We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
The United States inaugurates President Joe Biden and Madame Vice President Kamala Harris
The 2020 Election season officially ended this week with the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. The occasion was historic for many reasons: At 78 years, Biden is the oldest president in the nation’s history. Additionally, Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first African-American person, and the first Indian-American person to be sworn in as vice president.
The ceremony took place on the West Front of the United States Capitol, featuring presentations by national youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman and a National Anthem sung by Lady Gaga. Vice President Mike Pence attended, along with former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, while former President Donald Trump departed for Florida.
President Biden took no delay and signed a batch of executive orders on his first day in office, including to mandate masks be worn on all federal properties, end travel restrictions from traditionally Muslim countries, and reinstate the United States in the Paris climate change agreement. —Mary Rose Somarriba
United States declares China’s treatment of Uyghur minority “genocide”
On President Trump’s last full day in office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement declaring the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of the Uyghhur people “genocide.” In his own words, he “determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” What’s more, he demanded that the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “be held to account.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab echoed these same sentiments, stating that the Chinese government’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority is “truly horrific” and a form of “barbarism” and demanded that the United Kingdom “take action to make sure that UK businesses are not part of the supply chains that lead to the gates of the internment camps in Xinjiang.” Leaked official documents, as well as survivors, attest to the inhumane treatment of the Uyghur people by the CCP, as they mandate forced sterilization, slave labor, mass internment camps, arbitrary detention, political re-education, and torture as part of the government’s plan to prevent domestic terrorism by political dissidents.
The Chinese government responded with a statement defending their forced re-education program, telling one American media outlet that, “since the measures have been taken, there’s no single terrorist incident in the past three years.” —Mariel Lindsay
New York Mets fire general manager for sexual harassment of female reporter
The New York Mets have fired general manager Jared Porter after an unnamed female reporter exposed his persistent sexual harassment of her via unsolicited texts and explicit photos. Mets owner Steve Cohen addressed his firing of Porter in a tweet calling for “zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” in what’s been commended by those in the #MeToo movement as an industry-leading move that could spark further change.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)’s director Dawn Hawkins acknowledged the Mets “took responsibility for ensuring that sexual harassment is not tolerated” in a field where “it is crucial for men to speak up and hold each other accountable for perpetuating sexual exploitation or harassment.” She urged other businesses to follow suit, insisting “Corporate America must be a part of the solution.”
Porter’s victim only recently decided to speak up about the 2016 sexual harassment she received from him, stating that she believed her career would be harmed if she went public with the allegations. A foreign national from an undisclosed country, she has since left journalism and recently told ESPN: “I know in the U.S., there is a women's empowerment movement. But in [my home country], it’s still far behind. Women get dragged through the mud if your name is associated with any type of sexual scandal. Women are the ones who get fingers pointed at them. I don't want to go through the victimization process again. I don’t want other people to blame me.” —ML
Rep. Stefanik responds to newspaper coverage mocking her and her husband for being “childless”
U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik blasted the Albany newspaper the Times Union for publishing a satirical fictional story mocking her for the quality of being “childless.” The representative and her husband Matt Manda released a statement Tuesday demanding the newspaper remove the article.
“As a young married couple, we have developed a thick skin over many years as we have become accustomed to repeated sexist smears in media coverage,” their statement reads. “However the Times Union’s decision to publish an article that mocked us as ‘childless’ is a new low and is truly heinous and wildly inappropriate.”
“We are grateful to the thousands of constituents who have encouraged and prayed for us over the years,” the couple added. “Like millions of families, we hope and pray that we will be blessed by becoming parents.” —MRS
Mrs. Rogers dies at 92
Joanne Rogers, the widow of famed Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, died this week at 92. An accomplished pianist, Joanne Rogers helped start the Fred Rogers Center Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College in his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Fred and Joanne Rogers were married more than fifty years before he died in 2003.
The Fred Rogers Center issued a statement that Joanne “was a joyful and tender-hearted spirit, whose laughter and kindness will be deeply missed,” adding that she was a “trusted anchor whose heart and wisdom have guided our work in service of Fred’s enduring legacy.” —MRS
Good News of the Week
Iranian women receive historic legislation
The Iranian government has approved a bill combating violence against women. Al Jazeera reports, “In a meeting on Sunday evening, cabinet ministers greenlit the draft bill, called Protection, Dignity and Security of Women Against Violence.”
The bill condemns violence taking the form of “any behavior inflicted on women due to sexuality, vulnerable position or type of relationship, and inflicts harm to their body, psyche, personality and dignity, or restricts or deprives them of legal rights and freedoms.” While Human Rights Watch says it doesn’t go far enough to criminalize child marriage or rape in marriage, it’s an important step forward for Iranian women.
The bill comes after a number of high-profile incidents of violence against women over the past year. In late May 2020, a 14-year-old girl named Romina Ashrafi was beheaded in an “honor killing” by her father, who received a nine-year jail sentence. Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs, noted in a tweet that the piece of legislation was dedicated to “worthy and patient Iranian women.” —MRS
Watch of the Week
In a viral video this week, a three-year-old boy practices deep breathing in the face of a desperate desire for a snack.