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While You Were Out: Pope Francis Arrives in the U.S., Barbie Gets Smart, Lady Gaga’s New Video About Rape, 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.

U.S. Welcomes the Pope

On Tuesday, the Obama clan rolled out the welcome mat for Pope Francis on his first visit to the United States since his installation as the head of the Catholic Church. POTUS recognized the pope’s efforts to bring help to those in need and commended the pontiff for his efforts in advocating greater care for the environment. —Blanca Therese Morales

Speaking of Francis . . .

Because His Holiness is known to have a keen sense of humor, there’s a nationwide contest calling all comedians to “donate” a joke, which will be rewarded with a monetary donation to one of three charitable causes. Think you have what it takes to make this world leader chuckle? All you need to submit is a video- or text-based entry telling your best punch line. The contest has already attracted some big names, such as Bill Murray, whose entry can be viewed on the website, The winner will be named the pope’s comedic adviser and will get to choose which cause to support. May the best punch line win. —BTM


Over the past few seasons, there’s been growing criticism of the quality of questions that interviewers ask women in the entertainment industry as compared to their male counterparts. You know, like on the red carpet of major award shows, where women are often asked about their clothing and grooming process as opposed to their professional or charitable work.

In time for this week’s Emmys, Amy Poehler’s organization, Smart Girls, launched a campaign called #SmartGirlsAsk, following in the footsteps of last year’s #AskHerMore campaign. Smart Girls asked Twitter users to submit questions they’d love to hear answered by actresses on the red carpet. Among the questions that debuted at the Emmys were, “What’s your favorite charity to support?” and “How did you start believing in your own work and talent?” Much more interesting conversation fodder, if you ask me. —Hannah Allen White

Plus-Size Women Grow a Presence at NYFW

New York Fashion Week has come to a close after scores of high-fashion and up-and-coming designers showcased their 2016 spring and summer collections. Among the amazing garments was a noticeable plus-size presence. Project Runway, which kept a tight lid on its finalist results during its event, brought a bit of speculation when an entire collection was modeled exclusively by plus-size models. Because there is a plus-size designer appearing on the current season who generally designs for plus-size women, many guessed this would be her collection. In a fantastically inclusive move, Chromat’s Momentum show featured models Sabina Karlsson and Denise Bidot walking alongside their straight-size counterparts, which makes sense because Chromat designer Becca McCharen regularly designs for women of many sizes. This is the kind of show we’d like to see more of in the future. —HAW

Lady Gaga Raises Awareness of Campus Rape

Lady Gaga’s new song and video, “’Til It Happens to You,” is a powerful and distressing reminder of the reality and prevalence of campus rape. Following the stories of four women raped under different circumstances, the video opens with the statistic that an estimated one in five women are raped every year on college campuses around America. The singer collaborated with the documentary makers of The Hunting Ground to create the music video, hoping to raise awareness and support for people who have lived through “painful life experiences,” as the singer tweeted last Friday. It’s so important that we acknowledge the complexity of reporting rape, as well as how messed up college hookup culture really is. While the video is pretty graphic and hard to watch, it packs a powerful punch; it’s great to see a major celebrity raising awareness about this important issue. —Sophie Caldecott

Turn Yourself Into a Peanuts Character

Have you ever wondered what you would look like as a Peanuts character? Well, probably not, but now you can find out. In celebration of the new Peanuts movie out in November, this website lets you “Peanutize” yourself, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely getting me in the mood for some more Charlie Brown adventures, even if they will be in shiny CGI rather than the old lovable shaky animation. SC

Sweden Discovers That Six-Hour Workday Increases Productivity

It seems kind of counterintuitive that the answer to a crisis in care work would be to decrease the number of hours your staff members work (for the same pay), but this is, in fact, what a care home in Sweden has been finding after testing the six-hour workday since February, The Guardian reported last week. In what is one of the first reported controlled trials of the measurable impact of shorter working hours, nurses changed from eight-hour shifts to six-hour shifts, and they report a marked improvement in the quality of care, among other benefits. Other companies have also been trying the shorter workday and claim that despite the fact that more staff members have to be hired to cover different shifts in areas such as care work, for example, it is easier to attract (and keep) staff, as well as improve their overall efficiency and performance.

It remains to be seen whether this way of doing things will be financially viable for most businesses. Nonetheless, it’s exciting that a meaningful debate about the role of work in our lives is continuing. After all, as Meghan Barylak recently wrote for Verily, “living with leisure can help you stop careening from one crisis to the next and instead live your life with joy and purpose.” —SC

105-Year-Old Sprinter Breaks New Record

Hidekichi Miyazaki, who celebrated his 105th birthday on September 22, re-broke his record as the world’s oldest competitive sprinter after running in the 100-meter dash at the Kyoto Masters Athletics Autumn Competition in Kyoto, Japan, this week. Although he finished the race in an impressive 42.22 seconds, Miyazaki says that he was disappointed with his time. “I am not satisfied with today’s time,” he said. “But I am satisfied that I could cross the finish line.” Fondly referred to as “The Golden Bolt,” the centenarian first set the record in 2013 at the age of 103, after finishing the 100-meter dash in 34.10 seconds.

Arguably the most amazing part of his story is that Miyazaki started running in the 1990s—in his mid-eighties—after many of his friends passed away, and he needed a new hobby. I think the lesson here is that it’s never too late to try new things. If you think you are too old to try fill-in-the-blank, The Golden Bolt says you’re wrong. —Baleigh Scott

Volkswagen in Scandal

Volkswagen has come under fire this week after it revealed it deceived the public about emission test results. The German car manufacturer apparently rigged more than eleven million cars to pass emission tests. The CEO Martin Winterkorn has since resigned, saying he was “stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible” in his company and that he’s “doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrongdoing on my part. . . . Volkswagen needs a fresh start—also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation.” —Mary Rose Somarriba

FDA-Approved Contraception Gets Backlash

This week dozens of women urged the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its approval for the female contraception drug called Essure, saying that its potential risks to users have not been given sufficient attention. A group of women describe experiencing pain and complications following the implantation of the permanent contraceptive device, as well as challenges when it comes to getting the medical attention needed to resolve them. —MRS

Stampede Kills Hundreds in Saudi Arabia

More than 700 have died and at least 800 were injured as a result of a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday. Victims were participating in the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which all Muslims are obligated to make at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able. The Hajj regularly draws more than two million pilgrims to the city each year. A witness says that the stampede began when a group of pilgrims went against the flow of traffic. “People were climbing over one another just to breathe.” Unfortunately, this is not the first time this tragedy has struck the annual pilgrimage. Earlier this month, a crane collapsed at Mecca’s Grand Mosque and killed 111 people. In 2006, a stampede led to 360 deaths, but the worst stampede occurred in 1990, when more than 1,000 pilgrims died. —BS

Ali Landry’s Family Tragedy

This week news broke of a tragedy affecting actress Ali Landry’s family. The former Miss USA’s brother-in-law and father-in-law were killed after being kidnapped in Mexico. Landry’s husband is filmmaker Alejandro Gómez Monteverde, known for his films Bella and, most recently, Little Boy. Our thoughts go to the Landry and Monteverde families during this sad time. —MRS

Barbie’s NYT Magazine Cover Story

This week the New York Times Magazine published a cover story on Hello Barbie, a high-tech doll utilizing artificial intelligence to have full conversations with your children, which Mattel is bringing to a shelf near you in November. There is much conversation to be had about the implications of the doll. Barbie’s new conversational abilities happen by recording the question or statement being asked and transmitting it via Wi-Fi to computer servers that then convert the information to be analyzed and replied to based on thousands of pre-scripted sound bytes—all in less than a second.

Barbie’s not getting out of this news bit without some talk about the body that’s made her so famous. In a line buried deep within the New York Times Magazine article, it was revealed that one of the major roadblocks to bringing Hello Barbie to market was the ability to fit the necessary technology inside her svelte frame. Her necklace will house a microphone, a mini USB charging port will be tucked into the small of her back, and—wait for it—her thighs have been thickened to make room for two rechargeable batteries that will power all this newfound talent. Essentially, Barbie’s getting thicker so that she can be smarter. Irony, much?

(I’ll be back soon with a full article about my thoughts regarding how toys such as Hello Barbie impact children’s relational development. Stay tuned.) —Anna Quinlan