Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.
March for Life draws numbers and press coverage
An estimated 150,000 marchers showed up in 20-degree weather at the March for Life in Washington, D.C on Friday. "The marchers have arrived by the busload in Washington every January since 1974," the New York Times noted on its front page Saturday.
The Washington Post reports, "the annual event, in its 49th year, was upbeat, a reflection of what some attendees said was confidence that the Supreme Court this year may overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide—and prompted the creation of the march."
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told The Daily Signal she expected “higher levels of enthusiasm from participants” this year. “With the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the Supreme Court, we are closer than ever to building the culture of life we have all marched for since Roe v. Wade was imposed on our nation nearly 50 years ago.”
Due to new COVID-19 regulations, the March for Life modified some of its indoor events. Participants at the Rose Dinner and Capitol Hill 101 sessions needed to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test accompanied by “either an oral or written religious exemption or a written medical exemption.”
Anti-abortion leaders at the March told the National Catholic Register that if Dobbs ends federally legalized abortion later this year, pro-life advocates will have to refocus efforts on helping women facing unplanned pregnancy. —Melanie Wilcox and Mary Rose Somarriba
Biden administration to offer free COVID-19 tests, N95 masks
Changing its tune from a month ago, this week the Biden administration began offering free at-home COVID tests to Americans who need them. The government has 420 million tests under contract, and anyone who wants some can, as of this week, sign up online to order up to four tests at once.
Also this week, as COVID-19 cases surged due to the omicron variant, the White House announced plans to have 400 million free N95 face masks available for distribution at local pharmacies and health centers. While surgical masks and customized cloth masks have been popular throughout the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently updated its guidelines to encourage the use of N95 or KN95 masks since they provide more protection against the virus.
Starting late next week, with a full roll-out expected by early February, you can grab up to three nonsurgical N95 masks at a participating healthcare location. “This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history,” a White House official told the Wall Street Journal. “Experts agree that masking is an important tool to control the spread of Covid-19.”
While the broad deployment of N95 masks might have been more useful last year—before more than half of Americans were vaccinated—perhaps the availability of rapid tests and N95 masks will slow this latest COVID-19 surge. —Madeline Fry Schultz
New docuseries exposes rape, torture at the Playboy Mansion
A new A&E docuseries, Secrets of Playboy, is exposing the horrific secrets behind sexual-liberation icon and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who passed away in 2017 and left behind a crumbling pornography empire. The documentary, featuring a slew of former “Bunnies” and close associates of the late publisher, reveals shocking information about what really went on behind the walls of Hefner’s sprawling Playboy Mansion, with multiple women detailing stories that include date rape, torture, and even bestiality.
Former “Bunny” and actress Sondra Theodore, who dated Hefner in the 1970s and '80s, says of his sexual appetite: "He scared me at the end . . . you couldn't satisfy him. He wanted more and more and more." She added that the sex ‘broke [her] like you’d break a horse.” Trafficking survivor Linda Lovelace also appears onscreen to speak about her sexual trauma at the hands of Hefner, recalling that she was “forced to perform oral sex on a German Shepherd while Hefner and his friends watched.”
Perhaps most chilling is an incident relayed by former “Bunny” Mother PJ Masten, who recalls how one prominent Playboy VIP member, the celebrity TV host and Soul Train creator Don Cornelius, was discovered holding two young sisters hostage at the mansion for three days. According to Masten, though the sisters were locked in separate rooms and bound and gagged, one sister “could hear her (other sister) screaming." Allegedly, Hefner was made fully aware of the situation, it was never reported to the police and Cornelius remained a VIP staple.
The revealing docuseries, which premieres next week, will no doubt cause renewed conversation around Hefner’s dubious legacy of supposed sexual liberation. —Mariel Lindsay
Senate filibuster remains, killing Democrats’ voting rights legislation
President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats were hoping to convince all members of their own party, including moderate Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, to do away with the Senate filibuster, allowing Democrats to pass their voting legislation through a simple majority vote. With a 52-48 vote on Wednesday, however, that effort failed, meaning Democrats’ voting rights legislation, which has received little bipartisan support, won’t make it to Biden’s desk.
Biden said in a statement that he was“profoundly disappointed that the United States Senate has failed to stand up for our democracy.”
The president, who was once a defender of the filibuster—in 2005 saying, ”the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill; it's about compromise and moderation"—argued last month that the voting rights bill, "and maybe more," would be worth an exception.
But Manchin and Sinema, who have irked their fellow Democrats a number of times recently, argue that they’re the ones defending democracy. Sinema said in a statement that she “maintained [her] longstanding opposition to separate actions that would deepen our divisions and risk repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty and further eroding confidence in our government. “We’ll make up new rules as we go along,” Manchin said, “invite ourselves and future majorities to disregard the rule book at will.” —MFS
5G network rollouts begin amid safety concerns
Telecommunications conglomerates AT&T and Verizon began the gradual rollout of their 5G wireless network services this week despite pushback from airlines and the Federal Aviation Agency, both of which have argued that the nature of the new technology could compromise flight control systems.
Emirates Airlines president Tim Clark voiced his frustrations to CNN correspondent Richard Quest, saying, “We were not aware that the power of the antennas in the United States have been doubled compared to what’s going on elsewhere . . . We were not aware that the antenna themselves have been put into a vertical position rather than a slight slanting position, which then taken together compromise not only the radio altimeter systems, but [also] the flight control systems on the fly by wire aircraft," adding that he feels the 5G rollout is “delinquent" and "utterly irresponsible.”
Others outside the aviation industry have also questioned the safety of the new technology due to concerns about electromagnetic radiation, though it should be noted that while 5G does emit frequencies at a much higher wavelength than 4G, it is still considered non-ionising radiation, unlike X-rays and nuclear radiation which have been proven harmful to human health.
With the rollout continuing despite its potential disruption to the aviation industry, including causing a dizzying array of canceled flights, all major telecommunications firms are set to take part in the new era of lightning-speed Internet, with downloads up to 100 times faster than what Americans are used to. —Mariel Lindsay
Britney Spears’ lawyer sends legal cease-and-desist letter to Jamie Lynn Spears
Britney Spears’ lawyer Mathew Rosengart sent a cease-and-desist letter to the singer’s younger sister on Tuesday regarding her new memoir, Things I Should Have Said. Rosengart called Jamie Lynn Spears’ book “ill-timed” and claimed it makes “misleading or outrageous claims” about Britney Spears.
Jamie Lynn describes her sister’s behavior toward her as “paranoid” and “erratic.” On Good Morning America, Jamie Lynn Spears said, “I've always been my sister's biggest supporter.” She also insisted she had nothing to do with Britney’s 13-year conservatorship, which ended at the close of 2021. “When she needed help, I set up ways to do so, went out of my way to make sure that she had the contacts she needed to possibly go ahead and end this conservatorship and just end this all for our family. If it's going to cause this much discord, why continue it? . . . I did take the steps to help. How many times can I take the steps. . . . She has to walk through the door.”
On Instagram this week, Britney wrote, “Jamie Lynn, I wasn't strong enough to do what should have been done . . . slapped you and Mamma right across your [expletive] faces !!!!!”
In the book, Jamie Lynn said Britney wielded a knife and locked herself in a room with her. This allegedly occurred after her quick marriage to Jason Alexander, a childhood friend. “[Britney] said to me, ‘Baby, I’m scared,’ and took a large knife from the kitchen, pulled me along to my room, and she locked us both inside,” Jamie Lynn wrote. “She put the knife in the bedside table drawer and simply repeated, ‘I’m scared.’ She needed me to sleep beside her . . . I knew something was very wrong, and I was powerless to do anything about it.” Britney denied the allegation on Twitter. —Melanie Wilcox
Good News of the Week
Teenager becomes the youngest woman to fly around the world solo
Zara Rutherford is only 19 years old. But her youth didn't stop her from setting a new aviation record: After landing at Kortrijk-Wevelgem Airport in Belgium on Thursday, she officially holds the spot as the youngest woman to ever fly around the world, all by herself. Previously, the record was set by American Shaesta Waez, who was 30 when she accomplished the same feat in 2017.
Zara's journey wasn't without challenges. She was denied permission to fly over China, and had to contend with subzero temperatures over desolate, lonely Siberia. "If the engine were to stall, I'd be hours away from rescue and I don't know how long I could have survived for," CNN quotes her.
Incredibly, the young aviator only got her flying license in 2020. However, she did have two big training advantages: both her mom and dad are pilots, too. Only about 5 percent of airline pilots around the world are female, and Zara wanted to use her talent to highlight that girls and women belong in the sky, too.
"It's an easy thing to say, but just go for it. If you don't try and see how high you can fly, then you'll never know," she says. —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
Prepare to get chills watching the new teaser trailer for Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series. The video reveals the show’s title for the first time: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The series begins streaming September 2, 2022.