We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Los Angeles Declares a State of Emergency As Coronavirus Hits California
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after the death toll hit 11. The first deadly case in California involved an elderly adult with “underlying health conditions,” who lived in Placer County near Sacramento. Authorities say the victim may have contracted the virus during a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico. Garcetti and other officials hope the funds provided by the declaration will keep the virus from spreading. There are currently six identified cases of coronavirus in California; one is in the hospital, while the others are under quarantine.
More than 130 cases of coronavirus have been reported across the nation. County Supervisor Hilda Solis used the opportunity to speak on the rise of racial stereotyping in the wake of the virus, which began in China. “There’s been too much misinformation spreading around and, as we expected, it's cultivating fears and leading to racial profiling,” Solis said. “The last thing we want to do is create more fear.”
Historically, pandemics frequently incite fear-mongering and anti-immigration hysteria. While you should take every precaution to protect your health, like washing your hands correctly, it’s also important to remember that viruses affect everyone equally, regardless of race or ethnic origin. —KS
Tornadoes in Tennessee Kill Dozens
At least 24 people died in Tennessee this week as cyclones ripped apart communities in the middle of the state.
Among the dead were Josh Kimberlin, his schoolteacher wife, Erin, and their two-year-old son, Sawyer, who perished together in a twister that struck Cookeville, TN. “Josh, Erin, and Sawyer are all in heaven together. We’re devastated with this news. They were a beautiful family,” Fox News reported a relative posted on Facebook. “Sawyer was a beautiful, amazing little guy with so much life ahead,” another family member said. Heartbreakingly, four other young children and 11 other adults were killed in the same tornado in Putnam County, east of Nashville. Fatalities were also reported in Wilson County and in Nashville itself. The downtown area suffered damage and more than 140 buildings across the state were flattened.
Early reports indicate that the storm produced an EF-3 tornado, with winds up to 165 mph. The governor of Tennessee has declared a state of emergency and dispatched the National Guard to assist search and rescue teams in sifting through the rubble. March to May is traditionally considered “tornado season” in Tennessee, meaning that the 2020 severe weather season is off to a particularly tragic, early start. —Margaret Brady
Grammys Organization Fires Its Female CEO Amid Harassment Claims
The Recording Academy, the industry institution responsible for the Grammy Awards, announced on Monday that President and CEO Deborah Dugan had been booted from her role. Dugan was hired to lead the Academy last year, but her reign began spiraling to an early end on January 16, when she was put on administrative leave after claims of workplace bullying. Dugan immediately hit back at her suspension, which came a mere ten days before the Grammy Awards in February. She sued her employer, alleging that the Academy’s top lawyer had called her “baby” and tried to kiss her, and that the Grammy nomination process itself was corrupt.
Dugan’s suit further claims that she was suspended in retaliation for exposing a “boys club” atmosphere among Academy executives, who encouraged her to hire her predecessor, Neil Portnow, for a $750,000 consulting job. Portnow had left the CEO role after he sparked outrage with his comments that female artists would have to “step up” if they wanted more representation as Grammy winners.
The Academy says it opened an investigation into the accusations against Dugan and a separate probe into Dugan’s own claims. They decided to fire her after reviewing the results, although no further details of the investigations were released. —MB
Trader Joe’s Founder Dies
Joe Coulombe, founder of the delightful grocery chain Trader Joe’s, died last Friday at age 89. “From the time he opened his first store in Pasadena, California, in 1967 until his death,” the AP reports, “Coulombe watched his namesake business rise from a cult favorite of educated but underpaid young people—and a few hippies—to a retail giant with more than 500 outlets in over 40 states.”
Coulombe founded Trader Joe’s to reach people who wanted tasty, healthy food without gourmet-store costs. He brought delicious California wines across the nation for a few bucks. And, according to the AP, he enjoyed tasting foods with his three children, even naming some of the products after them. So grab yourself a glass of two-buck Chuck and let’s give a toast to the man we have to thank. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Surrogacy Industry Rife with Potential Corruption, CBC Reports
In Canada, commercial surrogacy is illegal, but that hasn’t prevented families from reporting they’ve been taken advantage of, a new CBC investigation shows.
To avoid surrogacy becoming a for-profit endeavor, intended parents are supposed to pay money into a trust fund, which is then disbursed to mothers to pay for pregnancy-related expenses like medical bills, maternity clothes, or additional food. One father was billed $5,000 although the mother miscarried in the first month; when CBC journalists reviewed the supporting documentation, they found lottery tickets and some receipts dating from before the man even met the surrogate.
One woman contacted by the CBC admitted she’d threatened to abort her pregnancy when the intended parents balked at covering her car payment. “I was like, ‘OK, I’m done.’ I was going to abort the baby . . . They breached [our contract] by not paying me. So, I figured, ‘Oh, I’m not going to follow the rules,’” CBC quoted the mother as saying. Ultimately she miscarried near the end of her first trimester. The investigation also showed prominent players in the surrogacy industry seemingly conspiring to maximize reimbursement for questionable expenses, thus padding their own pockets.
New regulations are coming to the surrogacy industry in Canada, but the report indicates how even in so-called “altruistic surrogacy” situations, the possibility for extraordinarily damaging exploitation exists. In the United States, South Dakota recently shot down legislation that would have outlawed commercial surrogacy contracts, while keeping altruistic surrogacy as an option. —MB
Judge Judy Is Coming to an End
After 25 years of issuing entertainment (and justice) from the bench, Judge Judy will be airing its last season. Judy Sheindlin, the eponymous star of the Emmy-winning reality TV courtroom, made the announcement on Monday on Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show.
“Next year will be our 25th season: silver anniversary,” USA Today quoted her. “And CBS, I think, sort of felt they wanted to optimally use the repeats of my program, because now they have 25 years of reruns. So what they decided to do was to sell a couple of years’ worth of reruns.”
Fret not, fans: Judy won’t be off the air for long. A new show, called “Judy Justice,” should debut a year later, Sheindlin promised viewers. It hasn’t been decided yet on what network the new program will appear.
Sheindlin hold the Guinness World Record for longest working TV judge, and she’s also reportedly one of TV’s highest paid hosts, bringing in $47 million for hosting and producing duties. Prior to her work in the entertainment industry, she was a prosecutor and a family court judge. Her husband, Jerry, once tried his hand at TV justice on “The People’s Court,” but he only lasted one and a half seasons. —MB
Biden Wins Big in Democratic Primaries
First, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race and endorsed former Vice-President Joe Biden as his pick for the Democratic candidate for the presidency. Then, following Super Tuesday, the U.S. presidential primary election day in which the largest number of states hold primary elections, others quickly dropped out of the race, most notably billionaire Mike Bloomberg and Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Left to battle it out, then, are the two forerunners, Senator Bernie Sanders and Obama’s wingman Biden. Biden, for his part, pulled in unexpectedly high numbers of votes in what many are calling a shocking comeback as he pulled off upset victories in states that were largely projected to be wins for his opponent Sanders. Sanders, however, is holding his own, on track to win California, the coveted state with the largest number of delegates.
In terms of how the two candidates are viewed, Biden is largely considered to be representative of the political establishment while Sanders is openly anti-establishment and vows to take on corporate interests within the political party if elected. And though it will be days or even weeks before all the votes are tallied and the official Democrat candidate is nominated, Biden has made a surprisingly strong showing that indicates he will likely win. Nonetheless, he remains under fierce scrutiny for cringeworthy gaffes like his statement at a town hall in Iowa last year in which he told a coalition of Asian and Latino voters that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” Time will tell how he holds up under immense pressure in the coming months. —Mariel Lindsay
Galen Rupp and Aliphine Tuliamuk Win Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta
This week at the Olympic marathon trials, bronze-medal winner at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro Galen Rupp won the men’s race in a time of 2:09.20, becoming the first man to win consecutive U.S. marathon Olympic trials races. This will be Rupp’s fourth Olympic marathon.
On the women’s side, Aliphine Tuliamuk, a native of Kenya, won with a time of 2:27.23. In what was the closest finish in Marathon Olympic trial’s history on the women’s side, first-time marathoner Molly Seidel finished second, just eight seconds behind Tuliamuk. Seidel qualified for the trials by running a 1:09.35 half-marathon at the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. And her second place finish at the trials earned her a place on the Olympic team.
Additional highlights include Stefanie Slekis running a 3:14:00 four weeks after giving birth. Lauren Philbrook, who is 33 weeks pregnant, stepped off the course after eight miles running at an 8:18 per mile pace. Her friend, Rachel Hyland, stopped halfway after running at an 8:11 per mile pace.
Given that 512 women and 260 men qualified for the 2020 Olympic marathon trials, it seems inevitable that the women’s qualifying standard will get tougher in 2024 and beyond. —Melanie Wilcox
Inside the Actors Studio Creator and Host James Lipton Dies,
Beloved creator and host of Inside the Actors Studio James Lipton passed away Monday at the age of 93. In collaboration with The New School, Inside the Actors Studio was born in 1994, hosting Paul Newman as its first guest. The program went on to feature over 300 guests with Oscar and Emmy nominees and winners gracing its list of featured guests.
Lipton began his career as a writer for The Detroit Times and acting at the Catholic Theatre of Detroit, later landing a role on a WXYZ radio program. From there, he was accepted into a Stella Adler drama class, at which point he realized his real desire to be an actor.
Lipton studied at New York University and The New School and found success as both an actor and a writer. He made many cameo appearances, served as the dean of The New School, and enjoyed a successful acting career. Lipton also produced many television specials and scripted teleplays and television episodes, but through all this his major interest was masterclasses. From this, Inside the Actors Studio was born. Each episode was tailored to the specific guest, but there was a set of questions Lipton asked each participant. Answer James Lipton’s questionnaire here:
- What is your favorite word?
- What is your least favorite word?
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
- What turns you off?
- What is your favorite curse word?
- What sound or noise do you love?
- What sound or noise do you hate?
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
- What profession would you not like to do?
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Lipton held three honorary Ph.D.s, the French Republic’s Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, a Lifetime Achievement award from the Daytime Emmys, and a Critic’s Choice award for Best Reality Show Host. —Maggie Sicilia Bickerstaff
Good News of the Week
This week Jeopardy TV show host Alex Trebek shared a public update on his health situation, one year after his stage-4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Trebek confessed the chemo treatments were nearly debilitating mentally and physically, but that he had to brush that aside because to give up would be a betrayal to his “wife and soulmate Jean,” other cancer patients, and to his faith in God and prayers of others for his recovery. Noting that his doctor remains hopeful for his chances to live another year, Trebek ended on this note: “If I, no, if we—because so many of us are involved in this same situation—if we take it just one day at a time, with a positive attitude, anything is possible.” —MRS
Watch of the Week
A six-year-old girl named Miumiu from Beijing, China plays guitar and sings a breathtaking rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon.” Enjoy.
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