on Amazon writing reviews under the name “Ted Dichtler” trashing Ian Williams’ work, and within 30 days, had founded “Mediacrity,” a blog putatively devoted to media criticism, but actually largely engaged in (anonymously) hammering away at journalist Ian Williams for being “a fourth rate hack” and continuing the demonstrably false smears against Ian Williams’ wife.
f) It should also be noted that when confronting a man on a Usenet group, Gary posted that man’s wife’s name and home address. Pretty sleazy (although the man in question was a bigot, I think good manners demand that one not get even with a guy by revealing his wife’s name and address). In contradistinction to Gary, however, Judd, ever the gentleman, wrote:
“AntiSocialMedia.net has issues with Gary Weiss, not his wife. As it happens, one of the more startling examples of abuse of social media we’ve discovered anywhere and the central theme of this, the third part of this series on Gary Weiss – cannot be told without making reference to that relationship. However, because her identity is ultimately not material to this situation, we shall only refer to her as ‘Mrs. Weiss’ (though Weiss is not her real last name) and have set this site’s comment filter to immediately reject any comments that contain either her first or last name. Comments containing any other personally identifying information belonging to Mrs. Weiss will be immediately deleted and the commenter barred from further use of this site.”
I will follow the same principle here on DeepCapture.
g) Aside from the general zaniness of the story, there are at least two take-aways from this:
i) Gary had accused Mrs. Williams of lying to get her visa, but those accusations were false. Gary did this while Gary’s own wife was forging her credentials, which credentials were the basis of her own employment at the UN. Thus, Gary and his own wife were engaged in the act of which they were falsely accusing another journalist’s wife. That act takes a sociopath (e.g., the kind who could post anti-Semitic comments while continuously accusing others of anti-Semitism).
ii) What was Mrs. Weiss doing for those years when she was given access to the UN, under the guise of being a correspondent for The Pioneer of India?
#4) Gary manipulates stock message boards
Gary also stays busy posting thousands of times per year on stock message boards, as this remarkable piece by Judd exposes. Gary’s stock message board sock-puppeting and “bashing” sometimes involves switching among 6 sock-puppets while going at it for over 24 hours at a stretch, in a remarkable display of intensity and duration. What an odd “hobby.” Curiously, the stocks with which he concerns himself generally mirror the positions of Jim Cramer, Roddy Boyd, Bethany McLean, Herb Greenberg, Carol Remond, etc.
If only there were a pattern…
#5) Gary Weiss, Pyschopath: The Prequel
At this point you are probably wondering, “Who in the hell is Gary Weiss?” Allow me to give you seven pieces of background, a-g.
a) In the 1990’s, Gary made a name for himself with a BusinessWeek series exposing the Italian Mob (in particular, the Gambino Crime Family) and its infiltration of Wall Street. Bravo. But he relied heavily on two sources. One journalist who interviewed them told me that after debriefing them, and examining materials they supplied, “I can safely say that Gary Weiss built his career in the 1990’s just typing up whatever two sources gave him.”
b) In the mid-1990’s a Forbes reporter based in Russia named “Paul Klebnikov” wrote an expose called, “The Godfather of the Kremlin?” about an alleged Russian Mafia figure named Boris Berezovsky.
c) In 1999 Al Chalem and Laier Lehmann, two New Jersey stockbrokers operating a New Jersey securities firm called “Harbor Securities,” were executed in a New Jersey mansion. The same two sources who had supplied Gary so much other material presented him with evidence that this time it was not the Italian Mafia, but the Russian Mafia, and in particular, Boris Berezovsky. Gary then ran a story that (they maintained) fabricated everything they had told him in an attempt to divert attention from Russian involvement and focus it on (in this case non-existent) Italian Mob involvement. One of Gary’s sources actually sued Gary in an attempt to get public that which he felt Gary was suppressing.
d) In 2000, Forbes’ Paul Klebnikov completed a book, The Godfather of the Kremlin. It reiterated his earlier allegations about Mr. Berezovsky, but without the question mark. Quickly there appeared a series of anonymous Amazon reviews trashing Mr. Klebnikov’s book and discounting its conclusions. On the same days these reviews appeared on Amazon, Gary had a rash of positive reviews of his work. This and the language of the reviews trashing Mr. Klebnikov’s work raise an obvious question: if these startling coincidences of timing were not in fact coincidences, why was Gary adding to his normal routine (that is, going on Amazon with sock-puppets to promote his own work) the additional labor of trying to discredit the work of a Forbes journalist (Paul Klebnikov) who was trying to expose the Russian Mob? And is this related to the claim of his own two sources that his coverage of the execution of the two stockbrokers was designed to move attention away from the Russians and onto the Italian Mob?
f) Days later in July, 2004, Gary left BusinessWeek. If you ever want to shut a BusinessWeek reporter up, ask, “What were the circumstances surrounding the departure of Gary Weiss from BusinessWeek?” In a notoriously gossipy crowd, it is a closely guarded secret.
g) One of the first things Gary seems to have done after departing BusinessWeek was to join Project Klebnikov, “The global media alliance investigating the July 9th, 2004 murder of Paul Klebnikov, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.” I’ll bet O.J. Simpson finds his wife’s real killer before Gary solves that investigation.
#6) Gary covers-up for the DTCC from within DTCC offices:
Speaking of strange places from which to post: at the heart of our nation’s stock settlement system, and hence, at the heart of the issues of concern to DeepCapture, is a nearly unknown corporation called “The DTCC.” The company provides settlement for the nation’s capital market: $1.5 quadrillion in trades are settled there every year (that is, about 30X the economic output of the entire planet). For most of its history it has largely escaped regulation: state regulators are admonished that they cannot peer inside because the DTCC is federally regulated, and the DTCC has told federal regulators it escapes their regulation due to its strange ownership structure (one former federal regulator, and one former employee of the DTCC, have both told me the feds would not know where to begin if they tried to regulate it).
In short, at the heart of the world’s economy is an enourmous black box that is regulated except on the days it’s not, and through which 30X the economic output of the world flows. It is my contention that much of Wall Street’s illegal activity is funneled through this strange entity.
The huge, nondescript building in downtown Manhattan that houses the DTCC is something of a Fort Knox. Long-gun toting guards watch the entrances, and journalists who have been inside tell me that entering it is tougher than getting into the Federal Reserve or any comparable institution.
Gary recently made a slip that revealed he was inside the offices of the DTCC, using one of their computers to post on Wikipedia about the DTCC. Given that it’s like getting into Fort Knox, I’m pretty sure that’s odd. However, it casts some light on why Gary has been stridently denying that the DTCC is dirty and that none of the issues I have been raising regarding stock market manipulation are legitimate, and why he has (according to a colleague of his in the financial press sympathetic to me) devoted 93% of his blogs to criticizing my efforts to expose the illegal Wall Street activity which, I claim, intersects within the DTCC. Just as interestingly, when given opportunity to comment, the DTCC went into cover-up mode straight out of Bizarro World.
#7) The Finale
The following heavily-documented story qualifies as “mind-blowing.” It is so extraordinary, in fact, many people find it almost impossible to synthesize. Therefore I am going to tell it by first giving a three paragraph synopsis, then by recounting the story in 14 steps, a-n, with documentation for each.
The intellectual battle over the existence of criminal naked short-selling has been won. As is demonstrated throughout DeepCapture, what was dismissed three years ago as a fringe theory is now no longer in serious dispute. There is an ongoing criminal prosecution and regulators and SRO’s have recently imposed multimillion fines over it. Papers by academic and government economists have confirmed it and reputable journalists have broken news stories concerning its effects. A Bloomberg documentary concerning naked short selling was nominated for an Emmy for long-form investigative journalism. Last summer SEC Chairman Christopher Cox aknowledged that it is real and illegal. Just last week, SEC Chairman Cox again publicly and matter-of-factly discussed the reality of this crime in a hearing at the United States Senate, in answer to sharp questioning from US Senator Bob Bennett. Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Shapiro, a Fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Brookings, Harvard, and a former US Undersecretary of Commerce for Economics, explained the reality and implications of this crime on Canada’s Business News Network (start at minute 17).
Yet throughout the evolution of this awareness, the Wikipedia page on naked shorting has fought a steadfast rearguard action. It will be a matter for a future historian to reconstruct in detail, but at all times the thrust of that page has been to deny and deride the emerging understanding of the issue. Since the time when complete denial became impossible, it has labored mightily to minimize the problem of naked short-selling and all the attendant issues discussed in Deep Capture, citing every critic (Gary Weiss, Floyd Norris, Joe Nocera, and Holman Jenkins of the WSJ) while allowing only barest mention of the positive attention it has received from investigative journalists and economists.
I believe that the chief reason this happened was because Gary Weiss used the name “Mantanmoreland” (and later, “Samiharris”) to hijack the Wikipedia articles on naked short selling, Patrick Byrne, and Overstock.com (as well as the page on Gary Weiss himself). In addition, all the mechanisms within Wikipedia which are supposed to prevent such an act were subverted by Wikipedia’s elites on Gary’s behalf. Judd exposed Gary within Wikipedia, but Wikipedelites suppressed Judd’s evidence. When he began posting it off-Wikipedia on AntisocialMedia.net, Wikipedelites fought to make mention of “Antisocialmedia.net” or “Judd Bagley” a thought-crime within Wikipedia (under the spurious reasoning that someone mentioning either of them had to be a sock-puppet of Judd). Hence, no evidence contrary to official doctrine was permitted at “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” However, evidence slowly circulated within the Wikipedia-in-Exile-community until the conventional Wikipedians began looking into Gary. Wikipedia ‘s founder Jimbo Wales did everything possible to stop their investigation, although it turns out he knew all along that Judd was right. It has turned into a civil war within the Wikipedia community.
I turn take the paragraph immediately preceding this one, and serve its full story, cut into 14 bite-sized pieces, a-n.
a) Judd posted evidence that Gary was manipulating Wikipedia under the name “Mantanmoreland” (and later, “Samiharris”).
b) When confronted, Gary denied it, saying, “Similarly [Judd Bagley] continues to publish the lie that I am this ‘Mantanmoreland’ long after it was, again, denied by both myself and Jimbo Wales of Wikipedia.”
c) Judd sent evidence to a Wikipedia uber-administrator named “SlimVirgin,” who was posing as a neutral arbiter. However, as this demonstrates, when SlimVirgin received Judd’s evidence she immediately forwarded it to Gary (without even opening it herself).
d) A community debate ensued over whether Mantanmoreland was guilty of a Conflict Of Interest violation when he created and dominated the “Gary Weiss” page (i.e., whether or not he was in fact Gary Weiss). A highly regarded Wikipedia figure named “Cla68” (apparently a former military officer living in Asia with encyclopedic knowledge of so many subjects that he is revered within Wikipedia) got close to taking sides against Gary. In a step that was extremely unusual given Wikipedia’s philosophies of transparency and strict retention of all sides of a debate, Wikipedia-founder Jimbo Wales personally intervened to delete the record of the debate. As Jimbo Wales wrote:
“The page contained wildly inappropriate speculation that a notable author was sock-puppeting. As I am sure you are aware, many authors have had their careers badly damaged by being caught sockpuppeting at Amazon, etc., and it is deeply wrong for people to ask me to restore a page with such speculations in Wikipedia after the claims have already been investigated and dismissed. If there are further problems in the future, there will be no problem restoring the article at that time. In the meantime, it is my position that MOST AfD pages for living persons or active companies should be courtesy blanked (at a minimum) as a standard process, and deleted in all cases where there was inappropriate commentary. This is not the current policy, but current policy does allow for deletions of material which is potentially hurtful to people.–Jimbo Wales 01:42, 13 November 2006 (UTC)”
e) Taking things to an Orwellian extreme the “ArbCom” (“Arbitration Committee”) attempted to pass a “BADSITES” policy prohibiting mention of “Judd Bagley” and “antisocialmedia.net,” the site Judd had started to post evidence as he gathered it (all evidence having been prohibited within Wikipedia itself). The debate ran for many weeks, but throughout it, it was prohibited even to name “Judd Bagley” or “antisocialmedia.net.” That is, for many weeks a debate raged in which the accused (Judd Bagley and his site antisocialmedia.net) could not be named, nor was the accused allowed to have a voice, nor were dissenting opinions permitted (on the grounds that anyone who wrote one must be a sock-puppet of the accused). All this happened on Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”
f) Throughout that process, anyone trying to mention Judd or Antisocialmedia.net, or positions supported by either, was banned as a Wordbomb sock-puppet (note the circularity of this position: WikiTruth demands that Goldstein be banned, and anyone sounding like he might agree with Goldstein will be banned, because clearly, he must be a sock-puppet of Goldstein. Hey, it worked in 1984, right?)
“Any user who creates links to the attack site or references it (other than in the context of this Arbitration) may be banned.”
g) Eventually, this was actually proposed as a matter of official policy for Wikipedia (“the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”)
“After warning, or without warning in the case of users familiar with the issue, users who link to the attack site or reference it may be blocked for an appropriate period of time.” (emphasis added)
h) As if that were not enough, in an attempt to prevent Judd Bagely from pointing out to observers the manifest circularities, fabrications, and sheer Orwellianism of the BADSITES debate, Wikipedia blocked Overstock and 1,000 homes around Judd Bagley’s neighborhood, as was exposed in this article that appeared in the well-regarded online British tech journal, The Register.
i) That effort collapsed of its own foul weight. However, as this other investigative piece in The Register exposed, it did spawn the creation of a secret email list for Wikipedia elites wherein they plotted how to shape the discourse within Wikipedia.
j) Just when you thought this story could not be any weirder, an email has surfaced that was written by Jimbo Wales in September, 2007 at the start of this conflagration, where he admitted already believing that Mantanmoreland was Gary Weiss (this exchange occurred on another of those secret elite-only email lists):
[email protected]: “…I am not going to reveal my real identity to prove that just because Judd Bagley is making a fuss. Rest assured that after all that has happened I am more determined than ever to not reveal my real identity to any person associated with Wikipedia.”
[email protected](Jimbo Wales): “I just want to go on record as saying that I believe the reason for this is that Mantanmoreland is in fact Gary Weiss.”
k) Despite this private admission, Jimbo spent the next four months publicly defaming Judd and intimidating anyone who explored Gary Weiss’s activities on Wikipedia. For example, he wrote to the renowned Wikipedian Cla68:
“I fear that you have been manipulated by lying stalkers and trolls, and I am happy to talk to you about it privately, but I am sick of the drama around this issue on this page, and it absolutely has to come to an end…– Jimbo Wales 01:32, 21 October 2007 (UTC)”
l) Despite Jimbo’s opposition (and in the face of his attempts to derail it), over the last two weeks the Wikipedia community has to its credit performed exhaustive analysis of the Mantanmoreland account (as well as “Samiharris”, an additional Gary Weiss sock-puppet) and come down overwhelmingly in favor of Judd’s original thesis.
m) Even in that setting, Wales again attempted to derail the process and deny his earlier recognition of a link between Gary Weiss and Mantanmoreland. Here Jimbo dances on an arcane postmodern distinction between “knowing” and “believing it is a fact that” (in this context it’s a distinction without a difference, Jimbo). Jimbo’s statement is a compendium of fallacies from Logic 101 (e.g., argument from authority, ignoring contravening evidence, ad hominem attacks, non sequiturs, and straw-man rebuttals).
“Because there has been unseemly and false speculation in some quarters that I know this (or related claims) to be true, and that I have admitted as such in private forums, it is important for me to state what I know and what I don’t know.
“Claims about Mantanmoreland being author Gary Weiss have been floating around for a long time. Various claims of ‘proof’ have been made, none of which I have found convincing. At times I have believed one way, at times I have believed another way. I have investigated the claims to the best of my ability and I have been unable to find proof one way or the other.
“An email I sent to Mantanmoreland and others has been widely quoted as evidence that I supposedly ‘know’ this claim to be true. Such interpretations are malarky, and most of the people making the claims appear to me to be acting in bad faith. What I said, at a point in time, was that I believed it to be true that Mantanmoreland == Gary Weiss. This was specifically in the context of a conversation in which I was trying to get more evidence… a proof, one way or the other. Me believing at a point in time in an investigation that something was true, is not the same thing as an assertion that it is true, nor of an “admission” or anything else.
“Mantanmoreland steadfastly denies being Gary Weiss. Ask him yourself if you want to know.
“Related allegations that I am protecting a ‘friend’ are nonsense. Mantanmoreland and I do not get along well at all.
“Related allegations that I have some vested interest in the underlying content dispute are even worse nonsense. I have no opinion about ‘naked short selling’. I have never sold a stock short in my life. I have no financial interests of any kind in this case. If you read anything otherwise, or hints to that effect, on the overstock.com blog or elsewhere, well, I don’t know was else to say but: nonsense. I think such allegations tell more about the people who are making them than anything else.
“Regarding the specific claim at issue here, whether Samiharris and Mantanmoreland are the same user, I can say quite firmly that I do not believe it to be true. I have interacted (argued!) with both users over an extended period of time by private email, and I have not seen any reason to think it true. The offsite ‘evidence’ relating to this comes from a highly questionable source, and furthermore strikes me as completely unpersuasive. For all we know, these are faked screenshots from someone who has engaged in a campaign of harassment and bad behavior (on-wiki and off-wiki) that has been really astounding to witness.
“I have reviewed my email archives to look for similarities between the users. I have examined email headers. I have looked for textual similarities, time patterns, etc. I see nothing to lead me to a conclusion that Sami Harris and Mantanmoreland are the same user.
n) All but Weiss’s most dogmatic defenders were silenced, however, when a law student from Chicago published a graph showing the dates and times of all Mantanmoreland’s Wikipedia edits. In it, one can clearly note two things: the rich posting patterns of Mantanmoreland and Samiharris never overlap (statistically, highly improbable); and more importantly, a perfect “phase shift” of precisely the right duration corresponding to a period in which Gary’s own Forbes work revealed him to be in India.
Gary Weiss is a psychopath and a Scaramouch, but this is incidental. Here is the moral of the tale: the great dilemma that journalists face is that they want to be first with a story, but most do not have the nerve to publish a story that is too far ahead of the pack. I believe Gary Weiss went to such effort to hijack these Wikipedia articles because somewhere, someone understands that professional journalists, much as they deride Wikipedia, will never depart more than a few degrees from a Wikipedia consensus. Thus if one can hijack a page so that it simply repeats the accusations of a few co-opted journalists, then rare is the new journalist who will come along and escape that equilibrium. Thus, by hijacking the Wikipedia consensus one can corral much of the industry of modern journalism (this is all the more reason why those few journalists who departed from that consensus over the last year, however meekly or bravely, deserve admiration).
The deeper question, then, is this: how many social institutions have failed when a “journalist” is manipulating the discourse within both the news and social media, and all the mechanisms that should curtail him are short-circuited? Or, more to the point of DeepCapture, trying to drown out a scandal while simultaneously manipulating social media from within the corporation that is at the heart of that scandal?
Postscript: There is a side matter that, in all fairness to Gary, I should mention to condition your reading of what I wrote about him. It is this: I have a lady friend who for 13 years has managed and been part-owner of a superb Italian restaurant in Manhattan. Her restaurant generally receives a Zagat’s rating of 23 or 24 (with a 24-rating being the threshold for the serous foodies). In fact, the restaurant is regularly one of the lowest-priced Zagat-24’s in Manhattan. Its reviews generally range from good to stellar. Weeks after Gary joined Forbes, a harsh, puerile review of her 10-employee restaurant appeared in Forbes magazine. I’m pretty sure that’s odd, too. Because the writing was florid and made no sense it is natural to suspect Gary of having written it (note to Gary: how does a pasta dish like orecchiette taste like it is from Bombay? And “branzino” is Mediterranean sea-bass, which explains why it tastes like fish.) Of course, it could have been just a coincidence that, weeks after Gary began his relationship with Forbes, the magazine suddenly felt the need to review a small Italian restaurant managed by the woman then displaying the unfortunate judgment of dating me (full disclosure: since then she has decided to display better judgment). I don’t really know if Gary was behind it, pursuing a personal vendetta by misusing his position as a journalist to hurt my magnificent lady friend.
But it sure is his style.
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