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The holidays are a festive time where people come together to worship, give thanks and celebrate life, but they also can be a difficult time for many. Whether it’s remembering those who have been lost or the amplification of stressful interaction with family and friends, the holiday blues are an unfortunate reality for countless people.


Auburn University Professor Kimberly Key provides advice on year-end financial and tax planning. She serves as the PWC Professor of Accounting in Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business.


A new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first isolated and characterized from South Africa on Nov. 9. This “variant of concern” is designated Omicron by the World Health Organization for the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet. The virus has a “constellation” of mutations more than 50 total, of which 32 are in the all-important spike protein, which may cause the virus to be more transmissible, produce more severe disease and override existing immunity. The reason for this concern is that prior variants have had only a few mutations in the spike protein. Scientists indicate that there is much work that needs to be done examining this variant in terms of transmissibility, severity of illness and, most importantly, whether protection stimulated by multiple doses of currently approved vaccines will provide significant protection against infection or clinical signs. Initial data from areas with a high number of positive cases indicate that the Omicron variant is more infectious than the Delta virus. However, more data needs to be collected on the incidence and severity of disease produced by this new variant in areas with a high frequency of positive cases.


Space-related storylines have proliferated the news in recent weeks, from reports of space debris forcing astronauts at the International Space Station, or ISS, to take shelter or maneuver the station out of harm’s way, to satellite launches aimed at meteors. In addition, NASA will launch a revolutionary telescope on Dec. 18 that will give scientists expanded capabilities for novel research projects designed to study the formation of planets. Auburn University Associate Professor of Physics Dennis Bodewits discussed the recent news and what the future may hold for space research.


With the appearance of the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there are a number of questions regarding what the disease is, how it is transmitted, who is vulnerable and how it is treated. Marilyn Bulloch, associate clinical professor in the Harrison School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacy Practice, provides comments on what is known about the newest variant.