We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Megxit Part Two: The Sussexes Move from Canada to Los Angeles
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, moved to Los Angeles from Vancouver Island this week, right before the U.S.-Canadian border closed due to COVID-19 and right before they lost their classification as “internationally protected persons” on March 31. That status enabled them to receive taxpayer-funded security from Canada and ended when the couple officially stopped being “working members” of the royal family.
President Trump responded to the news by tweeting that they must pay for their own security protection in the United States. The news of their move to Los Angeles also surfaced after the Queen rejected their application to trademark their charity foundation “Sussex Royal.” The couple will announce the new name of their charity in the spring. —Melanie Wilcox
Teen Vogue and Snapchat Are Accused of Promoting Child Sex Abuse
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, a non-profit dedicated to “exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation,” has accused both Teen Vogue online magazine and Snapchat of promoting child sex abuse. The organization exposed Teen Vogue, which publishes digital stories via Snapchat’s widespread “Discover” platform, for encouraging their teenage audience to cure coronavirus blues by engaging in sexting activities.
The recent Teen Vogue story appeared on Snapchat’s Discover page with this brow-raising advice to young girls, “Like anything worth doing, sexting takes practice . . . Here are 7 things you might not have known about sexting.” The linked article went into further detail, prompting NCOSE to issue a strong statement underlining the inherent dangers of promoting underage sexting.
“As the proliferation of online child sexual abuse material has increased exponentially in recent years and more children are being targeted and groomed by predators via social media apps, Teen Vogue and Snapchat must be held socially accountable for promoting trends that put people at risk for exploitation.” The statement went on to explain that “research shows that sexting is often linked to offline sexual coercion, leaving teens inherently vulnerable. Additionally, sexting can lead teens to be sexually extorted, sexually abused, or trafficked.”
Teen Vogue, consciously or not, has aligned itself with those who seek out or promote what’s legally considered child sex abuse material. —Mariel Lindsay
Beloved Children’s Author Tomie dePaola Has Died
Tomie dePaola, the talented and imaginative author and illustrator behind books such as Strega Nonna, Bill and Pete, The Legend of the Blue Bonnet, and many many more, passed away on Monday at age 85. He reportedly died from complications from surgery, following a fall he took last week. By his own count, he worked on approximately 270 books, spanning from 1965 to 2019. His books ranged from colorfully illustrated legends to autobiographical re-tellings of his own childhood.
Throughout his lifetime, dePaola received many awards including the Caldecott Honor Award in 1976 for Strega Nonna and the lifetime prize of the Children’s Literature Legacy Award for his “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” In addition to his work as an author and illustrator, dePaola also taught theater and art at colleges across the United States.
Tomie dePaola will be greatly missed in the world of children’s literature, and his legacy will no doubt be passed on for generations of children to come. As he once said on NPR’s All Things Considered: “As a grownup, I want to give children the credit for everything I can: their courage, their humor, their love, their creative abilities, their abilities to be fair, their abilities to be unfair. But I do wish that we grownups would give children lots of credit for these ephemeral kinds of qualities that they have.” —Gabriella Patti
Vincent Van Gogh Painting Stolen from Dutch Museum
Early Monday morning, a Vincent Van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum in Amsterdam. The museum has been shut down due to concern over the spread of COVID-19. The painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was taken after a thief broke a glass door. While the break-in did set off an alarm, the thief has not been apprehended. —GP
Las Vegas Sparks Outrage as Homeless Wind Up in Parking Lot “Shelter”
The New York Times reported this week that Clark County and the City of Las Vegas had arranged for homeless people to sleep in an outdoor parking lot, even as casinos and hotels sit empty.
Photos accompanying the story show homeless people laying in a grid marked out to encourage social distancing. Officials reportedly created the “shelter” as a temporary measure after a 500-person facility run by the local Catholic Charities had to close its doors because a client tested positive for COVID-19. Catholic Charities hopes to reopen this week, but until then, the outdoor sleeping arrangement is the best the government is prepared to offer.
Local authorities told the Times that they had about a day’s notice to find room for the displaced people. They explained that an outdoor parking lot at the Convention Center was selected instead of indoor accommodations because of a desire to preserve the inside rooms of the Center for potential field hospital use.
The conditions at the lot are clearly not ideal. Volunteers worked to provide carpet mats for the homeless to sleep on, but once it turned out the carpet couldn’t be properly disinfected each day, many have chosen to sleep on the concrete floor. —MB
Employees Strike at Instacart, Other Businesses Amid Coronavirus Concerns
Workers at Instacart, Amazon, and Whole Foods launched strikes this week in an attempt to secure safer working conditions and higher pay in the face of COVID-19.
As many as 150,000 of Instacart’s 200,000 grocery shoppers refused to take orders Monday. They were asking executives for a $5 an hour raise for hazard pay, as they spend their work days in stores where the public still congregates. Ahead of the strike, Instacart had enhanced its tipping program and promised to give employees safety equipment.
Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York also walked off the job on Monday. USA Today reported the employees chanted, “How many cases we got? Ten!” referencing the number of employees sick with COVID-19. They want Amazon to keep workers socially distanced inside the facility and temporarily close the site long enough for it to be sanitized.
Meanwhile at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, management faced an employee sick out on Tuesday, with workers calling off their shifts. Their concerns similarly revolved around safety for employees handling food and interacting with the public.
As COVID-19 continues to spread and much of the economy has been shut down in a bid to stop it, concern continues to grow for workers in “essential businesses” who don’t have the option to stay home or shelter in place. —MB
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Inspector General: “No Confidence” in FBI’s Wiretap Program
Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a letter on Tuesday, saying that his investigation showed the FBI’s surveillance program is riddled with errors. Of the 29 case files selected for review as part of the query, 4 had no supporting documentation at all. In the remaining 25, investigators found errors and “inadequately supported facts.” In other words, not a single file was handled properly.
The files were applications the FBI made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which grants (or denies) permission for the agency to conduct domestic spying. On average, each file had about 20 mistakes, the Los Angeles Times reported. As a result, the IG’s office said it had “no confidence” that the FBI had executed its procedures correctly or that its applications met the “scrupulously accurate standard” of the spy court.
In a response letter, FBI officials said they agreed with the results of the investigation and pledged that changes were already being made to correct the FBI’s practices. —MB
Good News of the Week
It sounds like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, or maybe even a Lifetime movie. Inga Rasmussen, 85, from Denmark and Karsten Tüchsen Hansen, 89, from Germany, have been visiting each other every day for the last two years. It’s a habit that transcends borders, shutdowns, and global pandemics. And it is so, so sweet.
Despite growing coronavirus concerns and the closed Germany/Denmark border, the two still regularly meet to share a drink, right at the border itself. The couple became local celebrities after the mayor of nearby Tonder found them while riding his bike. Rasmussen and Hansen meet at the border near the town of Aventoft, with Rasmussen sitting in Denmark, and Hansen sitting in Germany. Rasmussen drives from her home of Gallehus, while Hansen rides his bike from Süderlügum.
With the border, and the recommended safe distance between the two of them, Rasmussen and Hansen share their days over a cup of coffee, snacks, and cups set on the cement barrier between them. Hansen occasionally even brings schnapps, but Rasmussen, who always drives back home, sticks to coffee.
According to the BBC, Rasmussen told a German public broadcaster: “It’s sad, but we can't change it.” The BBC reports Germany has more than 63,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and Denmark has more than 2,500. The couple plans to travel together once the pandemic has passed.
Stories like these prove that even dark times have a little light. Such a sweet and romantic story coming out of coronavirus is unexpected, but wholly welcome. —Krysta Scripter Flanagan
Watch of the Week
John Krasinski, most known for playing Jim Halpert on NBC’s The Office, launched “Some Good News,” a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing positive, heartwarming stories amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On his first broadcast this week, which lasts about 15 minutes, Krasinski shared stories of people around the world celebrating healthcare workers; a man in Maine who bought 100 lobsters from a small businessman and then cooked and delivered them to his neighbors; and a photo of a retired paratrooper, Art Cruz, mowing his neighbor’s lawn while he is deployed and his family stays at home.
Krasinski and Steve Carell, his first guest, reminisced about The Office. His second guest, a cancer survivor named Courtney “Coco” Johnson, talked about her surprise to see her friends and family greet her upon her return from the hospital, where she had her last chemotherapy treatment. Krasinski signed off by saying, “This is SGN, asking you to remember that no matter how tough life can get, there’s always good in the world, and we will see you next time.” —MW
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