We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Impeachment Trial Begins
The impeachment trial of President Trump officially began on Thursday when seven Democratic House managers, led by Congressman Adam Schiff, presented two articles of impeachment to the Senate. The first charge against Trump is that he abused the power of the presidency by pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, using U.S. military aid as a bargaining chip. The second charge against Trump is that he obstructed the Congressional probe investigating the President’s conduct toward Ukraine.
The two previous presidents that have been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were both acquitted by the Senate, meaning no U.S. President has ever been removed from office. For Trump, it would take a minimum of 67 of the 100 senators to remove him from office, and Republicans currently control the Senate with a 53-47 majority. Chief Justice John Roberts is presiding over the trial as mandated by the Constitution. The Associated Press reports, “The Senate will issue a formal summons to the White House to appear, with the president’s legal team expected to respond by Saturday. Opening arguments will begin on Tuesday.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Oscar Nominations are Revealed
This week the Academy Awards nominations were announced, with 11 nominations going to The Joker. In a rare occurrence, Scarlett Johansson received nominations for both best actress (Marriage Story) and best supporting actress (JoJo Rabbit). Once again, all the nominations for best director are male, a snub this year to Greta Gerwig who directed the highly acclaimed Little Women. Gerwig’s film was nominated for best adapted screenplay, however, as well as Best Picture, alongside 1917, Marriage Story, Joker, Ford v Ferrari, Parasite, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. We now have three weeks to get through watching our favorite contenders before the Oscars air on February 9. —MRS
William and Harry Deny Bullying Report
Princes William and Harry issued a statement this week denying that William had bullied Harry and his wife Meghan into leaving the royal family.
The brothers were responding to a Times of London news story saying that Harry and Meghan had grown frustrated after “constantly being told their place.” Harry, the Duke of Sussex, was also reportedly angry that his future wife was not welcomed more warmly by his family when the two began dating.
“Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a UK newspaper today speculating about the relationship between the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge,” the statement said. “For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”
A firestorm of controversy and media coverage continues after Harry and Meghan made a surprise announcement last week, declaring their intention to split their home between the UK and Canada and to no longer work as full-time members of the royal family. The couple has been outspoken about feeling bullied, but by the voracious British press. They visibly struggled with the burden as nonstop coverage continued throughout Meghan's pregnancy and the birth of their son, Archie. Given the role of the media in driving these events, it's especially insensitive for those same outlets to shift blame to William or other members of the family. —Margaret Brady
Porn Website Shuts Down After Claims of Sex Trafficking
The pornography website Girls Do Porn has officially been taken offline following a civil trial in which the owner and some employees faced federal sex trafficking charges. The website, operating as a hub for sex crimes, sought out college-aged girls by posting ads calling for models, and flew them out to San Diego where they learned they were expected to have sex on-camera. They were offered money and assured that the videos would never be seen online. Employees also paid other females to lie to the aspiring models, falsely telling them that they too filmed and that nothing negative ever happened as a result. In a nightmarish twist, the girls later discovered the videos were quickly made available online.
Victims of Girls Do Porn contacted the San Diego Police Department as early as 2015. One young woman told law enforcement that she was sexually assaulted by one of the actors. Authorities never pursued an investigation. Now in the civil trial, six more plaintiffs have accused the actor of the same.
The civil case was brought on by 22 women, but lawyers say that they interviewed hundreds more who also appeared in videos and experienced the same horrific treatment. Defrauded and trafficked, the plaintiffs were awarded earlier this month more than $12 million for the pain and humiliation they endured.
The website’s owner and ringleader, Michael Pratt, is nowhere to be found, having fled during trial proceedings. He is now a fugitive wanted by the FBI and possibly hiding out in New Zealand. One hopes that he will soon be located, extradited, and brought to justice for his repulsive crimes. —ML
Tests Show Thinx Underwear Has Toxic Chemicals
If you're one of the many women who have tried and loved Thinx “period proof” underwear, here's some news you can use: A new investigative report says that lab tests suggest the panties were made with chemicals linked to cancer and fertility issues.
Sierra magazine's Jessian Choy reported that she struggled to get companies to give her answers about their swimwear and feminine health products. So she mailed unused pairs of panties to University of Notre Dame scientist Dr. Graham Peaslee, who discovered toxic “per - and polyfluoralkyl substances” (PFAS) on the inside of fast food wrappers in 2017.
Peaslee's lab tests showed that the Thinx brief and the brand's BTWN Shorty underwear for teens, both marketed as organic, had high levels of PFAS, especially on the inside of the crotch. Even small doses of PFAS are hazardous to humans. Other versions of the panties had heavy metals like copper and zinc on the inner layer.
Choy points out that Thinx's own website cops to using silver in the manufacturing process, ostensibly to control smells. Silver is a natural antibiotic, and a vagina actually needs a delicate balance of bacteria to be healthy. Needless to say, there is nothing unclean about a woman's period, such that she needs to carry a layer of sanitizer in her underwear.
It's not all bad news: the Lunapad brand menstrual underwear that was tested did not show the presence of the PFAS chemicals. Thinx, for its part, strenuously denies the accuracy of the tests. —MB
Tennis Player Collapses Amid Australian Open Air Quality Controversy
Slovenia's Dalila Jakupovic was forced to withdraw from her Australian Open qualifying match on Monday after she fell to her knees, coughing and gasping for breath.
The tournament, which is played partly outdoors, had opened this week in Melbourne in spite of heavy smoke from the catastrophic bushfires in Australia. The local EPA had declared the air unhealthy and advised citizens to stay indoors with windows shut.
Players spoke out on Twitter, complaining that authorities weren't prioritizing their health. “Fortunately the smoke didn't affect me mid match, but I'm paying the price now as my chest hurts. Please do better @AustralianOpen,” Australian Ellen Perez tweeted. “Why do we have to wait for something bad to happen to do an action,” posted Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Jakupovic had received treatment at the end of her first set and returned to play, but during her second set, she fell to the ground, coughing relentlessly. It was determined she couldn't continue.
Tournament officials had said that if air quality became an issue, play would be moved indoors. However, throughout the week matches and practices were repeatedly suspended or delayed as conditions worsened. The smoky atmosphere stems from massive wildfires that have killed dozens of people and millions of animals. Given the ongoing tragedy, it's odd that authorities seem determined to continue with the tournament as though not much is wrong. —MB
Middle-Aged Americans Are Dying from Heart Disease at Higher Rates
Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published an article analyzing rising rates of heart disease among middle-aged Americans. Based on an analysis of mortality statistics, the piece reveals that, despite a previous trend indicating a decrease in varying forms of cardiovascular disease, it is once again on the rise despite medical advancements.
Nonetheless, findings by public health researchers find that even in areas where healthcare is easily accessible, stress and sedentary lifestyles are increasingly the norm. Americans, it seems, are fatally plagued by unhealthy behaviors. What’s more, according to a recent study by the CDC, heart disease-related deaths are increasing at their highest rates among middle-aged females, with black women at greater risk than whites, though the report does not address why.
“It’s everywhere,” a senior advisor at the CDC said of the findings. Medical professionals, meanwhile, advise that those entering middle-age attend regular screenings to measure blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, researchers are working to expand educational programs and promote lifestyle changes. Physical activity, nutritious foods, and less work-related stress will all go a long way to eradicating the alarming death rates related to heart disease. —ML
Abby Huntsman Leaves 'The View,' Partly Over Fertility Tensions
On Monday, “The View” co-host Abby Huntsman announced she was quitting the show at the end of the week. Reports say that she is leaving amid a difficult relationship with fellow co-host Meghan McCain, prompted by clashes over McCain's fertility struggles.
Multiple sources described a behind-the-scenes blow-up between the two women. McCain, who has written poignantly about her experiences with miscarriage and infertility, confronted Huntsman over what she felt was Huntsman's insensitive on-air focus on her kids. The argument happened after a December 12 show when three of the co-hosts had a lengthy discussion about breastfeeding during a “Hot Topics” segment. Seemingly feeling left out, McCain interjected, “I've never breast-fed anything, I'm sorry. I always feel like there's this moment on the show where I have so much to say about politics, I have so much to say about the election, so much to say about the candidates! Breastfeeding? I got nothing for you guys.”
As the show ended, co-host Joy Behar joked, “I say nurse the cactus!” as McCain looked stunned.
Sources told CNN McCain and Huntsman later made up, but Huntsman declined to contradict reports about the show's work culture. She told viewers she plans to help with the 2020 gubernatorial campaign of her father, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman.
As someone with fertility issues, I can empathize with McCain's reported sensitivity. Not having kids often leaves women feeling like they're on the outside looking in as their friends obliviously leave them behind and join the exclusive “mommy club.” But as fellow infertility survivor Kristi Martin said recently in Verily, “Somehow infertility’s battle against fertility continues to struggle. And it’s time for that to change. What we share in common is greater than what separates us.” —MB
Good News of the Week
This week an Amber Alert saved an 11-year-old Massachusetts girl who was abducted when a man pulled her into a car after exiting her school bus. After those in the vicinity received Amber Alert warnings on their phones, authorities received a number of 911 calls identifying the car on the roads. One call, by a woman named Amanda Disley and her husband, revealed the license plate number after a short chase of the car. Police used that information, along with the car’s travel path, to adjust a construction zone ahead to bring traffic to a crawl, then stopped the man’s car and safely rescued the girl. “The public really played a very heroic role in this,” Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said. —MRS
Watch of the Week
As many of us go into a three-day weekend to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this TED Talk by artist Angelica Dass, is worth a watch.
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