These beautiful shark facts and pictures will give you 10 reasons to love them.
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Discovery - Racing Extinction

There's a reason why we're told to live every week like it's Shark Week.

GIF via “Step Brothers."


Sharks are simultaneously some of the most exhilarating and terrifying forces of nature on the planet.

They are glorious, majestic apex predators that affect entire ecosystems with their toothy, subaqueous badassery and demand our constant admiration and respect.

Hear me roar. All shark photos via iStock.

But they're also probably one of the most misunderstood species on the planet.

Thankfully, they're just one of many featured in "Racing Extinction" — a terrifyingly beautiful film that soon premieres on Discovery Channel. But before we get to that, let's explain why you should care about one of the many species showcased in that film — sharks!

Here are 10 facts that explain why we love sharks (and why you should if you don't).

1. Sharks promote bio-diversity.

'Sup everyone?

Apex predators like sharks actually increase the wildlife diversity of the ecosystems they live in by preying on the most available species, in turn preventing them from over-consuming the resources of a given area.

2. Sharks are fast. Like really, really fast.

Let's race.

Shortfin mako sharks are called the cheetahs of the sea. While they cruise around 20 mph, they've been observed notching speeds upward of 50 mph in a burst to nab prey. This video has one hitting 68 miles an hour before devouring a bluefish. Experts caution it's really difficult to accurately measure mako speeds, but still — it puts a whole new spin on "fast food," does it not?

3. Sharks are AMAZING listeners.

"Tell me more about growing up in the north tropical Atlantic."

A shark can hear a fish thrashing in the water from nearly 2,000 feet away — that's over one Freedom Tower away.

4. Fear of sharks is basically the ocean's answer to birth control.

"Walk into the club like..."

Through intimidation alone, sharks are able to control other species of fish from overpopulating by forcing them to lessen their reproductive habits and alter their migratory patterns. Effective!

5. Speaking of birth control, they're naturally good at it.

"Ah remember this time last year? We were at the beach without a care in the world."

While sharks may live long, prosperous lives (up to 25 years), they actually grow slowly and produce very few offspring in comparison to most fish. The average litter of a Great White, for instance, is just two to 10 pups a year, with a gestation period lasting as long as two years (!!).

6. Shark embryos have built-in security systems.

Hello, ocean!

Not only do sharks detect their prey by tracking the electric fields they emit, but some shark embryos can actually do the same with predators, recognizing the electric fields they put out and responding by completely shutting down their respiratory functions.

7. More sharks = fewer diseases.

"I know carcass isn't fancy, but it really hits the spot when you're hungry."

Sharks typically feed on the weakest and sickest members of their prey colonies and even scavenge the sea floor to feast on dead carcasses, acting as a sort of oceanwide CDC (more like sea-d-sea, amiright?!) by preventing potentially fatal diseases from spreading and even strengthening the gene pools of these hunted species.

8. Seriously, like even our diseases.

We owe you, big time.

Both humans and sharks have an immune system that relies on antibodies to prevent and fight disease, but the shark's immune system is unique in that it actually contains large quantities of urea, an excreted substance that keeps them from dehydrating.

Since urea actually destabilizes antibodies, sharks have also developed several molecular adaptations to prevent urea from making them vulnerable to diseases, which researchers are now applying to human antibodies in the hopes of turning us into invulnerable Terminators, more or less.

9. That tuna salad you're eating? Thank a shark.

This time, the food chain tables have turned, sea birds.

If hungry sharks weren't keeping down the seabird population, some species of tuna might be facing extinction since they are the go-to meal of these winged assailants. Tiger sharks are credited with eating about 10% of the albatross population annually, and great whites have even beached themselves seeking a seagull appetizer.

10. And while you're at it, thank them for the coral reefs we all love so much.

Just coral reefin', the way I usually do.

When sharks are removed from reef ecosystems, the population of plant-eating fish species in reefs also drops, leading to overgrown algae that suffocates what few growing reefs we have left. The same goes for seagrass, which tiger sharks also help make flourish by keeping sea turtles from overgrazing and subsequently destroying their own habitats.

For all the bad press they get, sharks are basically the omnipresent healers of the ocean, which makes this next fact all the more unbelievable.

There's still one terrifying truth about sharks.

Large shark populations have declined by over 90% in the last generation alone and are facing extinction due to a variety of factors — chief among them, overfishing and fin poaching.

For every human killed by a shark, 2 million sharks are killed by humans, with over 200,000 sharks being killed in the fin trade per day.

The extinction of several shark species within our lifetime is a very real possibility that would lead to disastrous environmental effects.

That's why Racing Extinction recently created a quiz to shed some light on this pressing issue.

We are the last generation that can put an end to shark finning.

Yeah! So, head over to their website, take the quiz, and pass it along to your friends to help spread the word.

That, or get used to the idea of living in a world where Shark Week doesn't exist, which is just…

GIF via "That '70s Show."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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