We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Twitter accepts Elon Musk’s bid
On Monday, Twitter Inc. accepted Elon Musk’s $46.5 billion bid to take over the company. The future of Twitter is now up in the air as Musk’s deal is processed.
Musk—Tesla's chief executive, a frequent and influential user on Twitter and the world’s richest man—will now have complete control of the social media network.
Musk promised new features and stated he would decrease Twitter’s content moderation. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” he said.
Twitter employees had mixed reactions to the possible transition. “It’s a time of genuine discomfort & uncertainty,” Edward Perez, director of product management for societal health at Twitter, tweeted. “Most of us believe deeply that Twitter is much more than a tech platform; we have a deep responsibility to society. I hope our new owner gets that.” On the other hand, one employee tweeted, “Send us all Teslas!”
Many conservative United States senators and representatives have congratulated Musk on his Twitter deal. “This is a great day to be conservative on Twitter,” Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted. “Congratulations, @elonmusk! Looking forward to a free-speech oriented twitter,” Representative Yvette Herrell tweeted. —Hannah Cote
Hailey Bieber says birth control contributed to her mini-stroke
Last month, 25-year-old model Hailey Bieber had a mini-stroke in the middle of breakfast. Out of nowhere, her face started drooping, and she found herself unable to speak. After being rushed to the emergency room, she learned that she had suffered a transient ischemic attack or ministroke. This week, Bieber released a video explaining what caused what she called “the scariest moment of my life.”
Doctors told Bieber that one factor that led to a blood clot in her brain was her birth control. “I had just recently started birth control pills, which I should have never been on because I am somebody who suffered from migraines anyway. And I just did not talk to my doctor about this,” she said. “So ladies, if you suffer from bad migraines and you plan on being on birth control pills, make sure you tell your doctor because having a stroke is a potential side effect from birth control pills.”
The chances of suffering a stroke due to birth control are low but not negligible. As Grace Emily Stark wrote for Verily, “The Pill significantly increases a woman’s risk for blood clots (and related risks like deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke).”
According to Science Daily, a report published in the journal MedLink Neurology found that “24,000 women would have to take birth control pills to cause one additional stroke,” but “for women who take birth control pills and also smoke, have high blood pressure or have a history of migraine headaches, the stroke risk is significantly higher.”
Luckily, there are alternatives for women with underlying conditions or those who just don’t want to risk the side effects of hormonal contraception. —Madeline Fry Schultz
War in Ukraine continues; Ukraine, allies prepare for next phase of war
Sixty-four days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allies of the sovereign country of Ukraine are preparing for the next phase of the war, with President Biden asking Congress to approve a $33 billion spending package for aid in Ukraine. A former NATO commander has urged the West to prepare for the worst-case scenario of a war with Russia.
President Biden has also proposed ramping up the US’s economic war against Russia by liquidating the assets of Russian oligarchs and donating the proceeds to Ukraine. The Russian invasion has led more countries to become interested in joining NATO, including Sweden and Finland.
Shelling continues in some of Ukraine's most contested regions, including the eastern Donbas region, home to pro-Russian sentiments.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited areas around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Thursday, formerly held by Russian troops and the site of the mass grave in Bucha.
“The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil. And when you see these situations, our heart of course stays with the victims, our condolences to their families,” Guterres said. “But our emotions are . . . there is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century.”
Guterres said that he fully supports the International Criminal Court’s investigation of Russia’s alleged war crimes. —Gabriella Patti
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's defamation lawsuit focuses on toxic marriage
In the ongoing trial based on a defamation lawsuit filed by actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, their contentious, abusive marriage has been on display through audio and video recordings, text messages, and testimony from their marriage therapist, doctors, law enforcement and the actor himself.
Heard and Depp met on the movie set of The Rum Diary in 2009 and were married in 2015. Heard filed for divorce in 2016, citing irreconcilable differences and eventually filed a restraining order against Depp, alleging domestic abuse.
In 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about the consequences women face for speaking up against domestic violence, calling herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard never referred to Depp by name, but the implications prompted Depp to bring a $50 million defamation suit against Heard in March 2019. Depp was dropped from his role in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise just days after the op-ed was published and says that article has damaged his career.
Depp lost another libel lawsuit in 2020 that he filed against the UK tabloid The Sun, which referred to him as a wife-beater. After this loss, Heard tried to have the defamation lawsuit dimissed; when it was upheld, she filed a countersuit citing defamation after Depp’s lawyers referred to her claims as “fake” and a “sexual violence hoax.”
The trial takes place in Fairfax, VA, where the op-ed was printed. In Depp’s testimony, he spoke about his history of childhood abuse and denied claims that he had ever abused or been physically violent against Heard. Depp said that Heard had been violent toward him, detailing one instance where she threw a vodka bottle at him, causing severe injury to his finger. Depp’s lawyers have called friends, doctors and employees of Depp forward to testify about the former couple’s relationship.
A clinical and forensic psychologist hired by Depp’s lawyers to conduct a psychological evaluation of Heard last year said that Heard has a borderline personality disorder and histrionic disorder.
Heard is expected to testify sometime next week and has admitted to hitting Depp but claims it was self-defense. Thus far, the trial has focused more on the details of the couple’s toxic marriage and less on whether or not the op-ed defamed Depp. —GP
Women experience burnout epidemic as U.S. transitions from pandemic to endemic
Two years after the coronavirus found its way to the United States, Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said that the US is finally “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase” and has moved into a “transitional phase.”
Fauci said that while the world is still in a pandemic phase, the United States has hopefully entered a controlled, endemic stage. After nearly one million deaths due to the virus, infection numbers have decelerated. However, Fauci cautioned that the United States could see new waves of infection as it continues to mutate.
This statement came shortly after a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that 60 percent of Americans have been infected with the coronavirus. Data from blood tests show that approximately 190 million people have been infected by the virus at least one time.
Despite signs of hope, more promising studies and a slow return to normalcy, a recent study from Deloitte that surveyed 5 thousand women in 10 countries indicates that the impact of the pandemic on working women has led to a “burnout epidemic.”
NBC News reports that “Fifty-three percent of women reported stress levels higher than they were a year ago, with mental health lagging and work-life balance nearly nonexistent. And whereas women were considering leaving their employers last year, the top-cited driver to leave now is burnout.”
As companies try to establish a post-COVID normal, they face employment shortages as employees, many of whom are women, resign. They are grappling with how to create more flexible work environments – an often vital necessity for working parents in particular. —GP
Former high school football coach’s case reaches Supreme Court, praying on field
Joseph Kennedy, a former high school football coach in Washington, lost his job after continuously leading his team in prayer on the field. On Monday, the Supreme Court heard his case. A decision has not yet been made but is expected in June.
Kennedy started praying with his team before and after games in 2008. At the end of each game, he would take a knee and say a prayer with his players at midfield.
By 2015, Kennedy was typically joined at the 50-yard line by both his team and the opposing team. But that year, an opposing coach alerted school district officials to his religious actions. The athletic director, and later the superintendent, asked Kennedy and his staff to stop praying with students. Kennedy stopped praying in the locker room and would return to the field after games to pray by himself.
But soon after, Kennedy began praying after games again.“I fought and defended the Constitution, and the thought of leaving the field of battle where the guys just played and having to go and hide my faith because it was uncomfortable to somebody—that's just not America,” Kennedy said.
By the homecoming game, Kennedy retained lawyers from the First Liberty Institute. In a letter to school officials, “they said that the coach had a constitutional right to pray on the 50-yard line at the end of the game, and that students should be free to voluntarily join in.”
After this incident, the superintendent placed Kennedy on paid administrative leave. Kennedy didn’t renew his contract the following school year. He then sued the school district, stating his First Amendment right to free speech and the free exercise of religion had been violated. Kennedy lost in the lower courts but appealed to the Supreme Court. “What’s at stake here is really the ability of teachers and coaches to engage in religious exercise while on duty," says former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who is representing Coach Kennedy in the Supreme Court. —HC
World’s oldest person dies
The world’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, passed away on April 18 at 119. Becoming the oldest living person in the world has been her goal since she turned 100.
Tanaka was born on January 2, 1903, number seven out of eight children. Tanaka married at age 19 and had four biological children and one adopted.
Tanaka was officially named the oldest person in 2019, and Guinness World Records presented her with an official certificate at her nursing home. When asked about the happiest moment in her life during this ceremony, she replied, “Now.”
Guinness World Records hasn’t officially named the new world record holder, but researchers have identified French nun, Sister André, as the new titleholder of oldest living person. Sister is already the oldest nun ever, according to Guinness. Sister was born Lucile Randon in 1904. When interviewed about becoming the oldest living person, she called it a “sad honor.”
"I feel I would be better off in heaven, but the good Lord doesn't want me yet," Sister said. In the meantime, Sister is enjoying life–she drinks a glass of wine every day and is said to love chocolate and being pampered by her family. —GP
Good News of the Week
Olympian’s shoe brand will give free replacements to mothers whose feet grow during pregnancy
It’s no secret that your body changes during pregnancy, but it doesn’t just expand to create that baby bump; sometimes, it grows your feet. And this change, unlike the bump, can be there to stay. “While foot swelling generally subsides within a month after delivery, any spreading caused by loosening ligaments is permanent,” BabyCenter reports. “One study found that most women saw their foot length increase by anywhere between 2 and 10 millimeters.”
This can make the simple task of finding shoes to wear during pregnancy and postpartum pretty expensive. Olympic champion Allyson Felix wants to change that. Last week, she announced that her shoe brand, Saysh, will send a free replacement pair to every pregnant mama who finds that her sneakers no longer fit. “I hope that [Saysh] will be able to lead the way in this area and that women will feel seen by the policy,” Felix said in an Instagram post.
The runner, who has won six Olympic gold medals, publicly called out Nike in 2019 for being unsupportive of pregnant mothers like herself. “Athletes are told to shut up and play. . . And don’t mess up. But pregnancy is not messing up; for women, it can and should be able to be part of a thriving professional athletic career,” she wrote.
Her story is just another example of how motherhood doesn’t mean women have to give up on their other dreams. “I made it back to the Olympics two years after giving birth—won gold and bronze—and became the most decorated American Olympic track and field athlete of all time—with my daughter watching it all,” Felix says on the Saysh website. “I was running for women, for mothers, for anyone who had been told that their story was over.” —MFS
Watch of the Week
In recognition of Shakespeare’s birthday this week, enjoy Emma Thompson reciting the poem “Sigh no more” from Kenneth Branaugh’s film version of Much Ado About Nothing.