We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Longest reigning English monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 96
On the afternoon of September 8, the Royal Family issued a statement that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, died peacefully at age 96.
The announcement followed another statement from the same morning, informing the public that the Queen’s doctors were “concerned” for her health and that she was resting comfortably under medical supervision at Balmoral, her Scotland estate at which she spent most of the summer. Media and Royal Family strategists deemed a statement of that nature “unprecedented,” thus prompting uninterrupted hours of continual updates from the gates of both Balmoral and Buckingham Palace.
During this time, several senior members of the Royal Family arrived at the Scottish estate; the Queen, Prince Charles, and Princess Consort Camilla were joined by Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Edward and Sophie, Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and, later, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. The Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge were not in attendance.
The Queen, England’s longest reigning monarch, celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, though she did not fully participate in the extent of the celebration citing health concerns even then. Her seven decades as head of state saw 15 prime ministers, the expansion of the Commonwealth, stark changes in British society and the attitude toward the monarchy, and England’s entrance into and departure from the European Union.
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor on April 21, 1926, she was renowned for her sense of responsibility, even as a child. In a statement on her 21st birthday, she reaffirmed this sense of duty to her country: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” She reiterated these sentiments in her Silver Jubilee — in 1977, celebrating 25 years as Queen — and again in her Platinum Jubilee this year.
The loss of Elizabeth has surprised and moved citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond as not only the death of a sovereign but of a highly recognized public figure known the world around for nearly a century.
At the time of her death, heir apparent Prince Charles became the sovereign, King Charles III, and Camilla became Queen Consort. Prince William is now heir apparent and Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge, and Prince George, son of Prince William and Duchess Kate, is the second in line to the throne.
In his first statement as king, His Majesty King Charles III reflected on the death of his mother, saying, “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.” He has announced a mourning period for the United Kingdom, which will last for one week beyond the date of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. —Maggie Sicilia
Ukrainian Army regains territory, makes advancements in ongoing war
Ukraine’s military has made advancements in the northeast Kharkiv region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Thursday. The Ukrainian army has retaken over 20 villages and more than 390 square miles of territory. Zelensky also announced that the military had taken the key Kharkiv city of Balakliia and that Russian troops had withdrawn from the region.
Kyiv has kept information about their counterdefense fairly close to the chest up until now, but top US general Mark Miley has described their progress as “steady” and “deliberate.” Miley added that the Ukrainian Army has struck over 400 targets using Himars, the U.S.-supplied high-mobility artillery rocket systems.
“Russian lines of communication and supply channels are severely strained,” Milley said. “It is having a direct impact on the Russian ability to project and sustain combat power. Russian command and control in their headquarters have been disrupted, and they’re having great difficulty in supplying their forces and replacing their combat losses.”
Additionally, on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise trip to Ukraine. He announced that the United States intends to invest $2 billion to bolster the security of Ukraine and surrounding countries.
On Wednesday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, including children, have been interrogated, detained or forcibly deported to Russia as part of so-called “filtration operations” by Russia in Ukraine. She cited testimony from groups such as Human Rights Watch, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab.
“These operations aim to identify individuals Russia deems insufficiently compliant or compatible to its control,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And there is mounting and credible evidence that those considered threatening to Russian control because of perceived pro-Ukrainian leanings are ‘disappeared’ or further detained.”
She added that there is credible information linking this operation to Putin’s administration and that the goal of filtration “is to change sentiment by force.” Moscow has denied these allegations as “fantasy.”—Gabriella Patti
The Obamas’ White House portraits are revealed
Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama returned to the White House last week for the unveiling of their official portraits.
Barack quipped about how beautiful his wife looked in the painting—capturing “her grace, her intelligence—and the fact that's she's fine”—and how he looks compared to her, joking the artist “refused to hide any of my gray hairs, refused my request to make my ears smaller.”
Obama’s portrait is a photorealistic painting of him in a suit against a white background, while Michelle’s portrait finds her in a gorgeous blue gown sitting on a couch in the Red Room of the White House.
"He is the centerpiece," Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, said of Barack’s portrait. "The portrait of Mrs. Obama is a little bit different than that. It is a very colorful portrait. It highlights her sense of fashion and style. It is depicted in furniture that is easily recognizable from the White House collection. And so there's a fitting or a nod to a more traditional feel, but in a style of painting that I think is also very suitable to her interest and her personality."
Though this tradition normally occurs during the following administration’s tenure, the ceremony skipped the Trump administration. According to NPR, representatives for Obama and Trump didn’t respond to questions about the delay. The process of creating the portraits can take some time, though. According to the White House Historical Association, NPR reports, “presidents and first ladies often select their artists before leaving the White House. But the process for completing the paintings can take years.”
Sharon Sprung, who painted Michelle’s portrait, said the whole thing took 18 months, from having Michelle sit for the painting to capturing her personality. “I wanted people to pass by the painting and recognize her, or be more curious about her, or to read more about her, but to get her,” Sprung said. —Madeline Fry Schultz
‘The woman who can smell Parkinson's’ helps scientists develop Parkinson's test
When Joy Milne’s husband was 33, she noticed that he started to smell different. It wasn’t until 12 years later that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but Milne’s keen sense of smell had told her years before something was different. Now scientists have used her insight to develop an early test for the neurological condition.
Milne, who is now 72 and hails from Perth, Scotland, began helping researchers back in 2012. “In their preliminary work, they asked Mrs. Milne to smell t-shirts worn by people who have Parkinson's and those who did not,” Bloomberg reports. “Mrs. Milne correctly identified the t-shirts worn by Parkinson's patients, but she also said that one from the group of people without Parkinson's smelled like the disease - eight months later, the individual who wore the t-shirt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.”
Scientists hypothesize that the disease produces a change in the skin’s oil, which results in the smell that Milne’s hypersensitive nose was able to detect. Now the test has finally been developed; by running a Q-tip down a patient’s neck, health professionals can determine whether their skin has molecules linked to the disease. The test has succeeded in research and, if all goes well, should soon be available for use in hospitals.
Milne says it’s high time scientists develop an early detection method for Parkinson’s. “It has been found that exercise and change of diet can make a phenomenal difference,” she said. “I think it has to be detected far earlier - the same as cancer and diabetes, earlier diagnosis means far more efficient treatment and a better lifestyle for people.” —MFS
Venice Film Festival highlights Don't Worry Darling drama
At the Venice Film Festival, which wrapped up last week, some of the year’s buzziest films received enthusiastic support: the Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde received a 14-minute standing ovation, which brought its lead, Ana De Armas, to tears. Brendan Fraser made his comeback with The Whale, which got a six-minute standing ovation.
One other film, though, made headlines for its endless drama. Don't Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Harry Styles and Florence Pugh, has been plagued by (real or manufactured) controversy that runs from quarrels between Wilde and Shia LaBeouf, who was originally going to star in the film, to Wilde’s ongoing divorce and new relationship with Styles.
And it keeps going. At the festival, Styles unwittingly dropped an endlessly quotable (and incomprehensible) comment on the film: “My favorite thing about the movie is, like, it feels like a movie,” the pop star said. “Like, you know, go to the theater film movie. You know, kind of the reason why you go to watch something on the big screen.” Meanwhile, co-star Chris Pine stared blankly ahead, inspiring countless memes.
Most importantly, the events at the Venice Film Festival left many to speculate whether or not Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine. In a video from the event, Styles appears to spit on the actor as he takes a seat next to him. And while the video has been all over the internet, igniting a scandal that onlookers dubbed #SpitGate, Pine’s representatives have denied that anything happened. “This is a ridiculous story — a complete fabrication and the result of an odd online illusion that is clearly deceiving and allows for foolish speculation,” a representative told People.
We can continue to speculate, but Styles has taken the drama in stride. Shortly after #SpitGate, Styles performed at Madison Square Garden, telling fans, “It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to be back in New York. I just popped very quickly to Venice to spit on Chris Pine. But fret not, we’re back!” —MFS
Good News of the Week
TikTok sensation “corn boy” named South Dakota’s official corn-bassador
7-year-old Tariq, perhaps better known as “corn kid,” has just been named South Dakota’s official corn-bassador. Tariq (whose last name has been withheld) became a viral sensation after he shared his delight over corn – a big, beautiful lump with knobs on it that “has the juice.”
"I mean, just look at this thing, I can't imagine a more beautiful thing, it's corn!" Tariq said.
Tariq’s interview has been shared and parodied on TikTok and other social sites millions of times, and on September 3, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem made him the corn-bassador.
"Whereas South Dakota is one of the top corn producers in the nation, providing nourishment across the globe but especially to Tariq, a 7-year-old boy who recently discovered that corn was real," the governor's declaration reads, "... it is fitting and proper as Governor to make special note of outstanding young man."
Tariq and his family traveled from New York for a ceremony at the state’s Corn Palace. Tariq apparently said that the palace made of corn was “a dream come true!”—GP
Watch of the Week
Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away this week at 96, was the longest reigning English monarch in history. This week's watches honor her legacy and life.