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We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.

After 23 years in prison, ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed released from prison

In 2000, 18-year-old Adnan Syed was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and sentenced to life in prison. This week, a Baltimore court vacated Syed’s conviction, and Syed was released under home detention.

The story of Lee’s death and the case against Syed skyrocketed to fame after it was featured on the Serial Productions podcast Serial, hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig. A friend of Syed’s contacted Koenig with doubts about Syed’s guilt, and the podcast’s first season outlines the story of Lee and Syed’s relationship, Lee’s disappearance and murder, and the accusations and evidence against Syed.

The Baltimore City State’s Attorney's Office filed a motion last week to vacate the conviction—meaning, to make the ruling void and remove the associated penalty — citing new information about two other potential suspects in the murder. At the time of Serial’s release, the argument for Syed’s innocence was largely one of, “Someone is lying, but who?” However, the overturning of his conviction has brought more attention to the conversation surrounding law enforcement conduct and the judgment with which attorneys enter or withhold evidence from the court.

The State has 30 days to decide whether to proceed with a new trial or to drop charges.

Serial season one, which featured Syed’s story and was released in 2014, was comprised of 12 episodes. Following the news of Syed’s release, the podcast released a 13th episode to reflect the significant change in Syed’s fate.

As exciting as this news is for Syed and his supporters, when it comes to justice for Hae Min Lee, her case remains unsolved. —Maggie Sicilia

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in St. George’s Chapel

Kings, queens, prime ministers, and presidents from across the world joined at Westminster Abbey Monday for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral on Sept. 8. Two thousand guests were in attendance at the funeral, while thousands more filled the streets of London, and millions of viewers watched the service via livestream.

The day’s proceedings began at 6:30 a.m. with the official ending of the Queen’s instate period at Westminster Hall. Members of the Queen’s guard then carried the coffin from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey in a procession that included 142 Royal Navy sailors, 299 pipers and drummers of Scottish and Irish regiments, and members of the Royal Family.

Participants in the service included the UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, and other prominent political and religious figures across England and the United Kingdom.

Music was offered by Westminster Abbey’s Organist and Master of Choristers, the Choir of Westminster Abbey, and The Choir of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal. Pieces included compositions by prolific historical Anglican composers like Herbert Howells, Harold Darke, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Healy Willan, as well as new works commissioned for the service from Sir James MacMillan and Judith Weir.

After the Last Post was sounded, the congregation observed a two-minute silence and then sang the national anthem. Following the funeral, a televised committal service was held at St. George’s Chapel; after this service, the Dean of Windsor conducted a private burial service with His Majesty the King and the Royal Family in attendance.

While the Queen Mother’s funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in 2002, this was the first monarch's funeral to be held at the abbey since Queen Victoria’s in 1901. Queen Elizabeth II now rests alongside Prince Philip, King George VI, and the Queen Mother. —MS

Spurred by January 6, House passes bill reforming Electoral Count Act

The House of Representatives passed a bill this week to reform the Electoral Count Act. Led by the January 6 panel, legislators passed the bill in an effort to keep an event such as the January 6 Capitol riot from happening again.

The bill, which has companion legislation in the Senate, passed primarily on party lines, with just nine Republicans voting for it. The Electoral Count Act, passed in 1887, concerns the counting of electoral votes following a presidential election. It is the legislation former President Donald Trump tried to exploit following his claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

“One key provision in the bill, which is also contained in the Senate proposal, would clarify that the role of the vice president, who by law presides over the counting of the ballots in his capacity as president of the Senate, is strictly ministerial,” reports the New York Times. “After the 2020 election, Mr. Trump and his advisers tried but failed to persuade Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to accept electoral votes from states where Trump was falsely claiming victory.”

If this bill passes, it will become more difficult for members of Congress to object to states’ electoral votes. Currently, only one member of each chamber is required to object, and the legislation would require at least one-third of the House and Senate to agree to object to the votes. “The House bill would also more narrowly define the grounds for an objection to those with a defined constitutional basis,” the New York Times adds.

If passed, the bill would be a significant win for the January 6 committee, which will have one of its final hearings on September 28. —Madeline Fry Schultz

Putin escalates Kremlin’s stakes in Russia-Ukraine War

Russia continues to double down on the war in Ukraine, despite the trajectory of the war, which currently favors Ukraine. This past week, Russian President Vladimir Putin began a series of escalation tactics, starting with the mobilization of approximately 300 thousand Russian citizens to fight in the ongoing war.

Following this announcement, protests took place across Russia, and military-aged men attempted to flee conscription at airports and border checkpoints. Over 1,300 people were arrested across Russia for participating in anti-mobilization protests, and in one city, a military recruit office was set on fire.

Axios reports that this move could bring the war closer to home for most Russians. According to data collected by the Levada Center, Russia's top independent pollster, 45 percent of Russians have been behind the war, 30 percent have backed it with reservations, and the remaining 25 percent have opposed the war.

Additionally, this past week Moscow and Kyiv brokered a deal on Wednesday to swap hundreds of war prisons, including several U.S. military veterans and British Nationals. Putin has received backlash for this prisoner exchange, particularly for agreeing to free commanders from Ukraine’s controversial Azov Regiment.

Putin’s escalation occurs as Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine prepare to hold “referendums” (votes) from Friday to Tuesday on the prospect of joining Russia. The votes, which would be illegal under Ukrainian and international law, would lay the groundwork for Russia to annex parts of Ukraine.

It is expected that the self-declared republics of Luhansk and Donetsk will announce that a majority wishes to join Russia and that Putin will bless the vote. Experts believe this is all an attempt to reframe the war as defensive in nature as it would become a fight on so-called Russian soil. Putin has vowed to use “all means at our disposal” to protect Russian land—which analysts have interpreted as a poorly veiled nuclear threat. —Gabriella Patti

Death of young Kurdish Iranian woman sparks protests across Iran

Following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police, Iranians have taken to the streets in anti-government protests.

Amini was arrested in Tehran for allegedly breaking hijab rules. She was arrested Sept. 13 and reportedly taken to the hospital shortly after. Numerous eyewitnesses have supported the fact that Amini suffered multiple blows to the head before she died, despite police rejecting the allegations. Iranian officials have claimed that Amini died after suffering a heart attack, and Amini’s father said that doctors refused to let him see his daughter after her death.

A photo of Amini lying comatose in the hospital sparked an outcry, leading to anti-government protests with Iranian women burning their hijabs and cutting their hair short. Amini’s death is just another example for many of the abuse and oppression that many Iranian women have had to endure.

Iranian officials have responded to the protests with force, and at least 30 people are dead or seriously injured. Instagram and WhatsApp are blocked in Iran, and Internet access is down or slowed across the country. —GP

STI rates are on the rise, according to the CDC

STI rates spiked last year, driven partly by the pandemic, which diverted resources away from combating sexually transmitted infections to fighting COVID-19. The number of STIs increased to 2.5 million last year from 2.4 million in 2020, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Rates of syphilis, in particular, jumped 26 percent last year. Gonorrhea and chlamydia increased as well. HIV rates are rising in some parts of the country for the first time in almost a decade.

Issues with condom usage and other STD prevention are partly to blame, but so is the opioid epidemic. “Additionally, opioid and methamphetamine use—which increased significantly during the pandemic—is both leading to more HIV and hepatitis infections among people who share needles and to the spread of other STDs as more people trade sex for drugs and engage in unprotected sex,” reports Politico.

The U.S. is also seeing increasing rates of congenital syphilis, or babies born with the condition. Last year, it jumped 24 percent, meaning more than 2,600 babies contracted syphilis in the womb, “up from 529 in 2000 when the country seemed on the verge of eliminating the condition,” per Politico.

Between coronavirus and now monkey pox, the CDC has had its hands full. Leandro Mena, the director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, blamed the increase in STIs on a lack of public health funding. “Over two decades of level funding, when you account for inflation and population changes, have effectively decreased the buying power of public health dollars and resulted in the reduction of STI services at the local level,” Mena said.

It was just a month ago, however, that the CDC director herself announced that the agency had failed during the pandemic and would undergo a “reset” to prepare it to face future crises. —MFS

Hurricane Fiona leaves Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic out of electricity for days

Now strengthened to a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Fiona struck many areas of the Caribbean this week, leaving millions without access to basic utilities.

The storm hit Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, leading to power outages, cut-off water access, flooding, and mudslides. At least five fatalities have been reported.

Parts of Puerto Rico experienced over 30 inches of rain and winds up to 125 miles per hour. This impact comes five years after Category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated much of the same territory and resulted in similar power outages. Power and water restoration services are proceeding more quickly than in 2017; 40 percent of residents have electricity restored, and two-thirds have access to water.

Fiona has strengthened to a Category 4 and is headed for eastern Canada. At this time, meteorologists do not expect the storm to make landfall in the United States, but parts of the east coast can still expect up to ten feet of rainfall.—MS

Model shares TikTok alleging affair with Maroon Five singer Adam Levine

Maroon Five frontman Adam Levine has become the center of this week’s celebrity news after 23-year-old Instagram model Sumner Stroh shared a TikTok video alleging that she had a yearlong affair with the singer. Since Stroh’s announcement, several other women have come forward also alleging flirtatious Instagram messages from Levine. Stroh made a second video to express remorse and apologize to Levine’s wife.

Levine and his wife, model Behati Prinsloo, have been married since 2014 and have two young daughters. Prinsloo is currently expecting their third child.

Stroh shared screenshots of messages that appeared to be sent from the singer’s official Instagram account. Stroh claims that months after they had stopped communicating, Levine reached out to her to ask if he could name his unborn child after her.

“OK, serious question. I’m having another baby and if it’s [a] boy I really wanna name it Sumner. You OK with that? DEAD serious,” an Instagram message allegedly sent by Levine read.

Levine released a statement following Stroh’s initial video, in which he denied having cheated but admitted to sending messages to Stroh.

"I did not have an affair, nevertheless, I crossed the line during a regrettable period of my life. In certain instances it became inappropriate," Levine wrote in an Instagram story. “My wife and my family is all I care about in this world. To be this naive and stupid enough to risk the only thing that truly matters to me was the greatest mistake I could ever make. I will never make it again."

Following Stroh’s video, four women claimed that Levine had flirted with them via Instagram.

Levine has admitted to cheating in past relationships, saying, "Instinctively, monogamy is not in our genetic makeup. People cheat. I have cheated.”

Levine’s is hardly the first celebrity cheating scandal to become public, nor the first used as a cautionary tale. However, in light of Levine’s laissez-faire attitude about cheating and monogamy, it’s worth sharing the words of Verily contributor Kathryn Wales: “The heart’s desire is answered by investing in one person—real intimacy rather than sexual adventuring.” —GP

Good News of the Week

Amid strict TSA regulations and last-minute flight cancellations, it’s nice to know there’s still some humanity at the airport. College student Kira Rumfola found this out when she tried to fly home from her freshman year at the University of Tampa with her betta fish, Theo.

Although another airline had allowed her to fly with the fish before, Southwest Airlines regulations wouldn’t let Rumfola take the betta fish up in the air. So customer service agent Ismael Lazo offered to watch Theo over the summer.

“I have two dogs—I wouldn’t want to abandon them somewhere,” Lazo told the Washington Post. “And I also know how hard it is to leave them when I go out of town.”

Lazo admitted he was no expert on fish care, but Rumfola gave him her supplies, and he told her he would do his “very best to keep Theo happy.” Lazo sent Rumfola text updates throughout the summer, telling her that the fish really seemed to enjoy watching him and his fiancée do dishes.

In August, Rumfola was reunited with Theo, giving Lazo candy and a gift card as thanks.

“It was so nice that he would take on the responsibility of watching my fish,” she said. “I knew I’d miss Theo over the summer, but I was thankful to know he’d be cared for.” —MFS

Watch of the Week

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II was a somber and historic event full of symbolism. In this clip from the Washington Post, get a glimpse at the funeral for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.