We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
UN Warns of Catastrophe as Devastating Locust Swarms Spread
Humanitarians are sounding the alarm as locusts numbering in the billions threaten up to 10 million people in Africa with severe famine. The unfolding tragedy could be “the most devastating plague of locusts in any of our living memories,” NBC quoted the UN’s Mark Lowcock.
Changes in the climate such as unusually heavy rains and strong storms have paved the way for the insects to breed in large numbers. The problem is exacerbated by political considerations; much of Somalia, where the swarms are currently feeding, is controlled by the al-Shabab Islamic extremist group. Without a governmental entity to do adequate spraying to control the locusts, experts predict the insects will decimate Somalia’s crops, and in turn, the livestock. As a result, malnutrition will skyrocket, especially among children, NBC reported.
Scientists anticipate an untold number of young locusts will develop wings in the next three or four weeks and move on to the next feeding ground - most likely in Kenya and Ethiopia, where authorities are badly underprepared in terms of spraying equipment. Those countries rarely see such outbreaks of locusts and were caught by surprise by these developments. Authorities warn that the monster swarms may be a scary “new normal” for people living in East Africa. —Margaret Brady
France’s #MeToo Movement Tackles Pedophilia Among the French Elite
Acclaimed French author Gabriel Matzneff is facing prosecution after one of his past victims published a book detailing their relationship that began when she was thirteen years old and he was fifty. In what is being hailed as France’s literary #MeToo movement, publisher Vanessa Springora is finally unveiling, decades later, how the powerful writer took advantage of her. In her book Consent, Springora tells of how he groomed her after her parent’s painful divorce as a child.
Matzeff, celebrated for decades by French elite from fashion designers to politicians, has fled to the Italian Riviera to avoid the backlash following Springora’s tell-all. But he will have to face the music eventually, as anti-pedophilia organization L’Ange Bleu presses special charges against him for defending and promoting the sexual abuse of children both in his books and diaries and in public interviews.
Indeed, one of Matzeff’s most prestigious books was conspicuously titled Under Sixteen Years Old and he has also openly admitted to engaging in child sex tourism with boys as young as age 8 in the Philippines. Now, as the court sets his trial to begin in September 2021, prosecutors pledge to go after not just Matzneff himself but all those “French elite who published his books, promoted his career and even helped him evade justice.”
As one of l’Ange Bleu’s lawyers pointedly told reporters following the court hearing, “Everyone will have to take responsibility.” Soon after, a popular literary critic and journalist commented on the appalling lack of collective conscience in regards to Matzneff’s well-known preference for pedophilia, stating that “in the 1970s and 1980s, literature came before morality; today, morality comes before literature. Morally, that’s progress.”
If only that moral progress could have kicked in decades sooner, before countless numbers of children were subjected to sexual abuse that, as Springora herself attests, has caused excruciating psychological damage. —Mariel Lindsay
A New Test Could Help Families Learn Why Their Babies Were Lost to Miscarriage
A new testing method could give couples rapid answers about whether their miscarriage was caused by genetic abnormalities, NBC News reported this week.
About a quarter of pregnant women miscarry, and experts believe many of those losses are caused by chromosomal problems in the developing baby. But standard genetic testing costs thousands of dollars and can take weeks. Frequently women aren’t even offered the chance to test their babies’ remains until they’ve had three miscarriages in a row, which is called Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) and affects 1 percent of women.
Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Columbia University Fertility Center in New York, has reportedly developed a new testing technique that costs less than $200 and provides results in only 4 hours. "Pregnancy loss has really been, from a patient's point of view, incredibly devastating to be going through, but from a medical and scientific point of view, a black box. We’re starting to chip away at that,” Williams said.
The device Williams uses is about the size of a stapler and only works in cases where there is enough DNA tissue available to test. He and his research team have begun publishing the results of their studies in peer-reviewed journals.
As someone who was offered genetic testing after experiencing multiple miscarriages, I think this could be a real gift to women. My tests gave me answers and told me my little one’s sex, which made it easier to grieve her loss. It’s frustrating for many patients to struggle with doctors and insurance companies, who can dismiss miscarriage as “just bad luck” until women experience it over and over again. —MB
Oscars Took Place on Sunday
Last Sunday, the Oscars took place, bringing the night’s top award to Parasite. The South Korea-based thriller swept the awards for Best Picture, Best International Film, and Best Director for the work of Bong Joon-ho. In other categories, Brad Pitt won Best Supporting Actor for his part in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress in A Marriage Story; Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor as The Joker; and Renee Zellweger won Best Actress for her role in Judy (which I have some thoughts on in an article this week at Verily).
Among the Oscars’ musical moments from the evening, Billie Eilish sung “Yesterday” to memorialize those lost in the past year, Eminem sang “Lose Yourself” in a surprise performance, and Cynthia Erivo sang the anthem “Stand Up” from the film Harriet (see below our Watch of the Week). Oh, and if you missed the red carpet, check out our favorite Oscars styles you can adapt to your wardrobe. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas Are Expecting A Baby
This week news went viral when reports claimed actress Sophie Turner and singer Joe Jonas are expecting a child after nine months of marriage. The 23-year-old former Game of Thrones actress and 30-year-old Jonas brother first tied the night in a Las Vegas wedding in May 2019, followed a month later by a more spectacular ceremony at a chateau in France.
US Weekly reported the baby news, which the couple has not publicly confirmed, but just the prospect that the two highly followed young celebrities are expecting a child together lifted spirits of people around the world. Social-media became flooded with references to their child being the new Prince or Princess of the North, drawing from Turner’s role becoming the Queen of the North in Game of Thrones’ final episode. —MRS
The 'Full House' Home Is For Sale… and Just Got a Big Price Cut
The San Francisco Victorian home featured in exterior shots of “Full House” is for sale, and this week the listing got a $500,000 price cut.
The famous house at 1709 Broderick Street still isn’t cheap—the asking price is now $5.449 million. It offers potential buyers four bedrooms, four baths and more than 3,700 square feet of living space. Built in 1883, photos show the interior has been given a luxury remodel with a very sleek, modern aesthetic—it’s hard to imagine Michelle and Comet bounding around inside (of course, the show was really filmed on a soundstage).
The home is actually owned by executive producer Jeff Franklin, who created both the original Full House sitcom and the current Netflix reboot, Fuller House. He purchased the property in 2016, just as Fuller House debuted, now in its fifth and final season. Even with the price slashed, Franklin would stand to make a tidy profit on his real estate investment: he only paid $4 million four years ago.
Deadline reports that originally Franklin intended to turn the house into a sort of Full House museum for fans to enjoy. The neighbors, however, were not amused by the prospect of crowds and tour bus traffic. —MB
Good News of the Week
Oscars history was made on Sunday when Zack Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome, became the first actor with the condition to present an Academy Award. Gottsagen attended the ceremony with Shia LaBeouf. The two co-starred in the 2019 movie, The Peanut Butter Falcon, which wasn’t nominated in any categories but was very well-reviewed, with a certified fresh rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Gottsagen plays a man who runs away to pursue his dream of professional wrestling; he befriends LaBeouf’s character, who is also on the run, but for very different reasons. The pair presented the Academy Award for best live-action short film. The 34-year-old Gottsagen said, “And the Oscar goes to…” while LaBeouf announced the winner: “The Neighbors’ Window.”
Shia LaBeouf credits Gottsagen with helping him stay sober after a drunken arrest nearly derailed the project two years ago. “This film [The Peanut Butter Falcon] saved my life,” he told The Guardian.
Gottsagen has been developing his acting career since childhood, when his mother was told to institutionalize him, based on the assumption he’s never walk or talk. Needless to say, he’s been defying the limitations others try to label him with, ever since. —MB
Watch of the Week
Cynthia Erivo, who was nominated for Best Actress for her leading role in Harriet, revealed herself as a double threat at the Oscars when she sang “Stand Up” from the film. Watch the powerful performance here.
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