2nd presidential debate host withdraws amid virus outbreak

2nd presidential debate host withdraws amid virus outbreak

  • July 28, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — The University of Notre Dame has become the second university to withdraw as the host of one of this fall’s three scheduled presidential debates amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The university was set to host the inaugural face-off between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Sept. 29. The first debate will now be hosted by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced Monday.

The commission has selected Cleveland Clinic as its health adviser for all three presidential debates and the one scheduled vice presidential debate.

In a release, Notre Dame President the Rev. John Jenkins said the university made “this difficult decision because the necessary health precautions would have greatly diminished the educational value of hosting the debate on our campus.”

The University of Michigan was scheduled to host the second presidential debate but withdrew last month. That debate will now be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Purple sky in Japan

Disease route? Bacteria and virus use ‘highways’ of the sky to travel the world

  • July 26, 2020
Purple sky in Japan
Purple sky in Japan | Twitter photo: @ara_to1

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Microbes are the truly dominant group of lifeforms. These invisible pieces of biogenic matter have been running Earth’s affairs for billions of years. Plants and animals popped up as the by-products of microbial mergers relatively recently in our planet’s history.

Understanding microbes is not easy. It took us some time to learn about the existence of the human microbiome, the collection of viruses, bacteria and fungi inside and outside our bodies that connects us to the rest of the microbial cloud that exists everywhere life can survive.

We are now learning that there is even a microbiome high in the sky. These are microbes that are swept into and then reside in the lower parts of the atmosphere. This includes the mid and upper troposphere at altitudes of between 8km and 12km above the ground, and the lower stratosphere at altitudes of up to 15km. What’s more, by joining the planetary wind systems, these lifeforms create microbial highways in the sky that transport them across the world.

Scientists first reported the existence of sky-bound bacteria in a couple of pioneering studies published in 2013 and 2018. These were not isolated microorganisms found by chance. Instead, bacterial communities straddle the sky in large numbers, in the region of hundreds of thousands of bacteria for each cubic metre of air in the troposphere.

Between 60% and 100% of the bacteria in collected samples were alive and they typically lived in the sky for longer than five days. Analysing their genetic material confirmed the presence of dozens of different bacterial species. However, the tropospheric bacterial communities were less complex than some of Earth’s terrestrial habitats.

But bacteria are not the only tiny lifeforms in the sky. We now know this microbiome includes viruses and even fungi. The lower atmosphere appears to be alive and teeming with microbes.

These microbes are well adjusted to their new environment. Only bacteria that already have mechanisms for coping with UV radiation, lack of water and high levels of dangerous oxidants such as ozone survive the journey into the sky, where they feed on the carbon compounds available in the atmosphere. Given this harsh environment, researching bacterial behaviour in the sky may be useful for understanding microbial survival in space.

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