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Elephants are having a pretty good 2016 so far.

Early this year, the Ringling Bros. circus announced that it would retire all elephants from its performances by May 2016, more than a year ahead of its original schedule, which would've had the elephants working until 2018.


Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

Then, on Jan. 13, 2016, everyone's favorite betrunked pachyderms received even more good news:

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced plans to "phase out" ivory sales in the city.

Leung Chun-ying speaking in Hong Kong in 2015. Photo by Phillippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images.

Ivory, of course, is the hard, white material that comes from the teeth and tusks of various animals. Elephants, with tusks that are often bigger than those of walruses or warthogs, are the biggest source of ivory and most at risk from ivory poachers.

The use of ivory to craft items dates back to prehistoric times. In the modern age, ivory has been used to craft everything from billiard balls to piano keys to gun stocks.

A 26,000-year-old mammoth ivory carving on display in Paris. Photo by Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images.

The import and export of ivory is already banned in Hong Kong. But the ivory trade remains very much alive there.

About 400 sellers are permitted to trade in ivory material and products as long as they were created before 1989, which is when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species introduced a treaty that banned the sale of ivory products created after that year.

Activists like Alex Hofford of WildAid Hong Kong argue that while the treaty had its merits, it has resulted in a legal loophole, through which a large ivory black market has been able to survive.

"Hong Kong has always been the dark heart of the ivory trade," Hofford told CNN.

The plan introduced earlier this year will close the loophole and "ban totally the sale of ivory in Hong Kong" Chun-ying said in his statement. "We'll do it expeditiously. As quickly as we can."

Seized ivory tusks in Hong Kong, which were subsequently destroyed by the Chinese government in 2014. Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images.

This total ban is poised to make a significant impact, as Hong Kong "displays for retail sale more elephant and mammoth ivory items than any other city in the world surveyed for ivory," according to a 2015 report from activist group Save the Elephants.

This is a huge victory for elephants, a species rapidly nearing extinction.

They needed a victory, too.

The demand for ivory has led to an epidemic of elephant poaching. In Africa, ivory poachers killed 100,000 elephants in the last three years. If that trend continues, African elephants could be extinct within a generation.

Dune Ives, senior researcher at Vulcan, told The Guardian last March that “in five years we may have lost the opportunity to save this magnificent and iconic animal.”

African elephants walking to a water hole in Tanzania. Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images.

In October 2015, after a visit to an elephant sanctuary in China, Britain's Prince William urged the Chinese to stop purchasing elephant ivory and rhino horn.

Prince William with a baby elephant in China's Yunnan province. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

In a speech broadcast on Chinese state television, he told the public to think of what they would tell their children if elephants went extinct on our watch.

"Let us not tell our children the sad tale of how we watched as the last elephants, rhinos, and tigers died out," he said, "but the inspiring story of how we turned the tide and preserved them for all humanity."

With Hong Kong finally phasing out the ivory trade, we might actually be able to save the species.

Which is great news for the whole world.

Especially since baby elephants look like this:

OH MY GOD LOOK AT HIM. Photo by Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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