Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bowl Games and Big (10) Data

By Jeffery Robichaud

Three of our four States have a college football team travelling to a bowl game this holiday season (Sorry Missouri, karmic payback for moving to the SEC I suppose).   Iowa State, Kansas State and Nebraska all get to take a trip someplace warmer.  Of course I type this as snow falls behind me outside the window.  I don’t watch many bowl games nowadays, but in my younger (read pre-wife and kids) days I watched way too much football.  One thing I remember from bowl games was the short infomercials about each of the schools, attempting to woo kids into thinking that Upper-Middle Northern Technical State College of the Plains was an awesome school by sharing stirring visuals of their picturesque tree-lined campus where everyone smiles and carries a handful of textbooks.  So in the spirit of sharing, I thought I might take this season to share a few of our favorite sites, where data abounds.   In order of historic bowl wins, Nebraska gets to be first.

Awesome Artistic Rendering of NE in Beef in "Beef Stakes," designed by art and technology student Sarah Hallacher

First up is the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources’ Nebraska Data Bank which is charged with developing, storing, processing and managing natural resources data relating to land and water resources of the State.  My personal favorite data set at the Data Bank is their Dams Inventory.

Next we have the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.  If you want to find a great place to camp or fish in Nebraska they have your map.  You can toggle between boating, fishing, hunting, parks, and trails by clicking on the tabs above the map.

Finally, the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, hosts quite a bit of GIS data within their School of Natural Resources.  They have some great holdings including climatology resources as do the folks at UNL’s Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies (CALMIT).  Give these folks a couple days to get over their Bowl Loss to Georgia  before you call them for further information (I’m going to take heat for this prognostication from several of my colleagues who are HUGE Big Red fans).

I know it is fun to read blogs but since it is still the season for sharing please share your favorite data sets…or how about data that is on your wish list in the comment section below.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  His Alma Mater, the University of Pennsylvania, won the Ivy League Championship yet again this year.  Go Quakers!

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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Light and Darkness, Part II

By Amy Miller

My affinity for winter’s darkness is inseparable from my love of light, including the cacophony of colored, white, LED, incandescent and just plain discordant bulbs that turn on the landscapes of New England each December.

As I drive through my bejeweled town, though, niggling questions flicker along with the icicles.

Questions like: How much does it cost to light up a house like Fenway Park? How much would a restaurant laced in traditional yellow white bulbs save by switching to the bluish and still much-reviled LEDs? How much do we spend on our decoration if we do a tree full of lights and a single outdoor strand? And most important of all, how long will it take for us to stop seeing the LEDs as cold and ugly?

Millions of lights are purchased each year and millions of dollars spent electrifying our yards. Statistics given by Dow Jones say lighting a six-foot Christmas tree 12 hours a day for 40 days can cost anywhere from $25 for the larger incandescent bulbs to under $1 for LED strands. Lighting your lawn can cost in the hundreds (or more), depending on your taste, budget and bulbs.

A typical house full-out decorated with tons of incandescent lights, motorized characters and lots of lit objects might use, say 2,500 watts, which costs 28 cents an hour. Over 40 days that would cost the homeowner with incandescent lights about $135.

But the equation changes with LED lights. Most incandescent bulbs last about 1,000 hours, while the majority of LEDs burn for 50,000 hours. And each bulb gives up to 10 times more energy. For example, the amount of electricity consumed by just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs — enough to light two 24-foot strings.

Furthermore, LEDS don’t break nearly as easily and many of them come with a three-year warranty. Oh, did I mention that LEDS stay cool, reducing the risk of fire.

So, what I really want to say to all of you – all of us – who resist the hues on the LEDs is: Get Over It!
Yes, I still have the mini incandescent bulbs on my tree. And yes, the strand was cheaper in the short-run so I was pound-foolish. But those .4-watt lights will run me 10 times as much in electric bills.

On paper, there is no comparison. Back in the real world of Main Street, however, change will be slow and creeping. Eventually, though, we will come to see the icy LED lights as just as pretty as the muddy old yellow ones.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

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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¿Planifica nuevos proyectos para el nuevo año?

Por Lina Younes

Ahora que el 2012 está llegando a su fin y el 2013 está por comenzar, quisiera compartir algunas ideas con ustedes para el nuevo año. No quisiera considerarlas como resoluciones para el nuevo año ya que éstas no suelen sobrevivir más allá del mes de enero. ¿Qué tal si nos referimos a ellas como algunas selecciones más saludables o proyectos verdes? Esencialmente, estoy pensando en acciones que conducirán a un estilo de vida más saludable a nivel personal como para todo el Planeta.

    ¿Qué le parece si dedicamos más tiempo a las cosas importantes en la vida como nuestra familia y amistades? Con demasiada frecuencia dejamos que nuestro trabajo domine nuestras vidas y estamos siempre corriendo de un lado para otro que nos olvidamos de lo que realmente tiene valor y significado en nuestras vidas.
    ¡Disfruten de las actividades al aire libre! No tenemos que vivir en un gran espacio abierto para disfrutar de la naturaleza. Dejemos por un momento todos esos efectos electrónicos que parecen dominar cada momento de nuestra vida cotidiana. Demos un paseo, visitemos un parque en nuestra comunidad, o dediquémonos a la jardinería.
    Eliminemos el desorden y cosas amontonadas de nuestras vidas. Miremos a nuestro alrededor. ¿Realmente necesitamos todas esas cosas acumuladas que tenemos en casa o en la oficina que nunca usamos? Tenemos un sitio Web con valiosos consejos acerca de qué puede hacer para en el hogar, de paseo, en la oficina o en el colegio para practicar las tres R’s: reducir, reutilizar y reciclar.
    ¿Qué tal le parece si conservamos uno de nuestros recursos más valiosos—el agua? Pasos sencillos como cerrar el grifo mientras se cepilla los dientes o tomar duchas más cortas ayudan a conservar agua.
    ¿Qué le parece ahorrar energía?  Es tan sencillo como apagar la luz cada vez que abandona la habitación. Son pasos sencillos que le permiten ahorrar dinero y proteger el medio ambiente.
    ¿Quisiera más sugerencias sobre como proteger nuestros recursos naturales y lograr una mayor participación en acciones de civismo ambiental? Recomiendo nuestro sitio Web www.epa.gov/pick5 que ofrece numerosos consejos que puede adoptar para llevar un estilo de vida más ecológico hoy y todo los días del año.

Y para cerrar, les dejo con el dicho popular de que nuestras acciones son más elocuentes que nuestras palabras. Seamos un ejemplo para nuestros hijos mediante nuestras acciones para que ellos también aprendan a ser más saludables y protectores del Planeta en los años venideros. Finalmente, les deseo de todo corazón un muy feliz año nuevo.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

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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What New Projects Are You Planning For The New Year?

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

By Lina Younes

As 2012 comes to an end and 2013 is about to begin, I would like to share some thoughts with you for the new year. I don’t want to call them New Year Resolutions because those don’t seem to survive longer than the month of January.  So, how about talking about healthier choices,  or even green projects? Essentially, I’m thinking about actions that will lead to a healthier lifestyle on the personal level and for the Planet as a whole.

  • How about dedicating more time to the important things in life such as family and friends? We often get so tied up with work and rushing from place to place that we often forget to really value those who mean the most to us in our daily lives.
  • Let’s enjoy the great outdoors!  We don’t have to live in a wide open space to enjoy nature.  So, how about get away from those electronics that seem to dominate our lives for a moment? Take a walk, visit a local park or do some gardening.
  • Let’s take the clutter out of our life! Look around you. Do you really need to keep all those things at home or in the office that you never use?  We have a great website with useful tips as what you can do at home, on the go, in the office, or at school to practice the three R’s: Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling!
  • How about saving one of our most valuable resources—water? Simple steps like closing the faucet while you brush your teeth or taking shorter showers can go a long way to conserving water.
  • How about saving energy? It’s as easy as turning off the light when you leave the room. Simple steps will allow you to save money and protect the environment.
  • Want more suggestions on how you can protect our natural resources and engage others in environmental protection in your community? I recommend our Website www.epa.gov/pick5 that has numerous tips on how you can adopt a greener lifestyle today and everyday of the year.

As the saying goes, our actions speak louder than words. Let’s lead by example so that our children may also learn how to be healthier and better environmental stewards for years to come.  And finally I would like to wish you a happy New Year!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA.

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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Tis the Season to Recycle

By Stuart Reed

As the nation’s largest seller of appliances, Sears Holdings Corp. has long championed initiatives and programs that save energy, and respect and protect the environment. That’s why, as the first and largest retail partner to join EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) program back in 2007, today we’re proud to commemorate RAD’s sixth anniversary, and celebrate RAD’s accomplishments in protecting the climate and ozone layer.

As a RAD partner, Sears is committed to providing our customers an environmentally friendly appliance disposal service, where we recycle your discarded refrigerator, freezer, air conditioner, or dehumidifier when you purchase a new one – in California, we’ll pick up your old appliances for recycling even if you don’t buy a new one. We recover the refrigerants from these old appliances and make sure they aren’t released to the atmosphere, where they could harm the ozone layer and climate system. Did you know that Americans dispose of more than 9 million fridges and freezers every year? In 2011 alone, Sears’ recycling of refrigerant, insulating foam, metals, plastic and glass helped prevent the equivalent of the greenhouse gas emissions from more than 200,000 cars for one year.
We are also proud to be an Energy Star Partner of the Year Award recipient. By buying ENERGY STAR®-qualified appliances, customers can save money on their utility bills, and become more energy efficient.

In 2010 Sears began The Big Switch, a program aimed at helping families remove and recycle 5 million older, less efficient appliances from the energy grid, with the benefits of saving energy, responsibly disposing of material and keeping it out of landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately saving families money on their utility bills.

Protecting the environment and inspiring others to do the same is a high priority for Sears. You can learn more here about how you can do your part to become more energy efficient. Changes come in all sizes, not just appliance-sized ones – if every American home replaced just one light bulb with one that has earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save about $680 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of emissions from 800,000 cars for one year. So this holiday season, whether you’re buying new appliances or just decorating your home, remember that everyone can play a role in protecting our environment.

About the author: Stuart Reed is the Senior Vice President and President – Home Services, Sears Holdings Corp.

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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Eco-Friendly Weekend Activities – Special Holiday Edition!

It’s that time of year again! We want to wish everyone a fun and sustainable holiday season. Since the world didn’t end when the Mayan calendar said it would, we compiled some extra suggestions for how to spend your time in the New York City area for the rest of December. See you next year!

Christmas Morning Bike Ride: Neither rain nor snow nor holiday will keep the Five Borough Bike Club from their ride through three states. Approximately four hours of great fun and comradeship. George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, 178th St. at Ft. Washington Ave, Manhattan, 45 miles, C-14 pace. Ride ends at the Willis Ave Bridge in the Bronx. Leaders: Jesse Brown and Rodney Millard. Call 917-578-2244 with inquiries. Tuesday, December 25, 8:30 a.m. (see link above for other options available).

Ice Skate at Van Cortlandt Park: The caption says it all! Open daily during the holiday season.

Holiday Open House at the Queens County Farm Museum: Warm up the winter season with mulled cider, tours of our decorated historic farmhouse, and craft activities for children. The event takes place from Monday, December 26th until Wednesday, December 28th and is free of charge.

Midnight Run in Central Park – Celebrate the New Year with a toast to your health by participating in a four mile annual fun run. Monday, December 31, 10 p.m.

Needlecrafts: Before video games, movies, and television, indoor games and projects helped pass the long winter days. At Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, you can try your hand at needlepoint! Wednesday, December 26, 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

Presents to the Animals – It’s the last chance to see animals at the Prospect Park Zoo pounce on their presents of treat-filled bags and boxes. Saturday and Sunday, December 29-30, 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Volunteer – For many New Yorkers, it’s been a very tough year. Rather than just donating money, there are many ways you can donate time or other services. We’ve provided several ways you can get involved to help make sure that 2013 is a better year for everyone. (Note: The following list does not reflect EPA policy or endorsement.)

City Harvest – From nutrition education to food distribution, help make sure that all New Yorkers get well fed this holiday season.

Disaster Response – New York Cares is perhaps the city’s largest volunteer organization. Check out their special activities targeted toward ongoing Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.

Friends of Firefighters – Volunteer to help firefighters and their families who may need extra support this holiday season.

Holiday Volunteer Projects – Several food prep and package delivery activities for individuals, families and large groups.

NYC Service – Launched by the mayor, this citywide initiative helps coordinate volunteer initiatives.

Occupy Sandy Recovery – Sign up for volunteer opportunities with this on the ground organization.

Red Hook Initiative – Help out in this Brooklyn neighborhood that was affected by the recent storm.

Roberto Clemente Park Cleanup – Head to the Bronx to volunteer at this ongoing park cleanup opportunity. Wednesday, January 2, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Volunteer in Staten Island – Some of the communities in Staten Island are going to be recovering from Sandy for a long time. Target your time in a hard-hit area by checking out this extensive list.

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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This Holiday Season, it Pays to be Power-Wise

Holiday Gift

By Samantha Nevels, CEA

Looking for new ways to save money on your energy bill? You’re not alone. A consumer survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) ® found that 60 percent of consumers are concerned about their electricity bills. The good news is that consumer electronics products account for only 12 to 15 percent of an average home’s energy use.  Nevertheless, every little bit of unused energy saves you money and reduces energy demand.

The first step in cutting energy costs is understanding your energy usage. CEA has made this easy through a new, interactive Consumer Electronics Energy Calculator available at GreenerGadgets.org. With a few simple steps, this calculator will estimate the amount of energy used by your consumer electronics devices. All you have to do is select which electronics devices you own and estimate how many hours per day you use them. The calculator will then determine your energy cost per month and per year, and compare your energy use to that of the average U.S. household.

Below are a few quick and easy tips that will make a difference this holiday season:

  • Give the gift that gives back. Electronics are a popular gift for the holidays, and now you can give a great gift that also gives back.  Look for the ENERGY STAR if you are purchasing electronics this holiday season. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program recognizes energy efficient products that will save you money on your electricity bill and help protect the climate.  You can find more information on ENERGY STAR certified products at www.energystar.gov.

 

  • New electronics gift? Recycle the old one. Whether you get or give an electronics gift, be sure to reuse or recycle the old one, enabling the valuable materials to be used again in new products while helping to save natural resources. Check out EPA’s e-Cycling guidance for more information. CEA also offers a  recycling site locator at GreenerGadgets.org.

 

  • Pay attention to the plug. Plug electronic devices, such as televisions, DVD players, game consoles and audio systems, into eco-friendly power strips, or unplug devices altogether when they are not in use.
  • Read the fine print. Check your electronics owners’ manuals to make sure you are taking full advantage of any energy-conservation capabilities that your devices may have.

 

With these quick and easy tips you’ll be on your way to having more money in your pocket and contributing to a better, more sustainable environment.

About the Author: Samantha Nevels is the coordinator of Policy Communications for the Consumer Electronics Association.

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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Around the Water Cooler: An Update on EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Study

By Katie Wagner

Hydraulic fracturing is a horizontal drilling technique used to release natural gas and oil from underground reserves. In 2010, natural gas provided 25% of the energy for residential and industrial use in the U.S. The country has vast reserves of natural gas and the nation’s clean energy future relies on it.

The increased production of natural gas and oil from hydraulic fracturing has led to increasing concerns about its potential impact on human health and the environment, and a topic of scientific study.

In 2010, at the request of Congress, EPA initiated a national study to understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. To establish the study’s scope and plan, EPA held multiple meetings with stakeholders as well as technical workshops with experts.

The scope of the research is focused on the five stages of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle: water acquisition; chemical mixing; well injection; flowback and produced water; and wastewater treatment and waste disposal. The study plan is designed to answer research questions through the analysis of existing data, case studies, scenario evaluations (through computer modeling), laboratory studies, and toxicological studies.

Today, EPA announced the release of its report highlighting the progress it has made to date on the hydraulic fracturing study. The progress report summarizes the current status of 18 research projects undertaken as part of the study, and provides project-specific updates that include research approach, status, and next steps.

The report does not draw conclusions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, and draft study results are expected in late 2014.

If you want to learn more about EPA’s research and download the Progress Report, look no further than EPA’s website on the Hydraulic Fracturing Study.

About the Author: Katie Wagner is a student contractor with the Science Communication Team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Help Put the “E’s” in E-Cycling

By Grace Parrish

Since childhood, recycling has been an effortless task that was part of my daily routine. Using five bins labeled: aluminum, plastic, glass, paper, and tin, I thought I was the bee’s knees when it came to being eco-friendly. During my internship at the EPA this fall, I realized that although it is beneficial to keep these items out of the waste stream, I was mistaken in thinking my responsibility ended there. I always recycled my yogurt cups, pizza boxes, and cell phone boxes, but never thought about where the phone itself ends up. My role in recycling must extend a bit further to “e-cycling,” otherwise known as the recycling of electronics.

In this era, everyone’s buzzing with the newest laptops, cell phones, TVs, cameras, you name it! I am guilty of getting caught up in this hype. As a student at the University of Maryland, I must keep up with the latest trends and I rely on my cell phone and laptop daily to receive emails, check class information, research, and of course for everyone’s favorite, Facebook.

Now I find myself questioning where these devices end up once I’m done with them. During my time with the EPA, I gained a fresh perspective on electronics beyond tearing apart the box to a new cell phone received during the holidays.

According to the EPA, we generate almost 2.5 million tons of used electronics every year in the United States. By recycling electronics, we can do our part to improve the health of our environment. E-cycling lessens pollution, shrinks landfills, saves resources from manufacturing, and conserves precious metals, including gold and silver, and other materials used in production. EPA is working with big retailers and manufacturers in its Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge to make sure they are recycling electronics in a safe and responsible manner.

So next time you bee-line it to the store for a gadget that is luring you in, think first if you really need it; when the urge inevitably takes over, rethink your options about where your previous electronics will go. Is donating to a family member, friend, or charity an option? If not, check out an electronics take-back location near you, simply visit: “Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Used Electronics?” We can do our part to put the “e’s”—electronics and environment, in e-cycling!

About the author: Grace Parrish is an intern for the EPA office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, and is intrigued by the impact of recycling electronics. She hopes that her pursuit of an Environmental Science and Policy degree at the University of Maryland, College Park will facilitate her in promoting the ideal of sustainability in a future career.

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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December 24th Geography

By Jeffery Robichaud

If you have read any of my blog articles, you know I have two rugrats.  As both a scientist and an amateur geospatial enthusiast, I often find myself in the awkward position of having to try and describe the physics of a one Mr. Pere Noel’s  trip to my boys about this time every year.  Thankfully, all sorts of films have taken a stab at trying to explain a certain flight every December 24th.  My favorite  growing up (possibly because it starred Jacklyn Smith albeit as a parka wearing mom) was “The Night they Saved Christmas,” where elf Paul Williams explained such futuristic concepts as Santa’s Reindeer Zephyr and instant People Mover as well as some gizmo that slowed time.    Last year’s “Arthur Christmas” had a more modern take.   I think we probably will never really know how Sinterklaas does it… plain old magic I suppose.

But even though every year I am unable to break down the science for my boys, I am able to help out with the geography thanks to the fine men and women at NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

 

 

If you log into the NORAD Santa Tracker website on the 24th you can track Kris Kringle across the globe.  My kids have loved it, and in my experience it has a couple of extra benefits.  First it helps to pass a day full of anticipation since if they get antsy, I ask them to go check on Santa. Second it sneaks a bit of education into a mindless winter break filled with sweets and video games.  Finally, it serves as an extra incentive to go to sleep on time as we watch Old Saint Nick creeping closer and closer to Kansas City (it’s amazing how fast they move when he hits St. Louis).  This year they have switched from Google Maps to Bing Maps so I hope everything goes smoothly.  If it crashes you can always check out Google’s own Santa Tracker (and hint…it doesn’t work properly in Internet Explorer)

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our posts these last several months on EPA’s newest blog.  Here is wishing all of you a Happy Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

Jeffery Robichaud is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  Cool gifts which Jeffery can remember Santa bringing include the Micronaut Biotron, Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer and a Playskool Holiday Inn (shameless cross-promotion and marketing before it was gauche).

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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