“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.
Google Unveils New Company
Google has outgrown itself. In an effort to listen to its investors without hindering innovation, the tech giant is reorganizing. Like many such companies, Google was founded with a specific focus (Internet search) but has since broadened into numerous and varied areas of innovation. On Monday, Google co-founder Larry Page unveiled Alphabet, an umbrella company which will contain several entities, including a more streamlined Google, YouTube, Google Maps, and, reportedly, an array of smaller, growing ventures. The move is intended to separate the highly profitable search and advertising business from the company’s smaller, riskier ventures, or so-called “moon shots” (think: robots and self-driving cars), which have made investors uneasy. The move seems to be working; after the announcement, both classes of the company’s stock rose 6.2 percent. One question: Can we still use “Google” as a verb? Should we Alphabet it? —Baleigh Scott
Archaeologist May Have Solved Egyptian Mystery
British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves may have solved one of the most enduring mysteries of ancient Egypt: the burial place of Queen Nefertiti. The location of the tomb of Nefertiti, believed to be the mother of the famous boy king Tutankhamun, has never been found, but Reeves believes that her final resting place may be just yards from the tomb of her alleged son.
After studying digital scans of the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, Reeves has identified two bricked-up “ghosts” of doorways. He believes one of the doors leads to a storage chamber, while the other may well contain “the undisturbed burial of the tomb’s original owner—Nefertiti.” Reeves believes this “tomb within a tomb” came about because the royal court was thrown into crisis when young King Tut died suddenly, and with no tomb dug for the 19-year-old pharaoh, Nefertiti’s existing grave would’ve been opened up and enlarged to include a further chamber. Reeves’ theory would be easy to test using noninvasive techniques including radar scans to reveal any hollows. Shall we commemorate this with another Mummy sequel? —Hannah Allen White
Emma Watson’s Latest Part of #HeForShe Campaign
Almost one year ago Emma Watson launched the HeForShe campaign at the UN. Last week, she released the latest part of that campaign: to get the conversation started within the fashion industry. In this video, Watson interviews several big names including Stella McCartney and Jonathan Saunders about their take on the status of women in the industry and what can be done to improve it. Keep it up, Emma! —Emily Schmid
Trump’s Misogynistic Remarks
Following Fox News’ first presidential debate for the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump attacked Fox correspondent Megyn Kelly for what he considered unfair questions in the debate, stating, “You know, there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whatever.”
Trump’s remarks have ignited a firestorm of criticism from both the left and right of the political spectrum, understanding the remarks as a crude reference to menstruation and PMS. Trump has already been condemned by Carly Fiorina, a standout from Fox’s debate and the only woman running from the GOP, who took to Twitter with, “Mr. Trump: There.Is.No.Excuse.” Fiorina, along with many other women in the GOP, took offense at the inappropriateness of a presidential candidate attacking a female news reporter by reducing her intellect and professional talent to her biology and hormones. —Mercedez Rassi
Japan Restarts First Nuclear Power Plant Since Fukushima
The first nuclear reactor in Japan since the Fukushima disaster of 2011 has been restarted amid protests. Fukushima’s 2011 meltdown, which was triggered by a tsunami in the wake of one of the most powerful earthquakes on record, killed almost 16,000 people and displaced approximately 160,000, and radiation levels in the area continue to be high to this day. Following the disaster, all of Japan’s nuclear plants were gradually shut down, leaving Japan to rely on imported fossil fuels for energy. Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said on Monday that the revived Sendai plant had passed “the world’s toughest safety screening.” —Sophie Caldecott
Egg-Freezing’s Success Rates Not as Advertised
This week researchers from the Center for Human Reproduction in New York revealed that technologies such as egg freezing can actually decrease birth chances for women. Somewhere in the freezing and thawing process, the egg quality can be damaged and lessen the chance that it leads to a live birth. Researcher Vitaly Kushnir, M.D., concluded, “If a woman is considering freezing eggs to postpone fertility for social reasons [as opposed to health necessities such as cancer or uterus removal], she may have other, sometimes better, options available based on her age, health, and long-term fertility plan. . . . Women who are considering electively freezing their own eggs for fertility preservation should be counseled that pregnancy chances with frozen eggs may be somewhat lower than with fresh.”
This is bad news for women who have trusted freezing their eggs as a reliable means for delaying motherhood and have paid a pretty penny for it as well. At the same time, this news is welcome in that it reflects that more research is being done on what was until now an under-researched but highly marketed topic of significant importance to women. —Mary Rose Somarriba
In Entertainment News . . .
This week actress Greta Gerwig shared some wise insights on women’s portrayal in media. Speaking to HuffPost Live, Gerwig exclaimed that it’s surprising that there’s a dearth of interesting female characters in films today: “In a way it’s weird to me that there aren’t more unique, and complex, and strong, and confident female characters because I’m surrounded by them. I feel like in a way I’m just reflecting the people I see.” Gerwig continued by explaining that there is a place in the film industry for independent female characters, and her movies illustrate that. “I’ve been very lucky to find people, producers, and investors who are interested in doing this, and I hope that the success of these movies shows that there’s a space for it.” Ultimately, Gerwig diagnoses the problem as “a disconnect between what people actually want and what studio heads think that they want.” Here’s to bringing Hollywood back to reality and bridging that gap! —MRS
That New Song on Airwaves: ‘Dreams’
So you know that catchy song on airwaves right now with the refrain about “Dreeeeams . . . dr-dr-dr-dreams”? Yep, that’s Beck, the multitalented, multi-award-winning musician who won Album of the Year at the Grammys last year. Beck may be too humble to suggest this, but I can’t help but chuckle to myself: After Kanye West suggested last year that Beck didn’t deserve his award because his album Morning Phase didn’t get much radio play or have any pop hits like Beyoncé’s, Beck’s new song is a reminder to everyone just how easily he can make a pop hit. The man isn’t even working on an album right now. With this hit song pumping on airwaves, everybody wins! —MRS
David Beckham Responds to Parenting Criticism
In news that we really wish weren’t news, a British newspaper published a story Sunday criticizing David and Victoria Beckham for letting their 4-year-old daughter use a pacifier. “Experts warn [that] David and Victoria Beckham’s little girl may end up with ‘speech or dental issues’ if she continues to use one,” the Daily Mail wrote. The famous footballer posted his response on his Instagram account Monday, saying, “Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever, you do what comforts them best, and most of the time it’s a pacifier. So those who criticize, think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent . . .” Whether you agree with using a pacifier or not, I’m pretty sure I speak for all parents when I say this is a rant we’ve all felt like making before. Why this newspaper felt the need to heap judgment on the Beckhams for such a trivial thing when there are so many important things going on in the world, I don’t know . . . —SC
Sam and Nia’s Miscarriage
Last week, vlogger parents Sam and Nia (you may remember them from their impeccable Frozen lip sync) posted an unusual pregnancy announcement. In it, Sam—the father—manages to find out about the pregnancy first and proceeds to surprise his wife with the good news. The adorable video quickly went viral. Just three days later, however, the couple informed their subscribers in a touching video that Nia had miscarried.
Since the video was published, many have accused the couple of faking the pregnancy. Others have questioned why the couple chose to announce their pregnancy so early. In response, the couple stated, “We don’t regret it at all, especially considering miscarriage is such a taboo subject. A lot of people feel they need to wait to announce their pregnancy, but when you’re pregnant, you’re pregnant. It shouldn’t be something people need to hide.” Although the situation is tragic, I applaud Sam and Nia for speaking openly about the pain that accompanies the loss of an unborn child—pain that is all too often ignored or denied. —BS
Bill Murray to Appear in New Ghostbusters
This week it was announced that Bill Murray will partake in the new Ghostbusters, expected to release in 2016. The new version is planned to feature a quartet of ladies as the team fighting supernatural evils, and this news adds some comfort to those fans of the original film who wonder if the sequel will hurt the brand. For someone who loves the comediennes planned to get in the “ghostbusting” boots, I am doubly excited to see Murray return as well. —MRS
New Heath Ledger Documentary Reveals Extracts from His Joker Diary
The filmmakers behind a new documentary about the life of Heath Ledger have released a clip showing the late actor’s father, Kim Ledger, looking through a diary that his son kept while preparing for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight. The diary is full of pictures and scribbled notes, including stills from A Clockwork Orange and a list of “Things That Make Me Laugh” with entries such as “land mines” and “AIDS.”
“He pretty well locked himself up in a hotel . . . for a month or so, to sort of galvanize the upcoming character in his own mind,” Kim Ledger says in the German documentary, Heath Ledger: Too Young to Die. “That was typical of Heath on any movie. He would certainly immerse himself in the upcoming character. I think this was just a whole new level.” The actor died in 2008 from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, just after completion of The Dark Knight, and won a posthumous Oscar for his brilliant performance of the character he described as being a “psychopathic” villain with “zero empathy.” —SC
Whole Foods Scandal Grows
Whole Foods stock is down to its lowest price in four years. The natural food store is still struggling to convince Wall Street that it can turn things around since sales fell nationwide after the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs said in late June that the store had been overstating the price of pre-weighed packages at its Big Apple stores. Whole Foods stock fell 5 percent after the findings were reported. Executives apologized and promised to take action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. But then a photograph from a Brentwood, California, store showing “Asparagus Water”—literally three stalks of asparagus in a bottle of water—being sold for a hefty $6 began circulating on social media last week. Whole Foods pulled the asparagus water from its shelves and said that it was a mistake, but the backpedaling didn’t seem to exactly boost confidence.
Last week, a Whole Foods shareholder filed a class action lawsuit against the company in a federal court in Austin, alleging that Whole Foods executives made false and misleading statements about its business operations and failed to disclose that it was overcharging customers in a timely fashion. Whole Foods called the complaint “baseless and without merit,” but the company seems to be losing in the court of public opinion. Co-CEO John Mackey made the laughable comment on an earnings call with analysts asserting that Whole Foods is being unfairly singled out by regulators and the media: “We do feel like we’re victims,” he said. Sounds like a bunch of asparagus water if you ask me. —HAW
EPA to be Sued by Navajo Indians
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was responsible for the spill of toxic pollutants from the Gold King Mine in Colorado when one of its teams accidentally opened a suspended mine north of Durango. Orange sludge flowed into the Animas River in Colorado and then into New Mexico where it joins the San Juan River, a key source of water for communities of the Navajo Nation. As a result, the river is an opaque bright orange and severely polluted.
Several political leaders have expressed outrage at the EPA spill and declared states of emergency, but the Navajo Nation is the first to say it will take legal action against the federal government. Nation President Russell Begaye instructed the Navajo Nation Department of Justice to take action against the EPA. “They are not going to get away with this,” Begaye said. “The EPA was right in the middle of the disaster, and we intend to make sure the Navajo Nation recovers every dollar it spends cleaning up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our precious Navajo natural resources.” —HAW
Devastating Explosion in China
Powerful explosions rocked the major port city of Tianjin in northeastern China on Wednesday, killing at least fifty people and injuring more than seven hundred. State news agency Xinhua said that the explosions started at a container-port warehouse storing hazardous materials. The city’s police department specified that the warehouse where the first blasts occurred is owned by Rui Hai International Logistics and that a fire had been reported in the area earlier that night. The exact cause of the blast is still under review. The explosion triggered several others, killing twelve firefighters who had been sent in to fight the initial blaze, and six thousand people were forced to leave their homes. Enormous fireballs and a mushroom cloud rose over the city; they were large enough to be seen from space and so powerful that they registered as small earthquakes. Our thoughts are with the people of Tianjin. —HAW
Amnesty International Makes Bad Call
This week, Amnesty International voted in a resolution recommending that nations worldwide decriminalize the sex industry—including the decriminalization of pimps, brothel owners, and buyers of sex. While the human rights organization uses words that sound like they’re promoting women’s rights, gender equality, and child welfare, women’s groups such as Equality Now and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women have denounced the decision.
CATW said in a statement that Amnesty International “opted to side with the multi-billion-dollar international sex trade and to exclude prostituted individuals—who are overwhelmingly women and girls from disenfranchised racial, ethnic, and economic groups—from the rights granted to all people in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Deliberately shutting out voices of women who have left the sex industry and have reported abuses, the organization also “ignored growing evidence of the catastrophic effects of the decriminalization of the sex industry, especially that it leads to an increase in sex trafficking in legal brothels and gives state-sanctioned license to purchase individuals for sexual acts that include acts of torture, such as is the case in Germany.” There are already millions of women trafficked into prostitution (an estimated two to three million in India alone), and if governments follow this resolution, all it means is that more profit would be made off these disenfranchised, severely abused people, and that increased demand will lead to even more being trafficked into the industry. Amnesty, my ass. —MRS
Good News of the Week
This week news broke of Josh Cyganik in Oregon who turned to Facebook to help restore an elderly neighbor’s aging home, and the response turned out to be much bigger than he thought.
Cyganik overheard two kids rudely comment that the house should be burned down, while its owner, 75-year-old Leonard Bullock, listened from his porch. Cyganik saw the look on Bullock’s face and resolved, “I don’t think any elderly person should have to endure what I heard from those two kids’ mouths.” So he “stewed about it for a couple days,” and in a Facebook post, he requested donations and volunteers from his community to help fix up the house. He also turned to a friend who manages a lumber company and received some donated supplies.
The social media post was shared more than six thousand times on Facebook, and about a hundred total volunteers showed up, most total strangers who were touched by the story. “I was raised to respect the people who came before you, to help others out who don’t have much,” Cyganik said. Now the elderly neighbor’s house has repairs and a new coat of paint, and a new porch is scheduled to be put in—all free of charge, and Bullock couldn’t be happier. Talk about making a difference in your community. —HAW
This article was edited after its original publication. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that an additional fifty people were killed by the subsequent explosions in Tianjin.