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

Women's March hosts its fifth march

This past week in Washington, the Women’s March organization hosted its fifth march in Washington, DC, focusing on abortion access. NPR reports, “The rally in the national's capital is hosting roughly 5,000 people in and around Freedom Plaza, the group says. Marches are also taking place in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.” The rallies attempted to build momentum after the recent Texas law banning abortion after six weeks gestation. "Abortion is health care, basic health care, essential health care, health care that cannot wait," Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson told the crowd.

Among the marchers were some Hollywood A-listers. Actor Jennifer Lawrence, who is pregnant with her first child, marched holding a sign that reads, “Women can’t be free if they don’t control their bodies.”

Some counter protestors appeared in cities. The pro-life women’s organization New Wave Feminists shared on social media their sign ideas, including: “Demand a world that works for women and our preborn kids”; and “When does a man have to choose his future over his child’s life?” —Mary Rose Somarriba

Gas prices soar to the highest levels in seven years

Fuel costs have been steadily climbing this year, and have now officially reached their highest price point since 2014. The American Automobile Association (AAA) reports that the average price of gasoline nationwide has passed $3.17 per gallon, but some counties in California are encountering prices of five dollars or even higher. Normally, gas prices in the United States drop after Labor Day, so why is this happening?

President Joe Biden has suggested that “profiteers'' and bad actors could be to blame for the price surge. Energy economist Philip Verleger got specific, telling the Associated Press that the price woes are at least partly due to U.S. producers, as well as the oil cartel, OPEC, holding down their production levels and reducing gasoline inventories. Other experts were more skeptical of the president’s conjecture, pointing to a broader mix of problems such as pipeline issues, truck-driver shortages, and supply-chain shortages. —Mariel Lindsay

Emily Ratajkowski says Robin Thicke groped her during “Blurred Lines” shoot

Emily Ratajkowski has a new book coming out on Nov. 9 called My Body. In it, she reveals an incident on the set of the “Blurred Lines” music video in 2013.

Robin Thicke, who wrote and performed the mega hit song, allegedly came up behind Ratajkowski and groped her bare breasts. The model says the director of the shoot, Diane Martel, shouted to her, “Are you okay?” as she felt a wave of humiliation hit her. Thicke allegedly stumbled backwards with a sheepish, “goofy” grin.

“Blurred Lines” has long been denounced for its crude, lurid lyrics, including the refrain “You know you want it,” which critics point out lacks respect. Even Miley Cyrus, who took part in a raunchy performance of the song at that year’s VMA ceremony, has confessed to feeling sexualized and exploited in the aftermath.

Contrary to the song's theme, there are not really any “blurred lines” when it comes to sexual consent: it’s either enthusiastic and obvious, or it’s not there. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that the songwriter himself allegedly crossed a (very sharp) line. As of Thursday, Thicke has not responded to the claims. Meanwhile, Ratajkowski, expressed frustration that an excerpt of her story appeared in the U.K.’s The Sunday Times ahead of her book’s release, apparently without her approval. —Margaret Brady

Dave Chappelle defends J.K. Rowling, says he’s “team TERF”

Comedian Dave Chappelle has always been one to ruffle feathers, and his latest Netflix special is no different. In it, he defended Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who encountered a slew of online hate in 2019 after she criticized aspects of the transgender movement.

Rowling has written that the ascendency of transgender culture could erase women’s identities and, when single-sex spaces are eliminated, put them in danger. In The Closer, Chappelle’s sixth Netflix special out last week, he defended Rowling’s remarks: “I'm team TERF. I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”

After her comments, critics labeled Rowling a “TERF,” a derogatory term meaning “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” Not everyone who has questions about the transgender movement is happy to embrace the label, but Chappelle is.

He also brought up comparisons to cultural appropriation, saying women may feel the same way about transgender women, or biological males, that black people feel about white people wearing blackface. He mentioned Caitlyn Jenner’s winning of Glamour magazine's 2015 Woman of the Year award, saying, “I’d be mad as [expletive] if I was a woman.”

This isn’t the first time Chappelle has come under fire for his comments on the subject. In his previous Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, the comedian poked fun at “the alphabet people,” or the LGBTQ community. Then, as now, he ignored his critics and continued to produce his notoriously subversive comedy. —MFS

Congressional Democrats and Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling

Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed to a short-term debt ceiling increase, allowing the federal government to fund its activities through Dec. 3. According to the deal, the debt, currently at $28.8 trillion, can increase by another $480 billion. The Senate approved the proposal, a compromise between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Thursday evening after a tense private GOP meeting.

The agreement didn’t come about without drama, per usual for Capitol Hill. CNBC reports: “Republicans and Democrats had been at odds for weeks over how to raise or suspend the U.S. borrowing limit by Oct. 18, when the Treasury Department estimates the country will exhaust its emergency measures to pay the nation’s bills.” After the agreement was announced, stock prices spiked.

Before Thursday’s agreement, Republicans had threatened to filibuster Democrat legislation to raise the debt ceiling, pushing Democrats to raise the ceiling through budget reconciliation so Republicans wouldn’t have to vote for the increase. President Joe Biden called the Republicans’ tactic “disgraceful.”

“Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, but they’re threatening to use their power to prevent us from doing our job—saving the economy from a catastrophic event,” he said. Both parties in Congress are back to playing nice—for the moment. Two months from now, however, they’ll have to come together again to address the nation’s ballooning debt. —MFS

Good News of the Week

New pill for COVID-19 could be a game-changer

Pharmaceutical company Merk & Co. has announced initial research results that show an oral medication called molnupiravir cuts the risk of dying from COVID-19 by half.

The pill represents a breakthrough because the other antiviral treatments available, remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies, both have to be given intravenously. Merk’s study looked at nearly 800 patients who all had at least one risk factor for developing severe COVID-19; the pill not only stopped patients from dying, but also kept them from needing hospital care. The research was discontinued early for ethical reasons after it became clear the medicine was a home run.

Molnupiravir works by preventing the COVID-19 virus from replicating inside the body. A five day course of treatment, which Merck has priced at $700, must begin within five days of symptoms starting. The U.S. government has placed an initial order for 1.7 million doses; the hope is this treatment could help ease the strain on healthcare systems struggling to keep up with waves of COVID infections.

Experts were quick to point out that the pill isn’t considered a substitute for getting vaccinated. —MB

Watch of the Week

The volcano on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands near Spain has been erupting, and lava flows have reached the sea. New drone footage shows the awe-inspiring creation of a new shoreline.