New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

June 7, 2019 by  
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On Tuesday, New York lawmakers voted to ban cat declawing. If New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, cats may be packing their little suitcases and moving to the first state to protect their claws by law. “Cat declawing is a horrific, yet often practiced surgery that leads to a lifetime of pain and discomfort for thousands of cats,” Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told NPR . “Today, though, every cat and kitten in New York state lands on its feet as we prepare to make New York the best state for cats to live in the United States.” When cats are declawed, the vet removes part of the cat’s toe bones as well as the claws. Usually the surgery is only performed on the front feet, but sometimes claws are removed from all four paws. Pet owners often order this painful surgery to protect their furniture, and many command declawing as a requirement if the cat wants to live indoors. Adverse effects from declawing include back and joint problems, personality changes and litter box issues due to painful paws. Once their claws are removed, cats are unable to defend themselves nor to climb trees to escape predators, so they must stay inside forever. If the bill becomes law, the declawing procedure will still be performed for medical issues including injuries or infections. While many people and most cats were jubilant at the NY news, the bill is not without controversy. The New York State Veterinary Medical Society opposed the bill, arguing that pet owners who are diabetic, hemophiliac, immune-compromised or on immune suppressing medication are at great medical risk from cat scratches. They might be forced to relinquish their cats if declawing becomes illegal. According to the American Humane Society, about 71 percent of cats that enter shelters are euthanized. However, many other vets supported the bill, which passed on June 4, the annual New York State Animal Advocacy Day . This annual event is described on its Facebook page as “a bi-partisan event to further protect our companion pets from cruelty.” People who care more about couches than cats might consider adopting a pet rock instead. Via NPR Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Flensshot

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New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing

Invasive longhorned tick could spread disease across the U.S.

December 17, 2018 by  
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The Asian longhorned tick used to be a species only found in China, Japan, Korea and southeastern Russia, plus parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. But last year, an established population was found in New Jersey, and since then, the ticks have been found in eight other states. Because the tick is parthenogenetic — which means the females can reproduce without needing male DNA — it is possible that it will soon occupy large parts of the Pacific Northwest and the eastern U.S. “There is a good chance for this tick to become widely distributed in North America,” said Ilia Rochlin, a researcher at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology. “Mosquito control has been very successful in this country, but we are losing the battle with tick-borne diseases.” Related: Winter ticks are responsible for New England’s moose massacres The Asian longhorned tick’s ability to clone makes it possible for them to cause “massive” infestations of hosts, and Rochlin said that researchers have already seen large numbers on livestock and dogs. He added that the ticks can bite humans, pets, farm animals and wildlife . The Journal of Medical Entomology published new research about the tick last week, and even though the tick can cause infectious disease, there have not been any reported illnesses in animals or humans in the U.S. One of the diseases the Asian longhorned tick can transmit is a hemorrhagic illness called thrombocytopenia syndrome. According to the CDC , the illness recently emerged in China, South Korea and Japan. The syndrome causes severe fever, nausea, diarrhea and muscle pain. Most patients must be hospitalized, and almost a third of infected people have died. The tick can also carry other illnesses like Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Rochlin said that all of these illnesses can lead to severe disabilities. Asian longhorned ticks can spread quickly in favorable habitats. If you add that to their aggressive biting behavior and potential for carrying pathogens, Rochlin said the tick is a significant public health concern. + Journal of Medical Entromology Via CNN Image via James Gathany / CDC

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Microplastics have made their way into human poop

October 23, 2018 by  
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Each year, humans around the world produce about 882 billion pounds of plastic waste, and about 80 percent of it ends up in landfills or in the natural environment. Now, scientists are beginning to study the effects of microplastics on people, and it turns out that they are showing up in human poop after contaminating our food . Microplastics are the smallest particles of plastic waste — so small that most are invisible to the human eye. They are found in most bottled and tap water, soil and sea, rock and lake salts. Related: Study finds 90 percent of table salt contains microplastics A small pilot study being presented this week at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna, Austria looked at stool samples from eight people from eight different countries, and every sample tested positive for up to nine different types of plastic . Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environmental Agency Austria conducted the study and found an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool. “Personally, I did not expect that each sample would … [test] … positive,” said Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna and lead researcher of the study. “Is it harmful to human health? That’s a very important question, and we are planning further investigations.” In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers found that all eight samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which both make up a majority of plastic bottles and plastic bottle caps. According to NPR , each person kept a regular diet and maintained a food diary during the week before the stool samples were collected. Everyone had been exposed to plastics via beverages in plastic bottles and foods wrapped in plastic. No participants were vegetarian , and six of the eight had consumed wild fish. Schwabl said the concern is whether or not microplastics are entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system and possibly the liver. In studies of animals, microplastics have caused intestinal damage and liver stress. Now that this initial study has shown we are ingesting microplastics, two questions remain: what is staying in our bodies rather than leaving as waste, and what impact will the microplastics have on our health ? Schwabl said that he and his colleagues are applying for funding for a larger study, so they can attempt to replicate their findings. Via  NPR Image via Shutterstock

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Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

October 23, 2018 by  
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Two years ago, the Republic of Zambia in south-central Africa suspended its plans for the controlled slaughter of up to 2,000 hippos over five years following protests from animal rights activists . The country has recently revived those plans, claiming that the water levels in the Luangwa River — where most of the hippos are located — can’t support the current hippo population. According to Zambia’s tourism minister  Charles Banda, it would be too costly to move the hippos to another part of the country. Instead, the government has decided to proceed with its plans to cull the hippo population in eastern Zambia. “The South Luangwa National Park has a population of more than 13,000 hippos, but the area is only ideal for 5,000 hippos,” Banda said. Related: Hippos could be threatened with extinction due to demand for their teeth The Zambian government believes that overpopulation could threaten Zambia’s ecosystem , and Banda added that moving the hippos to other bodies of water would be “very expensive,” leaving culling as the only option. The government also insists that controlling the number of hippos in the area will stop the spread of anthrax — a bacterial disease commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa that kills animals — and the low rainfall in the region has just made the situation worse. As Reuters reports, during the summer of 2016, the British wildlife charity Born Free led a campaign against the culling of hippos and described it as trophy hunting . After the recent announcement to continue with the culling, Born Free said on its website that Zambia has not provided any solid, scientific evidence that there is actually a hippo overpopulation problem at the Luangwa River. Born Free also stated that scientific evidence suggests that culling hippos actually stimulates breeding, ultimately increasing the hippo population, which could potentially establish a “cycle of death and destruction.” Back in 2016, Born Free also questioned Zambia’s scientific rationale for killing 2,000 hippos when the population in southern Africa is around 80,000. Via Reuters and Born Free Image via Lars Plougmann and Sarah Depper

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Zambia plans to cull 2,000 hippos over the next 5 years

Scientists are launching human trials for a cancer ‘vaccine’ that cured 97% of tumors in mice

March 29, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Stanford University are currently preparing the first human test of a cancer “vaccine,” a treatment that eliminated up to 97 percent of tumors during trials with mice. Appropriately 35 people with lymphoma will begin the trials before the end of 2018. Not technically a vaccine, the new cancer treatment is a kind of immunotherapy that involves an injection of two agents directly into a tumor. These agents stimulate the production of T cells, which then fight the cancer. As promising as the treatment may be, it is still a long way from being ready for and available to the public. In mice trials, the cancer vaccine eliminated tumors in 87 out of 90 mice, all of which suffered from various kinds of cancer, including lymphoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. The vaccine proved effective even in instances when cancer had spread to other parts of the body. As exciting as this development may be, it is too early to properly evaluate. “We’ve been able to cure a lot of cancers in mice for a long time,” Dr. Alice Police, the regional director of breast surgery at Northwell Health Cancer Institute, told Live Science . Related: Scientists discover a huge new human organ hiding in plain sight Police also pointed out that since the human test only includes lymphoma patients, it will take more time and research before it can be determined whether or not the cancer vaccine is effective against other kinds of cancer in humans. Nonetheless, the cancer vaccine is a promising alternative to existing immunotherapies. “When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Stanford oncology professor Ronald Levy, MD  in a statement. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.” Via Live Science Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Scientists are launching human trials for a cancer ‘vaccine’ that cured 97% of tumors in mice

World’s largest solar energy project will be 100 times bigger than any other on the planet

March 29, 2018 by  
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200 gigawatts of solar power . $200 billion. 100,000 jobs. Those are the numbers attached to the SoftBank Solar Project, which is set to become the biggest solar farm in the world thanks to a deal signed by Saudi Arabia and Japanese conglomerate company SoftBank ‘s Vision Fund . The move could help Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter in the world, progress from fossil fuels to renewable energy . The Saudis and SoftBank, signing a memorandum of understanding, are moving forward on a massive solar development that could see hundreds of gigawatts installed by 2030. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveiled the plan earlier this week; the crown prince said, “It’s a huge step in human history. It’s bold, risky, and we hope we succeed doing that.” Related: Saudi Arabia announces plan for $500B megacity powered by renewables The project is planned for the Saudi desert, Bloomberg said. According to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it could be around 100 times bigger than the next largest proposed development, and could “more than double what the global photovoltaic industry supplied last year.” The $200 billion investment will go towards solar panels , battery storage , and a Saudi Arabia solar panel manufacturing facility, according to Reuters. The project’s initial phase will be 7.2 gigawatts and cost $5 billion. The SoftBank Solar Project could mark a huge step away from oil and towards clean energy for Saudi Arabia; Bloomberg said the country only has small-scale solar projects operating at the moment and Reuters said they obtain a bulk of their electricity via oil-fired plants even though they’re one of the sunniest countries in the world. Economist Intelligence Unit lead energy analyst Peter Kiernan told Reuters, “Saudi Arabia is clearly preparing for a post-fossil fuel dependent economy in terms of domestic energy consumption, and this huge bet on renewables would free up a lot of domestic output of oil for exports, while probably saving domestic gas resources as well.” Via Bloomberg and Reuters Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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World’s largest solar energy project will be 100 times bigger than any other on the planet

Restorative Healing Gardens take over a concrete garage rooftop in L.A.

August 15, 2017 by  
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A healing green landscape has blossomed in the place of a former concrete plaza in Los Angeles. Local firm AHBE Landscape Architects transformed a concrete site atop a multi-level garage into the new Healing Gardens for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The unique, green roof -inspired system features four distinct gardens that promote healing, health, and well being for patients, hospital staff, and visitors. Since the site was located atop a building, AHBE had to develop a multi-layered landscape solution that would protect the existing building’s structural and mechanical integrity while accommodating four lushly planted gardens. “The Cedars-Sinai Healing Garden Plaza project presented several constraints that encouraged innovative thinking,” said Calvin Abe, FASLA, RLA, who led the project team. “The terraces had previously been unused for many years. We aimed to heal the epidermis of the complex by grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” The addition of the Healing Gardens is an extension of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s mission to prioritize quality patient care. Related: Light-filled Crown Sky Garden Offers Healing Properties at Children’s Hospital in Chicago The Healing Gardens comprise four distinct gardens with carefully crafted planting palettes. The Garden of Whimsy “lift[s] and energize[s] the human spirit” with undulating planters and a sculptural pavilion by Ball Nogues Studio as the focal point. In contrast to the more active Garden of Whimsy, the shaded Blue Garden is designed for quiet meditation and features private nooks and small circular reflecting pools. The open Plaza Garden accommodates a variety of events with moveable and convertible furniture ; the space is complemented with textural plants such as agaves and succulents. The Education Garden features “adaptive natives” from non-U.S. Mediterranean climates and includes space for outdoor lectures, health fairs, and informal meetings. + AHBE Landscape Architects Images by @heliphoto.net

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Restorative Healing Gardens take over a concrete garage rooftop in L.A.

Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

March 28, 2017 by  
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Popeye was right: spinach really is good for the muscles, and not just the ones in your biceps. In fact, scientists have discovered a way to use the leafy stuff, which has a vascular system not dissimilar to ours, to grow layers of working heart muscle, according to a paper published this month in the journal Biomaterials . The new technique, a collaboration between Worcester Polytechnic Institute , the University of Wisconsin-Madison , and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro , marks a breakthrough in the field of human tissue regeneration, which has hitherto been stymied by scale. To wit, although current bioengineering methods can recreate cellular scaffolding on a large scope, fabricating branching networks of tiny blood vessels has proven far trickier. But then scientists noticed that plants and animals evolved parallel means of distributing water and nutrients to their respective cells. “Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals, and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures,” the authors wrote. “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.” To test their theory, the researchers stripped a bunch of spinach leaves of their cells, leaving behind a network of cellulose. They then seeded the spinach veins with beating human-heart cells. With the leaf fully networked, the team pumped fluids and microbeads through their pint-size proto-heart, mimicking the flow of human cells through our own arterial system. Related: Engineers build artificial muscles from onion skin and gold So far, so successful. “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” said Glenn Gaudette, professor of biomedical engineering at WPI and corresponding author of the paper. And it’s not just spinach that’s up for the job. Other decellularized plants could help deliver oxygen to damaged tissue in victims of heart attacks or other kinds of cardiac trauma. Even better, bioengineers could tweak different plant species to repair a range of tissues in the body. Spinach might work best for highly vascularized cardiac tissue, for instance, but the cylindrical hollow structure of something like jewelweed might be more appropriate for an arterial graft. Similarly, the vascular columns of wood could one day play a role in healing human bones. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field,” Gaudette added. + Worchester Polytechnic Institute Via National Geographic

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Stanford scientist develop a blood-separating centrifuge out of paper

January 12, 2017 by  
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If you were a kid before the age of smartphones, you probably played with a whirligig at least once. The design for this simple toy, which will spin twine threaded through a button at rapid speeds with only a gentle pull, inspired Stanford University researchers to create a cheap and effective medical tool for countries in need. The “paperfuge” is, quite literally, a centrifuge made out of paper . The human-powered device can separate blood in just 90 seconds and costs only $.20 to make. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPePaKnYh2I There are still many parts of the world without access to the medical technology necessary to properly diagnose and treat disease. Stanford bioengineers hope to change that by providing a cost effective centrifuge to affected regions so medical professionals can detect deadly diseases , such as malaria, HIV, African sleeping sickness and tuberculosis. With the paperfuge, there is no need for electricity, as it is powered by human touch. Related: Shining lasers on human blood could help detect tumors The engineers behind the design say the device can spin at speeds up to 125,000 rpm. The paperfuge can also exert centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs and separate blood in just a minute and a half. “To the best of my knowledge, it’s the fastest spinning object driven by human power,” said Manu Prakash, a Stanford bioengineering assistant professor. Prakash’s lab is also responsible for creating a “ foldscope ” miscroscopy instrument that costs lest than one dollar to produce and a tiny chemistry kit inspired by children’s music boxes. + Stanford University Via Stanford University Images via Youtube (screenshot)

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Stanford scientist develop a blood-separating centrifuge out of paper

INTERVIEW: Dorothy Neagle of the Good Food Jobs "gastro-job" search tool

January 12, 2017 by  
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In 2004, friends Dorothy Neagle and Taylor Cocalis Suazez created Good Food Jobs , an innovative “gastro-job” search tool, with the compelling tagline “satisfying the hunger for meaningful work.” The site offers a highly personalized support system to both employers and job seekers in every aspect of the food industry – from agriculture to education. We spoke to Dorothy Neagle, one half of Good Food Jobs, about taking a stand against unpaid internships, the vulnerability associated with job-hunting, and revolution in the food industry . Good Food Jobs is a two-woman show. The co-founders are not only good friends but also ice-cream aficionados. INHABITAT: At first glance, Good Food Jobs is a job site where people can post and find work opportunities involving food (whether it be service, production or other) in some way. Yet it is also much more than that. Can you describe the mission behind the endeavor? DOROTHY: When we started Good Food Jobs, we were creating something that we ourselves had a need for: a one-stop-shop for job opportunities that were not just related to food but were also personally fulfilling. One of our fundamental goals was to expand awareness around what a good food job was, and how working in the food industry went beyond the kitchen – that’s why we created eight categories for the jobs (Agriculture, Business, Culinary, Education, Media, Nonprofit, Production, and Other). INHABITAT: What is each of your own career trajectories? How did food, design, and values-driven initiatives intersect in each of your own paths? DOROTHY: My background is in Interior Design, and I spent my early years out of university working for an architecture firm in New York City. But I had a secondary goal in life that began to creep forward over time, a strong desire to merge environmental activism with my daily work. I quickly became unsatisfied with the client-driven goals of working in design and architecture, and I turned to food because agriculture and food culture are inherently planet-driven. Having met Taylor while studying at Cornell, we ultimately put our heads together and took the leap to start GFJ. INHABITAT: We are in an era where both the traditional workplace and the expectations of workers are changing (seeking meaningfulness in what they do, flexibility, user-friendly and collaborative, open workspaces, for example). How is Good Food Jobs disrupting the traditional job listings site and offering members (who sign up for free) more? DOROTHY: Good Food Jobs is a community space. When people find us through word-of-mouth or Google searching, they often remark that they feel as if they’ve been welcomed by something they had always yearned for but didn’t know existed. We personally answer every email in our business inbox, and we frequently catch typos and errors in job postings because we’re personally reviewing each one before we publish. We also took a stand against unpaid internships in 2014 (we no longer post them) and this year we’ve required that all employers be more transparent about the wages offered in their jobs. We make these changes incrementally as a result of feedback from our users. INHABITAT: GFJ primarily serves not only job-seekers, but also companies, institutions, restaurants and farms – to name a few. When it comes to the website design, imagery, newsletters and social media channels of GFJ, how do you reach and engage your target demographic? DOROTHY: I’m not sure what our target demographic is…human beings? Since we’ve never conducted a formal PR campaign, or placed more than an occasional advertisement, we rely on human connection to help us spread the word organically. Our daily work is basically customer service, and we take it very seriously (but not too seriously). When GFJ resonates with people, it’s because we’re identifying and opening up real conversation about some of our most vulnerable human experiences – and what makes you feel more vulnerable than looking for a job? INHABITAT: There is the perception that a GFJ job applicant likely exhibits a certain set of qualities and values. Can you speak more about your mission and your definition of a “good food job” – “a pursuit involving the efforts to nourish one’s own life, and the lives of others?” DOROTHY: Our tag line really says it all: satisfying the hunger for meaningful work. When you feel compelled to align your daily life with your deepest need for connection and fulfillment, it’s either because you are personally craving that change, or you experienced an event or situation or interaction outside of yourself that prompted the craving. Either way, doing work that is helpful to your own mind and body and spirit is inherently helpful to the mind and body and spirit of others, and vice versa. GFJ recognizes and acknowledges that need, and hopefully provides some possible avenues for meeting it. Good Food Jobs features weekly “Words of Wisdom” in its newsletters, which are downloadable via the Good Food Jobs site. INHABITAT: GFJ posts jobs from around the country and even international postings. How do you work with employers that are looking to find, via GFJ, talent with not only specific skills but maybe also a certain mindset or approach? DOROTHY: Our job posting form has built-in advice for crafting a job description that will help you to reach the kind of folks that are truly passionate and love – or want to love – what they do for a living. We offer free trials and discounted job packages, as well as standard discounts for nonprofits, small farms, and other budget-challenged businesses. We’re constantly striving to bridge the employer/employee divide by offering honest, supportive advice. INHABITAT: In recent years, in the United States there has been a huge interest in how things are made, by who, where, and by what standards-whether it be what we eat, or the textiles that we wear against our skin. Magazines like Kinfolk, Good Food Jobs, “artisanal” shops, the campaign Small Business Saturday-all seem to speak to this growing nationwide interest. What is your take on this, and how do you see this evolving, not only in places like Brooklyn, but in small towns and cities across the country? DOROTHY: I think it’s fantastic. It comes from a real place. Many businesses will jump on the marketing bandwagon, and try to ‘identify the trends’ and adjust their ‘branding’, and that can feel false at times. But regardless of the motive for increasing the sustainability of the products that affect our daily lives, the end result is positive change. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s my hope that establishing these kinds of practices will become habitual, and create a new standard of quality that we all strive for and come to expect. INHABITAT: What are some recent trends you see in the fields of agriculture and the service industry? DOROTHY: There’s an increasing need that we continue to encounter, and that is for respect and courtesy on all sides of the hiring process, in spite of the shortcuts that technology affords. I also see a tremendous opportunity to create healthier, more supportive work environments, especially with service-oriented positions that have traditionally been viewed as entry level or low/no-skill. Educating our employees through their daily work, and recognizing that we can learn from them, as well, is the key to continued growth. Agricultural work continues to be a growing field, and there are now so many more ways to get involved in fresh, local food – from urban farms to grocery delivery services to creating links between farms and restaurants, it hasn’t even begun to answer the demand that exists. INHABITAT: At a time of rapid change in the country, how do you think this will impact how we grow, market and enjoy our food? DOROTHY: It’s really hard to say, but I can tell you that in spite of the change swirling around us, our focus at GFJ remains the same: bringing people together around the shared hunger for meaningful work. I think that what we all hold constant in uncertain times is what will ultimately make the biggest personal and professional impact. + Dorothy Neagle + Good Food Jobs Photos courtesy of Good Food Jobs This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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INTERVIEW: Dorothy Neagle of the Good Food Jobs "gastro-job" search tool

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