We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily’s quick takes on the happenings of this week.
A former aide accuses New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been under fire recently for covering up how his administration’s nursing home orders resulted in thousands of deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, disturbing allegations have reprised more troubles for the governor, this time alleging a long history of sexual harassment.
Lindsey Boylan, a former aide who worked with the governor for years, alleged that Cuomo sexually harassed her on multiple occasions, touching her lower back, suggesting they play strip poker, and kissing her on the lips, among other misbehaviors. Boylan initially tweeted about her experience in December, when Cuomo’s name was floated for President Biden’s attorney general pick. She says two women reached out to her with similar experiences. Now, Boylan writes, “Telling my truth isn’t about seeking revenge. . . . But his abusive behavior needs to stop.”
In a Medium post published Wednesday, Boylan detailed her allegations, saying she regretted that she ignored Cuomo’s behavior for so long and that multiple senior-level women in the governor’s orbit helped normalize Cuomo’s behavior. She described a pattern of abuse and enabling much like we’ve heard throughout the #MeToo era, in which vulnerable women were preyed upon by a powerful man (who said men get women through “money and power”).
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for an investigation into Boylan’s claims. If they seem credible, the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences might want to revoke Cuomo’s Emmy award for his “masterful” COVID briefings. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Virginia votes to abolish the death penalty
Virginia legislature voted to abolish the death penalty Monday evening, making it the twenty-third state to do so. According to Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Virginia historically has carried out the most executions of any state in America. The state hopes this new legislation will help it move past its grisly past and reaffirm the value of human life.
Rachel Sutphin, daughter of Corporal Eric Sutphin who was killed in the line of duty in 2006, told Associated Press that the abolition of capital punishment in Virginia should display to people that, “if we can do it, so can other states.” The AP reports, “Virginia’s new Democratic majority, in full control of the General Assembly for a second year, pushed the repeal effort, arguing that the death penalty has been applied disproportionately to people of color, the mentally ill, and the indigent.”
Since the first execution of a Spanish spy in the Jamestown Colony in 1608, 1,390 people have been executed in Virginia. No date has been set for Governor Ralph Northam to sign the order into law, but he has expressed his intentions to do so. —Maggie Sicilia
Tiger Woods is hospitalized after near-fatal car crash
American professional golfer and icon Eldrick “Tiger” Woods has been hospitalized after surviving a catastrophic rollover car wreck outside Los Angeles on Tuesday morning. He was, according to sources, in California for a photoshoot and on his way to meet NBA football star Drew Brees for golfing lessons at a country club.
News media are reporting that Woods is badly hurt, with a shattered leg among other injuries, and that no other persons or vehicles were involved. The Sheriff who arrived on scene just minutes after the crash remarked to NBC’s Today that he didn’t think Woods “was aware of how gravely he was injured at the time. It could be a mixture of adrenaline, it could’ve been shock,” he said. He added that there was not “any evidence of impairment and anything beyond that in terms of the medical toxicology” and that he had to call for the fire department to extricate Woods from the crushed SUV using the jaws of life.
Woods faces a difficult road of recovery, but has already cemented his legacy as one of the greatest golfers of all time, holding numerous records and tied for first in PGA Tour wins. What’s more, he was awarded by President Trump the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, for his “historic career from 1997 to his 2019 Masters win, including his injuries and miraculous comeback.” Fellow pro golfer Justin Thomas told media outlets of Woods’s devastating crash, “I’m sick to my stomach. It hurts to see one of your closest friends get in an accident, and I just hope he’s alright. . . . I just worry for his kids, I’m sure they’re struggling.” —Mariel Lindsay
More COVID-19 vaccines are on the way, and they’re working
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be available soon, which means we’re about to see a lot more vaccinations across the United States. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, this one requires just one dose. This means more people can get vaccinated more quickly. While it’s just 66 percent effective at preventing bad COVID-19 cases, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been 100 percent effective at preventing death.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to offer emergency authorization of the vaccine on Friday. If it’s approved, Johnson & Johnson has promised to provide enough material to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of next month.
This week also brings good news about other COVID-19 vaccines. The first two COVID-19 vaccines to be approved in the United States, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, have been found by researchers to be more than 92 percent effective after just one dose. That means two weeks after you’ve received your first Moderna or Pfizer shot, you’re almost as safe as you are after two shots, when effectiveness rises to about 94 percent for the Pfizer vaccine.
“With such a highly protective first dose, the benefits derived from a scarce supply of vaccine could be maximized by deferring second doses until all priority group members are offered at least one dose,” wrote the researchers in a letter to New England Journal of Medicine editors. This means that, like the impending approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there’s another reason that the number of vaccinations in the U.S. can begin to grow quickly. —MFS
Investigation reveals Edvard Munch inscribed a hidden message in his “Scream” painting
Most of us are familiar with Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” an iconic painting that’s become a meme in the slow-motion catastrophe of the COVID-19 era. A new study has revealed that the artist included a self-deprecating message in the canvas.
The faint words, “Kan kun være malet af en gal Mand!” which translates to, “Can only have been painted by a madman!” can be seen in the far corner of the painting, almost invisible in the midst of vibrant orange and yellow clouds. An art critic first noticed the lightly-penciled graffiti in 1904 when closely examining the painting during an exhibition. For decades, experts speculated it was a case of vandalism. They reasoned that the painting must have been defaced by a member of the public who didn’t care for Munch’s contributions to Expressionism. It was a particularly cruel jab because various people, including at least one medical professional, had opined that Munch’s unique art indicated he was “abnormal.”
But now, a new analysis using infrared lasers has proven conclusively that Munch himself wrote the inscription on “The Scream.” The study, conducted by the National Museum in Norway, reveals that the handwriting on the graffiti matches the style found in the artist’s notes and letters. Those primary source documents also suggest Munch was deeply hurt by the criticism of his painting and speculation about his emotional state, especially because he and several members of his family had struggled with mental health issues. It seems “can only have been painted by a madman!” was the artist’s sarcastic comeback to critics who didn’t recognize greatness. —Margaret Brady
Former U.S. Gymnastics coach dies by suicide after being charged with trafficking
John Geddert, former U.S. Gymnastics coach was suspended from USA Gymnastics in 2018, for his closeness to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar (who is currently serving life in prison for sexually assaulting numerous athletes). On Thursday, Geddert was charged with 20 counts of human trafficking, before being found dead by suicide hours later. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said, “It is alleged that John Geddert used force, fraud and coercion against the young athletes that came to him for gymnastics training, for financial benefit to him.” Some of those athletes suffered from harm including suicide attempts, eating disorders, and abusive levels of physical conditioning in training, training while injured, extreme emotional abuse, and sexual assault, Nessel said.
The Wall Street Journal reports, “The coach—who had also been accused of turning a blind eye to Nassar’s sexual assault of female gymnasts—also faced two sexual assault charges of his own, one of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, as well as charges of leading a criminal enterprise and lying to police during a violent crime investigation.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire actress Mara Wilson speaks out about child stardom
In a New York Times opinion piece, actress Mara Wilson opened up this week about the realities of being a child star. Wilson’s op-ed is largely a reaction, or perhaps a follow-up, to the FX documentary Framing Britney Spears that drew mass attention to Spears’ treatment by the media and public. Titled “The Lies Hollywood Tells About Little Girls,” Wilson’s piece comments on “The Narrative” that “anyone who grew up in the public eye will meet a tragic end.”
Wilson describes the ways in which she felt she was weaponized in the media’s battle against Britney Spears, her innocent image being contrasted to that of Spears’s “bad girl” image, and calls out the role that media outlets have in building young women up “just to destroy them.” She also draws attention to the sexualization she faced, too, as a young girl in the public eye.
Since Framing Britney Spears aired in early February, viewers have flooded social media with cries to hear the truth about other child and teen stars who faced similar treatment from the media, such as Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Murphy, and Demi Lovato. —Maggie Sicilia
Princess Eugenie’s baby officially receives a name
Queen Elizabeth II’s new great-grandson has an adorable and undeniably posh name: August Philip Hawke Brooksbank. The little boy born at 8:55 in the morning on February 9 is the first baby for Princess Eugenie of York and her husband, Jack Brooksbank. He’s also the first grandchild of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York.
The new mom and dad announced their baby’s name on Instagram on Saturday along with three sweet photos of the family taken by the princess’s midwife. The name honors Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert (Augustus was one of his four middle names) and Eugenie’s grandfather Prince Philip. The “Hawke” part of the moniker reportedly comes from the Brooksbank side of the family tree. “Thank you for so many wonderful messages,” the couple captioned their post. “Our hearts are full of love for this little human, our words can’t express.”
August will not receive any royal title, but he is currently eleventh in line to the United Kingdom’s throne. He will fall to twelfth later this year when Meghan, Duchess of Sussex gives birth to her and Prince Harry’s just-announced second child. It’s set to be a banner year for royal babies, as Eugenie’s cousin Zara is also expecting a bundle of joy, her third and the Queen’s eleventh great-grandchild. —MB
Gillian Anderson is cast as Eleanor Roosevelt in Showtime’s ‘The First Lady’
Actress Gillian Anderson is following up her epic, Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Crown with another turn as an iconic female leader. This time, she’ll transform into Eleanor Roosevelt.
Anderson will join Viola Davis (who plays Michelle Obama) and Michelle Pfeiffer (who will bring Betty Ford to life) in the first season of a new anthology series on Showtime. The First Lady will put the women in the White House front and center. We will also see glimpses of the presidential spouses in their pre-White House years, as roles have been announced for “young Michelle Obama” and “young Betty Ford.”
Each of the first ladies has a story that should make for binge-worthy TV. Eleanor Roosevelt is, of course, a controversial icon and the longest-serving first lady, who championed civil rights and served at the fledgling United Nations, even as her philandering spouse mopped up most of the credit. Betty Ford made history with her openness about both her breast cancer diagnosis and her addiction to alcohol and prescription pain medication. And Michelle Obama broke the newest ground of all as the first black first lady and a fashion icon.
The show has just been announced, so there are no details yet about the production schedule or when it will be streamable. Needless to say, if Gillian Anderson’s performance as Thatcher is any guide, her portrayal of Eleanor will be can’t-miss television. —MB
Good News of the Week
Grocery delivery worker Chelsea Timmons was making one last delivery in Austin, Texas before the winter storm set in. When her car got stuck in the snow and ice of her customers’ driveway, and AAA was unable to help due to being inundated with calls, she and her grocery recipients had to improvise. That’s when residents Nina Richardson and Doug Condon invited Chelsea into their home, where, as the weather and power outages ravaged the state, she stayed for five days.
“It’s just what you do when stuff shows up,” Nina told ABC News. “We have daughters, and we hope if they were ever in a situation like this that there would be someone who would open their house and help them,” added Doug.
Meanwhile, Chelsea baked for Nina and Doug and befriended their dog, the Good News Network reports. Chelsea later learned that her apartment had lost heat and water. “I definitely ate a lot better here,” she said. “They made me feel comfortable and made me feel like part of the family.” —MRS
Watch of the Week
In another piece of good news this week, a six-year-old who was born with one arm learns that a GoFundMe campaign has earned enough money to fund her receiving a bionic arm.