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Taiwan just went 200 days without a locally transmitted Covid-19 case. Here's how they did it - CNN
As much of the world struggles to contain new waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Taiwan just marked its 200th consecutive day without a locally transmitted case of the disease.
(CNN)As much of the world struggles to contain new waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Taiwan just marked its 200th consecutive day without a locally transmitted case of the disease. Taipei's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the world's most effective. The island of 23 million people last reported a locally transmitted case on April 12, which was Easter Sunday. As of Thursday, it had confirmed 553 cases -- only 55 of which were local transmissions. Seven deaths have been recorded. Easter was an important milestone in the United States because President Donald Trump had said a month earlier he wanted the country "opened up and just raring to go" by the holiday. At that point, 1.7 million people had been infected and 110,000 had been killed by the virus -- globally. On Friday, those figures had passed 45 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Taiwan's landmark achievement comes in a week when France and Germany are enacting new lockdowns and the United States identified a record 88,000-plus cases in a day. The state of Florida, which has a similar population size to Taiwan, with approximately 21 million people, identified 4,188 cases on Wednesday alone. Taiwan has never had to enact strict lockdowns. Nor did it resort to drastic restrictions on civil freedoms, like in mainland China. Instead, Taiwan's response focused on speed. Taiwanese authorities began screening passengers on direct flights from Wuhan, where the virus was first identified, on December 31, 2019 -- back when the virus was mostly the subject of rumors and limited reporting. Taiwan confirmed its first reported case of the novel coronavirus on January 21 and then banned Wuhan residents from traveling to the island. All passengers arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao were required to undergo screening. All this happened before Wuhan itself went into lockdown on January 23. By March, Taiwan banned all foreign nationals from entering the island, apart from diplomats, residents and those with special entry visas. But Taiwan has advantages its counterparts in the West do not. One is geography -- Taiwan is an island, so it's easier for officials to control entry and exit through its borders. Taiwan also had experience on its side. After suffering through the deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Taiwan worked to build up its capacity to deal with a pandemic, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in an interview last month. "So, when we heard that there were some secret pneumonia cases in China where patients were treated in isolation, we knew it was something similar," he said. Authorities activated the island's Central Epidemic Command Center, which was set up in the wake of SARS, to coordinate between different ministries. The government also ramped up face mask and protective equipment production to make sure there would be a steady supply of PPE. The government also invested in mass testing and quick and effective contact tracing. Former Taiwanese Vice President Chen Chien-jen, who is an epidemiologist by training, said lockdowns are not ideal. Chen also said that the type of mass-testing schemes undertaken in mainland China, where millions of people are screened when a handful of cases are detected, are also unnecessary. "Very careful contact tracing, and very stringent quarantines of close contacts are the best way to contain Covid-19," he said. CNN's Paula Hancocks, James Griffiths and Meenketan Jha contributed to this report.
Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence tests positive for Covid-19, will not play Saturday against Boston College - CNN
Clemson Tigers starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence -- the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on college football's No. 1 team and seen as the likely top pick of the 2021 NFL draft should he leave college early -- has tested positive for Covid-19 and will not…
(CNN)Clemson Tigers starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence -- the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy on college football's No. 1 team and seen as the likely top pick of the 2021 NFL draft should he leave college early -- has tested positive for Covid-19 and will not play in Saturday's game against Boston College. "Trevor has authorized us this evening to announce that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in isolation," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement Thursday. "He is doing well with mild symptoms but will not be available for this week's game against Boston College. While we certainly will miss Trevor, this is an opportunity for other guys to step up and we're excited about competing against a very good BC team on Saturday. Go Tigers." Following Swinney's statement, Lawrence, a junior, released his own statement on Twitter. "I have tested positive for COVID-19, and my symptoms have been relatively mild while I'm following the protocol from Clemson and the ACC," Lawrence said. "The only thing that hurts is missing an opportunity to be with my teammates this weekend and play the game I love. I hate that I can't be there, but I'll be watching from isolation and pulling for our guys while I wait for the opportunity to rejoin the team." Per guidelines from the Atlantic Coast Conference, which Clemson is a member of, a student-athlete who tests positive for Covid-19 shall be isolated for at least 10 days from the onset of symptoms or positive test before returning to football activity. This means that Lawrence might also miss the team's November 7 football game against undefeated No. 4 Notre Dame. Clemson is No. 1 in the polls at 6-0. Lawrence has completed 70.7% of his passes for 17 touchdowns this season. He's also rushed for four touchdowns. Ahead of the 2020 college football season, when conferences were weighing whether to play amid the pandemic, Lawrence was one of the high-profile players to express support playing with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. "We really do feel safe here," Lawrence told reporters in August. "Hopefully it's like that everywhere ... We feel safer here than anywhere else, honestly."
About 20% of grocery store workers had Covid-19, and most didn't have symptoms, study found - CNN
Grocery store work puts employees at serious risk for infection, a new study found, particularly those who have to interact with customers.
(CNN)Grocery store work puts employees at serious risk for infection, a new study found, particularly those who have to interact with customers. These workers likely became a "significant transmission source" for Covid-19 without even knowing it because most in the study were asymptomatic. The analysis, published Thursday in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is the first to demonstrate the significant asymptomatic infection rate, exposure risks and psychological distress grocery workers have felt during the pandemic. In the study, 20% of the 104 grocery workers tested at a store in Boston in May had positive nasal swab tests. This was a significantly higher rate of infection than what was seen in the surrounding communities, the researchers said. Workers who dealt with customers were five times as likely to test positive for Covid-19 as colleagues in other positions. But three out of four of those who tested positive had no symptoms. "We were definitely surprised to see that there were that many people that were asymptomatic," said Dr. Justin Yang, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine and a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health who worked on the study. "This is definitely very alarming as it means that retail grocery store employees are exposed to customers and sort of serve as a middleman for the virus - like a super spreader almost." Workers in the study had tried to take precautions. Nearly all, 91%, said they wore a face mask at work and 77% said they also wore masks outside of work. Yet only about 66% said they were able to practice social distancing consistently on the job. This inability to social distance had an emotional, as well as a physical impact. Nearly a quarter of the people in customer service jobs said they had problems with anxiety and depression compared to 8% of workers who did not have to interact with customers. Employees who commuted to work by bike, car or by walking were less likely to experience depression than those who used public transportation, the study found. "If you are in an environment when you're literally in front of a customer, you can't be more than six feet and that is really stressful for essential employees," Yang said. At least 108 grocery workers have died and more than 16,300 have been infected or exposed to Covid-19, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, said Thursday. The union represents 1.3 million employees. The rates of infection among the workers in this study do seem high, Yang said. By comparison, an earlier study of Covid-19 infections among Dutch health care workers found the infection rate was about 10%. Yang said he hopes this study prompts the government and store owners to provide better guidance, routine testing and protection for grocery store workers. There has been a national movement to designate grocery workers as first responders which would give them priority access to testing and personal protective equipment. In aneditorial for CNNin August, Marc Perrone, the President of UFCW and Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris argued that grocery workers should also get hazard pay. Non-union grocery workers often have little to no healthcare coverage, meaning they could potentially face expensive health care bills if they contracted Covid-19. Some states have increased support for grocery workers by increasing access to childcare and requiring shoppers to wear masks. Three states offer free testing for these workers and four offer worker's compensation, according to UFCW, but none of the states provide the full first responder status to grocery workers, and rules are inconsistent from state-to-state. "We spend a lot of time talking about healthcare workers, and they are important, but we're missing a lot of the pieces of the puzzle if we don't look at non-health care workers exposure," Yang said. "Their voices are really not being heard. I thought it was important to get this published so government agencies and store owners could take note of this and see that they should be protecting their employees more."
Fact check: Trump continues to use a misleading video to claim Biden is not fit for office - CNN
President Donald Trump and his campaign have leaned in heavily on a video that misleadingly suggests Democratic nominee Joe Biden doesn't know who he is running against.
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump and his campaign have leaned in heavily on a video that misleadingly suggests Democratic nominee Joe Biden doesn't know who he is running against. The Trump campaign has posted the video to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube -- where it has racked up millions of views. None of the companies are taking any action against the video. By Wednesday morning, the video had received almost 2 million views and had been retweeted at least 9,700 times. The President is also playing the video at his rallies throughout the country this week, using it as a way to claim that Biden is not mentally fit for office. Trump's team has repeatedly pushed misleading videos trying to support this point. Some have been selectively edited. Others are plain fake. Back in March, Trump and his campaign promoted a clip that wrongly made it seem like Biden had endorsed Trump. He, of course, hadn't. In August, White House social media director Dan Scavino shared a video that purported to show Biden falling asleep during a TV interview. Expect the TV interview never happened; the whole thing was fake. In September, the Trump campaign posted a video making it seem like Biden had forgotten the Pledge of Allegiance. He hadn't. And this week the campaign is promoting a clip making it seem like Biden said he was running against George Bush, not Trump. The videos appear to be gaining traction among Trump supporters. Back in September, one of the first reasons a Trump supporter in Bemidji, Minnesota, cited to CNN when claiming Biden was not mentally fit for office was the fake video that made it look like he had fallen asleep in a TV interview. When he was told the video was fake, he said, "I definitely wouldn't doubt that it would happen." Similarly, before a Trump event in West Salem, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, a woman interviewed by CNN said Biden would not be capable of running the country due to his mental capacity. "He forgets where he's at, he forgets who he's running against, he forgets what he's running for," she said. Asked when Biden had forgotten who he was running against, she cited the misleading clip the Trump campaign has been pushing all this week that purported to show the former vice president saying he was running against Bush. Here are the details of the video: The full interview was part of a virtual "I Will Vote" concert, which was hosted by comedian George Lopez and Ana Navarro, a CNN political commentator. The 27-second isolated video that was widely shared on social media failed to contextualize Biden's response to Lopez's question, giving the impression that Biden had confused Trump with George W. Bush. The concert began at 8 p.m. ET. About 12 minutes into the event, Lopez asked Biden, "If someone is undecided, or maybe thinking about not voting, why should they vote, and why should they vote for you?" Biden answered, "Well, first of all, the reason they should vote is that there's a lot on the ballot this year. I mean this is the most consequen- not because I'm running, but because of who I'm running against. This is the most consequential election, uh, in a long, long, long time. And the character of the country, in my view, is literally on the ballot. What kind of country we're going to be." The excerpt in question is what came after: "Four more years of George, uh, George, uh, he, uh gonna find ourselves in a position where if, uh, Trump gets elected, we're gonna be, we're gonna be in a different world." At 9:01 p.m. ET, approximately 45 minutes after the interview, @TrumpWarRoom tweeted the suggestive clip with the caption: "Joe Biden says he is opposed to 'Four more years of George, uh, George, uh." " The video sent by the Trump campaign does not inform viewers that Biden was answering a question from George Lopez. CNN's Hyeyoon "Alyssa" Choi contributed to this report.
Trump seems to strike a new tone on masks: 'If you get close, wear a mask' - CNN
President Donald Trump struck a slightly new tone on mask-wearing at a rally on Thursday, telling a group of largely maskless, shoulder-to-shoulder supporters that he thinks wearing a mask is appropriate when social distancing isn't possible.
(CNN)President Donald Trump struck a slightly new tone on mask-wearing at a rally on Thursday, telling a group of largely maskless, shoulder-to-shoulder supporters that he thinks wearing a mask is appropriate when social distancing isn't possible. After making the case that "lockdowns" to prevent the spread of coronavirus don't work, Trump told rallygoers in Tampa, Florida: "We know the disease. We social distance. We do all of the things that you have to do." "If you get close, wear a mask. 'Oh, it's controversial.' It's not controversial to me. You get close, you wear a mask. Social distance, social distance," he told the audience. The audience he delivered this message to was largely maskless. They were packed so tightly that several people required medical attention due to the heat and a nearby fire truck had to cool supporters down. Staff was also seen without masks. Trump has openly questioned whether masks are effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White House Coronavirus Task Force members including Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and others. CNN previously reported that the President said during an ABC town hall in September that "there are a lot of people that think that masks are not good." Asked for a specific example, Trump said waiters. "They come over, they serve you and they have a mask. And I saw it the other day, where they were serving me and they're playing with the mask. I'm not blaming them. ... They're playing with the mask. ... They're touching it and then they're touching the plate. That can't be good," Trump said. The President has occasionally donned a mask and said they're important. But his actions send a different message to supporters: The White House, Trump's reelection campaign and Vice President Mike Pence have largely disregarded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance, state guidelines and local public health officials, permitting large crowds of rallygoers to stand shoulder to shoulder and not mandating mask-wearing. And he notably stripped off his mask after returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when he was treated for Covid-19. The White House did host a socially distanced, mask-required event at the White House to hold the swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. A late September White House event for Barrett's nomination was deemed by health experts a superspreader event.
Senators ask HHS, CDC about 'highly alarming' excess Covid-19 deaths - CNN
Three senators have asked HHS and CDC about an excess of deaths above the 200,000-plus Covid-19 deaths amind the coronavirus pandemic
(CNN)Three Democratic US senators have asked the US Health and Human Services Secretary and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director to explain what they're doing to investigate a "highly alarming" excess of deaths in the United States, above and beyond the more than 200,000 fatalities directly attributed to Covid-19. "Newly released CDC data reveal that 'an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred from late January through October 3, 2020, with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to Covid-19.' These are highly alarming data, revealing that, in addition to the horrific toll known from Covid-19 in the United States, over 100,000 more fatalities may have been directly or indirectly associated with the pandemic," Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Tina Smith wrote. "This new accounting of excess fatalities is particularly disturbing because it comes as President Trump continues to downplay the toll of the pandemic with a series of blustering falsehoods about the about the disease "affect[ing] virtually nobody" as he attempts to distract the nation from his failed response to the pandemic." Some of the gaps can be explained by weaknesses in data collection, they wrote in the letter, addressed to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. But they also point to gaps in care. "Throughout the public health emergency, President Trump has repeatedly lied to the American people in an effort to downplay the severity of the pandemic, including by falsely repeating that the Covid-19 pandemic has been more deadly in Europe than in the United States," they wrote. "Regardless of the President's ignorance, his shamelessness, or his serial falsehoods, HHS and CDC have a duty to safeguard the public health and should be taking steps to more fully understand the excess mortality rate and curb rising mortality caused directly or associated with Covid-19. " They asked HHS and the CDC to answer questions including what specific data CDC and HHS are collecting on the excess mortality rate in the United States since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and what the agencies understand to be the reasons for the excess mortality rate. "Please provide a summary of all detailed data available on the excess mortality rate in 2020, including any unpublished information on the excess mortality rate over time, the excess mortality rate by location, the excess mortality rate by age, race and ethnicity, the excess mortality rate among individuals with preexisting conditions, and the specific causes of the excess mortality rate," they added.
Supreme Court moves in Pennsylvania and North Carolina set up potential post-election court fight over mail-in ballots - CNN
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Pennsylvania and North Carolina to count ballots received after Election Day, victories for Democrats who have been pushing for states to allow additional time due to the vast number of mail-in votes cast during the coro…
(CNN)The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed Pennsylvania and North Carolina to count ballots received after Election Day, victories for Democrats who have been pushing for states to allow additional time due to the vast number of mail-in votes cast during the coronavirus pandemic. The court declined to take up a challenge from Pennsylvania Republicans over the state's mail-in ballot deadline, leaving in place -- for now -- a state Supreme Court decision that ballots can be received up to three days after the election, even if there is no legible postmark. Later, the court allowed for counting ballots in North Carolina received up to nine days after the election as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. But that may not be the end of the mail-in ballot court fight. The Supreme Court's decisions in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, two important states in the presidential election, came one day after the court rejected an appeal from Democrats to allow mail-in ballots in Wisconsin to be received three days after Election Day, so long as they were postmarked by November 3. Election law experts have been cautioning in the run-up to the election that it's unlikely the courts will play a pivotal role in the election's outcome. And mail-in ballots received after Election Day will be a tiny percentage of the total ballots. But if the election is close -- and if Pennsylvania, for instance, is the decisive state and the ballots received after November 3 could make a difference -- the legal issues surrounding mail-in ballots arriving after Election Day could suddenly catapult to the forefront of the presidential contest, where Republicans seek to toss ballots received after November 3 and Democrats argue for including them. "If (Pennsylvania) PA isn't the tipping point, or it is but it's not hyper-close, this all won't matter, at least for this election," tweeted Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal analyst and University of Texas law school professor. Pennsylvania officials notified the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the state had issued guidance to county boards to "securely segregate" ballots received after Election Day, allowing them to be identified in case of future legal action. And in Minnesota, the Trump campaign filed an action against the secretary of state on Wednesday to segregate mail-in ballots received late, while Republicans appeal a federal court decision keeping in place a seven-day period for ballots to arrive late so long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Deadlines for receiving mail-in ballots vary by state. In 28 states, ballots must be received on Election Day, but in 22 states and the District of Columbia, they need to be postmarked by Election Day but can arrive later. President Donald Trump has argued, falsely, that the results of the election should be known on November 3, when several key states, including Pennsylvania, have said it will take them longer than one night to count a major surge of absentee ballots. Results reported on election night are always unofficial and certified by states later. But in the Supreme Court's Wisconsin ruling keeping in place a federal appeals court decision to require ballots to be received by Election Day, Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to be in alignment with Trump's thinking. Kavanaugh wrote that states have set mail-in deadlines on Election Day "to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election." "And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter," he added. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, and a CNN analyst, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed this week that Kavanaugh's opinion probably won't matter -- but that if the issue winds up back in the courts, "there's great reason to be worried about the court's protection of voting rights and the integrity of the vote." In the Pennsylvania decision Wednesday, in which the court declined to expedite and hear the case so close to the election, some of the court's conservative justices hinted at skepticism toward the Pennsylvania state court's ruling extending the mail-in deadline. In a statement accompanying the order, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, wrote that the court could not step in this close to the election but added there was a "strong likelihood that the State Supreme Court decision violates the Federal Constitution." No other justice commented, though the order suggested more opinions could come. The court's newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett, did not vote in the Pennsylvania or North Carolina cases because of the need for a prompt resolution, the court said. The threat of foreign election interference Sen. Marco Rubio, the acting Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, had a stark warning on Wednesday: Now is the time to be most on guard for foreign election interference. "The bulk of disinformation attacks prepared by our adversaries were designed for the days before & just after Election Day," the Florida Republican tweeted. "They may come faster than they can be spotted & called out, so word to the wise, the more outlandish the claim, the likelier it's foreign influence." Rubio's warning comes one week after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in a statement that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration information and Iran was responsible for threatening emails sent to voters purporting to be from a far-right group. The emails were sent to voters in Florida, and members of the Florida congressional delegation are receiving a briefing this week from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the interference efforts. CNN's Ariane de Vogue, Paul P. Murphy, Curt Devine and Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.
Immunity to coronavirus lingers for months, study finds - CNN
Immunity to Covid-19 infection lingers for at least five months, researchers reported -- and probably longer than that.
(CNN)Immunity to Covid-19 infection lingers for at least five months, researchers reported -- and probably longer than that. While the report may seem confusing and contradictory to a similar report out of Britain this week, it really isn't. People's bodies produce an army of immune compounds in response to an infection and some are overwhelming at first, dying off quickly, while others build more slowly. The new report out Wednesday shows 90% of people who recover from Covid-19 infections keep a stable antibody response. "While some reports have come out saying antibodies to this virus go away quickly, we have found just the opposite -- that more than 90% of people who were mildly or moderately ill produce an antibody response strong enough to neutralize the virus, and the response is maintained for many months," Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who led the study team, said in a statement. "This is essential for effective vaccine development." The team looked at the antibody responses of more than 30,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 at Mount Sinai's Health System between March and October. They characterized their antibody responses as low, moderate or high. More than 90% had moderate to high levels, or titers, of antibodies to the spike protein of the virus -- the structure it uses to grapple the cells it infects. They then closely studied 121 patients who recovered and donated their plasma -- once three months after they first developed symptoms, and again five months later. They did see a drop-off in some antibodies. But others persisted, they reported in the journal Science. "The serum antibody titer we measured in individuals initially were likely produced by plasmablasts, cells that act as first responders to an invading virus and come together to produce initial bouts of antibodies whose strength soon wanes," said Dr. Ania Wajnberg, director of Clinical Antibody Testing at the Mount Sinai Hospital. "The sustained antibody levels that we subsequently observed are likely produced by long-lived plasma cells in the bone marrow. This is similar to what we see in other viruses and likely means they are here to stay. We will continue to follow this group over time to see if these levels remain stable as we suspect and hope they will." Antibodies are not the only protection the immune system musters against infection, but they are an important first line of defense. "Although this cannot provide conclusive evidence that these antibody responses protect from reinfection, we believe it is very likely that they will decrease the odds ratio of reinfection," the team wrote. Covid-19 has only been around for a little under a year, so scientists are still learning about it. Stories of people becoming infected more than once are mostly anecdotal, and few and far between. There's obvious concern about this. It would be far better for getting rid of the pandemic if people developed permanent immunity to the virus after an infection. And, of course, immunity would be vital for a vaccine to work well. It happens with other viruses. Measles is an example. One bout of measles usually leaves someone immune for life -- an effect known as sterilizing immunity. The same was true for smallpox, before that virus was eradicated in the 1970s by a global vaccination campaign. And proper vaccination against measles and smallpox completely protects against infection. But respiratory viruses such as influenza are trickier. People can catch flu over and over again and flu vaccines generally provide only partial protection against infection and severe disease. Part of that's due to flu's tendency to mutate. Coronaviruses seem to fall in between. They can cause the common cold, but because they are not usually deadly, they are not as well studied. Until Covid-19's deadly cousin SARS came along, there was little interest in coronaviruses. Still, there is evidence that people can and do develop some immunity to coronaviruses. "We know from work with common human coronaviruses that neutralizing antibodies are induced, and these antibodies can last for years and provide protection from reinfection or attenuate disease, even if individuals get reinfected," Wajnberg and colleagues wrote. "It is still unclear if infection with SARS-CoV-2 in humans protects from reinfection and for how long." The next important step, they said, will be to establish what are known as correlates of protection. These are compounds that can be measured in the blood that will tell doctors whether someone is immune -- so that it won't be necessary to wait and see if they get infected again after one bout, or after getting a vaccine.
Unusual molecule found in atmosphere on Saturn's moon Titan - CNN
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is the only moon in our solar system that has a thick atmosphere. Now, scientists have discovered a molecule in it that has never been found in any other atmosphere.
(CNN)Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is the only moon in our solar system that has a thick atmosphere. It's four times denser than Earth's. And now, scientists have discovered a molecule in it that has never been found in any other atmosphere. The particle is called cyclopropenylidene, or C3H2, and it's made of carbon and hydrogen. This simple carbon-based molecule could be a precursor that contributes to chemical reactions that may create complex compounds. And those compounds could be the basis for potential life on Titan. The molecule was first noticed as researchers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile. This radio telescope observatory captures a range of light signatures, which revealed the molecule among the unique chemistry of Titan's atmosphere. The study published earlier this month in the Astronomical Journal. "When I realized I was looking at cyclopropenylidene, my first thought was, 'Well, this is really unexpected,'" said lead study author Conor Nixon, planetary scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. Cyclopropenylidene has been detected elsewhere across our galaxy, mainly in molecular clouds of gas and dust including the Taurus Molecular Cloud. This cloud, where stars are born, is located 400 light-years away in the Taurus constellation. In these clouds, temperatures are too cold for many chemical reactions to occur. But finding it in an atmosphere is a different story. This molecule can react easily when it collides with others to form something new. The researchers were likely able to spot it because they were looking through the upper layers of Titan's atmosphere, where the molecule has fewer gasesit can interact with. "Titan is unique in our solar system," Nixon said. "It has proved to be a treasure trove of new molecules." Cyclopropenylidene is the second cyclic or closed-loop molecule detected at Titan; the first was benzene in 2003. Benzene is an organic chemical compound composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. On Earth, benzene is found in crude oil, is used as an industrial chemical and occurs naturally in the wake of volcanoes and forest fires. Cyclic molecules are crucial because they form the backbone rings for the nucleobases of DNA, according to NASA. "The cyclic nature of them opens up this extra branch of chemistry that allows you to build these biologically important molecules," said study coauthor Alexander Thelen, an astrobiologist at Goddard, in a statement. When the researchers discovered cyclopropenylidene in Titan's atmosphere, they looked over data captured by NASA's Cassini mission. The spacecraft performed 127 close flybys of Titan between 2004 and 2017. Cassini's mass spectrometer detected a chemical signature of the same molecule, the researchers found. "It's a very weird little molecule, so it's not going be the kind you learn about in high school chemistry or even undergraduate chemistry," said c. Malaska was not involved with this study, but he researches Titan. "Every little piece and part you can discover can help you put together the huge puzzle of all the things going on there." And discovering cyclopropenylidene on Titan adds to the moon's intrigue. Scientists compare Titan to Earth because of its unique qualities. Titan has a dense atmosphere of nitrogen and methane, which gives it a fuzzy orange appearance. Its atmospheric pressure is 60% greater than Earth's, meaning it exerts the kind of pressure you feel at the bottom of a swimming pool, according to NASA. When sunlight touches Titan, those methane and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere break apart. This creates intriguing complex organic chemistry in Titan's atmosphere that has captivated scientists. Researchers are still sifting through Cassini data to try and determine what some of the chemical signatures were that the spacecraft detected. Titan also has Earth-like liquid bodies on its surface, but the rivers, lakes and seas are made of liquid ethane and methane, which form clouds and cause liquid gas to rain from the sky. Researchers also believe Titan has an internal liquid water ocean. What's more, the surface temperature is so cold -- minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit -- that the rivers and lakes were carved out by methane, the way rocks and lava helped to form features and channels on Earth. Mapping by NASA's Cassini mission revealed that Titan is largely covered in organic plains, which are plains and dunes of organic material that rain down on the surface. "We're trying to figure out if Titan is habitable," said Rosaly Lopes, a senior research scientist and Titan expert at JPL, in a statement. "So we want to know what compounds from the atmosphere get to the surface, and then, whether that material can get through the ice crust to the ocean below, because we think the ocean is where the habitable conditions are." Understanding the organic material sitting on Titan's surface could reveal more about Earth's history. Early on, our planet's atmosphere was dominated by methane rather than oxygen. In fact, early Earth and Titan could be very similar. Titan will be explored by NASA's Dragonfly mission in the future. Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and reach Titan in 2034. The Mars rover-size drone will fly through Titan's thick atmosphere to visit an impact crater, where researchers believe that important ingredients for life mixed together when something hit Titan in the past, possibly tens of thousands of years ago. Dragonfly will spend two and a half years flying around Titan. It only has propellers, with skids to land but no wheels to allow it to roam over the surface. The mission will also explore Titan's atmosphere, surface properties, subsurface ocean and liquid on the surface. "We think of Titan as a real-life laboratory where we can see similar chemistry to that of ancient Earth when life was taking hold here," said Melissa Trainer, a NASA Goddard astrobiologist and Dragonfly mission deputy principal investigator, in a statement. "We'll be looking for bigger molecules than C3H2," Trainer said, "but we need to know what's happening in the atmosphere to understand the chemical reactions that lead complex organic molecules to form and rain down to the surface."
CNN Poll: Biden continues to hold nationwide advantage in final days of 2020 race - CNN
With the race for the presidency approaching its end amid a raging pandemic, Democratic nominee Joe Biden maintains a substantial lead over President Donald Trump nationwide, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.
(CNN)With the race for the presidency approaching its end amid a raging pandemic, Democratic nominee Joe Biden maintains a substantial lead over President Donald Trump nationwide, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS. Among likely voters, 54% back Biden and 42% Trump. Biden has held a lead in every CNN poll on the matchup since 2019, and he has held a statistically significant advantage in every high-quality national poll since the spring. Although the election will ultimately be decided by the statewide results, which drive the Electoral College, Biden's lead nationally is wider than any presidential candidate has held in more than two decades in the final days of the campaign. The poll offers no indication that Trump's four-year-long campaign for reelection has managed to garner him substantial new supporters since his narrow win in the 2016 election. Barring major changes in the landscape in the final days of the race, Trump's chances for closing the gap are deeply dependent on Election Day turnout. The poll finds that among those who have already voted (64% Biden to 34% Trump) or who plan to vote early but had not yet done so at the time they were interviewed (63% Biden to 33% Trump), Biden holds nearly two-thirds support. Trump leads 59% to 36%, though, among those who say they plan to vote on Election Day. The demographic chasms that have defined the nation's politics in the last four years remain in place. Women break sharply for Biden, 61% to 37%. Among men, it's a near-even split, 48% for Trump and 47% for Biden. Voters of color support the Democrat by a nearly 50-point margin, 71% to 24%, while White voters split 50% for Trump to 48% for Biden. Those near-even numbers among men and among White voters mask significant divides by education among Whites and by race across genders. Women of color (77% Biden to 21% Trump) and White women (54% Biden to 45% Trump) both break for Biden, as do men of color (64% Biden to 28% Trump). White men, however, favor Trump by 56% to 41%. Those with college degrees favor Biden by 30 points, while those without degrees split evenly. Among White voters, the difference is larger. White voters with college degrees favor Biden 58% to 40%. Those White voters who do not hold a four-year degree are a mirror image, breaking 58% for Trump to 40% for Biden. Among those White voters with degrees, the gender gap is relatively small, but it is a yawning 38 points between White women without degrees (49% Biden to 49% Trump) and White men without degrees (68% Trump to 30% for Biden). And seniors, who shifted in the Democrats' direction in the 2018 election, are solidly in Biden's corner in this poll. Overall, 55% of likely voters age 65 or older back the Democrat, 44% Trump. Biden also leads by a broad margin among voters under age 35 (68% Biden to 30% Trump), while voters between the ages of 35 and 64 are split about evenly between the two candidates (48% back each candidate). The President's approval rating in the poll stands at 42% approve to 55% disapprove among all adults. Among likely voters, it is a similar 42% approve to 56% disapprove. The numbers have scarcely budged in the last year, with the approval number ranging between 40% and 45% in all but one of the 12 polls CNN has conducted since October 2019. The numbers now are also hardly different from Trump's first approval rating in CNN polling in 2017, when 44% approved and 53% disapproved. Only about 4 in 10 Americans say things are going well in the country right now (39%). That figure has only dipped lower twice in reelection years since 1980: In 1992 (35% going well) and in 1980 (32% going well). All of the data point to an election that is a referendum on an unpopular President, and a sizable share of both candidates' supporters are making their decisions based on their feelings about Trump. Among Biden's supporters, 48% say their vote is more against Trump than for Biden, while 48% say it is for Biden rather than against the President. Though that is still a large anti-Trump vote, that's a shift in favor of a pro-Biden vote compared with polling earlier in the cycle. On the other side, almost 8 in 10 Trump supporters (79%) say that their votes are in support of the President rather than against Biden (17%). Yet, the Trump campaign's messaging in the final weeks of the campaign has been relentlessly negative about Biden. The poll suggests it is making little difference in perceptions of the former vice president. The Democratic nominee's favorability rating in the poll remains largely positive: 55% of likely voters have a favorable view and 42% an unfavorable one, about the same as in early October. Trump's numbers are as negative as they were earlier this month: 57% hold an unfavorable opinion of him while 41% have a favorable view. In 2016, voters who held unfavorable views of both Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton broke sharply in Trump's favor, according to exit polls. But that pool of voters is smaller with this year's candidates, from 18% in the CNN exit poll in 2016 to 4% now. A majority have a favorable view of Biden, but not of Trump (51%), while only 37% have a favorable view of Trump but not of Biden. Biden maintains advantages over Trump as the candidate more likely to unite the country (60% Biden to 34% Trump), who is more honest and trustworthy (54% to 37%), who cares about people like you (54% to 40%) and who will keep Americans safe from harm (52% to 45%). Likely voters are divided, though, over which candidate has the stamina and sharpness to be president (47% say Trump does, 46% Biden), a point of focus for Trump, who has hit Biden over his age throughout the campaign. Likely voters are more likely to consider a candidate's positions on the issues important to their vote than they are the candidate's leadership and personal qualities. But the subset that is focused on personal qualities breaks sharply to Biden (71% support Biden, 27% Trump), while those who say issues are more critical favor Trump (54% Trump to 43% Biden). Overall, though, Biden is more often seen as the candidate with a clear plan to solve the country's problems, 54% say Biden, 41% Trump. And the former vice president holds an advantage over Trump as more trusted to handle racial inequality (60% Biden to 36% Trump), the coronavirus outbreak (57% to 39%), health care (57% to 41%), crime and safety (52% to 46%) and Supreme Court nominations (51% to 44%). Still, Trump has regained an edge on handling the economy (51% Trump to 46% Biden). More generally, a majority of likely voters see Biden's policy proposals as likely to move the country in the right direction (53%), while most say Trump's proposals point in the wrong direction (53%). And all of this plays out against the backdrop of a spiking coronavirus pandemic. Eight months after much of the country shut down to slow the spread of the virus, 50% of Americans say the worst of that outbreak is still yet to come. Only half say they are comfortable returning to their regular routines. Additionally, 40% say the economy is still in a downturn due to the virus, while just 29% say the economy is starting to recover. On all of these measures of where the country stands in the fight against coronavirus, Biden voters and Trump voters hold completely opposite views. Among Biden backers, 77% say the worst of the pandemic is ahead, while 78% of Trump voters feel it is behind us. More than 8 in 10 Trump supporters (84%) say they are comfortable returning to their regular routines today, while 76% of Biden voters are not. And 64% of Biden supporters say the economy is still worsening, while 62% of Trump voters feel it is on the upswing. The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS October 23 through 26 among a random national sample of 1,005 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer, including 886 likely voters. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; it is plus or minus 3.8 points for results among likely voters. CORRECTION: This story has corrected the margins of error for the overall results and the results among likely voters.