We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Innovative blood test can detect more than 50 kinds of cancer
Researchers from a biomedical company in California say a new blood test, called Galleri, can detect malignant cells from a variety of stealthy, aggressive cancers, including pancreatic and ovarian tumors.
A study that included more than 6,000 patients at the Mayo Clinic found 29 cases of cancer, just by analyzing two tubes of blood. The test helps lab scientists identify the tiny particles of DNA that cancer cells shed into the bloodstream; doctors can use that information to determine where in the body the cancer “signal” is being sent from. CBS News reports that another study found that Galleri had a very low false positive rate.
The FDA has yet to approve the product, so insurance doesn’t cover it. The price tag currently comes in just under $1,000. Researcher Dr. Julia Feygin told CBS that it’s intended to be used by people with an elevated cancer risk profile, whether that’s defined by family history or simply being over age 60. Results only take ten days.
Galleri immediately calls to mind Theranos, the ill-fated brainchild of alleged fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, who also claimed to use simple blood tests for medical marvels. The difference in this case is that Galleri appears to have compelling data to support its assertions. The new test is slated to be available at Mayo Clinic locations across the country by the end of the year. —Margaret Brady
Roku takes a stand against porn and Big Tech
Roku, one of the leading streaming device companies providing access to online content, is finally shutting down its internal loophole that allowed adult content platforms to distribute pornography. As of March 2022, the tech company will no longer allow private channels to operate on its devices, due to the fact that pornographers have exploited them as a means to provide hardcore content to users via direct links and hidden codes.
Roku’s decision to distance itself from the porn industry is being widely applauded by those working to spread awareness of sex trafficking and abuse, including the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which has long advocated for streaming companies like Roku to shut down access to explicit content that “depicts teen, incest, slavery, and incredibly violent themes.”
At the same time that Roku is removing graphic adult content from its platform, it is also fighting Big Tech giant YouTube and YouTube’s parent company, Google, which Roku claims is “using its dominant market power to force unfavorable terms,” by demanding to receive prioritized treatment in Roku's search engine as well as special access to search data. While Google has publicly called these accusations “baseless,” an email between YouTube and Roku, viewed by CNBC, supports the allegations.
By essentially banning hardcore pornography from its platform and standing up to tech mammoth Google, Roku is making waves for sticking to its principles and resisting pressure to appease powerful tech companies. —Mariel Lindsay
Virginia elects Republican governor and first female lieutenant governor
On Tuesday, Virginians elected Glenn Younkin, a 54-year-old businessman and Republican, as their next governor. Youngkin beat out Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who was the state’s governor from 2014 to 2018. Younkin is the first Republican to win statewide office in 12 years in the increasingly blue state.
The election may be a bad sign for Democrats facing the 2022 midterm elections; Virginians voted solidly for President Biden in 2020, but as the president’s popularity slips, so is voters’ patience for some of his Democratic allies. Biden, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris and former president Barack Obama, campaigned for McAuliffe to no avail.
The election also appeared to be a battle over the futures of the state’s schoolchildren, with parents concerned over Virginia schools' transgender policies, coverage of critical race theory, and potential school closures after politicians shut down state schools for 18 months during the pandemic. Younkin promised not to impose further lockdowns, while McAuliffe announced in a September debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Republicans secured another Virginia victory with the historic election of Winsome Sears as the state’s next lieutenant governor. Sears is the first woman to hold the position and the first Black woman to win a statewide election in Virginia. Born in Jamaica, she is also the first naturalized citizen to become Virginia’s lieutenant governor. “I’m telling you that what you are looking at is the American dream,” she said during her acceptance speech. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Young women speak out against Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy
According to a Business Insider report published this week, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy has a history of soliciting young women for sex via social media direct messages, and then subjecting them to violence during sex.
One woman says Portnoy bought her a first-class plane ticket to visit him after the two flirted over Snapchat and text. A 20-year-old college student at the time, the woman called the trip a “traumatic experience.” Portnoy, then-43-year-old multimillionaire and founder of the popular Barstool digital media company, “pulled out his phone and started filming her—without asking permission—as she performed oral sex on him,” according to the report.
“I never said anything,” the woman recalled. “I was scared. He was just so mean.”
The article notes that “Insider spoke with more than two dozen people with direct experience with Portnoy and Barstool, including eight current or former employees. Some women as young as 19, who had no professional connection to Portnoy, recounted having sexually explicit online exchanges with him. Three of these women said they had sex with Portnoy, now 44, and that the encounters turned into frightening and humiliating experiences that have taken a toll on their mental health.”
Two of the women reported that Portnoy choked them and began to film them without permission. Whether or not the allegations are criminal in nature, they certainly paint a harrowing picture of what one young woman called “a man in power knowing he could take advantage of a younger girl.” —MFS
Kate Beckinsdale reacts to hypothesis on ex Pete Davidson’s appeal
Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson is in headlines for his dating choices again . . . and this time the woman he's enjoyed a couple dates with is none other than Kim Kardashian. Davidson was previously engaged to singer Ariana Grande and also appeared to date actress and model Kate Beckinsdale, causing much internet chatter as to how the quirky comedian gains the attention of such notable women.
This week Beckinsdale hinted at the reason by liking an Instagram post supporting the theory that her ex-boyfriend has a nice personality.
An Instagram account shared a tweet from writer Kristen Mulrooney on November 1 stating, “I love how every time Pete Davidson starts dating another beautiful celebrity everyone's like 'wtf is happening how did he do this what is this mystery???' and everybody refuses to entertain the possibility that he might have a nice personality.” The comment comes less than a week after SNL teased another cast member Colin Jost for his marriage to actress Scarlett Johannson, with host Jason Sudekis, dressed as the devil, jesting that Jost made a deal with him for Johannson's hand. Suffice it to say, we can expect more jokes to be coming Davidson's way. —Melanie Wilcox
FDA approves COVID-19 shot for younger kids
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, in doses about one-third of the amount given to teens in adults.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Tuesday, “As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”
Walensky acknowledged the risk of death and disability from COVID-19 is lower in children and young adults, but said that it is still real.
President Joe Biden called the decision “a turning point.”
“It will allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others,” he said. “It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus.” —MW
Good News of the Week
Australia’s Cleo Smith found alive after midnight kidnapping 18 days ago
Cleo Smith, age 4, vanished along with her sleeping bag nearly three weeks ago on a family camping trip about 50 miles from her home in Carnarvon, Australia. Initially, it was thought she wandered away in the middle of the night, but investigators began to suspect abduction after noting the zipper on the tent she shared with her sister was too high for the small child to reach.
At 1 a.m. on Wednesday, police broke into a house in Carnarvon and discovered the little girl alone inside. Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch of the Western Australia Police Force said one of his officers picked her up in his arms and asked her name. “My name is Cleo,” she replied. The surreal moment left veteran policemen openly weeping with relief. Police also took a 36-year-old man into custody. He is a Carnarvon local and a stranger to Cleo’s family.
The case transfixed Australia as authorities conducted a desperate nationwide search over hundreds of miles of terrain, and Cleo’s mother, Ellie, appeared repeatedly on television to beg for help. Dogged police work and forensic investigation eventually lead detectives to the house where the little girl was found. “The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realized is just a huge relief, a moment for great joy,” said Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. —MB
Watch of the Week
Pixar’s new teaser trailer for Lightyear went viral this week. It’s the imagined backstory of the brave space ranger who inspired the creation of the Buzz action figure in Toy Story.