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The Germans’ Unique Way of Helping Refugees and Other Notes from the Week


We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Downton Abbey Final Season Starts January 3!

Get ready, folks. Downton Abbey’s sixth and final season starts this Sunday on PBS. How will Julian Fellowes tie up the loose ends for the beloved British family and its household staff? Suffice it to say that we’ll be watching to find out. —Mary Rose Somarriba

Hey, Where’s My Rey Doll?

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens breaking earning records at a rapid-fire pace, Disney executives found themselves having to put out a merchandise fire over the holidays—but not the good kind. Parents excited to share their love of the franchise with their children found the new movie’s lead character, Rey, missing from many action figure packs and toy sets. Perhaps most egregiously, the new Millennium Falcon comes with a Finn, a Chewie and a BB-8, but no Rey, who (spoiler alert!) pilots the ship throughout the movie. The hashtag #WheresRey highlighted consumer frustration, with many people rightfully upset about the apparent sexism of the merchandising plan.

In a statement to The Wrap, Global Toy Experts’ Richard Gottlieb said, “I can say that there is, in the toy and movie industry, a long-standing belief that a boy will not go to a ‘girl’ movie and that if you put a girl in a boy’s toy, boys will not buy it.” However, the tide may be turning, with Disney assuring people that Rey will be more prominent in the products being rolled out in the New Year, now that they are less concerned with the toys causing spoilers. I hope that is true because the character of Rey is one that all children—boys AND girls—can look up to and admire, and essentially taking her out of her own story with these toy sets is not a good way for Disney to win over new fans. —Monica Weigel

Speaking of Slights to Star Wars Heroines

On Tuesday Carrie Fisher tweeted back to haters who have criticized her looks in the new Star Wars film. She asked people to “stop debating whether or not I have aged well” because “it hurts all three of my feelings,” and she followed up in a second tweet that read, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.” It makes me sad that the 59-year-old actress felt she had no choice but to speak out. This is a good reminder that we need to continue to empower all women through more meaningful channels than looks. —Emily Mae Schmid

I’ll Take More Covers Like This

TIMEs December/January cover featuring Adele dressed in red is one of the most striking I’ve seen in a long time. It’s an appropriately powerful magazine cover for a powerful singer, whose latest album, 25, broke the record for the highest first-week sales with 3.38 million sales in the United States alone. In the interview, Adele shares that she thinks not being “shy or embarrassed to be falling apart” is a big part of why people love her music and find her so relatable. And then she goes on to describe something else that is incredibly magnetic about her music, saying, “Even though my music is melancholy, there’s also joy in that. I hope I do bring joy to people’s lives and not just sadness, but I think there’s a comfort in it.”

And then what she has to say about motherhood made me love her even more, if that’s possible: Talking about her 3-year-old son, she says, “He makes me so proud of myself, and he makes me like myself so much. And I’ve always liked myself. I’ve never not liked myself. I don’t have hang-ups like that. But I’m so proud of myself that I made him in my belly. Cooked him in my belly, and then he came out of me!” —Sophie Caldecott

Cosby Gets Charges

This week news came out that Bill Cosby, the comedian who has received dozens of allegations of sexual abuse over the past year, has been charged for one of the rare accusations that takes place within the statute of limitations period. Prosecutors for Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee who alleged in 2005 that Cosby assaulted her in 2004, pressed charges Wednesday. While it is hard to examine evidence so long after the alleged incident, the case, which is taking place in Philadelphia, could actually benefit from the contributions of other women’s allegations of past abuses. According to the Washington Post, “Under rules of evidence in Pennsylvania, prosecutors can introduce allegations brought by the other women if those allegations establish a mode of operation or pattern of behavior by Cosby.” For someone who has been watching this story unfold, I’m glad to see that Cosby’s finally going to be taken to court. —MRS

And a Reminder of Why Rape Victims Don’t Immediately Report

Beth Stelling, a comedian best known for her Half Hour special on Comedy Central, posted powerful images on Instagram this week. The pictures showed the physical harm she encountered by domestic abuse. Her bruised legs and forearms were shown, along with an accompanying description explaining how she was abused by her ex-boyfriend. In her post, Stelling acknowledged the complicated intricacies of domestic abuse. After being verbally and physically abused and raped, she continued to date her ex for a couple more months. “There are many reasons not to make an abusive relationship public, mostly fear,” Stelling wrote in her post. Even though her ex did not want her to publicly discuss their relationship in stand-up, Stelling realized that being silent was not allowing her to heal; she needed to talk about her experience. “So I’m allowing this to be a part of my story,” she wrote.

Stelling’s experience and personal admission shows that domestic abuse is accompanied by significant psychological implications. As Baleigh Scott wrote this week, “Though tragic, Stelling’s story is a powerful reminder of why we need to be careful about how we speak about domestic abuse.” Amen to that. —Diana Stancy

Germany Reveals a Novel Way to Help Refugees

Approximately one million refugees have entered Germany this past year. While Germany and other countries of the European Union are still navigating ways to approach the increasing number of refugees entering their borders, Germany has announced that it will offer German classes to refugee children. While the program is looking to recruit 8,500 teachers initially, the goal is to expand to 20,000 teachers by the summer of 2016. As Anna Quinlan wrote this week for Verily, “The decision . . . is one that equips a young generation to communicate, to learn, to grow up feeling like they belong.” Language is a powerful tool. It can unite people or divide them. Germany’s actions indicate that the refugees are welcome, and it enables them to thrive in German culture. Although the gesture may not be glamorous, the implications are invaluable. —Diana Stancy

Factory Owners on Trial for Rana Plaza Tragedy

The Rana Plaza factory collapse is one of the fashion industry’s most infamous incidents. Almost three years after the tragic collapse of the factory in April 2013, it has just been confirmed that forty-one people will be put on trial in a Bangladeshi court for the murder of the 1,135 workers who died in the disaster. Another 2,515 people were seriously injured on top of the large death toll. Out of the forty-one defendants in the trial, sixteen are on bail, and twenty-four are said to have fled; the owner of the building was charged with murder in June after the authorities found him in hiding. The defendants are made up of other factory owners whose facilities were housed in the same building, as well as government officials and henchmen of the factory owners who reportedly “slapped and forced” the workers to join shifts.

Investigations not only revealed that the building never met safety standards in the first place but also that the local government officials were aware that it didn’t comply with the regulations yet turned a blind eye to the fact. It was revealed soon after the incident that the owners of the factory knew that the building was unsafe prior to the collapse but sent their workers in despite this, and they had also failed to implement a proper evacuation procedure, leaving their staff vulnerable to fire and building collapse. I hope that this trial can drive home to the industry at large that employers have not just a moral but also a legal responsibility toward their workers and will be held accountable for any lives lost under their supervision. —SC

Technology to the Rescue

Right in time for New Year’s resolutions, a new Gmail plug-in will help you become more assertive by flagging overly apologetic phrasing in your emails. Created by Cyrus Innovation, it aims to encourage people (women primarily) from hedging away from declarative requests and decisive information sharing. I have long since struggled with this at work, sending out emails that are infused with “so sorry to bother you with X” or “I was wondering if you could just Y,” creating a sense of diminished importance even when I am completely justified in my request or line of thought. According to, “When you use a phrase that the plug-in flags, it will underline it to get your attention the same way your words are underlined in spell-checker. Once you drag your mouse over to it, an explanation will pop up showing you exactly how someone might perceive your words if they were sent,” pointing out, for example, that saying “sorry” too frequently in an email makes you appear “unfit for leadership.”

Now, tone can be tricky in an email, and I’m not suggesting that we should all turn into demanding dictators in our work correspondence, but I do think this plug-in is a good start to making people aware of how their language, both written and spoken, affects people’s perception of their competence. More information, including installation instructions, can be found by visiting the “Just Not Sorry” Chrome extension plug-in page. —MW