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How Worried Should We Be About Fukushima Dai ichi Nuclear?
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Black_Beer_Man



Joined: 26 Mar 2013
Posts: 224
Location: Yokohama

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 2:56 am    Post subject: How Worried Should We Be About Fukushima Dai ichi Nuclear? Reply with quote

A friend emailed me this video. If it's true, why aren't more people talking about this?

http://youtu.be/kAMmE3BMtkE
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Big_H



Joined: 21 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In very simple terms because the problem is a good deal worse than what TEPCO or the Japanese government are willing to admit.

For instance they may be making publicity that hallows their effort to remove some of the spent fuel rods. While it is an accomplishment, it is by no means related to the core issue, which is the molten fuel underground that they keep cooling down with hundreds of tons of water everyday.

The amount radiation in the first three reactors is so high that the underground area is inaccessible and the technology to clear it or make it a safe zone for humans to do some damage-control does not exist, yet.
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PO1



Joined: 24 May 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's scary, sure. It's covered up, maybe so. But what can we do as normal people, most who are probably not Japanese citizens? Not much of anything. It's good to be informed, but I feel that the only true option is to stay and hope for the best or leave and hope for the best. It's truly out of our control. Even if more people talk about the issue and become informed, is that really going to change the way TEPCO or the government is handling things? I would hope so, but I'm not holding my breath.

As someone who has family in Fukushima (outside the major radiated uninhabitable zone) I always hope for the best with at least some inkling that things will be contained at the very least. If you really want to make a change to how these things are happening, contact nuclear watchdog groups that can make a difference somehow.
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TokyoLiz



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1088
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michio Kaku and Helen Caldicott are media celebrities before they are scientists. To say they exaggerate is an understatement.

The truth is Fukushima is a disaster that will have consequences for generations, and thousands of years. As other posters mentioned, government and corporate ineptitude and cover up have made it harder to understand what is happening up there.

I suggest you read level-headed sources -

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/08/130807-fukushima-radioactive-water-leak/

Canadian environmentalist and scientist David Suzuki's website -
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/search/?q=fukushima&x=0&y=0[/quote]
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Black_Beer_Man



Joined: 26 Mar 2013
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Location: Yokohama

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TokyoLiz wrote:
Michio Kaku and Helen Caldicott are media celebrities before they are scientists. To say they exaggerate is an understatement.
[/quote]

I agree with you about Michio Kaku. He should be called "Qwack-ku" because I've heard him make some pretty outrageous predictions about future technologies. Helen Caldicott, on the other hand, has the credentials to support her opinions. She's a highly esteemed doctor.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 1027
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 10:40 am    Post subject: Re: How Worried Should We Be About Fukushima Dai ichi Nuclea Reply with quote

I think people aren't discussing it because it's already been talked about ad nauseum. If every piece of junk about Fukushima got posted here, there'd be no space for discussing English teaching jobs.

The video is intensely alarmist. There's a problem, sure, but nowhere near as bad as this video suggests.

The Australian woman is talking crap -- or perhaps she's being quoted out of context. In particular, the "all radiation, no matter how low the dose, can give you cancer" claim is completely unsubstantiated. All we know at the moment is that, if there is an effect for low doses of radiation, it's so small as to be epidemiologically undetectable. In other words, even if the claim turns out to be right, it's not exactly a significant public health issue.

I don't have the sources to hand but, if memory serves, according to the best estimates (i.e. ones where they actually show their working out rather than just pulling numbers out of their rear ends) something like 100 to 1000 people will have their lives shortened by the radiation released by Fukushima. As you'd expect, most of those unfortunate people live(d) in the most heavily contaminated areas, very close to the plant.

This means that, for instance, the shot of Shimbashi Station in Tokyo while that woman talks about leukaemia is totally inappropriate. An elementary school in Fukushima would be more appropriate (because kids are much more vulnerable).

The comparison with Chernobyl is disingenuous. It's worse than Chernobyl only in the sense that Fukushima was a bigger plant, with more radioisotopes on site. But Chernobyl was a massive explosion (much bigger than the hydrogen / air explosions at Fukushima) that released huge amounts of radioactive iodine high into the atmosphere. It even contaminated parts of the UK; they've only just been declared safe for raising livestock for human consumption. Fukushima was nothing like that bad. I mean ... sure, you can detect elevated levels of radionucleotides in fish being pulled out the sea, but it's still well below the levels generally accepted as safe.

Which is not to deny that there's a problem. The site is not stable, and I am more than willing to believe that TEPCO still haven't come clean about the severity of the problem. (My step-father in England knew about how bad the contaminated water problem was six months before I did, because his co-workers in the chemical industry had been consulted about the problem.) Personally, what concerns me most, is the broken safety culture in the nuclear industry. Fukushima is just one in a long line of shameful nuclear safety incidents, and it's clear that they are incapable of learning from their mistakes.

And, yes, the operation to move out the rods (which is underway now) is scary. I honestly don't know what the worst case scenario is, but I certainly wouldn't look to that video for answers.


----
EDIT

I should add that there is, in fact, some seafood considered unfit for human consumption. The sea creatures that permanently live in the mud right next door to the plant are not for the nabe!


Last edited by Pitarou on Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:19 am; edited 4 times in total
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
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Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Black_Beer_Man wrote:
Helen Caldicott, on the other hand, has the credentials to support her opinions. She's a highly esteemed doctor.
I'm with TokyoLiz on this.

Helen Caldicott is a paediatrician with a bee in her bonnet about nukes. If she published a paper about the effects of radiation on children in a respectable peer-reviewed medical journal, I'd consider it as having some weight. For anything else, she's just Joe Public.
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Black_Beer_Man



Joined: 26 Mar 2013
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like your balanced answer Pitarou. Thanks.
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Harp



Joined: 09 Jan 2014
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Location: As far north as you can get, before you hit Saitama

PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oxford University professor of Physics Wade Allison came to Japan before Christmas to give a lecture to the British Chamber of Commerce about Fukushima, radiation and the like, a short review of which can be seen here
https://www.bccjapan.com/news/2013/12/nuclear-better-and-safer-fire/

His basic gist is that yes, Fukushima was a disaster but it was made far worse by the media reaction afterwards. I didn't agree with everything he said and he did come across as a standard bearer for the nuclear industry, but he did give lot of data and figures regarding radiation that as a scientist must, I would think, stand up to review.

His website is here
http://www.radiationandreason.com/

And a PDF of his talk is here
http://www.radiationandreason.com/uploads//enc_BetterThanFire.pdf
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Big_H



Joined: 21 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Black_Beer_Man wrote:
I like your balanced answer Pitarou. Thanks.

I agree that the video is biased, but I think one should focus more on the realistic facts it offers and make some deductions from them; not its exaggerations.

From what I understand from that clip, my basic education in nuclear engineering -and some MGS games-, it's that exposure to radiation has a cumulative effect and that it takes years to develop symptoms of thyroid cancer. Add to it incidences like cases of radioactive seafood, minimal traces being detected on the US west coast and the reservoir leaks of contaminated cooling water in the plant's site to draw some long-term conclusions. Where hardcore environmentalists would conclude pending apocalypse, I would say these are warning signs for the government to rethink how they're approaching the issue.

Which brings me back to the point of the molten fuel down there (i.e. not the fuel rods) and the undeniable fact that all Japanese efforts to deal with it right now are "hang in there" tactics. In TEPCO's defense, they're not exactly in a trial-and-error situation and they realize the severity of the consequences if they use the wrong ways, or make mistakes while applying the most reasonable method and they have to deal with that fact looming over their head on a daily basis. On the other hand, while I don't mind it, I'm still willing to admit that we as a global civilization deal with long term global disasters in a very poor way in comparison to the immediate ones.

The worst case scenario imo would be an unpreventable act of nature -likely an earthquake- stepping in to give them a panic attack but not cause another disaster per se. This would be the "slap in the face" that the officials need to come clean and cooperate with the rest of the world more seriously in dealing with this matter.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big_H wrote:
Black_Beer_Man wrote:
I like your balanced answer Pitarou. Thanks.
I agree that the video is biased, but I think one should focus more on the realistic facts it offers and make some deductions from them; not its exaggerations.
I don't think you should treat the video as a source of facts at all.

The video was made to draw attention to an issue. It succeeded in its aims -- we're talking about it, aren't we? -- but I encourage you to seek the facts elsewhere.
Quote:
From what I understand ... exposure to radiation has a cumulative effect
For high doses, yes, that's the case. We usually extrapolate that model down to the low doses (it's called the 'linear no-threshold model'), but in truth we just don't know, because the effects are too small to detect easily.

My take on it is: if the effects are too small to measure, they're not worth worrying about.

By the way, it may interest you to know that there's even a hypothesis that bringing your accumulated radiation dose way down could harm for your health. That's not as crazy as it sounds. Life evolved in an environment with a certain level of background radiation, and is optimised for that environment. Take the radiation away, and who knows what will happen?
Quote:
Where hardcore environmentalists would conclude pending apocalypse, I would say these are warning signs for the government to rethink how they're approaching the issue.
I think that's a reasonable conclusion.

One big difference between Chernobyl and Fukushima was that Chernobyl had the whole resources of the USSR thrown at it. E.g. check out this contaminated vehicles graveyard. Whereas Japan seems more interested in hosting the Olympics....
Quote:
The worst case scenario imo would be an unpreventable act of nature -likely an earthquake- stepping in to give them a panic attack but not cause another disaster per se. This would be the "slap in the face" that the officials need to come clean and cooperate with the rest of the world more seriously in dealing with this matter.
So you don't think they'd say, "Don't worry. It's all perfectly safe in our hands. We had some anxious moments, to be sure, but it worked out okay."

To be fair to Japan's nuclear industry, I should point out that there's at one place where they got it right. The Onagawa plant, which was even closer to the epicentre of the earthquake than Fukushima, was well-protected by its 14m high tsunami-wall, and achieved a cold-shutdown without problems. (Well, except for one radiation false-alarm, which turned out to be Fukushima fallout.)
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Big_H



Joined: 21 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou wrote:
I don't think you should treat the video as a source of facts at all.
-- but I encourage you to seek the facts elsewhere.

There is a difference between using the video as a source of facts and noting the facts that it mentions that have their own reliable sources, and I meant the latter term. To be even more specific, I'm referring to the undeniable events like the hazardous seafood -within certain areas- and the water leakage. And I call them facts and undeniable simply because there aren't any reliable resources that rebuke them.

Pitarou wrote:
Big_H wrote:
From what I understand ... exposure to radiation has a cumulative effect
For high doses, yes, that's the case. We usually extrapolate that model down to the low doses (it's called the 'linear no-threshold model'), but in truth we just don't know, because the effects are too small to detect easily.

My take on it is: if the effects are too small to measure, they're not worth worrying about.

..Life evolved in an environment with a certain level of background radiation, and is optimised for that environment. Take the radiation away, and who knows what will happen?

That doesn't add up, none of this refutes that exposure to radiation is cumulative, even the LNT model. All it says is that we're guessing that people are "ok" if we can't measure their low levels of radiation. I've reviewed the EPA website to make sure I wasn't babbling based on a misconception and surely enough, they mentioned Stochastic Health Effects in there(reference: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/health_effects.html)
EPA's website wrote:
Stochastic effects are associated with long-term, low-level (chronic) exposure to radiation. ("Stochastic" refers to the likelihood that something will happen.) Increased levels of exposure make these health effects more likely to occur, but do not influence the type or severity of the effect...
(the article then continues to explain that primary effects are cancer and DNA mutation risks)

I'd hate to look at one of the victims in the eye, two decades from now while they're balding and internally bleeding, and say "According to this thing, we can't measure your radiation level so you're perfectly fine. Now leave this hospital and stop wasting our time".
I agree that we've always been exposed to minimal levels of radiation from the environment, but we never had the added bigger doses from coming in contact with contaminated sea water or consuming radioactive sushi to elevate our "normal" levels; and having to deal with that threat for a long term would set the stage for these Stochastic health effects. And that is exactly my point.

edit:
Pitarou wrote:
Big_H wrote:
The worst case scenario imo would be an unpreventable act of nature -likely an earthquake- stepping in to give them a panic attack but not cause another disaster per se. This would be the "slap in the face" that the officials need to come clean and cooperate with the rest of the world more seriously in dealing with this matter.
So you don't think they'd say, "Don't worry. It's all perfectly safe in our hands. We had some anxious moments, to be sure, but it worked out okay."

I agree, unless that warning sign included a dozen -unfortunate- casualties or was something along the scenario of: earthquake-> a strong source of radiation finds its way out of the ground or the water reservoirs-> a few unaware civilians are exposed to the high doses of radiation and develop visible symptoms for the public to see.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 1027
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Big_H wrote:
Pitarou wrote:
I don't think you should treat the video as a source of facts at all.
-- but I encourage you to seek the facts elsewhere.
There is a difference between using the video as a source of facts and noting the facts that it mentions that have their own reliable sources, and I meant the latter term.

Sure, but an unashamedly alarmist source is going to cherry-pick its facts. A simple fact-check isn't enough. You have to get a broader picture.
Quote:
...I call them facts and undeniable simply because there aren't any reliable resources that rebuke them.

(You mean "refute", right?)

If you call something "an undeniable fact" just because nobody can prove it wrong ... well ... any prosecution lawyer would love to have you on the jury. But you're also going to get into some terrible muddles. Here's an example:
Big_H wrote:
Pitarou wrote:
Big_H wrote:
From what I understand ... exposure to radiation has a cumulative effect
For high doses, yes, that's the case. We usually extrapolate that model down to the low doses (it's called the 'linear no-threshold model'), but in truth we just don't know, because the effects are too small to detect easily.

My take on it is: if the effects are too small to measure, they're not worth worrying about.
That doesn't add up, none of this refutes that exposure to radiation is cumulative, even the LNT model.

There were two things you misunderstood:

- I did not say the exposure is too small to detect. That's not true. A cheap high-sensitivity dosimeter would do the trick. I said that the effects of the exposure (on people's health) is too small to detect.

- I was not refuting the Linear No Threshold Threshold / cumulative dose model (roughly speaking, they're the same thing).

So what was I saying? Well, lets refer back to the EPA website you quoted.
Quote:
There is no firm basis for setting a "safe" level of exposure ... [because it is] extremely difficult to isolate its stochastic effects. In setting limits, EPA makes the conservative (cautious) assumption that any increase in radiation exposure is accompanied by an increased risk of stochastic effects.

Some scientists assert that low levels of radiation are beneficial to health (this idea is known as hormesis).

In other words, the EPA doesn't know whether the LNT / cumulative effects model is correct or not, because the effects are too small to detect. The EPA concedes that it might even be possible that a little bit of radiation is good for you!

Which is what I said.

And if I worked at the EPA, I would probably use the LNT model too. But I don't. My job is to teach English, not worry about the public health effects of tiny quantities of Americium in smoke detectors. So my attitude is: if the effects are too small to detect, they're too small to worry about.
Quote:
we never had the added bigger doses from coming in contact with contaminated sea water or consuming radioactive sushi to elevate our "normal" levels

What "big added doses"? How big are the doses you're talking about? What are the expected health effects, in terms of cancer risk?

You don't have those figures? Didn't the video give you them? Why not? If there were some really scary figures available, why aren't they screaming them from the rooftops? Makes you think, doesn't it? Well ... it makes me think.
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Big_H



Joined: 21 Dec 2013
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good sir, repeating yourself and reminding me that the video isn't objective isn't doing you any good; we have already established that. I encourage you to focus more on the facts that I chose to post here and to repeat to you because the clip mentions them. Also, you thought -or misunderstood- that I use the video as a reference then that I'm basing my concerns and perspective only on what it shows; both those claims are wrong. Yet to this point, you have failed to mention even once in your posts the core issue I presented, which is the hazard of the molten fuel and the three missing reactor cores, let alone you producing any sources that contradict their potential severity or even offering your personal opinion on them -You mentioned your view on what undeniable facts are though-. So I am interested to know your estimation at least; What do you think is the severity of having molten radioactive fuel underground in Fukushima?

And while we're at it; if you are more keen to better understand my concerns rather than relating them to the exaggerations, check out this reliable Japan Times' article, it's an entertaining read rich with corroborated events to reinforce its viewpoint throughout:
http://science.time.com/2013/05/01/leaks-rats-and-radioactivity-why-fukushimas-nuclear-cleanup-is-faltering/

Pitarou wrote:
There were two things you misunderstood...
Quote:
There is no firm basis for setting a "safe" level of exposure ... [because it is] extremely difficult to isolate its stochastic effects.


...And if I worked at the EPA, I would probably use the LNT model too. But I don't. My job is to teach English, not worry about the public health effects of tiny quantities of Americium in smoke detectors. So my attitude is: if the effects are too small to detect, they're too small to worry about.
we never had the added bigger doses from coming in contact with contaminated sea water or consuming radioactive sushi to elevate our "normal" levels


I'm glad that you considered my website reference, but it isn't exactly a point in your favor. Because if qualified professionals can't in good conscious dissociate low levels of exposure from the health effects, not only because they can't trace the illness' cause to its individual reason but also cause
Big_H wrote:
From what I understand.. it takes years to develop symptoms of thyroid cancer.

Experience has taught us -in painful ways- that there are symptoms that we can't measure until the future, and presently, we are dealing with a host of possible causes of these symptoms and these causes themselves cannot be assessed properly, but can't be ruled out either.
I've tried to understand things from your perspective, but the 2 lines above lead to this: According to your reasoning and the lines above, Do you think that the EPA's cautious approach is an exaggeration (which means risking human casualties and adapting to your losses as you go)? Or that it is the sensible approach given the vast number of unknown variables (which means overestimating the problem to a reasonable degree until the variables and their risks can be decently estimated)

So again, I hope that whatever conclusion you draw makes you more aware than to make similes between a smoke detector and:
- a country prone to earthquakes
- that has hundreds of gallons of contaminated water leaking into its sea on a daily basis (and will keep doing so until 2015 at least)
- that also has hundreds more used to cool down explosion-prone reactor cores
- the cores themselves are missing but officials say they pour the water where they "think" they are (and are periodically repositioned by witnessing any emerging steam)
- the hundreds of gallons of cooling water is stored in low quality reservoirs that have leaked massively before
- contamination includes diluted plutonium, tritium and strontium, much more severe radioactive materials as opposed to poverty Americium
- All the reports of the "overall contamination" that resulted from the disaster are little more than speculations and estimations, and it applies to this day that the figures have no reliable way to be measured properly.
- threats of contamination are beyond visible control or an effective quarantine, and their symptoms are detectable only in the long term.

So to give my answer to this thread's question -for the first time-:
Should all these scary points give us a reason to panic, no. But as you agreed with me earlier, one needs to be aware that these warning signs are reasonably setting the stage for a not-so-promising future, especially with the possible shortcomings of the tightly knit power tycoons and government officials. Keep in mind that I never once referred to any immediate danger with the exception of possibly mishandling the molten fuel.

Pitarou wrote:
Quote:
Some scientists assert that low levels of radiation are beneficial to health (this idea is known as hormesis).

The EPA concedes that it might even be possible that a little bit of radiation is good for you!

Which is what I said.

Again, that is another point that we've already established Pitarou; and an irrelevant one at that too, because no one in this thread is discussing the need for "absolute absence of nuclear radiation".

Pitarou wrote:
What "big added doses"? How big are the doses you're talking about? What are the expected health effects, in terms of cancer risk?You don't have those figures? Didn't the video give you them? Why not? If there were some really scary figures available, why aren't they screaming them from the rooftops? Makes you think, doesn't it? Well ... it makes me think.


The doses that have never been dumped from a nuclear plant into the sea before. If the IAEA and TEPCO aren't able to this day to determine the doses' size then neither will I, but neither of us will have the lack of reason to out-rule either that the radioactive water leaking into the sea in immense amounts is likely due to underground water that came in contact with the radioactive mess first.
No one has those figures you mention, so let's compare our conclusions based on that fact:

Your conclusion: "If the effects are too small to detect, they're too small to worry about"

My conclusion and reply: " I would say these are warning signs for the government to rethink how they're approaching the issue."
At this time your claim may be true, but to use that conclusion for the long term (i.e. long enough to confirm symptoms of radioactive exposure), given -or rather ignoring- all the points I presented would be just ridiculous.
Would you be able to say the same about my conclusion? (I'll ignore that you've agreed with it earlier)
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 1:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, but I can't follow the point of your argument any more. You just seem to be rambling. Some of what you wrote (e.g. your references to Americium) is so off-beam that it's not clear you even understood what you were responding to.

If you try to be more focussed and concise, I'll get back to you.
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