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In the aftermath of yesterday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, numerous elected officials responded to the tragedy by offering their "thoughts and prayers."



The tweets, largely by Republican politicians, sparked a heated debate online about the worth (or worthlessness) of prayer as a response to mass shootings, particularly from elected officials and presidential candidates who have taken no legislative action on gun control.

The media backlash to their tweets was swift.



But none was as bold and controversial as the NY Daily News, who released this as their cover for today:


The meaning of the headline is clear.

There is something so disrespectful, so empty, so infuriating about people invoking God as a platitude while abdicating all responsibility for their contribution to the current reality and denying their power — and responsibility — to change it.

And to add insult to injury, many of those same politicians sending thoughts and prayers received donations from the NRA, actively working to block gun control legislation.

As a person of faith, when I saw the cover and the many people who tweeted various versions of "Don't pray. Act." I cringed.

No, I am not waiting on a mystical, magical being to fly down from the sky on a chariot and fling all the guns into the flames of hell (although, God, if you're reading this and you ever want to really show off...).

I cringed because those politicians had made a mockery of prayer and reinforced a terrible myth about faith: that it is a comfortable and easy excuse for inaction. For most people I know, prayerdoes not in any way replace action. Prayer is, in fact, when I am most compelled and convicted to do more — to do the bold thing, the hard thing, the right thing.

It is my private preparation with God before going out into the world and doing the work that can seem futile, but can only be done through me, with my hands, with my voice, and with my vote.

So, yes. I prayed after yesterday's shooting.

Not sure it's what the Republican presidential candidates had in mind, but here is what I said:

Dear God,

I know that my feelings today pale in comparison to the those whose loved ones didn't come home today. Or yesterday. Or any day that precious lives are snatched by gun violence.

My heart breaks for them. But alsoI am tired. I am afraid. I am baffled. And I am angry.

Let me not be so consumed by those emotions that I become just another cynical, broken person in a world of cynical, broken people, feeling overwhelmed and resigned, spewing mindless chatter that helps no one and changes nothing.

Help me not feel powerless. That is not who I was created to be.

Even when it doesn't feel or look like it, I need to know I have the power to bend the arc of history toward justice, safety and life.

To tell you the truth, God, I don't always believe that I do. Sometimes it feels that today's challenges are too complex, too deeply rooted; that hatred, sickness, fear, and death will continue to win; and that goodness, integrity, lov,e and common sense will continue to lose.

But you know what? Let this prayer be my repentance.

I am sorry for doubting my power. And because repentance literally means "to turn away from sin," this isn't just an apology — true repentance is an apology with commitment.

So let this prayer also be my commitment to the following:

I will never again miss an opportunity to politically and economically harm the "leaders" who allow this. I will faithfully make them pay for their cowardice, moral bankruptcy, and utter failure to serve us. It won't just be out of pure spite or malice for the blood that is on their hands (I know you don't want me to be spiteful or malicious), but isn't that how democracy works?

I will add more offline work to my online activism. I'll show up more with my body, not just my heart and my Wi-Fi.

I will pay more attention to where my money goes and work harder to make sure that it doesn't go into the hands of those who stand in the way of gun control legislation or those who continue to spew hate-filled rhetoric and lies.

And I will never again doubt that we can change the system that fosters and protects hatred, sickness, fear, and death.

But as I commit to those things, here is what I am asking of you, God:

When I am tired of thinking about this, when I want to turn off the TV and pretend that this didn't happen, when I want to forget about it until the next shooting, I ask that you prick my heart. Make me remember.

Make me feel the pain so sharply that I can't ignore it and I can't just walk away and move on, because it is that kind of nagging pain that sustains passion.

Please strengthen me as I use not just my passion but everything that I have — my voice, my money, my access, my political agency — to fight, and help me to make wise decisions in how I devote each of those things to be most effective.

Thank you for the mind, feet, and hands that you gave me to do the work. I won't deny the enormity of the job that you have equipped me — and all of us — to do. But I know that we who are good, we who stand on the side of love, life, and peace — we with our righteous anger — we can and will stop this.

Amen

P.S. One more thing, I almost forgot. For anyone sending "thoughts and prayers" to you today while simultaneously standing in our way, I send thoughts and prayers for them right back. They're going to need them.

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

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.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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