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While You Were Out: How the Internet Is Helping Nepal, The New Royal Baby, Sheryl Sandberg’s Tragic Loss, 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.

Making Maps For Nepal

The advent of satellite imagery and high-speed Internet has helped to create a new and unusual way of assisting people in times of crisis. Volunteers around the world have been able to use crowdsourcing tools to trace satellite photographs and turn them into digital maps of affected areas, which are invaluable to the people doing relief work on the ground.

Having quality maps of the local area greatly increases the ability of relief workers to locate survivors and provide shelter and supplies to those who need it. While teams of these intrepid Internet mapmakers have been mobilized effectively before, volunteers say that they have worked faster and better than ever in the aftermath of the recent Nepal earthquake. As Robinson Meyer writes for The Atlantic, it's because of the Internet that people are able to help others in the wake of huge natural disasters “who are sometimes in the same neighborhood . . . and sometimes on the other side of the planet.”

Sophie Caldecott

Did We Mention a Baby Was Found in the Rubble?

Last week as WYWO was going to press, we missed this gem of a news story that came out Thursday evening. After spending twenty-two hours covered by debris, a 5-month-old baby was found in the rubble of the Nepal earthquake, much to the joy of his parents—and now, the world. I wish I could say more about this, but I’m sorry. I can’t even.

Mary Rose Somarriba

Welcome, Princess Charlotte!

The Great Kate Wait: Part Two ended this past Saturday when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their second child, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. The tiny royal’s name, speculation on which had caused quite a fervor in worldwide betting pools, carries a lot of history and family connections. Charlotte is both the feminine version of Charles, Prince William’s father, and the middle name of Kate's sister Pippa. Elizabeth is an obvious tribute to the current queen, as well as being the middle name of both Kate’s mother and Kate herself. And Diana is of course in memory of William’s late mother, the Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Prince George, the couple’s first child, arrived at the hospital to meet his new sister wearing an adorable daddy-and-me outfit and waving solemnly to onlookers. A mere ten hours after her birth, the new princess was taken home, with Kate walking out of the hospital looking as flawless as ever in a custom Jenny Packham dress, which flattered Kate without hiding her post-baby figure. And although the very idea of putting on stockings and high heels not even twenty-four hours after giving birth makes me shake my head and say WHY?!, the obvious happiness of the couple in introducing their daughter to the world was beautiful to see. Many congratulations to the royal family. Please show us pictures of George and Charlotte soon!

Monica Weigel

Star Wars Has Never Looked So Glamorous

I have to admit that I was skeptical when I first heard that Disney bought the Star Wars franchise a few years ago with the intention of making a whole host of new films—I mean, those prequels had left kind of a bad taste in the mouth of any fan of the original trilogy, making us all wonder whether it would have been better if George Lucas had known to quit while he was ahead. But then it turned out that J. J. Abrams was on board to direct the first new film (to be released this coming December); as the director who made the Star Trek films great once more, he has already proven that he can handle a reboot. Then this trailer was released this past month—and let's just say it looks like Star Wars: The Force Awakens has all of the ingredients that made the original trilogy so good, including many of the beloved original cast members.

As if that weren't enough to get us all feeling the force, Vanity Fair’s June cover story reveals more exciting sneak peeks of the cast and set in a series of striking behind-the-scenes photos. Bring on December.


Some Mean Girls Grow Out of It . . .Others Just Grow Up

The 2004 film Mean Girls has become a classic. The endless one-liners and cleverly disguised life lessons have made it a slumber-party staple—even for us grown-up girls. There was an ill-fated sequel no one saw that entered a worse-than-death, straight-to-DVD doom. Since the original release, the public outcry for a Tina Fey–written original cast reunion sequel has pretty much not ceased to this day.

The good news is that author Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes—upon which Mean Girls was based—has written another book called Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads, and word has it the book is being made into a movie called Mean Moms. Sean Anders has signed on to direct the film and might be bringing famous friend Jennifer Aniston to star.

There is no solid release date for Mean Moms yet, but there is a generation of women who, after seeing Mean Girls a decade ago, await it with bated breath. Many of us who saw the original in theaters have grown up and moved on to marriage and children, making the new plotlines all the more relatable. I, for one, can’t wait!

Hannah Allen White

Fighting Street Harassment, One Poster at a Time

The warmer weather is here, and with it comes that joyous phenomenon that ladies everywhere know to be as inevitable during summer in the city as gum on the sole of your sandal. I'm talking, of course, about street harassment. Whether it's a guy getting all up in your face and telling you to smile or shouting something obscene at you from a car window, anyone who has been on the receiving end of catcalling of any kind (so, basically all of womankind) knows that it is definitely not a compliment. Brooklyn artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has started an international art project called Stop Telling Women to Smile that's aimed at fighting gender-based street harassment. She teams up with people in cities around the world to put up murals of women's faces with slogans such as “Women are not outside for your entertainment” and “Men do not own the streets” in prominent places. As Maggie wrote for Verily last year, talking about the issue is one of the ways we can hope to put a stop to it. Look out for the campaign on the streets of your cities and on social media under the hashtag #stwts.


Sheer Dresses at the Met Gala

The 2015 Met Gala, the annual extravaganza of opulence that brings together the upper echelon of society and the entertainment industry’s most notorious fashionistas, has come and gone, leaving many onlookers scratching their heads in confusion. The themed event always runs a fine line between runway show and costume party, with some attendees embracing the opportunity for creative dressing and others playing it disappointingly safe. This year’s theme was China: Through the Looking Glass, but no one seemed to have a clear sense of exactly what that meant. Some, including Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s daughter Bee Shaffer, went the route of beautiful and intricate embroidery. Others, such as Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, and Kate Hudson, used it as an excuse to wear all gold. And in a sadly perplexing but not entirely unexpected move, many attendees took the theme to be an opportunity to show up practically naked. Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Lopez, among others, showed up in sheer gowns that covered only the essentials with beading and jewels. Luckily, Sarah Jessica Parker once again gave everyone something else to focus on by showing up in an amazingly outlandish Philip Treacy hat that appeared to be a head of flames, but given the Chinese theme, it may have been going for dragons.


Transparent Wedding Gowns?

This week The Atlantic covered a new phenomenon of the transparent wedding dress. Tulle? Yes. Ethereal? Sure. Whimsical? I’m with you there. But sheer to the point of transparent? No. Just no. As the Atlantic article puts it, this is likely just the natural result of “the ‘sexification’ of the wedding dress,” which has been happening for some time now. Is it wrong for me to wonder what Beyoncé would think if Blue Ivy wore one of these down the aisle?


I'll Take More Fabric Over Too Little

Rihanna, whose striking yellow dress from the Met Gala resulted in a plethora of Internet memes this week, looked nothing short of regal if you ask me. But then, considering many dresses there looked like designers were tasked with the challenge of making something out of panty hose and sequins, Rihanna’s abundant fabric just may have been a sight for sore eyes. Jimmy Kimmel jumped on the bandwagon of laughs and suggested that Rihanna’s “bedspread” of a dress could be the next best multipurpose cover, from those who brought you the Snuggie.


Sheryl Sandberg’s Unexpected Loss

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and the best-selling author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, suffered a terrible loss this past week with the sudden death of her husband, David Goldberg. The tech power couple was vacationing in Mexico when Goldberg, who may have suffered from an arrhythmia, fell while on the treadmill and died from head trauma. He was 47 years old. Sandberg’s philosophy of equitable relationships in both professional and personal matters was on clear display throughout her marriage of eleven years, as evidenced by the touching tribute she posted on Facebook after her husband’s death: “We had eleven truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine . . .He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved—and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world. Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be OK. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way—and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit.


Husband Won’t Let Wife Stay Home with Kids

This week a man penned a column in USA Today that received quite a backlash, and for good reason. The piece was titled “Why I Won’t Let My Wife Quit Her Job,” and the man described how he won’t let his wife stay home with the kids (despite her wish to) for a number of reasons, most of which seemed to be because he fears she’d be resentful of his working and her being stuck with the kids. Whatever happened to increasing women’s options? As one of my friends commented on social media this week, it’s good to see women are no longer being trapped by the patriarchy.


Whose Child Is This?

Prepare to cringe. Sherri Shepherd, mostly known for her contributions to The View, and her then-husband Lamar Sally decided to have a baby via a surrogate. Over the course of the pregnancy, however, their relationship soured, and so did their desire for the baby, who was nevertheless born eight months ago. The result is heartbreaking: A baby was born, but no mother claimed him. Recently a judge ruled Shepherd to be the legal guardian of the now 8-month-old baby. The story illustrated how, despite the promises of assisted reproductive technologies making lives easier, they often make things messy, and human lives hang in the balance. An article in Slate this week quoted a lawyer on the issue: “there are not hard and fast rules” governing surrogacy in this country. If you saw HBO’s recent Vice episode on surrogacy and thought this was an issue that only got messy in foreign countries, it’s time to wake up.


Good News of the Week

This week, New Orleans was brought into the spotlight by first lady Michelle Obama for officially ending chronic veteran homelessness, achieving the goal six months ahead of schedule. Last year the White House and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made a pledge to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. In June 2014, Mrs. Obama tasked U.S. cities with tackling the issue when she launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

“[Veteran homelessness is] a stain on the soul of this nation,” Michelle Obama said in July 2014, according to the Associated Press. “[The] idea that anyone who has worn our country's uniform spends their nights sleeping on the ground should horrify us.” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu committed to getting each of the city's 193 veterans a place to live, and by bringing together organizations and agencies that hadn’t previously worked together or shared data in the past, the city managed to house 227 veterans in six months, surpassing its goal.

It stands to reason that actually housing the homeless before attempting to solve deeper issues of emotional health and employment might be one of the more straightforward and effective ways to take care of veterans on the streets. Mrs. Obama honored The Big Easy with a visit and a speech, announcing that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, together with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, would offer $65 million in rental assistance to help other cities follow New Orleans’ lead and begin to house the more than 9,300 homeless veterans nationwide.