We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed on Supreme Court
On Thursday, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed as the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
“During her nomination process, Judge Jackson demonstrated the magnificence of her legal mind, her unyielding commitment to justice and her remarkable poise,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “American families will greatly benefit from her extensive courtroom experience and background as a public defender that she will bring to the Court."
Jackson has had nine years of experience on the federal bench and was confirmed with a 53-47 vote, majority along party lines but with three Republican votes.
Many Republican representatives were not in favor of the confirmation.
“Even as a violent crime wave sweeps America, Democrats are pursuing a nationwide campaign to make the justice system softer on crime,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said. “They’re stacking the deck with far-left prosecutors, woke warriors at the Department of justice and federal judges who believe criminals deserve lighter treatment. This project is terrible for innocent American families. And every piece of evidence suggests Democrats view Judge Jackson as its crown jewel.”
Jackson will take the seat when Justice Stephen Breyer retires this summer.
Jackson will be the third Black justice, after Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, and the sixth woman. She’s joining three other women, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett, which means that four of the nine justices will be women for the first time in history. —HC
Russian war crimes, horrors revealed in Ukraine
After Russia pulled out of the regions surrounding Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, beginning last week, the horrors of this now six-week war became more apparent as evacuated towns were found strewn with the lifeless bodies of tortured Ukrainian citizens.
Over the past week, the city of Bucha, outside of Kyiv, has become a horrific, graphic symbol of the scope of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and their killing of civilians. German’s foreign intelligence service has claimed to have intercepted radio communications between Russian soldiers in which they discuss indiscriminate killings of Ukrainian citizens. Russia has claimed that these horrors have not occurred until their soldiers have evacuated and have made claims that images of torture and mutilation are staged. However, in addition to radio intercepts, Germany has satellite images that point to Russia’s role in the massacre in Bucha.
In light of these recent discoveries, western countries have doubled down on accusations of war crimes against Russia. The United Nations voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on Thursday. The European Union approved a plan to phase out Russian coal but does not ban other energy exports from Russia. These actions have resulted in Russia becoming increasingly isolated from the western world and its economic pipelines.
Although Russian troops have withdrawn from northern regions of Ukraine, the country’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has urged citizens in eastern cities to evacuate for fear that Russia will regroup and attack the east. —Gabriella Patti
Patricia MacLachlan, author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, has passed away
Patricia MacLachlan, beloved children’s books author perhaps best known for the award-winning book Sarah, Plain and Tall, passed away March 31, at her home in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, at 84 years old.
MacLachlan wrote more than 60 children’s books over her decades-long career. MacLachlan believed in writing what she knew, and sometimes her work contained autobiographic elements. According to the New York Times, she despised books that focused on teaching moral lessons to young children.
“Among some writers, there’s this ghastly notion that one has to teach children lessons,” she told the Orange County Register. “That’s condescending and incorrect. It’s not what writing is about. You write to find out what you’re thinking about, to find out how you feel.”
Her most famous book, Sarah, Plain and Tall, told the story of a farmer who lost his wife and placed an ad in the paper for a new one to help care for his two children. The story is told from the perspective of the farmer’s daughter, Anna. Sarah Wheaton from Maine responds to the ad and comes to visit the family—the book is a simple tale about a growing love between Sarah and the farmer and his children and explores themes of loneliness and loss but also of choice hopes.
“Sarah, Plain and Tall” won the 1986 Newbery Medal, the 1986 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and the 1986 Golden Kite Award. MacLachlan wrote several sequels to the beloved book.
MacLachlan’s friend and fellow writer, Jane Yolen, described “PattyMac,” as she was affectionately referred to in her writing group, as “sharp and funny.”
“Was she one of a kind? She was three of a kind, I think,” Yolen said. “I know no one else like her—soft and sharp, witty and snarky, and the most loving mom and grandmother in the world. In fact, the world has been mothered by her. Just read her books and you will know what I mean.” —GP
Bruno Mars, Olivia Rodrigo, and more win big at the Grammys
The 64th annual Grammy Awards, held in Las Vegas for the first time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, took place last Sunday night, with Trevor Noah returning as the host.
Fans, guests, and artists eagerly awaited to find out who would win the four most significant awards: song of the year, record of the year, best new artist, and album of the year.
First up, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s Silk Sonic won a Grammy for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year with their hit debut single, “Leave the Door Open.”
Next, the Best New Artist award went to 19-year-old Olivia Rodrigo. Her first album, Sour, was released in May 2021 and has remained popular. She performed her hit song, “Driver’s License,” at the ceremony. “This is my biggest dream come true,” she said.
Singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz handed out the final Grammy award, album of the year, to Jon Batiste for We Are.
“I believe this to my core: there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor. The creative arts are subjective and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most,” Batiste said after accepting the trophy. “It’s like a song or an album is made and it almost has a radar to find the person when they need it the most.”
Though most Grammys were awarded before the event, the ceremony included performances with Mars and .Paak, Rodrigo, BTS, Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, Chris Stapleton, and Carrie Underwood.
Among the various tributes to artists who passed away was a moment of silence for Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who was found dead on March 25, and a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, Broadway composer and lyricist. Sondheim, who died November 26, 2021, wrote many Broadway shows, including Gypsy, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Into the Woods. —Hannah Cote
Death of U.S. journalist case is moved to Saudi Arabia
On Thursday, a Turkish court decided to transfer the trial of 26 Saudis accused in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a United States resident, wrote about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kashoggi was killed on October 2, 2018, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Kashoggi had gone into the consulate to collect documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiance, Hatice Cengiz, but he never came out.
Turkish officials alleged that Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents, including a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office. Khashoggi's remains have not been found.
Last week, the prosecutor recommended a transfer to Saudi Arabia, arguing that the trial in Turkey would remain inconclusive. “Turkey’s justice minister supported the recommendation, adding that the trial in Turkey would resume if the Istanbul court is not satisfied with the outcome in Saudi Arabia.”
Lawyers representing Kashoggi’s fiance Cengiz asked the court to keep the proceedings in Turkey. “Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,” lawyer Ali Ceylan told the court. “Let’s protect the honor and dignity of the Turkish nation.”
Human rights advocates also urged them not to transfer the case to Saudi Arabia, arguing that justice for Khashoggi would not be found in the Saudi courts. “It’s a scandalous decision,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch. “We will continue this process with all the power given to me, as a Turkish citizen,” Cengiz said. —HC
Kansas wins March Madness Championship
After beating Villanova 81-65 in the Final Four game on April 2, the Kansas Jayhawks were hot and ready to take home a win at the championship—and they did just that.
On Monday night, Kansas and the University of North Carolina prepared for the final match. At halftime, Kansas was down 15 points to UNC. “I was like, man, I don’t know if I’ve ever been here before,” Kansas player Christian Braun said with a laugh. “Down 15 in the national championship game? I’ve definitely never been there before.”
But slowly, Kansas climbed back to the top. They survived multiple last-second 3-point attempts from UNC, including the final buzzer-beater attempt from UNC’s Caleb Love, who had already saved the team twice in the tournament. Kansas held their ground, and by the end of the night, they mounted atop the podium at center court, crowned national champions.
This win comes after being ranked No. 1 in the country two years ago before the pandemic wiped out the tournament.
“It would be special to win, regardless,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “But to win when your team had to fight and come back the way they did and show that much grit makes this one off the charts.”
“I thought this would be good,” he continued. “And this is a heck of a lot better than I thought it would be.” —HC
Selena Gomez takes a 4.5-year break from the internet
Singer and actress Selena Gomez has been outspoken about her mental health struggles in the past, and on Monday, she shared on Good Morning America that she has been completely offline for the last 4.5 years as a way to feel more “normal.”
"I haven’t been on the internet in four and a half years," Gomez said. "It has changed my life completely. I am happier, I am more present, I connect more with people. It makes me feel normal."
Alongside her mother, Gomez recently co-founded the mental health platform “Wondermind” and has been candid in the past about her struggles with mental health and launched her platform to help others feel “seen and heard.”
Gomez has long been honest about her need for breaks. She has taken time off from her singing and acting career to focus on her health, including after revealing her lupus diagnosis in 2015 and her subsequent kidney transplant in 2017. In 2020, she revealed on Miley Cyrus’s Instagram Live show Bright Minded about her bipolar disorder diagnosis.
"It was really freeing [being diagnosed with bipolar disorder] to have the information," Gomez said. "It made me really happy because I started to have a relationship with myself, and I think that’s the best part. Like, I’ve probably been the happiest I’ve ever been.” —GP
Good News of the Week
Thanks to a recent scientific breakthrough, breast cancer may one day be detectable in women through a simple blood test.
Thanks to a new set of protein biomarkers discovered in breastmilk, women may have to undergo a simple blood test in place of mammograms to screen for breast cancer.
“Because the biomarkers we found in breast milk are also detectable in blood serum, screening could potentially be done in women of any age using blood or breast milk,” said the study's lead author, Danielle Whitham, a doctoral candidate at Clarkson University in New York.
While mammograms help catch breast cancer, Whitham said they are not typically recommended for low-risk women under 40.
Currently, the biomarkers are only for a specific type of breast cancer called invasive ductal carcinoma, but researchers are hopeful that this new approach could be applied to other types. The initial study was done with a small group of women, and researchers plan to expand and look at a larger sample to confirm their findings. —GP
Watch of the Week
After winning the most awards during the 64th Grammy Awards this past Sunday, artist Jon Batiste has much to celebrate. Let’s celebrate alongside him by watching his Grammy-winning music video for the song “Freedom”—a joy-filled tune made better by some killer dance moves.