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In an unprecedented move, Disney parks will remain closed until further notice

Disney originally aimed to reopen its various theme parks by April 1st, but in light of the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus and recommendations from both local authorities and health experts, Disneyland and Disney World will remain closed until further notice.

“While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains The Walt Disney Company’s top priority,” a tweet from an official Disney Parks account reads.

The company will continue paying its hourly parks and resorts employees through April 18th, the statement added. It’s unclear if this also applies to parks around the world, including in Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, but The Verge has reached out for more information.

Disneyland and Disney World began closing on Sunday, March 15th. They were initially going to say closed through March 31st. Part of the resorts will remain open, including retail and dining experiences at Disney World Resort. Disney’s parks in the United States joined Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo in closing, marking the first time in history that all seven resorts, including their various parks, were all closed at one time. Disneyland has only closed twice before: on November 23rd, 1963 in a day of national mourning for President John F. Kennedy, and on September 11th, 2001 because of the attacks in New York and Washington, DC.

Disney’s parks business generates approximately $20 billion a year in revenue for the House of Mouse. Continuing to keep the parks closed will have a strong impact on the company’s financial situation. Executives at Disney outlined as much in a recent SEC filing for investors, noting that “the impact of the novel coronavirus and measures to prevent its spread are affecting our businesses in a number of ways.” Disney’s parks have closed, cruises are suspended, and theatrical movies have been delayed. Production delays and sports leagues hitting pause have also affected content creation for both film and television and left ESPN in a bind.

“We expect the ultimate significance of the impact of these disruptions, including the extent of their adverse impact on our financial and operational results, will be dictated by the length of time that such disruptions continue,” the filing reads.

Those disruptions will also depend on the “currently unknowable duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Disney’s SEC filing also notes that “the impact of governmental regulations that might be imposed” is something they’ll have to keep in mind. For example, Florida and California governments could impose bans on large gatherings for an extended period of time, meaning that Disney World and Disneyland may have to operate within those guidelines.

While many entertainment companies are taking a hit, Disney is feeling it extra hard. Unlike NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia, owned by major telecom companies Comcast and AT&T respectively, Disney doesn’t have a larger conglomerate it can rest on. Analytical firm MoffettNathanson issued a research note last week explaining just how hard extended park closures, production delays, and other forces could hit Disney in the months to come.



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NASA tasks SpaceX with sending cargo and supplies to future lunar space station

Despite the worsening coronavirus pandemic in the US, NASA is still looking ahead to its long-term goal of sending humans back to the lunar surface and is now asking SpaceX to start doing cargo runs to the Moon in the near future. NASA awarded the aerospace company with a new contract this afternoon, tasking SpaceX with sending cargo and supplies to a space station that NASA wants to build in the Moon’s orbit.

The new partnership is a big piece of NASA’s Artemis program, an initiative to land the first woman on the lunar surface by 2024. As part of the program, NASA has proposed building a space station in orbit around the Moon called the Gateway, where astronauts can work and train before heading down to the lunar soil. Just like the International Space Station, the Gateway is going to need supplies and science experiments from time to time, and now SpaceX is the first company charged with making that happen.

SpaceX has been supplying cargo to the International Space Station for almost a decade now, packing supplies inside the company’s Dragon capsule and launching them on top of a Falcon 9 rocket. To get supplies to the future Gateway, SpaceX is going to use some upgraded vehicles. The company is developing a new cargo vehicle called the Dragon XL, a cylindrical white spacecraft that can “carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to Gateway in lunar orbit,” according to SpaceX. The supersized Dragon will launch on top of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the much more powerful variant of the Falcon 9 that consists of three rocket cores strapped together.

Thanks to a fixed-price contract, SpaceX is on the hook to send multiple supply missions to the Gateway once the station is up and running. During each trip, the Dragon XL will stay docked to the Gateway for six to 12 months a time. The capsule will carry things like “sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface,” according to NASA.

“Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and COO, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with NASA, SpaceX has been delivering scientific research and critical supplies to the International Space Station since 2012, and we are honored to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway.”

SpaceX likely won’t be the only company tasked with sending supplies to the Gateway. Ultimately, NASA has the option to add multiple cargo suppliers and has allotted up to $7 billion to spend on cargo contracts for Artemis. Each contract guarantees that NASA will order at least two cargo missions per provider and NASA can request missions for up to 12 years.

While the contract is a big step for SpaceX and NASA, a lot of questions remain about the future of the Artemis program. For one, it’s unclear when the Gateway will actually be built. For the last few years, NASA officials have argued that building the Gateway is a crucial part of the Artemis program as it will help the space agency establish a sustainable presence around the Moon, rather than just send astronauts to the lunar surface to leave “flags and footprints.” But the administration challenged NASA to land its first Artemis astronauts by 2024, and with that deadline quickly approaching, the space agency may not have enough time to build the Gateway if it wants to get humans back to the Moon in the next four years. In fact, NASA’s newly appointed associate administrator for human exploration said that the Gateway is no longer critical for getting humans back to the Moon by 2024, according to Space News. That doesn’t mean it won’t get built, but it may not happen until after the first lunar landing deadline.

Meanwhile, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that NASA will be able to meet its 2024 deadline at all, as the coronavirus pandemic has forced the agency to suspend production on some key programs. Notably, NASA shut down development of its next big rocket, the Space Launch System, which the agency plans to use to fly the first Artemis astronauts to the Moon.

As for SpaceX, the company is still operating during the pandemic as the company has been deemed mission essential by the state of California, due to its work with the Department of Defense. So it’s possible the company could still get a jump-start on the development of this new capsule. But it’s unclear when the Gateway will be ready to receive its first shipment.

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Here’s how hospitals are keeping up emergency services during COVID-19

In the midst of the outbreak, people will still have heart attacks and strokes. Babies will still be born. Appendixes will still burst. And so hospitals are figuring out how to juggle the patients who require ordinary urgent care with those who are sick from the new coronavirus.

At first, Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s emergency department tried to keep people with suspected COVID-19 separate from patients with other complaints. But since the volume of patients exploded, every patient is now treated as a possible COVID-19 patient and given a mask, says Adam Berman, associate chair of emergency medicine at the Queens hospital.

The same thing is happening at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center; even if a patient comes in with a different complaint, they are treated as though they may be infected. Keeping likely COVID-19 patients separate from those who don’t have the illness becomes difficult as the virus spreads, and virtually everyone is “COVID-possible.” “A woman came in with vaginal bleeding, but she was COVID-positive,” says Chris Colwell, the chief of emergency surgery at SF General. Her complaint wasn’t the disease; it was the bleeding. “It’s very hard to cohort in a situation like this.”

Hospitals around the country are closing some services to make sure that people who have medical emergencies can still get help — even with an influx of people sick with COVID-19. In many hospitals, any surgery that could reasonably wait is canceled. That frees up surgeons, internal medicine doctors, and others to help in the emergency department. Some hospitals have stopped offering outpatient care to conserve resources. Visitors are being limited or banned.

“The issue here is one of crowding out,” says Stephen Shortell, a professor of health policy and management at the University of California Berkeley, where he is also a dean emeritus. “The concern here is that COVID-19 will crowd out other people who need hospital care, which puts a premium on hospitals’ ability to set priorities.”

Hospitals have to figure out how to distribute available rooms or beds, staff, and equipment to ensure all patients get care. The way they allocate resources in a global pandemic must necessarily change, says Lisa Eckenwiler, a bioethicist and associate professor of philosophy at George Mason University. There’s a duty to care for patients, while also trying to preserve the maximum number of lives. Hospitals must make sure that all patients are treated fairly, and that the public understands how these decisions are being made, she says. And it’s important for patients to show solidarity for each other — for instance, by understanding why your own surgery has been rescheduled in light of the crisis.

At most hospitals, figuring out how to provide the best care starts with emergency planning documents. At the University of North Carolina Medical Center, for instance, those documents include hurricane plans, floods, electrical outages, and two kinds of plans for highly communicable disease, says David Weber, the medical director of infection prevention there. That hospital has limited visitors and developed guidelines for what counts as a truly urgent surgery, he says.

Both LIJMC and SF General have pandemic planning documents — as well as documents for other kinds of emergencies, such as mass shootings — but even with a plan, it can be difficult to predict in advance what course a pandemic will take. Both hospitals began monitoring the outbreak in China in January.

LIJMC had kept a particularly close eye on the new coronavirus, since the hospital is near John F. Kennedy airport in New York, and there was a direct flight from Wuhan, the city hardest hit by the virus, to JFK three times a week. COVID-19 patients require special rooms and special precautions, so LIJMC began tweaking its emergency plans immediately, Berman says. No one has stopped tweaking them. “It’s literally every day being revised and changed and updated based on new information and the capacity of our hospital,” he says.

Ordinarily, the hospital’s emergency department is staffed based on the amount of demand the hospital sees historically. But the volume of patients has gone up, so LIJMC has brought in extra providers, mostly emergency physicians. Elective surgeries were canceled and visitors aren’t allowed. The hospital’s lobby is now used for screening.

At first, COVID-19 patients were sent exclusively to the intensive care unit, but it was filling up — so other floors of the hospital were equipped as makeshift ICUs. Just about every floor has a COVID-19 patient on it. “Most of our hospital now is a COVID wing,” Berman says. But if a patient comes in with another emergency — a heart attack, a stroke, or trauma — they will still get the same standard of care they would have before the pandemic, he says.

One benefit of the shelter-in-place order effective March 17th in San Francisco has been a drop in moderate trauma cases, says SF General’s Colwell. When people don’t leave home much, they’re less likely to be exposed to COVID-19 — but also less likely to have an accident, resulting in an emergency room visit. Those people who do have other kinds of emergencies are still receiving normal care.

The biggest constraint on his emergency department now is the number of people with marginal, inadequate, or no housing, Colwell says. No shelter or skilled nursing facility will take them without a negative COVID-19 test, and they can’t be sent back to the streets where they might pass the virus on to others. Right now, he has 15 patients in beds who might have COVID-19, but who don’t have acute medical issues and have nowhere else to go. “As we sit here today, the problem is not ventilators,” Colwell says. It’s that he has nowhere to send these patients. That’s been an issue for a long time — but it’s particularly acute right now.

Both Colwell and Berman say that they are particularly grateful for community support. Colwell was particularly delighted by donations of N95 masks, but other gifts have also flooded in. “We have gotten such an outpouring of donations of food and equipment and things that help the mental state of the people working in the emergency department — because this is taking a toll on everyone,” Berman says.

Despite the stress, both of their departments were doing all they could to keep the pandemic from taking a toll on their ability to treat patients. The doctors said they want to continue giving usual care, even in these unusual times.

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Nvidia adds Control to GeForce Now and promises new games every week

Nvidia says its GeForce Now cloud gaming service will start getting new games every Thursday, starting with Remedy Entertainment’s sci-fi action title Control.

The announcement is a bit of good news for the controversial platform, which has seen high-profile game publishers like Activision Blizzard, Bethesda Softworks, and 2K Games pull their entire libraries since it exited beta in early February. Part of the deal means Control can also be played on GeForce Now using Nvidia’s RTX cards, which enable ray-tracing effects for more realistic visuals.

It’s not entirely clear how Nvidia secured Control, but it may have something to do with Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, who has publicly expressed support for the platform. “Epic is wholeheartedly supporting Nvidia’s GeForce Now service with Fortnite and with Epic Games Store titles that choose to participate (including exclusives), and we’ll be improving the integration over time,” Sweeney tweeted earlier this month.

Control is currently an Epic Game Store exclusive on PC, and Epic also just secured the rights to future titles by Remedy Entertainment under its new publishing label. So it’s safe to say Epic, Remedy, and Nvidia are all on good terms with regard to GeForce Now.

The same cannot be said of other publishers, which seemingly pulled titles the platform because they did not appreciate Nvidia including them without express permission and under older terms. Once Nvidia began charging $5 for the public trial of GeForce Now in February, it became clear that a number of big publishers weren’t informed.

It’s not clear why publishers dislike the service; none of the bigger companies that have pulled titles have spoken up about it. But smaller indie developer Raphael van Lierop of Hinterland Studio said he disliked Nvidia including his game without his permission and worried the service might complicate exclusivity deals or ports to other platforms. Bigger publishers may simply not like a service that doesn’t charge separately for cloud gaming versions of titles, like Google Stadia does.

But GeForce Now, in letting players access existing purchases through Valve’s Steam on any device, has presented some unprecedented licensing and legality issues the gaming industry hasn’t hammered out yet. It’s uncharted territory, and it’s clear Nvidia may have to either offer some sort of revenue cut or pay a licensing fee to publishers if it wants to use their titles. So far, the company has amicably agreed to remove all games at the request of owners, and it released a blog post earlier this month saying it expects these game removals to be “few and far between.”

“Starting this week, we’re aligning most releases to Thursdays. That way our members know when to look for library updates. GeForce Now will continue releasing new and recent game launches as close to their availability as possible,” writes Andrew Fear, the senior product manager for GeForce Now, in a blog post.

Nvidia says in addition to Control, it’s also adding Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Dungeons 3, Headsnatchers, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, Jagged Alliance 2 – Wildfire, and The Guild 3.



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Nursing home residents tested positive for the coronavirus before showing symptoms

Only around half of the residents of one Washington nursing home overwhelmed by COVID-19 had symptoms when they tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a new report.

King County, Washington, was the first coronavirus hotspot in the United States. Multiple nursing homes in the area had cases, including the Life Care facility where two-thirds of the residents were found to have the virus that has been linked to 37 deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave coronavirus tests to 76 people in a different facility on March 13th, and 23 of those tests were positive. Only 10 of those people had symptoms on the day they were tested, according to data published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The remaining 13 did not appear to have symptoms on the day they were tested, but 10 developed symptoms — including fever and cough — one week later.

After the first person in the care facility was diagnosed with the virus, staff restricted visitors, began regularly screening all residents for symptoms, and isolated those who were sick. The report notes, though, that symptom-based precautions wouldn’t have been enough to stop the spread of disease. Residents who didn’t have symptoms had similar levels of the virus in their respiratory systems as those who did, and they could have passed it to others before it seemed like they were sick.

That’s consistent with recent research done around the world showing that people with mild or no symptoms could be driving outbreaks. Studies show that they have high levels of the virus in their noses and throats and that people appear to be more infectious earlier in the course of their illness before significant symptoms may have developed. COVID-19 is an unusual illness in that respect. When the virus first appeared, experts — including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — stressed that asymptomatic cases haven’t been the main driver in other outbreaks of respiratory diseases.

Identifying and controlling COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is especially important because their residents — who are older and have other health conditions — are at high risk for having a severe case of the disease. Infectious diseases spread quickly in nursing homes, like they do in other closed environments. Many residents share rooms, and staff and aides go from room to room regularly. Dozens of nursing homes in the US have reported cases. In one New Jersey nursing home, all 94 residents are assumed to have contracted the virus.

The CDC report outlines the steps that these facilities could take to protect against outbreaks if someone gets sick. Because symptoms aren’t a good way to figure out who has the virus, it suggests they do widespread testing. It also recommends that both health care personnel wear masks and other protective equipment.

But those aren’t steps most places in the US will be able to take, which the report also notes. Tests are in short supply and are largely restricted to people with symptoms or who have been hospitalized. Nurses and doctors at hospitals are facing severe shortages of protective equipment and masks. Without those resources, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to follow public health recommendations — including for those people, like nursing home residents, who are the most vulnerable.

The US now has the highest number of cases of COVID-19 in the world, and experts predict the outbreak will only get worse.

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Instacart workers will walk out on Monday for better sick leave and virus protections

Instacart shoppers are organizing a work stoppage Monday because they say the grocery delivery company has not done enough to ensure their safety during the coronavirus outbreak, as first reported by Vice.

The workers say they will refuse to accept new orders through the Instacart app until the company adds a $5-per-order hazard payment, expands its paid sick leave policy, and provides them with protective gear including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

In an interview with The Verge, lead organizer Vanessa Bain said the group is not only trying to protect existing Instacart shoppers, but new shoppers as well. It’s not the first time workers have staged a walkout, but she says the stakes are much higher now. “The mood is a lot more somber,” says Bain, who has been an Instacart shopper for four years. “Usually it’s high energy and people are really enthusiastic. Right now people are doing this literally to save their lives.”

Instacart announced plans earlier this week to hire an additional 300,000 workers to keep up with exploding demand for grocery delivery. “The last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history,” Instacart founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a statement.

Adding that many new workers is “predatory,” Bain says, with many people suddenly unemployed due to coronavirus shutdowns who are desperate for work, but may not be prepared for the rigors of the job.

“This work requires a high degree of skill,” she says. “People like myself, who are veteran shoppers will tell you the past three weeks have been the most overwhelming, stress-inducing weeks we’ve ever seen. It’s a really hard job right now. It’s unsafe for the existing workforce, but instead of prioritizing health and safety they’re bringing in more people.”

The company announced on March 9th it was giving 14 days of paid leave to any part-time workers or shoppers who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been put into mandatory quarantine. Previously, that leave was only available through April 8th, but the company said in a new blog post today that it would extend the benefit through May 8th.

“The health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers, and employees — is our first priority,” an Instacart spokesperson said in an email to The Verge. “Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely.”

In addition to extending the sick leave benefit, Instacart introduced a bonus program, which will be based on hours worked between March 15th and April 15th and range from $25 to $200, and additional promotions for full-service shoppers to earn more based on regional demand. It’s also implementing contactless alcohol delivery and added a “safety incidents” section to its app where shoppers can report problems.

Bain said the sick leave policy requiring a positive coronavirus test was insufficient. Because tests are not widely available and many don’t have health insurance, lots of shoppers will likely continue to work even if they’re symptomatic.

Bain added that she and fellow organizers have been “screaming into the void” about the company’s lack of sick leave or paid time off. They’ve previously held four walkout events to protest the conditions. But she says the idea of working conditions in the gig economy was sort of abstract for a lot of people until the coronavirus made it plain how the lack of protections could affect everyone.

“I think a broader section of society cares about this right now,” she says. “Not only are they thinking ‘is this safe for the worker,’ but now they realize ‘hey that worker is putting their hands on things that are coming into my house.’ They’re much more tuned into it now: If an Instacart shopper goes to work sick, they can get other people sick.”

Bain herself had to stop taking orders for Instacart because she lives with her elderly grandparents and didn’t want to put them at risk. “We’re really in a situation where the people who can least afford it are exposing themselves all day long to grocery stores, some of the most dangerous places to be in the country.”

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A viral text warns taking Advil could make COVID-19 symptoms worse, but experts say it’s unfounded

A viral coronavirus rumor says taking ibuprofen, which is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as Advil, could make COVID-19 symptoms worse. The message is spreading through text messages and over Twitter, and it claims to be coming from a Vienna laboratory studying COVID-19.

The problem is: there isn’t any evidence that it’s true. There hasn’t been enough research on ibuprofen in COVID-19 patients to determine whether it is actually harmful. An alternative is acetaminophen, which is marketed by Johnson & Johnson as Tylenol. But not everyone can take it because it can make some liver conditions worse.

“Vast majority of people who died had ibuprofen / Advil in their system so do not take it!!” the message reads. “Those who recovered did not take ibuprofen so if you have symptoms, take Paracetamol only!!! Looks like this virus thrives on ibuprofen so don’t do it and tell everyone you can!!!”

The telltale signs of misinformation are everywhere in the Advil rumor. Many of the messages claim to be coming from someone’s friend or sister who is a nurse at New York University. She seems to have firsthand information about the mysterious Vienna laboratory. The vague attribution makes the information difficult to track. The message also ends with a plea: tell everyone you know! Pass it on! This type of urgent request exploits the need for concrete information and the desire we have to protect one another.

Like most effective misinformation, the message mixes bits of truth with outright lies. For instance, France’s health minister tweeted out a warning that “taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone, …) could be a factor in worsening the infection,” wrote Stephanie M. Lee from BuzzFeed.

The warning echoed a letter written to The Lancet, a medical journal, on March 11th. There, researchers claimed that taking certain drugs — including ibuprofen — could make people more susceptible to the virus.

But experts refuted these claims. Michele Barry, director of the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford University, told The New York Times that there was simply no data to back them up. Garret FitzGerald from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told the Times, “It’s all anecdote, and fake news off the anecdotes. That’s the world we are living in.”

The rumor gained enough traction, however, that GlaxoSmithKline issued a statement refuting the claims. The statement now pops up if you go to the website for Advil. “We understand the use of steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) products, including ibuprofen, for the alleviation of COVID-19 symptoms has come into question,” the statement reads. “As a leader in the OTC pain category, GSK Consumer Healthcare is not aware of any scientific evidence that directly links worse outcomes in patients suffering from COVID-19 infection with the use of ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) told The Verge that it is not aware of any studies showing ibuprofen could be dangerous for COVID-19 patients. “We are consulting with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and are not aware of reports of any negative effects of ibuprofen, beyond the usual known side effects that limit its use in certain populations,” a WHO spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.”



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Half-Life: Alyx gives us a big hint about Gordon Freeman’s future

Half-Life fans have gotten used to uncertainty over the fate of hero Gordon Freeman. Gordon last appeared in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, an extension of the 2004 game Half-Life 2. But the follow-up Episode Three was canceled. The newly released Half-Life: Alyx is set five years before Half-Life 2 and stars Gordon’s ally Alyx Vance, so it doesn’t majorly advance the story. Even so, the new game includes a big hint about Gordon’s future journey… especially if you play through the credits.

We posted a spoiler-light review of Alyx, so if you’re planning to play it, you might want to stop reading. Otherwise, let’s talk about what Alyx means for the Half-Life universe — where Valve says it’s not done making games.

Warning: Huge spoilers for the ending of Half-Life: Alyx and Half-Life 2: Episode Two ahead.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two ends with a cliffhanger. Gordon Freeman (who accidentally opened an inter-dimensional portal in Half-Life) has reawakened from a 20-year stasis to find Earth conquered by the alien Combine. He’s met up with the anti-Combine Resistance, including an old colleague named Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx. After winning a key military victory, Gordon and Alyx are preparing to hunt down a long-lost research ship called the Borealis, and Eli has hinted at some new information about the mysterious G-Man, who placed Gordon in stasis and saved Alyx’s life as a child. Then, a Combine “Advisor” bursts in and kills Eli.

But that’s no longer canon.

Alyx mostly takes place five years before Eli’s death, while Alyx and Eli are fighting the Combine, and Gordon is in stasis. But when Alyx infiltrates a Combine facility to find a “superweapon,” this changes dramatically — because Alyx runs into the G-Man. The G-Man, following one of his typically portentous speeches, pulls Alyx into the future. He gives her the chance to save her father, and she takes it… then disappears. After some credits, Alyx cuts back to the final scene. This time, players are in the shoes of Gordon Freeman, who hefts his iconic crowbar as the game ends.

Until now, the closest we’d gotten to Episode Three was a piece of unofficial fanfic called “Epistle 3” from former series writer Marc Laidlaw. “Epistle 3” features the player traveling alongside Alyx to find the Borealis, which turns out to be a teleportation system and a sort of time machine. The G-Man then appears and pulls Alyx out of reality, leaving her fate unknown. Alyx undercuts this arc pretty substantially, although it does assimilate some of the core themes.

Road to VR suggests that Alyx is hinting specifically at a VR-based Half-Life 2: Episode Three equivalent, since it’s so conspicuously letting players hold Gordon’s crowbar. That seems unlikely for one reason, though: Valve thinks VR crowbars aren’t much fun. When I spoke to level designer Corey Peters before the game’s release, he said Alyx was supposed to use one for puzzles and combat because “it’s a Half-Life game — it has to have a crowbar in it.” But he said the hook constantly got stuck on objects, and it wasn’t satisfying to kill an enemy using a melee weapon with little tactile feedback. While Valve might fix this problem someday, I doubt it would promise a feature it had just tried and failed to implement.

Alyx’s ending is still an obvious hint that Valve isn’t done with Gordon Freeman, though. The twist leaves parts of Episode Two’s trajectory unchanged. Gordon and the Combine are presumably both looking for the Borealis. We still don’t know why the ship matters, although since portal-making corporation Aperture Science is involved, it’s probably somehow related to teleportation. But now, Alyx is gone. Eli is desperate to get her back. And the G-Man’s ever-inscrutable plans are central to whatever happens next.

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8 new anime to check out this spring

This spring, more than 45 new shows are airing as anime season kicks off in Japan. To help you decide what to watch, we’ve put together a list of eight shows that stand out as being interesting for both newcomers and diehard fans. Thanks to streaming services like Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Netflix, most of these shows are available for viewing internationally within a day of their original airdate.

One show from our winter season preview (Dorohedoro) should come to Netflix internationally this season. We’ll continue to update this post with streaming and availability info.


For viewers with kids

Ascendance of a Bookworm season 2

The first season of Ascendance of a Bookworm aired late last year and made it on our list of best anime of 2019. The series follows Myne — or rather, an aspiring librarian from our world who died and woke up as sickly five-year-old Myne — in a fantasy world where normal people don’t have access to books. Season 1 saw Myne trying to achieve her dream of making books using her knowledge from our world, but her unknown aliment constantly held her back. Now, it seems Myne will achieve her dream, along with a way to handle her illness, but not without a new set of complications.

Ascendance of a Bookworm season 2 will stream on Crunchyroll, and it starts airing in Japan on April 5th.


If you like Promare and Zootopia

BNA: Brand New Animal

BNA: Brand New Animal is a new series from animation studio Trigger (Promare, Kill la Kill), director Yoh Yoshinari (Little Witch Academia), and writer Kazuki Nakashima (Promare, Gurren Lagann). It follows Michiru, a high school girl who one day mysteriously becomes a tanuki person. She moves to Anima City, an entire city of humanoid-animals like her, to uncover what caused her sudden change.

BNA: Brand New Animal will start airing in Japan on April 8th, and it will stream on Netflix in North America later this year.


If you like romance, drama, comedy, and cute animals

Fruits Basket season 2

Fruits Basket is a romance / drama / comedy about orphaned high schooler Tohru; she goes to live with two of her classmates, a pair of cousins from the incredibly rich and powerful Soma family. The cousins, along with several other members of the Soma family, are cursed to turn into different animals of the Chinese zodiac when embraced by someone of the opposite sex. Season 2 will delve further into trauma that the curse has caused those afflicted with it as well as the deep-rooted issues of the Soma family.

Fruits Basket season 2 will stream, starting April 6th, subtitled on Crunchyroll, and with subtitles and dubbed on FunimationNow.


If you like action-packed philosophical cyberpunk political thrillers

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

This third season of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex takes place 13 years after the events of the second season, which originally aired until 2005. After a global financial crisis Japan’s Public Security Section 9, a special cybernetic crime SWAT team of sorts becomes involved in trying to stop an AI-driven sustainable war from engulfing the world. The move to only 3DCG animation is a first for the series, which is being produced by both Production I.G and Sola Digital Arts. It is being co-directed by Kenji Kamiyama, who directed the earlier seasons, and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed).

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 will be available to stream on Netflix on April 23rd.


What if a romance story was a comedy written like a thriller?

Kaguya-sama: Love is War season 2

Season 1 of Kaguya-sama: Love is War was on our list of best anime of 2019 for its stylish animation and unique spin on a romantic comedy about two overachieving high schoolers who like each other but will do whatever they can to get the other one to admit it first. Season 2 promises further shenanigans and some new characters to escalate their ridiculous romantic scheming.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War season 2 will start airing in Japan on April 11th. Where it will stream is yet to be announced.

If you like the sentence “dystopian rock music anime with mechs”

Listeners

Set in a world where people have lost the concept of music, special humans called Players battle against monsters called Miminashi to protect humanity. One day, a boy named Echo comes across a mysterious woman buried in a scrapheap. Myuu has no memory of who she is; strangely, she has a large headphone jack in her lower back. After plugging her into an amp, they discover she might have the power to change the world. The sci-fi / rock music concept for the series comes from musician JIN (Kagerou Daze), anime screenwriter Dai Sato (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo), and producer Taichi Hashimoto. It is being animated by MAPPA (Yuri!!! On Ice, and Zombie Land Saga).

Listeners will stream on FunimationNow and will start airing in Japan on April 4th.


If you like your complex fantasy worlds with stylish action

Tower of God

Bam and Rachel lived outside of a giant enclosed structure called the Tower, until Rachel found a way to enter it. Not wanting to be alone, Bam manages to open a door to the Tower. Inside, he finds each floor is the size of North America and filled with different nations and cultures; in order to ascend to the next floor, you have to pass various trials to prove yourself worthy. Tower of God is the second Crunchyroll Originals series and is being made in collaboration with internet comic platform Webtoon, which published the original comic on which the show is based. Telecom Animation Film, best known for its recent work on Lupin the 3rd Part 5, is animating the show.

Tower of God will stream on Crunchyroll starting on April 1st.


If you like romance stories that are light on romance but high on work drama

Wave, Listen to Me!

Based on a manga series by Blade of the Immortal creator Hiroaki Samura and animated by Sunrise (Gundam, Code Geass, and Cowboy Bebop), Wave is about a waitress named Minare Koda. Minare complains about her current life situation and ex-boyfriend to a radio producer at a bar after she’d been drinking too much. When a recording of her diatribe airs on the radio the next day, she angrily confronts the producer, only to have him put her on the air live.

Wave, Listen to Me! will stream on FunimationNow and start airing in Japan on April 4th.

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Crip Camp review: in America nothing improves without massive sacrifice

In Crip Camp, the revolution begins at summer camp. The Netflix documentary, now available to stream, follows several young people who attended Camp Jened, a New York campground for people with disabilities. That alone is a wonderful subject: a story about what happens when a group of teens neglected by society finally discovers a place where they are treated as complete, whole people. But Crip Camp is going somewhere incredible, and a story about how a camp changed a group of teenagers’ lives becomes a story about how the country was changed for the better.

Directed by Nicole Newnham and Jim Lebrecht — the latter attended Camp Jened, and his story serves as one of Crip Camp’s focal points — the film begins in 1971 with Lebrecht and others attending the camp for the first time. Remarkably, the people at Camp Jened had a camera running and regularly interviewed the campers about everything: how they’re treated by the outside world, the privacy they long for that they are not afforded, the crushes they have. This is juxtaposed with present-day interview footage where attendees also reflect on that time in a place where they spoke with their own voices about their own desires and were listened to.

However, Camp Jened is only half the story, as Crip Camp follows Lebrecht and his fellow campers back into the real world where, radicalized by the compassion of their experience, they become the activists that became integral in the disability rights movement. The documentary culminates with their participation in 1977’s 504 Sit-In, a protest that led to significant changes in the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, a precursor to the modern-day Americans with Disabilities Act. (The difficulty of a sit-in by people with disabilities is not glossed over.)

Calling Crip Camp a feel-good movie feels contrary to its purpose, even as it is tremendously inspiring. It’s more of a reminder that something that seems impossible can be done; it just takes an immense, downright unfair amount of work to will it into existence and support from others who may not be impacted but benefit from a more equitable society because everyone does. In one memorable anecdote, the Black Panthers arrive during the 26-day 504 Sit-In to provide meals to the protestors at no cost, simply out of solidarity. In another, one lawmaker refused to listen to protestors’ concerns during a hearing, locking himself in his office until he was forced to return.

The problem, as one of the film’s few non-disabled interviewees notes, is not with people living with disabilities, but people without them — people who refuse to listen to those with disabilities or build a world that accommodates them, who turn a blind eye to their abuse, or limit their opportunities. The revolution is for the ablest world the majority made, and it’s cruel that changing it requires so much from those who are already vulnerable, while those not directly affected often just look on.

Crip Camp is refreshingly honest about the social change it chronicles, noting that laws are frequently undercut and only remain effective as long as the populace is vigilant. It’s a message that feels like a vital one during our current moment of socioeconomic upheaval where nearly every marginalized group feels under assault in some way, and what little legal protections each had are unceremoniously stripped away on a weekly basis.

But a vital reason why any of Crip Camp’s big-picture scope works at all is because it is so warm and ebullient in its first half, letting the young men and women who found their way to the now-closed Camp Jened — many of whom are no longer living — speak for themselves. It lets them talk about being somewhere they were expected to play ball instead of sitting the game out, where they were able to talk about normal teen things like being horny, and better understand the cracks in the outside world that threaten to swallow them up. It shows what can happen when you finally are in a room of people like yourself who share your struggles and are given the room to tell each other the truth and the freedom to dream of doing something about it.

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