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First Woman Appointed Head of Vatican Museums and Other Notes from the Week

Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.

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

Attack on a Berlin Christmas Market Killed 12 People

This week Berlin suffered a devastating attack at its famous Christmas market that killed twelve people and injured as many as fifty. As we prepare to publish this, authorities are still looking for the chief suspect Anis Amri, whose fingerprints were found in the truck that was driven into the crowd of holiday shoppers. Our thoughts and prayers are with those of Berlin and all those for whom fear and grief risks overshadowing hope this season. —Mary Rose Somarriba

The World Reaches Out to Help Aleppo

Remember The Compassion Collective? This impressive group of authors and entrepreneurs has been working hard to raise money to help with the crisis in Aleppo. One hundred percent of the funds it raises are going toward the costs of purchasing and fully equipping two ambulances with medicine and medical supplies for six months, enabling The White Helmets to rescue children and vulnerable people trapped in the rubble. If you want to help make a major difference, you can donate via the link here—the medicine and supplies will be arriving in the war-torn city on Christmas Day. —Sophie Caldecott

Olympian Gabby Douglas Speaks Out Against Bullying

Getting candid with Teen Vogue this week, gymnast Gabby Douglas said that her time as an Olympic athlete has been riddled with severe cyberbullying. In a sad admission, the nearly 21-year-old Douglas said she would return to the Olympic village in Rio crying almost every day because of the “trolls” who criticized her every move and appearance. She was especially criticized for not putting her hand over her heart during the National Anthem at one point. Douglas told Teen Vogue: “It was hard. It was very hard. People thought I was just a target. I’m not a target, I’m a human being. I’m an athlete.” She said she wanted to talk about it because people need to know that bullying is not OK—even if you are a public figure. To anyone facing bullying themselves, she said: “You shouldn’t feel pressure to change yourself. That’s what I did, and it ended up doing more damage. I felt like the world was against me, but it’s not. There [are] people out there [who] love you guys, and your life is very important and very valuable. Always be strong, and you can overcome it, you really can." Well said, Gabby. —Megan Madden

Star Wars: Rogue One Skyrockets

This week the latest Star Wars film Rogue One spent its first week in theaters earning a $290.5 million box office. Gabriella Patti, who shared her thoughts on the film for Verily, found the franchise’s second female lead in a row to be a positive one, noting that Felicity Jones’ character Jyn was even more relatable than Rey from The Force Awakens. Three cheers for empowering representations of women in film. —MRS

Lady Doctors for the Win

An intriguing new study published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that U.S. patients have a better chance of survival and recovery if they’re treated by a female doctor. The researchers analyzed the health care results of Medicare patients treated by more than 58,000 doctors over a three-year period and found that the patients of female physicians had a lower risk of premature death as well as a lower chance of hospital readmission within a thirty-day period of treatment. Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and coauthor of the study, told Vox that the study suggested that your “chances of dying are lower if your doctor is a woman.” In fact, they go so far as to estimate that 32,000 lives a year could be saved if male physicians could achieve the same outcomes as their female counterparts. —SC

Pope Names First Woman to Head Vatican Museums

History was made in the Vatican City this week when Pope Francis named Barbara Jatta to head the Vatican Museums. Jatta is the first woman ever to hold this position. The mother of three has worked at the Vatican since 1996. She has degrees in literature, archive administration, and art history, specializing in the history of drawing, engraving, and graphic arts. Jatta’s term will begin on January 1, 2017, and we wish her all the best. —Emily Mae Schmid

Pregnancy Changes Your Brain. Literally.

Researchers from the Netherlands and Spain have published a new study revealing their findings that pregnancy changes a mother’s brain structure, decreasing the volume of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with social processes. The changes were revealed via brain scans and suggest that the changes in a new mother’s biology help her to care for (and anticipate) her newborn’s needs with increased empathy. As The Guardian reports, “the new study found no differences between the women who became pregnant and the other participants when given a series of verbal and working memory tests.” As I’ve written previously, the overwhelming evidence suggests that “mommy brain” is actually a good thing, not a bad thing. —SC

Girls Creator Lena Dunham Went Too Far—Again

Lena Dunham has been an outspoken feminist for many years now, ever since she rose to mainstream fame with her HBO show Girls, which begins its final season in February. This past week, however, fans and critics alike gave pause to Dunham’s shocking statement about abortion. On her podcast, Women of the Hour, Dunham recalled a time when she visited a Planned Parenthood center in Texas and said: “I wanted to make it really clear to [the woman who asked Dunham to share her abortion story] that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion. And I realized then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue.” But Dunham went on to say, “Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”

The Internet was ablaze with backlash over the distasteful comment. In droves, people took to Twitter to call out Dunham for once again being insensitive with her activism. Ultimately Dunham posted an apology on Instagram, citing “a sort of ‘delusional girl’ persona” of hers as part of the impetus for the comment. —MM

Good News of the Week

To wash that taste out of your mouth, this short video may help. While Aleppo is under siege and much of it has been evacuated, this week a video surfaced online of two evacuees finding each other after more than a year of one thinking the other was dead. Just one watch and you may hug your loved ones a little tighter this Christmas. —MRS

More Reasons to Think Big Picture

This month, in the theme of the recent book by Christine Whelan, The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life, Templeton Press is holding a contest for young people to share their purpose in life and what may be standing in the way of following through with it. Numerous young professionals and aspirationals have uploaded videos and essays making a case for their life’s purpose. At least three will ultimately be chosen for a $500 prize to go toward fulfilling their given purpose. Registration continues on the Big Picture website through December 31. Finding our purpose and living more intentionally is certainly something we all could use more of. What’s holding you back from yours? —MRS