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While You Were Out: Taylor Takes on Apple, the Charleston Shooting, Whole Foods Overcharges, 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 watercooler 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.

Cute Fathers Day Messages from Stars Celebrating Dads Everywhere

Celebrities took to Instagram with the rest of the world on Sunday to post pictures and write messages of gratitude for fatherhood and for the dads in their lives. Among them were Justin Timberlake, celebrating his first Father’s Day since the birth of his baby boy in April, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who shared these wise words: “Here is to all the engaged and present fathers—you create a backbone for society. We honor you all today.” Hear, hear!

Sophie Caldecott

FLOTUS Empowers Girls Through Education Initiative

Michelle Obama, along with her daughters and mother, just came back from Europe, where she had tea with HRH Prince Harry at Kensington Palace. It may have seemed like the Obamas were returning a social call, after HRH attended a tea in the U.S. two years ago. According to the palace’s Twitter account, they discussed the White House initiative on female education, which is a topic near and dear to Mrs. Obama.

FLOTUS went on to visit the Mulberry School for Girls, whose diverse population consists mostly of daughters of Bangladeshi immigrants. She encouraged the girls to become leaders in boardrooms and parliaments and said not to be discouraged by the discrimination they face for their religion. “You might wonder if people will ever look beyond your headscarf to see who you really are,” she said. “But with your education from this amazing school, you have everything you need to rise above it.” The U.S. and Great Britain will be contributing $200 million toward the education of girls in crisis countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Blanca Therese Morales

All You Had to Do Was . . . Pay

Taylor Swift has been using her superstar clout to fight for the rights of musicians and artists again, and this time her beef was with technology giant Apple. In an open letter posted via her Tumblr Sunday, the singer wrote: “I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free three-month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company. This is not about me. . . . This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.”

The sentiment she expressed, that “it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing,” is consistent with her reasons for withdrawing her music from Spotify in November 2014 (she believed that the music-streaming platform didn’t fairly compensate its artists). Apple responded to the open letter the following day, with executive Eddy Cue tweeting the message: “We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” The company says it has now changed its policy and will pay artists for their music even during free streaming periods. Yeah, we’re T. Swift fangirls and proud of it.


Watch Inside Out

In the current age of lifestyle blogs and inspiration boards, happiness seems like the first, if not only, objective in life. Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out, which this past weekend had the biggest box-office opening for a non-sequel ever, enters into the mind of an 11-year-old girl, Riley, to set the record straight that all emotions are necessary for our growth. The film explores memory, thought, imagination, and emotion in a way that is wonderfully entertaining for children who enjoy the animation as well as for adults who appreciate the humor and talented minds behind the story. The storytelling is as creative and thoughtful as ever, and the casting is on point. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, and Lewis Black nail the anthropomorphic emotions of joy, fear, disgust, sadness, and anger. Witty and poignant, Inside Out will appropriately make you feel joy, sadness, and everything in between. This is a film worth watching—with kids or without.

—M. C. Lagroue

Scientists Discover a New Body Part

Researchers at University of Virginia’s School of Medicine recently discovered that we have a new body part. No, it’s not a special anomaly that means we’re mutating into the X-Men or a hidden biological switch that we can flip to activate superhuman strength. It’s a long-hidden system of vessels they’ve coined the “central nervous system lymphatic vessels,” which drain lymphatic fluid from the brain to the surrounding lymph nodes. The discovery, which has been published in Nature, is shaking up the scientific community because its existence was not only undetected, but many textbooks even argued against it—making it, in many ways, the neuroimmunological equivalent of finding a unicorn. The new discovery promises to play a crucial role in understanding neurological diseases and immunity. Yay, science!

Hannah Allen White

Nicole Kidman Stands Up for Tall Women

“I was afraid of my own power, afraid that it would threaten people,” Nicole Kidman recently shared at the Women in Film’s Crystal + Lucy awards dinner. “It’s a great sadness wishing to be less than you actually are. And it’s hard to take on the world when you’re constantly in a battle with yourself.” The actress, who measures 5 feet 11 inches, had these encouraging words for ladies gifted with height: “Stand tall, and never ever apologize for it.” As someone who was told, “You are so tall!” by a guy when I wore heels to an evening event (complete with a look of terror on his face), I can totally relate. Thank you, Nicole, from tall ladies everywhere.


Hospitalized by a Pair of Skinny Jeans (Yes, Really)

How’s this for weird-but-true news? An Australian woman spent four days in the hospital after her jeans cut off the circulation in her legs, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry recently reported. Did you know that skinny jeans can cause nerve damage if they’re too tight? No, neither did we. Something to bear in mind when you’re buying your next pair. Thank goodness for the on-trend mom jean and flared styles.


Not Minding the Gap

Some people will now have to buy their khakis online. The Gap, which has been around since 1969, will be closing one-fourth of its stores; Gap’s brand Piperlime already shut down this year. Economists credit the downsizing of retail space to a shift in consumer habits, saying that shoppers no longer favor store-hopping to find the perfect product. As for Gap, CEO Art Peck sees that its lack of feminine silhouettes and variety in design may be contributing to its challenges. Back in February, Peck commented on the female consumer and Gap, saying, “She’s just not responding to the product there right now at all.” We’ll see if the company’s turnaround plans include new music video–like commercials that promote basics. (Can we bring back the classy Ms. Hepburn for another promo?)


Whole Foods Found Overcharging for Food

Everyone’s suspicions about favorite über-conscious grocer Whole Foods have been confirmed—they’re overcharging us in a real way. The city of New York has had it with the upscale food purveyor and called in the Department of Consumer Affairs to initiate a sting operation after dozens of inspections dating as far back as 2010 indicated a routine overcharging of customers on groceries. Last fall inspections specifically looked at eighty prepackaged items at eight different Whole Foods locations and found that every one was labeled incorrectly. The inspectors have gone on record as saying this is the worst case of overcharging they’ve ever seen. This is especially significant because DCA looked into 120 other grocers during the same sweep, and 77 percent of them were also found to be overcharging.

The New York City probe comes after Whole Foods agreed last summer to pay $800,000 to settle a California investigation that had similar findings. Whole Foods denies these claims and says the Texas-based chain “never intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers.”


Speaking of Food and Scams . . .

In a brilliant takedown of the women’s diet foods industry, a man recently documented his experience of exclusively eating food marketed as being “for women.” What did he learn from the experiment? Well, mostly that this food is not “particularly healthy or anything, but . . . if you replace full meals with Special K, you’ll essentially starve, which is definitely one way to lose weight.” His conclusion is a sobering reflection on the pressures of marketing directed at women. “I lived like this for only two weeks,” he said, “but I can also attest that the constant reminder that I was or should be on a diet was exhausting.”


Disney’s Full of Crap

Figuratively speaking. Or gastronomically, I should say. Animal Kingdom in Orlando has introduced new dessert items that are made to look like animal droppings at Zuri’s Sweets Shop in its Africa section. Now you can order giraffe, rhino, elephant, or cotton-top tamarin dung. Not to worry though, they’re all made of chocolate, peanut butter, or other edibles. They’re calling it, “Match the Species,” though the receipt will read, “Poop, elephant.” Not unlike the craze that surrounded Harry Potter World’s Every Flavour Beans, with options such as earwax, booger, or vomit, people are finding Disney’s crap equally fascinating. Just think to yourself in terms of “chocolate truffle” rather than “giraffe poo” while you’re enjoying the magical treats.


Hollywood Mourns Beloved Composer

Sad news reached the film industry this week at the announcement of James Horner’s tragic death in a solo plane crash in California. All of us, at one point or another, have been moved by this award-winning orchestrator’s film scores. He has inspired many with his beautiful music. How could we forget the heartrending tracks in Titanic as we laughed and cried with Jack and Rose? Some of his other memorable works include moving melodies in An American Tail, Braveheart, The Mask of Zorro, and The Amazing Spider-Man. Horner was flying his small aircraft when it went down sixty miles from Santa Barbara on Monday. His music will live on, expressing through notes and scales that, as Turner once described as his goal, “the audience can feel with their heart.” Rest in peace, Mr. Horner.


Three Outs Never Bothered Them Anyway

This week a T-ball team of girls made Internet fame after a photo shoot styled like the Disney film Frozen went viral. The Oklahoma team, called Freeze, consists of girls between the ages of 4 and 5, and they were photographed by Betsy Gregory, one of the player’s moms. According to Gregory, “It’s empowering, really, for little girls . . . ‘I can dress up but I can still be tough.’”

Mary Rose Somarriba

Playboy Mansion Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

In a book published this week, former Playboy Mansion resident Holly Madison revealed that her experience living among Playboy Bunnies and Hugh Hefner was “hell.”

“I felt like Playboy represented a key to the glamorous life—that it would be a stepping stone,” Madison told the New York Post. “Everyone just made the Playmates sound like a fun little sorority. . . . I had this image in my mind of being this liberated woman who was really adventurous.” In the end, Madison says, “I was not as sophisticated as I thought I was. . . . We were all young. . . . None of us had ever seen the darker side of the entertainment industry.”

This darker side of the industry promises to be revealed in Madison’s book Down the Rabbit Hole. Big props to Madison for finding her way out and finding her voice to share the truth in this eye-opening book.


The Aftermath of the Charleston Shooting

The world watched in horror as the news of the shooting in Charleston unfolded last week. Dylann Roof, a young local white man who had allegedly posted a racist manifesto online (currently under investigation by federal agents), shot and killed nine black people as they prayed together at a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday evening. The attack came ten weeks after the murder of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man shot dead by a North Charleston police officer just a few miles away from the site of last week’s shooting. Among the victims was Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a pastor and state senator who had campaigned for mandatory police body cameras, which became law in the state a week before Scott’s murder. Pinckney had also (unsuccessfully) campaigned for background checks for all gun purchases in South Carolina.

Roof’s racist appropriation of the Confederate flag has renewed the controversy over its prominence in the South, with retailers such as Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Etsy saying that they will remove it from all of their merchandise. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called on her state’s legislature to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds—a move that would require two-thirds of both chambers to vote in favor. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, on the other hand, made a bold unilateral move and ordered the removal of four Confederate-era flags decorating the Montgomery capitol building “without fanfare, quickly and quietly” Wednesday morning, saying it was simply “the right thing to do.” Bentley’s press secretary confirmed that the flags have been permanently removed.


Good News of the Week

In a remarkable story this week, a mother and her 1-year-old son survived not only a plane crash but also four days in the Colombian jungle. The mother and child survived on coconut milk and resilience until being found and rushed to medical facilities. The mother suffered some burns and injuries, but the baby was unhurt.