We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily’s quick takes on the happenings of this week.
First female secretary of state Madeline Albright dies at 84
On Wednesday, the first female secretary of state, Madeline Albright, passed away of cancer at age 84. “Madeleine was always a force for goodness, grace, and decency—and for freedom,” said President Joe Biden in a statement after her death.
After fleeing Nazis and communists, Albright and her family immigrated to the United States in 1948 when she was just a child. Her family settled in Denver, Colorado, and she became a United States citizen in 1957. Albright studied at Wellesley College and married her husband, Joseph Albright, three days after graduating.
In 1993, former President Bill Clinton appointed Albright as ambassador to the United Nations. “At this time of turmoil and hope, this assignment is a major challenge,” Albright said at her confirmation hearing.
Three years later, Clinton nominated Albright to be secretary of state. She was the first woman to hold the office and was even the highest-ranking woman serving in government at the time. “I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to appoint the first woman secretary of state in the history of America,” Clinton said. “But it had nothing to do with her getting the job.”
Albright left office in 2001 but told everyone that her time serving wasn’t up. “I am still here and have much more I intend to do,” she said. “As difficult as it might seem, I want every stage of my life to be more exciting than the last.”
And she did return. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In Albright’s lifetime, two more women became secretary of state: Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.
Surviving Albright are her three daughters—Katie, Anne, and Alice—and six grandchildren. —Hannah Cote
Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings conclude, awaiting vote
After three days of confirmation hearings, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s pick as the next Supreme Court justice, awaits the nomination vote.
If Jackson is confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Jackson answered a variety of questions at the hearings, affirming that she decides cases based on the Constitution and original intent of the framers. She even agreed with Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s views on abortion, both of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump. “I do agree with both Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh and Justice [Amy Coney] Barrett on this issue,” Jackson said. “Roe and Casey are the settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy.”
But many Republicans continued to ask more questions, specifically about Jackson’s dealings with child pornography cases, feeling that she was lenient in the sentencing of those cases. “I looked at the law and the facts,” Jackson responded. “I made sure that the victims, the children’s perspectives, were represented, and I also imposed prison terms and significant supervision and other restrictions on these defendants.”
At the end of the hearing, many Republicans noted how Democrats had treated past nominees, specifically at Kavanaugh and Barrett.
“There are two standards going on here,” Senator Lindsey Graham said. “If you’re an African American, conservative woman, you’re fair game to have your life turned upside down, to be filibustered no matter how qualified you are, and if you express your faith as a conservative, all of a sudden, you’re an effing nut. And we’re tired of it.”
Senator Dick Durbin, the presider of the hearings, said the committee will meet in executive session on the nomination on March 28. Though panel rules allow for any committee business to extend past one week, which could potentially move the voting date to April 4. —HC
Pfizer confirms COVID-19 pill treatment course deal
Pfizer Inc. plans to sell up to four million treatment courses of its COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Paxlovid is an antiviral treatment that helps speed recovery from COVID-19 in people with mild to moderate symptoms but are also at high risk of dangerous cases. In clinical trials, the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent. Paxlovid is taken in combination with another antiviral pill. Patients will take six pills daily over five days.
The pill will go to 95 low and middle-income countries with hopes to provide more equitable access to the treatment in all nations regardless of financial or socio-economic status. Some countries will include Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.
A Pfizer spokeswoman said low-income nations would receive the pill at a “not-for-profit price,” and upper-middle-income nations will pay according to a tiered pricing system. She declined to disclose details about the financial terms.
Pfizer said it would start shipping pills in April to countries where Paxlovid is authorized, expecting more supplies to become available throughout the year. They also said they expect to produce 120 million treatment courses by the end of 2022. The United States has already distributed just over 1 million Paxlovid treatment courses. —HC
One month into Russian invasion of Ukraine, more hope remains than anticipated
It has been one month since Russia invaded Ukraine, and while the Russian forces have committed unspeakable crimes and human rights violations, there continue to be moments of hope and reminders of resilience from the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine has been able to hold onto its capital, Kyiv, but other cities remain under constant bombardment from artillery and bombs, including the critical port city of Mariupol. Drone footage shows widespread devastation in Mariupol, where 80 percent of homes have been destroyed, and ongoing attacks on civilian areas have led to at least 2,000 deaths. Russian troops have managed to overrun the cities of Kherson and Melitopol but are facing civilian protests.
In Kharkiv, 96-year-old Holocaust survivor Boris Romantschenko died when Russian shelling destroyed his apartment building. Romantschenko survived four separate Nazi concentration camps during World War II and was active in preserving the memory of the Holocaust and the crimes committed by the Nazis. His death comes over three weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin shared that one of his justifications for invading Ukraine was to “de-Nazify” the country.
On Thursday, NATO gathered in its Brussel headquarters for an emergency session to discuss sending extra troops to the eastern flank and contingency plans if Russia escalates its attacks.
The war has displaced more than half of all Ukrainian children, and 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine to date as refugees to surrounding countries. The United States has pledged to accept 100,000 people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
While many were forced to flee their homes and thousands have died or been injured, others have remained put, unwilling to leave the home they love. Many Ukrainians feel a sense of hope that they may win the war, as the cracks have shown in Russia’s military strategy, and Ukrainians have managed to hold their ground and prevent the Russian army from making substantial gains. “The aggressors planned three weeks ago to be in the capital, to be here because it is the heart of the country,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told journalists on Wednesday. “Everybody is surprised.” —Gabriella Patti
Male birth control compound proves successful in trials with mice
A male birth control pill may soon make its way to the public, as recent trials have proven successful. The pill, which targets interactions with vitamin A, a key component to fertility, has been 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy in mice without side effects. The mice were then able to resume producing offspring without issue within 4 to 6 weeks after they stopped taking the contraceptive compound.
Human trials are scheduled to begin later this year, and if eventually approved, it would be the first oral contraceptive available for men.
Chemists and pharmacologists at the University of Minnesota who have been developing the pill have been searching for a non-hormonal male birth control solution for some time. Most previously tested birth control pills for men have targeted testosterone, but this came with side effects that men didn’t like, such as weight gain, depression, and decreased libido. Currently, there are three oral contraceptives available for women, all of which have caused these same side effects. —GP
China Boeing plane crashes, 132 presumed dead
On March 21, a Chinese Eastern Flight 5735 was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members from Kunming to Guangzhou when it crashed outside the city of Wuzhou. All 132 people onboard are presumed dead.
On Wednesday, a Chinese aviation official said that one of the two “black box” recorders—flight data and cockpit voice recorders—was found in the rubble. However, it may be too damaged to provide any usable data. Investigators said they couldn’t tell whether the discovered box was the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.
On Monday afternoon, the plane went into an unexpected nose-dive one hour after departure and stopped transmitting data 96 seconds into the fall. It’s unclear what caused the fall.
This plane model, the Boeing 737-800, has been flying since 1998. However, it’s an earlier model of the 737 Max, which was grounded worldwide for almost two years after crashes in 2018 and 2019.
Though the black boxes may greatly aid in discovering the key to what caused the crash, investigation at the site has been suspended as the rainy weather continues to form small yet dangerous landslides around the crash site. —HC
Miami declares state of emergency in wake of Spring Break violence
After two shootings occurred within 48 hours of each other last weekend at the spring break hotspot Miami Beach—injuring five people in total—the city declared a state of emergency. The emergency set into effect a 12 a.m.-6 a.m. curfew, which will run from March 24 to March 28. Stores will also have to stop selling alcohol at 6 p.m., though they can resume sales in the morning.
A 19-year-old was arrested and charged with carrying a concealed firearm, but the main suspect has not been found yet. “It is horribly sad that we’re standing here for the cowardly acts of random people,” City Manager Alina Hudak said, adding that both shootings targeted “innocent bystanders.”
Miami Beach also declared a state of emergency last year during spring break. Mayor Dan Gelber said he wished Miami Beach didn’t receive so much attention during spring break. “No community, no police force, should have to suffer through this,” Gelber said. “You know I’m really tired of it, frankly, I’d love to get rid of spring break. I wish the spring breakers would go somewhere else.” —HC
Good News of the Week
Museum debuts art exhibit curated by its security guards
The Baltimore Museum of Art is showcasing an exhibit curated by its security guards. The Week reports, "Security guards 'spend more time with the art than anyone,' Baltimore Museum of Art trustee Amy Elias said, and in February 2020, during a dinner with chief curator Asma Naeem, an idea was formed to have guards curate their own exhibit." Watching visitors look at art all day, many security advisors have a unique perspective of what resonates with people.
Seventeen of the museum's security guards spent a year learning how to put on an exhibition and chose three pieces each, then "worked with the librarian to research the items and write their descriptions." The exhibit, called "Guarding the Art," runs from March 27 to July 10, 2022. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Watch of the Week
Two weeks after a video of seven-year-old Amelia Anisovych singing “Let it Go” from a bomb shelter in Ukraine made its way around the internet, Anisovych inspired us again by performing the Ukrainian national anthem at a charity concert in Poland.