We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Minneapolis reels after a Black man is shot dead by police while the Dereck Chauvin trial proceeds
On Sunday, a white police officer shot and killed a Black man during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb. Twenty-year-old Daunte Wright, who was pulled over for having expired tags, was detained by police after they discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest. Following a scuffle with police, Wright was fatally shot by officer Kim Potter, who claims she meant to tase him. On body cam footage, she can be heard shouting, “Taser! Taser!” before saying, “Oh s---. I just shot him!”
Wright’s mother told reporters that she was on the phone with him when he was pulled over. According to the New York Times: “Ms. Wright said her son had dropped or put down the phone, after which she heard ‘scuffling’ and an officer telling Mr. Wright not to run. Then, she said, someone hung up. When she called back, a woman who had been in the car with him answered and told her that he had been shot.”
Potter, who has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, has since resigned, along with the Brooklyn Center police chief. The shooting prompted riots and looting in the Minneapolis suburb and protests across the country as the trial over the death of another Black man from the Minneapolis area, George Floyd, proceeds about ten miles away from the site of Wright’s killing. Dereck Chauvin, the police officer charged with killing Floyd after kneeling on his neck, has declined to testify at the murder trial, for which closing arguments will begin Monday.
Minneapolis has been reeling from Floyd’s death since May 2020, and Wright’s death makes the tragedy more painful, especially for those who knew them both: According to Wright’s aunt, Floyd’s girlfriend was one of Wright’s former teachers. —Madeline Fry Schultz
President Biden announces the troops in Afghanistan are coming home
President Biden announced this week that the United States plans to withdraw all 2,500 remaining troops from Afghanistan by the anniversary of 9/11 this fall.
"We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," Biden said. “Bin Laden is dead and al-Qaida is degraded in Afghanistan, and it's time to end this forever war.”
A day after the president’s announcement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Afghanistan, telling Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that he meant to “demonstrate with my visit the ongoing commitment of the United States to the Islamic Republic and the people of Afghanistan.” The Associated Press describes the visit as intended “to sell Afghan leaders and a wary public on President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from the country.”
The 20-year-old war in Afghanistan is America’s longest. Since the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, more than 2,300 U.S. troops have died. Last year, the Trump administration made a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops by May 1. While Biden’s withdrawal plan won’t meet the May 1 deadline, it is still a welcome decision for many military families. Others have mixed feelings.
“Nobody wants peace on Earth more than somebody who has buried a soldier,” said Jennie Taylor, whose husband was killed in combat, to a local news site. While she’s happy for the families of troops coming home, she says, “We’ve taken out some really high-ranking leadership in these terrorist groups and guess what? They keep going.” —MFS
Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused in the U.S. over blood clot concerns
This week, American health authorities asked providers to pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as worries surfaced about potentially connected blood clot cases.
The six reported patients who developed blood clots were all women. One woman died, and another is in critical condition. More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered.
The incidents with the Johnson & Johnson shot follow a similar pause that recently occurred in the European Union over the AstraZeneca vaccine. That vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s, uses deactivated adenovirus to help whip up an immune response inside the body. After investigating, EU authorities said blood clots were an “extremely rare” side effect of the AstraZeneca jab.
In the United States, widespread use of hormonal birth control already puts millions of women at higher risk of blood clots. The clots arising from the vaccine are of a different type, however, and can’t be safely treated with anticoagulants.
Vaccinations from Moderna and Pfizer have so far dominated the U.S. market. Their shots use a different, innovative technology called mRNA that teaches the body’s cells to make antibodies. Johnson and Johnson’s shot, which has been plagued by quality control issues, is unique because it provides protection in just one dose. It’s also more convenient to store than Moderna and Pfizer’s versions, which require extremely cold refrigeration. —Mb
Prince Philip, the Queen of England’s husband, dies at 99
Queen Elizabeth II’s husband of more than 70 years died on April 9 at Windsor Castle. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was just a couple months shy of his 100th birthday. He’d recently been hospitalized for heart surgery and an infection.
Philip was already a prince of Greece and Denmark and an 18-year-old, dashing naval officer when he became 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth’s crush. He was serving in the U.K.’s military because his family had been kicked out of revolutionary Greece when he was a child (famously, baby Philip was transported out of the country in an orange crate).
The two married after World War II and became the parents of four children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward.
“My grandfather’s century of life was defined by service—to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and to our family,” Prince William said in a statement. “I feel lucky to have not just had his example to guide me, but his enduring presence well into my own adult life—both through good times and the hardest days.” Funeral plans have been adjusted because of COVID-19, although the prince was understood to not want a big fuss regardless.
Along with his steadfast support of the Queen, Philip was known for frequently putting his foot in his mouth during public appearances. Nevertheless, nobody would confuse the hardworking Prince, who retired at age 95, with a bumbler. May he rest in peace. —Margaret Brady
Iconic-voiced rapper DMX dies at 50
Earl Simmons, otherwise known as DMX (“Dark Man X”), most known for his hit song “Party Up (Up In Here)” died on April 9. The cause of death was noted as “catastrophic cardiac arrest.” The rapper, famous for his rugged voice, was a giant in the genre. “His search for the light out of darkness . . . brought us closer to our own humanity,” his record label, Def Jam Recordings, said in a statement.
DMX grew to multiplatinum status starting in the late 1990s, and performed acting roles in movies as well. The hip-hop superstar struggled with legal battles and drug addiction throughout his life, checking himself into rehab as recently as 2019. “Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end,” his family said in a statement. “He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him.” —MW
Another former Disney star exposes childhood harms of Hollywood
Former Disney child star Alyson Stoner, who first rose to fame as the young dancer in Missy Elliott’s “Work It’ music video, is speaking out against Hollywood’s rampant child abuse in an emotional personal opinion editorial published last week in People magazine. In a piece tellingly entitled “The Toddler to Trainwreck Industrial Complex,” she details some of her own experiences growing up in the limelight, insisting on behalf of herself and “thousands” of other damaged former child stars, “it is our millionth time asking you to listen.”
Stoner’s story begins at the age of six, when she auditioned for a role in which she is asked to pretend that she was being kidnapped and raped. By age 12, she was chronically overworked, pushed to provide the salaries of “family members and multi-vertical teams.” Her body meanwhile, was increasingly “medically undernourished and chronically stressed, which later [evolved] into severe eating disorders, adrenal fatigue,” and other issues. Mentally, she struggled with dissociation from reality “in order to survive what my mind and body are subjected to daily.” By 17, she writes, “the tentacles of the industry [had] suffocated and destroyed my family. . . This whole dynamic can distort and exhaust even the healthiest of humans.”
27-year-old Stoner closes her story by pleading with the industry to implement cultural changes, explaining that Hollywood child abuse is maintained by “censoring the harm happening behind the scenes.” Stoner is far from the first child star to speak up about the harrowing effects of being a child on a Hollywood set, as Matilda star Mara Wilson penned a New York Times essay in February on pitfalls of child stardom, and Britney Spears’s media treatment during early fame has received recent scrutiny. —Mariel Lindsay
Student with gun dies in police-involved shooting at Tennessee high school tormented by violence
On Monday afternoon, police arrived at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, to respond to reports of a "possibly armed" student. The ensuing altercation in a school restroom left one police officer injured and the student, 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr., dead. “As officers entered the restroom, the subject reportedly fired shots, striking an officer," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Monday. But a report since found that it was not Thompson’s gunshot that injured the police officer.
Following the shooting, the high school canceled all classes for two days, but told students that a counselor would be available to meet with them. This is not the first violent event the school has responded to recently: Local news reports that “Austin-East has transitioned to virtual learning because of gun violence twice this school year, both times after students were killed. This is the first time the school has completely shut down this year.” —MFS
Bernie Madoff dies in prison at 82
Bernie Madoff, 82, died at the Federal Medical Center prison in Butner, North Carolina while serving a 150-year sentence for financial fraud. Madoff was the mastermind between a $20 billion Ponzi scheme, which was the largest financial fraud case in history.
While the cause of death was not released, he petitioned the courts in February 2020 for an early release from prison due to terminal kidney failure and a life expectancy of less than a year and a half. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the southern district of New York denied Madoff’s request because his crime was “unprecedented in scope and magnitude.” —Melanie Wilcox
Good News of the Week
Personalized Cancer Vaccines Could Be On the Way
New research was presented this week at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting that gives hope we could soon have safe, effective vaccines for a range of cancers.
Patients in the trial had different types of cancerous diseases, including multiple myeloma, lung cancer, and breast cancer. Researchers performed a genetic analysis of each individual’s tumors and compared them with their healthy cells. Then they created a personalized vaccine to teach each patient’s immune system to take out the microscopically different cancer cells. It’s similar to how some COVID-19 vaccines train the body to attack the virus.
The small trial of 12 patients showed the shots were safe and tolerable, although this level of personalized medicine is definitely pricey. There are already two additional trials underway using this technology, focusing on bladder and brain cancer. The hope is that one day oncology teams will be able to provide an “off the shelf” vaccine that prevents multiple types of cancer from recurring. —MB.
Watch of the Week
This week, we must direct your attention to an exciting Verily exclusive—a stunning acoustic version of “Country Girl” by Rissi Palmer, who broke records when she released this song nearly 15 years ago. (See our article featuring a brief interview with Palmer published today, and share the music!)