We're pleased to bring you "While You Were Out"—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Taylor Swift gives NYU '22 commencement speech and receives honorary doctorate of fine arts
Taylor Swift can now add "Doctor" to her resume alongside her 11 Grammys and numerous other accomplishments. On Wednesday, Swift received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from New York University after giving the commencement speech.
In the commencement speech given to the NYU class of 2022 at Yankee Stadium, Swift joked and shared advice with the graduating class, acknowledging that she never had a college experience and spent her final years of high school homeschooling so that she could pursue her music career.
"I in no way feel qualified to tell you what to do. You've worked and struggled and sacrificed and studied and dreamed your way here today. I won't tell you what to do because nobody likes that, but I will, however, give you life hacks for when I was starting out my dreams as a career," Swift said. "Never be ashamed of trying. Effortlessness is a myth."
Swift, who has grown up in the public eye and dealt with her own share of criticism, told the class to "learn to live alongside cringe."
"No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively," Swift said. "Cringe is unavoidable over a lifetime. Even the term cringe might someday be deemed cringe. I had a phase where, for the entirety of 2012, I dressed like a 1950s housewife. But you know what? I was having fun. Trends and phases are fun. Looking back and laughing is fun."
"I hope you know how proud I am to share this day with you," Swift added. "We're doing this together, so let's just keep on dancing like we're the class of 22." —Gabriella Patti
U.S. women's soccer players will be paid equal salaries as men
The U.S. women's soccer team will receive equal salaries to the men's teams after a historic deal was struck between the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the United States Women's National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) and the United States National Soccer Team Players Association (USNSTPA).
The women's and men's teams will receive equal salaries, and World Cup bonuses in a deal that was part of new collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) announced May 18. The new CBAs have yet to be ratified, but the equalization of World Cup bonuses would be a first. The U.S. teams will pool their World Cup bonuses received from FIFA and split them equally.
Until now, the U.S. men's team has earned larger World Cup bonuses even during years when they didn't advance. FIFA has paid more significant sums to men's teams, citing that men's teams generate more revenue.
"It's going to be game-changing for what women's football looks like in general," women's national team forward Margaret Purce said. "It's historic, and I think it's going to trigger a lot of other things in the sport, not just in the United States but globally."
The women's team has won four World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals, all while making 38 cents on the dollar to the men's team.
The CBAs, which run through 2028, also improve non-economic terms, including player health and safety. This agreement comes only three months after the US women's team reached a $24 million settlement with the USSF, which ended a gender discrimination lawsuit. —GP
Shooter kills 10 at Buffalo supermarket in apparent racist attack
On Saturday, 18-year-old Payton Gendron allegedly drove more than 200 miles to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, where he opened fire upon shoppers in the parking lot and inside the store, killing 10. Gendron, a white man, had allegedly posted a racist diatribe online, detailing his plans to attack innocent people at the grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Ten Black people were killed, and three people, two of whom were white, were injured. Many of the victims, including some elderly, were active in their community.
In his alleged manifesto, Gendron espoused "white replacement theory," the racist conspiracy theory that white people are being intentionally and maliciously replaced by minorities in the United States. He also referred to himself as an "eco-fascist" and expressed antisemitic fears about Jews.
Wearing tactical gear and armed with an assault weapon, Gendron survived a security guard's shots and livestreamed the attack on Twitch, where it has since been taken down. After being apprehended by police, he pleaded not guilty.
"This is white supremacy in this nation at its worst," New York Governor Kathy Hochul said at a news conference. "It's infecting our society, it's infecting our nation, and now it's taken members of our family away."
President Joe Biden visited the victim's families on Tuesday, criticizing the ideas that appear to have led the shooter to perform his attack.
"Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America," Biden said. "Hate must have no safe harbor." —Madeline Fry Schultz
Biden administration puts proposed 'disinformation' board on hold
Just weeks after the Biden administration proposed creating a Disinformation Governance Board, the board has been put on hold, and its director, Nina Jankowicz, will resign, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The Department of Homeland Security, under which the board was to operate, had defended the Orwellian-sounding proposal by arguing that it wouldn't hurt free speech; it would protect the American people from Russian disinformation and migrants from false claims encouraging illegal immigration, among other things.
As soon as it was announced, however, the "disinformation" board was criticized as a venue for the government to quash free speech, and Jankowicz's credentials were called into question.
For instance, in October 2020, when the New York Post published reporting on Hunter Biden's shady business dealings, Jankowicz called the report Russian disinformation, an error she does not seem to have corrected. (Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was unaware of her comments.) Jankowicz was also criticized for a silly video in which she sang about misinformation to the tune of Mary Poppins' "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Critics have compared the Disinformation Governance Board to 1984's "Ministry of Truth."
After Jankowicz's resignation, a DHS spokesperson defended her, saying she was "eminently qualified." "Nina Jankowicz has been subjected to unjustified and vile personal attacks and physical threats," the spokesperson told the Washington Post in a statement. "In congressional hearings and in media interviews, the Secretary has repeatedly defended her as eminently qualified and underscored the importance of the Department's disinformation work, and he will continue to do so."
Now a DHS advisory council has just over two months to recommend whether the disinformation board should continue or not. —MFS
Mariupol steel plant falls as Russian soldiers are tried for war crimes
After weeks of holding fast in the Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have surrendered, many of whom are wounded. Russia had gained control over Mariupol weeks ago, and the steel plant was the last corner of the city where Ukrainians held a defensive line. For weeks, soldiers have been trapped in the tunnels that run under the steel plant and have become a symbol of strength and hope in the Ukrainian battle against invading Russian troops.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said she is working to negotiate prisoner exchanges for the wounded Ukrainian service members. Still, the fate of the Ukrainian soldiers remains unclear, and they have been taken to Russian-controlled territory.
"Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address, Tuesday. "We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys. Among them are the seriously wounded. They are being provided with medical aid."
On Thursday, a 21-year-old Russian soldier pled guilty to war crimes during a trial in Kyiv. In the early days of the war, the Russian tank commander, Vadim Shishimarin, shot 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov, who was unarmed, in the streets in front of his home. The soldier is one of the thousands of Russian soldiers identified as possible war criminals and one of several being tried this week alone.
Shelipov's widow, Kateryna, confronted the defendant, who asked for her forgiveness. The widow asked the court to impose a life sentence.
"I think imprisonment for life," she said. "But if they exchange him for our Mariupol defenders … I will not be against it." —GP
Lawmakers, activists call for missing Indigenous person alert system
As of this week, the need for an alert system that specifically spreads information about actively missing Indigenous peoples has become a national and international call. The necessity has intensified as the danger of being murdered or missing as an Indigenous person has not lessened.
This need is not only in the U.S. but Canada as well. Canada has asked for more assistance in bringing awareness to missing Indigenous peoples. The most recent outcry has been fueled by the disappearance of five-year-old Frank Young, who went missing from his Indigenous community on April 19, 2022, in Saskatchewan. Mass communication about his disappearance was abandoned, causing the Indigenous community in Canada and the United States to again rally for a standard alert system for their people.
After a solution for raising awareness about missing Indigenous peoples was proposed in January 2022, Washington State officially became the first in the U.S. to sign this alert system into law. On March 31, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill, which employs the state patrol to create the alert system specifically designed to spread the word about missing Indigenous peoples. The system will act as an Amber or Silver alert system and notify law enforcement agencies when a missing Indigenous person is reported.
The system also can send information that can be posted on social media, alert local radio stations of the missing person and provide ways to place alerts on highway billboards. With these changes, the Indigenous community in Washington state is hopeful that the public will become more aware of this plight, particularly for Indigenous women and girls in the United States, as they represent "a disproportionally large number of missing and murdered cases relative to the size of their population." As Representative Debra Lekanoff from Washington stated during the signing, this alert system will "allow the public to hear 'the unheard screams' of Indigenous women who go missing." The system is expected to be active and ready for use as soon as June 9, 2022.
Since its passing in Washington state, activists are hopeful that lawmakers from the rest of the United States will also pass this bill to better protect their Indigenous communities and hope Canada will follow suit in showing their concern for Indigenous peoples such as Frank Young. —Gabrielle Sanford
Good News of the Week
Rihanna gives birth to baby boy
Congratulations are due to Rihanna, who gave birth to her first child, a baby boy, on May 13. Rihanna, a staple in the R&B music scene for over a decade and has in more recent years made a name with her brand Fenty Beauty, welcomed her son with rapper boyfriend, A$AP Rocky.
Rihanna's pregnancy broke in early January 2022. Since then, she has become an icon of pregnancy style with her stomach-baring looks that have defied the history of women attempting to hide their bellies. Rihanna has embraced the bump, letting it all hang out.
In interviews, the new mama has openly discussed her pregnancy and expressed her excitement. When speaking to Refinery29 about her pregnancy and changing body, she said:
"I do feel very beautiful—it's from inside. You know that all these changes that your body is going through is because you're creating this person, this life! And even when I'm reading all the apps and finding out what my body is doing, what the baby's doing this week, it freaks me out. Like, God does not make a mistake, everything is for a reason. I'm enjoying it and I'm appreciating it. Everything. It's exciting. It's such a cool journey." —GP
Watch of the Week
This week, the radio program "From the Top" featured New York-based classical musicians Philina and Nickita Zhang, ages 14 and 11. Enjoy this music video the sisters created last year to decry violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.