California unveiled a blueprint for the future of early education. Critics say it’s built on shaky ground

After months of delays and pandemic upheaval, California officials on Tuesday released the long-awaited Master Plan for Early Learning and Care, a 113-page blueprint to remodel the state’s Byzantine child-care system and dramatically expand public preschool.



a little girl sitting at a table: Consuelo Garcia sanitizes toys at the Children of the Rainbow child-care center in San Diego. (John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)


© Provided by The LA Times
Consuelo Garcia sanitizes toys at the Children of the Rainbow child-care center in San Diego. (John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

“The Master Plan shows how one state can achieve goals that are soon to become national ones,” the authors noted. “California can use the Master Plan to signal its fitness as an early partner with the incoming Biden administration,” which advocates early-education reform and better access to child care.

But critics say the forward-looking document does little to shore up the existing infrastructure, even as it crumbles underfoot. Unlike K-12 schools, preschools and day-care centers have been allowed to operate throughout the pandemic. Yet since March, almost 400 child-care centers have closed permanently, and at least 5,700 licensed family child-care homes have gone under, leaving tens of thousands of working parents in the lurch.

“We’re sounding the alarm, because the system is on the verge of collapse,” said Max Arias, chairman of the Child Care Providers Union, which represents thousands of workers. “Who knows how the sector will look when it’s time to start implementing this plan? We need to address this crisis, because if not, there won’t be any child-care providers left.”

Indeed, the pandemic has further destabilized an industry that was already in decline when Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned on early-education reform in 2018, and when experts began work on the plan last fall. Echoing the Master Plan for Higher Education, the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care was envisioned as a 10-year guidebook for new legislation, investment and reform. Its main goals include uniform standards for early education, better training for child-care workers, easier access to subsidized care for low-income families and universal transitional kindergarten for all California 4-year-olds.

“The goals they lay out are great, but where’s the roadmap for actually getting this done?” asked Ted Lempert, a former state assemblyman who is president of the research and advocacy organization Children Now. “COVID has made this system so fragile and so essential. Now we’re in code red.”

The plan itself acknowledged the crisis, including its impact on working families.

“The COVID-19 crisis has put increased pressure on an already fragile provider ecosystem,” the report said. “Stabilizing and supporting the workforce is critical to the state’s response and recovery process.”

Yet the authors offered few details on how California would help preschools and day-care centers stay open while it sorts out funding for its more ambitious goals. Instead, its most immediate action would be to untangle some of the bureaucracy governing early-childhood care by shifting oversight for virtually all state-subsidized programs from the state’s Department of Education to the Department of Social Services. The plan suggests then streamlining publicly funded programs, simplifying eligibility for low-income families and overhauling reimbursements for providers, which the

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In Australia, Just One Wasp Can Ground an Airplane With a Strategically Placed Nest | Smart News

New research conducted at Brisbane airport shows how the invasive keyhole wasp builds their nests over important sensors, causing havoc for aircraft, George Dvorsky reports for Gizmodo.

Keyhole wasps like to lay their eggs in small, pre-made cavities like window crevices, electrical sockets and, as their name implies, keyholes. Airplanes, meanwhile, rely on external sensors that are shaped like thin tubes. If the pilot realizes after takeoff that a sensor is blocked, the plane just has to turn around so it can be cleaned. But in a worst-case scenario, malfunctioning sensors are catastrophic. The new study, published on November 30 in the journal PLOS One, confirmed keyhole wasps are the sensor-blocking culprit, figured out their favorite size sensors for nest-building, and found that they built most of their nests near a grassy field at the airport.

The researchers hope that airports will be use the data to better combat the six-legged saboteurs.

“When we did some background research we realized that this wasn’t just an inconvenience, that you just had to clean these things out and swat the wasps away; this could actually lead to major accidents,” says Eco Logical Australia ecologist Alan House, lead author on the new study, to CNN’s Hilary Whiteman.

A plane crash off the coast of the Dominican Republic in 1996 that killed all 189 passengers and crew was linked to blockage of the pitot tube, which measures the speed that air is flowing through it as a proxy for how fast the plane is flying. The pitot tube’s measurements can show if the plane is flying fast enough to be stable, or if the plane is flying too slow, putting it at risk of stalling. Inaccurate airspeed readings can cause dangerous reactions by the pilots—or software.

“It’s not a Mayday emergency but it’s the next level down, and it closes the runways,” says House to New Scientist’s Donna Lu.

The wasps are native to the Americas, but have been flying around Brisbane for over a decade. The insects have figured out a speedy strategy for establishing their nests.

“We have anecdotal reports from ground crew at Brisbane that a plane can have arrived at the gate and within a matter of two or three minutes, a wasp will be flying around the nose of the plane having a look at the probe,” House tells CNN. House adds to Belinda Smith at ABC News Australia, “When the plane first comes in, those probes are too hot for the wasp, so I think what she’s doing is waiting for it to cool down.”

Once the tube is cool, the wasp fills the cavity with mud, an egg and a bit of prey, like a caterpillar. A thin wall of mud at the front seals the nest, and solidly blocks the pitot tube. This process can happen in under 30 minutes, as was the case when a wasp nest blocked the temperature probe on a flight from Brisbane to Newcastle in 2015, per ABC

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Cyprus rocky testing ground for Mars

Planetologists and geologists arrived in Cyprus to test out the equipment in the Troodos mountains, which officials say has geol
Planetologists and geologists arrived in Cyprus to test out the equipment in the Troodos mountains, which officials say has geological similarities with Mars

International and Cypriot experts on Friday discussed a research project to test space equipment on the Mediterranean island before sending it to Mars to measure the age of its rocks, officials said.


Planetologists and geologists arrived in Cyprus earlier this month to test out the equipment in the Troodos mountains, which officials say has geological similarities with the red planet.

The project is funded by the European Commission and on Friday a first meeting involving the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation (CSEO) and the Geological Surveys Department got underway.

“The meeting discussed the objectives of the international space programme, the geological needs and the most suitable locations for the project,” the government’s Geological Survey Department said.

The rock-measuring project is “very innovative since there are no previous accurate measurements of the age of the rocks of Mars from previous missions”, it added in a statement.

It noted however that “the geology of the Troodos Mountains has a lot in common with the rocks of Mars”.

Acting director of the Geological Survey Department, Christodoulos Hadjigeorgiou, said Friday’s meeting went well with local know-how of the landscape offered to international scientists.

The CSEO is taking part in a major international research project on Mars, in collaboration with three other European countries as well as the United States.

CSEO head George Danos said the space project “highlights once again the uniqueness of our country’s geology, which can help prepare space missions to other celestial bodies”.

“Through this cooperation we will create new jobs for scientists in our country and new research projects in collaboration with international space agencies,” he added.



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There’s a Middle Ground in the Lockdown Debate

(Bloomberg Opinion) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues its sweep through the U.S., India and Brazil, the dreaded second wave is now gathering strength in nations that had once contained the virus. Numbers are rocketing upward, especially in Europe, even as winter approaches, which will bring the added burden of seasonal illnesses such as influenza. Attempting to tamp things down, and to avoid overwhelming their health services, authorities in France, Germany and the U.K. are now considering stronger social distancing measures, with others — including in Ireland and Israel — ordering short, strict “circuit breaker” lockdowns.



a stack of flyers on a table: Antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, protective masks and gloves at a JLL office in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Constraints such as social distancing and masks mean the precise nature of the future office working environment remains an open question even as some signs of normality return with some workers returning to their desks.


© Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg
Antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, protective masks and gloves at a JLL office in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Constraints such as social distancing and masks mean the precise nature of the future office working environment remains an open question even as some signs of normality return with some workers returning to their desks.

Yet if anything is as ineradicable as the coronavirus, it’s the fervid conviction of many that strict lockdowns actually bring worse consequences than Covid-19 itself. The lockdown skeptics — which include some scientists — argue that lockdowns entail massive economic damage as well as disruption to social communities and an increase in inequality. We’d be better off, they claim, if we instead aimed for herd immunity by letting the virus infect the young and healthy while protecting the vulnerable.

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Some have portrayed the debate as reflecting a growing scientific divide, although this is far from the case. Almost all public health authorities come down against the herd immunity idea. Unfortunately, too much of the debate has been marred by confusion over why and when epidemiologists think lockdowns can play a beneficial role, and why the skeptics’ vision falls short.

It’s fair to say that both sides of the debate have at times misrepresented their opponents. Some lockdown skeptics make it seem as if proponents favor permanent lockdown until a vaccine comes along, whereas most see lockdowns as a drastic tool to be used over short periods of time — an emergency step, like dropping the control rods into a nuclear reactor about to melt down. Meanwhile, skeptics are criticized for wanting to just “let things rip,” too bad about the old and susceptible — yet most actually emphasize trying to protect the vulnerable. 

Get past the politics, and some numbers help bring one thing into focus: why, in the absence of a coronavirus vaccine, lockdowns may be essential. Epidemics grow fast, and there’s an inherent asymmetry between the ups and downs of the numbers: Without excellent testing and tracing, it takes a very strict lockdown to get numbers falling, whereas achieving explosive growth in cases is very easy.

Take the U.K., for example. Its cases have risen steadily since mid-August, after earlier restrictions were relaxed and the government encouraged people to return to work. On Sept. 21, government scientists projected a worst-case scenario of around 50,000 new cases a day by mid-October

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