We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Planned Parenthood to pour $50 million into midterm elections
Planned Parenthood is spending $50 million on the midterm elections this November, signaling an aggressive strategy as more states enact abortion restrictions in the months after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Now that abortion legislation has returned to the states, Planned Parenthood has its eyes set on several—Georgia, Nevada, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Wisconsin—in which a Democratic state legislature could bolster abortion access, or Democratic U.S. senators could keep the U.S. Senate from flipping for Republicans.
The GOP expects a red wave this fall; midterm elections are historically bad for the president’s party in Congress, especially when the president is unpopular. Planned Parenthood aims to counteract this phenomenon by pouring cash into efforts to boost Democratic races, spending about $30 million more than it usually would in a midterm year. The group is betting that abortion access will push voters to the polls, as it appeared to do in Kansas this summer.
“Who wins in these midterm elections will determine whether a state has access to abortion and potentially determine whether we will face a national abortion ban,” said Jenny Lawson, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe and Casey v. Planned Parenthood in June cleared the way for the possibility of a national abortion ban, something congressional Republicans have indicated could be on the table.
To fight this possibility, Planned Parenthood’s midterm investments “will take shape in the form of voter engagement, volunteer and paid canvassing, phone and text banking, and advertising,” according to the Washington Post.
Planned Parenthood’s hopes may be buoyed by the results of the recent Kansas election in which voters shot down an amendment to ban abortion. But as inflation hits everyone’s wallets, voters may have other issues top of mind. Nationally, as of June, just 1 percent of Americans think abortion is the top problem facing our country today.
So what will Congress look like next year? In less than three months, voters will get to decide. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Liz Cheney loses primary, weighs White House bid
U.S. Representative Liz Cheney lost her primary race against Harriet Hageman, a Trump-backed challenger who ran by positioning herself as the true conservative. Cheney voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in 2021 and is the vice-chairwoman of the January 6 committee. She has also taken heat for pushing back against Trump’s claims of election fraud, which Hageman supported.
Since the 2020 election, Cheney has become the face of the Republicans objecting to Trump’s election fraud claims and lingering hold on the Republican Party. Cheney’s public perception has swiftly changed over the last two years; in 2020, she won her primary with 73 percent of the vote. This week, she lost by more than 35 percent.
Cheney may be out of Congress come January, but the family's dynasty has no plans of fizzling out just yet. Cheney is reportedly mulling a presidential run, telling the Today show that running for president “is something I’m thinking about and I’ll make a decision in the coming months.”
“I believe that Donald Trump continues to pose a very grave threat—a risk to our republic—and I think defeating him is going to require a broad and united front of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, and that's what I intend to be a part of,” Cheney said. —MFS
Amid credibility crisis, CDC announces a ‘reset’
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is undergoing a “reset,” says director Rochelle Walensky, admitting the organization made mistakes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing to data to communications,” Walensky said.
This reset will reportedly include some internal staff shuffling and faster data releases. These changes seem aimed at improving the CDC’s response to the monkeypox outbreak and changing the public perception of the agency as out-of-touch. “The CDC. has been criticized for years as being too academic and insular,” the New York Times notes. “The coronavirus pandemic brought those failings into public view, with even some of the agency’s staunchest defenders criticizing its response as inept.”
As the U.S. faces living with coronavirus and battling a new monkeypox outbreak, the CDC is combatting a credibility crisis. An NBC News poll from January found that only 44 percent of Americans trust the CDC’s COVID-19 guidance.
The CDC’s shakeup comes just a week after the public health agency loosened its COVID-19 guidance, saying Americans don’t need to quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person and don’t need to maintain six feet of distance from each other.
AP reports, “The changes, which come more than 2 1/2 years after the start of the pandemic, are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95 percent of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected, agency officials said.”
The Monday following the CDC announcement, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced he will resign from his post as chief medical advisor to the President, as well as director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in December. “Retirement can’t shield Dr. Fauci from congressional oversight,” House Oversight and Reform Committee ranking member James Comer said in a statement. —MFS
Academy issues apology to Sacheen Littlefeather for treatment following 1973 Oscars
In 1973, 26-year-old Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache woman, walked on stage at the Oscars and declined the academy award for best actor on Marlon Brando’s behalf. Brando had won the award for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, but he had Littlefeather appear on stage in his stead to refuse the award.
Littlefeather, dressed in a buckskin dress, said, “the reasons for this being, are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” as well as the poor treatment of American Indians in television and during the standoff at Wounded Knee in South Dakota.
Littlefeather, who was met by a mixed response of boos and claps, has said that not only did John Wayne try to assault her before he was restrained, and that she was blacklisted from the acting industry. However, almost fifty years later, in June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued a “statement of reconciliation.”
“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” the statement read. “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”
Littlefeather told the Hollywood Reporter that she was stunned by the apology.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this,” she said. “When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”
Despite the racism and blacklisting she experienced following her statement at the 1973 Oscar Ceremony, Littlefeather believes it was an important step and the right thing to do.
“All we were asking, and I was asking, was, ‘Let us be employed. Let us be ourselves. Let us play ourselves in films. Let us be a part of your industry, producing, directing, writing. Don’t write our stories for us. Let us write our own stories. Let us be who we are,’ ” she said. “This is all I was saying.” —Gabriella Patti
Bryce Dallas Howard reveals pay gap
Actress Bryce Dallas Howard recently revealed that she was paid less than her costar Chris Pratt for the Jurassic Park series, following this year’s release of the sixth installment in the franchise, Jurassic World: Dominion. While speculation that Howard was receiving $2 million less than her costar first surfaced in 2018, Howard confirmed the rumor in a recent interview with Insider.
"When I started negotiating for 'Jurassic,' it was 2014, and it was a different world, and I was at a great disadvantage," she said. "And, unfortunately, you have to sign up for three movies, and so your deals are set."
However, Howard revealed that after bringing this to Pratt’s attention, he went to bat for her, and took action to get Howard equal terms for other franchise-related opportunities such as theme-park rides and games.
"He literally told me: 'You guys don't even have to do anything. I'm gonna do all the negotiating. We're gonna be paid the same, and you don't have to think about this, Bryce,'" Howard said. "And I love him so much for doing that. I really do, because I've been paid more for those kinds of things than I ever was for the movie." —GP
FDA announces changes that will make hearing aids more affordable and accessible
On Tuesday, the FDA announced that they are working to make hearing aids cheaper and more accessible—nearly 30 million consumers will be able to purchase hearing aids over the counter without a prescription or a medical exam.
President Joe Biden, who called on the FDA last year to make hearing aids more accessible as part of his executive order to lower costs and increase competition in certain industries, released a statement announcing the change.
“As early as mid-October, Americans will be able to purchase more affordable hearing aids over the counter at pharmacies and stores across the country,” President Biden said. “This action makes good on my commitment to lower costs for American families, delivering nearly $3,000 in savings to American families for a pair of hearing aids and giving people more choices to improve their health and well-being.”
The new FDA regulations will make a new category of hearing aids accessible to people 18 and older. They will likely most benefit people on fixed incomes and those in poor or rural communities with limited access to audiologists. Currently, hearing aids average more than $5,000 per pair and are not usually covered by Medicare or other insurers. Per data collected in the National Health Interview Survey, while around 38 million adults in the United States report hearing loss, most have not tried aids.
“This rule is expected to help us achieve quality, affordable health care access for millions of Americans in need,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s action by the FDA represents a significant milestone in making hearing aids more cost-effective and accessible.” —GP
Good News of the Week
After seeing a woman sitting on the ground in the dirt while waiting at a bus stop, James Warren decided to take action. He noticed that many of the bus stops around his hometown of Denver didn’t have seating areas for those waiting for their bus, so he decided to build a bench.
“For people to have to sit in the dirt while they’re waiting for a bus is just undignified,” said Warren, 28.
Warren has used scrap wood that he finds in construction dumpsters to build 8 benches for bus stops around Denver. Warren said that each one takes about three hours to make, and he inscribes “Be Kind” on each one using a stencil or wood-burning tools.
Warren has plans to build more, as the city of Denver has more than 9 thousand bus stops, many still without seating or shelter.
“I met some ladies the other day who were talking about how they used the benches every single day,” Warren said. “It fills me up. It’s air in my tires.”
Watch of the Week
This week researchers revealed that dogs' eyes fill with happy tears when reuniting with their owners. Let your eyes do the same when watching this video of furry friends reuniting with their best pals.