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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Gay rugby team eyes to deconstruct beauty stereotypes with Greek-themed naked calendar

ARC Amsterdam Lowlanders, the only LGBTQIA rugby team in The Netherlands, is taking the “naked calendar” route to raise funds; though its naked calendar for 2020 has a particular – and somewhat necessary – spin: embracing diversity in a world dominated by stereotypes.

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Deconstructing beauty.

ARC Amsterdam Lowlanders, the only LGBTQIA rugby team in The Netherlands, is taking the “naked calendar” route to raise funds; though its naked calendar for 2020 has a particular – and somewhat necessary – spin: embracing diversity in a world dominated by stereotypes.

Though the goal, really, is to raise funds for the team to be able to participate in the biennial inclusive world rugby cup, the Bingham Cup, which will be organized in 2020 in Ottawa, Canada, the Lowlanders calendar also references the inclusiveness of sport, particularly the rugby culture, where there ought to be room for everyone without pursuing a body idealized by today’s society.

Photographer and player Henri Verhoef had his teammates posed at the Allard Pierson Museum: “There is no sport as inclusive as rugby. Large, small, muscular, thick, juicy, long, thin: it is a sport where there is literally room for everyone. In this calendar we show that there is no real ideal image. The players are photographed as sculptures that show that there can be strength in vulnerability and cohesion in diversity.”

When thinking about the male nude in relation to sports, viewers can’t really get around one of the most famous Greek sculptures ever made – the Discobolus of Myron. The sculpture, depicting a young man throwing a discus, dates from a time where mostly athletes, gods, and heroes were used as subjects in art, always with ‘ideal’ bodies and proportions.

In this year’s edition, players of the Amsterdam Lowlanders pose together with statues at the Allard Pierson museum. Combining the old with the new, the photos create new images showing that there is no one true ideal; with the body serving as sculptures that show that there can be strength in fragility and cohesion in diversion. In the end, this showcases that that opposites can stand next to each other, on one pitch, as one team.

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Technology

In politics and pandemics, trolls use fear, anger to drive clicks

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them.”

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Facebook users flipping through their feeds in the fall of 2016 faced a minefield of targeted advertisements pitting blacks against police, southern whites against immigrants, gun owners against Obama supporters and the LGBTQ community against the conservative right.

Photo by @uck from Unsplash.com

Placed by distant Russian trolls, they didn’t aim to prop up one candidate or cause, but to turn Americans against one another.

The ads were cheaply made and full of threatening, vulgar language.

And, according to a sweeping new analysis of more than 2,500 of the ads, they were remarkably effective, eliciting clickthrough rates as much as nine times higher than what is typical in digital advertising.

“We found that fear and anger appeals work really well in getting people to engage,” said lead author Chris Vargo, an assistant professor of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design at University of Colorado Boulder.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, is the first to take a comprehensive look at ads placed by the infamous Russian propaganda machine known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and ask: How effective were they? And what makes people click on them?

While focused on ads running in 2016, the study’s findings resonate in the age of COVID-19 and the run-up to the 2020 election, the authors say.

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them,” said Vargo.

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For the study, Vargo and assistant professor of advertising Toby Hopp scoured 2,517 Facebook and Instagram ads downloaded from the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence website. The committee made the ads publicly available in 2018 after concluding that the IRA had been creating fake U.S. personas, setting up fake social media pages, and using targeted paid advertising to “sow discord” among U.S. residents.

Using computational tools and manual coding, Vargo and Hopp analyzed every ad, looking for the inflammatory, obscene or threatening words and language hostile to a particular group’s ethnic, religious or sexual identity. They also looked at which groups each ad targeted, how many clicks the ad got, and how much the IRA paid.

Collectively, the IRA spent about $75,000 to generate about 40.5 million impressions with about 3.7 million users clicking on them – a clickthrough rate of 9.2%.

That compares to between .9% and 1.8% for a typical digital ad.

While ads using blatantly racist language didn’t do well, those using cuss words and inflammatory words (like “sissy,” “idiot,” “psychopath” and “terrorist”) or posing a potential threat did. Ads that evoked fear and anger did the best.

One IRA advertisement targeting users with an interest in the Black Lives Matter movement stated: “They killed an unarmed guy again! We MUST make the cops stop thinking that they are above the law!” Another shouted: “White supremacists are planning to raise the racist flag again!” Meanwhile, ads targeting people who sympathized with white conservative groups read “Take care of our vets; not illegals” or joked “If you voted for Obama: We don’t want your business because you are too stupid to own a firearm.”

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Only 110 out of 2,000 mentioned Donald Trump.

“This wasn’t about electing one candidate or another,” said Vargo. “It was essentially a make-Americans-hate-each-other campaign.”

The ads were often unsophisticated, with spelling or grammatical errors and poorly photoshopped images. Yet at only a few cents to distribute, the IRA got an impressive rate of return.

“I was shocked at how effective these appeals were,” said Vargo.

The authors warn that they have no doubt such troll farms are still at it.

According to some news reports, Russian trolls are already engaged in disinformation campaigns around COVID-19.

“I think with any major story, you are going to see this kind of disinformation circulated,” said Hopp. “There are bad actors out there who have goals that are counter to the aspirational goals of American democracy, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to take advantage of the current structure of social media.”

Ultimately, the authors believe better monitoring, via both machine algorithms and human reviewers, could help stem the tide of disinformation.

“We as a society need to start seriously talking about what role the platforms and government should play in times like the 2020 election or during COVID-19 when we have a compelling need for high-quality, accurate information to be distributed,” said Hopp.

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Health & Wellness

COVID-19 linked to cardiac injury, worse outcomes for patients with heart conditions

COVID-19 can have fatal consequences for people with underlying cardiovascular disease and cause cardiac injury even in patients without underlying heart conditions.

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Photo by Alexandru Acea from Unsplash.com

COVID-19 can have fatal consequences for people with underlying cardiovascular disease and cause cardiac injury even in patients without underlying heart conditions, according to a review published today in JAMA Cardiology by experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Experts have known that viral illnesses such as COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases. Less is known about the effects on the cardiovascular system.

“It is likely that even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus disease,” said Mohammad Madjid, MD, MS, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of cardiology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease.”

The study authors explained that research from previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggest that viral infections can cause acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and the development of, or exacerbation of, heart failure.

In a clinical bulletin issued by the American College of Cardiology, it was revealed that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 for patients with cardiovascular disease was 10.5%. Data also points to a greater likelihood that individuals over the age of 65 with coronary heart disease or hypertension can contract the illness, as well experience more severe symptoms that will require critical care.

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According to the study authors, critical cases are those that reported respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure that resulted in death. “It is reasonable to expect that significant cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 will occur in severe symptomatic patients because of the high inflammatory response associated with this illness,” said Madjid, who also sees patients at the UT Physicians Multispecialty – Bayshore clinic.

The novel virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in January 2020. This novel virus originated in Wuhan, China, and by March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization had declared it a global pandemic. The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other less common symptoms are muscle pain, sore throat, nasal congestion, and headache. Symptoms can appear as soon as two days after exposure to the virus to up to14 days after. There is a high viral load in both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, meaning asymptomatic spread between person to person is likely.

Previously identified coronaviruses known to cause severe illness in humans include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). SARS-CoV was first identified in southern China in 2002, and by 2003 it had killed over 8,000 individuals in 29 countries. Data suggests that SARS-CoV may have resulted in cardiovascular complications, such as acute coronary syndrome and myocardial infarction. MERS-CoV was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. As of 2019, 2,494 cases have been confirmed along with 858 deaths in 26 countries.

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Current COVID-19 treatment options are being researched, and there is a large effort to develop vaccines for prevention and to test antivirals for the treatment of the disease. In the meantime, the study authors encourage all individuals to consult with their health care providers about being vaccinated against influenza and that at-risk patients seek advice on receiving a pneumonia vaccine from their primary care physician. While these vaccines will not provide specific protection against COVID-19, they can help prevent superimposed infections alongside COVID-19.

Study co-authors include Payam Safavi-Naeini, MD, of the Texas Heart Institute; Scott Solomon, MD, of Harvard Medical School; and Orly Vardeny, PharmD, of the University of Minnesota.

It is worth noting that cardiovascular issues greatly affect members of the LGBTQIA community.

A 2018 study in the US, for instance, noted that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have a “disproportionately high risk” of heart disease and other cardiac problems when compared to heterosexuals.

Another 2018 study noted that trauma, including abuse and neglect, is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk for lesbian and bi women.


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Health & Wellness

To stay positive, live in the moment – but plan ahead

Mindfulness is when people are centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress.

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Photo by Brian Kyed from Unsplash.com

A recent study from North Carolina State University finds that people who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods.

“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” says Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”

Specifically, the researchers looked at two factors that are thought to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.

Mindfulness is when people are centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress.

To see how these factors influence responses to stress, the researchers looked at data from 223 study participants. The study included 116 people between the ages of 60 and 90, and 107 people between the ages of 18 and 36. All of the study participants were in the United States.

All of the study participants were asked to complete an initial survey in order to establish their tendency to engage in proactive coping. Participants were then asked to complete questionnaires for eight consecutive days that explored fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, participants were also asked to report daily stressors and the extent to which they experienced negative mood.

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The researchers found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors, but that this advantage essentially disappeared on days when a participant reported low mindfulness.

“Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” Neupert says. “Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect.

“Interventions targeting daily fluctuations in mindfulness may be especially helpful for those who are high in proactive coping and may be more inclined to think ahead to the future at the expense of remaining in the present.”

The paper, “Thinking Ahead and Staying in the Present: Implications for Reactivity to Daily Stressors,” is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. First author of the paper is Melody Polk, an undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Emily Smith and Ling-Rui Zhang, graduate students at NC State. The work was done with support from NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

5 Instant ways to relieve stress

Let’s dive in and find out how you can deal with your stress instantly.

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With everything happening around the world regarding this global pandemic, stress is inevitable. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the uncertainty of the future can get the best of you. Keeping yourself calm and healthy is the biggest challenge these days. 

Therefore, you need to try everything in your access to fight with panic, stress, depression. While there are countless ways to deal with stress, there are still very few that are practical and promise instant results. 

In this post, I’ve narrowed down some of the most effective ways that have the potential to calm your nerves. 

So, without any further discussion, let’s dive in and find out how you can deal with your stress instantly. Here you go:

Deep Breathes Always Work

Have you ever felt so stressed that you find it almost difficult to breathe? If yes, then you need to lay back immediately and stop everything that you are doing. Analyze your situation and start taking deep breaths. Keep doing so until you feel a little better and start feeling your breath again. 

This practice is very effective, and more often than not, it works. If you make it a part of your routine, you’ll notice that you’ll have fewer panic attacks. Above all, it will help you remain composed during a sudden crisis. So, next time when you get another episode of a panic attack, you should work on your breath. 

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Take a Walk 

Taking a long walk alone works similarly to taking deep breaths. The best thing about going on a walk is that it provides you with the opportunity to clear your head from the toxic thoughts, and you are able to see things clearly. Above all, it entails obvious health benefits. So, you should be doing this regardless of your anxiety and stress. 

Give CBD a Try

Understandably, you don’t always have the energy to go out and take a walk. Lucky for you, there’s a solution to this problem as well. CBD has proven health benefits. According to different medical researches, it can help efficiently when it comes to reducing stress. 

You take it in any form, but in my personal experience, CBD oil works the best. Therefore, I would recommend you try CBD oil next time you feel overwhelmed with anything that’s bothering you. 

Physically Exhaust Your Body 

One can go on and on about the benefits of the exercise. You’ll hear people telling you that you should be working out and doing physical exercises to keep yourself physically fit. But, here’s what nobody tells you. Physical exhausting yourself releases all kinds of happy hormones that are good for your mental health. Hence, they can instantly work as a stress reliever. All you have to do is, get up and start exercising. It doesn’t have to be hardcore, a simple jog or running can do just the trick. 

So, next time, whenever you feel like giving up to stress and anxiety, do one of the things as mentioned above, and you’ll do just fine.

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Health & Wellness

DOH’s Duque says don’t wait for test if you have COVID-19 symptoms; manage it

DOH’s interim guidelines on the management of persons under monitoring (PUMs) suspected with COVID-19 for home quarantine.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash.com

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III advised people who have symptoms of COVID-19 to manage their condition as if they really have the disease caused by the new coronavirus instead of waiting to get tested.

As quoted by Inquirer.net from a television interview, Duque said that “if you already know the symptoms, manage it as if it’s COVID-19. If all indications suggest that it’s probably COVID-19, why wait for a test? Manage it as COVID-19 right away. You assume. That’s the way to do it.”

Among the symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, cold, shortness of breath, and diarrhea.

Duque, however, did NOT provide the “how to” on managing COVID-19, particularly for those who are not going to get tested, or access medical facilities.

But on February 17, DOH issued Memorandum No. 2020-0090, which contained the interim guidelines on the management of persons under monitoring (PUMs) suspected with COVID-19 for home quarantine.

The guidelines enumerate people who should be home quarantined:

  1. Any person who does not exhibit any sign/symptom, has history of travel to other areas of China and/or history of exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
  2. Any person who exhibits fever or any symptom of lower respiratory illness, and has a history of travel to other countries with a confirmed case of COVID-19 but without any history of exposure.
  3. Those undergoing home quarantine shall be prohibited to leave their rooms/hotels where they are quarantined until they have been certified by the local health official to have finished the 14-day requirement for quarantine procedures.

Now how to implement home quarantine?

PUMs should be isolated.

  1. Place the PUM alone in a well-ventilated room, preferably with toilet and bathroom. If this is not possible, maintain a distance of at least one meter from the PUM (for example, sleep in a separate bed).
  2. Assign one person who is of good health as caretaker of the PUM.
  3. Do not allow visitors, family members and even caregivers in the room of the PUM.
  4. Limit the activities of the PUM in his/her room only. If this is not possible, ensure that shared spaces are well-ventilated.
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PUM should use surgical mask.

  1. The PUM should wear a surgical mask fitted tightly to the nose, mouth and chin when in the same room with another household member or when talking to others.
  2. If alone, the PUM is not required to wear mask.
  3. Do not touch mask during use. If the mask gets wet or dirty with secretions (e.g. saliva), change immediately and dispose properly.
  4. After eight hours, throw used mask. Do not reuse or wash masks.
  5. After removal of mask, wash hands with water and soap, or rub hands with 70% alcohol.
The PUM should wear a surgical mask fitted tightly to the nose, mouth and chin when in the same room with another household member or when talking to others.
Photo by @anshu18 from Unsplash.com

Hand hygiene practice for all.

  1. Everyone should perform hand hygiene following contact with PUM, or if in contact with immediate environment.
  2. Perform hand hygiene by washing hands with water and soap. If hands are not visibly dirty, use 70% alcohol.
  3. When using soap and water, dry hands using disposable paper towels. If not available, use dedicated cloth towels and replace when wet.
  4. Hand hygiene should be performed before and after preparing food, before eating, after using toilet, and when hand is dirty.

Respiratory hygiene and precaution for all.

  1. Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing by using surgical mask, tissues, flexed elbows, sleeves of clothes or inside the neckline of shirts. Follow this up with hand hygiene.
  2. Avoid direct contact with body fluids, particularly oral and respiratory secretions, and feces.
  3. Avoid sharing toothbrushes, cigarettes, towels, bed linen, etc.
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Food handling for PUM under home quarantine.

  1. The assigned caretaker should serve the plates/tray only up to the room door (where the PUM is staying).
  2. After eating, pick plates/tray using gloves. Perform hand hygiene afterwards.
  3. Utensils should be cleaned thoroughly with water and soap. Reused as needed.
  4. Do not share utensils with PUMs.
Gloves, tissues and masks used by PUM should be placed in separate container before disposing with other household waste.
Photo by @claybanks from Unsplash.com

Disposal of used gloves, tissue papers and masks.

  1. Immediately throw materials used to cover mouth or nose.
  2. If reusable items are used (e.g. handkerchief), immediately wash after use with water and detergent soap.
  3. Gloves, tissues and masks used by PUM should be placed in separate container before disposing with other household waste.

Cleaning and disinfection of quarantine venues.

  1. Frequently clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g. bedside tables, door knobs, bed frames, etc). Use household disinfectant; or diluted bleach solution (i.e. 1 part bleach and 99 parts water).
  2. Clean/disinfect bathroom/toilet at least once a day.
  3. Regularly clean clothes, bed linens, towels, etc. of PUMs.

Now, this is important.

PUMs who develop symptoms should be immediately transported to the nearest health facility. In the same way, all household members of PUMs should seek immediate medical care when signs/symptoms develop.

Frequently clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Photo by @socialcut from Unsplash.com

Because the DOH is not at all considering mass testing (yet) in the Philippines, these tips may offer temporary comfort as the country continues to come to grips with COVID-19 with the country’s health department’s weaknesses in offering quality healthcare for all now highlighted.

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Technology

Video game experience, gender may improve VR learning

Males were far more likely to have video game experience, the survey found, and also learned more in the VR simulation, suggesting that either gender or prior video game experience could impact the success of VR-based learning.

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Photo by @stem_t4l from Unsplash.com

Students who used immersive virtual reality (VR) did not learn significantly better than those who used two more traditional forms of learning, but they vastly preferred the VR to computer-simulated and hands-on methods, a new Cornell study has found.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were going to see,” said Jack Madden, doctoral student in astronomy at Cornell University and first author of “Ready Student One: Exploring the Predictors of Student Learning in Virtual Reality,” which published March 25 in PLOS ONE. “But it’s amazing that this brand-new technology performed just as well as these tried-and-true methods that are used today in classrooms. So at least we’re not harming students by using VR.”

Though the virtual reality experiment didn’t change learning outcomes overall, the researchers found that students with more video game experience learned better using VR than those with little video game experience – a finding that correlated closely with gender.

The study – which has new implications as learning around the world shifts online to combat the spread of coronavirus – aimed to take a step toward determining whether new educational technology tactics, while popular, are actually effective.

“There’s been a big push for enhanced technology in classrooms,” Madden said. “I think we can be in awe of these fancy, shiny devices and it might feel like they’re helping, but we need to know if they actually are.”

Males were far more likely to have video game experience, the survey found, and also learned more in the VR simulation, suggesting that either gender or prior video game experience could impact the success of VR-based learning. Reviewing prior work, the researchers found that video games requiring players to navigate 3D spaces are more popular among males than females.

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The tech industry – as a whole – has long been criticized for being too male-centric.

In February, for instance, a study noted that “it is imperative that we construct mechanisms and policies that acknowledge the importance of inclusivity, diversity, and non-discrimination, also for the LGBTQ+ community in the development and use of robots and AI.”

“This is an interesting finding, because it could potentially imply that if you can provide learners with that experience, then you could show broad benefits from immersive learning,” said co-author Andrea Stevenson Won, assistant professor of communication and director of the Virtual Embodiment Lab at Cornell. “However, more study is definitely needed.”

“If you’re unfamiliar with navigating this kind of 3D space, you’re not going to learn as well in it, so that could be a barrier,” Madden said. “One of the conclusions of our work is that we need to do a better job of asking questions around things that might be gendered, like video game experience. There’s a lot of finer detail you need to know to make VR learning successful.”

The study’s co-authors are Natasha Holmes, the Ann S. Bower Assistant Professor in A&S; Jonathon Schuldt, associate professor of communication; and communication doctoral students Swati Pandita and Byungdoo Kim. The research was supported by Oculus Education.

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