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University of New South Wales

The discovery of 3.5 billion year old fossil evidence of microorganisms suggests life on Earth could have began on land in a hot spring, researchers say in a new study.

  • Why it matters: The fossils push the geological record of primitive terrestrial life back about 580 million years and challenge the current theory that life on the planet originated in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor. The Western Australia rock formation where the fossils were found could also provide a guide for looking for life on Mars.
  • Where did we come from? "There are cases to be made for both a salt water and fresh water beginning to life but the jury is still out on where life started," says astrobiologist Robert Hazen, who wasn't involved in the study.
  • The big question: How much earlier did life begin here?

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
21 mins ago - Economy & Business

The fragile recovery

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of people receiving unemployment benefits is falling but remains remarkably high three weeks before pandemic assistance programs are set to expire. More than 1 million people a week are still filing for initial jobless claims, including nearly 300,000 applying for pandemic assistance.

By the numbers: As of Nov. 14, 20.2 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits of some kind, including more than 13.4 million on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs that were created as part of the CARES Act and end on Dec. 26.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

The top candidates Biden is considering for key energy and climate roles

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged President-elect Joe Biden to nominate Mary Nichols, chair of California's air pollution regulator, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The reported push by Schumer could boost Nichol's chances of leading an agency that will play a pivotal role in Biden's vow to enact aggressive new climate policies — especially because the plan is likely to rest heavily on executive actions.

U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as recovery slows

Data: BLS; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market continues to recover even as coronavirus cases surge— though it's still millions of jobs short of the pre-pandemic level. The problem is that the rate of recovery is slowing significantly.

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