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

Liz Truss resigns as UK Prime Minister after 44 days in office

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on Thursday after only 44 days in office, making her the shortest-serving prime minister in British history.

Truss’s resignation follows a failed tax-cutting mini-budget she announced on September 23. The UK’s economy quickly felt the impact of Truss’s budget—the pound fell by 22 percent, the Bank of England hiked interest rates, and interest rates on government bonds rose.

Truss gave a statement outside 10 Downing Street, saying that her economic plan was designed to “take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.”

“I recognize, though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party," Truss said. "I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to announce that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.”

The resignation came after a meeting between Truss and Graham Brady, the Conservative politician in charge of leadership votes and reshuffles. According to CNBC, Brady chairs the 1922 Committee, a “group of Conservative (members of parliament) without ministerial positions who can submit letters of no confidence in the prime minister." During the meeting, 17 MPs called for Truss to step down.

The Conservative party will elect a new leader within the next week. Many initially speculated that former prime minister Boris Johnson would regain his position a mere three months after losing it to Truss. However, on Sunday, Johnson announced that he would pull out of the race, effectively making Britain’s former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak the next Prime Minister. —Gabriella Patti

Shein is exposed for mistreating workers—again

Fast-fashion brand Shein, a staple of Gen Z style that churns out thousands of new products on its website daily, is again under fire for mistreating its workers. UK broadcaster Channel 4 sent an undercover worker to report on conditions in Shein’s two Guangzhou, China, factories. What she discovered was deeply troubling.

The Cut reports that “In one factory, Channel 4 found that workers receive a base salary of 4,000 yuan per month—roughly $556—to make 500 pieces of clothing per day and that their first month’s pay is withheld from them; in another factory, workers received the equivalent of four cents per item. Workers in both factories were working up to 18-hour days and were given only one day off a month. In one factory, the outlet found women washing their hair during lunch breaks, and workers were penalized two-thirds of their daily wage if they made a mistake on a clothing item.”

Since workers cannot work more than 40 hours per week in China, the report indicates that not only is Shein abusing its workers, but it’s violating Chinese labor laws. Channel 4’s documentary, Untold: Inside The Shein Machine, prompted a swift denial from Shein representatives, who said in a statement, “We are extremely concerned by the claims presented by Channel 4, which would violate the Code of Conduct agreed to by every SHEIN supplier. Any non-compliance with this code is dealt with swiftly, and we will terminate partnerships that do not meet our standards.”

This isn’t the only reason to think twice before shopping at Shein. The brand has drawn criticism for using toxic chemicals in its clothes, stealing ideas from independent designers, and mishandling customer data.

Shein is a $15 billion company, bigger than H&M and Zara combined. Maybe if enough customers start paying attention to its practices, it will have to change. —Madeline Fry Schultz

Biden administration to release 15 million barrels from U.S. oil reserves

In a last-ditch effort to drum up support for his party before the midterm elections, President Joe Biden is releasing 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, hoping to lower gas prices, which, among other basic expenditures, are top of mind for consumers heading into November.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and slow domestic production have contributed to recent skyrocketing prices at the pump.

In March, Biden authorized the release of 180 million barrels of oil, and with this latest release set to take effect in December, he is using up the last millions of barrels. Biden said he would release even more if needed.

“With my announcement today, we’re going to continue to stabilize markets and decrease the prices, at a time when the actions of other countries have caused such volatility,” Biden said. “We’re calling it a ready-and-release plan. This allows us to move quickly to prevent oil-price spikes and respond to international events.”

The average cost of gasoline in the U.S. is currently $3.80 per gallon, up 50 cents from a year ago. In March, the average hit $4.33. Biden’s move may help lower prices in the short term, but it may be a problem for gas prices down the road.

“Oil industry groups are challenging Mr. Biden’s plan, blaming it for tepid production growth in recent months,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The industry critics said drawing down reserves artificially lowers prices in the short term, dissuading investment in new oil production.” —MFS

2023 US tax brackets adjust for inflation

If you didn’t get a raise or an inflation-adjusted salary over this past year, you might at least get some relief on Tax Day. Every year, the IRS modifies its tax brackets to keep all taxpayers from paying the same in taxes, even if their salaries are worth less because of inflation. This year, brackets for individuals and those of married couples filing jointly each went up about 7 percent, much higher than usual.

“By adjusting the tax brackets—as the IRS does every year—it is attempting to stop ‘bracket creep,’ which happens when inflation pushes taxpayers into a higher income tax bracket without an increase in real income,” Axios explains.

The IRS announced the changes on Tuesday. In addition to shifting the tax rates, the standard deduction will also rise: “The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for tax year 2023 rises to $27,700 up $1,800 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $13,850 for 2023, up $900.”

This is good news for many Americans, who have endured consumer prices jumping more than 8 percent earlier this year. “Those shifts will not affect the tax rates of Americans whose salaries have kept pace with inflation over the last year,” per the New York Times. “But for many Americans, that has not been the case. Inflation-adjusted weekly earnings declined nearly 4 percent from September last year to this September.” —MFS

Russia-Ukraine war continues to have a significant, devasting impact on civilians

As the Russian-Ukraine war continues, stories have continued to emerge of the horrors of war and its impact on soldiers and civilians alike. On Monday, 108 Ukrainian women, including 12 citizens, were released from Russian captivity as part of a prisoner swap.

Some women have alleged brutal treatment and said they were tortured and beaten. Some said they were subjected to electric shock and scalding.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that martial law would be imposed in the four regions of Ukraine that Russia illegally annexed at the end of September following referendums—a move that world leaders condemned.

“Now, we need to formalize this regime within the framework of Russian legislation. Therefore, I signed a decree on the introduction of martial law in these four subjects of the Russian Federation,” he said on national television. —GP

Selma Blair exits DWTS, earns a perfect score on her final performance

On Monday, October 17, actress Selma Blair, a contestant on season 31 of the Disney+ series, Dancing With the Stars, shared that she would be exiting the show early due to the toll the training and dancing have taken on her body.

Blair, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2018, has been open about her disease and the limitations she faces. Alongside her professional dance partner, Sasha Farber, Blair has to work through the sensory overload of the ballroom (she performed blindfolded in week 3), coordination, and movement.

During the rehearsal package aired live before her last dance, Blair is seen breaking the difficult news to Farber.

"You know I've been monitored and in touch with my doctors this whole process," Blair told Farber. "I had these MRIs. The results came back, and it all just adds up to that I can't go on with the competition. I pushed as far as I could."

Blair explained that if she continued, she risked extensive damage to her body. Despite the announcement, Blair performed one final waltz with Sasha set to “What the World Needs Now.”

Blair was awarded honorary tens from all four judges.

"It's so hard for me to take care because I don't want to. I want to be here," Selma told co-host Alfonso Ribeiro after the dance. "But I know, as a mom and as someone who wants to represent people that are taking chances, sometimes there are just consequences to any chance you take, and mine is fine. I'm going to be OK . . . This competition showed me how much I love to be around people who are trying their hardest," she said through tears. "How much I love to be around music even though I don't have musicality. How much I love to want to do something again." —GP

Good News of the Week

Five years ago, British physicist Dr. Jess Wade discovered something troubling while searching online for American climatologist Kim Cobb; Cobb, in addition to countless other female scientists with multiple scientific achievements, did not have profiles on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is used by approximately two billion people a month. Yet, Wade realized it was “suffering from a lack of content, particularly about women, but also about people of color.” Wade set out to rectify the situation and has since authored 1,750 Wikipedia bios for women and minorities in STEM fields.

“Wikipedia is a really powerful way to give credit to people who, for a long time, have been written out of history,” she said. “Not only do we not have enough women in science, but we aren’t doing enough to celebrate the ones we have.”

Wade sits down most evenings and spends several hours researching lesser-known scientists and their achievements and then writing about them. However, writing a Wikipedia entry doesn’t always mean it will get published or remain online. Volunteer administrators monitor Wikipedia entries, and on several occasions, Wade has had to fight to get an entry restored.

Wikipedia’s leadership has noticed Wade’s efforts. “Through the efforts of Dr. Jess Wade and other volunteer contributors, real progress is being made,” Anusha Alikhan, vice president of communications at the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts Wikipedia, said, “In the past three years the percentage of biographies on English Wikipedia that are about women has increased from 15 to 19 percent. That may seem like a small change, yet it represents more than 75,000 new biographies about women.” —GP

Watch of the Week

In case you missed it, Verily celebrated its 10th anniversary with a virtual event last week, with a stellar writers’ panel and some exciting news. Check out the recording below!