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Manchin’s opposition attempts to drown Biden budget candidate

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Manchin’s opposition attempts to drown Biden budget candidate

 

The appointment of Neera Tanden to head the White House Office of Management and Budget was thrown in doubt Friday as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia became the first Democratic lawmaker to oppose her confirmation.

During her confirmation hearings, Tanden apologised for spending years bullying top Republicans on social media. She is a former advisor to Hillary Clinton and served as president of the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress. With the Senate equally split between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, she’ll likely need support from at least one Republican to gain approval.

“I believe her overtly partisan statements will have a toxic and detrimental impact on the important working relationship between members of Congress and the next director of the Office of Management and Budget,” Manchin said in a statement. He went on to say that, at a time of grave crisis, “it is more important than ever that we chart a new bipartisan course that helps address the many serious challenges facing our nation.”

It’s the first real challenge that Biden has faced on an appointment, with most of his choices for Cabinet positions passing through the chamber with bipartisan support. Tanden had also disparaged several Democrats on social media, most notably Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont.

Biden, asked Friday if he would pull Tanden’s nomination, said he wouldn’t.

“I think we are going to find the votes and get her confirmed,” Biden said.

Moments earlier, the White House had released a statement defending her.

“Neera Tanden is an accomplished policy expert who would be an excellent Budget Director and we look forward to the committee votes next week and to continuing to work toward her confirmation through engagement with both parties,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Tanden will be the first woman of colour to head the OMB, which directs efforts to ensure an administration’s goals are expressed in legislation and regulations.

The Senate Budget Committee is expected to vote on her appointment next week.

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Recipes: What to do with all those apples

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Recipes: What to do with all those apples

By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times

I went apple picking last weekend, along with about a million other people in the New York metro area. Is it me, or does recreational apple picking just continue to surge year over year as a fall activity? Some people are not into it, which I get, and yes, cynically speaking, it’s an excellent flannel-clad Instagram moment. But I’ve done it for years, and, for my small kids who live nowhere near a farm, it’s a very clear moment of connection: Fruit comes from trees!

There is one problem, though, which is that I somehow thought bringing home a half-bushel of apples was reasonable. It was not. So far I have baked one pie and dispensed apples to everyone in my home every day, and we have barely made a dent in the pyramid of fruit that now stands in my kitchen. Maybe you’re in this situation, too.

And so I’ve got a few ideas below for how to use them up at dinner. You could also make applesauce, apple butter or apple jelly. You could put them in muffins, crumbles and cakes. You could layer them in sandwiches. You could roast them with sausages or toss them into kale salad. You could serve them with sourdough pancakes or a Dutch baby.

1. Sheet-Pan Chicken With Apple, Fennel and Onion

Con Poulos, The New York Times

Sheet-pan chicken with apple, fennel and onion in New York on Sept. 27, 2018. This ultra-simple five-star recipe from Colu Henry matches chicken thighs with tart apple, which sweetens in the oven. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Chicken thighs are roasted with classic fall ingredients for a quick, flavorful sheet-pan supper. The toasted fennel seeds subtly amplify the anise flavor of the roasted fennel and play nicely with the apples and onions. Look for an apple on the tart side as it will naturally sweeten as it cooks in the oven. If you want to use bone-in chicken breasts you can, just make sure to cut the cooking time by a few minutes so they don’t dry out. Serve with a bright, bitter green salad flecked with blue cheese and toasted walnuts.

By: Colu Henry

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, tough outer leaves removed, cored and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tart apple, such as Mutsu (Crispin) or Granny Smith, halved, cored and cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • Flaky salt, for serving

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pound into a coarse powder with a mortar and pestle or, alternatively, roughly chop. In a large bowl, toss together the chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the fennel seeds and season well with salt and pepper.

2. Place the onion, fennel and apple slices on the sheet pan. Toss with the remaining olive oil and season well with salt. Spread in an even layer. Add the chicken skin side up on top of the vegetables and lay the rosemary (distributing evenly) on top of the chicken. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the onions, fennel and apples are softened and have begun to caramelize at the edge of the pan.

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Type of ultraviolet light most effective at killing coronavirus is also the safest to use around people

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Type of ultraviolet light most effective at killing coronavirus is also the safest to use around people

Scientists have long known that ultraviolet light can kill pathogens on surfaces and in air and waterUV robots are used to disinfect empty hospital rooms, buses and trains; UV bulbs in HVAC systems eliminate pathogens in building air; and UV lamps kill bugs in drinking water.

Perhaps you have seen UV wands, UV LEDs and UV air purifiers advertised as silver bullets to protect against the coronavirus. While decades of research have looked at the ability of UV light to kill many pathogens, there are no set standards for UV disinfection products with regard to the coronavirus. These products may work to kill SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but they also may not.

I am an environmental engineer and expert in UV disinfection. In May 2021, my colleagues and I set out to accurately test various UV systems and see which was the most effective at killing off – or inactivating – SARS-CoV-2.

David Herring, NASA via WikimediaCommons

When UV light enters a cell, it breaks the bonds that hold DNA or RNA together.

How does UV light kill a virus?

Light is categorized by wavelength – the distance between peaks of a wave of light – and is measured in nanometers. UV wavelengths range from 100 to 400 nanometers – shorter in wavelength than the violet hues in visible light – and are invisible to the human eye. As wavelength shortens, photons of light contain higher amounts of energy.

Different wavelengths of UV light work better than others for inactivating viruses, and this depends on how well the wavelengths are absorbed by the virus’s DNA or RNA. When UV light gets absorbed, the photons of light transfer their energy to and damage the chemical bonds of the genetic material. The virus is then unable to replicate or cause an infection. Researchers have also shown the proteins that viruses use to attach to a host cell and initiate infection – like the spike proteins on a coronavirus – are also vulnerable to UV light.

The dose of light matters too. Light can vary in intensity – bright light is more intense, and there is more energy in it than in dim light. Being exposed to a bright light for a short time can produce the same UV dose as being exposed to a dim light for a longer period. You need to know the right dose that can kill coronavirus particles at each UV wavelength.

A sunburned man sits on a beach

Ian Hooton, Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Sunburns are caused by UV light damaging skin cells.

Making ultraviolet lights safe for people

Traditional UV systems use wavelengths at or around 254 nanometers. At these wavelengths the light is dangerous to human skin and eyes, even at low doses. Sunlight includes UV light near these wavelengths; anyone who has ever gotten a bad sunburn knows just how dangerous UV light can be.

However, recent research has shown that at certain UV wavelengths – specifically below 230 nanometers – the high-energy photons are absorbed by the top layers of dead skin cells and don’t penetrate into the active skin layers where damage can occur. Similarly, the tear layer around eyes also blocks out these germicidal UV rays.

This means that at wavelengths of UV light below 230 nanometers, people can move around more freely while the air around them is being disinfected in real time.

UV lamp test diagram

Karl Linden, CC BY-ND

Researchers used this setup to test multiple different UV lights at various doses to see what it took to kill SARS-CoV-2.

Testing different wavelengths

My colleagues and I tested five commonly used UV wavelengths to see which work best to inactivate SARS-CoV-2. Specifically, we tested how large a dose is needed to kill 90% to 99.9% of the viral particles present.

We ran these tests in a biosafety level three facility at the University of Arizona that is built to handle lethal pathogens. There we tested numerous lights across the UV spectrum, including UV LEDs that emit light at 270 and 282 nanometers, traditional UV tube lamps at 254 nanometers and a newer technology called an excited dimer, or excimer, UV source at 222 nanometers.

To test each device we spiked a sample of water with millions of SARS-CoV-2 viruses and coated a petri dish with a thin layer of this mixture. We then shined UV light on the petri dish until we achieved a specific dose. Finally we examined the viral particles to see if they could still infect human cells in culture. If the viruses could infect the cells, the dose was not high enough. If the viruses did not cause an infection, the UV source at that dose had successfully killed the pathogen. We carefully repeated this process for a range of UV doses using the five different UV devices.

While all of the wavelengths we tested can inactivate SARS-CoV-2 at very low doses, the ones that required the lowest dose were the systems that emit UV light at a wavelength of 222 nanometers. In our experiment, it took a dose of less than 2 millijoules of energy per square centimeter to kill 99.9% of viral particles. This translates to needing about 20 seconds to disinfect a space receiving a low intensity of short wavelength UV light, similar to that used in our test.

These 222-nanometer systems are almost twice as effective as conventional UV tube lamps, which are often used in ultraviolet disinfecting systems. But importantly, the winning lamp also happens to be the safest for humans, too. At the same UV light intensity it takes to kill 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 in 20 seconds, a person could be safely exposed to 222-nanometer light for up to one hour and 20 minutes.

What this means is that widely available types of UV lamp lights can be used to safely knock down levels of the coronavirus with people present.

Better use of existing tech

Many places or organizations – ranging from the U.S. Air Force to the Space Needle in Seattle to Boeing – are already using or investigating ways to use UV light in the 222 nanometer range to protect public health.

I believe that our findings are important because they quantify the exact doses needed to achieve various levels of SARS-CoV-2 control, whether that be killing 90% or 99.9% of viral particles.

Imagine coffee shops, grocery stores, school classrooms, restaurants and concert venues now made safe by this technology. And this is not a solution for just SARS-CoV-2. These technologies could help protect human health in public spaces in future times of crisis, but also during times of relative normalcy, by reducing exposure to everyday viral and bacterial threats.


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Opinion: Denver students need a new school board

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Opinion: Denver students need a new school board

Denver Public Schools is experiencing a deeply concerning reversal of hard-earned progress achieved over the past two decades.  A recent report demonstrates how dramatic the downward slide has been for Denver students over the last year relative to all other school districts in Colorado.  While most Colorado school districts had lower growth scores which is reflected in the new Colorado “baseline growth” numbers, Denver did significantly worse compared to the state average.

These indicators portend a dramatic acceleration of the existing huge achievement gaps by race and income if a new school board does not take the helm and begin to focus on student needs and learning.  We need a new board with a laser eye on students.

While many Colorado school districts stepped up to meet the needs of students in the pandemic, the Denver School Board has been focused on adult issues, including the conduct of its members, board governance, and its attempts to limit the flexibility of innovation schools.

Other Colorado districts leaned into getting as many students back as quickly as possible especially those students most in need of support, other Colorado school districts like Adams 12 supported learning pods (while the Denver board asked families to stay in their online school programming that wasn’t working), while still others like Greeley set up full day summer school this last year to prepare students for the return to school (and having dramatic results). Denver’s University Prep public charter schools detailed a comprehensive plan to ensure students would continue to move forward.  The Denver School Board assumed no need to check in with families, all would return back to normal.

This has not always been the case. Denver Public Schools had a record of success that sadly it is departing from now.

Denver Public Schools had been a state and national leader with the expansion of health services, support for English language learning students along with academic learning to name but a few indicators for over a decade.

DPS was far from where it needed to be in terms of student support and achievement, but it had made significant progress with the growth of programming for the whole child and more resources being targeted to students most needing instructional help.

The evidence for these changes can be seen in a variety of indicators from graduation, college matriculation, academic “growth” along with improvements in the numbers of students meeting proficiency on the state standards for all groups of students by race and income. Most important, Denver had been outperforming state achievement growth scores for over a decade.

Denver’s previous median growth scores in math and literacy from 2016-2019 were 57 to 51 percentiles with the average over those years being 54.1 percentiles which is a significant gain over the state with the growth comparison of 50 percentile. Few, if any Colorado school districts had this track record over time.

Now, unfortunately, the latest 2021 state test scores in DPS which have been adjusted overall lower and called “baseline growth” were at the 40th percentile for 5th grade DPS literacy (Colorado’s average is 46th percentile) and the 6th grade DPS math percentile was 22nd (the CO percentile being 33rd).  You can see comparisons to other Colorado school districts here.

This is a catastrophic shift unlike any other large school district, going from making growth relative to the other students in Colorado to significantly losing growth relative to the state.  We also see early indicators of this terrible consequence with loss of enrollment in the early grades and a significant reduction in the number of students going to college and persisting per a DPS board report issued last week.

Only 20% of Denver’s students on free and reduced-price lunch met the state’s proficiency goal on reading at the 5th grade while even fewer of these same students, only 6% could meet Colorado’s basic standard for math at the 6th grade.

None of us, particularly our students, can afford to have low levels of achievement. We have seen what is possible in Denver and across the state, Denver can do far better. Be sure to vote by November 2nd and contact DPS if you’re available to volunteer your talents.

Rosemary Rodriguez and Dr. Rachele Espiritu are past members of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. Rodriguez is the parent and grandparent of DPS graduates, and Dr. Espiritu is the parent of a current DPS student and a graduate.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.

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