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Brandon Bernard's senseless execution shows just how wrong the federal death penalty really is

Brandon Bernard, 40, was executed at 9:27 pm Thursday night at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana for a crime he committed when he was 18.

"I'm sorry," Brandon Bernard said, opening his three-minute speech that would amount to his final words."That's the only words I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day."

In 1999, Christian Vialva and three teen boys car-jacked Todd and Stacie Bagley in Killeen, Texas. The Bagley's were thrown in the trunk of their car and both were shot in the head. Bernard was not present for the abduction but was tasked with setting the car on fire to destroy the evidence.

Bernard believed that both of the Bagley's were dead, but Stacie was still alive in the trunk when Bernard set the car ablaze.

Vialva was executed for his involvement in the crime in September.


The Supreme Court Thursday night declined to intervene in Bernard's case. Although three justices, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer said they would have granted the application to stay the execution. Five of the jurors in the original case have since changed their minds saying that they want his sentence commuted.

The trial became a cause celeb when Kim Kardashian West, daughter of famed attorney Robert Kardashian, advocated on Bernard's behalf on Twitter.

Bernard clearly was a participant in a brutal act of violence and terror. But he was a teenager at the time and his involvement in Stacie's death was unintentional.

Bernard's death was completely avoidable because there had been a 17-year moratorium on federal executions until U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr reinstated them last July.

Barr said in a 2019 statement that "we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

Since there have been nine federal executions and four more are scheduled to take place before Trump leaves office on January 20.

Trump has been completely silent on all of the executions.

According to a former Trump senior staffer, he has no problem with using the most brutal form of state power on American citizens. "If it were up to him, we would return to the old days where it was eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth — or we would forget about proportionality altogether," the former official told The Daily Beast in July. "He would talk about lining up drug dealers and gang members in front of a firing squad."

via Tommy Woodard / Flickr

The administration's decision to go forward with the executions is also a break from historical norms. The federal executions are the first to have occurred during a lame-duck presidency in 130 years.

The state-sponsored killings are also completely arbitrary being that when Joe Biden takes office he vows to end them. Biden "opposes the death penalty now and in the future," press secretary TJ Ducklo said.

While it's easy to come to the conclusion that some acts perpetrated by humans are so heinous they should be punishable by death, capital punishment makes a very damning statement about the state that wields it and its citizens.

It's a statement that some humans are irredeemable and cannot be forgiven. It says that our criminal justice system is ultimately about punishment, not reform. It says the only way to enact justice for some victims is through violence.

The death penalty tells people that murder is wrong unless it's carried out by the state.

Ultimately, as long as the criminal justice system is administered by humans it will be fallible. It's proven to be racist and there are over 170 cases of people being sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit since 1973. According to the ACLU, it isn't even an effective crime deterrent.

Why should American citizens continue to empower such an unreliable system make the ultimate judgment on a person's life?

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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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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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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