We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
‘Unsurvivable’ Hurricane Laura lands in Louisiana and Texas
This Wednesday one of the strongest hurricanes to ever land in the United States ravaged parts of Louisiana and Texas. Hurricane Laura, a deadly Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds, has already killed a confirmed four people in Louisiana. One of the victims was a 14-year-old girl tragically hit by a tree that fell into her family home.
The hurricane, which touched land on the border of Texas and Louisiana, has left widespread devastation in its wake including fallen telephone poles, ripped apart buildings, and severed power lines that have left hundreds of thousands without electricity.
Louisiana Governor John Edwards told reporters Thursday afternoon that while, “we did not sustain and suffer the absolute catastrophic damage that we thought was likely . . . we have sustained a tremendous amount of damage.” Speaking of the many rescue teams working to find shelter for evacuees, he added, “Today is about saving lives, moving people out of their homes.”
Hurricane Laura, still en route and reclassified as a tropical storm, is expected to hit Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee by Friday evening. Forecasters warn of continued danger of flooding and of possible tornadoes. —Mariel Lindsay
Police shooting in Wisconsin sparks protests, rioting, and death
On Sunday, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a 29-year old African American male named Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer while resisting arrest after being tased. A video taken by a witness made the rounds on social media, culminating in a re-invigoration of the “Black Lives Matter” movement birthed in 2013 after the shooting of Trayvon Martin and reignited by the officer-involved killing of George Floyd back in May.
After consecutive days of protests that devolved into rioting, looting, arson, and armed robbery, throngs of witnesses to the destruction began “exercising a form of vigilantism. . . . Armed civilians, many dressed in military fatigues, congregating outside businesses they said they were protecting,” the BBC reported. One such vigilante, a 17-year-old male, is shown on video being chased by a crowd and opening fire. He killed two men and injured a third and has been arrested for first-degree intentional homicide. In response to the increasing violence, President Trump announced that he will be sending “federal law enforcement and the National Guard” to Kenosha.
Jacob Blake, for his part, underwent surgery on Tuesday and is recovering at the hospital. His family says that he is paralyzed from the waist down. His parents spoke with reporters at a CNN press conference, his mother urging protesters, “Don’t burn up property and cause havoc, and tear your homes down, in my son’s name.” Jacob’s father, meanwhile, publicly grieved his son’s brutal shooting. “They shot my son seven times, seven times like he didn’t matter. But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters.” —ML
Sex scandal takes down Jerry Falwell, Jr.
Jerry Falwell, Jr., resigned as president of Liberty University on Monday after a man came forward claiming he’d had a sexual relationship with both Falwell and his wife.
Although he is a lawyer and not a pastor, Falwell has led the conservative Christian school since 2007, when he was appointed to succeed his father, a prominent Southern Baptist minister. Over the years Liberty has grown by leaps and bounds, enrolling more than 100,000 students.
Earlier this month Falwell took a leave of absence from his job after briefly posting a photo on Instagram which showed Falwell with his arm around a woman, both of them with their pants undone. At the time Falwell said he had promised his family, “I’m going to try to be a good boy from here on out.”
It was just the beginning. Giancarlo Granda, of Miami, FL, has told the media that he began an affair with Falwell’s wife, Becki, in 2012, after meeting the couple in the course of his work as a hotel pool attendant. Granda also says that Falwell enthusiastically observed the adulterous encounters between himself and Mrs. Falwell.
In a statement, Falwell admitted his wife had an affair, but a spokesman denied that Falwell himself participated. Falwell also claimed that Granda was making good on threats to embarrass him after the couple rebuffed Granda’s attempts at extortion.
Falwell last courted controversy in 2016, when he was one of the first evangelical leaders to embrace Donald Trump’s campaign for president. —Margaret Brady
Doctors say Putin critic was poisoned
Aleksei Navalny, who has been an activist against corruption in the Russian government for almost a decade, slipped into a coma last week while on a domestic plane flight. Now doctors in Germany, where Navalny’s family had him moved, say that lab tests suggest he was poisoned.
The culprit appears to belong to a category of chemicals called cholinesterase inhibitors, which can be used medicinally in some forms but in others can be deployed as chemical weapons. Putin officials attacked the doctors’ diagnosis, but a Russian doctor who first treated Navalny before he left the country confirmed the dissident had been given an antidote for nerve agents. The Russian physicians said that they’d later “ruled out” poison and attributed Navalny’s condition to low blood sugar.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the country’s doors for Navalny, and the government was providing extra security at the Berlin hospital where he is recovering. He is expected to survive, but with unknown potential health consequences.
Navalny’s apparent poisoning is just the latest such attack. Journalists, ex-spies, and others have fallen ill and sometimes died, usually after consuming cups of tea. Navalny had also drank tea right before becoming sick. —MB
Scott Peterson death sentence overturned
The California Supreme Court has cancelled the death sentence given to Scott Peterson after he was convicted of murdering his family in 2002.
The guilty verdict in the case still stands, but the court determined that potential jurors were improperly rejected from the jury pool because they expressed opposition to capital punishment. The state must present the case again before a new jury if it wants a chance to keep Peterson on death row.
Just before Christmas in 2002, Laci Peterson, who was seven months pregnant, disappeared and was reported missing by her husband. The bodies of Laci and her baby were found in San Francisco Bay that April. As the investigation unraveled it turned out that Scott Peterson had been having an affair, and his mistress came forward with information. She would become a star witness for the prosecution. After Peterson’s arrest, a jury found him guilty of first degree murder for killing his wife, and second degree murder for killing his unborn son, named Conner.
The district attorney for Stanislaus County, where the case has been remanded, has not said whether officials will try again to obtain a death sentence for Peterson. “We are reviewing the decision and will discuss with the victim’s family,” CNN quoted a spokesman as saying. —MB
Netflix is under fire for movie accused of sexualizing children
A trailer for an upcoming movie on Netflix has sparked widespread moral outrage among people horrified by the film’s apparent sexualization of young girls. The trailer for Cuties (“Mignonnes” in its native French) features prepubescent girls twerking suggestively in skimpy outfits, and the film’s original accompanying description described a girl “exploring her femininity” via twerking and defying her conservative parents.
Shocked viewers immediately expressed outrage at the portrayed sexualization of children, and a petition to remove the movie from Netflix’s fall lineup swiftly garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures. Petition creator Allison Mitchell called the movie “disgusting as it sexualizes an ELEVEN year old for the viewing pleasure of pedophiles and also negatively influences our children! There is no need for this kind of content in that age group, especially when sex trafficking and pedophilia are so rampant!”
Netflix finally responded to the scandal with an official statement to CBS News in which a company spokesperson stated that they are “deeply sorry for the inappropriate artwork. . . . It was not OK, nor was it representative of this French film which won an award at Sundance. We’ve now updated the pictures and description.” Still, many viewers are upset that the movie is still scheduled for lineup. Many pointed out that Netflix’s reference to the Sundance festival was not comforting, as the festival’s co-founder was convicted of the sexual abuse of a little girl.
This is not the first time this year, that the American public has raised the alarm bells about the cultural sexualization of children, as many protested the New York Times’s recent opinion editorials urging both the normalization of pedophilia and compassion for those who seek out children online. —ML
RNC convention took place this week
The Republican National Convention began Monday evening, and has featured many speakers from many different walks of life, from a surgeon-nun to a young paraplegic running for office in North Carolina. The first night’s speakers included Maximo Alvarez, a Cuban refugee who warned the nation of the growing comparisons he sees between the United States and his home country. “Those false promises—spread the wealth, free education, free healthcare, defund the police, trust the socialist state—they don’t sound radical to my ears. They sound familiar.”
A number of women spoke on abortion, including Unplanned author Abby Johnson, who described to the nation the abortion that she witnessed on ultrasound while an employee at Planned Parenthood. Surgeon-nun Sister Deirdre Byrne, a member of the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, lauded President Trump as “the most pro-life President ever.”
The Convention also featured a naturalization ceremony for five newly-minted American citizens, as well as a speech by the Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann, the teenager made famous after winning big in court against media titans CNN and the Washington Post. Former NFL star Herschel Walker also made an appearance, recounting his lengthy friendship with the president and condemning accusations that Trump is a racist.
The Convention has received criticism from outlets like the New York Times, which blasted the RNC as an “alternate universe” in which Covid-19 and climate change do not exist. —ML
Travel stocks have skyrocketed
Shares of major airlines jumped on Monday amid several announcements of loosened travel restrictions, including the CDC no longer recommending a two-week quarantine after travel.
According to USA Today, while the CDC no longer recommends the 14-day post-travel quarantine, it advises following the local recommendations of your city or state upon return. Several states, including New York, still require an isolation period and have put into place accountability measures, including checkpoints at airports to check and monitor COVID-19 symptoms.
The Environmental Protection Agency also granted American Airlines the use of a new surface disinfectant coating in Texas, raising consumer confidence levels in travel.
The news comes amid Southwest Airlines reporting a modest improvement in travel demand and rejecting a government loan, and Frontier Airlines CEO saying the CDC should update its travel advice to: “Flying is not dangerous.” —MW
Good news of the week
When Taylor Ellis couldn’t see her third child on the ultrasound, technicians had a special surprise for the blind mother—a 3D touchable image of her child’s face. The Good News Network reports, “Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore usually uses the technology to create models of unborn babies with spina bifida. It allows surgeons to get a clear image of the spines of babies to see if they need in-womb surgery. When an ultrasound sonographer at the same hospital found out, he suggested the technology be used to help blind parents. It is thought to be the first hospital in the world to offer the service.”
Watch of the week
Beyonce’s latest music video accompanies a song co-written by her daughter Blue Ivy. Enjoy the beauty of “Brown-skinned Girls,” a track also featured on the singer’s Disney+ album Black Is King.
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