We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Airline mask mandates lifted, Uber, Lyft follow suit
Last Monday, Florida Federal Judge Kathryn Mizelle declared the Biden administration’s Covid-19 mask mandate for public transportation unlawful. Travelers are no longer required to wear masks on airplanes, trains, taxis, or buses in the United States.
Mizelle wrote a 59-page ruling, saying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had failed to follow “proper rulemaking procedures.”
The Justice Department said Tuesday it would appeal the ruling if the CDC states that a mask mandate is necessary to protect public health.
After this ruling, the Transportation Security Administration said it would stop enforcing mask mandates, as well as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc.
President Joe Biden was asked if the public should still wear masks on airplanes, and he responded: “That’s up to them.”
Multiple American airports dropped the mandate, but some airports in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago have not dropped the mandate yet. The Philadelphia city health department mandate requires everyone to wear a face mask in public indoor settings, so mask mandates still apply on the city’s airport campus and across all terminals. —Hannah Cote
Comedian Ali Wong is getting divorced, and news outlets got the #WrongAsian
As the sad news broke that comedian Ali Wong is divorcing her husband, Justin Hakuta, some news outlets shared the story with a photo of Wong—and a man who is not her husband. Parade and MSN mistakenly published pictures of Always Be My Maybe co-star Randall Park.
Wong and Hakuta, who have two kids together, are ending an eight-year relationship. The news was clouded, however, by some news outlets’ confusion. "In their defense, Justin [Hakuta] and Randall Park were both Asian on the same night this one time," quipped one observer, sharing photos of Wong with Hakuta and Wong with Park during the Always Be My Maybe premier. After the mix-up, Parade apologized.
Unfortunately, this kind of faux pas in the media is not unusual. “Last year, Letterboxd, a film review app, shared a photo of an actress it identified as Michelle Yeoh,” the Washington Post reports. “It was actually Fala Chen, who also starred in ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.’ In 2019, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ actor Ronny Chieng called out People magazine for confusing him and his wife, Hannah Pham, as Park and Jae W. Suh.”
The Post article added, “The anger over the blunder eclipsed the news of Wong’s separation—which reverberated deeply, considering the comedian has often gushed about her husband.” —Madeline Fry Schultz
Russia continues besiegement on Ukraine; Ukraine refuses to give up
The scope of the devastation caused by Russia’s unprecedented war in the sovereign country of Ukraine continues to reach the public eye, with gruesome images and stories of mass graves, systematic rape, and bloody attacks led by the Russian troops against Ukrainian citizens.
Over the past week, Russia has turned much of its attention to the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, the home of Moscow-backed separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian forces. After weeks of attempting to take over Ukraine’s seat of government, the capital Kyiv and subsequently failing, Russia claimed that all along its primary goal was to capture the Donbas region as they regrouped and reinforced its troops.
In the west, Russia launched missile attacks on the city of Lviv, which has become a hub for NATO-supplied weapons and entry for foreign fighters joining the Ukrainian cause. Until now, Lviv has remained mostly spared from the horrors of war and has become a safe haven for Ukrainian refugees fleeing other cities.
During a news conference, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said there are “no safe or unsafe locations in Ukraine. All the cities and villages are in the same situation. The aggressor is committing acts of genocide. They are killing innocent civilians.”
Near the southern port city of Mariupol, which has been under constant, relentless besiegement since the beginning of the war, images have emerged of mass civilian graves. Mariupol continues to hold on by a thread, with the last of the Ukrainian forces holed up in a steel plant and Russia claiming that they have taken the port city.
Disturbing accounts have surfaced of Russian soldiers systematically raping women and girls. According to Ukraine's commissioner for human rights, Lyudmyla Denisova, 25 women were raped in one basement in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, and nine are now pregnant.
Amid these horrors, the Ukrainian people have continued to fight and not give up. —Gabriella Patti
Taliban bans Afghan girls from attending schools
In late March, the Taliban banned Afghan girls from attending secondary school (sixth grade and above) giving no indication when or whether or not the schools would be opened again. This move has led many to fear that the Taliban might keep girls from education, much like they did during their rule from 1996 to 2001.
Most of the girls’ secondary schools have been closed since the Taliban retook power in August, with exceptions made for girls up to sixth grade and women in college. Mid-March, the Taliban said that secondary schoolgirls would be allowed back to school, but when the girls showed up at school, they were turned away by Taliban enforcers.
Activists and community leaders have called for a reopening of these schools saying that there is no Islamic, cultural, or national justification for banning the girls from education. –GP
FDA warns that prenatal genetic screening tests show false results
Prenatal tests for genetic abnormalities are the subject of a new warning from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. On Tuesday, the FDA issued a notice warning people about the risk of “false results, inappropriate use and inappropriate interpretation of results” from non-invasive prenatal screening tests.
These tests, also called “non-invasive prenatal tests and cell-free DNA tests,” screen for possible genetic abnormalities in fetuses, such as Down syndrome. But now, the FDA has warned people that the tests are screening tests, not diagnostic tests, and they won’t necessarily confirm a health condition. In January, a New York Times report found that some prenatal screening tests are usually wrong, leading many to question the ethics when test results precede women being counseled to consider abortion.
“While genetic non-invasive prenatal screening tests are widely used today, these tests have not been reviewed by the FDA and may be making claims about their performance and use that are not based on sound science,” said Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Without proper understanding of how these tests should be used, people may make inappropriate health care decisions regarding their pregnancy.” —HC
Netflix doesn’t want you sharing accounts anymore
Netflix has had a bad year. The streaming giant lost a whopping 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022. Netflix hasn’t lost customers during a single quarter in more than 10 years. The next few months aren’t looking any better for the world’s largest streaming service, which is projecting an additional loss of 2 million subscribers in the current quarter.
So that account you share with your college best friend, her boyfriend, and your cousin’s dog? You might have to start paying $15.99/month for it all by yourself. Netflix estimates that more than 30 million households in the U.S. and Canada are sharing passwords, creating a huge loss in revenue for the company that has to keep up with an ever-growing list of competitors.
Netflix has permitted password sharing for years to expose more people to the platform’s content. Plus, it can be hard to know when an account with several profiles includes family members or distant acquaintances.
“In terms of [password sharing], no plans on making any changes there,” co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings said in 2016. “Password sharing is something you have to learn to live with, because there’s so much legitimate password sharing, like you sharing with your spouse, with your kids . . . so there’s no bright line, and we’re doing fine as is.”
But now, with paying subscribers leaving in droves, Netflix is considering its options, such as making accounts that share passwords pay more. So if you’ve been enjoying Netflix on a friend’s account, start binging The Crown while you can. —MFS
Good News of the Week
A new Persuasion adaptation is coming soon
Speaking of Netflix, the streaming service just released new photos from its upcoming film based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The movie—starring Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, and Henry Golding—comes out July 15. This adaptation has been described as a “modern, witty approach,” according to Variety.
Johnson, who starred in the Fifty Shades of Grey films, will play heroine Anne Elliot. In the new script, Anne is “an unconforming woman with modern sensibilities, living with her snobby family who are on the brink of bankruptcy,”
reports. “When Frederick Wentworth—the dashing one she once sent away—crashes back into her life, Anne must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances.”
Jarvis (Peaky Blinders) will play Wentworth, and Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) will play Anne’s cousin Mr. Elliot, “the callous and classic Austen foil.”
This film follows previous adaptations of Austen’s 1817 novel from 1995 and 2007, and while it promises to be modern, we can always hope that it still sticks to the spirit of the Jane Austen classic. —MFS
Watch of the Week
On Saturday Night Live, Lizzo debuted her latest single “About Damn Time”—the singer’s latest feel-good anthem, which, if you can forgive her affinity for the b-word, is all but guaranteed to put a spring in your step. Bonus: she showcases her flute-playing skills!