We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
We don’t have a winner (yet)
Well, we might’ve hoped to know who the next president of the United States will be by now. Unfortunately, it’s 2020, and we can’t have nice things. That being said, the presidential race is tightening up. By Tuesday night, final votes in several key states had yet to be counted, including Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Arizona, which has been called for Biden by the AP and FoxNews, appears to still be in play for Trump, as votes are still being tallied. Michigan and Wisconsin have been declared for Joe Biden, but the other states are taking much longer to tally up the votes. (Nevada, which has six electoral votes, has been particularly lagging, but at least we’ve gotten these memes.)
Largely because of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans voted through mail-in ballots this year, a phenomenon that is being cited as the reason for the vote tally delay. By election day, 99.7 million ballots had already been submitted through mail or early voting (nearly three-quarters of 2016’s turnout). And there are lots more ballots to count. More than 60 percent of eligible Americans voted this year, matching 2016’s voter turnout. If projections are correct, the total number of votes will reach levels not seen since the 1960s. Biden has already won the highest number of votes of any presidential candidate in U.S. history.
At the time of this writing, this leaves Biden with 264 of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. President Trump has 214. So whoever gets 270 votes wins, the other concedes, and we’re done? Not quite. The Trump campaign has already sued three states (Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) for their handling of vote counting and mail-in ballots. And the campaign said it would petition for a recount in Wisconsin. Trump has expressed his belief that extra “Biden votes” are conveniently being found “all over the place” to pad his opponent’s numbers.
Meanwhile, concerns about voter fraud are circulating on social media, with some journalists investigating claims about vote records appearing to be deleted, and some claims—like that sharpie pens used in Arizona made ballots unreadable and those votes uncounted—have been denounced by election departments.
Both campaigns have expressed confidence in victory—on Wednesday, Trump prematurely claimed that he had won the election, later on Wednesday, a lawyer on Biden’s campaign also prematurely claimed that Biden had won the election. If Biden wins, he will do so by a slim margin that will surely be contested by the other side with charges of voter fraud. Whatever happens, it looks like election season won’t be over any time soon. —Madeline Fry Schultz
A historic election for women
Speaking of Election Day, we still don’t know which party will hold a majority in the House or the Senate, but we do know that 2020 was a big year for women. A record number of women ran for the House of Representatives this year, with nearly 300 aiming at a seat in Congress. Compare that to 2018, when 234 candidates made a record high. Republican women in particular increased their numbers, potentially doubling their current cohort in Congress by adding 12 new members. Many of this year’s female candidates will be heading to Washington in January. Here are a couple of wins worth knowing about.
A historic win for diversity: Cori Bush, a nurse from Missouri, became the state’s first black congresswoman after winning her race to represent its 1st Congressional District. “I will be the first woman to represent Missouri’s First District in its 173 year history,” she tweeted. “We’ve seen a 74% increase in women voters here since 2016. Representation matters. A system that works for everyone matters.” Bush is one of the Democratic candidates whose campaign was documented in Knock Down the House, a 2019 Netflix documentary that trailed the election of progressive female candidates such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
A historic win for, well, other reasons: On Tuesday, members of Georgia’s 14th Congressional District elected Marjorie Taylor Greene, Congress’ first vocal QAnon supporter. Greene is a Republican who has embraced the conspiracy theory, which posits that there’s a “deep state” within the federal government full of Satan-worshipping child-traffickers who are trying to sabotage Trump. “I’m very excited about that now there’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles out, and I think we have the president to do it,” Greene said in a 2017 YouTube video. While Taylor Green since distanced her vocal support of the group, on election night, she simply tweeted, “THANK YOU to the people of NW Georgia for choosing me to fight for them in Washington, DC!” —MFS
Prince William’s COVID diagnosis revealed
A report this week in the British tabloid, The Sun, disclosed that Prince William tested positive for COVID-19 in April. Kensington Palace, the prince’s home base, did not issue a denial, and mainstream outlets soon began reporting the story.
It appears that the prince caught the virus around the same time as his father, Charles. The illness of the 71-year-old Prince of Wales, who is first in line to the throne after his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was disclosed to the public in March. Charles was not badly sickened and only displayed minor symptoms, although he recently said he hadn’t completely regained his sense of taste and smell.
William’s positive test, which seems to have come in April, was not revealed at the time, nor did news of it leak out until now. Reportedly, the prince didn’t release the information because “there were important things going on and I didn't want to worry anyone.” And it’s true: in April, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, fell seriously ill with the virus and was hospitalized in the intensive care unit. News of another high profile infection at the top levels of the U.K.’s constitutional monarchy could have caused additional public alarm. —Margaret Brady
Boris Johnson imposes second lockdown in England
U.K. Prime Minster Boris Johnson imposed a second lockdown on England, starting on Thursday. “I make no absolutely no apology whatever for doing my level best—our level best as a government—to avoid going back into a national lockdown,” Johnson said Monday. The one-month lockdown, which will last until December 2, applies to England only. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will enforce their own rules, according to CNBC. “The modeling presented by our scientists suggests that without action we could see up to twice as many deaths over the winter as we saw in the first wave. Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level,” the U.K. Prime Minister said.
The U.K has almost 1.1 million cases, and recently surpassed 47,300 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. The restrictions require people to stay home unless it’s for educational, medical, or food shopping purposes, according to the outlet. Pubs, bars, and restaurants will close, excluding takeout and delivery. —MW
Johnny Depp loses libel trial
Notorious wild child Johnny Depp lost a lawsuit in the U.K. this week, where he had sued a tabloid that published his ex-wife’s claims about his abusive behavior during their marriage.
Depp brought the libel suit against The Sun newspaper, which in 2018 published a column speculating on J.K. Rowling’s feelings about Depp’s casting for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, a Harry Potter spin-off movie. “How can JK Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” the headline blared.
Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard, was a main witness, as the newspaper’s lawyers sought to prove the ultimate defense against a libel charge: that what the paper had printed was true. The court proceedings produced lurid testimony about Depp’s drug and alcohol use and domestic violence. In counter testimony, Depp accused his wife of defecating in his bed as a form of revenge, a bizarre accusation the judge in the case labeled “unlikely.”
“Some incidents were so severe that I was afraid he was going to kill me, either intentionally or just by losing control and going too far. He explicitly threatened to kill me many times, especially later in our relationship,” Heard told the court, according to CNN. Judge Andrew Nicol said in his judgment that the newspaper’s “wife beater” label for Depp was shown to be “substantially true." —MB
Rhode Island changes its name on official documents
Rhode Islanders voted to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the state’s official name on Tuesday. Nearly 53 percent of voters supported dropping the last three words compared to the roughly 47 percent who opposed the name change, according to the State Board of Elections. The last time Rhode Islanders voted on this measure in 2010, most people—250,466, to be exact—rejected it compared to 71,162 who supported it, reports Providence Journal.
Name change supporters hoped 2020’s focus on racial issues would persuade voters that the phrase was offensive due to its slavery connotation. It doesn't help that, as the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University cites, “Rhode Island played a leading role in the transatlantic slave trade. Not only did Rhode Islanders have slaves—they had more per capita than any other New England state—but they also entered with gusto into the trade.”
Opponents of the name change said the word “plantation” has nothing to do with slavery when Roger Williams settled Providence in 1636. At the time, the word referred to a tract of land or a farm. They argued “Providence Plantations” was historical and worth preserving, Providence Journal reports. —Melanie Wilcox
Healing robots help the elderly fight off loneliness and despair
Robots have helped patients ward off feelings of isolation and despair, according to Wired. Sandra Petersen, a program director for the University of Texas at Tyler’s nursing department, also maintains a geriatric house-call practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Her youngest patient is 72 and some are centenarians, Wired reports. “All are vulnerable to COVID-19, which disproportionately kills the elderly,” Petersen said. “Social distancing helps protect them, but it can also leave them profoundly lonely, facing a public health crisis while in isolation.”
Petersen has used robot pet therapy to make her patients’ alone time more bearable. Her bot of choice is Paro, a device from Japan modeled after a baby harp seal and the size of a human infant. The robot coos, wiggles, and blinks when held. “The role of social robots like Paro is becoming more important, especially as we see this sector of our population targeted by this virus. It’s built for a time such as this,” she said. —MW
Chrissy Teigen honors her miscarried baby with a tattoo
When Chrissy Teigen shared the details of her pregnancy loss in September, she gave voice to millions of women in the United States who have suffered a miscarriage. Teigen described her experience with an emotional post, writing, “People say an experience like this creates a hole in your heart. A hole was certainly made, but it was filled with the love of something I loved so much. It doesn’t feel empty, this space. It feels full.” Rather than treating the miscarriage as something to be glossed over, Teigen has been vocal about her grieving process, and now she’s keeping the memory of her son Jack with her in a permanent way.
This week, Teigen shared that she got a tattoo of baby Jack’s name on her wrist, just above the tattooed names of her husband and toddlers: John, Luna, and Miles. Her husband, John Legend, got a matching tattoo. “More than anything,” Legend tweeted last month, “we’ve heard so many stories about how so many other families have experienced this pain, often suffering in silence. It’s a club no one wants to be a part of, but it’s comforting to know we’re not alone.” Good for both of them for reminding us that miscarriage is always a tragedy, one that couples grapple with in unique and meaningful ways. —MFS
Hollywood icon Sean Connery dies
Sean Connery, Scottish actor best known for his incarnation of the original James Bond role, passed away on Halloween at age 90 in his home in the Bahamas. His wife of 45 years told media outlets that the actor had struggled with dementia in his final months, saying of the disease that, “it was no life for him… At least he died in his sleep and it was just so peaceful.”
Actor Harrison Ford, who played opposite the late actor in 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” lovingly joked, “you don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side-car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm.” George Lucas, creator of the Indiana Jones franchise, praised Connery for his role as Indiana Jones’s father, remembering his “air of intelligent authority and sly sense of comedic mischief.” Actor Daniel Craig, who performed the role of James Bond after Connery retired from the iconic role, likewise commemorated the original 007 superstar, marveling that his inimitable charisma “could be measured in megawatts” and that he had “helped create the modern blockbuster.”
The spy series Hollywood icon lives on through his classic film contributions to American cinema and leaves behind two grown sons and his wife. —Mariel Lindsay
Good News of the Week
Three-year-old rescued from Turkey earthquake rubble after 65 hours
Witnesses call it a miracle. Nearly three days after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey and Greece, killing at least 93 people, searchers found a three-year-old girl alive amid the destruction.
When a firefighter spotted little Elif Perincek on Monday, he took her for dead: She was motionless, lying on her back between what had been her bed and her dresser, and she was covered with dust. But when he reached out to wipe the little girl’s face, her eyes opened and she grabbed his thumb. A dramatic photo shows Elif in the arms of her rescuer, still clinging to his thumb with a pale little hand.
Her mother and twin sisters were saved earlier; a six-year-old brother was killed. She became the 106th person to be pulled alive from the rubble.
The rescue happened in the Turkish city of Izmir, where the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit particularly hard, flattening numerous buildings. —MB
Watch of the Week
We could all probably use some comic relief amid the slow pain of watching election results come in. While we can't escape to a fairy tale, we can enjoy this sketch, drawing from the fairy godmothers’ spat in Sleeping Beauty.
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