We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Gavin Newsom keeps his job as leader of California
Gov. Gavin Newsom, the 40th governor of America’s most populous state, survived an attempted recall in a landslide vote of confidence from California’s electorate.
He escaped following in the infamous footsteps of former governor Gray Davis, who was removed from office in 2003.
The Associated Press called the race in favor of Newsom with returns showing that 67% voted “no” and 33% voted “yes.” Voters who opposed the recall cared most about COVID-19, exit polls show.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines,” Newsom said at Democratic headquarters in Sacramento after his victory. “We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. … We said yes to diversity. We said yes to inclusion.”
The movement to recall Newsom gained steam after the governor made an ill-advised trip to the luxury restaurant, The French Laundry, in November 2020, even as COVID-19 raged and shortly after he urged ordinary Californians to stay home.
Larry Elder, conservative talk radio host and columnist, got the most votes among 46 candidates to replace Newsom. He won 46.9% of those votes, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office. Actress Rose McGowan even stumped for Elder on Monday, claiming that Newsom’s wife tried to bribe her to suppress allegations against Harvey Weinstein in 2017. —Melanie Wilcox
Norm Macdonald of Saturday Night Live dies at 61
Norm Macdonald, the Saturday Night Live anchor of “Weekend Update” from 1994 to 1998, died from cancer at age 61 in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Macdonald had a deadpan comedic style which he showed off on his standup tours, beginning in his hometown of Quebec City, Canada, and then later in the United States. By 1990, he was performing his routine on Late Night With David Letterman and other shows. In 1993, he interviewed with a fellow Canadian, Lorne Michaels, for a position on SNL.
“I knew that even though we hailed from the same nation, we were worlds apart,” Macdonald wrote in Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir, a fictional work with occasional hints of biography mixed in. “He was a cosmopolite from Toronto, worldly, the kinda guy who’d be comfortable around the Queen of England herself. Me, I was a hick, born to the barren, rocky soil of the Ottawa Valley, where the richest man in town was the barber.”
In 1998, Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC Entertainment on the West Coast, reportedly booted Macdonald because he was annoyed by him making fun of Ohlmeyer’s friend, O.J. Simpson. “Well, it is finally official. Murder is legal in the state of California,” the comedian proclaimed after Simpson’s acquittal.
Later, Macdonald starred in Norm, a show about a former hockey player that ran for a few years on ABC. He then headlined in Sports Show With Norm Macdonald on Comedy Central.
In 2011, Conan O’Brien said, “When Norm steps out from behind the curtain, I honestly don’t know what is going to happen, and that electrical charge comes through the television.” We will miss his talent. May he rest in peace.—MW
Company documents show Facebook knows that Instagram is harmful for teenage girls
A Wall Street Journal investigation has uncovered internal documents at Facebook that show the company knows its Instagram app is damaging to young women.
In-house studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the photo-sharing app is directly tied to suicidal feelings in teen girls, cited as a cause by the girls themselves. Almost a third of girls who struggled with body image said Instagram made them feel worse. Notably, a significant number of boys, about 14 percent, also reported being harmed. Researchers particularly called out the app’s Explore feature, which can lure users into damaging content, and they described the way Instagram operates as “a perfect storm” for potential trouble. The research has been reviewed by executives at the highest level of the firm.
The Journal says that in public, Facebook downplays the risk to youth. Young people on Instagram are a critical marketing demographic for the company, as its flagship Facebook app has an aging user base. More than 40 percent of Instagram users are under age 22, and company leaders are planning to double down on the youth strategy. They’re currently designing a version of Instagram for children under 13.
The Journal’s reporting immediately sparked outrage from officials. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass, called on Facebook to immediately stop working on the app for kids. “Facebook’s internal documents show that the company’s failure to protect children on Instagram – especially young girls – is outright neglect, and it’s been going on for years… Facebook has no business developing additional social media platforms explicitly designed for our children when they can’t be trusted to keep their current house in order.” —Margaret Brady
Despite the pandemic, celebs and social media stars convene at the Met Gala
Come rain or shine — or delta variant— the Met Gala has nearly always taken place annually to raise funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute and give celebrities an opportunity to make headlines with their terrific (or terrible) fashion. Although last year’s party was canceled due to the pandemic, the event was back this week and the same as ever, for everyone except the help, who still had to wear masks.
This year’s theme was In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. The best-dressed attendees included Timothee Chalamet (Chucks are always in style), Yara Shahidi (swooning over this gorgeous dress and homage to a civil rights activist), and a Marilyn Monroe-looking Billie Eilish.
Some of the worst dressed celebs were Kim Petras, Dan Levy (great in Schitt’s Creek, not so much in this outfit), and Kim Kardashian (who has already become a meme). Cara Delevingne, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney chose to get political with their fashion, which caused the usual influx of controversy and support.
What was different about this year, though, was that many of the $30,000-plus tickets were not just for athletes and Hollywood celebrities. Those who claimed a coveted spot at the gala included young people that many of us over age 35 wouldn’t recognize: people like Addison Rae, Emma Chamberlain, and Dixie D’Amelio. They may not be traditional celebrities, but they are social media influencers, YouTubers, and TikTok stars with tens of millions of followers.
Some commentators weren’t so happy about the social media stars attending the swanky event, but others saw them as challengers to the “elitist” culture of the gala. —MFS
Simone Biles testifies that the FBI turned “a blind eye” to Larry Nassar’s abuse
On Wednesday, several Olympic gymnasts testified against former team doctor Larry Nassar, explaining how he sexually abused them and hundreds of others — all while the FBI dragged its feet on investigating the claims.
“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” said Simone Biles, who has been vocal about her mental health struggles even while she has become one of the most decorated U.S. gymnasts of all time.
Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in prison in 2017, but the congressional hearing this week focused on the FBI’s role in turning “a blind eye” to Nassar’s abuse, as Biles puts it.
Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman, gymnasts who were abused by Nassar and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, said the FBI was aware of allegations against Nassar in 2015 — but the women knew of girls who were molested by him after that point.
According to the Associated Press, “An internal investigation by the Justice Department released in July said the FBI made fundamental errors in the probe and did not treat the case with the ‘utmost seriousness’ after USA Gymnastics first reported the allegations to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis in 2015. The FBI has acknowledged its own conduct was inexcusable.”
Biles spoke of a system that enabled the abuse, from the FBI to USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. And despite her powerful testimony, it wasn’t easy for her to speak out; Biles said she “can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you.”
“Being here today is taking everything I have,” Raisman echoed. “My main concern is I hope I have the energy to just walk out of here. I don’t think people realize how much it affects us.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who has led the bureau since 2017, said he plans to “make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here” and to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. —MFS
Good News of the Week
Afghan women around the world protest with beautiful traditional clothes
Women of Afghan descent are challenging the Taliban’s recent dictates about female clothing by posting photos of themselves in colorful, authentically traditional attire.
The trend began after photos emerged of Afghan women sitting in university classrooms, now clad in scary, head-to-toe black veils that completely obscured their faces. “No woman has ever dressed like this in the history of Afghanistan. This is utterly foreign and alien to Afghan culture. I posted my pic in the traditional Afghan dress to inform, educate, and dispel the misinformation that is being propagated by [the] Taliban,” said Bahar Jalali, whom CNN identified as a former faculty member of the American University of Afghanistan. Peymana Assad, a U.K. politician who hails from Afghanistan, tweeted: "Our cultural attire is not the dementor outfits the Taliban have women wearing.” And a BBC journalist shared her photo, saying, “this is our traditional dress. we love lots of colour. even our rice is colourful and so is our flag.”
The true traditional outfits are gorgeous, feminine and modest. The situation in Afghanistan is a tragedy for women and for all who appreciate the country’s rich heritage, but women were able to seize this moment to create a welcome disruption to the Taliban’s phony, bleak cultural narrative. That shows a resourcefulness and creativity that will be needed more than ever in the hard times ahead. —MB
Watch of the Week
The trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming remake of West Side Story dropped this week. Due in theaters in December, it looks like Oscar bait! Try not to get “Tonight” stuck in your head after watching.