NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":

Pages

How A Virus In Snakes Could Offer Clues To Ebola In Humans

Aug 14, 2012
Originally published on August 14, 2012 1:55 pm

Scientists have found a surprising link between deadly Ebola virus and a disease that's been killing boa constrictors in zoos and aquariums.

A team at the University of California, San Francisco, has found evidence that a previously undiscovered virus is responsible for something called inclusion body disease in boas. And this virus, described in the journal mBio, appears to be related to both Ebola and another deadly class of viruses called arenaviruses.

The discovery should make it possible to contain outbreaks by testing snakes for inclusion body disease before putting them in a collection. It also may help researchers figure out how some dangerous viruses in animals end up infecting people.

"We know a lot about viruses in pigs and bats and mice," says Joseph DeRisi, a virologist at UCSF. "No one suspected snakes might be a repository of information about these hemorrhagic viruses."

DeRisi and his team might never have discovered the virus that's killing snakes without the efforts of a woman named Taryn Hook.

Hook, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, had become worried about her snake, a 7-foot-long boa constrictor named Larry.

"Larry is a member of the family in every respect," she says. "He gets in bed with us and watches television. He likes American Idol."

He is also a therapy animal for Hook, who says she suffers from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But Larry had been sick for months, Hook says. And veterinarians couldn't figure out why, though they suspected a virus.

Hook was desperate. Then she heard about DeRisi at UCSF. DeRisi became famous in animal circles several years ago when he helped identify a virus killing parrots and other exotic birds.

Hook thought maybe he could save her snake.

"So I wrote him a letter with a picture of myself and Larry in our backyard," she says. "And I pled with him, explaining that he was my last hope."

Hook's letter wasn't just about Larry, but about lots of sick boa constrictors, DeRisi says. It described how inclusion body disease, which Hook suspected Larry might have, had become a major problem in aquariums and zoos, and for people who keep snakes as pets.

The first symptoms of the disease are often that a snake stops eating or begins regurgitating its meals. But eventually, it attacks the snake's brain and nervous system.

"Some of these snakes tie themselves into knots," DeRisi says. "They roll on their back, and they exhibit behaviors like stargazing, where they wave their heads in the sky sort of uncontrollably."

DeRisi thought he might be able to find the cause of inclusion body disease if he looked at genetic material from snakes that had died of it. So he asked around. And he learned that an outbreak had just been discovered in boas at an aquarium a few minutes from his lab.

DeRisi's lab extracted lots of genetic material from the sick boas. And DeRisi was pretty sure that somewhere in all that genetic material was code for the virus causing inclusion body disease.

The trick was to figure out which genetic material belonged to the snakes and which belonged to the virus. A researcher in DeRisi's lab named Mark Stenglein did that by comparing all the genes found in the sick boas with the complete genetic code, or genome, of a healthy red-tailed boa named Balthazar.

"With the boa genome in hand, Stenglein could filter away what was boa, leaving behind what was not boa, presumably the thing making them sick," DeRisi says.

The approach worked. Stenglein soon found genetic code for a virus related to so-called arenaviruses, which can cause deadly infections in people. "But they were different from all previously described arenaviruses," Stenglein says

No one had ever found an arenavirus in a reptile before, so that was pretty big news in itself. But then Stenglein found something even more surprising about this particular arenavirus.

"One of its genes is actually most closely related to the same gene in Ebola virus," he says. "So this virus is actually a mashup, or a genetic mix of arenaviruses and Ebola virus."

The virus kills snakes but appears harmless to people, DeRisi says.

The finding raises two possibilities, DeRisi says. One is that at some point snakes carried both arenaviruses and Ebola viruses, allowing them to swap genes. Another possibility, he says, is that "Ebola and arenavirus as we know them today evolved from this."

Either way, the finding suggests that reptiles can harbor versions of some of the world's most deadly viruses. That information means scientists need to expand the range of animals they study when trying to explain outbreaks of these viruses in people.

As for Larry, the sick boa that started this line of research, tests have shown that he's not infected with the newly discovered virus.

Larry still gets sick from time to time, but his symptoms are being controlled with medication, Hook says.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREEN, HOST:

Scientists have found a surprising link between the deadly Ebola virus and a strange disease that's killing boa constrictors. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports that this finding could help snakes and people.

JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: The discovery might never have been made without the efforts of a woman named Taryn Hook. Hook says she had become very worried about her snake, a seven-foot-long boa constrictor named Larry.

TARYN HOOK: Larry is a member of the family in every respect. He gets in bed with us and watches television. He likes "American Idol."

HAMILTON: And reality TV. But Larry had been sick for months, and veterinarians couldn't figure out why, though they suspected a virus. Hook was desperate. Then she heard about a scientist named Joseph DeRisi at the University of California San Francisco. Several years ago, DeRisi helped identify a virus killing parrots and other exotic birds. Hook thought maybe he could save her snake.

HOOK: So I wrote him a letter with a picture of myself and Larry in our backyard, and I pled with him, explaining that he was my last hope.

HAMILTON: DeRisi says Hook's letter wasn't just about Larry, but about lots of sick boas.

JOSEPH DERISI: It said there is a disease that is present in the boa constrictor community that's killing boa constrictors, and it's a problem in aquariums and zoos, and for domestic owners like myself. My boa's very important to me and I wish you'd look into it.

HAMILTON: So he did. DeRisi learned that something called inclusion body disease had been killing boa constrictors in captivity for decades. He says the disease eventually attacks the snake's brain and nervous system.

DERISI: Some of these snakes tie themselves into knots. They roll on their back, which snakes never roll on their back, and they exhibit behaviors like stargazing, where they wave their heads in the sky sort of uncontrollably.

HAMILTON: DeRisi thought he might be able to find the cause of inclusion body disease if he could look at genetic material from snakes that died of it. So he asked around. And he learned that an outbreak had just been discovered at an aquarium a few minutes from his lab.

DERISI: And when that happens, they take no chances. They euthanize all the snakes. Because it's infectious, they know it can be transmitted, and they know if they don't do something about it, they're going to lose them all.

HAMILTON: Now DeRisi's had lots of genetic material from sick boas. And he thought that somewhere in all that genetic material was code for the virus causing the disease. But he says there was a problem.

DERISI: How do you know what's snake and what's virus?

HAMILTON: DeRisi says the solution was to have the researcher, named Mark Stenglein, compare all the genes found in the sick boas with the complete genetic code, or genome, of a healthy red-tailed boa named Balthazar.

DERISI: With the boa genome in hand, Mark could filter away what was boa, leaving behind what was not boa, presumably the thing making them sick.

HAMILTON: Stenglein says he started looking for genetic code from a virus.

MARK STENGLEIN: And I immediately found something that was potentially very interesting, which was the presence of a large number of sequences that were related to a type of virus called arenavirus, but they were different from all previously described arenaviruses.

HAMILTON: Arenaviruses usually infect rodents, but when they infect humans they can cause deadly outbreaks. No one had ever found an arena virus in a reptile before, so that was pretty big news in itself. But then Stenglein found something even more surprising about this particular arenavirus.

STENGLEIN: One of its genes is actually most closely related to the same gene in Ebola virus. So this virus is actually a mash-up, or a genetic mix of arenaviruses and Ebola virus.

HAMILTON: A mashup that kills snakes but appears harmless to people. DeRisi says the finding, published in the journal mBio, raises two possibilities. One is that at some point snakes carried both arenaviruses and Ebola viruses, allowing them to swap genes.

DERISI: Or this is actually the ancestor of both of those viruses and that Ebola and arenavirus as we know them today evolved from this.

HAMILTON: Either way, the finding suggests that reptiles can harbor versions of viruses that cause deadly outbreaks in people. That information may help researchers prevent future outbreaks, and identifying the new snake virus will mean that aquariums can test an animal for infection before placing it in a collection. As for Larry, the sick boa that started this line of research, tests show he doesn't have the newly discovered virus, and with a little medication, he's doing okay. Jon Hamilton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.