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We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.

Norwegian women’s team fights international clothing regulation

On Sunday, the Norwegian beach handball team played a championship match in Bulgaria in which they wore spandex shorts instead of their mandated bikini-cut uniform bottoms. The following day, the team was fined by the European Handball Federation to the hefty tune of 150 euros per player for what the agency deemed “improper clothing” worn against official regulations.

Norwegian Handball Federation President Kåre Geir voiced his support for the team’s actions, telling the New York Times: “Women should have the right to have a uniform they think is suitable for performing in their sport.” The International Handball Federation, meanwhile, quickly issued a statement in which they allege that the conflict is “based on disinformation” with a “newly-elected Beach Handball Commission” already planning to handle the issue this August.

Still, as critics of the Federation point out, this issue of bikini bottoms vs. shorts is not a new one. Norway had asked the EHF for permission beforehand and was told the team would be fined at best and disqualified at worst. What’s more, Norway has actually been petitioning the International Federation since 2006 for the right to wear shorts in place of bikini bottoms, leading one culture writer to wonder if the Federation's resistance to this change “may have something to do with [them] wanting to attract spectators…” —Mariel Lindsay

First Capitol rioter with felony sentence gets eight months in prison

More than 500 people have been charged for breaching the U.S. Capitol on January 6, delaying the certification of the 2020 election results and participating in a deadly riot. Now the first rioter convicted of a felony has been sentenced, receiving eight months in prison, a precedent that may be followed for others who are convicted.

Paul Allard Hodgkins, a 38-year-old crane operator from Florida, argued in a prepared statement that he simply got caught up in the moment. “If I had any idea that the protest… would escalate (the way) it did… I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss, however, said Hodgkins came “prepared,” bringing a rope and protective goggles “to defend his position and engage in whatever needed to be done.” On January 6, Hodgkins entered the U.S. Senate chamber wearing a Trump 2020 shirt and brandishing a Trump flag, protective goggles dangling from his neck. The judge acknowledged that Hodgkins’ role was not as serious as others’, but the Capitol attack was clearly no tourist trip. ​​“That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest,” Moss said. “It was … an assault on democracy,” he continued, adding, “It left a stain that will remain on us … on the country for years to come.” —Madeline Fry Schultz

Study shows most romantic relationships start as friendships

New research out of the University of Victoria shows the Spice Girls were right all along: if you want to be somebody’s lover, you have to get with their friends. Data published recently in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests as many as 2 of every 3 couples started out as friendships.

“Very few studies are really looking at this friends-first relationship initiation, despite our observation that it's the most common form of relationship initiation by far,” CNN quoted Danu Stinson, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychology. Stinson has studied how romantic bonds begin for decades.

The researchers noted that these findings are in contrast to how romantic passion is often portrayed. Unlike in the movies, it’s not usually caused by a sudden spark between two strangers who share a glance in a crowded room, or who smack into each other while rounding a sidewalk corner. Stinson found that the “friend stage” of a relationship lasts an average of 22 months before it turns into a love affair. The “friends first” phenomenon held true regardless of ethnic group or age range.

Next up, Stinson wants to study friendship pairs over several years to see if romantic relationships develop, and if so, if the kissing couples share any characteristics that make them different from those who stay strictly in the friend zone. —Margaret Brady

Canada is reopening its border to Americans on August 9th

Back in March 2020, the border between the United States and Canada froze shut as officials scrambled to control the spread of COVID-19. More than a year later, officials have announced that Americans who are fully vaccinated for at least two weeks will be allowed to cross to the north, starting August 9th.

Travelers will have to take a COVID test ahead of time, but they won’t have to quarantine after arriving. They’ll also have to show proof of vaccination, either in paper or digital format. About 80 percent of Canadians themselves have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

There’s no word yet on when the United States plans to reciprocate the reopening and allow Canadians to visit. Officially, both the northern and southern borders of the United States remain closed to international travel. —MB

Liberty University allegedly used its honor code to silence sexual abuse victims, according to a lawsuit

A lawsuit filed against Liberty University this week describes harrowing details of how the Christian university allegedly mishandled accusations of sexual assault. Twelve women, all of them listed as Jane Does, are bringing claims of misconduct; one of them says that when she was a 15-year-old attending a Liberty University camp, she was sexually assaulted by Jesse Matthew, Jr., who was later convicted of two murders.

Many of the allegations follow a pattern in which women were afraid to report their abuse—or were told their allegations were not credible—because the incidents would have violated Liberty’s honor code, called “the Liberty Way.” For instance, according to WSET, the local ABC News affiliate, “Jane Doe 3 alleges that she told her dorm’s resident assistant that a fellow student raped her after a party. The RA told her she would ‘suffer penalties for drinking under the Liberty Way,’ she recalled.”

Despite what they say is decades of enabled abuse at the school, the victims hope their lawsuit may do some good. “Nothing can fix the countless ways my experience with Liberty has caused physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual damage. This lawsuit gives me and other victims the opportunity to regain a sense of justice,” Jane Doe 2 said. “I feel heard for the first time in 15 years.” —MFS

In Louisiana, state government falls short in bid to keep women’s sports exclusive to biological females

In a 68-to-30 vote, the Louisiana House of Representatives fell short of the required 70 votes to override Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto of the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. Authored by state senator Beth Mizell, the proposed law would have required elementary, secondary, and post-secondary schools to “designate intercollegiate, interscholastic, or intramural athletic teams according to the biological sex of the team members;…provide that teams designated for females are not open to participation by biological males; [and] provide immunity protections for schools from certain adverse actions.”

By a narrow margin, the Republican-controlled state Senate overturned Edwards’ veto before it advanced to Louisiana’s House of Representatives. Edwards called the bill “discriminatory” and a “solution in search of a problem.” He said the NCAA basketball tournament and other athletic championships would likely not occur in Louisiana if the bill became law.

The House’s failure to override Edwards’ veto leaves the status of women’s sports in Louisiana uncertain. —Melanie Wilcox

Britney Spears calls out her family in a new Instagram post

For days, Britney Spears and her sister Jamie Lynn Spears have been feuding, with the drama escalating to new levels on social media. Last month, Britney said in a court hearing she wanted to sue her family who “did nothing” to help her while she struggled under the conservatorship. Britney has been under a strict guardianship-type arrangement since her 2008 mental health crisis.

After the testimony was released, Spears’ sister Jamie Lynn shared on Instagram, “I can assure you that I’ve supported my sister long before there was a hashtag, and I’ll support her long after.”

Days later, Britney shaded her sister and her whole family on Instagram with a post that says in its caption,"How dare you make it public that NOW you CARE—did you put your hand out when I was drowning???" She also wrote, “I don’t like that my sister showed up at an awards show and performed MY SONGS to remixes. My so-called support system hurt me deeply. This conservatorship killed my dreams." —MW

After Britney Spears revelations, a new bill is introduced to prevent forced contraception

As we’ve covered at Verily, the most heartbreaking part of Britney Spears’s testimony against her conservatorship came when she spoke out about her dreams for her family. She said her father has used his powers as conservator to force her to use an IUD as contraception, and that she is not free to have it removed.

Now, a lawmaker has introduced a bill to prevent such abuses from happening in the future. Representative Jason Smith, a Republican of Missouri, is sponsoring the Conservatorships Immoral Relationship with Contraception in the United States Act, or CIRCUS Act for short. The name appears to be a call back to Britney’s 2008 album, “Circus.” She recorded the album shortly after mental health issues resulted in the controversial conservatorship. “All eyes on me in the center of the ring, just like a circus,” she sings.

“By sharing her story, Britney Spears has exposed an injustice that should not have happened. No woman should be forced to have an IUD without her consent. Congress can and should put a stop to this terrible practice,” NBC News reports Smith said in a statement.

The new law, if passed, would deny doctors access to federal health care programs if they require a conservator’s consent before removing an IUD from a patient. It’s stunning that such a law is even required in the twenty-first century when freedom to found a family is recognized as a human right. The negative side effects of IUDs, alone, mean doctors should be willing to remove them promptly whenever a patient asks.

Britney’s plight has sparked bipartisan concern from leaders in Congress, as her situation has shined a light on lucrative predatory guardianships of all kinds. —MB

Hasbro insider claims Critical Race Theory is being taught to children through toy messaging

In an interview with controversial activist group Project Veritas, a Hasbro whistleblower said the toy company is trying to teach children Critical Race Theory through its products.

David Johnson is a former packaging engineer contracting with Hasbro through the IT recruitment firm Harvey Nash. Johnson, who is Black, made the decision to record mandatory race relations training offered at his workplace. During the training, Kate Ishizuka-Stephens, co-founder of an education and policy organization called The Conscious Kid, claimed that by three to six months old, babies are already beginning to express preferences based on race.

"By age three, children are already starting to apply stereotypes, and research shows that they also may use racist language intentionally at this age. White children at this age may report explicit or overt negative attitudes towards people of color," Ishizuka-Stephens said. Slides displayed during the training instructed attendees on how products can either “reinforce” or “disrupt” children’s racial biases.

Johnson said he opposes Critical Race Theory because it contradicts the values of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "CRT teaches people—and at Hasbro they wanted to teach children—to judge people based on race. And that's not something that I feel . . . Martin Luther King would've supported," Johnson said. —MW

Good News of the Week

A woman is rescued from kidnapper after leaving notes in public bathrooms

A woman held captive since May was finally rescued after she left notes in public restrooms explaining that she was being kidnapped, abused, and raped. The first note, found in the public bathroom of a Walmart in Western Pennsylvania, urged the reader to call 911 and included an address as well as a warning that her abductor carried a knife. Authorities did knock on the door of the address provided, but though they could hear noises coming from inside, were obligated to leave the scene because they did not yet have a warrant to enter the home, NBC News reports.

Then, on Saturday, another note surfaced, this time in the public restroom of a museum. In it, the woman states that she “heard the police knocking at the residence… the abuse hasn't stopped… please don't give up." Fortunately, security cameras at the museum provided the evidence needed for the police to obtain a warrant and they quickly descended upon the residence yet again, this time with an entire SWAT team in tow.

The woman was rescued and taken to the hospital, and her alleged captor, a man named Corey Brewer, was arrested. Court documents show that the woman, who remains unidentified to protect her privacy, was once in a relationship with her abductor before taking out a temporary restraining order against him last year. She says he frequently raped and beat her during her captivity, threatening to kill her and her children if she attempted to flee. Brewer is now charged with “making terroristic threats, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, sexual assault, unlawful restraint, strangulation, and simple assault.” —ML

Watch of the Week

Blue Bayou is scheduled to hit theaters on September 17th. It’s the story of a Korean adoptee, raised in the United States, who faces deportation because his adoptive parents failed to obtain citizenship for him—a vexing problem in the real-life adoption community. The trailer features the acting of Justin Chon and Alicia Vikander as husband and wife.