We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Sudanese military stages coup amid rumors of civil war
In 2019, Sudan’s brutal Islamist regime under Omar al-Bashir was toppled by military and civilian forces. General Burhan rose from the military ranks to take a leading role in the quickly improvised “transitional government” that, in theory, would gradually create a democratic nation following thirty years of dictatorship. Two years later, however, the war-torn North African country is again experiencing a violent coup, this time as military and civilian forces battle one another for national control.
While civilian demonstrators and military actors combined forces to take down al-Bashir in 2019, large swathes of Sudanese civilians now feel that the military has usurped too much power as part of the military-civilian joint pact to rule Sudan together until elections in 2023. Indeed, civilian demonstrations protesting growing supply shortages and widespread Internet outages had been gaining speed before Monday, when the military staged a coup to oust Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and arrest members of his cabinet.
Interestingly, the takeover takes place just weeks before top general Burhan is scheduled to be replaced as head of council by a civilian member, in accordance with a democratic arrangement following the ousting of Al-Bashir. General Burhan denies that his removal of the Prime Minister and his cabinet was meant as a coup, explaining that “the army acted to save a nation pushed to the brink of civil war by political groups intent on derailing its democratic transition.”
The Western hemisphere, meanwhile, is wholly denouncing Sudan’s forcible removal of its leaders and is vowing to withhold financial aid from the country. Egypt and the Gulf countries, as strong allies to Sudan, are adopting a more diplomatic stance, calling simply for “calm and dialogue.” —Mariel Lindsay
Alec Baldwin accidentally shoots and kills cinematographer on set
A cinematographer was killed and a director wounded when a prop gun held by Alec Baldwin went off on a film set last week. During filming for Rust, Baldwin was practicing drawing his gun when it fired, killing 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins and injuring the film’s director, Joel Souza.
“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother, and deeply admired colleague of ours,” Baldwin tweeted after the incident. “I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”
Reports of carelessness on set have raised concerns about Hollywood gun safety. According to CNN, “Both Souza and [camera operator Reid Russell] acknowledged difficulties on set that day because of a walkout of some members of the camera department over payment and housing.” Reuters reports that according to a new court filing, “A .45-caliber Colt revolver used on the set of the film Rust was not thoroughly checked” before it was given to Baldwin. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Students protest apparent Loudoun County cover-up of sexual assault
Students at several Loudoun County, Virginia, schools staged a walkout this week to protest the county’s handling of a high schooler’s sexual assault, as well as another alleged assault that is pending trial. On Monday, a teen boy was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in the girls’ bathroom of Stone Bridge High School. The case has become a source of national attention as parents raise concerns about school bathroom policies.
The Washington Post reports: “The case generated local and national attention after the parents of the girl assaulted in May said the charged youth was ‘gender fluid,’ prompting renewed backlash against a policy in Loudoun County schools that allows transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. That policy was adopted after the May assault.”
The more problematic issue may be that the school board seems to have tried to cover up the assault, and the boy was allowed to transfer to another school, where he was accused of another attack. Now, parents are calling for resignations.
Carrie Michon, a grandmother to children in Loudoun County, accused the school of covering up the assault to avoid scrutiny of its pro-transgender bathroom policy. “You have buried a sexual assault to protect your precious [gender] policy,” she said, according to Fox News. “Every last one of you, resign!” —MFS
Pope Francis to visit Canada for indigenous reconciliation
The Vatican announced on Wednesday that Pope Francis plans to visit Canada to address the scandal over indigenous residential schools.
The schools came into focus earlier this year after unmarked graves were found at their former sites. Recovered remains indicate that thousands of native children died at the boarding schools where they were poorly cared for and where their indigenous heritage was systematically attacked. Some of the victims were as young as age three.
Although funded and made compulsory by the Canadian government, about 70 percent of the schools were run by Catholic religious organizations. Native groups, and the government’s 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, have called on the Church to formally apologize for its role in the cruel mistreatment of native children.
Nevertheless, Francis has yet to issue an official apology. Expectations will be high that he will do so on his first apostolic trip to Canada. The BBC reports that an indigenous delegation from the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit groups will meet with the pope in Rome in December to give him a face-to-face hearing of their stories of suffering. A date for Francis’s journey to North America has not been set yet.—Margaret Brady
Good News of the Week
Looted cultural artifacts are finally returned to Africa
This week, Cambridge University and a French museum handed over priceless stolen antiquities to their rightful stewards in Nigeria and Benin.
Cambridge’s Jesus College returned a bronze sculpture of a cockerel that was looted by British troops pillaging in present-day Nigeria. A few years after the 1897 theft, the father of a Cambridge student donated it to the school, which has a cockerel in its crest. It’s been there ever since.
Meanwhile, the Quai Branly museum in Paris returned 26 stolen artifacts to the republic of Benin, which borders Nigeria in West Africa. French President Emmanuel Macron presided over the ceremony marking the restoration of the objects. “All young people need to take possession of their country's history in order to better build their future,” he said.
According to Reuters, art experts estimate 90 percent of Africa’s cultural heritage is in Europe, following centuries of colonization. Tens of thousands of looted objects are stored in the collections of the British Museum alone, despite requests from African governments for repatriation of the items. It’s hoped that Cambridge’s gesture will encourage others to follow suit: already, Germany has pledged to start removing stolen artifacts from its museums next year. —MB
Watch of the Week
In a clip posted to his official Instagram account, Dave Chappelle addressed the controversy over his Netflix comedy special, promoted his film about George Floyd, and set ground rules for a dialogue with the transgender community: “I will not be summoned,” he said.