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The beginning of the end of Cold War tensions between the United States and China came from the unlikeliest of places: a game of table tennis.

The 1971 event would come to be known as "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" and is credited with starting the process of thawing the long-frozen relations between the two countries.

[rebelmouse-image 19397323 dam="1" original_size="800x532" caption="Photo by White House Photo Office/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Photo by White House Photo Office/Wikimedia Commons.


Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China had been chilly since 1949, when communist leader Mao Zedong declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China. After all, the Red Scare was in full swing back home, so this communist revolution was considered by the U.S. to be the "fall" of mainland China to communism. Over the years, Cold War propaganda and trade embargoes had only made things worse.

The estrangement took its toll on both countries, but by the 1970s, the stage had been set for someone to extend the first hand. The Chinese alliance with Russia was also strained by then, so President Richard Nixon considered it one of his top priorities to mend the U.S. relationship with the Asian giant.

That’s when, at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships in Japan, the Chinese national team invited the U.S. team to play some games of ping-pong in Beijing.

And when the U.S. accepted, those 15 Americans became the first Americans to visit the People’s Republic of China in 22 years, doing what even politicians and diplomats had failed to do.

While the invitation to play table tennis appeared seemingly random, it was anything but.

[rebelmouse-image 19397324 dam="1" original_size="700x478" caption="Chinese and U.S. teams prepare to play table tennis in 1971. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Chinese and U.S. teams prepare to play table tennis in 1971. Photo via U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

It was actually orchestrated by the Chinese government. At the time, an invitation from the Chinese team to American table tennis player Glenn Cowan to board their bus was interpreted as a gesture of goodwill, but the offer to catch a ride to the tournament was a deliberate action.

The Chinese team’s star player, Zhuang Zedong, gave Cowan a gift — a silk-screened picture of the Huangshan mountain range. Cowan returned the favor the following day, giving Zhuang a shirt bearing a peace sign and the Beatles’ lyrics "Let it be."

The Chinese government had decided to use ping-pong as the "perfect instrument of Communist propaganda," writes historian Nicholas Griffin in his book, "Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World."

This image — countries who had long been enemies coming together over a game of ping-pong — was the first sign that the tide might be turning.

Along with the Americans, the Chinese also invited select press to cover the table tennis games.

For Nixon, who wanted to end the war in Vietnam and was shortly up for re-election, it was the perfect opportunity to build on the Chinese government’s gesture and try to reframe the relationship between the two countries.

"I was as surprised as I was pleased," Nixon later wrote in his memoirs. "I had never expected that the China initiative would come to fruition in the form of a ping-pong team."

[rebelmouse-image 19397325 dam="1" original_size="700x715" caption="Cartoon of Nixon and Mao Zedong playing ping-pong. Photo via dbking/Flickr." expand=1]Cartoon of Nixon and Mao Zedong playing ping-pong. Photo via dbking/Flickr.

The U.S. players were not actually all that great at table tennis. The Chinese team, on the other hand, was one of the best in the world. But instead of crushing their competition during the exhibition games played during the trip, the Chinese team embodied the stated slogan of the tournament: "Friendship First, Competition Second."

In line with that theme, the Chinese players even let the Americans win a few games. You know, for sportsmanship.

Those games of table tennis helped change U.S. perceptions of the Chinese and made Nixon's historic visit to China the following year possible.

Even before the American table tennis players had finished their China trip, Nixon announced he planned to ease travel bans and trade embargoes with the country. And when he flew to China in February of 1972, Nixon became the first U.S. president in history to step foot on the Chinese mainland. While there, he met with Zhou Enlai, premier of the People's Republic, and Chairman Mao.

Years later, Nixon recalled the meeting, writing that the Chinese leaders "took particular delight in reminding me that an exchange of ping-pong teams had initiated a breakthrough in our relations. They seemed to enjoy the method used to achieve the result almost as much as the result itself."

[rebelmouse-image 19397326 dam="1" original_size="600x449" caption="US and China ping-pong players mark the 30th anniversary of the 1971 Beijing match. Photo via U.S. Department of State Archive." expand=1]US and China ping-pong players mark the 30th anniversary of the 1971 Beijing match. Photo via U.S. Department of State Archive.

Sometimes an olive branch can come from the unlikeliest of places.

No one could have predicted that something as simple as ping-pong would play a role in ending a decades-long war. But sports have the power to connect people and help them overcome rifts that are seemingly impossible to breach.

That’s evident during this year’s Winter Olympics, too. North Korea and South Korea, two countries with a very strained relationship, have agreed to march united under one flag during the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 9, as well as field a joint women’s hockey team.

It’s still a delicate balance and time will only tell how this cooperation will affect the overall relations between the countries. But it’s yet another example of the way sports can help people connect when nothing else can.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

As the saying goes, "You have to kiss a few frogs..."

Dating has certainly evolved over the years—we’ve gone from courtship being purely a financial arrangement (not that this trend has ever truly died) to knights jousting for a lady’s favor, to casual hookups … and now, romance is primarily found through an app more than anything else.

Technology used for meeting that special someone has become so advanced that you can base your search entirely upon specific interests. Like … oddly specific interests. Think a fellow cat person would be the purrfect match? There’s an app for that. Wish to “love long and prosper” with a fellow Trekkie? There’s an app for that too.

No matter the changes, one thing remains the same—dating is awkward. It’s got all the unspoken formalities of a job interview, disguised as innocent fun. The balance between playing it too cool and too eager is hard to find even for the smoothest among us, and usually results in total embarrassment. Even if we aren’t the ones committing those embarrassing acts ourselves, we are often the reluctant witness to them.

Terrible dates might not always be fun in the moment, but they can be just as important as the good ones. They can teach us a lot about ourselves and what qualities we want in a partner. And at the very least, they can teach us to embrace social clumsiness with a sense of humor.

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share a “funny or embarrassing first date story” for his ever popular #Hashtags segment. The best part—some of these awful first dates ended in marriage. There’s hope for us all.

Below, find 15 stories that are truly the the best of the worst. How do some of your first dates compare?

1. "After a nice dinner, she invited me to her house. On the way up, inside the elevator, I decided to push the button to stop between floors and give her a kiss... She had a phobia of closed spaces and she smacked my face as a reflex, two punches after we were kissing and laughing.” – @PanqueAlgarvio

2. “His jeans were so tight he couldn’t sit down. Stood at a bar stool the whole time.” – @onlyintheozarks

3. “Waiting 4 my date when an older couple asked me for a ride. my date came up and said sure! We drove them home & they asked us to come in. Date said “sure”. I pulled him back & asked why he wanted to hang w/strangers. He said ‘sh@t! YOU DON'T KNOW THEM!?’ We bolted!” – @natashaham75

facebook dating

Talk about a fashion faux pas.

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4. “Before the date, we had been chatting about books we liked and I talked about a great book I just read. We went on the date. I loaned her the book. She ghosted me.” – @thenextbarstool

5. “The worst first date I ever had was when my date locked his keys in the car and I had a curfew so he had to break his car window out to get me home on time. Didn’t think I’d ever see him again but we wound up married.” – @csleblan

6. “First date movie ‘Basic Instinct’ not realizing how suggestive it was. We just thought it was a mystery thriller! We left the movie discussing how each character could have actually murdered someone. We're married now.” – @Southrnbell_Amy

black people meet

There are worse first date movies tbh.

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7. “First date with my ex husband was a double date with his parents. The preview for ‘Speed Racer’ came on, and she leaned over me to say to her son, ‘You know what your dad's nickname in the bedroom is?’" – @theostoria

8. “A friend asked me on a double date as a blind date with his date's friend. I went to the bathroom and came back just in time to hear my date say to her friend, ‘why do I get the ugly one?’ I said good night to all three and headed home, leaving her w/the bill.” – @StevenTrustum

9. “He loved cheese. I was subjected to a 2 hour conversation/lecture about cheese, and why cottage cheese is not cheese!” – @Optimist_Eeyore

bumble

I'd like to see this two-hour cheese lecture.

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10. “He took me to an Asian fish market. We walked around looking at live & dead fish for a while. I don’t like seeing dead animals & I don’t eat seafood. Then we sat on a curb & he pulled out a ziplock bag of pineapple for us to share. I don’t like pineapple.” – @markayhali

11. “My cousin set up a first date for me with a family friend. During a break from dinner, Mr. Man follows me into the ladies’ room, comes up close and says in a low voice, ‘I shave my butt.’ Can’t remember what I said in response but the evening ended abruptly.” – @carli_zarzana

12. “I once took out my high school crush to a sports bar and ordered the spiciest wings there in an attempt to impress her. Not only was she not impressed. The next morning I woke up with heartburn.” –@Dmonster38

tindr conversation starters

Talk about a hot date.

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13. “My date showed up with his bestie and girlfriend, and they talked through dinner about people I don’t know. Walking to the car, he gave me a wedgie because he thought he hadn’t been paying enough attention to me.” – @surrealDazey


14. “I was taking my date home and was pulled over by the police for speeding. When the cop came to my car, she jumped out and told him she had to get home. She walked home and I never heard from her again. I'm not sure who's #WorstFirstDate it was mine or hers!” – @eastriverbear

15. “After an evening of dancing with a first date, leaving the dance hall, I had to take a quick pee break. Rushing out to the parking lot, I see a lady, I grab her and swoop her around, and plant a big wet kiss on the lips. She was another guy's wife. Oops!” – @seadogskamore

date you

Only Gomez could have gotten away with it.

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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.

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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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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