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VILevi/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) — Dr. Rick Sacra, the American patient being treated for Ebola at the Nebraska Medical Center, continues to improve, the hospital says.

In a Monday press release, the hospital says that staff members are seeking ways to entertain Sacra while he remains in the Biocontainment Unit. Sacra’s wife says that a chess board and a supply of books have been given to her husband. “Someone also brought in a Nerf hoop, which Rick discovered he might need a lot more practice with,” Debbie Sacra said.

According to the release, Sacra still tires easily, but is, “becoming sharper [mentally] every day.” Sacra has held conversations with his pastor from his hometown and a former colleague from Liberia.

Doctors say they “continue to be pleased” with Sacra’s progress.

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Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Fourteen Nobel Peace Laureates sent a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma on Monday, urging him to guarantee an unconditional visa to allow the Dalai Lama into the country next month.

The letter notes that the 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will be held in Cape Town, South Africa on October 13 to 15. According to the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, Pope Francis was rejected a visa, and the Dalai Lama withdrew his application for a visa for the same event after being told it would not be approved.

The letter cited an understanding of “the sensitivities involved,” but noted that the upcoming summit will be dedicated to the memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela and that the Dalai Lama holds no political office. The summit will be held on the African continent for the first time, and the laureates argue that the Dalai Lama’s attendance would, “provide a platform to showcase Africa’s continuing efforts to promote peace and stability throughout the continent.”

The letter is signed by Nobel Peace Laureates from years between 1976 and 2011, including Amnesty International, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and former member of the United Kingdom’s parliament John Hume.

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Bumbasor/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta on Tuesday, where he is expected to share a new plan to help fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama may push for an increased involvement of U.S. doctors and military members in Africa. He also, “is expected to urge Congress to approve the request he made last week for an additional $88 million to fund his proposal,” according to the Journal.

In a Monday night call with senior administration officials, Obama talked about ramping up the U.S. response to the outbreak by creating a joint force command headquarters in the Liberian capital, providing engineers to help build treatment centers and training West African health care workers.

The U.S. is expected to help build up to 17 facilities and train up to 500 health care workers per week while also helping to bolster a campaign to train residents on how to protect themselves and still help family members who may show symptoms of the disease. After the “scaling up” is complete, more than 3,000 Department of Defense workers will be on the ground supporting efforts against the outbreak.

Obama is also expected to request an additional $88 million in funding. The U.S. has already dedicated $175 million.

The European Union also reaffirmed its efforts against the outbreak on Monday, touting its work to help the West African nations. Meanwhile, the African Union was preparing to send 30 more Ebola specialists to the region.

The latest figures from the World Health Organization latest death toll were released on September 7, showing that over 2,200 of West Africa’s 4,366 Ebola patients have died.

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ABC/Randy Holmes(NEW YORK) — George Clooney will be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the 2015 Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced on Monday.

Clooney has been nominated for a whopping 13 Golden Globe awards during his long career. He’s won three times for his acting, for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Syriana, and The Descendants.

Clooney also owns a Golden Globe as co-producer of best picture winner Argo.

Last year’s recipient of the lifetime achievement award was Woody Allen.

The Golden Globes will take place on January 11, 2015.

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ABC/Rick Rowell(NEW YORK) — The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Alfonso Ribeiro was the early standout during the Monday premiere of the 19th season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, while designer Betsey Johnson and Olympian Lolo Jones suffered significant missteps during their routines.

Ribeiro finished in the lead among the 13 celebrities who are vying for the coveted Mirrorball Trophy.

This year’s celebrity cast includes reality TV personality Sadie Robertson, who appears in Duck Dynasty; YouTube beauty guru Bethany Mota; and NASCAR legend Michael Waltrip.

The pairs were scored by judges and will earn votes from the audience. The couple with the lowest combined total of judges’ scores and audience votes will be eliminated. The first elimination of the season will come during a results show Tuesday.

The judges’ panel was expanded this year to include former Dancing With the Stars pro dancer Julianne Hough, a two-time Mirrorball champion herself and sister of current pro Derek Hough. Julianne Hough evaluated performances alongside head judge Len Goodman and judges Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.

Tonight’s Routines

Antonio Sabato Jr.: The General Hospital actor’s cha cha with Cheryl Burke drew moderate praise. Said Goodman: “Well it’s obvious that you’ve got dancing in your blood. Unfortunately it hasn’t reached your feet.” Hough said Sabato’s performance was “a little flat-footed” but she liked his extensions. Tonioli liked that Burke gave Sabato “a lot of content” for the first week and said Sabato had good hip action, while Inaba said the couple had “hot chemistry” that would lead to higher expectations. Goodman, Hough and Inaba each gave Sabato a 6, while Tonioli gave him a 7, for a total of 25 out of a possible 40.

Lea Thompson: The Back to the Future actress, who was a ballet dancer decades ago, earned warm praise from the judges for her elegance, but they cautioned her to watch her posture. “It was beautiful! It was so beautiful. It made me so happy,” Hough said. Tonioli agreed, describing Thompson’s quality of movement as “exquisite.” Inaba said she thought it was one of the “best first foxtrots I have ever seen…you guys are a really well-balanced team,” and Goodman said it “was terrific. Well done.” Thompson earned four 8s for a total of 32 points.

Janel Parrish: The judges liked the spirited jive that Parrish and partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy delivered. “Naughty! Naughty! Naughty!” Tonioli said, although he said Parrish needed to polish her jive moves. Inaba liked that Parrish had the courage to “just go for it,” adding: “You’ve got great potential.” Goodman said it was “a bit untidy on occasion” but said, overall, it was well done, while Hough said Parrish was a true performer. Tonioli awarded Parrish an 8, while the others each gave her a 7 for a total of 29 points.

Lolo Jones: The Olympian’s cha cha with pro partner Keo Motsepe ran into trouble at the start because of a missed cue that affected her time throughout the majority of the routine, and during her judges’ critique a frustrated Jones acknowledged her performance was “awful.” Hough commended her for picking the routine up again and said she needed to work on her fluidity. Tonioli told Jones that all performers mess up at times and told her to come back next week and show something better. Goodman told Jones not to be too hard on herself, adding: “You had personality, you had a bit of sizzle going on so it’s not all bad.” Inaba said, “Lolo, truthfully that was more like an ‘uh oh.'” Jones earned two 6s and two 5s for a total of 22 points.

Betsey Johnson: A stubborn prop feather boa derailed the flamboyant fashion designer’s spunky cha cha with partner Tony Dovolani. When Johnson tried to retrieve the hot pink boa from a prop rack the garment got stuck. When she tugged, it fell onto the floor and got caught between the dancers. Then Dovolani bent down to retrieve the boa and the routine petered out. Despite the malfunction, Johnson finished the routine with her trademark cartwheel and split. “I was enjoying it so much. It was so entertaining and then the disaster with the boa. I’m so upset,” Goodman said. Hough said Johnson had “some really wonderful moments,” and Tonioli added, “You just went for it with gusto. It went wrong.” Johnson earned four 5s for a total of 20 points.

Tavis Smiley: The talk show host and partner Sharna Burgess earned praise for their foxtrot. “I like watching you dance because you’re one of those people who’s like a natural mover…you move so well, so natural, so likeable. Well done,” Inaba told Smiley. Hough said Smiley’s routine was “awesome” and that he looked comfortable on the dance floor, and Goodman said Smiley needed to work on his footwork but that the routine was fun and enjoyable. Tonioli said he loved “the comedic touches” and urged Smiley not to throw his arms. Smiley earned an 8 from Hough and 7s from the other judges for a total of 29 points.

Sadie Robertson: The Duck Dynasty star’s cha cha with Mark Ballas earned praise from the judges. “Duckling no more. Here we’ve got a bird of paradise!” Tonioli said. Added an approving Goodman: “Quack! Quack! You’ll be back.” Hough called Robertson “the entire package.” Inaba said Robertson had gorgeous lines. Inaba and Goodman awarded her 8s while Hough and Tonioli gave her 9s for a total of 34 points.

Michael Waltrip: The NASCAR racer’s cha cha with Emma Slater drew mixed review from the judges. “I liked it…I think you did fantastic. It was fun, entertaining, well done, simple,” Inaba said. Hough said it was “awesome” and noted that it seemed Waltrip was having so much fun. But in comparing Waltrip with Slater, Tonioli said “you looked at times like a golf cart trying to keep up with a Ferrari,” and Goodman made another car analogy: “The engine was running but you never got out of first gear.” Waltrip earned three 6s and a 7 for a total of 25.

Jonathan Bennett: The Mean Girls actor’s bubbly jive with Allison Holker earned him a standing ovation from the ballroom audience. “You’re a polished performer…I’m, like, blown away,” Inaba said. Hough called Bennett “such a natural performer” and told him he had potential. Goodman agreed, telling him to “work hard.” Bennett earned two 7s and two 8s for a total of 30 points.

Tommy Chong: The comedian’s cool cha cha with pro partner Peta Murgatroyd — and a cameo from his comedy partner, Cheech Marin — brought smiles to the judges’ faces. “You are extremely sexy,” Hough told Chong, adding: “You have the moves like nobody’s business.” Tonioli confessed that he’d been expected “bad grandpa. I’m getting cool grandpa.” Goodman said it was painless, fun and enjoyable. Inaba added: “That was fantastic! You came in like a low rider … you killed it!” Chong earned three 7s and a 6 for a total of 27 points.

Randy Couture: Judges were full of praise for the mixed martial artist and action movie star’s smooth foxtrot with partner Karina Smirnoff. Hough and Inaba both found the actor’s performance sexy, with Hough telling him: “Randy, you’re making me randy…you have grace and you have class and there’s a sensitive beauty about you.” Inaba said she prided herself in being professional but couldn’t help feeling “a little weak in the knees…you are sexy out there!” Goodman said the performance “had a charm about it,” and Tonioli said Couture was light on his feet. Couture earned three 8s and a 7 for a total of 31 points.

Bethany Mota: The YouTube sensation earned good reviews for her jive with partner Derek Hough. Inaba found the routine “tight, clean and well-rehearsed,” but said there were lulls in Mota’s energy. Hough agreed. Goodman thought Mota should keep her diary clear as he found the routine “terrific.” Added Tonioli: “Huge on the Web and pretty good on the dance floor as well…I’m telling you, you were wonderful.” Mota earned four 8s for a total of 32 points.

Alfonso Ribeiro: Ribeiro’s and pro partner Witney Carson’s electrifying jive earned them a standing ovation, including from Goodman. “Beautiful routine. Fantastically danced,” Goodman said. “That was without question the best dance of the night.” Hough said she was “blown about by the musicality in that,” and commended Carson’s choreography. Tonioli said Ribeiro was the “king of the night” and Inaba said Ribeiro had “the swagger of season 19…you just raised the stakes my friend! Excellent.” Ribeiro earned 36 points, the highest score of the night.

ABC will air the results show Tuesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The Scores

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 36
Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 34
Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev : 32
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 32
Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff : 31
Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker: 30
Janel Parrish and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 29
Tavis Smiley and Sharna Burgess: 29
Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: 27
Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: 25
Antonio Sabato Jr. and Cheryl Burke: 25
Lolo Jones and Keo Motsepe: 22
Betsey Johnson and Tony Dovolani: 20

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Alex459/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new figures on Tuesday showing that the number of deaths caused by opioid prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, are significantly higher than in years past.

According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the number of deaths caused by prescription painkillers has climbed from 4,263 in 1999 to almost 19,000 in 2011. Poisoning was the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the U.S., of which 90 percent were related to drugs.

Those between the ages of 55 and 65 had the highest rate of death related to drugs.

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FeelPic/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Gas prices dropped by almost five cents in the last week, an impressively large dip, bringing the average price of a dollar of unleaded gas to $3.41.

That figure, released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is nearly 14 cents lower than this date one year ago. California was once again the state with the highest average price for gas, with one gallon costing $3.79 on average.

The most notable drop occurred in the Midwest region, where the average gas price dropped by slightly more than eight cents per gallon from last week.

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Hemera/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — MLB: Baltimore Orioles 5 (90-60) – Toronto Blue Jays 2 (77-72)

Miami Marlins 6 (73-76) – New York Mets 5 (72-79)

Tampa Bay Rays 1 (73-78) – New York Yankees 0 (76-73)

Washington Nationals 4 (86-63) – Atlanta Braves 2 (75-75)

Chicago Cubs 1 (66-84) – Cincinnati Reds 0 (71-80)

Houston Astros 3 (67-83) – Cleveland Indians 1 (76-73)

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Hope Milam/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD, Iraq) — There was a U.S. airstrike southwest of Baghdad Monday, a new area of operations for U.S. fighter aircraft, ABC News has learned.

But this isn’t an indicator of expanded airstrikes in Iraq, a U.S. official told ABC News.

A request was received from the Iraqis to provide air support for an Iraqi unit that was engaged in a firefight with fighters with the Islamic militant group ISIS, the official said.

An aircraft was redirected and conducted a strike to support the Iraqi ground troops, the official said.

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FBI Building qingwa/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The FBI announced on Monday that it has declared its Next Generation Identification System, for facial recognition, fully operational.

The NGI System was designed in the hopes of expanding the FBI’s “biometric identification capabilities.” Among the functional capabilities of the system are Rap Back, which enables authorized entities to receive status notifications on the criminal history of those in “positions of trust,” such as teachers. The NGI System also includes the Interstate Photo System involving facial recognition and “will provide the nation’s law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities.”

Phase one of the NGI System was introduced in 2011.

An FBI statement called the latest advances “a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler.”

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