There was nobody at the QuikTrip on Thursday — that's the gas station and convenience store that burned down on the first night of violent protests in Ferguson, Mo. It was once a focal point for protesters.
On Thursday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered his state's National Guard to start withdrawing from the city, a sign of the calm that has finally descended on the city racked by protests ever since police shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old African-American man named Michael Brown.
While the QuikTrip was quiet, there's more of a crowd a short walk away at the Canfield Green Apartment Complex — that's where Brown was shot. Members of the NAACP are here dropping off food and water for residents.
"A lot of people have had trouble getting out of here," says John Gaskin of the St. Louis County chapter of the NACCP. "Many of the people that live in this area don't have cars, as you can see many of the more accessible stores — like the convenient marts — are closed because of the looting."
He says the presence of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has helped calm down protests. So have the rain and heat. On Wednesday night, only six people were arrested in Ferguson, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol. That's way down from the previous night when 51 people were arrested.
More than 160 people have been arrested since the protests began, nearly two weeks ago. Arrest records provide details about where the protesters are coming from.
Sgt. Al Notham, who works with the Highway Patrol, says the bad actors have largely been weeded out. "Community leaders are stepping in. We're getting all kinds of assistance from the community. They're actually doing a fantastic job."
Since the protests erupted, people in Ferguson have insisted that the troublemakers are not from this community. Capt. Ron Johnson, the highway patrolman in charge of security here, said as much earlier this week.
"I am not going to let the criminals that have come out here from across this country and don't live in this community define this neighborhood and define what we're going to do to make it right," Johnson says.
In fact, of the 51 people who were arrested Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, only one person was from Ferguson. The rest were from surrounding towns and faraway cities such as Des Moines, Chicago and New York.
Some were arrested for property damage, disorderly conduct and burglary. Most were taken in for simply not dispersing when police ordered them to.
The violence and looting has also been largely at night. During the day, the protests are completely different. Peaceful protesters have come to Ferguson from as far as Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit to be a part of an outcry sparked by Brown's death.
Kevin Mattson drove here from Athens, Ohio, with his family to protest aggressive policing and to support the plight of young black men.
"It's my obligation as a citizen of the nation," Mattson says.
The Mattson family was protesting earlier this week along with 15 or 20 other people, some praying, in front of the Ferguson police station. While Mattson and his wife, Vicky, are white, his son, Jay, is black.
"Just being African-American and seeing a kid only two years older than me get shot, it's really, just sad and makes me worried about how I am going to act when I leave the small town I live in now," Jay Mattson says. "Because everybody grew up with me and they knew who I was, but when I move away I don't know how other people are going to react to me."
The protests may have died down for now. But John Gaskin, with the NAACP, says his group is planning a youth march on Saturday. And a decision on whether to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown could be weeks away. That could give people from across the country plenty of time to figure out the way to Ferguson.
It was a public health first. Doctors discharged two Americans from a hospital in Atlanta after treating them for Ebola.
Brantly and Writebol went through "a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing for treatment," before they were release, said Emory's Dr. Bruce Ribner, at a press conference Thursday. He is confident that their release posed no threat to the public, Ribner added.
But still, the news of Brantly's and Writebol's release generated a flurry of questions from our readers — and our team members. To answers some of the most frequently asked ones, we reached out to Dr. Barbara Knust, an epidemiologist at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
She responded through a CDC spokesperson via email. We've edited her responses for clarity and space.
Can a survivor pass the Ebola virus on to someone else through, for example, a hug or a kiss?
Ebola is spread only by people exhibiting symptoms and through direct contact with bodily fluids. Once a person recovers from Ebola virus disease, he or she is no longer shedding virus, and thus is not contagious.
In past Ebola outbreaks, follow-up studies of patients who have recovered from Ebola and their contacts found no evidence that the Ebola virus was spread from a recovered patient to their close contacts.
We've read that the virus still lingers in semen and breast milk after recovery. Is that true?
The World Health Organization states that the Ebola virus has been found in male semen up to seven weeks after recovery. They also cite a specific instance when the Ebola virus was found in the semen of a man 61 days after recovery.
Therefore, male survivors of Ebola are advised to avoid having sex for three months or to use condoms. (In an earlier interview, Knust also said that women are instructed to wean any children who have been breast-feeding.)
Semen and breast milk are not the primary means by which Ebola is transmitted. The virus is primarily transmitted via blood, sweat, feces and vomit.
As you may have heard today from Emory officials and Dr. Brantly, neither Brantly nor Writebol are completely sure how or where they contracted the virus. But each knows they either treated Ebola patients or were in close contact with those who treated Ebola patients. In either case, we just don't know what bodily fluid may have been the vessel of transmission.
Can there be long-term damage to a person's organs after recovering from Ebola?
There could be, though CDC isn't aware of any. Ebola is a severe disease, and recovery can take a long time. Long-term damage would depend on the clinical course the disease took.
Does a survivor suffer any irreversible damage?
We don't have data on this.
In a previous interview, Dr. Darin Portnoy, of Doctors Without Borders, said renal, kidney, liver or lung function can take some time to recover in some cases. If the patient goes into shock, it can also damage the heart muscle, which may not ever recover. A shock-like state can also decrease blood flow to the brain and cause some irreversible damage. Each case is different, Portnoy stressed.
Would it be safe for Brantly to go back to Africa?
That would be a question for the medical team that treated him. Whether Dr. Brantly returned to Africa would be a decision made by him and his employer.
Is there any risk of relapse?
This is a viral disease, and testing conducted by the CDC indicated the virus is no longer inside Dr. Kent Brantly or Nancy Writebol. There has been no risk of relapse reported.
Is Brantly now immune to all strains and species of Ebola, or just the strain that he caught?
Most likely, his immune system developed antibodies against the Zaire species of Ebola virus that infected his body. Certainly, he has some immunity against that type of Ebola. But it's uncertain how long that immunity will last and whether he now has immunity against the other known Ebola species.
Before Charlie McDowell's fantastical debut feature The One I Love descends completely down the rabbit hole, it begins with a more everyday kind of dream. Ethan (Mark Duplass), trying to rekindle the romance in his failing marriage to Sophie (Elisabeth Moss), hopes that one magic night might do the trick. To celebrate their anniversary, he gets Sophie to re-create the night the two met, when they sneaked into a stranger's backyard to swim in their pool, only to be caught by the homeowner.
Of course, the fanciful re-creation backfires when the owner never appears, despite Ethan's calling out to him after diving in. Evidently there's no panacea for his and Sophie's problems — lingering distrust after some infidelity, Sophie's sense that "happiness is now something we need to re-create" — though that doesn't stop their therapist (Ted Danson) from suggesting his own cure-all: a weekend getaway to an idyllic countryside estate.
Initially, the retreat appears to work wonders. On the first night, the two make dinner, they get high, and eventually, as they explore the nearby guesthouse, they seem to rediscover a playfulness in their relationship. They even have sex. It's all quite lovely until Sophie, returning to the main house, discovers Ethan asleep on the couch. He remembers nothing beyond dinner and smoking up.
The next morning, after spending the rest of the night alone in the guesthouse, Ethan wakes up to Sophie, who has seemingly forgotten about the previous night's disagreement, making breakfast. But Ethan notices that something's off with the food she's preparing: "You hate it when I eat bacon," he says suspiciously.
(In interviews about the movie, Moss and Duplass have been fairly adamant about not spoiling the plot much further than this. But frankly, I don't think the movie can be ruined by disclosing a plot twist that occurs 20 minutes in. It's more interesting than that. Still, if you want the full surprise, you've been warned.)
Instead of discovering a cure to their marriage woes, Sophie and Ethan discover a guesthouse that seemingly contains an alternate dimension in which their doppelgangers reside. Considering how outrageous the twist sounds now that I write it, it's particularly impressive how naturally the film introduces it.
McDowell and writer Justin Lader don't resort to shock tactics by having, say, the two Ethans come face to face suddenly. The reveal is gradual and infused with comedy. While still under the impression that he's talking to the real Sophie, Ethan asks doppel-Sophie why she claimed they had sex the night before. Was she so drunk she imagined the whole thing? Was it a failed joke? Sophie's double tries feebly to explain the moment away: "Honestly, it was just one of those things, you know?"
Like in other doppelganger scenarios — such as, most recently, The Double and Enemy — Ethan and Sophie's doubles represent idealized versions of themselves, although in this case the fantasy is not self-directed but a product of Sophie and Ethan's illusions about each other. The guesthouse creates the fantasy partners that both Ethan and Sophie have been missing: the husband that's playful, romantic and agrees to wear contacts instead of glasses; the wife that's forgiving, affectionate and lets you eat bacon.
In service of a story about a relationship in distress, the gimmick is fairly on the nose, no doubt. It becomes clear fairly early in the film that what Sophie wants Ethan to be has become increasingly distanced from the reality of the man in front of her — hence the luck of finding a new and improved double! Nevertheless, it's a gimmick that is also easy to condone for the sake of seeing Moss and Duplass, both superb in their roles, play out a Before Midnight-like scenario.
McDowell and Lader, though, run out of patience or ideas for the broken marriage plotline halfway through, shifting focus almost entirely to the science fiction elements of the plot. That means, more than anything, that the two decide we need a semi-reasonable explanation for the magic of the guesthouse. The resulting twist is hastily expounded, far-fetched, filled with gaping holes in logic, and all the more frustrating for its pointlessness. If you haven't bought into the premise by the time the film gets to these explanations, it's hard to imagine that half-cogent reasoning will win you over.
The only thing that saves the movie once it reaches that point is the pleasure of watching Moss and Duplass. In distinguishing the two versions of their characters, both offer simple but precise physical transformations, particularly Moss, who distinguishes guesthouse Sophie by softening her voice and repeatedly tilting her head down to better give coy and flirtatious looks up at Ethan.
The film's dialogue was largely improvised, as it is usually in films featuring Duplass, and that produces a richness in the actors' reactions. Simple gestures, from how Sophie responds to Ethan's kisses to how the two laugh at each other's jokes, show all we need to know about both the strains and lingering satisfactions in their relationship.
It's particularly disappointing, then, that McDowell's eventual emphasis on the film's sci-fi elements hampers the natural feeling in Ethan and Sophie's interactions: It forces Ethan into repeated exclamations of how "weird" the guesthouse is as he and Sophie repeat arguments about the true nature of their doubles. But more generally, the direction the plot takes shifts The One I Love away from what was initially charming about its story. It begins by exploring how fantasy intrudes on and affects our perceptions of reality; it ends by trying too hard to convince us that its fantasies could, somehow, be real.
Just about everything clicks in director Ira Sachs' quietly eloquent Love is Strange, except the title. The longtime romance of painter Ben (John Lithgow) and music teacher George (Alfred Molina) doesn't seem at all odd. The men's lives, however, do take a sudden turn away from the ordinary.
The story begins in a mysterious flurry of morning activity that's soon explained. After Ben and George's nearly four decades together, same-sex marriage has become legal in New York, and the men have decided to take what hardly seems a plunge.
Yet it is, because the Catholic school where George directs the choir can accept his sexuality, but not his nuptials. The upbeat wedding reception is soon followed by another get-together, in which the two men inform their family and friends that they can no longer afford their Manhattan apartment.
Leaving the city is not worthy of discussion, because George will continue to give piano lessons there and because, well, it just isn't. So the newly legal pair is forced to uncouple: George will live with two friends from the building, gay cops known as "the policewomen" (Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez). And Ben will move in with his nephew's family in a semi-gentrified section of Queens.
Although his kinship is with Elliot (Darren Burrows), Ben will be dealing mostly with his nephew's wife, Kate (Marisa Tomei), and his new roommate, the couple's teenage son, Joey (Charlie Tahan). Because novelist Kate works at home, and because Joey is more her responsibility than Elliott's, most of Ben's conflicts are with her. Living with your too-chatty uncle-in-law is very different from visiting him on special occasions.
George's enthusiasms include Chopin, whose delicate music is heard frequently throughout the movie, not just during piano lessons. The piano teacher must endure his new roommates' taste for thumping electronic dance music and frequent parties, as well as his separation from Ben. (Later, in a subtly poignant touch, a classical music concert stands in for a significant event the audience doesn't witness.)
Things are more complicated in Queens, where Joey is unhappy to share his bedroom and disinclined to reveal any personal information to his parents. Kate, who's always been supportive of Ben and George, now worries that Joey is too close to his somewhat older best friend, Vlad (Eric Tabach). And both Kate and Joey are concerned when Ben asks Vlad to pose for him.
Neither of these conflicts leads directly to crisis, and Sachs' naturalistic and sometimes elliptical style doesn't telegraph major developments. As in life, things happen. Sometimes the events that seem crucial evaporate without lingering effects, while catastrophe arrives without foreshadowing.
Scripted by Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias, the movie is warm, unforced and believable. Much of that can be credited to Lithgow and Molina, who fully inhabit the roles of Ben and George. The rest of the actors, especially Tomei and Tahan, are equally persuasive.
Love Is Strange celebrates the enduring intimacy of two lovers, the timeless charms of a Woody Allen-like Manhattan and the miracle of rent control. But it can be ruefully comic, as when Ben interrupts Kate's writing by nattering about how he can't concentrate when other people are around, oblivious to the fact that he is other people.
Perhaps that is what's strange about Ben and George's love: that it could even happen in a world where misunderstanding is the norm.