Monthly Archives: July 2011

FAST Autistic High School Students: Solar Power Ambassadors

By Karen Mark

As a former mentor for autistic high school students during my college years, I was thrilled to learn about the EPA’s President’s Environmental Youth Award winners from California. Independence High School teachers Tom Horton and Kevin Crosby decided to take six high functioning autistic students and apply their enthusiasm for green science and technology to good use. Being located in the sun abundant region of Bakersfield, California these students and teachers created the Falcon Autistic Solar Team (FAST).

The FAST students each built and operated a solar powered machine. The projects include models such as cars, a Lego Ferris wheel, a house with solar powered fans and light bulbs, and a cooking oven. These models are connected to solar panel arrays and are completely powered by solar or radiant energy. Autistic students learn best from visuals and performing tasks physically. By physically building the models, the FAST students gained a greater understanding of science and energy topics.

In addition to building the models, FAST students shared their science knowledge by educating elementary students and adults in Kern County, CA about solar power, photovoltaic systems, electricity, forms of energy usage, and energy conservation. These presentations did more than simply increase environmental awareness. Challenges for those with autism include social interactions and communicating with others. By presenting and answering questions, the students developed and improved their socialization and public speaking skills.

The students also appeared in local television public service announcements about energy conservation. After receiving the President’s Environmental Youth Award, they were featured in the New York Times’ Green Blog on energy and the environment highlighting their solar presentations and how they advanced environmental awareness and conservation.

I admire the commitment of the special education teachers, Tom and Kevin, to inspire and create the Falcon Autistic Solar Team. By recognizing these students’ interests and building a program to educate others, they are improving their socialization skills and preparing them for the next chapters in their lives. I can’t wait to see what they develop next!

About the author: Karen Mark is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Environmental Management and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Public Service Management.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop  Report Out From Day 2!

Teachers on the back deck learning about sampling

Teachers on the back deck learning about sampling

By Kristin TePas

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.

Science Workshop, Day#2 Report Out

Let the research begin! We did our first sampling station Thursday at the Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI) site.  The teachers rotated through each piece of sampling equipment and each gained hands-on experience helping out the scientists and marine technicians.

We first deployed the Rosette to collect water samples for water quality analysis.  The Rosette has a central cylinder where a sensor package is located and clustered around that package are sampling bottles. For more on Rosette samplers.  Water samples were collected at different, discrete depths throughout the water column. To determine the discrete sampling depths, temperature is used by measuring the thermal stratification the term for the temperature layering effect that occurs in water) of the lake. In the summer months there is a distinct warmer upper layer called the epilimnion (e.g., 12-15C) with a rapidly decreasing layer beneath leading to a uniform colder layer called the hypolimnion (e.g., 4 C).

Teacher hosing down zooplankton net

Teacher hosing down zooplankton net

We next deployed phytoplankton and zooplankton nets to collect algae and zooplankton.

Phytoplankton were collected from the upper productive layer of the water column, while zooplankton were collected throughout the water column. Scientists will analyze the abundance and composition of these communities because as the base of the food chain, they support the entire system!
We then collected sediment using a PONAR grab sampler which was named after Great Lakes scientists, Charles E. Powers, Robert A. Ogle, Jr., Vincent E. Noble, John C. Ayers, and Andrew Robertson.

This sampler allows us to examine the benthic zone, or the lowest level of the lake’s ecosystem. With these samples, grabbed

Teachers transferring zooplankton sample into bottle

Teachers transferring zooplankton sample into bottle

from the lake bottom, scientists will look at the benthic organisms that live in the sediment, total organic carbon and plastics. The collection of plastics is for Dr. Rios-Mendoza (University of Wisconsin-Superior), who is studying the abundance and composition of plastics polymers in aquatic environments.

The teachers will get plenty of experience using the equipment and processing samples as we’ll be sampling at many more CSMI sites over the next several days!

PONAR sampler

PONAR sampler

Got a question about the equipment? Then send a question to the Lake Guardian mailbag for our experts to answer!

About the author: Kristin TePas works with IL-IN Sea Grant as an outreach specialist and is a liaison to U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Enter our Photo Contest to Help Tell the Story of Sustainability in New York City

By Kasia Broussalian

“I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible”
-Richard Avedon

This quote, spoken by one of my absolute favorite photographers, has a way of resonating deep in my soul. For one short sentence, it says quite a bit. That’s what a great sentence is supposed to do, right? My becoming a photographer was an accident. For years I had wanted to be a journalist—a writer. Until a college friend handed me a camera and I thought, “Wow, I could go outside every day if I used one of these to tell stories.” Stories. That’s the other part. With a camera, I became a witness to a life so much bigger than my own. From behind the lens I had access where my ordinary eyes would not. For such a small object, a camera moves mountains.

With our New York City blog, “Greening the Apple” just launched, I wanted to share my passion for photography with others. We’ve launched a photo contest,  “A Greener Apple” Photo Contest and we hope you will all participate. The theme for the contest is, “What does sustainability look like in New York City?” Pick your best work, submit your photos easily online, and have a chance at some exposure and recognition on our blog. Photography is story-telling. Share your stories with the rest of us. The deadline for submissions is midnight, August 12, 2011 (EST).

Please read contest rules and guidelines on Greening the Apple

About the author: Kasia Broussalian is a Public Affairs intern for EPA Region 2. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at New York University, and has been with the agency since 2010.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Promoting Electronics Recycling and New Jobs

This post is cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

At the ROUND2 electronics recycling facility in Austin, Texas, American workers dismantle, sort, test and repair a steady stream of discarded printers, computers and other electronics. The millions of pounds of electronic waste that ROUND2 processes each year are kept out of landfills here and abroad, and the valuable materials in them are reused. In addition, ROUND2’s e-cycling business is also creating good jobs. The company has put several hundred people to work nationwide, and just last February the Austin facility announced plans to hire 52 more technical staff members.

Seeing the economic and environmental opportunities in e-cycling, I visited ROUND2’s Austin campus today, where I stood with Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Inc., Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, Mark Price, Vice President of Sony Electronics, and several government officials to announce the Obama administration’s National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship. To fortify the National Strategy, we also announced a commitment from Dell, Sprint and Sony to use private sector business practices that will strengthen our homegrown e-cycling industry and create jobs for American workers.

Government and industry are working together to tackle an environmental and health issue in a way that supports innovation, cuts costs and creates good jobs. It’s an important effort at an important time. Already, the United States generates some 2.5 million tons of electronic waste per year. Not only do those discarded electronics contain potentially dangerous chemicals and pollutants, they also have precious metals, rare earth materials, plastic and glass that can be recovered and recycled, reducing the economic costs and environmental impacts of securing and processing new materials for new products.

It is also critically important that we undertake this National Strategy with the active involvement of the private sector. Dell, which Newsweek ranked as 2010’s greenest company in the United States, has been a leader in responsible electronics management. Dell has worked for years to improve e-waste recovery, and also partnered with the EPA on efforts that reduced the amount of lead in their products by more than 19 million pounds. Sprint has already collected more than 25 million discarded mobile phones. Sprint has set an ambitious goal that, by 2017, they will be reusing or recycling nine phones for every 10 they sell. Sony has partnered with EPA since 2004 and collected and recycled almost 3 million pounds of used consumer electronics.
To effectively tackle e-waste, we need to think about everything from how to design more efficient and sustainable technology, to making sure consumers have widespread access to recycling drop off locations and other options for easily donating or recycling used electronics. Private sector involvement is instrumental to ensuring that the process of research, innovation, development and commercialization of a new product is not complete without also focusing on recycling.

Of course, EPA and its federal government partners have a role to play as well. President Obama has called on us — as the nation’s largest consumer of electronics — to lead by example on electronics stewardship. The National Strategy we are announcing today explains how the federal government will:
Promote the development of more efficient and sustainable electronic products;

  • Direct federal agencies to buy, use, reuse and recycle their electronics responsibly;
  • Support recycling options and systems for American consumers; and
  • Strengthen America’s role in international electronics stewardship.

The success of ROUND2 is just the beginning of creating jobs by increasing electronics recycling nationwide. The leadership of President Obama on this issue — combined with the commitments of companies like Dell, Sprint and Sony- – sends a very strong signal about the bright future of the e-cycling industry in this country. Fostering the growth of a market for electronics recycling can help American companies create good jobs in a field that supports cleaner communities today, and a cleaner future tomorrow.

The history of protecting our health and our environment is a history of innovation. Better ideas and new products have helped make almost everything we do cleaner, healthier and more energy-efficient. That history has also shown us that the engines of our economy run best when they run clean.
The National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship is another chapter of that history, in which environmental protection, innovation, and economic growth work hand in hand.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Urban Waters – So Fresh and So Clean

By Kasia Broussalian

After nearly an hour of splashing through, around, and over the fountain in Washington Square Park, a young boy takes a break to “dry off,” as he termed it, on the side. Even at 9 a.m., the humidity and heat made the cool water a welcome relief.

Nearly 6,000 pipes, aqueducts, and tunnels carry roughly a billion gallons of water a day throughout the five boroughs of New York. To monitor the quality, the city has almost 1,000 sampling stations that test directly from the pipes. Scientists conduct more than 250,000 tests a year, looking over a spectrum of 250 possible contaminants.

Today, New York City’s water supply mainly comes from three systems to the north that together cover an area of 2,000 square miles—almost the size of the state of Delaware. The reservoirs created by the state over the past 200 years have a storage capacity of 550 billion gallons of water, and much of the water reaches homes and businesses in the city through pipes and gravity alone. Because the city’s watershed area remains one of the largest protected wilderness areas in the United States, the natural filtration process remains, making New York City one of five cities in the country with drinking water pure enough to only require chlorination to maintain purity from the tap in normal circumstances.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop: Things I’ve Learned This Summer

By Maggie Sauerhage

Things I’ve learned this summer: Lake Superior is ENORMOUS, spanning 31,700 square miles; the Lake hosts a variety of unique habitats and biodiversity; and finally, cell phone reception on the Lake can be lousy.

As an EPA intern in the nation’s capital, I’ve been remotely assisting in communicating a science education workshop on Lake Superior.  I’ve  been lucky enough to have scientists, education experts and Lake Guardian crew members fill my brain with knowledge about lake science, science education and what life is like on a 180-foot-long research vessel.

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.

EPA’s Joel Hoffman, head scientist for the workshop, explained the variety of unique habitats surrounding the Great Lakes. From urban areas to places that are extremely remote, coastal zones are reflective of water quality in the Lake. Joel and other scientists are working with educators to measure water quality around the Lake.

EPA is measuring water quality and health indicators in the Great Lakes as part of new scientific standards established to assess ecosystem health of all five lakes. This data will create a record that scientists can use to determine how the lakes are doing and where they might need help. Listen to my podcast with Joel to learn more.

Minnesota Sea Grant’s Cindy Hagley is helping educators in the Workshop transform the science they are learning into teaching materials. Teachers can share videos, photos, and data from the Workshop with their students. Read about the educators’ daily experiences here.

Lake Guardian crew member Amy Jo Strange spends a large part of the year floating on the Great Lakes on the vessel. While one of her most important jobs during the workshop is to keep the educators safely on deck, she enjoys sharing her passion for the Great Lakes.

I’ve really enjoyed learning about Lake Superior and the Great Lakes through the Workshop, and speaking with the many people involved has sparked my interest in Lake Superior science! If you have questions for the scientists and others onboard, please submit them here and check back to see the answer!

I’m excited to follow the scientists, educators and all those onboard during this week and next, and I hope you’ll come along!

About the author: Maggie Sauerhage is a summer intern in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Maggie is a senior at Indiana University majoring in Spanish.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Witnessing History In The Making

By Lina Younes

Just recently, I had the opportunity to witness a historic event, the launch of the final space shuttle mission Atlantis, STS-135. My husband, my youngest daughter and I traveled to Florida to participate in several launch activities tied to the shuttle’s final voyage. We visited the Shuttle Landing Facility, Vehicle Assembly Building, the Orbiter Processing Facility, the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the Launch Pad, and spoke with an astronaut and many individuals who had been working at the Kennedy Space Center since the beginning of the shuttle program. In spite of some weather challenges, Atlantis was able to launch on July 8th as planned. It landed safely on July 21st nearly 42 years to the day when astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the Moon.

Prior to the launch, I was excitedly giving the history of the space program to my youngest in an effort for her to capture the significance of the event. As a person who actually remembers watching the first lunar landing on TV, I’ve always been in awe of space exploration. However, I quickly noticed that my daughter didn’t seem to share my excitement. She didn’t verbalize exactly it, but in spite of my explanations, she was looking at me like, “Ok…so?” That made me realize how much we take space exploration and related technologies for granted.

During the thirty years of the shuttle program, Atlantis and the other three NASA space orbiters conducted numerous experiments in space. They helped assemble and supply the International Space Station, serviced the Hubble Space Telescope, launched and serviced satellites, including many that help us gain a better understanding of our Planet Earth and our terrestrial environment. Many people do not realize that space exploration actually has an impact on our daily life and has led to green-related spinoffs technologies developed by NASA research.

As we move to a new era in space exploration, I sincerely hope that our youth will become excited about earth and space sciences so they will help protect our world, here and beyond.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

La dicha de presenciar un momento histórico

Por Lina Younes

Recientemente tuve la oportunidad singular de presenciar un evento histórico, el lanzamiento de la última misión del transbordador espacial Atlantis, STS-135.  Mi esposo, mi hija menor y yo viajamos a Florida para participar en varias actividades relacionadas al viaje final del transbordador espacial. Visitamos la instalación de aterrizaje, el enorme edificio donde se ensambla el transbordador, la instalación de procesamiento, y la pista de lanzamiento donde estaba el transbordador horas antes de partir. También hablamos con una astronauta y muchos individuos que habían trabajado en el Centro Espacial Kennedy desde los inicios de programa. Pese a los retos climatológicos, Atlantis pudo despegar el 8 de julio como planificado. El aterrizaje final se produjo el 21 de julio que el día siguiente del 42mo aniversario de la primera vez que el astronauta Neil Armstrong caminara en la luna.

Antes del lanzamiento, traté de ofrecerle a mi hija menor un recuento histórico del programa espacial a fin de que ella pudiera entender el significado del evento. Como alguien que se recuerda de haber visto por televisión el primer alunizaje, siempre me ha fascinado la exploración espacial. Sin embargo, rápidamente me di cuenta de que mi hija no parecía compartir mi entusiasmo. Ella no lo dijo exactamente, pero pese a mis explicaciones, ella me miraba como diciendo “bueno, ¿y qué?” Eso me hizo realizar cuánto tomamos por sentado la exploración espacial y tecnologías relacionadas.

Durante los treinta años del programa del transbordador espacial, Atlantis y las tres otras naves de NASA efectuaron numerosos experimentos en el espacio. Con estos transbordadores se ensambló y abasteció a la Estación Espacial Internacional. Se reparó el telescopio espacial Hubble. Se lanzaron y repararon satélites, incluso muchos que nos han ayudado a obtener un mejor entendimiento de nuestro Planeta Tierra y ambiente terrestre. Muchas personas no se dan cuenta de que la exploración espacial ha tenido repercusiones directas en nuestras vidas cotidianas y ha conducido a tecnologías beneficiosas para el medio ambiente debido a la exploración de NASA.

A medida que avanzamos hacia una nueva era en la exploración espacial, abrigo las esperanzas de que la juventud se entusiasme y curse estudios en las ciencias ambientales y espaciales para así proteger nuestro mundo hoy y en el futuro.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Upcoming Weekend Activities: Don’t let the heat beat you!

Grab your sunscreen and fill up your water bottle. There’s plenty of outdoor activity going on this weekend in the City. Here are a few ideas to get you out off the couch!

Yoga — Beginner Hatha Yoga class will teach one how to relax and open up your body, mind and spirit tought on Rockaway Beach. Bring a mat or large towel or blanket. Saturday, July 23 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday Morning Group Run — The Van Cortlandt Track Club runs through and around the Yonkers-Bronx border in small groups. Join them this Saturday morning and start your weekend on the right track! Saturday, July 23 at 8:00 a.m.

Health and Race Walking — If walking is more your speed, coach Lon Wilson of the New York Walkers Club leads walks at a moderate to brisk pace through some of Central Park’s lush landscapes. Saturday, July 23 at 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Fort Tryon Park Beautification Days — Feel passionate about Fort Tryon Park? Help make the park even more beautiful by participating in a park beautification day. Tools, gloves, and refreshments will be provided. Sunday, July 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Green Currency: Plants in the Economy — A new exhibition of botanical art seeks to enrich visitor’s understanding of the important issues of plants through depictions by some of the world’s most accomplished botanical artists. Held at the New York Botanical Gardens in The Bronx. Sunday, July 24 at 10:00 a.m.

Family Art Project: Shades of Summer/Tonos del verano — Create your own custom sunglass to feat your eyes on lush gardens and river scenery, through rose (or blue or green or purple) colored glasses at Wave Hill. Free with admission to the grounds. Sunday, July 24 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Basic Canoeing — New York’s Urban Park Rangers will lead you on a canoe adventure in Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island — one of the City’s 51 Forever Wild Nature Preserves! Sunday, July 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Lake Guardian: Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop Day 1 Wrap Up!

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.

Science Workshop, Day#1 Wrap up

Wednesday we officially kicked-off the science education workshop on the Lake Guardian Research Vessel! Our educators arrived by plane and car from across the Great Lakes – New York to Minnesota. For those who have not been on a large lake or to sea on a large research vessel, it’s hard to describe your first impression. You enter the R/V Lake Guardian from the back deck, walking a gang plank from the shore on to the working portion of the vessel. A massive, black steel tower, called an A-frame, and a number of large cables and winches, take up the better portion of your view. These are the mechanical systems used to lower various sampling gears hundreds or thousands of feet down into the lake. You can’t see the front of the boat. The three decks stretch to the sky, over the top of which you can see the diesel stacks. There is a constant hum and vibration when you stop onboard. This is the sound of the engine idling, providing power to the ship.

After settling in, the educators spent the afternoon at the Great Lakes Aquarium while the scientists aboard the ship prepped the biological and chemical labs, as well as readied their field sampling equipment, for use. We brought onboard science equipment including two special nets that are pulled behind the vessel – a manta trawl for sampling plastics and a tucker trawl for sampling fish larvae.  Also a variety of microscopes with cameras attached for photographing, counting and measuring organisms. A special sensor was brought that can quickly determine the different types of algae present in the lake. And a great deal of filtering equipment was brought along for water quality sampling. We will blog more on the science equipment as we go along.

Tomorrow we run out to Stony Point to intercept a remote sampling vehicle that “flies” through the water by itself, taking measurements of the lake’s physical and chemical characteristics, such as temperature and color. It has been sampling for the past two days across the western arm of Lake Superior, taking continuous measurements. From there, we will head back towards Duluth for our first official Year of Lake Superior sampling site as part of the Coordinated Science and Monitoring Initiative. This will be our first major science station for the cruise.

Group of teachers at the Great Lakes Aquarium working on their first assignment - concept mapping.

Group of teachers at the Great Lakes Aquarium working on their first assignment - concept mapping.

The first day of the cruise is always tough and exciting. Tough because there are many preparations to be made, exciting because Thursday, we will push away from the dock, say farewell to land, and go to work.

About the author: Dr. Joel Hoffman is a research biologist in EPA’s Mid-Continent Ecology division, and. the head scientist for the 2011 Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline workshop on Lake Superior.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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