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Everyone stood by as a man drowned. Here's why this refugee jumped in.

While other bystanders pulled out their camera phones, he jumped into a freezing canal.

On Christmas Day, Mohsen Alwais decided to take a road trip to Amsterdam with a group of friends.

Their plan was to walk around, see the city, and enjoy the Christmas lights and celebration.


Mohsen and a friend on their way to see the Christmas lights in Amsterdam. All photos here provided by Mohsen and used with permission.

But that never happened. As soon as the six friends drove into the city, they stopped at a red light and saw a man standing on a bridge and shouting for help.

Mohsen thought maybe a child had fallen into one of Amsterdam’s famous canals. So he and his friends put the hazards on, left their car at the light, and piled out to see what was wrong.

“I looked down,” Mohsen said, “and I saw a Dutch guy, about 55, 60 years old, drowning in the water.”

About 20 people had gathered on the bridge. Most of them were videotaping the floundering man with their mobile phones. But nobody was doing anything.

“He’s drowning, he’s drowning!” shouted Mohsen’s friend, Hala.

Mohsen took off his hat and jacket. A Dutch bystander grabbed him by the shoulder. “Don’t jump in,” he said. “He’ll pull you under and you’ll both drown.”

Mohsen looked down. The man’s head kept slipping below the freezing water. He thought about how the man’s children would feel when their father didn’t come home that night. He imagined them asking, “Where is Daddy?”

He jumped.

“Mohsen had a brave heart, more than me, and he went down quickly,” his friend Nibaal said. “And if Mohsen hadn’t done it, I would have.”

Last year, more than a million refugees crossed into Europe. More than 3 in 4 of them were from the war-torn countries of Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Most of them want what people everywhere want: education, a job, and a home that isn’t being bombed to smithereens. But Europe’s far-right politicians are accusing them of everything from being “testosterone bombs” to trying to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Mohsen is one of those refugees.

In June 2014, he fled the war in Syria. He took a flimsy rubber raft packed with refugees to the Greek island of Samos. In Athens, a smuggler locked him inside a truck crammed with people, and seven horrible days later, he was in the Netherlands. Today he lives in Leiden, about 25 miles southwest of Amsterdam.

Like Mohsen, two of his friends almost drowned on the dangerous journey to reach Europe.

Hala took a raft from Libya to Italy — the deadly Mediterranean passage where 3,771 people drowned last year. Nibaal almost went down between Turkey and Greece.

“As Arabic people, we can’t stand to see a person drowning,” said Nibaal, who is from Damascus. “We can’t ignore it.”

When Mohsen reached the drowning man, he grabbed his right hand and squeezed it to see if he was still alive.

“You’re OK,” he kept saying to the man. “You’re OK.”

“Bravo, habiby, bravo!” Nibaal shouted from the bridge.

Mohsen dragged the man to the stone base of the bridge. Nibaal threw down a rope. Mohsen held the rope with one hand and the man with the other, trying to keep their heads above the freezing water. “He was really heavy,” said Mohsen, “but God gave me strength.”

After about five minutes, two police boats roared up. First they picked up Mohsen and the man he’d just saved. Nibaal followed in a second boat. As he got into the boat, Nibaal looked up. By then, around 200 people were standing on the bridge. As they sped away in the boats, everyone clapped. “It was like a movie,” he said.

Mohsen’s split-second decision probably saved the man’s life.

He got there “just in time,” Dutch police said later. “Otherwise it could have ended differently.” Two weeks later, Mohsen got a big bouquet of Dutch flowers and a letter from Henri Lenferink, the mayor of Leiden.

“As the mayor of the city of Leiden, I am proud that you are a citizen of Leiden!” Lenferink wrote in the letter. “You are a great example for others, both refugees and Dutch citizens.”

But Mohsen says there’s nothing remarkable about what he did.

“These days, many medias and many people are pointing at Muslim people, saying: ‘They are terrorists. It’s the religion of bad actions and killing,’" he said. "And I would just like to say no ... I am a Muslim, and I could help a non-Muslim guy. That’s what my religion asks me to do.”

Mohsen's dream is to keep helping people by designing prosthetic hands that work with neural impulses from the brain.

He's a trained biomedical engineer, and last year he started a charity to provide support to other Syrian refugees and hopefully take some pressure off the Dutch government.

“European countries are giving a lot of things to refugees,” says Mohsen. “They give us all kinds of support.”

Saving the drowning man was something anyone would have done, he says, but for him it was also “something to return, some small thing to do for Dutch people.”

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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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

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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.

Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

Giphy

Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

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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