We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily’s quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Trump supporters invade the Capitol
2020, meet 2021, a year that has already proven that it can always get worse.
On Wednesday, the Capitol was stormed by thousands of Trump supporters who pushed past police barriers and caused the Senate, where congressional members were debating the certification of Electoral College votes, to be evacuated. The last time the Capitol building experienced such a wide-scale assault was burned by British forces during the War of 1812. This time, it was a slew of disgruntled Americans who took their claims of election fraud to Washington—and grew violent.
The results were ugly: Capitol Police fatally shot one woman, and three others died of “medical emergencies” Wednesday. Late Thursday night the Capitol Police confirmed that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick had died from wounds sustained during Wednesday’s attack. The FBI also discovered two suspected explosive devices, and more than 60 people were arrested. One of the men arrested had a semiautomatic rifle and 11 Molotov cocktails in his possession.
When President Trump made a speech to condemn the violence (after encouraging crowds at a rally earlier that day), he told them to “go home” before adding, “We love you. You’re very special.” It was Vice President Mike Pence, not Trump, who helped mobilize the National Guard to deescalate the riots.
Some Trump supporters, including Representative Matt Gaetz, claimed the violence really originated from the left-wing group Antifa, rather than pro-Trump protestors. These claims have not been confirmed as accurate, however, and many of those invading the Capitol have been identified as Trump supporters.
After Wednesday’s rioters dispersed, Congress reconvened that evening, officially certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory at 3:32 a.m. Thursday morning. Some Republicans who had promised to reject the Electoral College votes, including Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, changed their minds after the day’s events.
Trump has less than two weeks left in office, but it’s not too late for Congress—and his own administration—to express their displeasure with his handling of the attack on the Capitol. Several Trump officials, including Melania Trump’s chief of staff Stephanie Grisham and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, have resigned. Democrats are drafting articles of impeachment, and some are calling on Pence to invoke the twenty-fifth Amendment, which allows the vice president to assume presidential duties if POTUS is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” —Madeline Fry Schultz
Georgia on everyone’s mind
In a major news revelation that now feels like a fluff piece considering this week’s events, the Washington Post released a phone call of President Trump pressuring the Georgia secretary of state to “find 11,780 votes” in order to overturn Joe Biden’s win. During the hour-long call, Trump cited debunked claims of voter fraud and argued, “the people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, that you’ve recalculated.” The Trump campaign had sued Georgia over claims of election fraud after the state turned blue in the 2020 presidential election. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, responded that the state’s election results were both accurate and fair.
In other Georgia news, both Democratic Senate candidates won the state’s run-off election on Tuesday. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Warnock, an Atlanta pastor, is Georgia’s first black senator. After Loeffler’s defeat, she back-tracked on her support for Trump’s election fraud claims, deciding to confirm Georgia’s electoral votes following the violence at the Capitol. “The events that transpired have forced me to reconsider, and I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors,” she said. “The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on what my objection was intended to protect, the sanctity of the American democratic process.”
These two Senate campaigns were the most expensive in history, with $830 million poured into both races. Now, with the election of Ossoff and Warnock, the Senate is 50-50 Republican and Democrat, meaning the tie-breaking vote will fall to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. —MFS
The Mandalorian earns the title of 2020’s most pirated show
The Star Wars TV series, which premiered with the launch of Disney+ in 2019, has gained an unfortunate claim to fame as the most pirated show of the year. In the past, the title of most pirated show of the year had been held by HBO’s Game of Thrones for a seven-year streak. Now with two seasons out exclusively on Disney’s streaming service, The Mandalorian has taken its place as the most pirated show of 2020 through the torrenting website BitTorrent.
This ranking is a testament to how popular the show has become. The second season, which premiered in October 2020, boasts a score of 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the show overall has taken social media by storm, leaving a lasting mark on pop culture with the influx of “Baby Yoda” memes in late 2019. While it’s an unfavorable title for the production team, it’s a fair reminder that supporting good shows on their original platforms is the best way to get more shows like it in the future. —Alicia Flood
Iran apprehends South Korean ship
Iranian forces seized a South Korean ship and its 20-person crew as it passed through the Persian Gulf on Monday, escalating tensions between Iran and the West. Iran claimed that the South Korean tanker had violated its environmental protocols by polluting the sea, but it likely seized the ship for a very different reason.
After the United States recently heightened sanctions on Iran, $7 billion in Iranian assets from oil sales was frozen, and remains, in South Korean banks. Alluding to a connection between the funds and the seizure of the ship, Irananian government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said, “If anybody is to be called a hostage taker, it is the South Korean government that has taken our more than $7 billion hostage under a futile pretext.”
Ri Il-su, an official at the shipping company that owns the South Korean tanker, said the accusations of pollution were “absurd.” The vessel is being held at an Iranian port, and South Korea is planning to send a delegation to negotiate its release. —MFS
Alec Baldwin’s wife Hilaria is accused of faking her Hispanic heritage
Alec Baldwin’s wife, social media influencer Hilaria (born Hillary) Baldwin, is under fire for allegedly faking her Spanish heritage. An internet sleuth started the viral uproar by posting the claim on Twitter. The Twitter investigation spiraled from there, with users sharing videos of Hilaria’s different accents, ranging from all-American to recent immigrant. Also widely shared were a video of her telling one interviewer that she moved to the United States at the age of 19 as well as a cooking segment in which she forgets the English word for cucumber, asking the host, “How do you say in English…?”
Hilaria quickly took to Instagram to defend herself against the growing accusations and media coverage, admitting that while she was born in Boston, she spent time vacationing in Spain growing up, and her parents are now retired in Mallorca.
As far as the media’s portrayal of her as a Spanish immigrant, Hilaria alleges not knowing that her online biography stated that she was born in Spain. She also denies knowing that her Google results erroneously stated that her mother is from Spain, telling the New York Times that there are “people misrepresenting” her. —Mariel Lindsay
2020 shutdowns hurt small businesses but made some billionaires richer
As the pandemic continues to decimate the economy, at least one sector financially flourished during the 2020 prolonged shutdowns, with some of the nation’s richest billionaires amassing even greater wealth since the pandemic began in March. Some of those who reaped even greater wealth during the shutdown are household names: Amazon president Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, software developer Bill Gates, and entertainment figures Kanye West and Tyler Perry, all of whose wealth increased.
According to a December report by the Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies, “America’s billionaires hold roughly $4 trillion in wealth—a figure roughly double what the 165 million poorest Americans are collectively worth.” An Institute for Policy Studies’ director further elaborated on this explosion of wealth, explaining that “there are companies whose competition has been shut down, who have benefitted from the sequestering of Main Street enterprises.”
At the same time, American small businesses are going under at an alarming pace. In July, estimates put the number of small businesses that have permanently shuttered at more than 70,000, with that number only going up as the pandemic drags on. Further, during the week before Christmas, alone, almost 800,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Still, the World Bank, which provides loans and grants to the governments of low-and middle-income countries, remains cautiously optimistic for financial improvement in 2021, forecasting a “subdued” economic expansion. —ML
James Bond actress is reported dead the day before her death
Actress Tanya Roberts, best known for her iconic 1980s roles as a Charlie’s Angel and a James Bond love interest, as well as her later role as Donna’s mother on That ‘70s Show, passed away earlier this week. According to her publicist, she collapsed on Christmas Eve and was placed on a ventilator at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where she later died of a urinary tract infection.
In a confusing twist, the 65-year-old A View to Kill star’s publicist actually reported her dead one day too early. Even Roberts’s domestic partner Lance O’Brien believed the actress had died, and was in the middle of an interview with Inside Edition, when he received a call from the hospital informing him that she was, in fact, still alive. Media quickly retracted news of her death, only to report it again the following day when the hospital declared her dead of a UTI that had “spread to her kidney, gallbladder, liver and then blood-stream.”
Despite her untimely death, Roberts will live on in her portrayals of laidback hippie mother, oil heiress Stacey Sutton, and savvy, street-smart detective Julie Rogers. In the words of one of her longtime friends, “She was brilliant and beautiful . . . a light has been taken away.” —ML
Good News of the Week
Young widow who lost her husband to COVID-19 creates a support group for others
A mother of two who lost her otherwise healthy 44-year-old husband to COVID-19 in April started a way to help other spouses like her cope with the tremendous loss during a unique time of pandemic-caused isolation. Pamela Addison created a Facebook Group called “Young Widows and Widowers of Covid-19,” equipping herself and countless others with a support network of people who understand.
NBC News reports, “Having been inspired by a sympathy card she got from another widow, a stranger whose husband died under similar circumstances, Addison, a reading teacher, has set out to provide support for others like them.”
“We’re all in different stages of grief. Some people have just lost their husband, when it feels hopeless, like there isn’t going to be happiness again or joy,” Addison said. “And then there are others. Several of us are in the ‘April group.’ I feel like we can help them,” she said. “Even if they’re not where I am now, I can support them. And that’s healing for me, too.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Watch of the Week
In a video released this week, singer Harry Styles dances in old Hollywood style with Fleabag actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Enjoy!