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It's Christmastime in Flint, Michigan, and all that Mari "Little Miss Flint" Copeny wants is a Hatchimal. Oh, and to finally have clean water again.

You remember her, right? The adorable 9-year-old beauty queen who wrote a letter to President Obama about her hometown's ongoing water crisis and later got caught in an unfortunate campaign trail photo with Donald Trump?

Mari hasn't had a bath at home under an actual running faucet since April 2014. And it's not looking like that's going to change anytime soon, either.

Seven people live in Mari's house in Flint. They twist open dozens of small water bottles every day just so they can all shower and eat.

According to Mari's mother, Loui Brezzell, the family goes through about four cases of 16-ounce water bottles every day, not counting their drinking water, which they get from a five-gallon dispenser in the kitchen. "Most people use that every day," she says, "but they don’t have to measure it. They’re just turning on their tap."

And when the family needs more? Brezzell has to drive down to one of the city's water pods, expending her own time and gasoline to collect it herself, since the state won't expend the resources to deliver water to every home. At least they put the cases into her car for her — although she still has to unload it herself at home and has to deal with all that plastic waste.

Mari is not amused. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Mari and her family still have to manually twist open and pour out each bottle, one at a time, to use it. Boiling water for pasta? Open six or seven bottles. Cleaning produce so your kids will actually their veggies? Open more bottles. Brushing your teeth? Open another bottle. Washing your hands after using the bathroom? Open a bottle. Bath time? Lots of bottles.

"It’s a lot of water. It’s a lot of time. But if that’s what it takes to ensure my kids are safe and healthy, then we’ll take the extra steps," Brezzell says.

The family used 144 bottles of water just to prep their Thanksgiving dinner this year — and Christmas isn't looking much different.

Brezzell can't even be certain of how many people she needs to prep for. "You never know how many will come through over the holidays," she says. "It’s a pretty open-door policy. Our house tends to be the spot where kids in the neighborhood and friends and family that comes through." But she believes in being a part of the community like that — especially since no one else is taking care of their city.

Mari and her siblings. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

This year's holiday menu will likely include a Christmas ham (more bottles for thawing) and some prime rib, plus fresh veggies ("My kids eat like rabbits. They could probably clear 10 pounds of raw vegetables in one day") and mashed potatoes (bottles for cleaning and bottles for boiling).

"In the beginning [of the water crisis], using the bottles was a pain in the butt," Brezzell says. "It’s still a pain, but we’ve been putting up with this for so long that it’s second nature."

Water pickup in the spring. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Even joyful traditions like holiday cookies have turned into painful chores.

Every year before Christmas, family and friends gather at the Brezzell-Copeny house for a big ol' baking party. They make everything from oatmeal raisin to snickerdoodles to sugar cookies and snowballs and beyond.

But even that process involves bottled water to clean the mixing bowls and baking sheets, or to add into the powders and doughs to make the cookies moist. "That’s where you have the kids come in. Like, 'Hey, you wanna play a game? Come open bottles of water!'" Brezzell says with a laugh.

Inevitably, the kids' hands start to hurt from all that repetitive twisting, and it falls back to the adults to keep up the holiday spirits in the kitchen.

Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Yet, despite their own troubles, Mari and Loui also spend the holiday season giving back to Flint residents who are even less fortunate than they are.

"People don’t realize that there are kids here that are still in need," Brezzell says, referring to the more than 40% of Flint residents who live in poverty. "If anything, they’re so focused on donating bottled water that they don’t realize that there are kids here who would just love to have a Christmas but they can’t afford dolls."

As much as Mari wants an elusive Hatchimal for herself (mom's working on it), she also serves as the youth ambassador for Pretty Brown Girl's Doll Drive, raising money for toys and empowerment programs for underprivileged girls.

Mari posing with her Pretty Brown Girl doll (and some of her beauty pageant awards). Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Meanwhile, Brezzell has been speaking up on behalf of the hundreds of Flint residents who are facing eviction. "Christmas is coming, it’s freezing cold, and you want to put people on the streets because their landlord isn't paying the water bill?" Brezzell says. "Kind of hard when you can’t use the water, right?"

The media cycle may have moved on, but Flint's water crisis is far from over.

"I just want people to see what we deal with, how life is, and try to keep attention on the people here," Brezzell says. "We literally have a third-world problem in America that’s not being addressed."

Yup. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

But here's perhaps the most frustrating thing about this water crisis. It started because the state was hoping to save $200 million over 25 years. But they could have avoided the problem entirely if they'd just spent $100 a day to add anti-corrosive agents to the water.

In other words, Flint is what happens when you run a city like a business — based on money — instead of treating people like humans.

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

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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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.

via Pixabay

The show must go on… and more power to her.

There are few things that feel more awful than being stranded at the altar by your spouse-to-be. That’s why people are cheering on Kayley Stead, 27, from the U.K. for turning a day of extreme disappointment into a party for her friends, family and most importantly, herself.

According to a report in The Metro, on Thursday, September 15, Stead woke up in an Airbnb with her bridemaids, having no idea that her fiance, Kallum Norton, 24, had run off early that morning. The word got to Stead’s bridesmaids at around 7 a.m. the day of the wedding.

“[A groomsman] called one of the maids of honor to explain that the groom had ‘gone.’ We were told he had left the caravan they were staying at in Oxwich Bay (the venue) at 12:30 a.m. to visit his family, who were staying in another caravan nearby and hadn’t returned. When they woke in the morning, he was not there and his car had gone,” Jordie Cullen wrote on a GoFundMe page.

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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