We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Power outages affect hundreds of thousands as wildfires blaze in Northern California
Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the nation’s largest utility company, said on Sunday that they may cut power to hundreds of thousands of people to guard against its equipment sparking new fires. Many shutoffs would be concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“We obviously recognize that power outages present hardships. That’s why we try to make it as small as we can,” PG&E incident commander Mark Quinlan said, noting the planned shutdown had been reduced from about 466,000 to 361,000 customers.
This comes after Southern California Edison said a power line may have ignited the Silverado Fire, which has burned 7,200 acres near Irvine, a report filed with California Public Utilities Commission shows. The new Blue Ridge Fire that burned about 3,000 acres prompted Orange County officials to tell more than 90,000 people to evacuate. —Melanie Wilcox
Riots ensue in Philadelphia after the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man
On Monday, police officers in Philadelphia shot and killed a 27-year-old newlywed with bipolar disorder after his family called 911 for help dealing with his erratic behavior. Video footage shows officers arriving on-scene, at which point the victim, Walter Wallace, Jr., charges at them with a knife before being shot a total of 14 times, later dying at hospital.
His death reignited the anger that drove crowds to protest the death of George Floyd back in May, with demonstrators taking to the streets the very next day. What began peacefully, however, devolved into rioting, looting, and vandalism, with the city declaring a nightly curfew to avoid further destruction. Still, protesters and police officers continued to clash over the week, with more than 50 officers injured and almost 200 people arrested by Thursday. Consequently, the Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has declared a disaster emergency and the National Guard are expected to be deployed to the city before the weekend.
While Walter Wallace, Jr.’s father told a CNN news reporter that his son “can’t hurt a damn fly [and] had mental issues,” the New York Post published a piece detailing Walter Wallace’s “violent past,” citing court records that indicate Wallace had been in trouble with the law for almost a decade, with convictions including “resisting arrest and robbery.” What’s more, he was arrested in March for “allegedly threaten[ing] his child’s mother over the phone, saying “I’ll shoot you and that house up.” In 2016, during a robbery, “he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck and held what she believed to be a gun to her head.”
Still, questions remain about the officers’ response to a call involving health issues, with one reporter writing that the incident between Walter Wallace, Jr. and the police strikes “at the heart of a fundamental problem that continues to plague police departments large and small: Do cops have any safe and reliable alternatives besides their guns in trying to control people who don’t want to be controlled?” Still others wonder if his death could have been avoided had the officers been carrying tasers. —ML
Girl Scouts delete their tweet congratulating Amy Coney Barrett after receiving backlash
The Girl Scouts of America deleted a tweet this week that congratulated Justice Amy Coney Barett after throngs of angry followers objected fiercely. The 108-year-old organization had originally tweeted out “Congratulations Amy Coney Barrett on becoming the 5th woman appointed to the Supreme Court since its inception in 1789." Alongside the congratulatory message appeared headshots of the other four female Justices in American history, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.
Twitter users quickly voiced their displeasure, some vowing to boycott the organization’s famous cookie season. Even Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressly joined in on rebuking Girl Scouts, tweeting out that Amy Coney Barrett is the “antithesis of justice.” Actress and activist Amber Tamblyn claimed that “access to safe abortion and the healthcare needs of millions of women and girls is gutted in this country because of Barrett’s addition to the court.”
The Girl Scouts promptly deleted the tweet, explaining their decision as based on the fact that “it was quickly viewed as a political and partisan statement which was not our intent…Girl Scouts of the USA is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization. We are neither red nor blue, but Girl Scout GREEN. We are here to lift up girls and women." —Mariel Lindsay
Islamic terrorist attack in Nice, France kills three
Thursday morning on the Cote d’Azur in Nice, France, a radical Islamic terrorist killed three people inside a Notre Dame basilica during a daily Mass. The 21-year-old Tunisian gunman is believed to be named Brahim Aoussaoui, arriving in France earlier this month via Italy. His first victim was a seventy-year-old lady, whom he brutally beheaded; the second was a man in his forties who was a churchwarden, husband, and father; the third life lost was a middle-aged lady who managed to flee after being stabbed multiple times, only to later die from her wounds. A witness to the tragedy, a restauranteur across the street, spoke to French media, saying “I was selling croissants when a man came in and said to me: ‘Sir, there’s a decapitated woman in the cathedral.’ I didn’t believe him at first but he repeated it. I went to the cathedral and saw the municipal police and called to them. They came quickly.” The police shot and detained the suspect, with the Nice Mayor later stating that he had “repeated endlessly ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the greatest)” during his arrest.
French authorities say they were not entirely surprised that the attack occurred, with the Alliance Police Nationale having alerts that security forces had warned of a “heightened terrorist threat” over the last few days after the beheading last month of a Parisian schoolteacher outside his secondary school (he had recently shown caricatures of Muhammad to his class during a discussion of free speech). Following the attack, Macon had pledged to double down on “Islamo-fascism,” a move he reiterated Thursday afternoon in Nice when he told onlookers that France would not sacrifice its “core values.” The mayor of Nice likewise offered feedback on the attacks, saying “Before it was a school professor, this time the Islamo-fascist barbarism chose to attack inside a church. Again, it is very symbolic.”
The French Muslim Council, meanwhile, condemned the terrorist attack in Nice and advised fellow Muslims to cancel their upcoming Malwid celebrations as a “sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.” —ML
Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost announced their marriage in a generous way
Actress Scarlett Johansson and Saturday Night Live comedian Colin Jost were wed this week, which was announced in an unexpected way. The Instagram account for Meals on Wheels broke the news with a message about the newlyweds.
“We’re thrilled to break the news that Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost were married over the weekend in an intimate ceremony. . . . Their wedding wish is to help make a difference for vulnerable older adults during this difficult time by supporting @mealsonwheelsamerica. Please consider donating to celebrate the happy couple,” the post read. I can’t help but love the gesture, since while the couple didn't have a banquet with many plates on their big day, they took the opportunity to spread meals to others. Here’s to the couple’s new beginning, and to creative generosity during COVID. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez flees to Spain
After spending the past year at the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Venezuela to escape house arrest, opposition leader to President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, Leopoldo Lopez, fled to Madrid this week, Spain’s foreign ministry said.
Lopez, founder of the social-democratic Popular Will Party, tweeted, “You can count on this servant to fight from anywhere. We will not rest and we will continue working day and night to achieve the freedom that all Venezuelans deserve.”
In 2014, authorities in Venezuela jailed Lopez for leading protests against President Maduro’s regime. He backed the internationally recognized interim President Juan Guaido, who assumed the presidency following Maduro’s 2018 illegitimate election campaign. In April 2019, he supported Guado’s military revolt against Maduro and when the uprising ceased, he sought shelter at the Spanish ambassador’s residence.
Since his escape, intelligence agents in Venezuela have arrested four Venezuelans associated with Lopez, including two bodyguards. Lopez joins his wife, who had already fled to Spain, after spending six years in jail, house arrest, and diplomatic asylum. —MW
Once in a blue moon, this time on Halloween
For the first time in almost two decades, there will be a full moon on Halloween, making it the eleventh out of thirteen full moons in 2020 (most years have 12, but because our calendar is not synchronized with astronomical events, every so often a year has 13 full moons). To be specific, Halloween’s moon will be a blue moon because it’s the second full moon in a calendar month.
In other lunar news this week, NASA scientists have detected the presence of water in sunlit parts of the moon’s surface. Using a modified Boeing 747 that can take its telescope high into the Earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of 45,000 feet, researchers at the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) found water molecules in Clavius crater in the moon’s southern hemisphere. "This is not puddles of water but instead water molecules that are so spread apart that they do not form ice or liquid water," said Casey Honniball, the lead author of a study about the discovery. In 2023, NASA will send the golf cart-sized Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the moon so scientists can learn more about how water is distributed. This will determine how NASA can harvest the moon’s resources for further human space exploration.
To round out all this moon news, Kid Cudi announced he will release his next album Man on the Moon III fairly soon. —MW
Good News of the Week
Chinese forests are absorbing more CO2 than expected
China is the world’s biggest carbon dioxide polluter, responsible for pumping 28% of total global levels into the environment. But the country is also trying to aggressively address the problem, and one approach seems to be working better than anticipated.
Billions of trees have been planted in recent years, both for environmental purposes and to enhance burgeoning industries. Research now shows these new forests are surprisingly efficient carbon “sinks”—they suck more C02 out of the atmosphere than they produce.
The environmental impact of the forests was measured using a range of data, from air samples taken at ground level to observations made from outer space.
China’s ambitious goal is to stop the rise of CO2 emissions by 2030, and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. To get there, the nation will have to rein in polluters, but it seems the “regreening” of the forested countryside will play a larger role than anyone thought possible. —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
Last week, Dancing with the Stars featured rapper Nelly dancing a graceful Viennese Waltz with his partner Daniella. It’s a must see.
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