+
Misinformation has consequences. In a pandemic, those consequences can be deadly.

Pandemics are confusing by nature. We're dealing with a new virus that scientists have to scramble to study, an unknown contagion and death rate, constantly shifting data, and new information being thrown at us on the daily. And as human beings like certainty, that's hard.

Throw in the social and economic impact of trying to control the outbreak (and buy time for scientists to develop treatments and/or vaccines), along with the totally-on-brand politicizing of the pandemic in the U.S., and it kind of feels like a gigantic, out-of-control sh*tshow.

It's a many-fold problem, but one outcome is that all of this uncertainty creates a prime breeding-ground for misinformation to spread. And whoa Nelly, is it spreading.


I've heard that the CDC admitted their death numbers are inflated (they didn't and they're not), that the virus is no worse than the flu (it is), that the whole global pandemic was planned by BIll Gates (blink, blank stare), and that masks either don't help anything or actually make you sicker (somebody tell most of Asia).

We know that misinformation spreads faster than truth. And we know that a frightening number of Americans have been brainwashed into believing that anything considered "mainstream" is totally untrustworthy, while fringe outlets with no accountability or credibility are legitimate sources of truth. (Hint: If anyone tells you that they're the only ones telling you the real truth, run away. No credible outlet would ever say that.)

And that combo has created a vortex where people get spun topsy turvy, up becomes down, and anything that hits them in the face as it flies past feels true. That's how we end up with signs like these in the middle of a freaking pandemic:

The photo, shared by David Parsons on Twitter, shows signs sitting in front of Ramsay One Flooring, a construction company in Simi Valley, California.

"We're open to the truth," the first sign reads, followed by "NO Masks allowed," "Handshakes OK," and "Hugs very OK."

Umm, yeah. Contagious novel virus, people. 80,000 Americans dead in two months, and we aren't even sure if we're starting to drop off yet. The entire world scrambling to mitigate the spread and racing to come up with a way to treat or prevent it. But somehow, being "open to the truth" means defying very basic, universal hygiene that even kindergarten kids know is important when there's a bad bug going around? How does that make sense?

The only explanation is that this store owner has fallen for one of several "plandemic" narratives that paints the pandemic as some kind of evil plot orchestrated by dastardly villains who are out to steal Americans' freeeeedoommm. So, not a real thing. A big conspiracy because a bunch of YouTube videos told them so.

If this were a 9/11 "inside job" conspiracy theory, a JFK assassination conspiracy theory, or faked moon landing conspiracy theory, it wouldn't be a huge deal. People believe all kinds of far-fetched things, and when those beliefs are confined to the fringe and deal with past events that aren't of much direct consequence now, I take a "live and let live" approach.

But conspiracy theories filled with misinformation about the coronvavirus pandemic are dangerous. They lead people to outright reject and defy public health guidelines that are in place to literally save lives. Successful containing or mitigating a pandemic requires a population to be on the same page and work as a team. It requires us to be truly the United States of America as if our lives depend on it—because they do.

Don't we pride ourselves on having the best and the brightest scientists, doctors, and researchers in the world? Experts have known something like this would happen sooner or later, and decades of research and planning have gone into preparing for just this moment. Now we're just going to ditch all of that work, all of that learning, all of that preparation? Why? Because a baffling number of people trust discredited scientists on YouTube over the world's most respected and accomplished epidemiologists and virologists? Seriously?

No. Enough. There are legitimate discussions to be had about government overreach and whatnot, but using misinformation to justify defying public health measures is foolishness. And it's the kind of foolishness that can kill people. In fact, we've already seen it happen. An Ohio man who called the coronavirus "bullsh*t" and a "political ploy" died of COVID-19 in April. (Here's the same story from Fox News as well, so no one can complain about media bias.)

Information leads to beliefs, and beliefs lead to actions. If you believe this pandemic to be fake/rigged/planned/a hoax, you're going to act accordingly. And that's dangerous for everyone, including you. Stop it, for everyone's sake.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

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.

Keep ReadingShow less
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:

Keep ReadingShow less
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.

Lizzo made history playing James Madison's crystal flute at her Washington, D.C., concert.

Imagine James Madison sitting in the White House during his second term as president. An enslaved Black servant delivers the president his dinner, which he eats by oil lamp as electricity wouldn't be installed until 19 presidents later. The War of 1812 rages. Most newspapers are still weekly, so news spreads slowly. There is no such thing as the internet, television or even radio.

Now imagine someone plops a laptop onto President Madison's desk and presses a button. On the screen—which is like nothing he has ever seen before—he watches a Black woman perform on a stage in front of thousands of people. Lights—which he's never seen—illuminate and reflect off her sequined bodysuit. She steps up to a microphone—which he's also never seen—and speaks to the 20,000 people in the audience.

Then she lifts up something Madison has seen and instantly recognizes—a crystal flute specially made for him for his second inauguration. The woman lifts the flute to her lips and plays. Madison is told this is happening approximately a mile away from where he sits, more than 200 years into the future.

Imagine him trying to process any single part of what he's witnessing.

Keep ReadingShow less
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.

Keep ReadingShow less