We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Seattle’s Mayor Announces the End of 'CHAZ'
As violence began to mount inside the “Capital Hill Organized Protest” (CHOP) area, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the beginning of efforts to peacefully dismantle the protester-controlled area, also referred to as the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ.
The move comes after a string of shootings. On Saturday, a teenager was murdered and another victim was hospitalized with life-threatening wounds. On Sunday, a 17-year-old boy was shot. And early Tuesday morning, a man injured in another shootout was hospitalized.
"The gun violence unfolding at night is not only wrong, it also is undermining and distracting from the message for change that we are hearing in the street and in so many of the peaceful protests,” ABC News quoted Durkan as saying.
The CHOP formed earlier this month during protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. Following a confrontation with demonstrators, cops left the East Precinct building and the surrounding streets in the heart of downtown Seattle.
According to Durkan, authorities will work with community leaders and other resources to peacefully convince protestors to go home, as opposed to using cops to forcefully evict them. No specific timeline was given. —Margaret Brady
Demonstrators Topple Statues of Confederate Leaders and Others Across the U.S.
As protests across the United States continue, sparked by the death of George Floyd, some demonstrators have defaced or toppled monuments that they deem symbols of white supremacy.
In Virginia, protestors in multiple cities toppled statues and monuments representative of the Confederacy. In Birmingham, Alabama, protestors removed a statue of Confederate navy captain, after which the city’s mayor ordered the removal of other nearby Confederate monuments. Not far away, in Mobile, protestors vandalized a statue of another Confederate officer, writing “ACAB (All Cops Are Bastards)” and “Confed Scum.” On Juneteeth, in Washington D.C., a statue of a Confederate leader was set ablaze. Likewise, protesters in cities in Florida and Georgia also toppled their Confederate symbols, as did those in Indianapolis and Kentucky. In North Carolina, meanwhile, City Council worked with the community to pass a resolution mandating the removal of such monuments.
In both Boston and St. Paul, statues of Christopher Columbus were beheaded. In Philadelphia, a statue of the city’s former mayor and police commissioner was hammered, painted, and tied with ropes, in punishment for his opposition to desegregation. In Tennessee, a statue of a pro-lynching politician was also toppled, though officials say they plan to replace it. Then, in San Francisco, a statue of Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who defeated the Confederacy’s slaveholding rebellion, was nonetheless toppled as well.
More recently, after a controversial leader in the Black Lives Matter movement tweeted that he wants to see statues and “murals and stained-glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends” dismantled as well, a church in Illinois reported its Virgin Mary statue “ripped in half.” —Mariel Lindsay
Massive Saharan Dust Plume Makes Its Way to U.S. Shores
A record-setting cloud of dust originating in the Sahara desert has journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean, pummeling the Caribbean with a historic dust storm and taking aim at the U.S. coastline.
Earlier this week, the dust had changed the beautiful blue skies normally seen over the Caribbean into a murky brown color. Sensors monitoring air quality in Puerto Rico picked up the highest level of aerosols ever observed in the 15 years records have been kept. Astronauts on the International Space Station marveled at the size of the cloud, clearly visible as the ISS orbited past the area.
The dust will likely reach the United States by the end of this week, hitting Texas first and then spreading out over Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Experts warn people with allergies to be aware that the dust may prompt a respiratory reaction.
It’s not all bad news though: The dust is expected to bring beautiful sunsets and sunrises as the particles scatter the morning and evening light into a hazy, milky glow. More significantly, the extremely dry, hot desert air traveling with the plume can’t form hurricanes, which require hot, humid air. As long as the dust lingers over the ocean, scientists say there will likely be less storm activity in the Atlantic. —MB
AMC CEO Reverses Initial Decision; Requires Customers to Wear Masks
After facing intense backlash, the CEO of AMC Adam Aron reversed his decision that would have given customers the option to wear a face mask in the 450 out of 600 theaters that will open next month.
“This announcement prompted an intense and immediate outcry from our customers, and it is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks,” Aron said in a statement. “Accordingly, and with the full support of our scientific advisors, we are reversing course and are changing our guest mask policy.”
Initially, Aron told Variety that patrons did not have to wear face masks in AMC theaters because he wanted to avoid political controversy. “We want to keep the politics out of our theaters,” he said. But critics viewed not mandating the wearing of face masks as political. “You can be sure that I’ll be wearing a mask,” Aron later told CNN Business.
AMC company has to open in July in order to exist, Aron said. Despite not earning a penny of revenue the last two weeks of March, losing over two billion dollars in net revenue and furloughing all 600 of its corporate staff, AMC has invested millions in high tech cleaning solutions. “When I go to an AMC theater, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example,” Aron said.
Regal Cinemas, the second largest film exhibitor behind AMC, will also open in July and will require patrons to wear facemasks. Cinemark, which has already opened some of its theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, requires employees to wear masks, but not patrons. All are taking sanitization steps and ramping up cleaning procedures that go beyond mandating masks. —Melanie Wilcox
Tennessee Passes Anti-Abortion Law and Planned Parenthood Sues
Last week, the Tennessee Senate passed a controversial healthcare bill that bans abortions once a heartbeat can be detected. The law also seeks to prohibit women from procuring abortions due to Down Syndrome or undesired sex or race. This newest ban comes after a succession of similar legislation throughout the Midwest and South last year in what appears to be an anti-abortion trend.
The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, however, have filed a joint emergency lawsuit, seeking to block the “unconstitutional” ban from taking immediate effect. Their public statement tied the bill to current political and social upheaval, claiming that it “disproportionately harms Black and Brown people, when these communities are already suffering under the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and police violence…”
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, meanwhile, tweeted his support of the new law, calling it “the strongest pro-life law in our state’s history” and reminding citizens that “one of the most important things we can do to be pro-family is to protect the rights of the most vulnerable in our state, and there is none more vulnerable than the unborn.” —ML
Justin Bieber Is Accused of Sexual Assault
On Saturday, a woman calling herself “Danielle” alleged that Justin Bieber assaulted her following his concert on March 9, 2014. Bieber denied the accusation.
The fracas began when Danielle tweeted that the assault happened soon after Bieber’s surprise performance at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX. She said the singer invited her and her friends to the local Four Seasons Hotel, where he took her to a separate room and attacked her. Danielle said that she was 21 years old at the time.
“I'm posting this anonymously because I'm not ready to come forward and reveal myself. If he comes across this, you know who I am. I know you remember me. I hope your life is hell after this and you drown in guilt,” E! News quoted her post.
The tweets themselves have been deleted by whoever posted them. Bieber meanwhile launched a Twitter counteroffensive, posting what he says are receipts and screenshots that prove he stayed at an Airbnb and subsequently a Westin hotel, not a Four Seasons hotel, on the relevant dates. Bieber also indicated that his then-girlfriend, Selena Gomez, was present at his side during the events. The documents he posted refer to “Mike Lowery” which Bieber claims is an alias he used at the time.
Bieber also vowed to work with “Twitter and authorities” to take legal action against the accuser. —MB
Unilever to Drop Terms like 'Fair' and 'Lightening' From Products
Among a few of its other products, Unilever’s “Fair & Lovely” skin-lightening cream sold in Southeast Asia will soon receive a new name.
This shift comes as part of a brand-wide initiative to remove terms such as “fair,” “whitening,” and “lightening” from skincare products in order to support a “more inclusive vision of beauty.” Unilever is one of several brands currently making changes to products and logos in response to global conversations on race.
While many of these changes respond to the recent discourse surrounding the deaths of and violence toward Black Americans, the attachment of beauty standards to lightness of skin has been a culturally ingrained debate for generations in many non-white communities.
In India specifically, where Fair & Lovely has already undergone a packaging change to remove insensitive comparisons, one writer describes, “an unwritten rule that if you’re lighter, you’re much more accepted than if you’re on the darker end.” Skin lightness in India has significant historical and political connotations, prominently enough that women commonly turn to topical ointments and treatments to try to lighten their skin. Revisit this Verily feature to read an account of the skin color pressures women in non-white communities face every day. —Maggie Sicilia Bickerstaff
Millennials are Moving to the Suburbs
After the real estate market began to recover in May, home searches in suburban zip codes jumped 13 percent, according to realtor.com. Millennials, now the largest cohort of home buyers, are migrating to suburbs and creating and living in “hipsturbias,” suburbs that resemble inner-city downtowns. These suburbs located on the outskirts of cities are growing twice as fast as inner cities, according to census data. Residents in these hipsturbias have access to public transportation and universities, which attract employers.
In late April, about 39 percent or urban dwellers said the Covid-19 crisis prompted them to leave for less densely-populated areas, according to a Harris poll. Cuebiq, a data firm that tracks movement via mobile phones confirmed this data point: Americans are relocating twice as fast as they did a year earlier, and they continued to do so through mid-May. Now, Cuebiq data shows that people are gathering at rates that match pre-outbreak levels.
While the suburban flight won’t happen across the board, and big cities will still attract younger millennials, as the older cohort of millennials moves into the next stage of life, it appears they want affordability, safety, and more space without sacrificing fun. —MW
Good News of the Week
Uber driver, single mom given new car after delivering thousands of meals to hospital workers
After driving a nurse home from work one day, Memphis Uber driver Tammy Smith wanted to go the extra mile, so she began buying and delivering meals to front-line workers.
Tammy, mother of two, has delivered thousands of meals to her local hospital—sometimes up to 60 meals per day—and began raising funds to expand her reach, raising tens of thousands of dollars to help in making more deliveries.
Local news picked up on the single mom’s story, which soon caught the attention of the New York Post, London’s Daily Mail, and actress and talk show host Jada Pinkett Smith, who invited Tammy onto her show, Red Table Talk.
Tammy was thrilled to be invited, but the surprises didn’t stop there. To thank Tammy for her efforts, the Smith Foundation bought Tammy a new, eco-friendly car.
Tammy’s operation had previously faced a few setbacks when Tennessee’s stay-at-home order began, which, paired with some car troubles, made her trips a bit uncertain. The new car helped her quickly get back on her feet, and she continues to make deliveries every night.
“I have never known such generosity in my entire life,” Tammy said. —MSB
Watch of the Week
A five-year-old boy suffering from progressive cerebellar atrophy takes his first independent steps. #Nevergiveup is right!
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