TIME infectious diseases

2 People Die of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo

But the deaths are not related to the current outbreak in West Africa, health officials in Congo say

Two people have died of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, though the cases may be unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa that has killed more than 1,400 people.

Of eight samples taken in the Boende region of Congo’s northwest Equateur province, two came back positive, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said Sunday, the Associated Press reports. Eleven people are sick and in isolation, and 80 contacts are being traced.

“This epidemic has nothing to do with the one in West Africa,” Kabange said.

Ebola has killed 13 people in the region, including five health workers. The current cases are part of the seventh outbreak of Ebola in Congo, where the disease was first discovered in 1976.

[AP]

TIME Syria

American Held Captive by al-Qaeda Affiliate Freed After Nearly 2 Years

Still frame taken from video shows U.S. journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who has been freed by kidnappers in Syria
U.S. journalist Peter Theo Curtis is shown in this undated still frame taken from video courtesy of al-Jazeera on Aug. 24, 2014 Al Jazeera/Reuters

Peter Theo Curtis' release comes days after the execution of American photojournalist James Foley

An American journalist kidnapped and held by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria has been freed, the U.S. said Sunday, ending his nearly two years in captivity.

Peter Theo Curtis was abducted in Antakya, Turkey, from where he planned to enter Syria in October 2012, al-Jazeera reports. He was being held by Al-Nusra Front in Syria before his release.

The U.N. facilitated Curtis’ release, it said Sunday, though it remains unclear where Curtis was exchanged.

U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Sunday that Curtis “will be reunited with his family shortly.” In a separate statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that “for two years, this young American has been separated from his family. Finally he is returning home.”

“Theo’s mother, whom we’ve known from Massachusetts and with whom we’ve worked during this horrific period, simply refused to give up and has worked indefatigably to keep hope alive that this day could be a reality,” Kerry added.

Curtis’ mother Nancy said in a press release Sunday: “My heart is full at the extraordinary, dedicated, incredible people, too many to name individually, who have become my friends and have tirelessly helped us over these many months.”

“Please know that we will be eternally grateful,” added Nancy, who also asked for privacy for her family.

Curtis was imprisoned along with American photojournalist Matthew Schrier, who was held for seven months before escaping in July 2013. Schrier has said he was tortured and starved by his jailers, and described being beaten on the soles of his feet until he could no longer walk.

Curtis’ release comes days after the beheading of American photojournalist James Foley, who was executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS. The U.S. revealed this week it attempted a military rescue mission to save Foley and other Americans but failed to bring them back.

Kerry said in his statement that the U.S. tried many different avenues to obtain Curtis’ release, and that Washington continues to use “every diplomatic, intelligence and military tool” to bring American citizens home.

“Over these last two years, the United States reached out to more than two dozen countries asking for urgent help from anyone who might have tools, influence, or leverage to help secure Theo’s release and the release of any Americans held hostage in Syria,” Kerry said.

TIME celebrities

Rap Mogul Suge Knight Shot in L.A. Night Club

Posing Heroes, "A Dog Day Afternoon" Benefiting A Wish For Animals - Portraits
Music producer Suge Knight in Los Angeles, March 30, 2013. Michael Bezjian—WireImage/Getty Images

Knight has been in his share of East Coast v. West Coast rap feuds, but the reason for the shooting remained unknown Sunday

Rap entrepreneur Marion “Suge” Knight was shot early Sunday in a crowded night club but is expected to survive, Los Angeles police said.

Knight, who is the founder of the influential Death Row Records and who helped steer Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg to success, was one of three club patrons struck by gunfire around 1:30 a.m. at the 1OAK nightclub on West Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, the Associated Press reports.

The two other victims, a man and a woman, were being treated at local hospitals and also expected to survive.

The shooting occurred the night before MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday evening in Inglewood. MTV said the party was not affiliated with its awards event.

The R&B star Chris Brown co-hosted the party at the nightclub with Pia Mia and was inside the club at the time of the shooting, but wasn’t hit by gunfire.

Knight has been engaged in a rap feud with East Coast artists over the past two decades and has been in and out of jail due to related parole violations and physical attacks.

[AP]

TIME celebrities

Watch Robin Williams Hilariously Explain How He Was So Good at Improv

In 2001, Robin Williams explained his hilarious improv by doing seven minutes of hilarious improv

+ READ ARTICLE

Robin Williams’ improvisational style—effervescent, manic, freewheeling—was greatly admired among his fellow comedians and adored by audiences. He brought an exuberant energy to the stage and invented characters with a lightning quickness. But how did he do it? What was his trick?

In a session on Inside the Actor’s Studio in June 2001, host James Lipton asked Williams what makes his gift come to life.

“Are you thinking faster than the rest of us?” says Lipton. “What the hell is going on?”

Williams launches into a seven-minute improvisational schtick, playing characters from an Amish prisoner to Kung-Fu master, to an automobile at a car wash, to an Oedipal psychotherapist’s patient. It’s less of an explanation of his talents than a full-throated demonstration of them, and it’s hilarious and wonderful.

“That’s as close as I could explain,” says Williams.

TIME natural disaster

Northern California’s Napa Valley Rocked By Strongest Earthquake in 25 Years

A 6.0 magnitude caused power outages and structural damage north of the Bay Area

+ READ ARTICLE

Updated at 1:20 p.m.

At least 87 people were injured early Sunday morning after the largest earthquake to hit California’s Napa Valley in 25 years struck near the Bay Area.

The 6.0-magnitude quake struck at 3:20 a.m. local time near American Canyon, about 6 miles southwest of Napa, at a depth of 6.7 miles. The earthquake is the largest to strike the Napa Valley area since the Loma Prieta earthquake almost 25 years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a tweet:

A Northern California hospital treated more than 87 patients in the wake of the earthquake, the Associated Press reports. Three people were critically injured.

Widespread power outages in Napa and Sonoma were recorded and historic buildings in downtown Napa were damaged, CBS Local San Francisco reports. The town’s library and the historic Chinese laundry building were badly damaged, water mains had burst, and at least two homes were lit ablaze.

The foundation under Highway 37 was damaged between Interstate 80 and downtown Vallejo, and the road was shut down at Sonoma Boulevard to inspect for structural damage. A separate bridge entering American Canyon was damaged and will be closed.

Several injuries have been reported due to broken glass.

Governor Jerry Brown said Sunday morning that California had mobilized multiple resources to respond to the quake. Brown later declared a state of emergency following the quake.

“My Office of Emergency Services has been on full activation since early this morning and is working closely with state and local emergency managers, first responders and transportation officials to respond to impacts to residents and critical infrastructure,” Brown said. “These public safety officials are doing all they can to help residents and those living in affected areas should follow their guidance and instruction.”

Some California residents, meanwhile, made the best of the situation:

The USGS said that there is a 54% chance of a strong and possibly damaging aftershock in the next seven days, and a 5 to 10% chance that an earthquake of equal or even larger magnitude will strike in the next week. Weak aftershocks are likely in the coming days.

The causative fault of the earthquake is unknown, but the USGS said it suspected the Browns Valley section of the West Napa fault.

TIME celebrities

Taylor Swift Finally Explains Why She’s a Feminist and How Lena Dunham Helped

The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Backstage
Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 10, 2013 in Los Angeles. Kevin Mazur—WireImage/Getty Images

"Becoming friends with Lena... has made me realize that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so."

Taylor Swift’s stance on feminism has been hotly discussed since early in her career: her lyrics and persona have been scrupulously analyzed for evidence (or lack thereof) of an incipient feminist vein. When asked in a 2012 interview with the Daily Beast whether she was a feminist, Swift answered, somewhat evasively, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

Well, the debate over whether one of our era’s most renowned pop stars identifies as a feminist appears to have finally been put to rest.

“As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities,” Swift said in an interview with the Guardian. “What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all.”

In fact, it’s Swift’s friendship with the indefatigable Lena Dunham that appears to have swayed her view. According to the Guardian, Dunham and Swift became friends when the creator of Girls sent the pop singer a direct message over Twitter that said “Can we be friends please?” Things pretty much went naturally from then on.

“Becoming friends with Lena – without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for – has made me realize that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so,” Swift said.

[Guardian]

TIME space travel

Watch: SpaceX Rocket Detonated Mid-Flight During Test

A SpaceX rocket detonated automatically when a problem was detected during a test flight

+ READ ARTICLE

A SpaceX rocket exploded over McGregor, Texas during a test flight Friday, though no one was injured in the incident.

A problem was detected during a test of a three-engine version of SpaceX’s F9R vehicle, the company said, and the flight’s termination system then automatically self-destructed, bringing the mission to a sudden end.

“Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test,” SpaceX said in a statement.

SpaceX is a space transport company founded by PayPal founder and Tesla executive Elon Musk. The company has been working closely with NASA, and its Dragon capsule has been used to send unmanned resupply missions to the International Space Station.

SpaceX’s F9R rocket is reusable, and could make spaceflight 100 times cheaper, Musk has said, NBC reports.

Musk said in a Twitter post that there were no “near injuries” in the explosion.

TIME Smartphones

Apple Is Replacing Some iPhone 5 Batteries for Free

Apple Introduces iPhone 5
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Some iPhone 5 units have faulty batteries, check yours here

Anyone who has had to repeatedly charge their phone throughout the day knows that battery life is a key measure of a smartphone’s quality. The iPhone 5 has a decent battery life — except, perhaps, if you happen to have bought yours at the wrong time.

Some iPhone 5 devices sold between September 2012 and January 2013 have a battery problem leading to a shorter battery life, Apple said Friday. Users experiencing battery issues may have bought one in a series of iPhone 5 devices that were affected by charging problems.

“Apple has determined that a very small percentage of iPhone 5 devices may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently,” Apple said in a note.

Owners of the iPhone 5 who are having issues can input their phone’s serial number on Apple’s page and see if they qualify for a free battery replacement. The replacement is available in the U.S. and China as of Aug. 22, and in other countries as of Aug. 29.

TIME Iceland

Iceland Lowers Alert for Volcanic Eruptions a Day After Raising It

Volcano eruption risk moved to red
A general view of a road closure to the Vattnajokull glacier the site of the Bardarbunga volcano under the Dyngjujokull ice cap in Iceland, Aug. 24, 2014. Vilhelm Gunnarsson—Fretabladid/EPA

Iceland lowered its aviation alert for the volcano to orange on Sunday

Updated Sunday, August 24 at 10:00 a.m.

A subglacial eruption is underway at Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano, where there have been thousands of earthquakes in the past week, Iceland’s Meteorological Office said Saturday.

Seismic data suggests that volcanic lava is melting ice beneath the Vatnajokull glacier, said seismic vulcanologist Melissa Pfeffer, Reuters reports. It’s unclear whether the eruption will break through the ice and shoot steam and ash into the atmosphere. The amount of ash produced in a larger eruption would depend on how thick the ice is, Pfeffer said, with thicker ice likely to cause a more explosive and ash-rich eruption.

On Sunday, Iceland lowered its aviation alert level to orange from red, saying there is no sign of an eruption at the Bardarbunga volcano. Iceland had said the day before that an eruption could cause “significant emission of ash into the atmosphere” and set its alert level for the volcano to the highest degree, red.

Ash clouds can cause a massive headache for international airlines, as aircraft have to be rerouted to avoid them. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled in 2010 after the eruption of Eyjafjallajokul, an Icelandic volcano that produced a cloud so large it obstructed air travel.

[AP]

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