Others agreed that the interview could have wide-ranging implications for the House of Windsor.

“I’ve always said that the royal family would come out at best looking out of date, out of touch, perhaps unwelcoming,” Katie Nicholls, the royals editor at Vanity Fair, said in an interview on Sky News shortly after the broadcast. “But this is so much worse than that.”

Stephen Castle contributed reporting.

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Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his wife have tested positive for the virus.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his wife, Asma, have tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms, Mr. al-Assad’s office said on Monday. The pair are in good health and will continue work while quarantining at home for at least two weeks, his office added.

Their isolation period comes ahead of the 10-year anniversary of Syria’s civil war, as Mr. al-Assad faces an economy that is worse than at any time since the fighting began in 2011. Syrians were already living in ravaged cities with an ill-equipped health care system. As of Monday, the country of about 17 million has officially reported 15,981 infections and 1,063 deaths according to a New York times database. But cases are likely to be undercounted, experts have said, given that government data tends to hide the country’s struggles.

The fallout from the conflict, along with sweeping Western sanctions and lockdowns, has also left Syrians struggling to feed themselves. Food prices more than doubled in the last year and the World Food Program warned last month that more than 60 percent of the population, or about 12.4 million people were at risk of going hungry. Many Syrians have been left to resort to desperate measures to find fuel and sustenance for themselves and their families.

In a private meeting with pro-government journalists, Mr. al-Assad was asked about Syria’s economic meltdown, The New York Times reported in February.

“I know,” he said, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion. “I know.”

But he offered no concrete steps to fix the problems beyond floating this idea: Television channels should cancel cooking shows so as not to taunt Syrians with images of unattainable food.

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‘We were the only airplanes in the sky’

(CNN) — Darrell Myers remembers the surreal feeling last March when nearly all passenger travel shut down, leaving cargo pilots like him flying all alone.

“We saw the devastation hit the airline industry,” said Myers, the president of the Luxembourg Airline Pilots Association, who is a captain for Cargolux. “There were moments where my company, we were the only airplanes in the sky.”

Like many essential workers, international pilots have had to adjust to a drastically different work environment over the past 12 months.

As the pandemic caused the sharpest air traffic decline in history, airlines were forced to lay off or furlough nearly half of all pilots, according to a recent survey from Goose Recruitment and FlightGlobal.

Those still flying can face sharply reduced flight schedules, regular Covid-19 testing and isolating layovers confined in hotel rooms.

Courtesy Jason Voudri

First Officer Jason Voudri feels lucky to still be flying after the Covid-19 pandemic devastated the travel industry.

Courtesy Jason Voudri

First Officer Jason Voudri was in the middle of switching employers when Covid-19 struck and he found himself grounded for several months.

When he finally received the call to fly again, he needed refresher training on a simulator before he could start flying for Air Senegal.

Back in the air since January 8, he knows he’s among the lucky ones, saying he’s “just grateful to be among the pilots who actually have a job right now.”

Coping mechanisms

Voudri’s routine as a commercial pilot now includes a mandatory temperature check when arriving at the airport and filling in a form to attest he is free of Covid-19 symptoms.

He wipes down thrust levers, knobs, and switches in the cockpit when taking over from another crew. The flights his airline used to fly daily now only run three days a week.

Pilots wait for to be tested for Covid-19 after landing in Hong Kong.

Pilots wait for to be tested for Covid-19 after landing in Hong Kong.

courtesy Captain Dylan Myers

They’ve also grouped some destinations together, turning once nonstop flights into connecting ones.

Pilots who regularly fly between countries face a wide spectrum of rules regarding testing, layovers and rest time, determined by national governments that are trying to balance health and safety concerns with the need to facilitate necessary passenger and cargo travel.

Some countries exempt pilots from testing requirements and quarantine, as long as they obey local mask and social distancing rules, while others require they stay confined to a hotel or even inside an individual hotel room on layover.

Captain Myers sometimes gets tested more than once a day for Covid-19. He jokes he is so used to the nasal swab he now lets the person administering the test “surprise” him by choosing the left or right nostril.

As for the hotel lockdowns, Myers said pilots have different coping mechanisms for the isolation. Technology, especially video calls, are a big help.

“I sometimes take a guitar with me on trips. You learn to adapt to it. But I think in the long term we [will] start to see that people are impacted by it,” he said.

Extended isolation

Hong Kong introduced the world’s strictest policies towards air crews last month, requiring them to quarantine in a hotel room for 14-days.

FedEx said in an internal memo that it would offer relocation to its air crews as a result of that policy, saying the quarantines would lead to “extended periods of isolation” and time away from their families.

Taiwan and some states in Australia have all tightened quarantine rules for flights crews over the past few months, after specific incidents. The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations warns that such “complete lockdown may have detrimental effects on mental health.”

Meidan Barr, chairman of the Israel Airline Pilots Association, believes the current system is not one that will support post-pandemic recovery. He wants a global standard to be established.

“Most of us are vaccinated, but we’re still tested and go back to a hotel with no room key, sometimes without a window, getting some cold food outside your door, not able to walk or even to do some work out,” said Barr.

While most Israel pilots are vaccinated, flight crews in much of the rest of the world are still waiting. Several organizations that represent pilots, including the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and major US unions have urged governments to give flight crews priority access to vaccines.

Myers doesn’t want his colleagues at the back of the vaccine line, but he hopes they are not pressed into mandatory vaccinations either. Like Barr, mostly he is advocating for consistency, saying the current “kaleidoscope” of recommendations will only make it more challenging for the industry to recover.

“Quarantine rules create a constant change effect that then obviously has a bit of a destabilizing factor on our ability to just really plan for the future, sometimes planning rest or, you know, even sometimes telling the family where we will be,” he said.

Ivan Watson and Will Godley contributed to this report.

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The three days last March that changed sports.

It took just three days last March for nearly every sport to shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Beyond the headlines about silenced arenas and canceled tournaments, there were athletes, coaches and executives confronting a perilous reality with no precedent in modern sports. A biathlete hurried to a Finnish airport as border closings loomed. The N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, deliberated in a car outside his apartment building. A runner considered her options — and the Boston Marathon’s fate — over a late-night drink in Arizona. A NASCAR star suddenly without a race drove instead to a beach house.

“I had just left the office, and our general counsel called me,” Mr. Silver said. “I was on my way home, and he called and said that we’ve just gotten this positive test of Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.”

Mr. Silver said that he also spoke to Sam Presti, the Thunder president, and Clay Bennett, the Thunder owner, in the next 10 minutes because the players were taking the floor for the game in Oklahoma City.

Mr. Silver recalled sitting in his car, deciding to cancel that game. “Then we put out a notice that we were putting the season on pause until we had additional information,” he said. “Until that moment, it felt like there would have been an opportunity to deal with a single case on an isolated basis.”

The Times spoke to dozens of people about the chaotic days of March 11-13, when much of the athletic world came to a halt. “It was changing by the second,” said Joey Logano, a NASCAR Cup Series driver.

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In One Afghan District, Peace From 8 A.M. to 5 P.M.

PANJWAI, Afghanistan — For a brief moment in a small patch of southern Afghanistan, the war has stopped.

After weeks of negotiations, the mayor of Panjwai, a sizable district in the strategically important Kandahar Province, said a 10-day cease-fire would begin Sunday morning.

There was no formal announcement or major decree, nor was there any involvement from the international community. Instead, the cease-fire in Panjwai was the culmination of a grass-roots movement led by farmers and townspeople exhausted after more than 40 years of war and the recent escalation of fighting in their district.

Their success in brokering the cease-fire offered a clear example of how local communities, driven by despair, have engineered their own ways to stop the fighting — even if it is just for a few hours — as Afghan and Taliban negotiators continue to struggle to find a way forward during peace talks in Qatar.

By Sunday morning, signs of the cease-fire were clearly visible in Panjwai. Barbed wire that usually blocked the road from nearby Kandahar city had been moved aside. Cars no longer had to cross hundreds of yards of sand and gravel before rejoining the pavement. Almost every stall in the district’s bazaar was open.

Nasir Ahmad, 25, said he heard insurgents talking on their radios as he crossed into Taliban-controlled territory for his construction job Sunday morning. The fighting would stop for now, he recalled hearing.

“There is hope,” Mr. Ahmad said.

The cease-fire was arranged by local negotiators, the local police chief and Taliban leaders. But some soldiers and police officers said they had not been informed of its existence, part of a pattern of denial from Afghan forces who have grown dismayed by faltering peace talks.

A local Taliban commander in Panjwai confirmed to The New York Times that the insurgent group had agreed to participate in the cease-fire and to abide by the hours laid out by Haji Mahmood Noor, the mayor of Panjwai. No fighting was to take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., primarily so farmers could return to their fields.

The Taliban’s current leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, was born in Panjwai, a district of upward of 80,000 people. Its valley is where the Taliban essentially took root. The cease-fire will undoubtedly help the group continue to hold the territory, which it seized in November, and to win over the population after its fall offensive destroyed the season’s harvest in parts of the province.

Small, unofficial cease-fires in Afghanistan are nothing new. Individual Afghan police outposts frequently cut agreements with the Taliban, and in the past some NATO forces have been known to do so as well. But they are rarely on the scale of the one in Panjwai.

Rumors of a cease-fire in Panjwai had been circulating for weeks as the weather warmed and pitched battles between Taliban and Afghan forces dragged on, local officials and residents said.

Elders and local officials from the Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwai districts desperately tracked down Taliban and government officials, pleading for a cease-fire after Taliban offensives cut off thousands of families from their homes and crops.

At first, the Taliban were reluctant to agree with those from Panjwai, local officials said, while the elders were mostly ignored and sidelined by government officials in both Kandahar and Kabul.

“It was not working in the bigger circle, so we tried the smaller circle,” Mr. Noor said. He agreed to act as a go-between for a 12-man negotiating team consisting of local farmers and tribal elders, Panjwai’s police chief and other officials in Kandahar.

In recent weeks in the neighboring district of Zhari, the local government and the Taliban had already agreed to stop fighting so farmers could return to their fields and vineyards in a shaky truce that held for several days, local officials said. The cease-fire in Zhari helped lay the groundwork for the one secured by Mr. Noor and the negotiators in Panjwai.

That the cease-fire in Zhari and Panjwai had to be arranged on a local level spoke to a growing desire for peace in the absence of government oversight.

There are now fewer than 10,000 foreign troops deployed across Afghanistan. This means that Afghan forces, with fewer efforts to advise them, are frequently separated into distinct tribes — Army, police and Special Operations — that often fail to communicate with one another. Under these circumstances, local cease-fires can be used more effectively, and broken just as quickly.

With the war increasingly being guided at the local level, people like Mr. Noor and other district officials have gotten more involved after being pushed by local residents desperate to save orchards and vineyards hit by the recent offensives and in danger of being lost for decades if they are not cultivated.

“In these 10 days of cease-fire, I will water my farms. I will cut the extra branches of grapes, as we haven’t watered them for the last four months because of the fighting,” said Mohammad Hashim, 58, a tribal elder from Panjwai and one of the 12 negotiators who helped implement the cease-fire.

Mr. Hashim sighed and looked at his watch.

“This 10-day cease-fire is like 10 years to me,” he said. “We don’t have a minute to lose.”

The clock began ticking at 8 a.m. The first violation occurred three hours and 27 minutes later.

A small group of Afghan Army commandos positioned on a hill offering commanding views of Taliban-held territory were drinking tea before they cleaned and haphazardly fired a lone 82-millimeter mortar.

One of the soldiers said the group had been targeting a sniper, though they admitted that the last three hours had been mostly quiet. The mortar shell was in the air for what felt like a minute before it hit the ground with a distant crump. The commandos then returned to their tea. Nobody else fired a shot.

Random, unpredictable shelling from Afghan government forces was one of the main drivers of the cease-fire in Panjwai. The errant attacks have frequently hit civilians or farmers in their fields who are mistaken for Taliban fighters. This has turned places like Panjwai into a lottery of death, where people trying to get back to their homes are caught between whistling shells from above and homemade mines and roadside bombs planted by the Taliban from below.

The commandos on the hilltop said they had not heard of the cease-fire and had not agreed to one. Panjwai’s police chief, Second Lt. Juma Gul Ishaqzai, also denied the cease-fire, even though local officials, including the mayor, said he had agreed to it and helped marshal the district’s intelligence head and local army commander into the deal.

“This is a Taliban plan,” Lieutenant Ishaqzai said in an interview.

The wreckage of mangled Humvees and American-supplied pickup trucks littering the parking lot of Mr. Ishaqzai’s headquarters offered one possible explanation for his denial: How could there be a cease-fire when his men were still dying in a never-ending war?

But it was not one of Mr. Ishaqzai’s officers who died Sunday afternoon after the 82-millimeter mortar landed some 3,000 yards to the south of the hilltop outpost in Panjwai.

Mr. Noor, the mayor, said he had received a call later that afternoon from an informant living in the Taliban-held area that had been hit. He said the informant had told him that the mortar killed a man and wounded his brother, both members of a family with links to the Taliban, but he could not tell if they were insurgents themselves.

He said the informant had also told him the Taliban commanders had passed on a message to their fighters after the mortar hit: “Don’t fire back.”

Jim Huylebroek contributed reporting from Panjwai.

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Experts urge Americans to refinance in 2021

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She Was Imprisoned for Killing Her 4 Children. But Was It Their Genes All Along?

SYDNEY, Australia — The tabloids in Australia called Kathleen Folbigg a murderer of innocent babies — the nation’s “worst female serial killer.” In 2003, a court sentenced her to 40 years in prison for smothering her four children before each had turned 2.

But all along, Ms. Folbigg has insisted that she is innocent, and that her children were all victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Now, 90 leading scientists say they’re convinced she is right. New genetic evidence, the scientists say, suggests that the children died from natural causes, and they are demanding that she be pardoned.

In a petition sent to the governor of New South Wales last week, the group of scientists, which includes two Nobel laureates, called for Ms. Folbigg’s immediate release and an end to the “miscarriage of justice.”

The paper was published in November.

Further research into Caleb’s and Patrick’s genomes has revealed that they had a separate rare genetic variant, which in studies with mice has been linked to early lethal epileptic fits.

In all, 90 eminent scientists have agreed that the medical evidence proves Ms. Folbigg’s innocence. The signatories to the pardon petition include Dr. Schwartz; John Shine, president of the Australian Academy of Science; and Elizabeth Blackburn, a 2009 Nobel laureate in medicine who teaches at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We would feel exhilarated for Kathleen if she is pardoned,” Professor Vinuesa said. “It would send a very strong message that science needs to be taken seriously by the legal system.”

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Alaska races against time and history to fight the virus in the most remote villages.

In Alaska, where the Indigenous population has been ravaged by global disease outbreaks for generations, the pandemic has killed Alaska Natives at quadruple the rate of white residents.

The virus has taken hold in remote communities, setting up an urgent race between infections and vaccinations during a season in which weather can limit travel, the sun may only wink above the horizon, and large, multigenerational families are crowded indoors.

When the pandemic began a year ago, Alaska’s isolation was an asset that provided villages an opportunity to set up lockdowns, testing requirements and controls on travel.

But as the virus has slowly seeped across the state, the rising infections have demonstrated how quickly isolation can turn into a liability. In Pilot Station, a 37-year-old man died after weather prevented a medevac plane from reaching him. The virus has raged in some communities that have minimal sanitation, in some cases infecting more than 60 percent of residents.

Yet thanks to the steady supply of vaccines available to Native Alaska tribes and a sprawling delivery effort involving bush planes, boats, sleds and snowmobiles, 16 percent of the population has received a second dose of the vaccine, the highest in the nation. One of the regional operations, Operation Togo, harks back to the grueling 1925 sled dog run that rushed diphtheria antitoxin across the state to an outbreak in Nome.

The villages also have resources they lacked a century ago, when the 1918 flu wiped out more than half of some communities. A network of tribal health aides provide frontline health care and critical testing, treatment and telemedicine links with faraway hospitals — a network being considered for replication in the Lower 48.

But with the vaccine, there are extra challenges: Health crews must coordinate flights out to villages and arrange for someone to pick them up at the runway by vehicle or snowmobile. They need to make sure someone has started up the wood stoves to warm up the tribal halls where shots will be administered.

One team recently landed in a village as the temperature hit 61 below.

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What We Learned From Meghan and Harry’s Interview

Prince William was barely mentioned in the interview, but when he did come up, Harry said that their “relationship is space, at the moment.”

More than once, both Harry and Meghan drew distinctions between the queen and the rest of the royal family. They told stories of interacting with her during their time in London and after stepping back from their roles as senior royals. There was a decipherable shift in tone, however, when discussing others, particularly William; his wife, Kate Middleton; and Charles.

The tabloid stories came one after the other, Meghan said: About her diva-like behavior, about how she had bullied her staff, about her supposed rift with her sister-in-law, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Not only were they not true, Meghan said, but the royal family did nothing to correct them.

She came to understand, she said, that the royal family was “willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband.”

In a particularly resonant example, she said, the tabloids reported, long after her wedding, that she had made Kate cry before the lavish event over the bridesmaid’s dress that Kate’s daughter was meant to wear. In fact, Meghan said, it was Kate who made her cry.

Kate apologized and sent her flowers, Meghan said. But when the tabloid reports came out, no member of the royal family made an effort to correct the record.

“I’m talking about things that are super artificial and inconsequential,” Meghan said. “But the narrative about, you know, making Kate cry, I think was the beginning of a real character assassination. And they knew it wasn’t true.”

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Underage Marriage Set to Rise as Covid-19 Crushes Dreams

RAPTI SONARI, Nepal — Sapana dreamed of becoming a government official. Each night, in her hut along a bumpy dirt road, the 17-year-old lit a single solar-powered bulb dangling from the ceiling and hit the books, plotting out a future much different than her mother’s.

But as the coronavirus crept across Nepal, closing the schools, Sapana lost focus. Stuck in her village with little to do, she struck up a friendship with an out-of-work laborer.

They fell in love. Soon they married. Now, Sapana has given up her professional dreams, with no plans to return to school.

“Things might have been different if I hadn’t discontinued my studies,” Sapana said recently, as she sat breastfeeding her 2-month-old son on the floor of her simple home. Her family name was withheld to protect her privacy.

Child marriage is increasing at alarming levels in many places, the United Nations says, and the coronavirus pandemic is reversing years of hard-earned progress toward keeping young women in school.

In a report released on Monday, the United Nations Children’s Fund predicted that an additional 10 million girls this decade will be at risk of child marriage, defined as a union before the age of 18. Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director, said that “Covid-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse.”

forced by parents or other authority figures into marriage with older men. But child advocates also worry about the young women who, because of the pandemic’s impact, are drifting away from school and see early marriage as their only option, abandoning ambitions for an education and a better life.

Many child marriages are never registered. UNICEF estimates that 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood. Child advocates say they are seeing an upsurge in places where it has long been a problem, such as India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and Malawi, where teen pregnancies in some areas have tripled.

In Nepal, where the legal age for marriage is 20, the situation seems especially acute. Interlocking problems particular to the country and this moment make it difficult for many young women to avoid early marriage.

One of Asia’s poorest nations, Nepal relies on remittances and tourism. The pandemic has devastated both. Usually, at this time of year, foreign tourists head for the mountains to begin expensive treks into the Annapurna Range and up the slopes of Mount Everest. This year, the money that flows from them into so many layers of Nepal’s economy has all but dried up.

In 2019, Nepal earned $8.25 billion from foreign remittances. But with most of the world’s economies hurting, that remittance stream has also dwindled. Legions of young Nepali men, many of them single, have recently returned home.

Many others have lost their jobs in Nepal’s cities. A great number of young men now roam around their mountainside villages, bored and broke. That was how Sapana met her husband, Hardas.

Hardas, who said he was around 20, used to work as a traveling mason, often in cities such as Kathmandu and Nepalgunj. But after he was laid off in April, at the beginning of the pandemic, he came back to his native Rapti Sonari, a small town of about 10,000 people, 300 miles west of Kathmandu.

The houses are spread out in a maze of dirt roads beneath the hills. Most are made from mud and stone. Sapana’s father, Ram Dayal, bought an auto rickshaw right before the lockdown hit. Now he has monthly payments of 30,000 rupees, around $250, and almost no customers.

Mr. Dayal was not happy that his daughter married so young, but he conceded that her leaving the house helped ease his financial burden. He has five other mouths to feed.

“She would have had a better life if she completed 10th grade,” Mr. Dayal said.

Ghumni, his wife and Sapana’s mother, agreed. She, too, was a child bride and ended up with four children and zero education.

Activists who fight child marriage say they are working in the most difficult conditions they have ever faced, even as the problem worsens. Nepal has imposed harsh restrictions on vehicular movement. When infections surged, activists were confined indoors like everybody else. Several said that the number of child marriages in their areas had doubled or nearly doubled during the pandemic.

“We are at back to square one,” said Hira Khatri, an anti-child-marriage activist in the district that includes Rapti Sonari.

Two years ago, Ms. Khatri said, she intervened and stopped seven child marriages in her village. It did not make her popular. Many families in Nepal are eager to marry off their young daughters. Some villagers threatened to kill her, Ms. Khatri said, and they threw used condoms outside her house to humiliate her.

The police have not been much help. The officers based in villages have been much more focused on enforcing quarantine rules and keeping an eye on virus cases. Some police officials expressed a reluctance to get involved.

“These are serious criminal charges,” said Om Bahadur Rana, a police official in Nepalgunj. “If we file a case because of a child marriage, it could hurt the young people’s chance of ever getting a government job.”

Across central Nepal, many families shared stories of watching their daughters disappear into early marriages.

Mayawati, 17, who also lives in Rapti Sonari, dreamed of studying agriculture. But her family’s struggles during the pandemic made her feel guilty about being a burden to her parents. She dropped out of school, then married a man who worked as a menial laborer. Her dreams, too, have quietly slipped away.

“We have no money,” said Mayawati, whose last name was also withheld. “How was I supposed to continue my studies?”

Mayawati said that most of her friends who had married during the lockdown were now pregnant.

Some people in Nepal feel strongly about what they see as the benefits of child marriage. Several elders in the Madhesi community, based on the southern plains near the border of India, said they had falsified their daughters’ birth certificates to avoid getting in trouble.

“Marrying daughters in their young age has made me happier. It’s our practice,” said Mina Kondu, who said she recently doctored her 16-year-old daughter’s birth certificate, making her appear to be 19, which was still below the legal age but close enough, the family believed.

“The police cannot stop us,” she said.

Ms. Kondu, who lives in a village about three hours’ drive from Sapana’s, said that if the families didn’t arrange for their daughters to marry young, the daughters would do it anyway, without permission, and dishonor the family.

Sapana’s family has accepted her recent marriage. In the span of a couple months, Sapana has shifted from studying for school to taking care of her baby and her new husband.

She collects grass to feed the family’s four buffaloes.

She washes clothes.

She cooks rice and flat bread.

“I couldn’t complete my studies, that’s true,” she said. “My son will do that.”

And then she added, after a moment, “Hopefully, he will marry when he’s fully grown.”

Bhadra Sharma reported from Rapti Sonari, Nepal, and Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi.

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