We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry discuss departure from Royal Family in Oprah interview
On Sunday, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, appeared on CBS to share what led them to leave the British Royal Family in an interview with Oprah. In positive news, the couple shared that they are expecting a baby girl due this summer. In the most-talked-about news, however, the couple accused the Royal Palace of little support welcoming Meghan to the fold, and even of racism. Meghan said there were “several conversations” concerning how dark her son’s skin would be. On CBS This Morning, Oprah clarified that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were not involved in those conversations. Meghan also revealed past mental health concerns including having experienced suicidal thoughts when pregnant with her son Archie; and Harry shared accounts of estrangement with Harry’s father Prince Charles and brother Will.
The broadcast created a whirlwind of reactions including concerns for how the public statements could further division between the couple and Harry’s family. British broadcaster Piers Morgan slammed Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, calling it a “disgraceful betrayal.” He tweeted, “I expect all this vile destructive self-serving nonsense from Meghan Markle—but for Harry to let her take down his family and the Monarchy like this is shameful.” Morgan also questioned Meghan’s mental health statements, leading to pushback from other staff of Good Morning Britain, and, ultimately, his departure from the show.
Meanwhile, some celebrities stateside praised the couple. Beyonce thanked Markle for her “courage and leadership” and Serena Williams noted her “empathy and compassion.” —Melanie Wilcox
Congress passes $1.9 trillion stimulus bill
Another round of economic relief is on the way, as the House of Representatives passed a version of President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan.”
The vote was entirely on party lines, with Republicans objecting to the massive cost. The bill promises married couples with a household income of less than $150,000 a year, $2,800 in benefits. Individuals who make less than $75,000 will get $1,400. And families with children will get an extra $1,400 per child.
The new law also sends billions of dollars to states aimed at helping residents avoid homelessness: the money will cover past due rent, utility bills, mortgage payments, and housing vouchers. A temporary 15 percent increase in food stamp benefits, scheduled to end this summer, will be extended through September instead.
The child tax credit also has received an interesting update: instead of waiting to receive the money when they file taxes, families can have the money sent to them in monthly increments, which could help parents manage their finances more meaningfully than a one-time lump sum. —Margaret Brady
A third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd, is reinstated
Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, has just been charged with third-degree murder, which could make his conviction more likely. Chauvin is already facing charges for second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died last May after Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kneeled on his neck for close to nine minutes. A viral video of the incident sparked racial justice protests across the country. Needless to say, Chauvin’s trial, which began with a jury selection this week, is being heavily scrutinized.
Last fall, a trial judge ruled that third-degree murder didn’t apply in Chauvin’s case. But, this week, he reinstated the charge. Third-degree murder is only a recognized category in a few states, including Minnesota. There, it can apply to a person who doesn’t mean to kill someone else but causes “the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
Because this category is broader, it could make a conviction or Chauvin more likely by lowering the burden of proof. It would, however, result in a lighter sentence with a maximum of 25 years in prison. —Madeline Fry Schultz
While pregnant women wonder whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC releases new data
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry of more than 30,000 pregnant women who took the vaccine as essential workers has found no correlation between the vaccine and problems such as miscarriage or birth defects. With these women’s self-reported data, the CDC examined “outcomes including miscarriage and stillbirth, pregnancy complications, maternal ICU admission, adverse birth complications, neonatal death, infant hospitalizations, and birth defects.”
While neither Moderna nor Pfizer included pregnant women in their clinical trials, the recently released data offers pregnant women more information to make their decisions. Among the 275 who had completed their pregnancies, no adverse correlations were found. There currently remains no large-sample clinical data, however, nor data on possible long-term effects.
In many parts of the country, pregnant women have been included in the latest round of populations offered the COVID vaccine, due to increased risk of contracting the virus and of suffering severe effects. “You're supporting another life, so while you're doing that, your immune response is down and you could become very ill,” one Kentucky doctor, Lyndsey Neese, told a local news outlet. Pregnant women in the second and third trimesters are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID and, if so, they are more likely to die; additionally, their babies face increased risk of preterm birth and possible death.
Seeking to provide more clinical data for women to make informed choices, Pfizer recently announced it is enrolling 4,000 pregnant women in a clinical trial. Meanwhile, the CDC, the Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine maintain that while there have yet to be signs of significant adverse effects of the vaccine on pregnant women and unborn babies, with the limited data available, pregnant women should consult their doctor and make the choice they think is best for them. —MFS
GOP Congressmen go on offensive against Britney Spears’s conservatorship
Popstar Britney Spears is back in the headlines as two Republican congressmen have made moves to support her efforts to break free from her dad’s controversial conservatorship.
Representatives Matthew Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio have written a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, asking for a hearing on the issue of court-ordered conservatorships in general. The letter specifically calls out Britney’s case and the “questionable motives and legal tactics” of her father and conservator, Jamie Spears.
Conservatorships have also recently popped up in the Netflix movie, I Care A Lot, starring Rosamund Pike as a creepy, so-called “predatory guardian” who fleeces senior citizens. Many are unaware of the lucrative industry surrounding court-ordered conservators and guardians, who are often able to exercise an extraordinary amount of discretion over their conservatees’ lives, with relatively little oversight.
Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008, when a mental health crisis landed her in the hospital. Since that time, her father has had control of much of her life, including her finances and relationships. Currently Spears’s goal is to have her father replaced as conservator with a “fiduciary”—someone with the legal obligation to act in Spears’ best interest. The #freeBritney movement, which at first was considered a fringe fan effort, has moved into the mainstream after the New York Times-associated documentary Framing Britney Spears premiered on Hulu. —MB
Police in Myanmar report being ordered to shoot civilians
Police officers who have fled into India from Myanmar have told the BBC that they ran from their home after refusing orders to fire at protestors.
Massive protests have shaken the country in southeast Asia after the military overthrew the elected government on February 1st. The military, or “Tatmadaw” as they are called, had ruled Myanmar for decades before free elections were held in 2015. The winner of that election, Aung San Suu Kyi, had been a democracy activist and icon for decades. Nevertheless, she came under international criticism in 2017 when the country’s Rohingya minority began to be targeted in what the United Nations called a “textbook ethnic cleansing.” The Tatmadaw now has her, and other political figures, under arrest. Access to the internet was shut down across the country as military forces moved in. More than 50 people have died in the crackdown that followed the coup.
Many of the former police officers who spoke to the BBC have left loved ones behind; one showed a journalist a photo of his wife, five-year-old daughter, and six-month old baby. “The military is edgy. They are becoming more and more brutal,” he said. The Tatmadaw has asked India to return the refugees to Myanmar. —MB
Burger King UK receives criticism for sexist language
On International Women’s Day, Burger King UK tweeted, “Women belong in the kitchen.” In a thread responding to the initial tweet, the fast food giant explained how women constitute only about 20 percent of chefs in the fast food industry.
Burger King UK touted its scholarship program for women to “pursue their culinary dreams!” as a way to make up for the lack of female chefs. “We're on a mission to change the gender ratio in the restaurant industry by empowering female employees with the opportunity to pursue a culinary career.”
Later in the day, Burger King deleted their initial tweet due to “abusive comments” found in the thread. They also issued an apology. “We hear you. We got our initial tweet wrong and we’re sorry. Our aim was to draw attention to the fact that only 20 percent of professional chefs in UK kitchens are women and to help change that by awarding culinary scholarships. We will do better next time.” —Melanie Wilcox
Good News of the Week
College drop out donates $20 million to school he couldn’t afford to attend 60 years ago
Calvin Tyler’s hopes of becoming the first in his family to go to college came to a crashing halt back in 1963, because he couldn’t afford the tuition at Morgan State University. Now, thanks to his family’s gift to the historically black school, one hopes more students will be able to make their dreams come true.
Tyler and his wife, Tina, have given a total of $20 million to help support students in need. They established the fund back in 2016 and recently upped their gift in the wake of the economic devastation caused by the pandemic. Already, the fund has helped 222 students, with 46 of them receiving full tuition coverage.
Tyler, who dropped out of Morgan State to take a job as a UPS driver and wound up on the company’s board of directors, has remained keenly aware of how much sacrifice a college education can require. “This is why we are increasing our commitment at Morgan; we want to have more full-tuition scholarships offered to young people so that they can graduate from college and enter the next stage of their life debt-free,” he said in a statement. —MB
Watch of the Week
This video showing what special effects can do to a family video is enough to reignite your childhood imagination.