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[AUDIO] Saturday Night Swing in Newport

in Feature/Newport

A wise man once said, “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.”

Saturday night at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, the 18 piece Swing North Big Band played their Swinging Epiphany Celebration. The show was part of the Now Playing Newport music series. Press play below to hear the story.



For more information about the Now Playing Newport music series, please visit them online at NowPlayingNewport.Com | All photos by Tanya Mueller. |


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Federal Farm Services Encourage Sugar Bush Owners in Orleans County to Call to Report Damage from Ice Storm.

in Feature/News

NEWPORT – As Vermonters start to check on their sugar woods, the damage from last week’s ice storm is being revealed. The federal Farm Services (FSA) offices have started taking applications for the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for maple sugar makers. Orleans County is listed as one of the areas most affected, with FSA officials encouraging sugar bush owners to call to report damage.

The ECP funds can be used to cost-share debris removal in active sugar woods. FSA is investigating whether special practice funds can be accessed to help with maple tap and tubing replacement for sugarbushes that were already prepared for this year’s tapping. ECP also can help with funds to move debris off of the tubing and open up sugaring access roads or trails.

Vermont County Foresters are also taking calls from owners of other affected woodlots. The foresters urge people to use hardhats and extreme caution when walking around or working in woodlots with ice-laden trees branches. While the ice made those branches heavier, the expected snow this week could add yet an extra layer of risk for sudden breakage.

“Imagine what it would be like to have a baseball bat land on your head from a few feet up. Well, branches are bigger and fall further,” Windsor County Forester Jon Bouton said, quoting woodsman Irwin Post.

While the need for sugarbush work is immediate, when safety conditions allow, owners of other woodlands should also assess their property to report tree damage, and make decisions on amendments to forest management plans for Use Value Appraisal (Current Use).

REAL ID Cards Issued at Vermont DMV Jan. 2

in Feature/Vermont

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles will start offering REAL ID cards on January 2.

To obtain a REAL ID, you will need an original or certified copy of your birth certificate or other proof of identity, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the United States, and proof of your Social Security numbers.

Although the Vermont REAL ID FAQ page states that, “Obtaining a REAL ID marked card is your choice,” it also states that, “the federal agency responsible for security of the airport, federal facility or nuclear power plant will determine whether to permit access/entrance or subject you to additional screening as prescribed by that agency. No federal agencies have yet issued any guidance on how they will screen applications after the individual compliance dates. The Vermont DMV will update this information as additional information becomes available.”

It also states that everyone born after Dec. 1, 1964 will be “required” to have a REAL ID by Dec. 1, 2014. Anyone born before, will have until Dec. 1, 2017.

The federal REAL ID Act is designed to promote security by requiring states to meet certain physical and procedural security standards for production and issuance of driver’s licenses and ID cards. It is also supposed to provide certain documentation standards, including authentication and verification standards for proof of identity, date of birth, Social Security number, residence, and lawful status or presence.

Because Vermont already produces cards that meet REAL ID security standards, there will be almost no material difference. The only significant difference will be a star verification mark on the front of the card in the upper, right-hand corner.

The new REAL ID cards have raised concern over privacy issues. The governor of Montana told the Department of Homeland Security to “go to hell.” He went on to call the REAL ID card a “harebrained scheme.”

Some see the REAL ID card as a de facto national identity card that will increase government tracking of innocent citizens.

600 Vermonters Affected as Long-Term Jobless Benefits Expire

in Feature/News/Vermont

BURLINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Friday that Congress must restore unemployment benefits that expired today for 1.3 million Americans, including some 600 Vermonters, who have been out of work for longer than 26 weeks.

Unless Congress acts, jobless benefits will lapse during the first half of 2014 for an additional 1.9 million people, including another 2,300 Vermonters.

“It is not only immoral to cut off help for workers struggling to find jobs, it is also bad economics,” Sanders said. “At a time when long-term unemployment is near a record level, cutting benefits will hurt the rest of the economy and cause even more jobs to disappear.”

Failure to extend benefits would be a $25 billion blow to the economy during the coming year and result in the loss of more than 200,000 additional jobs, according to the conservative estimate by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO also projected a 0.2 percent drop in the nation’s gross domestic product unless the benefits are extended.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.) said: “It’s regrettable that House and Senate Republicans refused to include an extension of unemployment insurance benefits in the recent budget agreement. I have been among those who pushed for this extension, and I have again joined in introducing legislation to extend these benefits. The Senate will vote on our bill as a first order of business in January.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that a measure to restore long-term jobless benefits will be the first bill that the Senate takes up when it reconvenes on Jan. 6. Sanders is one of 21 cosponsors of the bill, but only one Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, has signed on as a supporter.

“The critical question is how many Republicans are prepared to stand with unemployed workers,” Sanders said.

While the jobless rate has declined in recent months, it is still far worse than it was in 2008 when President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program into law. Back then the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and the average length of unemployment was 17.1 weeks. Today, the official unemployment rate in November was 7 percent and the average length of unemployment is more than 36 weeks.

Moreover, the official unemployment figure masks the reality that total unemployment stood last month at 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number counts workers forced to settle for part-time jobs and those who gave up looking for jobs.

The number of long-term unemployed has been among the lingering effects of the severe recession that began in 2008. Today, there are three job applicants for every one job opening. As a result, 37 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for more than six months.

Because the recession has continued to hurt job prospects, Congress reauthorized the extended unemployment benefits program 11 times since the recession began in 2008.

Altogether, nearly 24 million Americans (including more than 33,000 Vermonters) have received the emergency unemployment benefits since 2008. Unemployment benefits, typically $300 a week, lifted 2.5 million Americans out of poverty last year, according to the Census Bureau.

Domenic’s Story: Helping to Build a Digitally Literate Community

in Derby/Feature

DERBY — When Hurricane Sandy hit in October of 2012, Domenic Laurenzi lost everything. For nearly a month he found himself living in his car. He was working for someone who flat out refused to pay him, and finally the heater in his car went out. He spent the next five days grinding it out, sleeping in the cold, and trying to decide what to do.

Originally from Long Island, Domenic had family living in the Newport area, and he had spent some time here earlier, studying massage therapy at the Community College of Vermont. When the program was dropped, he went back to New York.

Sick of sleeping in his car, Domenic called a relative and asked if he could come back up to Vermont. They were happy to help. On November 17, 2012, Domenic was back in the area, and he immediately decided to continue his studies at CCV. He switched his major to Business.

It was a difficult start for Domenic, but he never let the obstacles he had to face get in his way. As the new guy in town from the big city, he persevered. He has gone on not only to excel as a student, but to give back to the community that welcomed him in.

photoDomenic now runs a digital literacy program offered through the state of Vermont, where he provides free computer help to anyone visiting the library during designated hours. Anyone needing assistance can make an appointment, or just come in during the hours that Domenic is there. He can help you with the most basic issues, or tackle more technical problems if needed.

“It all started at CCV,” Domenic said. “I was taking a class that needed an internship, and it just so happened that the libraries needed someone to help them with their computers.”

The internship led to the digital literacy grant, which has been recognized as a huge success.

“Once the grant went through, and the state saw that people were utilizing this system that was put in place, that people were learning and benefiting from it, they decided to keep it going through July of 2014.”

While offering his services, Domenic has seen the full spectrum of computer related issues pass through the program.

“Things have ranged. From the most basic steps like how to use a tablet, to just the other day I helped someone set up a mobile hot spot from his Samsung Galaxy phone.”

Coming from New York, there are things about the area that have been a bit foreign to Domenic, but he has embraced most of it.

“Everything is so different up here,” he said. “Coming from New York, I’m used to being able to get anything I want, anytime of day. But, it’s absolutely beautiful, and there is no traffic up here which is nice.”

The computer help Domenic provides is available for anyone who needs it, and with the extension, Domenic encourages anyone who needs his services to come out to the library during the following hours:

The Goodrich Memorial Library

Monday – 10:00 to 12:30
Thursday – 3:00 to 5:00

The Dailey Memorial Library
Tuesday – 10:00 to 12:00
Saturday – 1:00 to 3:00

The Haskell Library
Thursday – 12:00 to 2:30
Saturday – 10:00 to 12:30

Domenic will graduate from CCV this summer, and although he will not continue on with the digital literacy program, it will most likely continue past July.

Sound Bites: Newport’s Third Thursday Open Mic Night at Montgomery Cafe [AUDIO]

in Arts and Entertainment/Feature/Newport

Newport Dispatch visited the Third Thursday Open Mic Series at Montgomery Cafe in Newport. Thursday’s event brought together local poets and musicians. Started by Beth Barnes three months ago, word of Newport’s open mic has quickly spread, with musicians coming out from Lyndonville just to participate.

Please press play below to hear some of the music, and to be introduced to some of the musicians who are coming to Newport once a month for the event.

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Vermont says ‘tis the season’ to hike texting fines

in Feature/Vermont

By Yaël Ossowski | Watchdog.org

As Old Man Winter swoops into Vermont, the state government wants to be sure drivers are paying attention.

“Our crews just completed a weekend marathon of plowing, and are now here preparing for the next storm to arrive,” announced Gov. Peter Shumlin at a press conference Tuesday. “And as hard as they work plowing snow, they also look for new ways to make roads safer.”

What Shumlin offered is an initiative that has very little to do with snow, but which will affect anyone driving on a Vermont road: stiffer penalties aimed at stopping distracted driving.

Starting Jan. 1, the use of a hand-held device, such as an MP3 player, GPS, or cell phone in a work zone will be banned outright and could carry a fine as high as $479 for the second offense, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

They’ll also up the penalty for anyone caught texting at the wheel, increasing from two to five points on a violator’s driver’s license, which would cause a steep increase in insurance rates.

“All the plowing and salting in the world won’t help us if people don’t slow down, put the phone down, put their hands on the wheel and focus on the road,” said Dave Blackmore, the transportation administrator for District 5 who spoke along with Shumlin.

Laws against distracted driving have been on the books in several states for many years, but their effect has proved murky once put under the microscope.

A 2012 study commissioned by the American Automobile Association and conducted at the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center found that use of electronic devices comprised only 6 percent of all distracted behavior at the wheel, far behind other behaviors such as communicating with passengers, eating and drinking or adjusting a vehicle’s controls.

Moreover, the researchers concluded that use of electronics was unlikely a leading cause of major accidents.

“Electronic device use and other distracted driver behaviors were strongly associated with looking away from the roadway, although electronic device use was only weakly related to serious incidents,” concluded the authors.

That’s a much softer assessment than the one offered by researchers who examined texting bans in several states throughout the nation.

“Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a 2010 study. “In a perverse twist, crashes increased in three of the four states we studied after bans were enacted. It’s an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws.”

A 2011 white paper put together by the Vermont Legislative Research Service doubted the efficiency of laws banning phones at the wheel, and concluded that all major research has “yet to show that state bans on cell phone use have significantly decreased distracted driving and accidents.”

Vermont had 330 major accidents in 2012, according to the Department of Public Safety, and eight, or just 2 percent, were found to be caused by the use of electronics at the wheel.

While distracted driving remains an issue for auto safety, it has also become an important way for states to grab federal dollars.

Federal initiatives to combat distracted driving totaled $17.5 million in 2013, distributed mostly in the form of block grants to the states which “enact and enforce” the toughest laws restricting the use of electronic devices at the wheel, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Most of the money is designated for advertising the state’s distracted driving laws, including the use of social media and television spots.

Vermont didn’t receive any funding for 2013, but with its increased penalties for cell phone use at the wheel in work zones and texting while driving, it may be a prime candidate for 2014.

Yaël is a national reporter for Watchdog.org. Reach him by email at yael@watchdog.org and follow him @YaelOss.

[AUDIO STORY] Discovering Mary Cofran with the Derby Historical Society Museum

in Arts and Entertainment/Derby/Feature

Newport Dispatch came out to the old-fashioned Christmas celebration at the Derby Historical Society Museum, and put together this audio story, where we learn about a resident of Derby who in 1940 drew a series of prints on muslin cloth of local buildings. It was like stepping back into 1940. To listen, press play below.

Please enjoy the photography below while you listen. All photos by Tanya Mueller.

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Snowmobiling is Alive and Kicking in the Northeast Kingdom

in Derby/Feature/News

DERBY — Every few years it happens that hunting season ends on Sunday, and snowmobiling season begins on Monday. With hunting season over, yesterday was the first day the trails were officially open. The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, which serves 62 miles of trail in the Derby, Holland, and Morgan area, spent opening day out on the trail with their groomer, getting ready for what should be a great season.

“We haven’t sent our groomer out on the first day of the season in a few years,” Roger Gosselin, Vice President of the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, said Monday night. “So, we’re off to a great start. The temperatures are down and the snow is here.”

Gosselin started maintaining the trail on Monday using the tracks of the groomer to pack down the snow that has accumulated. It froze overnight, and should provide a good base.

The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club out packing snow on Monday in the Holland area. All photos courtesy of Roger Gosselin.
The Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club out packing snow on Monday in the Holland area. All photos courtesy of Roger Gosselin.

For snowmobile trails, a snow grooming machine works by pulling what is called a “drag,” behind it. However, at the start of the season, you have to make sure the conditions are right before using it.

“You usually don’t bring the drag out first because you don’t want to literally drag the snow off,” Gosselin said. “At the start of the season, what you want to do is just pack the existing snow down. Once you have a well established trail, then the drag works really well.”

The rule is that you need a four inch base of packed snow to start snowmobiling. Currently, parts of the local network at higher elevations have that already. Gosselin believes that all the early signs indicate that this year should be a good season.

“The upper elevation areas of the trails are open, but they are hard to get to,” he said. “Give us a couple of days. We’re supposed to get more snow, and that will put most areas into better shape.”

Snowmobiling in the area has recently had some bad press, being called a “dying sport,” by a local paper. For Gosselin, and many who have been involved in the sport for nearly a lifetime, statements like that are the result of not looking at the big picture.

“First of all, snowmobiling is a large part of our economy. Yes, some years are better than others, but, if you go through and look at the trends over the years, a few bad years are generally followed by great seasons.”

The groomer owned by the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club based out of Derby, out on the trail packing snow on opening day.
The groomer owned by the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club based out of Derby, out on the trail packing snow on opening day.

When it comes to the sport of snowmobiling in the area, Gosselin has paid his dues. He has been involved as a director of the Drift Dusters since 2003, having previously held the position of president for the maximum term of four years, and served as vice president off and on since.

The Drift Dusters are also one of the top clubs in the state. Started in 1970, the group usually has between 800 and 1100 members. In August they were awarded the Vermont Snowmobile Club of the Year. Previously they have won awards for best groomed, and best signed trails.

“This year it was a combination of good grooming, good signing, and a social media presence that is much more active than other groups in the state,” Gosslin said. “It was a big achievement for us.”

Gosselin also serves as the website administrator for the Drift Dusters. Their website was one of the first ever to sell trail passes through the internet. He has been working to creatively engage snowmobile enthusiasts online, as well as keep everyone informed of trail conditions through the website and social networks. Through Twitter, he even started an account for the Drift Dusters’s groomer.

Gosselin, along with Scott Jenness, who serves as president of the club, working with all the club’s directors, have made the 62 miles of track they maintain a spot that brings in riders from all over New England.

For more information about the Drift Dusters Snowmobile Club, visit them online. If you are on Twitter, you can follow the club at: @DriftDustersSC and at Facebook.com/driftdusters

Below is a killer promotional video that the club put out, which just goes to show that snowmobiling is not a dying sport. It is alive and well, and with the season underway, and clubs like the Drift Dusters working hard to keep the trails maintained, Newport Dispatch hopes all riders have a safe and fun winter.

Newport Moving into the Future: Two Wheels and Two Feet at a Time

in Feature/Newport/News

Photo Left to Right – Jeff Manning, owner of The Village Bike Shop, Gary White, local marathon runner, and Dr. Peter Harris, shared their personal stories and expertise in order to educate and invite discussion at Saturday’s community forum “Streets, Sidewalks, and Bike Paths,” co-hosted by the he HealthWorks ONE Coalition and the Newport City Renaissance Corporation Design Committee.

NEWPORT — The HealthWorks ONE Coalition, serving Orleans and Northern Essex Counties, in collaboration with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation Design Committee, asked the community where they want to go. On Saturday, a community forum was held in the Hebard State Building. Despite the below zero temperatures, a large contingent of people gathered to listen to the speakers and to share their opinions and hopes on how we can all move into the future, together.

forum_3“I’m so encouraged by the number of people who came together for the common good of our community,” Beth Barnes, Fit and Healthy Coordinator for HealthWorks ONE said. “We have the strong beginnings of a sound infrastructure that supports and encourages biking, walking and alternative modes of transport, but we can always improve.”

Dr. Peter Harris, a local athlete and champion for good health gave a compelling presentation in which he stressed the importance of healthy eating and exercise habits. His message to all is that if we take care of our bodies they will take care of us. Dr. Harris is a strong advocate for enjoying what the Newport area has to offer, especially during the winter. He reminded everyone that Memphremagog Ski Touring Foundation, a local non-profit, is a great resource available to the entire community.

Jeff Manning, owner of The Village Bike Shop in Derby, brought bicycles and explained ways to introduce children to the delights, as well as the importance of riding.

“We need to encourage children to ride, but it’s our responsibility as adults to teach them the right ways to do it,” Jeff said. “Safety should always be the first lesson so children grow up respecting the roads, and learn to enjoy the freedom a bike can offer.”

Mr. Manning, like most at the forum, is a strong advocate for a path that would connect Derby to Newport, bringing the two towns with a strong connection even closer.

The final speaker was Gary White, who gave a touching account of how he was encouraged to run his first marathon by local trainer, Sharon Stewart. He said that his father’s final advice was to take better care of himself. Gary took that advice to heart. He changed his life by starting a carefully planned exercise routine. He has now run countless marathons, and even has his name in the Guinness Book of World Records. Mr. White, who spends countless hours using the local streets and paths each week, brought the forum his own reports on what he encounters, and how he thinks Newport’s streets, roads, and paths could be improved.

The goal of the forum was to give the community a platform where they could listen, learn, and share their ideas. HealthWorks ONE and the Design Committee are committed to implementing ways by which all Newport’s streets can be user friendly for everyone.

“I feel that a collaboration between interested community members, local government, non-profits, and businesses, is a way to work toward giving people more of a choice when it comes to getting where they want to go,” Ms. Barnes closed by saying. “The forum was very encouraging.”

For more information, please contact Beth at beth.barnes@neklsvt.org

Les Terrasses Dufferin: Fine Dining at a Reasonable Price, Just Across the Border

in Arts and Entertainment/Derby Line/Feature/Stanstead

STANSTEAD, QC — You can sometimes tolerate mediocre food if a restaurant has other things going for it. You can even tolerate a wonderful meal, if the dining room is less than spectacular. In both cases, you may find a restaurant you will visit from time to time, but it will never make your personal favorites list. It will never be the kind of place that you rave to your friends and family about.

However, when an exciting chef works in a location that is just as exciting, you have the type of restaurant that not only makes the list, but climbs to the top. Such is the case with Les Terrasses Dufferin, located in Stanstead, Quebec.

There are many reason to be excited about Les Terrasses Dufferin. First of all, there are few places anywhere that have such an interesting location. Located inside the old Stanstead customs building, it is literally just across the border from Derby Line on Route 5. The building is as beautiful as it is historic. The dining room mixes modern and classical styles, creating a comfortable and elegant ambience.

Chef Roland Troadec and Line Vallieres Thériault enjoy a quiet moment after a busy lunch hour Wednesday afternoon. All photos by Tanya Mueller.
Chef Roland Troadec and Line Vallieres Thériault enjoy a quiet moment after a busy lunch hour Wednesday afternoon. All photos by Tanya Mueller.

The co-owner and chef of Les Terrasses Dufferin is Roland Troadec. Originally from France, he comes to Stanstead with 35 years of experience, having worked the last ten in Montreal and Quebec City. He brings with him not only the experience and reputation of a world-class chef, but also a respect for keeping dining prices within reason.

This brings us to another key reason to be excited about Les Terrasses Dufferin. They offer an elegant menu at a price that matches what most people are willing to pay. It is fine dining in every sense, but for a price matching the economic situation of the area. The menu has something for everyone.

“Because the chef is French, we have a little bit of a French flavor, but, we have adapted our menu to please everyone,” co-owner Line Vallieres Thériault said. “We want to give our customers a variety.”

Originally from Sherbrook, Line lived most of her life in Montreal. She came to the Eastern Townships five years ago. When she found out that the old customs building, which used to be a restaurant called La Vieille Douane, had closed at the end of August, she approached the owners and asked if it would be possible to rent the space to start her own restaurant.

When they agreed, she contacted Roland to see if he was interested in becoming a partner in the business. He came down from Quebec City, and they did some minor renovations over the next two months. Les Terrasses Dufferin opened last Thursday, a completely different restaurant than La Vieille Douane.

Les Terrasses Dufferin is named after the beautiful terrace along Rue Dufferin that sits out front of the restaurant. During the warmer months, visitors can eat outside on the terrace. There is also a terrace located in the back of the building, facing the Tomifobia River, where tables will be set as well.

Fondue, steak, and pasta are some of the staples of the menu, with daily lunch specials also offered. They are equipped to handle groups, rent the space out for parties and events, and offer a catering service if needed. There is even a café set up separately from the dining room, which offers wifi.

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When I asked Ms. Thériault what she feels customers will remember most after a visit, she paused for a moment, and then smiled.

“That we have the best food,” she said, breaking out in laughter.

Although only half -joking, it is a claim Les Terrasses Dufferin is certainly working to back up.

Having tasted the spaghetti, as well as an amazing couscous salad, Les Terrasses Dufferin will be a place I will frequent when the terraces are open.

They have a brunch on Sunday, which starts at 9 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. It is all you can eat, and would make the perfect start to a day spent on the other side of the border, visiting the beautiful Eastern Townships of Quebec.

For more information, call Les Terrasses Dufferin at: 819-704-3330

United Church of Newport’s Handbell Choir at the Goodrich Memorial Library (with audio)

in Arts and Entertainment/Feature

All photos by Tanya Mueller

The only way to experience the elegance of the United Church of Newport’s Handbell Choir is to hear them for yourself. Newport Dispatch is proud to have captured some of the sounds of Saturday’s concert, and uploaded them here for our readers. Click play wherever you see the audio player throughout this article to hear audio clips taken from Saturday’s concert at the Goodrich Memorial Library.

NEWPORT — The Goodrich Memorial Library hosted their 9th Annual Tree Lighting and Open House event at 2 p.m. on Saturday, followed by a concert by the United Church of Newport’s Handbell Choir and Chorus.

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Christmas tree lights and decorations were turned on throughout the building. Each room in the library features its own tree, complete with unique decorations that have been passed down throughout the years.

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The sounds of the season rang out from the Assembly Room upstairs as the handbell choir started the show. Ruth Marquette, the director of the choir, introduced some of the techniques used by the musicians between songs.

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A reception was held after the concert.

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