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Research links widely used additive to food allergies

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The rise in food allergies could be linked to an additive by the name of tert-butylhydroquinone, or tBHQ, widely used as a food industry preservative in goods such as cooking oil, nuts, crackers, waffles and bread products, according to a researcher at Michigan State University, USA.

Cheryl Rockwell, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Human Medicine, has been investigating tBHQ (tert-butylhydroquinone,) and its effects for nine years. This synthetic additive derived from benzene is often found in industrially prepared products like cooking oil or chicken nuggets.

After seeing a marked rise in food allergies, Rockwell set out to investigate whether this substance could cause abnormal reactions in the immune system, triggering food allergies. The scientist’s work even won her an award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1972 for use in foods at a maximum level of 0.02%, this preservative is hard for consumers to spot since it isn’t listed on food labels.

Previous studies have found tBHQ to be carcinogenic at high doses, mainly causing tumors in the stomach and also damaging human DNA.

The scientist studied the effects of tBHQ on T cells, which produce proteins called cytokines that help the body fight pathogens. In the presence of tBHQ in lab tests, T cells released a different set of cytokines known to trigger allergies to eggs, milk, nuts and shellfish.

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“The T cells stopped acting as soldiers in the defense against pathogens and started causing allergies,” explains Rockwell. “What we’re trying to find out now is why the T cells are behaving this way.”

The scientist suggests that other chemical agents, such as lead and cadmium, could trigger similar effects.

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How Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement

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When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.

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Commentary

Why do conservatives hate Oberlin College so much?

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When I was an undergraduate at Oberlin in the mid-Aughts, there was a student in my class year who was obsessed with 19th-century British Royal Naval culture. Every Friday evening, he would host a sing-along in a dorm lounge, for which he would bring xeroxes of historical sea shanty lyrics and pass them around so that we could sing along, waving our glasses of “grog.” This was a semi-established event — he had distributed flyers around campus advertising the weekly British Royal Naval sea-shanty singalong and grog-drinking event, which would extend late into the night. Though he was not a resident of the dorm where it took place, he was welcomed into the lounge by its members, and became a fixture of sorts.Like many well-endowed liberal arts schools in rural areas, Oberlin College functions as a sort of de facto social welfare state, and is designed to encourage and cultivate one’s passions, even if they are not strictly academic. Thus, after writing up a proposal for the student-run activities board, the same student, the British Royal Navy culture guy, was able to plan, organize and execute a ticketed Royal Naval Ball, held in the atrium of the science center. The event featured 20 dishes of authentic British era-appropriate cuisine, cooked by student chefs, several courses of wine and port, and a violinist present to play period-specific music. The whole affair culminated with a traditional, British partner line dance — its sole inauthenticity the fact that we didn’t pay attention to our dance partners’ genders the way the Brits would have.
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2020 Election

Here are 5 reasons why 2020’s down-ballot races could reshape America’s future

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The political press always tends to focus mostly on the marquee race for the White House but that's especially true this cycle, as Donald Trump runs for a second term. He demands attention and his antics enrage his opponents and delight his supporters in equal measure.

But national reporters risk missing the big picture by centering so much of their reporting at the top when many of the most important political battles in 2020 will take place further down the ballot.

Trump is catnip for reporters and their editors, but the dearth of coverage of downballot races didn't begin with his election. As the news media in general faces structural changes—with print circulation declining and much of their work moving into digital spaces that are more difficult to monetize--publishers have cut back on reporters assigned to the state and local government beat. Nevertheless, Trump has arguably worsened the trend by getting so much airtime— one estimate suggested that over the past four years, Trump has taken up, on average, 15 percent of the entire daily news cycle on the three leading cable networks, nearly three times what Obama did.

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