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

Awards ceremony reveals celebrated female author is actually three Spanish men

The literary world was rocked this week when Carmen Mola, a reputed woman who writes best selling crime novels, turned out to be a male trio: Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz, and Antonio Mercero.

The shocking moment happened at the Planeta awards in Spain, where “Mola” was slated to receive a prize worth $1 million euros. In front of a crowd that included King Felipe and Queen Letizia, TV screenwriters Martínez, Díaz, and Mercero mounted the dais to collect the award. The author(s) won the prize for The Beast, a thriller set in the 19th century that features a journalist hunting a serial killer, even as a cholera outbreak rages. They had held Mola out to the world as a married college professor, who was raising her family in Madrid and writing violent detective fiction under a nom de plume.

CNN reports that the revelation immediately sparked critical commentary. Beatriz Gimeno, a former leader of Spanish equality organization, the Women’s Institute, tweeted: “Beyond using a female pseudonym, these guys have spent years doing interviews. It's not just the name, it's the fake profile they've used to take in readers and journalists. Scammers.” The Mola books were previously recommended by the Women’s Institute as “feminist reading.”—Margaret Brady

Apple complies with China’s ban on Qur’an, Bible apps

The Chinese Communist Party has successfully demanded the localized removal of various apps, most notably those involving the reading of religious texts. Indeed, while the CCP does formally recognize Islam as a religion, they’ve been heavily criticized for the apparent genocide of Ughur Muslims, who are regularly relocated to labor camps to use as slave labor for manufacturing Chinese goods.

Watchdog website AppleCensorship, which tracks the tech giant’s compliance with government censorship, was first to notice this week that the wildly popular Qur’an-reading app, Quran Majid, used by 40 million faithful worldwide, was suddenly missing from both the App Store and Google Play. Soon thereafter, the American-based developer of the Olive Tree Bible app also reported that their app was removed from Apple’s platform. In their case, the app’s developers make the voluntary decision to remove the app themselves after receiving word from Chinese officials that the Biblical app did not meet vague “permit requirements.”

Also affected by China’s intensified crackdown on freedom of expression is Amazon’s book-reading app Audible. The Audible team announced last week that they would be removing Chinese access to the app due to “tightened permit requirements” by the regime. Around the same time, tech corporation Microsoft announced via a blog post that it would permanently shutdown its LinkedIn networking platform in China by the end of this year, thanks to so-called “compliance requirements” from the increasingly exigent dictatorship.

When reached by the Associated Press for comment, a spokesman for China’s embassy in the U.S. declined to speak specifically on the removal of holy book apps within China but insisted that the CCP has “always encouraged and supported the development of the Internet” as long as it is in compliance with Chinese “laws and regulations.” —Mariel Lindsay

Remains of Gabby Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie found

Just a week after the cause of Gabby Petito’s death was ruled to be homicide by strangulation, the remains of her fiancé, and person of interest in the case, Brian Laundrie, have been discovered.

Petito, a 22-year-old aspiring travel influencer, went missing in September after traveling through Grand Teton National Park with Laundrie. The case sparked national interest and a search for her fleeing 23-year-old fiancé, which has now ended.

The FBI discovered the remains, as well as a backpack and notebook of Laundrie’s, in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, near where Laundrie told his family he’d be hiking after Petito’s death and before his disappearance. Authorities say the spot where the remains were discovered was covered by water until recently.

CNN reports that a “source close to the investigation told CNN that the suspected human remains ‘appear to have been there a while.’” On Thursday evening, the FBI announced that dental records confirmed Laundrie’s death. —Madeline Fry Schultz

Margaret Atwood wonders why we can’t “say ‘woman’ anymore”

Margaret Atwood has joined J.K. Rowling in the hall of Problematic Female Authors. The Handmaid’s Tale writer caught flak this week for tweeting a Toronto Star article with the headline, “Why can’t we say ‘woman’ anymore?”

“‘Woman’ is in danger of becoming a dirty word … struck from the lexicon of officialdom, eradicated from medical vocabulary and expunged from conversation,” argues the article’s author, Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno. She references instances in which the word “woman” has been swapped for clunky and dehumanizing phrases such as “person with a vagina,” “person who menstruates,” or “person with a cervix.”

Activists outraged at Atwood’s endorsement of the article were quick to attack her and label the author of the article a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). One writer at USA Today lamented that any of Atwood’s two million Twitter followers could have been exposed to the “transphobic article,” which explicitly noted that it wasn’t “an argument against gender self-identification.” Instead, DiManno wrote, “It’s more about an infelicitous evolution of language, which is fundamentally about communicating clearly.”

Atwood’s stance wasn’t without its supporters, though. One writer noted that Atwood has expressed “solidarity” with the “trans and non-binary community” in the past, but realizing the implications of gender-neutral language is “better late than never.” TERFs, she writes, “are simply women who have been paying closer attention than the author of The Handmaid’s Tale to the implications of an ideology that redefines female humans as ‘birthing people’, ‘chestfeeders’, ... or even simply ‘non-men.’ In other words, an ideology that reduces female humans to a cluster of biological traits, in the name of ‘inclusion.’” —MFS

Netflix workers walk out due to Dave Chappelle comedy special

Dave Chappelle’s controversial Netflix special The Closer, in which he came out as “Team TERF” and said he believes “gender is a fact,” has continued to make headlines since its release in early October. In the special, the comedian compares the concept of a biological man claiming to be a woman to a white person wearing blackface. 

Claiming the special does harm to transgender rights, a group of Netflix employees walked off the job on Wednesday, calling for reforms in the company although not for the show’s removal from the platform.

Chief executive Ted Sarandos, who has continued to defend the special citing its popularity and the company’s dedication to “artistic freedom,” commented in an interview on Tuesday that he “screwed up” and “should have led with a lot more humanity” in his internal communications on the matter. —Mary Rose Somarriba

Good News of the Week

Ralph Lauren helps discover a more eco-friendly way to dye fabric—and the brand is sharing the formula with competitors

The chemical company Dow and Ralph Lauren Corporation have teamed up to invent a new way to dye cotton with less impact on the planet. Then they went a step further and released a step-by-step, open-source manual for other companies to use, too.

Dyeing fabric is resource-intensive and is responsible for about 20 percent of the world’s waste water. The new process, which uses a Dow product called ECOFAST Pure, reportedly reduces chemicals by 90 percent, and cuts water usage by half, among other benefits.

“If we want to protect our planet for the next generation, we have to create scalable solutions that have never been considered before. This requires deep and sometimes unexpected collaboration and a willingness to break down the barriers of exclusivity,” says Halide Alagöz, Ralph Lauren’s Chief Product & Sustainability Officer.

The companies say the eco-friendly gains come without any trade-offs in color quality or performance. —MB

Watch of the Week

Get your weekly affirmations in, with a side of cuteness! This toddler’s family says she was inspired by plus-size model Ashley Graham to create an adorably sincere pep talk. Graham returned the compliment by dueting the video on TikTok, proclaiming, “This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!!!”