New York Times Writer Resigns Citing Censorship and Bullying, and Other Notes from the Week - Verily

‘Glee’ Actress Naya Rivera Pronounced Dead by Drowning

33-year-old actress Naya Rivera, best known for her role as cheerleader Santana in the musical television series ‘Glee’, has been confirmed dead by authorities after her body was recovered from a lake 6 days after she went missing.

Last week, mere hours after Naya and her four-year-old son Josey had rented a pontoon on Lake Piru, passersby on another boat noticed the little boy sleeping along on the drifting pontoon. After a preliminary frenzied search, the Ventura County sheriff said in a press conference that detectives believed that were “a lot of currents on the lake…the boat started drifting – it was unanchored – and that she mustered enough energy to get her son back on the boat, but not enough to save herself.”

On July 13th, after almost a week of searching for her body, she was finally uncovered in the water. Autopsy and medical examiner’s report confirmed her death as “drowning by accident.” Her son Josey, and Josey’s father, ex-husband Ryan, are reportedly spending every day with Naya’s family. As a source told People magazine, “Ryan has barely slept…Josey needs his mom.”

Others close to the star are expressing their grief via social media. Glee co-star Chris Colfer lovingly commemorated her via an Instagram post, writing that “her brilliance and humor were unmatched. Her beauty and talent were otherworldly…Being close to her was both a badge of honor and suit of armor…” – Mariel Lindsay

Experts warn of “jaw dropping” global crash in fertility rates

Researchers now say “most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline,” as birthrates around the globe collapse.

Scholars at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have published research in The Lancet showing that the global fertility rate has nearly dropped in half, from an average of 4.7 children born to each woman in her lifetime in 1950 to 2.4 today.

To keep populations stable, the rate must stay at 2.1 children, because even in the first world not all children survive to adulthood. Based on current trends, researchers project only 1.7 children will be born to each woman by 2100.

BBC reports that 23 countries, including China, Spain, Portugal, and South Korea will have populations cut in half by the end of this century. India and Nigeria will take China’s place as the most populous nations on earth.

Since the reductions are happening worldwide, countries will not be able to rely on migration to sustain their populations. In fact, countries will have to compete to receive migrants.

The rapid declines mean societies must prepare for a future where resources are increasingly devoted to meeting the needs of the elderly. The population over age 80 is expected to increase by more than 6 times what it is now. -Margaret Brady

Ennio Morricone, one of the most influential soundtrack composers of all time, died at 91

Legendary movie composer Ennio Morricone has died in Italy after being hurt in a fall.

The 91-year-old wrote some of the most recognizable and timeless soundtracks ever, including the music for the Clint Eastwood Westerns “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” His spare, simple melodies for the films have entered the cultural lexicon as quintessential Western music. The director, Sergio Leone, even had Morricone write the music first and then designed his shots based on the composer’s work.

Morricone also composed the haunting soundtrack for “The Mission” about a doomed Jesuit mission in Latin America, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. He garnered four other nominations for “Days of Heaven,” “The Untouchables,” “Bugsy” and “Malèna.” He took home an honorary Oscar in 2007 for his contributions to music, and finally won one outright in 2016 for his work on Quentin Tarantino’s “Hateful Eight.” He received the Pontifical Gold Medal from Pope Francis in 2019.

Morricone lived in Italy all his life and was known simply as “the Maestro” in Rome where he died. He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Maria Travia, and their four children. -MB

New York Times Writer Resigns Citing Censorship and Bullying

Bari Weiss, writer for the opinion department of The New York Times has resigned, citing censorship and bullying as the reasons for her departure. In the resignation letter addressed to publisher A. G. Sulzberger and posted on her website, she explains the trajectory of her experience at the company, stating that her centrist, rather than progressive, views made her “the subject of constant bullying by colleagues who disagree…”

She goes on: “They have called me a Nazi and a racist; I have learned to brush off comments about how I’m “writing about the Jews again.” Several colleagues perceived to be friendly with me were badgered by coworkers. My work and my character are openly demeaned on company-wide Slack channels where masthead editors regularly weigh in. There, some coworkers insist I need to be rooted out if this company is to be a truly “inclusive” one, while others post ax emojis next to my name. Still other New York Times employees publicly smear me as a liar and a bigot on Twitter with no fear that harassing me will be met with appropriate action. They never are.”

Citing legal terms, she calls her mistreatment “unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge.” She also expresses the secret sentiments of other colleagues, saying that while they are “too wise to post on Slack, they write to me privately about the “new McCarthyism” that has taken root at the paper of record.”

While the publisher himself declined to comment, a spokeswoman for the New York Times told media outlets that the newspaper is “committed to fostering an environment of honest, searching and empathetic dialogue between colleagues, one where mutual respect is required of all.” She declined to comment on the letter’s specifics. - ML

Ghislaine Maxwell Arrested in New Hampshire

On July 2, elusive socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI at a remote property in New Hampshire.

Maxwell has become notorious as an associate and alleged fellow-sex trafficker with the late Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein, who died in jail about a year ago before he could face justice, is believed to have run a sophisticated system for coercing underage girls into having sex with wealthy, powerful men. Although none of them have conclusively been tied to six crimes, photos have emerged showing men like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew socializing with Maxwell and Epstein.

Authorities unsealed a six count grand jury indictment against Maxwell, including transporting a minor for the purposes of criminal sexual activity and conspiring to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts.

She had seemingly vanished after Epstein’s arrest and subsequent death. The FBI, however, says they’d been “keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts” and that they “moved when [they] were ready.”

Maxwell had asked to be let out on bail due to the risk of contracting coronavirus in jail, but prosecutors objected, pointing out that her multiple passports, great wealth and huge international network of contacts makes her a unique flight risk. A judge agreed and denied her bail. -MB

Kanye West Files Paperwork with the Federal Election Committee

Kanye West filed his paperwork with the FEC to run as an independent in the 2020 United States presidential election, making him an official candidate as of Thursday, July 16.

West submitted a Statement of Organization to the FEC, which can only be filed once an individual has raised over $5,000 through campaign-related activity. The next day, the 43-year-old rapper submitted a Statement of Candidacy document, which lists his committee name as “Kanye 2020” and his party affiliation as “BDY” (an acronym for “Birthday Party”).

Despite missing the deadlines to file as an independent in North Carolina, Texas, New Mexico and Indiana, on Wednesday West paid $35,000 - the amount required to appear on the ballot in Oklahoma - indicating that he is serious about his candidacy. To continue his candidacy, West must file a personal financial disclosure form within 30 days of his announcement and a quarterly campaign finance report showing what he has raised and spent throughout the duration of his campaign.

After releasing his single “Wash Us In This Blood” and announcing his clothing line partnership with the Gap, West tweeted his plans on July 4 to run for president of the United States.

“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future,” West tweeted. “I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION.” West’s announcement garnered support from Elon Musk, Chance the Rapper and his wife Kim Kardashian West, who retweeted his announcement with an American flag emoji. —Melanie Wilcox

Supreme Court ruling on birth control

The Supreme Court has ruled that employers and universities that have moral objections to certain forms of contraception can be allowed to opt out of the Affordable Care Act requirement that contraception be available for free.

It’s the latest skirmish in a battle that’s been on-going for almost ten years. When the ACA, also called Obamacare, passed in 2009, there was immediate push-back from religious organizations about its strict requirements on contraception. One of the more prominent objectors was the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic Sisters who care for the elderly poor.

In response, the Obama administration designed a narrow “workaround” for religious groups. The Trump administration broadened those eligible for the exception, allowing both religious and non religious-based employers who had moral objections to opt out.

The Supreme Court decision that upheld that broadening was not close, with a 7-2 vote that included Clinton appointee Stephen Breyer and Obama appointee Elena Kagan agreeing with the majority. Only Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor disagreed.

“We are overjoyed that, once again, the Supreme Court has protected our right to serve the elderly without violating our faith. Our life’s work and great joy is serving the elderly poor and we are so grateful that the contraceptive mandate will no longer steal our attention from our calling,” NPR quoted

Mother Loraine Marie Maguire of the Little Sisters of the Poor as saying. -MB

Good News of the Week

Nursing Home Pen Pal program gets a boost from Katie Couric 

COVID-19 has made a tough job tougher at nursing homes, assisted living and retirement facilities around the world. The elderly and sick are at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the disease, and authorities have clamped down on visitors in a bid to stop the spread.

But one assisted living center - Victorian Senior Home in Asheboro, North Carolina - has found a way to get residents more interaction: pen pals requested via social media! The program got a boost when Katie Couric promoted it on her Instagram, and now the home reports thousands of letters pouring in. Check out #VSCPenPals to see the residents! -MB

Student Collected Garbage To Pay For College. Now He’s Headed to Harvard Law

Rehan Staton was a garbage man. Now he’s going to Harvard Law school.

Staton’s story begins in childhood, when his mom left his dad, resulting in his single father struggling to work enough to pay the bills. Station struggled in school and even was recommended for special education, until a free tutor his dad found at the local community center took him under his wing. Then he began making the Honor Roll.

It wasn’t enough to get into college, though, and Staton wound up at a waste disposal company. His fellow workers, all ex-cons, recognized his potential and brought him to the attention of senior management, who in turn connected Staton with a college professor. The professor was so impressed with Staton he appealed to the admissions board of his college on behalf of the young man. Soon Staton was joining clubs, earning accolades and a 4.0 GPA.

Regarding his supportive coworkers in the garbage industry, Staton says “I had to go to the 'bottom' of the social hierarchy -- that's to say formerly incarcerated sanitation workers -- in order to be uplifted." -MB

Mom Beats Coronavirus, Delivers Healthy Triplets

A Texas mom delivered triple the joy after she gave birth to three healthy babies, even after being hospitalized for a month with coronavirus.

The Houston woman, “Maggie,” was admitted at 28 weeks pregnant for monitoring, and a routine COVID-19 test came back positive. A month later, on the same day she was declared virus free, Maggie learned one of her babies had gotten tangled in the umbilical cord. It was time for an emergency c-section.

Complicating matters, Maggie’s husband couldn’t be with her during labor because he had recently tested positive for the virus too. Luckily her mom was able to step in.

Babies Isabella, Nathaniel, and Adriel are “healthy, safe, and undeniably resilient” the hospital said. So is their mom! -MB

Watch of the Week

A mother used TikTok to celebrate the heartwarming bond between her 3-year-old daughter and infant son. "Someone's never been so wrong" she captioned the video on Instagram, referring to a doctor telling her it wasn't going to be in the best interest of her daughter to have her medically challenged son.