We're pleased to bring you "While You Were Out"—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Gunman kills 21 at Texas elementary school
A gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, carrying out the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The suspect is an 18-year-old man who allegedly shot and wounded his grandmother before the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Authorities say the suspect had purchased two semiautomatic rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition in the days following his eighteenth birthday, the legal age to purchase a rifle in Texas. The shooter was killed on the scene.
Law enforcement is under fire for their seemingly terrible handling of the situation and for taking too long to intervene. Before the shooter entered the school, he fired shots outside of it for 12 minutes. After the shooter had barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom, it took Border Patrol nearly an hour to breach the door.
"There was at least 40 lawmen armed to the teeth but didn't do a darn thing [until] it was far too late," said Jacinto Cazares, father of 10-year-old Jacklyn Jaylen Cazares, who was killed. "The situation could've been over quick if they had better tactical training, and we as a community witnessed it firsthand."
The New York Post reports, "A witness who lived across the street from the elementary school said onlookers begged officers outside the school to do something as gunfire rang out inside the building."
After urging police to move faster, one concerned parent was even put in handcuffs and arrested for "intervening in an active investigation" before she persuaded law enforcement to set her free. The woman, Angeli Rose Gomez, told the Wall Street Journal that "she saw a father tackled and thrown to the ground by police and a third pepper-sprayed. Once freed from her cuffs, Gomez made her distance from the crowd, jumped the school fence, and ran inside to grab her two children. She sprinted out of the school with them."
For hours, other parents waited anxiously at the city's civic center to hear whether their children were victims of the deadly shooting. Some parents were reunited with their children. Others heard that a reunion would never come.
The shooting has renewed calls for stricter gun laws. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke interrupted Governor Greg Abbott's press conference on the shooting, accusing Republicans of "doing nothing."
This was the children's last week of school before summer break. The two teachers who were killed, Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles, had co-taught together for five years.
"I want her to be remembered as someone who sacrificed her life and put her life on the line for her kids," John Martinez, Garcia's nephew, said. "They weren't just her students. Those were her kids, and she put her life on the line, she lost her life to protect them. That's the type of person she was."
Irma Garcia's husband, Joe Garcia, died of a heart attack on Thursday. His nephew said he "passed away due to grief."
Felix Rubio, father of slain 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, told CNN, "All I can hope is that she's just not a number. This is enough. No one else needs to go through this. We never needed to go through this, but we are." —Madeline Fry Schultz
The U.S. birth rate grew in 2021—the first time since 2014
After the already falling birthrate tanked in 2020, the year the United States began wrestling with the coronavirus pandemic, 2021 saw a slight uptick in births with 3.66 million babies born last year, 1 percent more than the year before. The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics provisional data show that birth rates rose for women 25 and older but decreased for younger demographics, particularly teenagers, falling 6 percent for 15- to 19-year-olds.
The rising birth rate is good news, but U.S. births are still far below replacement levels, and 2021's birth rate of 1.66 babies per woman is still below 2019's, at 1.71.
We could see another increase in 2022 as parents or would-be parents who delayed having kids during the pandemic have more children. "When you see the decline in births that occurred in 2020, there's this tendency to look at them as births that have been foregone," said statistician Brady Hamilton, who worked on the federal births report. "These are births that have been postponed."
Lauren Steingold Makler told the Wall Street Journal that working from home because of the pandemic gave her the flexibility she needed to finally have a child. "Ultimately, we decided that the pandemic wasn't going anywhere, and my body was going to continue to age regardless," the 34-year-old said. "You slow down and reflect on priorities and realize that family is that priority, so what better time than now." Now she has a one-year-old daughter, Eden. "I have never loved anything more than being a mom," Makler said. —MFS
Josh Duggar sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for child pornography
Josh Duggar, the reality star who rose to fame as the oldest child on the long-running TLC reality TV series 19 Kids and Counting, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 and a half years in prison for child pornography.
Duggar, 34, is a father of seven and was convicted in December on two counts of possessing and receiving child pornography. The prosecution laid out a case that included evidence of Duggar downloading images from the dark web depicting the sexual abuse of minors. One Homeland security agent described the images as "in the top five of the worst of the worst that I've ever had to examine."
While some family members, including Duggar's mother, Michelle, and wife, Anna, wrote letters to the court pleading for leniency in his sentencing, other family members have expressed some approval for his sentence. Duggar's sister, Jill Dillard and her husband Derick shared their thoughts on their family blog.
"The Bible clearly states that God effects (sic) justice and vengeance through the governing authorities. Though some believe Josh should have received a greater sentence and still fewer believe he should have received a lighter sentence, God has carried out his vengeance today for his unspeakable criminal activity."
The Dillards added that they felt that this was the first time Duggar had been held accountable for his actions and "dangerous pattern of behavior."
"It is unfortunate, but it seems that it may take spending over a decade in federal prison, and still more on probation, for Josh to have any potential for rehabilitation to the point he can safely live in society again," the Dillards wrote. "Hopefully, Josh can actually begin to get treatment and begin to work toward a lifestyle where he is less likely to reoffend." —Gabriella Patti
Monkeypox outbreak reaches the United States
A rare but spreading virus called monkeypox has been identified in nine U.S. states. A "much less severe cousin of smallpox," monkeypox is not as transmissible as COVID-19—"it is spread by close and prolonged contact with an infected individual"—and while the spread of another virus may prompt flashbacks to 2020, this doesn't pose the same threat.
"This is definitely not like COVID," Andrea McCollum, the CDC's poxvirus epidemiology team lead, told Axios. "We are still in a framework where this is controllable."
Monkeypox, which can cause a rash and flu-like symptoms, is endemic in 11 African countries and has been discovered in just 250 cases worldwide. The first case in the U.S. was recently diagnosed in a patient in Massachusetts.
Dr. Paul Biddinger, the chief preparedness and continuity officer at Mass General Brigham, said "that historically, this has been a very rare disease, with very rare transmission around the world. What we have seen in the United Kingdom, in Spain and in Europe, has been novel and that gives us cause for concern, but, I think appropriately, people should not be afraid of monkeypox right now." —MFS
Kevin Spacey is charged with 4 counts of sexual assault
Actor Kevin Spacey was charged with four counts of sexual assault against three men in Britain Thursday.
The Crown Prosecution Service has authorized criminal charges for four alleged incidents that took place in London between March 2005 and August 2008. Spacey will be charged formally at a later date.
Spacey was accused of sexual assault in 2017 by actor Anthony Rapp who alleged that Spacey had sexually assaulted him in the 1980s when Rapp was a teenager. The news of the charges by the Crown Prosecution Service came as Spacey was testifying in a civil lawsuit filed by Rapp in New York City.
A separate criminal case was brought against Spacey following allegations from an 18-year-old man that Spacey groped him, but the suit was dismissed in 2019. —GP
Fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine as Russia hones in on the Donbas region
Russia continues its intense warfare in Ukraine and increasingly targets the Donbas region, which is already partially run by Russian separatists. This focus on the Donbas region has only increased in recent weeks after Russian troops failed to meet their goals in central parts of Ukraine, including attempts to overtake the Ukrainian seat of government in Kyiv.
Heavy shelling has been raining down on the cities Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, both in the eastern Luhansk region, a part of the Donbas. Severodonetsk is the last major city in the Luhansk region—situated in the southeast corner of Ukraine – that has remained under Ukrainian control. The city's mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, reported that 1,500 people have been killed in Severondonetsk, and around 13 thousand people remain in the city, although 60 percent of the residential buildings have been destroyed.
In the next-door Donetsk region, also part of the Donbas region, Russia is "conducting an intense offensive" to seize the critical town of Lyman, which is an important rail hub. Ukrainian officials have said that Russia has the "upper hand' in the fighting in this eastern portion of the country and that in some places, Ukrainian troops have been forced to retreat. Thousands of Ukrainian prisoners of war are being held in the Donbas region, with more added daily.
Ukrainian volunteer fighters in eastern Ukraine have said that they feel abandoned by military superiors and struggle to survive. —GP
Ricky Gervais defends transgender jokes in Netflix special
Shortly after Netflix began streaming Ricky Gervais: SuperNature earlier this week, the comedian came under fire for his jokes about the transgender movement. Like Dave Chappelle in his controversial stand-up special The Closer, Gervais poked fun at the idea that someone can change their gender.
Gervais quipped about "the old-fashioned women, the ones with wombs." How dare they complain about transgender women wanting to use their bathrooms? "And now the old-fashioned ones say, 'Oh, they want to use our toilets.' 'Why shouldn't they use your toilets?' 'For ladies!' 'They are ladies — look at their pronouns! What about this person isn't a lady?'"
When women complain, "What if he rapes me?" Gervais joked that the cultural response seems to be, "What if she rapes you?"
"Full disclosure: In real life, of course, I support trans rights," Gervais also said during the special. Nevertheless, his jokes were criticized by LGBT groups.
In response to the backlash, Gervais said, "My target wasn't trans folk, but trans-activist ideology. I've always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression." He continued, "It was probably the most current, most talked about, taboo subject of the last couple of years. I deal in taboo subjects and have to confront the elephant in the room." —MFS
Good News of the Week
When Gerda Cole was 18 years old in 1942, she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption to a German couple living in England. Cole, who named her daughter "Sonya," was Jewish and had fled Austria and the Nazis, living in England as a refugee.
Cole was in a miserable marriage and couldn't afford to take care of Sonya, and despite wanting to make it work, she wanted her daughter to have the life she deserved.
Now, as Cole turned 98 years old this year, her long-lost daughter Sonya Grist traveled from England to Cole's retirement home in Toronto on May 7 to meet her for the first time. Cole, who could not have any other children, said that the mother and daughter just "clicked."
Grist's parentage was discovered when her son, Stephen, dug into his ancestry and found out that he was Austrian and put in the work to track down the sometimes complicated records and information trails that eventually led him to his grandmother.
The reunion was a tearful, happy one as the mother and daughter came together to celebrate Coles's birthday and Mother's Day.
"She is a little bit of me," Cole said tearfully. Seeing Sonya again "was definitely the best thing that has happened to me." —GP
Watch of the Week
“If you can make changes, good changes, in your community—go ahead and do them now. Don’t wait until it gets to this point,” Stephanie Menchaca told the Texas Tribune this week. Watch Jinitzail Hernandez's reporting on how the Uvalde community is coming together to heal.