We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Thousands in Cuba protest Communist government
In Cuba’s largest anti-government protests since 1994’s Maleconazo, oppressed citizens took to the streets this past weekend to protest food and medicine shortages and electricity outages, after more than 60 years of suffering under the island nation’s Communist dictatorship. Crying out for “Libertad,” the peaceful protesters were met with police brutality after President Miguel Diaz-Canel urged security forces and “revolucionarios” (government supporters) to “fight.”
Clandestine Cuban rights groups have been circumventing internet restrictions on the islands to report on missing or detained persons. They have also reported that police and government officers are showing up at the homes of vocal journalists and activists to order them into lockdown. Still, the protests are largely ongoing despite the regime’s attempt to suppress dissent and so-called misinformation via a social media blackout, in which Cuban authorities blocked multiple chat platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Telegram.
“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime,” President Biden told reporters Monday. “We call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba.” Thousands of demonstrators in Tampa, Florida and other U.S.cities are showing their support for the islanders by engaging in peaceful protests.
John Suarez of the Center for a Free Cuba, told USA Today, “What's causing the troubles in Cuba is the internal blockade that the regime has placed on Cubans. That's why the Cubans are protesting the regime. They’re not out front of the U.S. Embassy protesting the U.S. embargo, they're protesting the government because they know who's responsible for what they're suffering. It's not an accident.”
Ted Henken, a Latin America scholar at Baruch College, City University of New York, told the Associated Press that freedom protests now involve “a massive swath of the population all throughout the country. The genie is out of the bottle.” —Mariel Lindsay
Haiti’s president is assassinated—allegedly, by Americans
Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti, has died in a violent assault, and the accused include American citizens and Colombians trained by the U.S. military.
The investigation is fluid, but authorities so far are fingering Dr. Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian American pastor who also helps run medical clinics, as the potential mastermind of the group attack on the presidential palace that killed Moise and wounded his wife. James Solages and Joseph Vincent, both naturalized Americans, are also among those in custody, CNN reports.
The Drug Enforcement Agency has acknowledged that at least one of the men accused of involvement in the murder was a confidential informant. After the assassination, the man reached out to his DEA handlers, who instructed him to surrender to authorities, the agency said in a statement. Reportedly, as the group of armed men forced their way into the presidential palace, one of them shouted “DEA!”
The Pentagon also announced that some of the Colombian suspects previously received training from the U.S. military during their service as Colombian soldiers. The Washington Post reports that it is common for Latin American troops to receive resources from the United States to help bolster drug enforcement and that many of the trainees go on to lucrative careers as mercenaries.
“This [incident] illustrates that while we want our training of foreign armies to build professionalism and respect for human rights, the training is only as good as the institution itself,” the Post quoted Senator Patrick Leahy. —Margaret Brady
In Brazil, COVID-19 particularly harms pregnant women
Deaths of pregnant and postpartum mothers in Brazil have more than doubled from 2020 to 2021. The country’s healthcare system is struggling to provide proper treatment for expectant mothers who contract COVID-19, making maternal coronavirus deaths more likely. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1,600 pregnant or postpartum mothers have died from COVID-19. The mortality rate was 7.4 percent in 2020; this year, it’s 16.7 percent.
“In every 100 pregnant women diagnosed with Covid, 12 die,” Dr. Lílian Cristina Moreira, a Brazilian pediatrician, says. “It’s very high. Whereas in the population, the fatality rate is 2.8 percent.”
Even in healthcare systems more prepared to treat at-risk mothers, COVID-19 makes any pregnancy much more dangerous. As the Financial Times explains, “Pregnancy suppresses a woman’s immune system, leaving her more vulnerable to infectious diseases, while pressure on abdominal organs and the diaphragm can restrict breathing. Together with greater inflammation, the body is under stress.”
One recently published study that looked at data from 18 countries found that compared to pregnant women without COVID-19, pregnant mothers who had the virus had a “substantially increased risk of severe pregnancy complications,” and their risk of death was 22 times higher.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate that the COVID-19 vaccines appear to be low-risk for pregnant women, noting that it’s a decision up to each woman and her doctor; in addition, some studies have found that vaccinated mothers pass on their antibodies to their newborns. —MFS
Wildfires and water shortages threaten the Pacific West
The Pacific West is once again under siege by sprawling wildfires, after already experiencing historic fires the past three summers. Caused by record-breaking heat and drought, and exacerbated by a woodland floor overwhelmed by overly dry, flammable underbrush, the fires are spreading across large swathes of the Western United States, particularly in Washington, Oregon, and California, where water reservoirs are reported to be dangerously low due to the accompanying drought. In response to this impending water shortage, California Governor Gavin Newsom is calling for people across the state to limit their water usage, suggesting residents and businesses alike alter their daily routines by taking shorter showers, running dishwashers only when they are full, and reducing the frequency of watering lawns.
What’s more, the governor has just recently begun a long-term, multimillion-dollar project to combat the annual wildfires by “thin[ning] out the state's 33 million acres of forests with controlled burns and raking the woodland floor.” According to Bloomberg, environmental critics of the plan say that the project will be a “forever war” against constantly accumulating tinder. In the words of a wildfire planning manager at California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection: “As soon as you cut it down, it starts to regrow.” —ML
The Crown and The Mandalorian each snag 24 Emmy nominations
This year’s Emmy Award nominations have been announced, and the two shows that collected the most nods need no introduction: The Crown and The Mandalorian provided vital streaming entertainment for pandemic-weary audiences.
Josh O’Connor, Emma Corrin, Olivia Colman, and Gillian Anderson are up for acting awards for their roles as Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II, and Margaret Thatcher, respectively. The Star Wars-linked Mandalorian, meanwhile, is nominated for writing, directing, costume design and cinematography, among other categories. Crown and Mandalorian tied with 24 nominations apiece, but the royals will be popping up in one extra category: Oprah Winfrey’s bombshell interview with Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex is nominated for best nonfiction special.
Nominated series like WandaVision, Bridgerton, The Queen’s Gambit, and Ted Lasso, provide fresh evidence of how streaming services have changed the TV game: NBC’s This Is Us and ABC’s Black-ish are the only two shows on traditional broadcast TV to be recognized. The Emmys are also more diverse this year than ever before: a record number of non-white actors and actresses are up for possible statuettes.
And yes, Emily in Paris is nominated for two Emmys. The infamous Netflix series, which left some French people sputtering with outrage and which we at Verily found to be an uneven take on women’s empowerment, is in the mix for best comedy and production design. Emily even has a good chance at winning, because the show already snagged Golden Globes for best comedy and best actress in a comedy. As they say in Paris, bonne chance. —MB
Halle Bailey shares a glimpse of live-action Little Mermaid at filming’s completion
The upcoming live-action reimagining of The Little Mermaid starring R&B singer Halle Bailey has completed filming. Bailey, 21, took to Instagram at the conclusion of filming to thank her co-stars and reflect on her experience—and share the film’s first real behind-the-scenes sneak peek. With a photo featuring Bailey in fins and a dreamy sunset, the starlet writes:
i feel so grateful to have experienced this film in all of its glory..it has been the toughest experience being away from everything and everyone i’ve ever known, to feeling self doubt/ loneliness, but also feeling such freedom and perseverance as i’ve reached the end. this experience has made me so much stronger than i ever thought i could be.
She goes on to thank her fellow castmates, including Melissa McCarthy, who plays Ursula, Awkwafina, playing Scuttle, Daveed Digs playing Sebastian, and Javier Bardem, who plays King Triton. Bailey also expresses her wishes “for time to speed up so [we] all can watch this film because it was made with so much love.”
The film is in post-production and, due to COVID delays, does not currently have a public release date. —Maggie Sicilia
Black Widow sets box office record with $80 million in theatres, $60 million on Disney+
After simultaneously hitting brick-and-mortar theatres and the Disney+ streaming service, the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe grossed over $218 million in its first weekend.
Starring Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh, Black Widow set a new record for the pandemic-era film industry, topping Fast and Furious 9’s first-weekend in-theatre gross earnings by more than $10 million.
While the superhero flick’s opening is a big win for Disney, it also proved fruitful for movie theaters themselves as they begin to recover from closures and capacity restrictions that have threatened their industry during the pandemic. Even with the option to stream the latest MCU saga on Disney+ for an additional $30, audiences still flocked to the big screen.
With other titles such as A Quiet Place II, Boss Baby: Family Business, and Cruella accompanying Black Widow and F9 in theatres, this weekend marks the first time domestic box office receipts have passed $100 million since the onset of the pandemic. —MS
Italy wins Euro Cup in penalty shoot-out
Italy bested England in the final Euro 2020 soccer tournament Sunday in London. After England’s final shot was blocked, Italy won the shootout 3-2. Prior, English goalie Jordan Pickford blocked the shot by Italian player Jorge Luiz Frello Filho, also known as Jorginho, which sent England’s crowd into a frenzy. Italy was already ahead 3-2.
More than 60,000 fans watched the game at Wembley Stadium. Even though London’s Luke Shaw scored only two minutes into the game, which is the earliest goal in a European Championship final, Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci tied things up just before halftime.
Prince William, his wife, Kate, and their son, Prince George, attended the game, which was the first soccer final played by England’s men’s team since 1996. —Melanie Wilcox
Virgin Galactic makes inaugural flight; Elon Musk reserves spot on future flight
Elon Musk, SpaceX Founder and CEO, paid $10,000 to book a ride to space with Virgin Galactic, according to media reports. The most recently stated full ticket price is now $250,000.
Billionaire and founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson flew to suborbital space on Sunday on the first fully crewed spaceflight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane. It was the fourth spaceflight for the six-passenger, two-pilot Unity, which will start full commercial operations in 2022. “Elon's a friend, and maybe I'll travel on one of his ships one day," the 70-year-old Branson told The Sunday Times.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon goes to Earth orbit, and the company’s Starship system will go to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Next week, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos will ride on the first crewed spaceflight of his company’s New Shepard vehicle scheduled for July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Bezos’ brother, Mark, aviator Wally Funk, and an unknown auction winner who paid $28 million will join them. —MW
Chip and Joanna Gaines say they’ll never consider divorce
In a world of seemingly constant celebrity break-ups — Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez ending their engagement, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West ending their marriage, even Bill and Melinda Gates divorcing and putting their joint charitable work in peril—it’s good to hear that some famous couples are in it for the long-haul.
In an interview with Access Hollywood after their 18th wedding anniversary, Chip and Joanna Gaines say “divorce or leaving one another is not really an option for us.” The Fixer Upper stars (and Magnolia brand magnates) say they’re in it ‘til death. “One thing that I would say is our superpower is that Jo and I are not quitters,” Chip said. “Throwing in the towel is not something honestly that ever even comes to mind.”
The couple, who are both in their forties, have five children together. And despite their commitment to their marriage, they admit it hasn’t always been easy over the years. “Somehow that little foundation has definitely served us well because things have definitely been challenging—we’re not perfect and we have issues and trials and errors just like anybody,” Chip said. “But I would say it’s funny when you say ‘throwing in the towel,’ in fairness, I would admit if we had considered it along the way.”
Instead, Chip said, “Jo and I show up every day and sometimes it’s right and sometimes it’s not, but we keep putting one foot in front of the other.” —MFS
Good News of the Week
Co-workers donate kidneys to each others’ husbands
A chance chat in the ladies’ room led to the life-saving gift of organ donation for two families in Georgia.
Tia Wimbush and Susan Ellis worked together for a decade at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Both had spouses who were receiving dialysis, a grueling treatment to keep patients with end-stage kidney disease alive. And both their husbands were on the transplant list, which has an average wait of five years.
It wasn’t until a random encounter at the workplace bathroom sink that the women realized the families could potentially make an exchange. After testing proved they were compatible, Susan donated her kidney to Tia’s husband, Rodney, and Tia donated her kidney to Susan’s husband, Lance, who has a rare blood type.
"It's beyond friendship. They really are family," Tia told CNN. "We all took a leap of faith in doing this and now we are forever connected, always rooting each other on in both the recovery process and in this second chance of life." —MB
Watch of the Week
Chanel’s Fall 2021 haute couture collection has made its debut in a gorgeous video filmed at the Palais Galliera in Paris. The clothes, designed by Virginie Viard, are feminine, vintage-inflected, and out to prove COVID can’t kill fashion. Chanel’s shows always end showcasing a stunning bridal gown, and this time it’s a smiling Margaret Qualley who throws her bouquet to socially distanced attendees amid a shower of flower petals.