COVID-19 : Caused by Hybrid of Bat and Pangolin Viruses

Research work undertaken by a team of scientists from different universities, was able to trace the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a genetic analysis of the viruses, they arrived at a conclusion that the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the COVID-19 infectious disease was a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.

Scientist and researchers from the New York University, the Duke University, the University of Texas at El Paso and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, found out that the coronavirus strain that infects bats had exchanged genes with the coronavirus strain that infects pangolin. The merger produced SARS-CoV-2, a hybrid virus that made direct infections possible on humans.

What Makes the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Different from Earlier Coronaviruses

Where the first SARS virus shifted from bats to civets, and the MERS were transmissions between bats and dromedary camels, the bat-pangolin SARS-CoV-2 virus, developed a genetic material that enabled the strain to directly infect humans.

The explanation was provided by Feng Gao, M.D. a professor of Medicine at Duke University’s Division of Infectious Diseases and School of Medicine; being the author of the study published online in the Science Advances journal last May 29, 2020. .

The Study Demonstrates Proof of Pangolin Virus’ Role in the Emergence of a New Coronavirus

 

According to Dr. Gao, a genetic analysis of the novel coronavirus confirmed that the pangolin coronavirus was the closest relative to the virus! but different from the typical pangolin virus strain that does not cause direct infection to humans.

However, Dr. Gao said they found a receptor-binding site, which is part of the spike protein that enables the novel coronavirus to bind to the cell membrane. The binding site made it possible for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to attach to a cell surface protein found abundant in the cells of human respiratory, intestinal epithelia and kidney organs.

He added that on its own, Pangolin coronavirus cannot efficiently infect humans. Yet its bat coronavirus ancestor allowed it to create a different binding site.

Elena Giorgi, co-lead author and staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory said that others have already examined the sequences of the Pangolin coronavirus before. Still, half of the scientific community still had reservations about the role it played in the development of the novel coronavirus

Ms. Giorgi said

“In our study, we showed proof that there was indeed a rich history in the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We were able to demonstrate that the viruses evolved through the reshuffling of genetic material between the coronaviruses of bats and pangolins, before the novel coronavirus acquired the ability to jump to humans and infect human cells.”

Changing Ecosystems : Root Cause of Emerging Diseases

More than a decade ago, medical researchers had already warned that changing ecosystems will influence the emergence of infectious diseases like Covid-19.

In a report entitled “Microbial Threats to Health” published in 2003 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), researchers said that as mankind continue in the 20th century with economic developments, polluted air, altered land use and contaminated freshwater sources will bring on transformations in the natural environment; causing changes in ecosystems that will also impact the ecology of microbes, organisms and pathogens, either individually or collectively.

True enough, as a result of those changes, the climate and weather also changed, while life on Earth was impacted by numerous environmental catastrophes and emergence of several new infectious diseases. Combined with economic developments related to commerce and international travel, the emerging and re-emerging strains of viruses allowed contagions to spread and be transmitted globally; infecting populations at pandemic level.

The WHO Gave Proof to Earlier Claims of Infectious-Disease Researchers

Claims made in the 2003 IOM report were provided with evidence in the 2007 report of the World Health Organization (WHO). Based on WHO researchers’ studies of data gathered since the 1970s, they reported that as many as 40 infectious diseases had been discovered. The list included the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), ebola, avian flu, swine flu, H1N1 and other similar life-threatening infectious diseases that had spread epidemically and threatened many nations.

Today, the WHO reports of the novel coronavirus labeled as SARS-2 COVID-19, another severe acute respiratory disease that has been transmitted globally. To date, Covid-19 has already infected 350,536 people, including 15,328 individuals who died from the disease. .

Covid-!9 Validated Uncanny Non-Science Based Predictions

The current rate by which the Covid-19 infectious disease has gripped nations with fear, as the rapid spread can only be slowed down by way of massive quarantine measures. Although the outbreak of Covid-19 started in Wuhan, China, the global spread has made Italy the epicenter of the pandemic, for having the most number of cases (59,138) and deaths (5,476.)

As millions of people in countries worldwide have been ordered to stay confined within their homes, many are turning their attention to fictional predictions about infectious diseases. mentioned in books.

Among the popular books mentioned in social media sites is the novel published in 1981, entitled “The Eyes of Darkness” and written by Dean Koontz. Here, the author developed an end-of-the-world story revolving around the transformation of the flu-causing coronavirus into a deadly infectious disease.What is uncanny about Koontz’ fictional prediction is that he named the infectious disease Wuhan-400, after China’s Wuhan province from where the disease had originated.

In 2008, a book written by self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Brown, entitled “End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies About the End of the World” contained a passage predicting a severe, pneumonia-like illness that will spread worldwide by the year 2020.

Many who believe in astrology, particularly those subscribing to astrology websites like https://www.ganeshaspeaks.com/zodiac-signs/ took interest in analyzing quatrains penned by famed French astrologer Notradamus during the mid 15th century. In a book called “Les Propheties,” not a few are inclined to believe that Nostrdamus’s prophecies describe how Covid-19 will hit Italy.

Trump Administration Officially Repeals Obama’s Clean Waters Rule

Last February 06, 2020, the Trump administration officially repealed the 2015 Clean Waters Rule of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Act, after suspending it on September 12, 2019 on the basis of a Supreme court ruling.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that after decades of court litigations, the Trump administration’s new “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” give famers, landowners, businesses as well as the American public, regulatory certainty when using their own land as they see fit, without need to hire lawyers in order to assert their right to do so.

Wheeler asserts that

The Trump administration’s WOTUS rule protects our waterways and the environment, while respecting the state governments and private property owners as well.”

That being the case, waterways including streams and wetlands will no longer be under federal protection against pollution as previously mandated by the 2015 Clean Waters Rule.

Background of the Repealed 2015 Clean Waters Rule

The Clean Waters Rule is a 2015 regulation promulgated under the Obama administration. Its publishing was in response to issues about lack of clarity of the WOTUS rule with regard to the scope by which legislators at multiple levels, researchers, scientists, activists industry members, and citizens of the U.S. can seek federal water protection.

As it was, the WOTUS Rule simply defined the coverage of federal management and regulation as pertaining to all bodies of water under U.S. federal jurisdiction

To clarify coverage of water resource management and regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published the Clean Waters Rule.

It defined the scope of federal water protection, by consistently including streams and wetlands that are hydrologically and ecologically connected to interstate waters, traditional navigable waters and territorial seas.

Obama’s Clean Waters Rule though has been contested through numerous legal challenges, which the subsequent Trump administration vowed to review, rescind or revise.

Criticisms Against the Trump Administration’s “Navigable Waters Protection Rule”

Betsy Southerland, former Director of EPA’s Office of Water – Science and Technology assails the roll back of the 2015 Clean Waters Rule as “socially unjust and scientifically indefensible.”

According to Ms. Southerland, limiting federal water protection to quite a small set of waterways and wetlands, denotes that pollution control and wetland protection will be transferred to companies engaged in mining, oil and gas production, and land development. Since these companies will not receive regulations over such matters, impairment of drinking water, disparagement of fisheries, and diminished flood control for communities are likely to happen.

Downstream communities who will be affected, will have to shoulder the costs of protecting themselves.

The Drawing Power of Toronto as the 7th Most Livable City Globally

One of Toronto, Canada’s strongest drawing power as an excellent place to live in, is the abundance of urban parks. Totalling 1,600 in all, the city’s entire parkland is equivalent to about 8,000 hectares of municipal-owned green spaces.

Ranked as the 7th most livable city on a global scale, Toronto is a true haven for nature lovers and those who enjoy spending time outdoors. Parks are everywhere throughout the metropolis; including the extensive green space formed by a network of ravines known as the Toronto Ravine System.

A Glimpse of the Toronto Ravine System and Waterways

The Toronto Ravine System is the very reason why many describe the metropolis as “The City Within a Park.” It is home to many rivers and creeks making up the natural waterways of the area.

Although the ravines attract many bikers and hikers, their popularity though is not without consequence. Environmental problems such as pollution and erosion have affected many of the creeks and rivers running throughout the ravinces.

Pollution is being caused by persistent use of the ravines as dumping sites for wastes, even if forbidden by the local government. That is why it is inadvisable to take dips or even wade in many of rivers and creeks as they are quite polluted.

Nonetheless, several of the ravines now have paved paths and well-maintained bridges. Yet the city intends to leave many of its green spaces in their natural state in order to preserve wildlife, as well as curtail the frequent occurrences of erosion.

Just a word of caution though when exploring the untouched areas, since there are no guardrails that explorers can use when climbing steep cliffs or traversing slippery paths; there is always the risk of accidentally falling into the cold and very fast moving waterways.

The Rouge National Urban Park, the Largest Urban Green Space in Canada

Set apart from the numerous urban parklands intended for aesthetic and recreational purposes, is Toronto’s Rouge National Urban Park. Covering an area of 5,000 3 hectares, this park extends into the neighboring communities of Markham and Pickering; making it Canada’s largest urban park.

Managed by Parks Canada (Parcs Canada) a government agency of the Canadian federal government, there is an ongoing initiative to nationalize and expand the Rouge National Urban Park.

Parcs Canada has greatly improved the drawing power of this large urban park by adding more trails, putting up more signage and displays, as well as introduced programmes such as Learn-to-Bike, Learn-to-Hike, Learn-to-Camp and similar complimentary programs for its education and orientation centres.

If you are looking to retire or relocate at Toronto, Canada because of a job offer, you might think twice about it since the city is reputed for its high cost of living.

Still, judging by the way the city government manages its green spaces and natural environment, you and your family will be provided with the best natural and outdoor spaces for a healthy lifestyle. Awesome even is that like in other Canadian provinces, a large part of education in Toronto is publicly funded by all government levels.

Once you start packing, choose a Toronto moving company like easy-moving.ca. The firm is highly reputed for rendering moving services at affordable costs but without sacrificing quality; deploying only highly experienced truck drivers and movers, with insurance coverage to boot.

Battle vs. Climate Change : MIT Chemical Engineers Develop a Revolutionary Method of Capturing And Releasing Carbon

The global battle against climate change requires undertakings by countries all over the world to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down to zero level by the mid century. Currently though, the United States is still way behind in achieving such an objective. Mainly because the country is run by a president who believes global warming and the resulting climate change is just a hoax.

Nonetheless, two chemical engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new process by which CO2 can be captured and then alternately released.

The technique was developed by Sahag Voskian, an MIT Postdoctoral Associate at the Department of Chemical Engineering, in collaboration with T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. Professor Hatton also co-directs MIT’s Center for Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage, with a focus on the development of varying technologies for the purification of air, water, and other substances significant to the environment.

According to Professor Hatton, the process developed by Voskian during his PhD, can capture and alternately release CO2. Through an electrochemical system, CO2 in the air that passes through a stack of charged electrochemical plates will be absorbed, whilst requiring only small swings in voltage to carry out the separations.

The MIT Ralph Landau professor further described the process as one that can happen under ambient conditions, without requiring thermal pressure or chemical additions. Professor Hatton says the revolutionary CO2 carbon capture system simply applies the power of electrochemical approaches, by using a stack of very thin sheets that are active on both surfaces and contained in a box that can be connected to an electrical source.

According to Professor Hatton, a company registered as Verdox has in fact, been set up to commercialize the CO2 capture process. The company’s mission is to develop a pilot-scale plant in the next few years. The device they developed is quite easy to scale up as it only requires making more electrodes to increase capacity.

What Makes MIT’s CO2 Capture Device Different from Other Existing Systems

As a revolutionary tool that will be introduced in removing carbon dioxide from the air, the new method can work on gas at any concentration level, even at the roughly 400 parts per million currently present in the atmosphere. .

The design of the device basically comes as a large, specialized battery comprised by a stack of electrodes coated with a compound called poly anthraquinone, a substance composited with carbon nanotubes.

Once the specialized battery charges up, its chemically coated electrodes will absorb carbon dioxide carried by the stream of air passing through them, which the battery can later release by discharging. When in actual operation the device would alternate between absorbing CO2 during charging and then blowing out the concentrated carbon dioxide during discharging.

Unlike most methods that require high concentrations when removing CO2 from a stream of air, the system developed by MIT chemical engineers can work with low-level concentrations, making it less expensive, and more importantly, less energy-intensive.

Sahag Voskian says their carbon capture device consistently uses only one (1) gigajoule of energy per ton of captured CO2. Other existing carbon capture technologies consume varying energy, ranging between 1 to 10 gigajoules per ton; dependent on the carbon dioxide concentration being processed.

Voskian, the MIT Postdoctoral Associate, also remarked that the electrodes can be produced using standard chemical processing methods, which is unlike other systems that require manufacturing in a laboratory setting.

Voskian says the process has been developed in a very cost-effective way. Adaptation techniques for large quantity electrode production is by way of roll-to-roll manufacturing process like a newspaper printing press.

Climate Change Study: 664 Years of Grape Harvest Dates Present New Evidence of Warming Temperatures

Based on a study of the longest comparable series of grape harvest dates recorded in Beaune, the wine capital of France, climate change researchers were able to gather a new line of evidence that shows how climate trends have changed in the past 30 years. Results of the study were published by the European Geosciences Union in the Climate of the Past journal 2019 edition, showing how warming trends sped up starting from mid 1980s up to the present.

Christian Pfister, professor at the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research of the University of Bern, Switzerland, conducted the study with Thomas Labbé, Stefan Brönnimann, Benjamin Bois, Jörg Franke and Daniel Rousseau, scientists and historians from Switzerland, France, and Germany, Professor Pfister commented that they did not expect the accelerated warming trend would stand out so clearly in the series of grape harvest dates,

What the Study of the Beaune Grape Harvest Dates Revealed

According to the study, grape harvest dates can be used as basis in analyzing climate changes since wine grapes are quite sensitive to rainfall and temperature.

As cited by an article in the French tourism website, Mother Nature decides when grapes are ripe enough for picking. During years when the growing season (spring, summer) is hot and dry, the grapes are ready for picking earlier than in years when spring summer is colder.

Thomas Labbé, lead author of the study and a researcher at the universities of Leipzig and Burgundy said he meticulously reconstructed the grape harvest dates in Beaune, going as far back as1354, and spanning 664 years.

Gathering data from a large number of unedited archives of records and newspaper reports from the Beaune city council, including information on wages paid to grape pickers, Labbé was able to reconstruct the longest ever continuous record of grape harvest dates in the wine capital of France.

The record was divided into two parts, one prior to 1987, when wine grapes were typically harvested from September 28 onward; the other part, from 1988 onward when harvest dates begun at an average of 13 days before September 28. The division of records clearly indicated that from 1988 the region’s climate was hotter and drier compared to the climate conditions during the past six (6) centuries.

The team’s analysis of the grape harvest date series indicated that very hot and dry years were not common in the past, but in the past 30 years, such climate conditions have become the norm. .

To validate the results of their analysis, the team matched their findings to Paris’ detailed records of temperatures covering the past 360 years. They then used the information to estimate Beaune region’s April-to-July temperatures for the entire 664-year coverage of Beaune’s series of grape harvest dates.

Professor Pfister remarked that the rapid transition to global warming period after 1988, stands out with utmost clarity, since the extraordinary characteristics of the last 30 years have become apparent. The climate change professor concluded by saying

“We hope people start to realistically consider the climate situation in which the planet is at present.”

Exposure to Nature During Childhood Years Yields Better Mental Health Upon Adulthood

Children who had a great deal of exposure to nature during their formative years are likely to develop sound mental health when they reach adulthood. This was the conclusion arrived at by a study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an investigative research institution supported by Barcelona’s La Caixa Bank.

The recent study boosted previous findings that natural outdoor environment contributes to the development of better mental and physical health in children.

Thd ISGlobal research aimed to determine the impact of nature-exposure in adults. Survey questionnaires were completed by 3,600 adults coming from four (4) major European cities: Barcelona in Spain), Doetinchem in the Netherlands, Kaunas in Lithuania), and lastly, Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom.

The ISGlobal’s analysis of the survey yielded results suggesting that respondents who indicated better mental disposition were exposed to natural environments during their childhood years.

Exposure to nature has long been linked to several health benefits found in children who manifested better learning, and reasoning skills, when compared to children who grew up indoors, often in front of TV and PC screens. In the ISGlobal research, natural spaces referred mostly to green environments such as forests, gardens, urban parks and the like, rather than blue spaces such as rivers, lakes, beaches, etc. :

Aspects Covered by the ISGlobal Survey Questionnaires

The ISGlobal survey determined the frequency by which adults were exposed to natural spaces during their growing up years. As adults, they were also asked about their satisfaction with the greenness of their present surroundings. As corollary evaluation, the mental conditions of the participants were determined through questions about feelings of nervousness and/or depression during the inclusive four past weeks of responding to the survey. In addition, the greenness of the environment in which participants reside was ascertained by way of satellite images.

The results of the ISGlobal study showed that respondents who had limited exposure to natural spaces during their growing up years scored poorly in the mental health assessment tests. Lead author, Myriam Preuss, explained that the general impression elicited from those with less exposure to nature is that they were less concerned about the importance of natural spaces. In terms of physical health, they found no link associating childhood nature exposure to the present vitality of the adult; nor with the adult’s satisfaction in the use of green spaces.

Research and study coordinator Wilma Zijlema of ISGlobal, cited current statistics that seventy-three (73%) of the European population live in urban areas, whilst having limited access to green spaces. Inasmuch as the proportion is estimated to increase to more than eighty percent (80%) by the year 2050, their findings underscore the importance of recognizing the potential effects of limited exposure to natural spaces during a child’s formative years.

The ISGlobal study gives proof that exposing children to green environment contributes to the development of appreciative attitude toward nature and of sustaining a healthy psychological state upon reaching adulthood.

2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) Reveals Most Eco-Friendly Countries in the World

Several lists of countries ranked as most environment friendly have been published, to which European countries consistently rank high. Yet the list which we are more inclined to share is that of Yale’s, as it reflects the environmental performance of countries, based on the merits determined by the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

What Is the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)

The EPI is a method that quantifies and numerically determines a country’s environmental performance in relation to a core set of issues; whether signs of progress are present or not at all.

The 2018 EPI captured the state of 180 countries in a so called Global Scorecard, using the most recent year data available and data recorded from around a decade earlier. The purpose of which is to determine the current standing of every nation.

A notable characteristic of the EPI is that it also evaluates correlation of the country’s wealth, to the sustainable methods introduced and implemented. Environmental performance as analyzed via the EPI takes into account any environmental trade off incurred in order to achieve income growth.

Trade off may include overuse of natural resources, unmanaged urbanization and unregulated industries. The message imparted by the EPI is that income growth must come with infrastructure necessary for protecting not only the ecosystem but also human health; such as building of facilities for mitigating pollution, for managing wastewater and for improving sources of drinking of drinking water.

The Most Eco-Friendly Countries Revealed by the 2018 Environmental Performance Index

Switzerland continues to top the list of Most Eco-Friendly Countries on a global scale, leading with a total score of 87.42 in terms of overall environmental performance. Switzerland’s impressive environmental performance is reflected through sustainable achievements made in Climate & Energy and Air Pollution, Water & Sanitation and Biodiversity & Habitat.

Completing the list of the world’s Five Most Eco-Friendly Countries are, France landing second place with a score of 83.95; Denmark at third place with 81.60, Malta at 4th by garnering 80.90, and closely followed by 5th placer Sweden with an 80.51 score.