Ebola — which first appeared in 1976 in the Congo and Sudan — is a brutal virus, with some strains killing up to 90 percent of people infected. People infected with Ebola, which is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, vomit, and diarrhea, can remain symptomless for between 2 and 21 days before being stricken with flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, and vomiting which can lead to the hemorrhaging of the eyes, mouth, and internal organs.
The current outbreak in West Africa is the biggest yet, killing 672 people since February, including at least two American citizens. The disease could potentially start spreading even faster after a Liberian man infected with the virus was allowed to board a plane that made a stopover in Ghana, changed planes in Togo, and died in Lagos, the world's fourth most populous city.
Some even worry that the disease could spread to the U.S. after the wife and children of a Texan doctor who came down with the virus were allowed to fly back to America. CDC director Tom Frieden says the CDC is ready for the possibility: "We do not anticipate this will spread in the U.S. if an infected person is hospitalized here, but we are taking action now by alerting healthcare workers in the U.S. and reminding them how to isolate and test suspected patients while following strict infection control procedures."
The only happy news is that the disease is showing signs of becoming more treatable. Deborah-Fay Ndhlovu of Nature points to a 2012 study that showed that "monkeys infected with Ebola have been cured by a cocktail of three antibodies first administered 24 hours or more after exposure. The result raises hopes that a future treatment could improve the chances of humans surviving the disease caused by the deadly virus."
But sadly, even if this research leads to an effective human treatment, a cure in monkeys is no use to humans infected today. John Aziz
A giant sheet of granite has fallen from Half Dome, making it even harder to ascend the Yosemite National Park landmark.
Park officials said the sheet, which they estimate is 100 by 200 feet, peeled off from halfway up the sheer face of Half Dome sometime last week. No one was hurt or saw the granite fall; it was found by climbers, who were unable to pass and had to turn around. "What used to be relatively easy climbing has gotten much more difficult," park geologist and climber Greg Stock told The Associated Press.
There are several routes climbers can take, and this particular one is considered one of the top 50 climbing destinations in North America. Hundreds of skilled climbers take on Half Dome every year, and while this affects some climbers, Yosemite Chief of Staff Mike Gauthier is certain it won't keep anyone away. "Now is their chance to find a new work-around," he said. "And they will." Catherine Garcia
That galaxy far, far away just keeps getting more crowded. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney has yet another expansion of the Star Wars universe on the horizon: a spin-off focused on the adventures of the young Han Solo.
The Han Solo spin-off will be written, directed, and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directorial team behind recent smash hits like 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie. No word on casting, but it's hard to imagine a young actor in Hollywood who wouldn't jump at the chance to step into such an iconic role.
The Han Solo movie is just one of many new movies designed to expand the depth and breadth of the Star Wars universe. In addition to J.J. Abrams' Episode VII, which arrives in December, and its two planned sequels, Godzilla director Gareth Edwards is slated to helm Rogue One, a spin-off about the team that stole the plans for the Death Star, setting the stage for the original Star Wars.
Update: Following The Hollywood Reporter's story, the Han Solo spin-off was confirmed on StarWars.com. The movie will explain "how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley," says the press release. The film will hit theaters in May 2018. Scott Meslow
Bike-sharing programs are all the rage in major U.S. cities, but none have got it quite right the way Chicago has. In an announcement Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the city's bike-sharing program, Divvy, will become available to low-income residents for $70 off — that is, it will cost only $5 total for a year of use. The city will even throw in a free helmet for the first 250 applicants.
The hope is that the usual bike-share riders — who tend to be wealthy, college-educated, white men — won't be the only ones taking advantage of eco-friendly transportation. But the new discounted price isn't all that makes Divvy's bikes more accessible. Unlike New York's program, Citi Bike, Divvy's stations aren't confined mainly to the wealthier neighborhoods. Divvy is the largest bike-sharing program in the States, with its service area stretching as far north as Chicago's Touhy Avenue, as far south as 75th Street, and as far west as Pulaski Road. Jeva Lange
America's heroin epidemic has reached new highs. Heroin use in America has increased by more than 150 percent since 2007, and the drug now has at least half a million users, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. The gender gap and the race gap in heroin use are also narrowing: Women and white Americans experienced the biggest increases in users, and young adults aged 18-25 were also particularly vulnerable — heroin use in that age group has more than doubled.
Heroin overdose deaths are also on the rise. In 2013, more than 8,200 people died from heroin in the U.S; In 2001, that count was only 1,800. CDC researchers suspect the increase in heroin overdose deaths is linked to the fact that many people using heroin are also using other substances, such as cocaine and painkillers.
More broadly, heroin's resurgence is connected to the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, particularly opioid painkiller use, Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, told NPR. People addicted to prescription opiates are essentially "primed" for a heroin addiction and are 40 times more likely to become dependent on heroin, and since heroin is far cheaper than prescription painkillers, many users unfortunately end up making the switch. Becca Stanek
Some former child stars morph into big-name adult comedians. Think Kenan Thompson, a fixture on Saturday Night Live since 2003. Alas, Thompson's counterpart on their eponymous mid-'90s Nickelodeon show Kenan & Kel has had a more scattered grown-up career (think bit parts on shows such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Veggie Tales, and Loiter Squad).
That all will change for Kel Mitchell this September, as Entertainment Weekly reports the actor will appear on Game Shakers, a new show on the network that started Mitchell's career, Nickelodeon. To explain Mitchell's part on the show would rob you of this gem of a description, so here's the actor dishing on his upcoming role:
I get to play a hip-hop mogul who is the comedic version of artists like Kanye, Diddy, Eminem and 50 Cent. Double G is a rapper/singer/dancer/entrepreneur/investor, which gives us great story lines on the show. I love playing such a wild character, because you will see some great physical comedy, but he also has heart; he is a single dad that loves his son, Triple G, played by the very talented Benjamin 'Lil P-Nut' Flores, Jr. There are so many layers to this character that it is one of those dream-come-true roles. [EW]
EW reports that the show will follow seventh-graders Babe (Cree Cicchino) and Kenzie (Madisyn Shipman) as they launch and then navigate the subsequent success of a mobile music app called Sky Whale. Mitchell's character begins the series at odds with the youngsters, before eventually teaming up with them. This may not sound like the greatest gig in the world for a grown actor, but then again Mitchell is a guy who once got 27 seconds into a Nick show during which he does nothing but wax poetic about orange soda.
The world is Kel's good burger. Sarah Eberspacher
Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist school and Texas' oldest university, has dropped a ban on "homosexual acts" from its sexual conduct policy. A spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle that the change would more clearly reflect "Baylor's caring community."
According to the old policy:
Baylor will be guided by the understanding that human sexuality is a gift from the creator God and that the purposes of this gift included (1) the procreation of human life and (2) the uniting and strengthening of the marital bond in self-giving love. These purposes are to be achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage. Misuses of God's gift will be understood to include, but not be limited to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts. [Waco Tribune]
The new policy simply reads:
Baylor will be guided by the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity. Thus, it is expected that Baylor students, faculty, and staff will engage in behaviors consistent with this understanding of human sexuality. [Waco Tribune]
Baylor still imposes bans on alcohol on campus and at university events; its ban on dancing was lifted only in the mid-1990s. Jeva Lange
First Lady Michelle Obama was more than a tad skeptical when President Obama told her and Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett that he might sing "Amazing Grace" during his eulogy last month for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston church shooting.
The New York Times has the scene, which took place aboard Marine One on the way to the funeral.
"When I get to the second part of referring to 'Amazing Grace,' I think I might sing," he told them, by Ms. Jarrett's account.
"Hmm," Ms. Jarrett recalled responding.
Mrs. Obama was a little more pointed. "Why on earth would that fit in?” she asked.
He tried to explain. "I don't know whether I'm going to do it," he said, according to Ms. Jarrett, "but I just wanted to warn you two that I might sing." He added, "We'll see how it feels at the time." [The New York Times]
Of course, Obama did ultimately break out in song — and it was arguably the most stirring part of his eulogy. Later, he told Jarrett, "I knew I was going to sing. I was just trying to figure out which key to sing it."