We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
The infant formula shortage is getting worse
You might have noticed during a recent trip to the grocery store that a lot of stores are keeping formula under lock and key. CVS, Walgreens, and Costco, among other chains, are limiting how many cans of formula families can buy.
The reason is that the United States is experiencing a massive shortage, with a 43 percent out-of-stock rate as of last week, meaning some women are struggling to find food for their babies.
Mother Ashley Hernandez told the New York Times that when her preferred formula brand was out of stock, she found it online for up to $120 for just one can. Some mothers say they have friends and family in other states looking for formula to mail to them.
For mothers who struggle with breastfeeding or have simply chosen to formula feed, this shortage can be a disaster. “Roughly 1 in 4 parents exclusively breastfeed their children up to the age of six months, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving the overwhelming majority of parents and caregivers at least partially dependent on formula,” the Washington Post reports.
In February Abbott Nutrition, producer of formula brands including the popular Similac, voluntarily recalled three types of its baby formula after several babies were hospitalized and two died. Pandemic-related supply-chain issues are also at play.
The White House weighed in on Monday, with press secretary Jen Psaki saying the Food and Drug Administration is “working around the clock to address any possible shortage.” However, the FDA is also partly to blame. One Abbot employee reportedly alerted the FDA to safety concerns with the company’s products months ago, long before the recall. Further, the FDA could easily approve more formula brands, such as those sold in Europe, to increase supply here in the United States. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Wisconsin pro-life center hit by possible arson attack, protests continue
A Wisconsin pro-life center was the target of an apparent attack by radical pro-abortion protestors early Sunday morning. “It appears a specific non-profit that supports anti-abortion measures was targeted,” Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes said in a statement. Police are investigating the fire started at the headquarters of Wisconsin Family Action as arson. They also found an unignited Molotov cocktail and a spray-painted message on the side of the building reading, “If abortions aren't safe than you aren't either.”
A group called “Jane's Revenge” later took responsibility for the attack, demanding “the disbanding of all anti-choice groups, fake clinics, and violent anti-choice groups within the next thirty days.” Its message continued, saying that “this was only a warning. Next time the infrastructure of the enslavers will not survive.”
As tensions over the Supreme Court’s possible Roe v. Wade reversal rose, pro-abortion demonstrations took place across the country last weekend. In Los Angeles, women dressed in Handmaid’s Tale costumes interrupted Mass at a Catholic cathedral. A group called “Ruth Sent Us” has called on protestors to interrupt Catholic Mass with their demonstrations.
Also in the past week, pro-abortion protestors demonstrated outside of the homes of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Justice Samuel Alito. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden believes in the right to protest, “but that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism.” —MFS
Drug overdose deaths reach historic high
Drug overdoses rose significantly in 2021, with the CDC reporting 108 thousand people died from drug overdoses from January to December 2021—approximately a 15 percent increase from the number of overdose deaths in 2020.
For the last two decades, overdose deaths have been steadily rising, and the pandemic exasperated the issue as more people took drugs in isolation, leaving them unable to get help when overdosing.
Of these reported deaths, more than 71 thousand involved illegally manufactured fentanyl, which has taken over the illicit drug market in recent years and mixed in with other drugs.
"These past three years, we have seen an increase of contamination of other illicit drugs with fentanyl, be it cocaine, be methamphetamine, and more recently, illicit prescription drugs," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This has put a bigger population of drug users at risk of overdoses. In many instances, these may be people that take just one pill and they get that contaminated pill and they can die."
The current wave of deaths has also increased due to stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines. In April, the Biden administration announced a plan to address the rising number of overdose deaths. Still, prevention efforts have long been overlooked and underfunded, and one in five people who want drug treatment can’t afford it. The current administration hopes to address some of these issues by increasing access to medications like Naxalone, which offers immediate recovery from overdoses. —Gabriella Patti
Sleep medicine doctor and mother may have discovered the cause of SIDS
A sleep expert may have made a scientific discovery that could significantly reduce the number of babies who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Dr. Carmel Harrington, who has a Ph.D. in Sleep Medicine from Sydney University in Australia, lost her two-year-old son to SIDs in 1991 and has spent the last 29 years studying the root cause of the syndrome.
Harrington and her research team analyzed 722 blood samples from babies between 2016 and 2020. She discovered that several biochemical markers could help doctors determine whether or not a child is more susceptible to SIDs. She found that an enzyme known as BChE helps babies who are low on oxygen to wake up and cry when they are either in danger or uncomfortable. According to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, the study found that BChE levels were significantly lower in infants who died of SIDs.
“BChE plays a major role in the brain’s arousal pathway and researchers believe its deficiency likely indicates an arousal deficit, which reduces an infant’s ability to wake or respond to the external environment, causing vulnerability to SIDS.”
According to the CDC, there are approximately 3,400 SIDS–related deaths every year in the United States in babies under one year old.
Harrington said that while this discovery needs further research, she hopes that not only will it prevent additional deaths but bring grieving parents closure. —GP
Ukraine, UN investigate Russian war crimes as war in Ukraine continues
Russia has been waging war in Ukraine for 11 weeks, and the ongoing devastation has only seemed to solidify the resolve of the Ukrainian people and their allies.
Finland announced on Thursday that it intended to apply to join NATO, and Sweden is expected to follow suit. This move prompted Russia to respond with threats saying that this move may force them to take “retaliatory steps.”
The UN passed a resolution on Thursday to investigate Russian war crimes. Meanwhile, Ukraine plans to hold its first war crimes trial of a Russian soldier, The office of the Prosecutor General charged Sgt. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian. Shyshimarin gunned down the civilian while they were riding a bicycle, only four days into the war.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova’s office has investigated 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects.
In the port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers continue to hold one last area of the city—the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works Plant. Since the beginning of the war, the labyrinth of tunnels underneath the plant has served as a shelter for hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers. Both Ukrainian and Russian officials have stated that all civilians who were previously sheltered in Azovstal have been evacuated. The remaining soldiers held a video press conference on Sunday and referred to their underground tunnels as tunnels "the territory of Azovstal.”
Spouses of the soldiers are pushing authorities to help the Azovstal shelter. On Wednesday, two wives of soldiers in Azovstal had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, pleading for his intervention.
During one of his recent nightly video addresses to the nation, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, condemned Russia’s violence and cowardness, referencing a recent mission strike that hit schools. “Our task is to fight until we achieve our goals in this war: to free our land, our people and secure our security,” Zelenskyy said. —GP
Britney Spears Reveals She Suffered a Miscarriage of her ‘Miracle Baby’
This week, Britney Spears announced on Instagram that she miscarried her baby shared with fiance Sam Asghari. “It is with our deepest sadness we have to announce that we have lost our miracle baby early in the pregnancy,” the singer said in a joint statement. “This is a devastating time for any parent.”
Spears previously announced on April 11 that she was pregnant—an excited announcement coming after being granted freedom from her conservatorship and having her IUD (which she previously said was forced birth control) removed.
Spears said she shared the news of pregnancy very early because she and Asghari “were overly excited to share the good news.” She added that she will continue to try to grow her family. We send sincere condolences to Spears and all mothers who’ve lost a child. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Good News of the Week
Nonspeaking student with autism gives moving commencement speech
It’s fairly common for valedictorians to deliver commencement speeches. But it’s unheard of for one to do so without speaking a word. This week Elizabeth Bonker, valedictorian of Rollins College in Florida, delivered her college commencement speech entirely by typed-to-speech audio due to her condition of nonspeaking autism. "I have typed this speech with one finger with a communication partner holding a keyboard," she said. "I am one of the lucky few nonspeaking autistics who have been taught to type. That one critical intervention unlocked my mind from its silent cage, enabling me to communicate and to be educated like my hero Helen Keller."
In her speech, Bonker emphasized the importance of serving others, citing Helen Keller’s tireless teacher Annie Sullivan, and also Fred Rogers who has become known for keeping a piece of paper in his wallet with the words “Life is for service.” "We are all called to serve, as an everyday act of humility, as a habit of mind," Bonker said. "To see the worth in every person we serve."
“God gave you a voice,” she said. “Use it.” —MRS
Watch of the Week
Horse race fans witnessed a total upset at the 148th Kentucky Derby last Saturday, when Rich Strike beat 80-1 odds, the longest shot in the competition, to win the top prize. In the final stretch, Jocky Sonny Leon navigated thick horse traffic to bring trainer Eric Reed’s first derby horse to victory in 2 minutes and 2.61 seconds. Horseracing fan or not, few people can’t enjoy watching a good underdog moment.