We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Basketball Star Kobe Bryant and His Daughter Gianna Die in Tragic Helicopter Crash
On Sunday, the world was stunned to learn that basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers died in a tragic helicopter crash into the hills of Calabasas, California. Kobe, who began his epic basketball career as a teenager and played for the L.A. Lakers throughout his 20-season career, was for many a larger-than-life American icon and source of inspiration among basketball fans due to his fearlessness on the court.
Also killed in the crash were baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their basketball-playing daughter Alyssa; mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester; Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser; and pilot Ara Zobayan. Investigations into the helicopter crash itself are ongoing, although those residing in the area the day of the crash say it was one of the thickest fogs they’d witnessed. The Air Support Division of the L.A. Police Department had banned air travel, and air traffic control personnel say that the pilot sought special permission to fly. Seconds before the crash occurred he was trying to avoid a cloud layer that fatally blinded him to his whereabouts.
The Basketball Hall of Fame plans to posthumously induct Kobe into their 2020 class, saying “Kobe will be honored the way he should be.” TV show hosts such as Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert offered tributes and shed tears on their broadcast.
Meanwhile, some women’s advocates have remarked that while it’s a tragic loss of life, Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault allegations, substantiated by hard-to-refute evidence, should temper our cultural quickness to idolize the athlete. Still, other mourners claimed Bryant turned his life around after the scandal and find solace in the fact that both Kobe and his daughter received Communion at a church service just hours before their deaths. Whatever one's perspective on Bryant's life, the high-profile loss certainly made many people this week look inward. —Mariel Lindsay
Alicia Keys Hosts Her Second Grammys
Kobe’s death was on the minds of those present at the Grammys, which took place in the LA Lakers stadium on Sunday night. Serving as the evening’s host for the second year in a row, Alicia Keys began the evening with a somber tone and multiple performers offered tributes to Bryant throughout the evening.
Taking home the most Grammys was Billie Eilish, accompanied by her brother Finneas, receiving the evening’s most coveted awards for record of the year, song of the year, album of the year, and best new artist. Lizzo, who delivered the opening performance, took home multiple awards as well. In a poignant highlight of the evening, Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker performed “Bring My Flowers Now,” which later won best country song. For a video of my favorite performance of the night, see below our Watch of the Week. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Officials: Prince Andrew Is Not Cooperating with Epstein Investigation
The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York told the press on Monday that Prince Andrew has provided “zero cooperation” in the probe into the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman revealed that both the FBI and New York authorities have contacted the prince for help in the investigation, to no avail, NBC News reports.
Andrew has been accused by Virginia Roberts Giuffre of sleeping with her on multiple occasions when she was 17, after she was trafficked to him by Epstein. Andrew and Epstein maintained a friendship even after the latter served time in 2008 for sex crimes. In a train-wreck TV interview last year, the prince said he stayed at Epstein’s house because he was “too honorable” to end their friendship over the phone. Andrew also denied ever having met Guiffre and claimed a widely-publicized photo of the two together may have been photoshopped.
In the resulting firestorm of negative publicity, the prince announced he was “stepping back” from royal duties and pledged his cooperation with law enforcement in the United States. Buckingham Palace did not immediately have any comment, but one hopes this public scolding from the U.S. Attorney will prompt quicker action from the royals. —Margaret Brady
Super Bowl Has Its First Female Coach
While the world prepares for the Super Bowl LIV this Sunday, fans will witness something new, and it’s not just the fact that the Patriots aren’t playing. Katie Sowers, an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers, will be the first woman in history to take on a coaching role at the Super Bowl. Sowers, 33, hails from Kansas started playing football at age 7.
If you didn’t have a team to cheer for going into the big game this Sunday, consider cheering for Sowers! —Melanie Wilcox
Acheh, Indonesia Debuts First Female Flogging Squad, Sparking Controversy
Aceh province in Indonesia has implemented an all-woman team to whip female convicts, in compliance with Sharia law, AFP reported this week.
The deeply conservative province won the right to administer public floggings as part of a 2005 agreement with the central government that ended a violent separatist movement. Indonesia’s president has urged authorities to stop the punishments, but he has no power to intervene.
The whippings of up to 150 lashes are carried out for crimes like drinking alcohol or having pre-martial sex. Although authorities claim they are trained to deliver the beatings with a rattan cane without causing injury, some victims wind up hospitalized or passing out from the pain.
The punishments have always been carried out by men, as it took years to find females willing to flog other women. AFP noted that the woman squad member they observed had to be encouraged to deliver the beating. “It's kind of an indoctrination that we give to them so they have a better understanding of their role—have no mercy for those who violate God's law,” the Banda Aceh Sharia police chief investigator was quoted as saying.
Rights organizations describe the public flogging as barbaric and inhumane. It’s deeply contrary to women’s dignity to be involved on either end of the cane, something the women of Aceh seem to sense, given how long it took to find willing participants. —MB
South Dakota Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Ban Commercial Surrogacy
A new bill introduced into the South Dakota legislature this week aims to eliminate surrogacy-for-hire in the state.
Representative Jon Hansen, a Republican from Dell Rapids, told the Argus Leader, “I think it's wrong to make a commodity out of children. Commercial surrogacy represents commercialization of human babies."
Notably, the proposed law does not address so-called “altruistic” surrogacy, in which friends or family members volunteer to act as surrogate mothers for free.
It also does not attach prohibitions to a surrogate mother herself, any doctor who treats a mother during her pregnancy or anyone who helps pay for the mother’s healthcare. But compensation outside of healthcare costs would trigger the law, which classifies violations as a misdemeanor. All commercial surrogacy contracts would be void and unenforceable in the state, including those contracted in other states.
Hansen introduced a bill in 2011 that was much harsher: violation would have been a felony and the statute covered all types of surrogacy arrangements. That law failed in committee.
The debate over surrogacy has been revived recently after a U.S. woman died after giving birth as a surrogate, leaving behind her newborn as well as children she shared with her husband. The tragedy underscores what can go wrong when a woman’s reproductive abilities are treated as just another consumer item. —MB
'Saved by the Bell' Reboot Has A New Cast
NBC plans to enter the streaming wars with a new service called Peacock, and one of the first offerings will be a reboot of the 1990s classic Saved by the Bell. Show runners announced major casting decisions on Monday.
Mitchell Hoog plays Mac Morris, the charming son and spitting image of Governor Zack Morris. Belmont Cameli will be Jamie Spano, captain of the Bayside High School football team and the son of Jessie Spano. Cameli looks eerily like a 21st century version of A.C. Slater, although it’s not confirmed yet if Jamie is Slater’s son. We do know that Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley, and Mark-Paul Gosselaar will be back. Tiffani Thiessen, who played Kelly Kapowski on the original program, is reportedly still negotiating her role.
It doesn’t seem likely that Screech—played by Dustin Diamond—will return, as Diamond published a poorly-received tell-all book about his days on the show. He also served prison time in 2016 for his involvement in a violent bar fight.
Entertainment Weekly reports the reboot’s story begins with Governor Morris taking political heat for closing low income schools. His solution: transport kids whose schools have closed to attend class at well-to-do Bayside High. The resulting culture clashes are supposed to provide much of the comedy. This seems a bit of a risky approach to take—playing class and racial differences for laughs—but one hopes the results will be witty, not weird. —MB
Good News of the Week
A Florida teacher who officially became a U.S. citizen this week used the occasion as an educational moment for her students. Annmarie Small, who is originally from Jamaica, completed her naturalization ceremony surrounded by her fourth and fifth-grade students. "It has been an amazing experience and it's an honor," Small told the local news. "It's not just for myself but it's for my students as well and for my community." —MRS
Watch of the Week
The singer known as HER performed at the Grammys what ended up being the most-Shazammed song of the evening. Watch what made it so memorable.
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