We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.
Russia invades Ukraine as world reacts
In the early hours of Thursday, Russia launched a full-scale attack on the sovereign nation of Ukraine, after weeks of escalating tensions and unsuccessful negotiations. Russia sent troops into Ukraine from three fronts and launched air missile attacks, strategically hitting airports, warehouses, and military compounds, as well as targeting some of Ukraine’s most populated cities including Kyiv and Kharkiv, even taking control of the Chernobyl power plant, leading many to fear that damage to the concrete compound surrounding the site will release radioactive particles into the atmosphere.
When announcing the invasion in a speech given early Thursday morning, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin issued a threat to Western nations saying that if they intervened in the invasion they would face “consequences greater than any you have faced in history.”
Late on Thursday, Ukraine's Health Minister Oleh Lyashko said 57 people had been killed and 169 wounded.
Ukraine has declared martial law and cut off all diplomatic ties with Russia. "Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself," President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted.
Meanwhile, the United States and other nations have implemented further sanctions on Russia. In an address given Thursday afternoon, President Joe Biden not only announced further sanctions but also declared that Russia would face the consequences for their actions.
"Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences," Biden said.
Amidst the arguments, threats and sanctions, the Ukrainian people are desperately trying to flee for safety, and video and images from around the country show traffic jams as people try to leave for safety, lines to ATMs, and gas pumps, wounded people, and bombed-out buildings. In the United States and throughout the rest of the world, the Ukrainian diaspora and their supporters have organized vigils and protests, including a brave and rare stand taken by Russian citizens against Putin and the invasion in Moscow and other Russian cities.
“The people of Ukraine and the government of Ukraine want peace,” President Zelensky said in a speech shortly before Russia launched the attack. “But if we come under attack, if we face an attempt to take away our country, our freedom, our lives and lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs.” —Gabriella Patti
Ex-officers found guilty of violating civil rights in Floyd killing
After nearly a month-long trial, a federal jury found the three former Minneapolis police officers guilty of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, according to the Wall Street Journal. A date for sentencing hasn’t yet been set.
Former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were convicted of showing “deliberate indifference” to Floyd’s medical needs as he lay handcuffed and facedown in the street as former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and back for more than nine minutes, according to the Wall Street Journal. Thao and Kueng were also convicted of failing to stop Chauvin from using unreasonable force.
The jury found that the former police officers’ actions led to Floyd’s death, and now they face the possibility of decades in prison. All three former officers will also face a state trial in June on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.
All three testified that they thought Floyd was experiencing excited delirium, a controversial diagnosis in which the subject behaves erratically and sometimes shows unusual strength. Prosecutors said in their closing arguments that the three men knew Floyd was having a medical crisis and simply “chose to do nothing.”
The three showed little emotion in reaction to the verdict. All of their lawyers left the building without speaking to the media. —Hannah Cote
Queen Elizabeth II tests positive for COVID-19
Queen Elizabeth II tested positive for COVID-19, Buckingham Palace announced Sunday.
The palace said in a statement that the queen, 95, is experiencing “mild cold-like symptoms” and will resume “light duties.” “She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all the appropriate guidelines,” the statement said. In January 2021, the queen was vaccinated against the virus and had since received her booster shot.
The news of the queen’s positive test comes less than a week after Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, tested positive for COVID-19 and after her husband and the queen’s son, Charles, Prince of Wales, tested positive the prior week. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, “I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Her Majesty The Queen a swift recovery from COVID and a rapid return to vibrant good health.” —Melanie Wilcox
The 2022 Beijing Winter Games come to a close
Elana Meyers Taylor, an American bobsledder, was elected the U.S. flag bearer for the closing ceremony, and she did so after making wins that made her the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history. She was selected as the U.S. flag bearer for the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony but couldn’t do so because she tested positive for COVID-19.
The United States won 25 medals overall (eight gold, ten silver, seven bronze), tying the U.S. for fourth place for gold medals, and fifth place for overall medal count. Norway won the leaderboard for both categories in terms of overall medals won, including 16 gold. China won 15 medals, including nine gold.
As part of Sunday’s closing ceremony, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach transferred the Olympic flag to the hosts of the 2026 Winter Games, the mayors of the Italian cities of Milan and Cortino. —MW
USWNT wraps up equal pay lawsuit with $24 million
The U.S. women’s national soccer team has settled its “class action equal pay lawsuit” against the U.S. Soccer Federation for a total of $24 million, according to ESPN.
In settling the suit, the players will receive a lump sum payment of $22 million. This amount will be distributed by the USWNT players and approved by the District Court. U.S. Soccer will also pay $2 million into an account to benefit the USWNT players in their post-career goals and charitable efforts related to women’s and girls’ soccer.
The 28 players first filed the lawsuit in March 2019, accusing the USSF of “institutionalized gender discrimination” toward the team, according to ESPN. The lawsuit was filed under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In March 2020, the legal filing by the USSF was made public. The filing degraded the players on the U.S. women’s national team, stating that they don’t “perform equal work requiring equal skill [and] effort” because “the overall soccer-playing ability required to compete at the senior men’s national team level is materially influenced by the level of certain physical attributes such as speed and strength.”
The players had previously been seeking $66.7 million in back pay, and at one point, the equal pay portion of the lawsuit was dismissed, forcing the players to appeal, according to ESPN. Still, the team emerged with considerable money, even though the settlement amount was less than they originally asked.
UNWNT player Alex Morgan told AP News, “It’s really been incredible to stand alongside all these women on the national team and feel like we are making a difference, not only for ourselves, but for the next generation, for the women we stand alongside across sport and workforces.” —HC
America’s Got Talent star Nightbirde dies of cancer at age 31
Last Saturday, late singer Nightbirde passed away after a four-year battle with cancer. Nightbirde, whose real name is Jane Marczewski, became a voice of hope after her performance on America’s Got Talent. At her audition, Nightbirde explained that she had been fighting cancer for several years and that the cancer was in her lungs, spine, and liver.
“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy,” Marczewski said during the audition. “I have a two percent chance of survival, but two percent is not zero percent. Two percent is something. And I wish people knew how amazing it is.”
Nightbirde performed her original song, “It’s OK,” which earned her a Golden Buzzer from AGT judge Simon Cowell. Nightbirde wrote the song with the message that she is far more than her cancer. “It’s important that everyone know that I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me,” she told the judges.
After the report of her death, Cowell paid tribute to Nightbirde, saying that the news was heartbreaking. “She was an extraordinary person, so brave, so talented,” Cowell said. “She made a huge impact on AGT and the world. Her determination to fight this terrible illness was remarkable. Rest in peace, Jane. I am sending my love to her family.”
Nightbirde’s family confirmed her death. “We, her family, are devastated by her passing and unimaginable loss,” her family said. “Those who knew her, enjoyed her larger-than-life personality and sense of humor. Her lasting legacy will be the gift of hope she gave to so many through her music and the strength she found in Jesus.” —HC
Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel was found hanging before his trial
Last weekend, accused sex-trafficker and former Next Top Model scout Jean-Luc Brunel was found hanged in his Paris prison cell. In eerily the same manner as billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein in 2019, there is no security camera recording from when the death took place, and he wasn’t on suicide watch.
The brother of former Epstein girlfriend and madame Ghislaine Maxwell has since issued a statement expressing disbelief at Brunel’s apparent suicide and admits he “fears for [Ghislaine’s’] safety.” “It’s really shocking . . . Another death by hanging in a high-security prison. My reaction is one of total shock and bewilderment,” he told the New York Post.
Brunel, up until his death, was in jail awaiting trial after being arrested last year while trying to flee France to an African country where extradition for crimes is nearly impossible. High-profile Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre had previously told authorities that Epstein bragged that he had slept with “thousands” of girls provided by Brunel. Brunel continually denied the litany of accusations of sex trafficking, rape, and sexual harassment against him. —Mariel Lindsay
Michigan basketball coach suspended after hitting opposing coach
University of Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard is on the bench for the rest of the regular season. Howard has been suspended and fined $40,000 by The Big Ten Conference for hitting University of Wisconsin–Madison assistant coach Joel Krabbenhoft after their game last Sunday. Wisconsin men’s basketball coach Greg Gard was also fined $10,000.
The Wolverines lost 77-63, and Howard said he was unhappy that Gard called a timeout with 15 seconds remaining, striking Gard in the face after the game. Gard said he called the timeout to “ready his reserves for Howard’s pressure defense the Wolverines were still employing,” according to USA Today.
“Big Ten Conference coaches and student-athletes are expected to display the highest level of sportsmanship conduct,” stated Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.
The Big Ten reviewed the postgame physical altercation and determined that there was a clear violation of the Big Ten Conference’s Sportsmanship Policy by Howard. Additionally, Gard was in violation of the conference’s sportsmanship policy.
Howard didn’t comment at Sunday’s postgame news conference, but he apologized for his actions after the suspension. “After taking time to reflect on all that happened, I realize how unacceptable both my actions and words were, and how they affected so many. I am truly sorry,” Howard said. “I am offering my sincerest apology to my players and their families, my staff, my family, and the Michigan fans around the world. I would like to personally apologize to Wisconsin’s Assistant Coach Joel Krabbenhoft and his family, too.” —HC
Everything you need to know about Wordle
If you haven’t played Wordle yet, you’re probably avoiding it.
Wordle is the New York Times daily word puzzle published on their site. You can play it here.
Each day a new Wordle is posted. You have six tries to guess a random five-letter word, while a color-coded system gives you hints at the correct guess. If you guess the right letter in the right spot, that letter turns into a green tile. A correct letter in the wrong spot turns yellow, and a letter that isn’t in the word turns gray.
But what’s the catch? Why have hundreds of thousands of people added Wordle to their morning ritual? Forget scrolling through Instagram—Wordle is the new dopamine-rush.
There are a few reasons so many people have latched onto Wordle. First, there’s only one puzzle per day. You can’t exhaust the game like Words With Friends or Wordscape.
Second, everyone plays the same puzzle each day. It’s bonding in the workplace, the family group chats, and the after-school pickup line. People can show off their skills to the whole world as they play the same puzzle.
This combination of perks has skyrocketed the game to popularity. Addicting, uniting, and consistent, Wordle is easy enough for puzzle newbies and still challenging enough for those attempting to guess the word in one of two tries. —HC
Good News of the Week
Teenage chess prodigy beats champ ranked best in the world
Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is just 16 years old, but this weekend, the young Indian chess prodigy beat Magnus Carlsen, who is ranked number one in the world.
Praggnanandhaa, who also goes by Pragg, became a chess grandmaster at age 10 and is the youngest international master ever, according to USA Today. Before the match with Carlsen, he was ranked No. 165.
Nevertheless, at the Airthings Masters rapid chess tournament, Pragg had developed a streak of bad luck, losing three games in a row. Finally, it was time for him to take on Carlsen, a Norwegian. During the game, Carlsen, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and reportedly is still feeling the effects, appeared to make several critical mistakes that Pragg immediately pounced on. After 39 moves, the teenager prevailed.
The tournament was conducted online, and it was 2 a.m. in India by the end of the game. When asked how he would celebrate his amazing victory, Pragg answered, “It’s about time to go to bed.” —Margaret Brady
Watch of the Week
With all the hard news this week, we'll sign off remembering the voice of Nightbirde, may she rest in peace.