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While You Were Out: Riots in Baltimore, the New Avengers Film, Proof That Babies Feel Pain, and More


“While You Were Out” is a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid, together with our opinion as to if it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Riots in the Streets of Baltimore

Many of us know the line by Mister Rogers' mother, who told him as a young child that when exposed to tragedy, he should “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Seeing helpers restores a sense of balance in the world—a reminder that even with hardship, there are always those who will step forward and help in the aftermath. Wise words for adults and children alike.

Those words come to mind this week as riots broke out in Baltimore, and our nation continues a heated conversation about police brutality and race. After a man named Freddie Gray died in police custody, public outcry led to riots, looting, and ultimately “a state of emergency” called by Gov. Larry Hogan.  So, who are the helpers?

When city officials announced that schools would be closed Monday for safety reasons, some organizers and volunteers had the foresight to consider the vast majority of Baltimore’s 85,000 school children who receive free or reduced school meals. For most low-income families, popping into the grocery store and making up for those extra meals—especially when that store may be in shambles—isn't an option. Utilizing the hashtag #BaltimoreLunch on social media, volunteers have been organizing donations and food distribution with the help of the nonprofit organizing tool Operation Help or Hush.

The Huffington Post reported that Help or Hush’s co-founder Charles Wade drove into Baltimore from St. Louis on Tuesday morning to help; volunteers distributed 110 extra-large pizzas and more than a thousand snack packs. People are using the hashtag to inform Twitter users about safe places for gathering and eating, including bookstores, community centers, and parks.

“We believe in Baltimore, and we believe that this city is strong, and its citizens are strong,” Hannah Gardi, director of the 29th Street Community Center, told HuffPost. “It really feels like the community is wrapping its arms around itself. We can rise from this, and we can see a more hopeful tomorrow, especially with our kids.”

Hannah Allen White

And Then There was This Guy . . .

. . .who brought light and music to the streets of Baltimore by brazenly dancing to Michael Jackson’s iconic song “Beat It” amid rioters and passersby. As Mashable reports, “The dancer's choice of song is no coincidence. Jackson's original video centers on a fight, which he ultimately breaks up for its unnecessary violence. The lyrics also resonate strongly with ongoing protests this week, and so many others like it: You're playin' with your life/This ain't no truth or dare/They'll kick you, then they beat you, then they'll tell you it's fair/So beat it.’”

Mary Rose Somarriba

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Opens This Weekend

The new Avengers film, Age of Ultron, hits screens this week. The film has all the expected blockbuster action but some great character development as well. I used to think Hawkeye was a bit of a weak link in the team (an opinion others apparently shared, giving rise to the actor's hilarious self-parody on The Tonight Show). But during this film he quickly became one of my favorite Avengers. Elizabeth Olsen also really stood out for her performance as Scarlet Witch, which isn't that surprising given all the thought she put into her body language and on-screen relationship with her character's twin brother. (Having big sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley to draw on probably didn’t hurt either.) I enjoyed seeing more of Black Widow's backstory, although I can't for the life of me work out why Marvel hasn't given her a solo film yet.

Speaking of Scarlett Johansson, there's no better way to get you in the mood for the film than by watching her and Mark Ruffalo turn sexist interview questions on their head as they swap roles. (It turns out Mark does a fantastic red carpet smolder.)

Sophie Caldecott

Will and Kate Await Baby Number Two

This week the world awaits the birth of Duchess Kate’s second child, expected any day now. Adding to the excitement, the sex of the baby has not been revealed, so it’s anyone’s guess whether Prince George will be gaining a baby brother or sister. While some people have gawked at the royal pair for having two kids in such a short period of time, we admire Kate. One of Verily’s writers shared a highly personal and laugh-out-loud response to those who can’t help but say to moms with multiple kids, “You have your hands full!”


The Hand-Holding Continues

Fans of past Dancing with the Stars champions Meryl Davis and Maks Chmerkovskiy were in for a treat this week when the duo performed a newly choreographed routine to the song “Heroes” on the show’s ten-year-anniversary special. For those thirsty for more dances from the Olympic ice-dancing champion and ballroom champion, Chmerkovskiy’s New York City–based dance studio has planned some live performances in a series called Sway, which showcases the winning team in June.


Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Share a Story of Hope

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, two survivors of years of captivity in the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro, have spoken up almost two years after their escape. The two are promoting their new book Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, which promises to be good given that it is cowritten by Pulitzer Prize–winning writers. In a recent interview Berry explained, “We are normal people and went through a real tough time . . .What got us through it was talking to each other. Everyone goes through tough times, and you have to find a way to get out of it and keep holding on to hope. That's all we had—hope and our families. If you have the one thing—which for us was our families—you can get through anything.” DeJesus added, “I take [it] day by day.”


The Perfect Body

Despite our body-conscious culture, a 39-week pregnant mom shared an iPhone photo of herself that went viral this week. Instead of bemoaning her changing body, the Tampa Bay, Fla., mom of three recognized that her body is not reduced to cellulite, added weight, or less-toned arms, but rather these qualities represent her strengths as a woman and as a mother. We have already noticed the growing trend of capturing mothering bodies in photography, so we can’t help but cheer on this supermom who reminds us that true beauty is not skin deep.

Blanca Therese Morales

Lizzie McGuire Reunion

When did Lizzie (Hilary Duff), her little brother Matt (Jake Thomas), and her best friend Miranda (Lalaine) grow up? Thomas shared an Instagram photo of the three former cast-mates of Disney’s early-2000s hit Lizzie McGuire having an impromptu reunion at a Los Angeles bowling alley. Thomas later blogged about their encounter and shared how he cannot “get over the fact” that Duff has a kid, while she could not believe Thomas now has facial hair. But where was Gordo? Fans were bummed that Adam Lamberg, who resides in NYC, was missing from the scene, but let's not forget his dislike of bowling. Perhaps he'll meet up with the gang, as Thomas suggested there might be “something in the works soon.”


Study Finds That Babies Feel Pain

It's been common practice for days-old infants to undergo procedures and even surgeries without anesthesia since many doctors believed that a new baby's brain didn't feel pain the way an adult's brain does. Researchers from Oxford University, however, are making waves after seeing infant brains “light up” the same way an adult's would in an MRI while exposing them to mild pain.

As HuffPostreports, “For the study, the researchers recruited 10 healthy infants who were between one and six days old and 10 healthy adults between the ages of 23 and 36. The babies were put in an MRI scanner and poked on the foot. Then, the adult participants were put in the MRI machine and poked on the foot (only in their case, four times harder). What did the researchers find? Eighteen out of the 20 brain regions activated in the adults when experiencing pain were also activated in the infants. This suggests that infants not only feel pain the way adults do, but also that they have a lower pain threshold.”

I hope this means the guidelines regarding infant pain relief and anesthesia will change. What kind of myopia ever caused us to doubt that babies feel pain in the first place?


Powerful Women Take Aim at Social Ills

Variety’s Power of Women luncheon took place this week, honoring women of influence. Glenn Close spoke to an emotionally charged crowd, exclaiming, “As an actress, I've terrified men, and I've certainly terrified children, but I have yet to terrify women. Contrary to the cliché, there's little that frightens us.” The renowned stage and film actress went on to describe how the growing problem of mental illness scares her the most, as many people close to her suffer or have suffered from mental illness. A tearful Close took a moment to fondly remember Robin Williams: “I feel Robin here today. He would be whispering in my ear, ‘A couple of jokes would help right now.’”


Oh, Hollywood

Patricia Arquette did it, Carey Mulligan did it, and now Kristen Stewart has done it. I'm talking about all the female stars who have recently called out Hollywood for sexism and requested equal pay and better roles for women. “Hollywood is disgustingly sexist . . .It's so offensive, it's crazy,” said Stewart in a recent issue of Harper's Bazaar UK. You can't really put it more bluntly than that. So, Hollywood, are you listening?


Um . . . No.

You would have thought that it's a basic no-no in marketing to use rape jokes to sell beer (or anything, for that matter). But Budweiser nearly did just that when it stuck labels on Bud Light bottles (a drink aimed at a predominantly female audience) that read, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” After an outraged backlash on social media, the company's vice president apologized, saying, “It's clear that this message missed the mark, and we regret it.” With messages like these, no wonder it can feel like we’re taking one step forward and two steps back when fighting rape culture these days.


Feel-Good News of the Week

Arguably the cutest story this week is of Louisiana fireman Cody Knecht rescuing six ducklings from a storm drain. That's right, helpless ducklings! The story even made it into the New York Times, which reports that Knecht played a duck-call ringtone on his cell phone for almost ninety minutes to rescue the first four baby mallards in the southeast Louisiana community of Slidell. Two other ducklings needed another hour to calm down before they could be rescued and reunited with their worried mother duck.