Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.
Tornadoes cause destruction in Kentucky and four other states
This past weekend, a series of tornadoes and winter storms tore throughout Kentucky, also touching down in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee. With the confirmed death count at 88 and expected to rise as firemen and volunteers uncover more bodies from the rubble, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear called the destruction “unlike anything I have seen in my life.”
By far the hardest hit is the small Western Kentucky town of Mayfield, where virtually the entire community is without access to electricity, water, and supplies amid freezing temperatures. In the words of Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart in her appearance on CBS Mornings: “Our infrastructure is so damaged. We have no running water. Our water tower was lost. Our wastewater management was lost, and there’s no natural gas to the city. So we have nothing to rely on there.”
At the same time, the Governor is hopeful, telling reporters that the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund had so far received over $2 million in donations and adding that “one of our biggest challenges right now is organizing the amount of people that want to help, want to donate.” What’s more, he pledged to ensure that no displaced Kentuckian citizen goes homeless, explaining that lodges in state parks will be used to provide shelter for those whose homes were destroyed by the vicious storms. —Mariel Lindsay
J.K. Rowling defends women—again
J.K. Rowling is making headlines and rankling critics once again for defending women’s rights to accurate language describing their experiences. The London Times reported this week that Scottish police will record a rape by a man as being committed by a woman if the perpetrator verbally “identifies as a female” and “if the accused person insists, even if they have not legally changed gender.”
Rowling tweeted out the article, referencing the dystopian refrain from George Orwell’s novel, 1984: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.” She added, “The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.”
The Harry Potter author, who has 14 million followers on Twitter, has frustrated transgender activists with her repeated and public insistences, for the past two years, that “sex is real.” In an essay she published in 2020, she worried that a push toward inclusivity of transgender people in women's spaces will be abused by exploitative men and put some women in danger.
“I want trans women to be safe,” she wrote. “At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman—and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones—then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.” —Madeline Fry Schultz
Food critic’s scathing review of Michelin-starred restaurant goes viral
“There is something to be said about a truly disastrous meal, a meal forever indelible in your memory because it’s so uniquely bad, it can only be deemed an achievement,” writes Geraldine DeRuiter in the intro to a hilariously scathing review of Michelin-starred restaurant Bros’ in Lecce, Italy. The food critic’s review went viral for her description of “The Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever.”
Over four hours, the restaurant served DeRuiter and her friends 27 courses, including edible paper, “rancid” ricotta, and supposedly meat-molecule-infused liquid delivered through eye droppers. Another course, “chef’s kiss,” consisted of citrus foam resting in plaster casts of the chefs’ open lips. “At that point, I was like, ‘Okay . . . this is a Twilight Zone episode,” she told the Washington Post. “I feel like I’m in a parody of what modernist cuisine is.”
The restaurant’s chef Floriano Pellegrino responded to the criticism by comparing his food to modern art through a series of illustrations. The first was a line-drawing of a man on horseback. “Preparing food that is liked is like making a drawing of a man on a horse,” he writes. “It’s not that hard, but most people will admire you.”
Then, next to Jacques-Louis David’s “Napoleon Crossing the Alps,” Pellegrino writes that he is “bored with spectacular paintings like that.” Finally, next to an abstract painting (presumably also of a man on a horse), the chef concludes, “Contemporary art does not provide you with answers, but offers you great questions. Contemporary cuisine should do the same.”
For her part, DeRuiter is only half-convinced. “But when we are talking about food and a restaurant, that isn’t just art, that’s also hospitality,” she told the Washington Post. “Should you bring [guests] new experiences? Absolutely. Should you challenge them? Absolutely. But should their experience be unpleasant? I don’t think so.” —MFS
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay moves business from California to Texas
British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is the latest high-profile businessman to move his central operations from tax-heavy California to Texas, following in the footsteps of leading companies like Tesla, Toyota, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Charles Schwab.
The fiery restaurateur makes this move after admitting earlier this year that, thanks to the pandemic, he lost almost $100 million in revenue in the United Kingdom alone. But this substantial roadblock isn’t stopping him: His business empire, “Gordon Ramsay North America,” is set to greatly expand its influence in the United States, seeking to establish 75 new restaurants across the country within the next five years.
In the words of recently crowned company CEO Norman Abdallah: "The cost of living adjustment [from California to Texas] is pretty substantial.” In addition, according to the Dallas Morning News, the CEO believes that the North Texas metroplex “is the best place to find chef and restaurant support talent,” with Ramsey even hiring one of his local “Hell’s Kitchen” finalists as his new executive chef of culinary development. —ML
Billie Eilish speaks out against porn
Singer Billie Eilish shared on the Howard Stern Show this week how she was exposed to porn at age 11 and that watching abusive porn "destroyed my brain." The songwriter shared that she now feels "incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn" and that it wasn't until later "self-examining" that she realized the impact it had on her.
Read our Verily article detailing the insights Eilish shared, plus how they correspond with facts on porn consumption. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Good News of the Week
Tiktoker swaps bobby pin for a house in after successful “Trade Me Project”
New homeowner Demi Skipper of San Francisco started off in May 2020 with a simple bobby pin, and has spent the last 18 months bartering for successively larger items. Her most recent trade? She exchanged an off-the-grid trailer equipped with a Tesla Powerwall battery, for an $80,000 house near Nashville, Tennessee. It took her 28 trades to get there, as she bartered her way through earrings, an Xbox, a Peloton bike, margarita glasses, cars, tractors, and more.
Skipper’s journey—documented on TikTok under the handle @trademeproject—was inspired by Kyle MacDonald, a Canadian blogger who, back in 2015, bartered his way to a house after starting with a red paper clip. She committed to the idea after getting quarantined in her Bay Area apartment as COVID-19 ravaged the country. Skipper followed two rules: No trading with anyone she knew, and no spending any money.
At first, with low-stakes exchanges, she didn’t even tell her husband what she was doing. But with 5 million followers on TikTok, the cat has been out of the bag for some time.
According to the Washington Post, the couple will be moving from San Francisco to their new Tennessee home, which they will be renovating. Then, Skipper intends to trade it for a bobby pin to someone who needs a home. She is definitely having a productive pandemic! —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
Speaking of J.K. Rowling, the trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore dropped this week. The movie is scheduled to debut in April 2022, and it looks like fun!