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The Spin Room: Round and Round the Recount Goes

Aired November 16, 2000 - 11:00 p.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight: Round and round the recount goes.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And where it ends, only the almighty knows. But apparently, Johnnie Cochran has just filed an appeal to keep him from telling us.

ANNOUNCER: From CNN Washington and all over the United States, THE SPIN ROOM is open.

PRESS: Good evening, everybody, and welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Bill Press, here with...

CARLSON: Tucker Carlson!

PRESS: You got it.

CARLSON: We don't have a president yet, but we still have THE SPIN ROOM. And you can join us by calling toll-free at 1-800-310- 4CNN. You can join our live on-line chat at or send us an e- mail. Our address is Or you can go completely bananas and do all three.

PRESS: Yes, this is the show where you get to talk about the issues you care about. And of course, the only thing we care about this week and next week and the week after, maybe, is finding out who the president is going to be. So join in, and we will put your comments up on the screen so you can watch them.

In fact, Tucker, you know, I think it's a lot more fun to watch this show than to do it because you get to see all those comments that you and I miss sometimes. I mean, we have our own share.

CARLSON: That's why I tape it and watch it again every day.


PRESS: The news of the day, of course -- I just have to say, you know, this is a great day if you're a chad, a great night if you're a chad because they're counting ballots in Palm Beach County, and whether you're a hanging chad or a pregnant chad or a dimpled chad, you will be counted tonight. I find that very refreshing.

CARLSON: Every kind of chad. And speaking of chad, I think we have on the screen here -- wait, is that Idriss Deby? I think it is. There in our monitor, that is him. That is, in fact -- we sent the fabled CNN Africa desk research department to check this out. He is the leader of the central African country of Chad. Something interesting about him. He became president in 1990, but he was not elected until 1996, which means the long-suffering people of Chad waited six years, and the country's doing fine.

PRESS: And this is what happens -- let this be a lesson. This is what happens...

CARLSON: Let this be a lesson!

PRESS: ... when you depend on chads for your vote, right?

CARLSON: Excellent point!

PRESS: OK. The e-mail's already coming in, folks. Tucker, you know last night we had first -- another first on THE SPIN ROOM, you remember? We had our first limerick for e-mail.


PRESS: Tonight we have our first drinking song...

CARLSON: Oh, fantastic.

PRESS: ... for an e-mail. Are you ready for this? I'll give it my best. (singing) Seventy-eight pieces of chad on the floor, seventy- eight pieces of chad, another illegal vote goes to Al Gore, seventy- nine pieces of chad on the floor.


CARLSON: Fantastic! This story brings out...

PRESS: I think I could have done it better.

CARLSON: ... the latent poetic streak in the American voter. I love it!

PRESS: Thank you. Thank you.

CARLSON: We have an e-mail from Judson, who writes in to say, "If Katherine Harris is as partisan as the Democrats depict her, she would have waited until Friday afternoon to announce her decision on the denial of hand recounts, therefore allowing no time for Democrats to turn to the courts for recourse."

I agree. And I think if she was as partisan as the Democrats say, she would have a tail, horns. She would spit green fluid. I'm sorry! This is my hobbyhorse! This is day three of the vigil for Katherine Harris. I took my black armbands off...

PRESS: Katherine...

CARLSON: ... but I still have my candles lit. PRESS: Katherine the Great, as she -- she acts like -- there's a quick e-mail here from Johnny from New York, who says, "If the chad doesn't fit, you must acquit."


CARLSON: Very good! In the Johnnie Cochran theme.

PRESS: First phone call of the evening. It is Joan from New York, I believe.

Hi. Jan? I'm sorry! Hi, Jan.

Oh, I got it all wrong. It's Jan from Florida.

Hey, Jan, good evening.

CARLSON: But she's here, and that's what counts.

PRESS: We want to hear from you Floridians. What's going on down there?




CALLER: Well, in my estimation, Bush has won the election, and we're really disgusted with the Florida vote count. Palm Beach, where apparently the voters were extremely ignorant and couldn't even figure out how to vote, and then after three recounts, still Gore didn't win, so the Gore team wanted hand recounts, and when the ballots are clearly made for computers.

PRESS: OK. All right, Jan. Thank you. Thank you very much, Jan.

Do you think Jan might have been calling from the Bush headquarters in West Palm Beach?

CARLSON: I'm on Jan's team!


CARLSON: I'm on Jan's team.

PRESS: I'll tell you what, Jan. We're not going to call any states tonight, though. We're not going to call any states here tonight. In fact...

CARLSON: No, we're afraid to do that.

PRESS: No, even if we tried, we couldn't get away with it because our guest tonight would be all over us! And he would be on our butts. He is the congressman, Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, chairman of the House Commerce Committee -- pretty powerful guy.

CARLSON: And he is the congressman who suggested today that the liberal media caused this whole mess by being too eager to call states for Al Gore.

Congressman Tauzin, are you suggesting that this...

PRESS: Well, let's hear a little bit of what the congressman said at this press conference today...

CARLSON: Let's hear it.

PRESS: ... if we can. Congressman, you're going to listen to yourself here for a second.



TAUZIN: There may be other reasons for why what happened on election night actually happened, but the presumptive conclusion I think any reasonable person will reach after reviewing this evidence is that there must have been, there probably was bias in the reporting of the election on election night by the major networks of our country.


PRESS: Oh! Pretty tough stuff.

CARLSON: Now, we should mention that CNN has officially denied any bias. Quoting from our chairman and CEO, Tom Johnson, quote, "I state categorically there was no intentional bias in the election night reporting. We at CNN need to determine exactly what went wrong in our election night coverage and to take appropriate corrective action. We will."

And just to show that we don't take it personally -- that we sort of do -- we've invited Congressman Tauzin to be our guest.

Congressman Tauzin, is there a conspiracy? And if so, outline it for us.

TAUZIN: I'm not alleging a conspiracy. You guys are intentionally biased, otherwise this show wouldn't work.

CARLSON: Oh, that's for sure!

TAUZIN: But obviously, the -- the -- if you looked at what CNN said, they denied any intentional bias. What I've alleged, and the evidence I think backs me up, is that there is bias in the statistical evidence of how states were called on election night. And whether that bias was intentional by the networks or by this Voter News Service that you rely upon, or whether it was for some other reason, is yet to be determined. But the fact remains that Al Gore got the benefit of quick calls, and there were large delays for the calls for the Bush states. And that is true for every state reported other than those that were won by extraordinarily lopsided margins.

For example, every state that Al Gore won by 6 points or better got called immediately, soon as the polls closed. Nine states that -- that Gore won, rather, were called immediately when the -- when the polls closed. Nine states that Bush won by margins of as high as 15 percent, landslide margins, were delayed significantly into the evening.

Now, the question is why did that happen? Why were Bush states late to be called and Gore states so early to be called?

PRESS: Congressman, I just got to tell you, I was watching, of course, all night, and I had the feeling the networks were holding back the Gore states, not holding back the Bush states. So maybe...

TAUZIN: Well, you know...

PRESS: ... bias is in the eye of the beholder. But I want to ask you a serious question. Look, we all admit that CNN -- we had egg on our face...

TAUZIN: No, you had an omelet.

PRESS: ... election night.

TAUZIN: You had an omelet on your face.

PRESS: As Tom Brokaw said, we had an omelet.

TAUZIN: Right.

PRESS: But not just us, right? It was also ABC and NBC and CBS and MSNBC and CNBC...

CARLSON: Especially them, really.

PRESS: ... and Fox. Fox started, particularly with the call for Florida. And so we all look stupid. Are you saying that we all got together and conspired to make ourselves look like fools?

TAUZIN: No, I think there's a problem with the service you're using.

PRESS: A-ha!

TAUZIN: This Voter News Service. And I think the information it gave you...


TAUZIN: ... gave you a chance to make these calls the way you did, and they came out favoring Gore. They particularly came out favoring Gore when you all announced Florida while Floridians were still voting in the Panhandle. And there's evidence that quite a number of those Republican Floridians, who were voting 2 to 1 for George Bush in the Panhandle, actually ended up not voting because they heard their state had already been called for Al Gore. That kind of business has to stop.

PRESS: Well, when you talk about the media and its role in this election, you're bound to get some comments from the chat room. We got one now here...


PRESS: ... coming up here from MariGrace Centofante. She says, "Nothing went wrong with the media election night. They were counting the votes the machines didn't."

CARLSON: Well, I must say, I like that. I mean, I do think the press ought to be in control of counting votes. It's sort of (INAUDIBLE) idea.


CARLSON: But tell us, Congressman, what is Congress going to do about this? I mean, it gives some people the willies when, you know, members of Congress get up there and start attacking the press. And it's not entirely self-interest. I mean, what -- you know, what can Congress do?

TAUZIN: Well, stop here. I'm not attacking the press.


TAUZIN: What I'm saying is...


TAUZIN: ... that the way you reported election night I think had some very serious consequences out there. By calling the vote in Florida before Floridians had finished voting, I think you affected the outcome. And by calling elections on -- the way you did, calling them for Al Gore in such a great rush and holding back Georgia, holding back Ohio for two hours, holding back Tennessee for four hours, holding back states that would have encouraged the voter turnout for George Bush in the West, and reporting Al Gore's victory erroneously in Florida, I think you affected the voter turnout significantly in Florida. And we're beginning to see statistical evidence to back it up.

PRESS: Well...

TAUZIN: There were as much as 20 and 30 percent shortfalls in expected Republican turnout in many areas of California, for example.

PRESS: Well, Congressman, I got -- you talked about Florida. I saw this article yesterday morning in the "Washington Times" from Pensacola, Florida. And it says the only evidence they have out there is one guy. In fact, his name is Michael Watson of White City, who says he heard about the call on the radio. He had 20 minutes left to go. And he didn't go to vote. And here's what the election supervisor of his county said. She said -- where do I find it here? Wait a minute. "What a perfect excuse for that lazy slob." TAUZIN: That's a great way to -- that's a great way...

PRESS: That was one vote!

TAUZIN: ... treat voters.

PRESS: I mean, how can you say...

CARLSON: But can you also comment on the idea of Bill Press reading the "Washington Times"?

TAUZIN: Yeah, that's kind of -- that's kind of interesting.


TAUZIN: You must have time on your hands. You're going to need a real job, Bill. Let me tell you what we've got right now and what we don't have. What we have is some statistical evidence developed by a senior fellow at Yale University that has come to our attention this week that indicates in a study from '88 to the year 2000, there was a 4 percent drop on election night in the Panhandle in the Republican vote. That equates to about 10,000 votes that did not get registered because, he thinks...


TAUZIN: ... they found out that Gore had already been called for Florida. We also have now e-mails coming in. We've got a 35,000- voter survey that was just completed in the Panhandle. Twenty-three hundred people were identified as failing to vote once they heard that Gore had been called for the state.

PRESS: All right, Congressman, just hold on there.


PRESS: We want to take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to ask you about vote counting in Louisiana and what Florida might learn...

CARLSON: (INAUDIBLE) Bill, on and on...

PRESS: ... from Louisiana because we know there are nothing but honest elections in Louisiana.

And we also, when we come back, want to get your nominations for Spin of the Day. Get them in early. Tucker and I have ours. We need yours.

We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to SPIN ROOM.

We're sitting here talking about chads and voting with Congressman Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, and also waiting for your Spins of the Day. Send us your nomination. You can call in at 1-800-310- 4CNN. You can join our live on-line chat at Or you can send us an e-mail. Our address is

PRESS: And we're looking right now for your nominations for Spin of the Day, you know, best part of the show, when we get to tell our outrage, the most outrageous statement made of the day, and you get to nominate...

CARLSON: This is the...

PRESS: ... yours.

CARLSON: ... "throw the beer bottle at the television set" moment. You see them all the time. Alert us to them. Send them in.

PRESS: And the e-mails are coming in, and there's more evidence that the chads have taken over...


PRESS: If you look right now, we can see the new coins are out. There they are.

CARLSON: Bill...

PRESS: This is George from Virginia.

CARLSON: That is frightening!

PRESS: "In chad we trust."

CARLSON: Throw that in a soda machine and see what happens! That's a -- I like it, though.

PRESS: You'll probably get two sodas, yes.

CARLSON: It is the coin of the realm, at this point.

PRESS: It is the coin of the realm.

CARLSON: You know, we're getting chad jokes, and I think that -- that is really the highlight for me of the story. Here's one from Pam from Joplin, Missouri. She's taking the right to life position. She says, "Shouldn't pregnant chads count as two votes?" Pam, I could not agree more.

PRESS: David from Arlington, Virginia, says, "Anybody who thinks machine counts are more accurate than hand counts has never had a dollar rejected by a vending machine."

CARLSON: Excellent point!

PRESS: Good point, David. Excellent point.

CARLSON: Wait till you put the new "In chad we trust" coin in. Here's William from Jackson, Mississippi, a little harder edge. He says, "If Al Gore ends up winning Florida after all of the overseas ballots are counted, will he and the Democrats still be as concerned about the rights of the Florida voters and about ensuring the voice of the people is heard?" You bet, William from Jackson! Al Gore cares about Florida voters.

PRESS: Here's another William. This is Billy from Arkansas, who says, "I did not have sex with that chad, Ms. Lewinsky."


CARLSON: Fantastic!

PRESS: They're coming in fast and furious. Let's get ready for our guest...

CARLSON: I think we're ready! Congressman...

PRESS: All right, Congressman...

CARLSON: ... Billy Tauzin, the Reverend Billy. Are you there?

TAUZIN: I'm enjoying the chatter.


CARLSON: Fantastic!

PRESS: Now, Congressman, I want to ask you -- you know, this -- let's get serious here for a second. This vote in Florida isn't over yet, no matter what they're saying down in Austin. It could go one way, it could go the other. So aren't you a little premature with your criticism about the media because it could end up that the networks were right calling it for Al Gore, right?

TAUZIN: Well, it doesn't matter whether you were right or wrong.

PRESS: Oh, it doesn't matter?

TAUZIN: The bottom line -- well, it doesn't matter whether you were right or wrong at 7:50. You were wrong to call it when you did. Here's a news release from Kathleen Harris, the secretary of state of Florida...

PRESS: That unbiased secretary of state?


CARLSON: Oh, long live Katherine Harris!

TAUZIN: Long live Katherine Harris. October 30th, Bill, she sent a press release out asking you guys not to call Florida before 8:00 o'clock because Florida polls were not closed in the Central time zone in the Panhandle, but you did it anyhow. You called it at 7:48. In fact, when you called it wrong, it was only 4:50 on the West Coast. People were just coming home from work, deciding whether to go vote, and you guys were calling the election, essentially, already for Al Gore.

PRESS: Well...

TAUZIN: And a lot of voters just gave up on the West Coast, and that's wrong. We ought to stop that.

CARLSON: Well, speaking -- speaking of subverting democracy -- now, you're from Louisiana, and I know -- I don't mean to cast aspersions on the great state...

TAUZIN: Tucker, careful.

CARLSON: I'm -- oh, I'm being very careful, Congressman. But I'm just wondering -- I mean, obviously, Louisiana has a sort of history, at least reputation, of inventive voting techniques. After your years down there, if you were going to steal the Florida election, how would you do it?

TAUZIN: Well, it would have been done already. This is the slowest steal I've ever...

CARLSON: Don't brag!

TAUZIN: ... seen. You remember what Earl Long once said. He said, "When I die, if I die," he said, "I want to be buried in south Louisiana so I can stay active in politics."


TAUZIN: Should have been born in Missouri, I guess. Bottom line is that -- bottom line is that we're watching all of this stuff in Florida. And I tell you, the tensions are rising here in Washington. We're wondering what's going to happen when it's all over with. Can we -- can we work together anymore? And can we get anything done? This is a serious, serious state of affairs.

PRESS: Yeah, I wonder how Edwin Edwards would have handled it. But...


CARLSON: I think we know!

TAUZIN: Yeah, I think we know.

PRESS: Congressman...

TAUZIN: Let me give you an answer, guys. What we ought to do is have a common poll-closing time across this country.

PRESS: Amen!

TAUZIN: And we're going to move legislation. I hope to do that. We need -- we need, literally, a time when all poll closes across America. And you guys have to agree not to release exit poll results before those polls are closed everywhere in the country. Now, if you will agree to do that, we'll try to change the law.

PRESS: Amen, Congressman. We're with you on that one, I think. If you want, I'll come up and testify for it, but that would probably kill the bill. But let me ask -- now, I want to ask you -- we've been dumping on, and you've been dumping a little bit on CNN, but I want to ask you about another one of the networks.

CARLSON: Oh, go ahead and name it.

PRESS: Shall I do it? All right. It's Fox, OK?


PRESS: Now, we found out that the Fox network, one of their executive producers in the newsroom on election night -- he happens to be George W. Bush's cousin. He's on the phone the whole night to George W. in Austin telling him the exit polls and giving him inside information. What do you think of that? Do you think a little touch of bias there maybe, Congressman? Are you going to include that in your hearing?

TAUZIN: Well, perhaps. And indeed, he -- he worked formerly for NBC, by the way. And by the way, we're learning that this Voter News Service was communicating with other camps, as well. I mean, there's a lot of this stuff going on. And if we're going to start checking into the background of every reporter who handles these calls for every network, this would be an interesting scene. I don't want to get into that.

What I am suggesting is that we need to find out what went wrong this last Tuesday. We either need a better system of reporting and calling states, or we need an agreement not to call them before voters are finished voting.

CARLSON: Well, I'm interested in that. And this is back to my original question, which is about the federal remedy to all of this. Apart from changing the poll-closing times, do you have anything in mind, any changes you're going to impose on the news networks?

TAUZIN: Well, let me first say that I don't want to get into a 1st Amendment fight. We don't need to be mandating the way in which you report the news. What happened in the early '80s, you recall, when Carter conceded too early, and you guys reported a great Reagan victory, and Democrats complained they lost all kind of seats in California and the West because Democrats didn't turn out to vote once they knew that Carter had lost.

Same kind of problem. Shoe on the other foot. Democrats got hurt in the '80s, we got hurt I think this year. Maybe it's time for us to agree, Democrats and Republicans, that this system is affecting the election instead of reporting it. So we got to change it.

So what we're suggesting is the networks come back to us, tell us what went wrong, when we have our hearings after January, and then let's get a new agreement. Instead of an agreement that says you're going to report exit polling when most of the polls are closed, let's get an agreement that you will not report exit polling until all the polls are closed. And let's close them all at the same time.

CARLSON: All right. Sounds sensible to me. Thank you, Congressman Billy Tauzin.

TAUZIN: Good being with you guys.

PRESS: Thanks, Congressman. Great to see you.

CARLSON: Congress's most amusing congressman.

TAUZIN: Keep spinning, guys.

CARLSON: Thank you, sir!

PRESS: Thank you.

CARLSON: We'll be back in a moment, Bill Press and I. Send us your Spins of the Day, if you haven't already. We're going to read ours when we come back.

PRESS: And we will keep spinning!

CARLSON: And we will!


PRESS: God, I love these comments on the screen.

Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM, everybody. Bill Press here with Tucker Carlson.

It's time for the Spin of the Day, that moment when you hear somebody say something so outrageous you think lightning is going to strike him or her dead.


PRESS: We bring it to you every night here on CNN.

CARLSON: We do. And you know, Bill, this is also the part of the show we reserve for mocking viewers. And I -- this is a new feature on the show!

PRESS: Is this something new?

CARLSON: This is -- this is new...

PRESS: No, this is a nightly feature!

CARLSON: This may be the first and last time, but I just can't resist. We received an e-mail from a man named Bob Jeffreys (ph), who has been spending a lot of time reading the e-mails sent to this show. He writes in. He says after studying e-mails sent to SPIN ROOM he has noticed -- I'm quoting now -- "a declination in quality syntax and grammar is requisite if one expects their submission to be considered for posting on air." And I'm sorry to be mean, Bob, but we read this...

PRESS: Oh! Oh!

CARLSON: ... and the pronoun light started blinking. Then, of course, the irony bells went off. "Their" is the incorrect pronoun for this. Sorry to be an English maven, but we couldn't resist. Bob Jeffreys.

PRESS: You know, I -- we want correct grammar in all of our e- mails.

CARLSON: We certainly do! Or at least cheap shots. And I think that's what...

PRESS: Or our voting machines will reject them!

CARLSON: Exactly!

PRESS: All right, nominations for Spin of the Day. Here they come. Here's from EPV, whoever that -- he or she is. "Tucker Carlson should recuse himself from ruling on spin. He's been spinning so continuously lately, watching him on CNN is like staring at a rotisserie chicken"...


PRESS: ... "in a bow tie."


PRESS: Whoa!



PRESS: Hurts! Wish I had said that. OK.

CARLSON: Less plump, I hope. Well, this is actually one of my favorites. This is from Sean, the Spin of the Day. "My favorite Spin of the Day is the Republicans crying foul over chads on the floor, which they actually collected for evidence. Of course, if a chad is hanging by a corner, it may fall out. There were plenty of chads on the floor when the machine did its count, so should we assume it is too -- it is evil and subjective and politically inclined to Bush? This is ridiculous."

Well, Sean, there are not the only Republicans collecting chads. In fact, I have here chads. We collected these, Bill, as evidence. And I just want to show you what an actual chad -- these are actual chads.

PRESS: Pregnant or dimpled?

CARLSON: These are both pregnant and dimpled. PRESS: Oh, I love it!

CARLSON: See? Perfectly innocuous, and yet...

PRESS: (singing) Seventy-eight pieces of chad...

CARLSON: ... they could change...

PRESS: ... on the floor...



CARLSON: We found those at CNN.

PRESS: All right, I want to give you my Spin of the Day.

CARLSON: You do?

PRESS: My Spin of the Day...

CARLSON: Hit me with it, Bill.

PRESS: ... comes a guy that I am so tired of listening to. I thought we'd got rid of him. I thought he went out with the old Bush, but he's back. And here's James Baker...

CARLSON: Oh, tan, rested and ready!

PRESS: ... pontificating...

CARLSON: Tan, rested, ready!

PRESS: ... from Florida again. Let's listen to the secretary. Please.


JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: As one who has practiced law for many years, I'd like to suggest to you that you have just witnessed a superb example of the art of legal spin. A one-paragraph interim order of the Florida supreme court has just been portrayed to you by my good friend, Secretary Daley, as the biggest thing since night baseball.


PRESS: You got to admit his chutzpah. I mean, first of all...

CARLSON: Well, he watches the show.

PRESS: First of all, he's been -- you know, thanks...

CARLSON: The secretary...

PRESS: Thank you, Secretary. Thank you, wherever you are, for using the word "spin," right? Because we love that.


PRESS: Thanks for promo-ing...

CARLSON: It's a sure sign he must be watching CNN.

PRESS: ... promoting the show. But first of all, he went to court to say "We want to block the hand count." The court said no, and then he comes out and says it's a victory.

CARLSON: Not bad! This...

PRESS: Spin!

CARLSON: My Spin of the Day comes from someone I never tire of watching. That is Bill Daley. Listen to what he said today.


BILL DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Now that the legal hurdles have been cleared, the counting can resume in Palm Beach, continue in Broward and be reviewed in Dade. We urge these counties to conduct these recounts as quickly as is possible. The delays have been largely the product of lawsuits filed by Republicans or erroneous legal opinions from the secretary of state.


CARLSON: I love this.

PRESS: There it is.

CARLSON: "It's the Republicans who are gumming up the gears. They're the ones filing the lawsuits!" Three names -- Larry Tribe, Alan Dershowitz, Jesse Jackson. It takes a ton -- it takes brass chutzpah, if that's a phrase, to say something like this on TV.

PRESS: And you can...

CARLSON: I'm impressed by it.

PRESS: ... balance those with the names of James Baker and all those...


PRESS: ... characters who...

CARLSON: Come on! I'll up your James Baker and put up a Larry Tribe.

PRESS: More lawyers...

CARLSON: Who wins?

PRESS: ... in Florida than alligators now, Tucker, and that is trouble.


PRESS: OK, fans, that's -- hey, we're out of time for tonight. Sorry about that. But we'll be back tomorrow night, same time. In fact, CNN's gearing up for a very late-night vigil as those overseas absentee ballots start to hit at midnight, Eastern. And we'll be part of the fun, starting right here at 11:00 Eastern. And then stay with us and see if any of the new chad turns into pumpkins.

Good night, everybody.



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