We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Hayden Panettiere’s Boyfriend Is Arrested for Domestic Violence, Again
Reports emerged this week that Nashville actress Hayden Panettiere was battered by her boyfriend, Bryan Hickerson, with Hickerson arrested on St. Valentine’s Day.
Police in Jackson, Wyoming, responded to a call about a disturbance between the two 30-year-olds. Court documents say Hickerson punched Hayden in the face with a closed fist; officers noted her face was swollen and she had additional injuries on her left hand. When cops asked him if he’d assaulted his girlfriend, Hickerson wouldn’t answer. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of domestic battery and interfering with an officer.
This isn’t Hickerson’s first trip to the jailhouse. In May 2019 he faced a felony domestic violence charge and was ordered to stay 100 yards away from Hayden. The case fizzled, however, after prosecutors couldn’t secure testimony from a cooperating witness. Later that year the couple apparently got back together.
It’s important to know that for many victims, the cycle of abuse makes it difficult to escape from a violent relationship. An incident of abuse is often followed by a “honeymoon period” during which trauma bonds between the couple are reinforced. Violent partners can be controlling and lower their partner’s self-esteem; data also shows that leaving an abusive relationship can actually be dangerous. Regardless of the strategies a survivor uses to stay safe, responsibility for the violence falls only on the abuser. —Margaret Brady
Facing Abuse Lawsuits, Boy Scouts File for Bankruptcy
The Boy Scouts of America organization filed for bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court late Monday. The historic move was prompted by a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits. Several states, including New York and California, have recently enacted “look back” windows which make it easier for victims to file sexual abuse claims, many of which would have previously been disallowed under the statute of limitations. As a result of the bankruptcy, victims will have to get in line with other creditors seeking to have their claims settled. Current litigation will automatically be halted, and new abuse claims will have to be addressed in bankruptcy court, not in state courts.
Although the BSA has more than two million scouts in its ranks, the organization has been under long-term pressure as membership has dropped. In 2018, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced it was severing ties and starting its own youth program; at the time, the Mormons made up more than 18 percent of scouts. About 400,000 boys departed scouting as a result of the church’s move. To stem the losses, scouting leaders announced their signature program would change its name from “Boy Scouts” to “Scouts BSA” to reflect that girls are now permitted to join. That switch drew a sharp rebuke from the Girl Scouts, who eventually sued. —MB
Hospital Director Dies of Coronavirus
On Tuesday, a director of a hospital in Wuhan succumbed to the new coronavirus, Chinese government officials said.
Liu Zhiming, who was the director of the Wuchang hospital in the epicenter city of Wuhan, is the most senior medical official to die since the outbreak began in December last year. As of Wednesday night, the official death toll stands at more than 2,100, almost all of which deaths have happened inside mainland China. More than 75,000 people have been infected around the world. About half of China’s population remains under some form of quarantine.
Liu, a neurosurgeon, is the latest medical professional to pay with his life in the desperate effort to control the virus. Government officials have been criticized for not adequately protecting health workers. One doctor, an ophthalmologist who was one of the first to sound the alarm about the virus, was punished by local police for disturbing the peace. He later got infected and died, sparking a social media storm inside China.
Authorities point out that the coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, appears to be far less deadly compared to more familiar illnesses like influenza. In the United States alone, about 10,000 people have died from the flu so far this season. One big difference: flu has an effective vaccine that can help protect vulnerable groups like children and the elderly. COVID-19 is so new that no vaccine exists. —MB
Anti-Immigrant Attack in West Germany Kills At Least Ten People
On Wednesday night a gunman in West Germany opened fire at two locations, killing at least ten people and injuring a few more. The middle-aged man suspected of the killings was found at his home later that night, dead alongside his elderly mother. The suspect had recently posted racist and anti-immigrant sentiments to his social media, even making a video in which he claims responsibility for the attacks.
The gunman targeted areas heavily populated by minorities, mostly the descendants of Turkish and Kurdish immigrants who originally came to Germany in the mid-twentieth century as part of guest worker programs to combat labor shortages. The more recent wave of immigration, however, largely of Syrian refugees, has seen some natives struggling to adapt to the changing face of the country and turning to violence. In fact, only four days prior to this latest attack, a gunman shot and killed one person near a Turkish comedy show in Berlin. Months before that, on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, two people were killed in an attempted attack on a synagogue.
Germans, in particular immigrants and those descended from immigrants, are increasingly afraid as xenophobic violence continues to occur. In response to this crisis, the government recently passed gun laws making it even more difficult to obtain a firearm. In this latest case, however, the suspected shooter did in fact legally own a gun. —Mariel Lindsay
Afghanistan’s President Has Won a Second Term—But His Opponent Declares Victory Too
After five months of political strife following a disputed election, Ashraf Ghani was declared the winner of Afghanistan’s presidential race on Tuesday. Hours later, his rival also claimed victory and vowed to set up his own government.
Following an audit of a percentage of the vote, Afghanistan’s election commission announced Ghani won with a tiny margin of 50.64 percent. Anything less than 50 percent would have automatically triggered a runoff. Ghani addressed his supporters, calling his triumph a “victory of the people’s wishes.”
Abdullah Abudullah, his main opponent, received just under 40 percent of the vote. That didn’t stop Abdullah from making his own victory speech, insisting that the election commission was biased and the results, fraudulent. In a bizarre twist, the two opposing parties gathered at their leaders’ respective palaces, which are near each other on the same narrow road. Needless to say, the mood outside the compounds was tense.
The political upheaval comes at a delicate time, as diplomats from the United States and the Taliban are on the cusp of a peace deal. After a test period for “violence reduction,” the Afghans would be able to sit down to decide the future of their country themselves. Sadly, the conflict between the two would-be presidents puts that outcome at risk. —MB
Bloomberg Joins the Democratic Debate
For the first time, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg joined Democratic nominee front-runners Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren at the ninth Democratic debate, shaking up the stage in Las Vegas. As Politico summarized the evening, “everyone had to take their turn playing offense and defense. Warren critiqued every other candidate’s health care plan in a single answer, injecting a rush of energy into her campaign. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar continued a running battle that has built over several debates, while Biden lit into Bloomberg over Obamacare and Sanders faced questions about his policy disagreements with a powerful Nevada labor union.”
Most of all, Mayor Bloomberg, who emerged in recent weeks having spent millions of his own money on a wide-ranging ad campaign, had a disappointing night. In a since-viral moment, Senator Warren called out Mayor Bloomberg for past derogatory comments about women and compared him to fellow billionaire Donald Trump. Bloomberg’s face was enough to say, touché. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Good News of the Week
A teenage boy in Waco, Texas made a lot of girls feel special on Valentine’s Day when he hand-delivered a flower to every single girl at his school. Jayme Wooley, with the help of his mother, bought and handed out 170 flowers in honor of the holiday. As he told CNN, “Over the past couple of years . . . not all of the girls were able to get flowers and stuff. . . . It felt heartbreaking knowing that not every girl was feeling special."
Jayme’s mother, posted on Facebook a photo of the abundant flowers, lovingly captioned it “When your 15 almost 16 year old tells you he wants to buy EVERY girl a flower at school tomorrow so they feel SPECIAL you make it happen!!! Proud to be HIS MOMMA!!!! 170 Flowers for 6th-12th Grade!!!” The post immediately went viral and so deeply touched some women that they reached out to say that they never received a Valentine in school and viewed Jayme as the type of classmate they wished they had had.
What’s more, Jayme’s actions had a ripple-effect among the other boys, who were inspired to do small kindnesses of their own. Jayme’s mother put it best when she summed up his character, saying, “He’s thinking about everybody and not just one girl.” —ML
Watch of the Week
This week on the Late Late Show with James Corden, Justin Bieber and Corden learned some dance moves from toddlers. Let’s all take some of these into our weekends, shall we?
Miss our “Articles of Note” section? Subscribe to Verily Daily emails and check out our new suggested reading at the bottom, in our new “May We Recommend” section.