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Pinecrest Prep Kid Travels to Iraq


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http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/12/29/teen.iraq.ap.ap/index.html

 

Florida teen skips school, sneaks to Iraq

16-year-old survives his experiment in 'immersion journalism'

 

Thursday, December 29, 2005; Posted: 6:08 p.m. EST (23:08 GMT)

 

Manage Alerts | What Is This? BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

 

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

 

And he didn't even tell his parents.

 

Hassan's dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend.

 

It begins with a high school class on "immersion journalism" and one overly eager -- or naively idealistic -- student who's lucky to be alive after going way beyond what any teacher would ask.

 

As a junior this year at a Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, Hassan studied writers like John McPhee in the book "The New Journalism," an introduction to immersion journalism -- a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it.

 

Diving headfirst into an assignment, Hassan, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque. The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

 

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels.

 

"I thought I'd go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles," he told The Associated Press.

 

His plan

Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on December 11.

 

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.

 

Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father's background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in.

 

But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth -- he speaks no Arabic -- his true nationality would have betrayed him.

 

Traveling on his own in a land where insurgents and jihadists have kidnapped more than 400 foreigners, killing at least 39 of them, Hassan walked straight into a death zone. On Monday, his first full day in Iraq, six vehicle bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding more than 40.

 

The State Department strongly advises U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq, saying it "remains very dangerous." Forty American citizens have been kidnapped since the war started in March 2003, of which 10 have been killed, a U.S. official said. About 15 remain missing.

 

"Travel warnings are issued for countries that are considered especially dangerous for Americans, and one of the strongest warnings covers travel to Iraq," said Elizabeth Colton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

 

Colton said the embassy's consular section can provide only limited help to Americans in Iraq, though once officials learn of a potentially dangerous situation every effort is made to assist.

 

Inside the safety of Baghdad's Green Zone, an Embassy official from the Hostage Working Group talked to Hassan about how risky travel is in Iraq.

 

"This place is incredibly dangerous to individual private American citizens, especially minors, and all of us, especially the military, went to extraordinary lengths to ensure this youth's safety, even if he doesn't acknowledge it or even understand it," a U.S. official who wasn't authorized to speak to the media said on condition of anonymity.

 

Hassan's extra-mile attitude took him east through eight time zones, from Fort Lauderdale to Kuwait City. His plan was to take a taxi across the border and ultimately to Baghdad -- an unconventional, expensive and utterly dangerous route.

 

The teen calls home

It was in Kuwait City that he first called his parents to tell them of his plans -- and that he was now in the Middle East.

 

His mother, Shatha Atiya, a psychologist, said she was "shocked and terrified." She had told him she would take him to Iraq, but only after the country stabilizes.

 

"He thinks he can be an ambassador for democracy around the world. It's admirable but also agony for a parent," Atiya said.

 

Attempting to get into Iraq, Hassan took a taxi from Kuwait City to the border 55 miles away. He spoke English at the border and was soon surrounded by about 15 men, a scene he wanted no part of. On the drive back to Kuwait City, a taxi driver almost punched him when he balked at the fee.

 

"In one day I probably spent like $250 on taxis," he said. "And they're so evil too, because they ripped me off, and when I wouldn't pay the ripped-off price they started threatening me. It was bad."

 

It could have been worse -- the border could have been open.

 

As luck would have it, the teenager found himself at the Iraq-Kuwait line sometime on December 13, and the border security was extra tight because of Iraq's December 15 parliamentary elections. The timing saved him from a dangerous trip.

 

"If they'd let me in from Kuwait, I probably would have died," he acknowledged. "That would have been a bad idea."

 

He again called his father, who told him to come home. But the teen insisted on going to Baghdad. His father advised him to stay with family friends in Beirut, Lebanon, so he flew there, spending 10 days before flying to Baghdad on Christmas.

 

His ride at Baghdad International Airport, arranged by the family friends in Lebanon, dropped him off at an international hotel where Americans were staying.

 

He says he only strayed far from that hotel once, in search of food. He walked into a nearby shop and asked for a menu. When no menu appeared, he pulled out his Arabic phrase book, and after fumbling around found the word "menu." The stand didn't have one. Then a worker tried to read some of the English phrases.

 

"And I'm like, 'Well, I should probably be going.' It was not a safe place. The way they were looking at me kind of freaked me out," he said.

 

It was mid-afternoon on Tuesday, after his second night in Baghdad, that he sought out editors at The Associated Press and announced he was in Iraq to do research and humanitarian work. AP staffers had never seen an unaccompanied teenage American walk into their war zone office. ("I would have been less surprised if little green men had walked in," said editor Patrick Quinn.)

 

Wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt in addition to his jeans and sneakers, Hassan appeared eager and outgoing but slightly sheepish about his situation.

 

The AP quickly called the U.S. embassy.

 

Returning home

Embassy officials had been on the lookout for Hassan, at the request of his parents, who still weren't sure exactly where he was. One U.S. military officer said he was shocked the teen was still alive. The 101st Airborne lieutenant who picked him up from the hotel said it was the wildest story he'd ever heard.

 

Hassan accepted being turned over to authorities as the safest thing to do, but seemed to accept the idea more readily over time.

 

Most of Hassan's wild tale could not be corroborated, but his larger story arc was in line with details provided by friends and family members back home.

 

Dangerous and dramatic, Hassan's trip has also been educational. He had tea with Kuwaitis under a tent in the middle of a desert. He says he interviewed Christians in south Lebanon. And he said he spoke with U.S. soldiers guarding his Baghdad hotel who told him they are treated better by Sunni Arabs -- the minority population that enjoyed a high standing under Saddam Hussein and are now thought to fuel the insurgency -- than by the majority Shiites.

 

His father, Redha Hassan, a doctor, said his son is an idealist, principled and moral. Aside from the research he wanted to accomplish, he also wrote in an essay saying he wanted to volunteer in Iraq.

 

He said he wrote half the essay while in the United States, half in Kuwait, and e-mailed it to his teachers December 15 while in the Kuwait City airport.

 

"There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction," he wrote.

 

"Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice's call for help. Unfortunately altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will."

 

"I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress," he wrote.

 

Farris Hassan says he thinks a trip to the Middle East is a healthy vacation compared with a trip to Colorado for holiday skiing.

 

"You go to, like, the worst place in the world and things are terrible," he said. "When you go back home you have such a new appreciation for all the blessing you have there, and I'm just going to be, like, ecstatic for life."

 

His mother, however, sees things differently.

 

"I don't think I will ever leave him in the house alone again," she said. "He showed a lack of judgment."

 

Hassan may not mind, at least for a while. He now understands how dangerous his trip was, that he was only a whisker away from death.

 

His plans on his return to Florida: "Kiss the ground and hug everyone."

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Guest marlins02

i think id rather take my chances with the iraqi insurgents than face my mom when coming home from a trip like that.

 

if he's willing to make a trip like that at age 16 for those purposes and actually accomplishes it, imagine as an adult what he'll be capable of doing. i think he's gonna do some big things in the future.

 

he's still an idiot for taking a risk liek that though.

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Sounds like a spoiled, rich brat with absolutely no common sense. He wanted to go to Iraq, his folks say, "no, dumbass," so he takes matters into his own hands. I could see my little brother doing something this retarded.

 

It was mid-afternoon on Tuesday, after his second night in Baghdad, that he sought out editors at The Associated Press and announced he was in Iraq to do research and humanitarian work.

I'll give him major props, though, for trying so hard to parlay his idiocy into resume padding. :thumbup

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I'm partly amazed he was able to pull this off, partly astounded that he could be this stupid, and, yes, partly skeptical that this was all about getting into a good college.

 

I went to the Pine...I know how that goes.

 

 

Yep, I'm an alum as well, and just as skeptical that this kid is partially doing this to enhance his future college stakes, as a large portion of the school is (douchebags) like that. If he's legitimately over there for humanitarian purposes, then big ups to him for that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most incredible thing about this story is how a sixteen year old financed all of this.

 

Not really. Mommy and Daddy are paying $15,000 a year for him to go to school.

 

Unless he's on scholarship (which if you're in the right conditions or bring certain traits to the table they're actually generous about) it's more like 20 grand nowadays.

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Farris is the youngest of Atiya's four children. The others are enrolled at universities. Farris hopes to attend an Ivy League college, she said.

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews...ld/13511181.htm

 

Busted...ratted out by his mom.

 

 

Most of Hassan's wild tale could not be corroborated, but his larger story arc was in line with details provided by friends and family members back home.

 

Dangerous and dramatic, Hassan's trip has also been educational. He had tea with Kuwaitis under a tent in the middle of a desert. He says he interviewed Christians in south Lebanon. And he said he spoke with U.S. soldiers guarding his Baghdad hotel who told him they are treated better by Sunni Arabs - the minority population that enjoyed a high standing under Saddam Hussein and are now thought to fuel the insurgency - than by the majority Shiites.

 

His father, Redha Hassan, a doctor, said his son is an idealist, principled and moral. Aside from the research he wanted to accomplish, he also wrote in an essay saying he wanted to volunteer in Iraq.

 

He said he wrote half the essay while in the United States, half in Kuwait, and e-mailed it to his teachers Dec. 15 while in the Kuwait City airport.

 

"There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction," he wrote.

 

"Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice's call for help. Unfortunately altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will."

 

"I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress," he wrote.

 

Farris Hassan says he thinks a trip to the Middle East is a healthy vacation compared with a trip to Colorado for holiday skiing.

 

"You go to, like, the worst place in the world and things are terrible," he said. "When you go back home you have such a new appreciation for all the blessing you have there, and I'm just going to be, like, ecstatic for life."

http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews...aq/13509858.htm

 

:lol :lol :lol :lol

 

This kid is so full of sh*t.

 

Risking his life for the cause of humanity? hahahfha

 

I'm starting to doubt he did half of the things he claims to have done.

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Here's the Sun-Sentinel follow up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broward teen sneaks away to Iraq to 'answer justice's call for help'

 

 

 

 

By Jamie Malernee

and Kevin Smith Staff Writers

 

December 30, 2005

 

 

 

A 16-year-old determined to witness Iraq's struggle for democracy firsthand secretly hopped a plane to the Middle East alone and eventually made it to Baghdad -- frightening his parents and stunning officials who consider it one of the most dangerous places on Earth -- before agreeing to return home to Fort Lauderdale.

 

The teen, American-born Farris Hassan, a junior at the exclusive Pine Crest School, is the youngest child of a Lauderdale-by-the-Sea physician. He and his father, Redha Hassan, who was born in Iraq, had been planning a trip to the country together this summer as an extension of a school project.

 

But headstrong and full of passion, his father said Thursday, his son didn't want to wait, so he secretly bought a plane ticket with his own savings and flew to Kuwait about two weeks ago.

 

The only notification his son left him, said Redha Hassan, was an e-mail.

 

"He said, `Don't worry about me, I will be safe,'" his father recalled. "I said to myself, `You have no idea what you're getting yourself into.' For $100, they kidnap people. The suicide bombers, they look for foreigners. He's young, with an American passport and doesn't speak a word of Arabic."

 

Soon after the father began frantically calling U.S. government officials to try and locate his son, he said, he learned of another e-mail the teen sent to others explaining his sudden departure.

 

In this e-mail, he wrote:

 

"There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil,between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction. You are aware of the heinous acts of the terrorists ... For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice's call for help ... So I will.

 

"I know I can't do much. I know I can't stop all the carnage and save the innocent. But I also know I can't just sit here ... I feel guilty living in a big house, driving a nice car, and going to a great school. I feel guilty hanging out with friends in a cafe without the fear of a suicide bomber present. I feel guilty enjoying the multitude of blessings, which I did nothing to deserve, while people in Iraq, many of them much better then me, are in terrible anguish. Going to Iraq will broaden my mind ... I will go there to love and help my neighbor in distress, if that endangers my life, so be it ..."

 

The teen traveled throughout the Middle East for two weeks before walking into a war zone office of The Associated Press news agency in Baghdad on Tuesday. The Associated Press immediately called the U.S. Embassy.

 

"I would have been less surprised if little green men walked in," editor Patrick Quinn said.

 

Few details of the teen's journey during the two weeks prior could be confirmed through official channels. But Navy Cmdr. Robert Mulac, who works in the Multi-National Force-Iraq press office in Baghdad, said Thursday night that the youth was staying at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

 

"He's here, and he's safe. The only reason he probably got away with it without getting killed is because he looks native," Mulac said. "We're going to send him home."

 

The State Department bluntly warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Iraq.

 

"Although the restrictions on the use of U.S. passport travel to, in, or through Iraq have been lifted, travel to Iraq remains extremely dangerous," a government Website says. The teen could not be reached for comment. Here's what the boy's father says unfolded once he left South Florida:

 

After Farris Hassan landed in Kuwait City, the teen attempted to get into Iraq by taking a taxi across the border. He couldn't cross because of the security surrounding Iraq's elections, and called his father.

 

"I said, `You go to the [American] Embassy right now! The border is closed," the father recalled. "He said, Yes Sir! Yes, Dad!"

 

Then something even more extraordinary happened. Instead of ordering his son home, Redha Hassan said he gave him the choice to go to Beirut for a week to stay with family friends, and then go to Baghdad once the border opened and private security could be arranged.

 

"I felt it would leave a scar, disappointing him in his young life," Redha Hassan said of sending his son home. "I learned long ago that if you say no, they stick to the point and insist on doing it. Nothing fazed him."

 

The teen chose to stay, he said, going to Beirut, where he interviewed Israeli and Lebanese border guards and spent Christmas night in a church interviewing Christians. Soon after, Redha Hassan said he flew his son to Baghdad International Airport, where private security personnel took him to a safe hotel. Redha Hassan said he was able to arrange security through political connections he had as a result of being active in a resistance movement against Saddam Hussein during his youth.

 

But if there was security, it didn't work too well. According to The Associated Press, Farris Hassan was alone when he marched into a war zone office where AP staffers were based. He told them he was in Iraq to do humanitarian and research work as an extension of a school project in immersion journalism.

 

The AP quickly called the U.S. Embassy. According to the AP, which interviewed the teen, his parents were not sure of his exact whereabouts. The news agency also reported that the 101st Airborne will escort the teen out of Iraq. His mother said he is expected to return Sunday.

 

In the meantime, his family awaits his return, juggling feelings of relief, anger and pride at his idealism.

 

"I'm furious with him," said his older brother, Hayder Hassan, 23. "He knows the ass-whoopin' he's going to get."

 

Relatives described the teen as a straight-A student and a voracious reader who was interested in television only to watch the news or the History Channel. His parents are divorced.

 

In his bedroom at his father's home, a luxurious condo overlooking the ocean in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, his room is nearly indistinguishable from that of an adult, simply adorned with a globe and a debate trophy.

 

The home also contains two photographs of the elder Hassan, an anesthesiologist at Broward General Medical Center, with Hillary Clinton. At his mother's home, a Fort Lauderdale mansion not far from Las Olas Boulevard, simplicity also reigns. A bookshelf in his bedroom contains books on stocks -- he trades on his own and, according to family, does quite well -- as well as books on Advanced Place physics and European history, the Holy Qu'ran, and a volume titled the The Art of Fact.

 

His mother, Shatha Atiya, said when he returns, her son will have to face some new facts of life. His stock account and credit cards will be frozen. And that's just the beginning.

 

"He's going to lose his autonomy for a while -- and his passport for sure."

 

The Associated Press and Sun-Sentinel Staff Writers Tim Collie and Karla Shores contributed to this report, along with Staff Researcher William Lucey.

 

Jamie Malernee can be reached at jmalernee@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4849.

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Then something even more extraordinary happened. Instead of ordering his son home, Redha Hassan said he gave him the choice to go to Beirut for a week to stay with family friends, and then go to Baghdad once the border opened and private security could be arranged.

 

"I felt it would leave a scar, disappointing him in his young life," Redha Hassan said of sending his son home. "I learned long ago that if you say no, they stick to the point and insist on doing it. Nothing fazed him."

haha... his mom's full of sh*t, too.

 

"I'm furious with him," said his older brother, Hayder Hassan, 23. "He knows the ass-whoopin' he's going to get."

even his brother is full of sh*t.

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Anyone see this kids parents and siblings on TV? Jeez they are so dumb. I bet they knew, sure seems like it.

 

 

Yeah, I love his mom's response to "how did he fund this?"

 

"He's just brilliant."

 

Yeah...your son went into a warzone, not speaking a word of arabic, and with a western accent that'll get you killed. Brilliant is exactly the word I'd use.

 

Oh, and as for where the parents were: The mom was in New York, the dad was in Germany.

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the kid is pretty frekin lucky he didnt die on his little adventure, but if he plays his cards right...he can write a book, go to good skool, maybe get a movie, news reporting job....who knows it could happen

 

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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Guest Moneyball

Florida Teen Discusses Dangerous Trip To Iraq

16-Year-Old Apologizes To U.S. Military

 

POSTED: 10:07 am EST January 9, 2006

UPDATED: 3:19 pm EST January 9, 2006

 

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- An American teen who skipped school to travel to Iraq by himself apologized to the U.S. military for causing it a "tremendous amount of trouble" and said he fears that others may try to copy his dangerous journey into a war zone.

 

Farris Hassan, speaking to MSNBC in an interview to be aired Monday, also said he interviewed a member of Hezbollah in Lebanon and would change his persona when he met different people during his much-publicized sojourn to the Middle East last month.

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Who Is Responsible For Hassan's Trip?

Images: Teen Travels To Iraq | Video

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Hassan, 16, went to The Associated Press bureau in Baghdad, which contacted the U.S. embassy. He arrived home from Iraq on Jan. 1 and returned to his prep school in Fort Lauderdale.

 

"I have seen many a headline stating "Farris Hassan's Week Off," the teen told the cable network. "I am worried that with the media coverage they may have glorified what I did. And I will feel so guilty if some copycats go to Iraq and cause the military all kinds of trouble. And God forbid one of them gets their heads cut off."

 

Hassan said he felt "sheepish" because of all the assistance he received from the U.S. military, which helped keep him safe after he made his presence in Iraq known.

 

"They had to divert resources and all kinds of stuff. They have a war to run. They don't need to be dealing with kids running off to Iraq," he said.

 

"I want to apologize for all the inconvenience I caused them, and I want to sincerely thank all the soldiers who risked their lives trying to get me out of Iraq and keep me safe."

 

Hassan said his mother had no idea he was leaving to Iraq, and that he felt guilty for the "grief I have caused my family." The teen said his father didn't know all of his plans but that "he knew a bit more than my mother."

 

Hassan skipped school when he began his travels Dec. 11. He was able to secure an entry visa for Iraq because his parents were born there, although they have lived in the United States for more than three decades. He didn't tell his family what he was doing until he arrived in Kuwait, where he planned to take a taxi into Baghdad for the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections.

 

With the Iraqi border closed for the voting, Hassan stayed with family friends in Lebanon until he could fly into Baghdad on Dec. 25.

 

He contacted The Associated Press bureau in Baghdad on Dec. 27 and related his story. Hassan said he had recently studied immersion journalism -- in which a writer lives the life of his subject -- and wanted to understand better what Iraqis are living through.

 

He said he landed an interview a Hezbollah media relations officer for about two hours in Beirut, asking him about the Iraq war and Lebanese politics.

 

"I had to travel through alleyways ... in the southern Shiite section of Beirut, the poorest section," he said. "So walking through alleyways, going up crooked staircases with bullet holes in the walls. And there was no sign saying, this is the Hezbollah office, of course not."

 

Hassan realized he was in a dangerous situation a number of times. He said he would hear explosions and gunfire in Baghdad, and people looked at him funny when he took out his "Arabic at a Glance" guidebook in a restaurant.

 

But he said he wasn't frightened and would try to fit in as much as possible during his trip.

 

"Well, with each group I immersed myself, I changed my persona," he said. "When I was with the Christians, I told them I was a Lebanese Christian -- an American Christian with Lebanese parents and that my name was Jason.

 

"And when I met with the Hezbollah leader, I gave him the impression that I wanted to paint Hezbollah in a good light when I returned to the United States."

 

However, Hassan criticized his own work as a journalist.

 

"In fact, I think I did a pretty poor job as an emergent journalist," he said. "Normally, an emergent journalist would learn the language and spend probably a year in the country and have several connections.

 

"I am taking English 3 AP, so my teacher never expected me to do anything like this and they do not bear -- no one bears any responsibility for my actions except for me."

 

:rolleyes: :plain

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