IBM will use data science and tech to tackle the world’s biggest problems

IBM Watson's computer housing case.
Image: Andrew Spear for The Washington Post / Getty Images

IBM is channeling its science and tech expertise into tackling some of the world’s biggest problems.

On Wednesday, the tech giant announced the launch of Science for Social Good, a new program that partners IBM researchers with postdoctoral academic fellows and nonprofits to take on societal issues through data.

With the new initiative, IBM announced 12 projects planned for 2017. Each Science for Social Good project aligns with one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations’ blueprint to address some of the globe’s biggest inequalities and threats by the year 2030.

Science for Social Good covers issues like improving emergency aid and combating the opioid crisis, and the projects all use data science, analytics, and artificial intelligence to develop solutions.

The projects chosen for this years Social Good program cover predicting new diseases, alleviating illiteracy and hunger, and helping people out of poverty.”

One project is called Emergency Food Best Practice: The Digital Experience, which plans to compile emergency food distribution best practices and share it with nonprofits through an interactive digital tool. IBM will partner with nonprofit St. John’s Bread & Life to develop the tool based on the nonprofit’s distribution model, which helps the organization seamlessly serve more than 2,500 meals each day in New York City.

Another project is called Overcoming Illiteracy, which will use AI to allow low-literate adults to “navigate the information-dense world with confidence.” The project hopes to decode complex texts (such as product descriptions and manuals), extract the basic message, and present it to users through visuals and simple spoken messages. While this project doesn’t solve the global literacy crisis, it will allow low-literate adults engage with text independently.

“The projects chosen for this years Social Good program cover an important range of topics including predicting new diseases, promoting innovation, alleviating illiteracy and hunger, and helping people out of poverty,” Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research, said in a statement. “What unifies them all is that, at the core, they necessitate major advances in science and technology. Armed with the expertise of our partners and drawing on a wealth of new data, tools and experiences, Science for Social Good can offer new solutions to the problems our society is facing.”

IBM hopes the initiative will build off the success of the company’s noted supercomputer, Watson, which has helped address health care, education, and environmental challenges since its development.

Six pilot projects were conducted in 2016 in order to develop the Science for Social Good initiative. These projects covered a broad range of topics, such as health care, humanitarian relief, and global innovation.

A particularly successful project used machine learning techniques to better understand the spread of the Zika virus. Using complex data, the team developed a predictive model that identified which primate species should be targeted for Zika virus surveillance and management. The results of the project are now leading new testing in the field to help prevent the spread of the disease.

To learn more about current and past projects, visit the Science for Social Good website.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/07/ibm-science-for-social-good/

The teenage developer who quit school to focus on coding

Image: getty images/

Like many developers about to attend their first major developer conference, Amanda Southworth is looking forward to the week-long event. Besides Monday’s keynote, when Apple will unveil the next version of iOS, MacOS and maybe even some new hardware, there will be deep dives into new developer tools and countless networking opportunities.

That’s enough for any developer to get excited about, but Southworth is not like most other developers.

At just 15 years old, Southworth has the distinction of being among the youngest to attend Apple’s developer conference, which awarded her one of its WWDC Scholarships a program that helps “talented students and STEM organization members,” travel to and attend the event.

Though she’s been teaching herself to code for the better part of six years she says it wasn’t until the seventh grade when she really began to throw herself into her coding projects and other “nerd stuff.” Soon, she was spending as much as 30 hours a week to her various projects: first building robots and programming micro-controllers; then picking up web and iOS development.

She was 12 and working on all this on top of her schoolwork. So after about two years of a lot of coding and far too little sleep she decided to leave public school and take up home schooling, which would allow her to spend more time on coding without sacrificing her health.

“Now I do coding about five hours a day and schoolwork for about two hours of the day,” she says.

Much like her, Southworth’s apps are not what you may expect from a young developer. Her first app, AnxietyHelper, is entirely devoted to providing resources for young people facing mental health issues. It has information about conditions like anxiety and depression, guidelines for dealing with anger and panic attacks, as well as links to crisis hotlines.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

Amanda Southworth was once of the recipients of Apple’s WWDC Scholarships this year.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

“Basically it’s just to make your life easier because dealing with mental illness as it is sucks,” she says. “This app is kind of reaching out and saying ‘hey, I’m sorry you’re in this predicament but I want to help make this better.’

It’s a message that’s resonated with her peers. The app has around a thousand users and the app’s Tumblr page, where she regularly posts tips on self-care, uplifting memes and words of encouragement, and the occasional baby animals photo, has more than 3,500 followers.

I’m very open and I want to help people

Southworth, who describes herself as a kind of “motherly figure” to her friends and social media followers, says she regularly talks on the phone and exchanges messages with her Tumblr followers and those who use her app.

“I’m very open and I want to help people,” she says of the interactions.

It’s this drive of helping those around her that lead her to create her second app, Verena. Like AnxietyHelper, it’s also focused on supporting young people who may be in distress. But instead of mental health, Verena offers tools for people in the LGBT community who need help feeling safe a kind of “security system for the LGBT community.”

A poster for Anxiety Helper.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

A diagram Amanda made to help her plan out how her app will work.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

Seeing her friends many of whom are part of the LGBT community worry the day after the presidential election in November 2016 inspired her to create the app. “That day I saw all of my friends crying and it was really upsetting, you know, when people you love are scared,” she says. “So I decided, I’m going to make something so that I know they’re safe.”

I decided I’m going to make something so that I know they’re safe

Verena, which takes its name from a German name that means “protector,” allows users to find police stations, hospitals, shelters, and other places of refuge in times of need. They can also designate a list of contacts to be alerted via the app in an emergency.

Conscious that some of the app’s users may not be able to be open with their families or those around them about their identity, Southworth included some clever features that help users disguise the app on their phones lest they be caught with an app for LGBT people on their phone.

Go into “incognito” mode and and the app transforms into an app that looks like it’s meant to provide help with math homework (users can get back to the real app by logging back in.) And should somebody need help while in incognito mode, they can hold down the log-in button to automatically send an alert to their contacts.

Image: verena

Though she says Verena is her main priority right now she’s working with translators to make the app available in 10 different languages her ultimate goal is to work in the space industry. SpaceX is her number one choice

“I relate strongly to Elon Musk,” she says of the notoriously hyper-focused CEO.

But with college still two years away she’s content to focus on AnxietyHelper, Verena and her other projects for now in between studying for finals and the rest of her schoolwork.

Even though she sees herself as ultimately having a career in embedded systems, rather than iOS development, she sees WWDC as something of a turning point for her.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people who do the same thing as me because everybody tells me I’m really crazy for like just dropping school and going for this with all of my might.

“But I know there’s other people who do this and I want to meet those people. I want to be inspired and I want to make my app better, so I guess this will help me.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/04/amanda-aouthworth-wwdc-profile/

How a Silicon Valley veteran created an app that 400 nonprofits use to help refugees

Image: Mashable Composite; RefAid / Trellyz

Shelley Taylor calls herself a Silicon Valley veteran. Veteran, she tells me, “means old.”

Raised in Palo Alto, Taylor has an extensive tech background. She isn’t an engineer, but she wrote the “bible of user interface” back in 1995 at the dawn of website creation, inventing a lot of the language still used to this day to describe websites and ecommerce. She’s launched a bevy of startups and advised companies like AOL, Cisco, Microsoft, and Yahoo in their early days.

“My approach to being a technology founder, which I pretty much have always been, is starting with the user experience and then using that to do product design development,” she says.

That’s exactly what she’s doing with her latest project, albeit with a more humanitarian twist. Taylor is behind the Refugee Aid app, or RefAid, which connects refugees with crucial services when and where they need them most. More than 400 of the largest aid organizations in the worldfrom the Red Cross to Save the Children to Doctors of the Worldall use it.

In many cases, they even rely on it.

Through a simple, easy-to-use interface, the free mobile app uses geolocation to show migrants, refugees, and aid workers a map of the closest services for food, shelter, health care, legal help, and more. Aid organizations can communicate with each otherand touch base with the refugees they’ve helpedthrough a web-based content management system, as well as update and keep track of the services they offer.

The app began as Taylor’s passion project in early 2016. It’s an offshoot of her company Trellyz, formerly known as Digital Fan Clubs, which launched four years ago to help people manage their brands and monetize their fans on Facebook. But about 18 months ago, Taylor, who has lived in Europe on and off for the last 25 years, felt compelled to do something a bit different.

“I was impacted by the horrible images, and just felt a sense of frustration. I just thought, ‘What can we do?'”

“I was struck, like many other people, by the refugee crisis,” she says. “In Europe, it’s much more prominent. Where I am in Italy, just looking out over the sea where I am, there are people who have been drowning trying to get to Europe, to safety. And so I was impacted by the horrible images, and just felt a sense of frustration. I just thought, ‘What can we do?'”

Since Digital Fan Clubs already created geolocation-based apps with real-time data, Taylor wondered how they could adapt that technology for refugees, who she knew were already using smartphones. So she asked a number of large organizations like the UNHCR and the British Red Cross if an app like RefAid would be helpful. They all had the same answer: “That would be great.”

Over the course of just one weekend, Taylor and her team created RefAid using the company’s app creation platform technology. It launched in February 2016, first in the UK and Italytwo countries where refugees can have very different needs. In the UK, many refugees have already reached their destination, and are focused more on integrating into a new society. Many refugees in Italy, meanwhile, are just arriving off boats after extremely harrowing, dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean.

Image: RefAid / Trellyz

Image: RefAid / Trellyz

Nel Vandevannet, director of Belgian projects at Doctors of the World, and Mark Forsyth, refugee support services coordinator at the British Red Cross, both say RefAid has proven extremely useful for their organizations. Spreading awareness of their services has been difficult, but the app has streamlined the entire process.

“I think the application is perfect for very vulnerable groups of people.”

In Belgium, where many refugees are quickly passing through to get to the UK and other parts of Europe, Vandevannet says the app has helped Doctors of the World explain to them their rights. And, in many cases, it helps point them in the direction of life-saving health care. It’s not always easy to translate this kind of vital information and convince refugees of what they need, but tapping into their smartphoneswhich Vandevannet calls “their compasses”has helped develop more trust between aid workers and refugees.

“I think the application is perfect for very vulnerable groups of people, who, because of bad experiences, repression, violence they had through their traveling … don’t really go to services,” she says. “The application is something they can control. If the police would give information, [refugees] would never go. Because they would think that it’s controlled by police, you would have to give your identity, and so on.”

The app protects refugees’ identities by only requiring an email address, not names or other personal information. There’s also a double-login function that protects their accounts, in case they ever lose their phones.

According to Forsyth, the British Red Cross has mainly used RefAid as a directory of relevant services across the country. It enables them to search for up-to-date information about services, such as locations and opening times.

“It’s not uncommon for refugees and asylum seekers to be moved all around the country,” he says. “So it’s really useful that RefAid covers the whole country, so we can contact services in other cities and refer people on.”

RefAid is now available in 14 countries: Greece, the UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Turkey, and the U.S.

They weren’t planning to launch the app in the U.S.at least not so soon. But as one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 to create a 90-day travel ban for citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program. (The ban was ultimately blocked by lower courts, a ruling that a federal appeals court upheld just last week.)

“Because I’m an American, I was so upset by the Trump [travel] ban,” Taylor says. “I’m an expat living in Europe, and I’m so proud of our American history of welcoming immigrants. I thought about it all weekend, and I thought, ‘Well, we just have to do it.'”

She invited her team and a group of friends to her house on the following Monday, and they all got on their phones and called as many organizations with real-time legal services as they could. They wanted to make sure that people who were being detained had access to essential phone numbers. Even though the ACLU and others had set up free legal resources at international airports, many people couldn’t even get out of customs to reach them.

“I thought, if we could at least make this available to people so that they can make phone calls, that would be a great start for RefAid in the U.S.,” Taylor says.

In just that one day, RefAid went live in 21 U.S. cities, focusing on legal services in areas with big international airports.

RefAid isn’t the only app on the market helping refugees and immigrants at various stages in their journeys. But it’s especially novel because of the unexpected problems it solves for nonprofits overall: managing their resources.

What Taylor and her team didn’t realize is that most of these organizations didn’t have centralized databases of the services they were offering. Information on the different categories of aid they provided and what satellite offices offered was all in aid workers’ heads, or on pieces of paper filed away in drawers.

“Because it’s on my phone, it’s available wherever, whenever, even if I’m not in the office.”

“The first organization that said they would love to use our system said, ‘We’ll get back to you when we’ve collected all of the services.’ I asked, ‘Well, how many are there?’ And they said, ‘We don’t really know,'” Taylor says.

That same organization, which Taylor didn’t name, had 60 offices in the UK. It took them two-and-a-half months to compile everything and give her an Excel spreadsheet with 300 lines of services.

Forsyth says it’s been a similar case for the British Red Cross.

“Services are changing all the time, especially these days, so paper and PDF directories are virtually obsolete from the second they are made,” he says. “RefAid is updated regularly, and because it’s on my phone, it’s available wherever, whenever, even if I’m not in the office.”

It was a revelation, and Taylor saw a market opportunity. She dropped everything else, changed the name of Digital Fan Clubs to Trellyz, and pivoted toward exclusively helping nonprofits manage their resources.

Now, the company is applying RefAid’s technology to a new app called LifeSpots, in which all nonprofits can compile their services by location, helping people find the assistance they need as well as local volunteer opportunities. It’s expected to launch within the next month. Trellyz also plans to do the same thing for cities, offering another app for local governments to list and manage the public services they offer.

RefAid is updated every few weeks or couple of months, as more nonprofits use it and provide feedback. Even governments are starting to hop on board Washington State uses the app to help distribute information about local services available to refugees, as well as the UK’s National Health Service and cities across Europe.

Doctors of the World is also working with Trellyz to integrate a “medical passport” into RefAid, allowing refugees to put their own medical histories in the app. It’s all secure, staying in the hands of users, and solves the problem of not being able to keep such important paperwork with them as they’re traveling.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what Taylor said about focusing on user experience understanding who’s using the app and then developing it to maximize the impact. And with RefAid, that human-centered approach is clear as soon as you register. You immediately get a short, two-sentence email sent to your inbox.

“Thanks for registering for the RefAid app,” the email reads. “We all hope that you find some support near you, and that you have a safe journey.”

With that attitude and the technology behind it to create real, positive change, RefAid is quickly becoming a must-have addition to any refugee’s phone.

WATCH: This is what refugees face when coming to America

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/29/refaid-refugee-aid-app-shelley-taylor/

How ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has become the meme of the resistance

Image: Christopher Mineses / mashable 

Earlier this week, 18 women dressed up in red cloaks and white bonnets, stood in pairs in the rotunda of the Texas state capitol, and began chanting, “Shame!” in unison. They didn’t stop shouting for eight minutes.

They call themselves the Texas handmaids. You probably first saw them back in March, when images of their original protest in Austin went viral. That’s when they sat silently in the Texas senate gallery, watching as lawmakers debated bills that would make it harder for women to get an abortion.

What you may not know is that their demonstrations, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale and Hulu’s vivid TV adaptation, are slowly spreading across the country.

Women are holding sewing parties to turn yards of blood-red fabric into capes. They’re swapping ideas on private Facebook pages about how to stage protests. They’re even planning a coordinated demonstration where dozens of handmaids simultaneously show up at state capitols or in other public places in cities across the country.

If the visually striking meme takes off, it could become one of the most effective acts of protest from the resistance. The sight of even a dozen women wearing the handmaid costume, while staying silent and keeping their heads down, offers a stark contrast to a group of mostly white men deliberating over what happens to their bodies. The imagery is practically made for the digital era.

The point, activists say, is to send a powerful message: We’re closer to a government that strips women of their bodily autonomy than you might think.

“The easiest way we try to explain it is that the handmaids represent a future where women are nothing more than their reproductive capacity,” says Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas. “Unfortunately, with the laws that are being passed, that future is not so unrealistic and not so distant.”

We’re closer to a government that strips women of their bodily autonomy than you might think.

The idea to enlist Texas women as handmaids started with Busby a few months ago. She happened to see women dressed as the title character from The Handmaid’s Tale at South by Southwest. That was a marketing stunt by Hulu, the streaming entertainment provider that brought Atwood’s novel to the small screen.

But Busby then joked on Facebook about how someone should send the handmaids down to the capitol, where lawmakers had been busy introducing bills that would curtail abortion rights. Soon NARAL Pro-Choice Texas ordered white bonnets from Amazon Prime and a volunteer rented red capes. A small group of volunteers quickly drew up a plan. They liked the element of surprise in showing up at the capitol in costume and wanted to let legislators know that women were watching.

After that yielded local and national press coverage of the legislative agenda in Texas, activists around the country started reaching out to Busby for tips on how to start their own handmaids brigade.

You could argue that all of this is moot, that the United States is nowhere close to becoming the Republic of Gilead, The Handmaid’s Tale‘s totalitarian, theocratic state that freezes women’s bank accounts, forbids them to work, sends them to re-education camps, and forces many of them to bear children for leaders and their wives.

The New York Times‘ conservative columnist Ross Douthat argued this week that liberals are seeing the wrong parallels. On the same day, Times op-ed contributor Mona Eltahawy wrote that the Republic of Gilead already exists in Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive and may be imprisoned for disobedience. For her part, Atwood has said that nothing in her novel hasn’t already happened before in history.

“I still have a credit card, I still have a nice car, but I can feel the future here.”

For the volunteers who are deep into the work of creating and wearing the costumes in public, it’s not about whether they still have credit cards or the right to get a job. What they see is the federal and state governments largely in the hands of conservative, even authoritarian, men who’ve vowed to defund Planned Parenthood and roll back reproductive health rights like abortion and access to affordable birth control. At the same time, those men plan to funnel money to abstinence-only education and vouchers for “school choice,” which includes religious schools.

The fact that they’re led by Donald Trump terrifies these women.

“We have somebody in the White House who thinks it’s OK to grab women and do whatever he wants, and I’m supposed to sit back and be cool with that?” says Emily Morgan, executive director of Action Together New Hampshire, an activist group that emerged in the wake of Trump’s election.

Earlier this month, Morgan contacted Busby for details on how to create handmaid costumes. But instead of bringing women into the New Hampshire legislative gallery during a debate or hearing, Morgan and her co-organizers asked them to appear at a press conference calling for the resignation of Rep. Robert Fisher, a Republican who The Daily Beast identified in April as the creator and former moderator of Reddit’s popular men’s rights “Red Pill” forum. The message board bills itself as a “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men,” and Fisher regularly questioned whether rape is real, according to The Daily Beast. (Fisher resigned later in the day following the press conference.)

A sexual assault survivor with handmaids demanding Rep. Robert Fisher’s resignation, on May 17, 2017, in Concord, N.H.

Image: Granite State Progress

“Fisher and the Red Pill embody exactly what The Handmaid’s Tale is a foreshadowing of or is a warning against,” Morgan says. “Saying that we’re not there it’s sort of degrading to what’s actually happening to women.”

In the days before the press conference, volunteers made six costumes, but some of the women bowed out after learning the media would be in attendance. Morgan says they feared in-person and online harassment. Nevertheless, she thinks more women will step forward to participate in upcoming demonstrations, particularly since volunteers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are sewing new cloaks so that activists in New England quickly have access to them for future protests.

The time-intensive, costly aspect of buying the bonnets and making the cloaks is one challenge to growing the handmaid ranks. There’s also the danger that different groups will splinter in an effort to launch the first nationwide demonstration. Morgan is moderating a private Facebook page to coordinate a national action. A similar page started by one of the Texas handmaids has close to 300 members.

The handmaids’ signature costumes are also a relatively obscure reference compared to pussyhats, the knit pink caps that have become a symbol of the resistance. But they’re also memorable even if you don’t know the origin.

Ane Crabtree, the costume designer for the Hulu series, says the outfit’s visual power is rooted in both the bright red color, which can signify blood, birth, and passion, and how the cloak conceals women who wear it. The combination tells the viewer what she needs to know about how the body underneath the costume is oppressed.

“It’s an easy form of expression to say that everything’s been taken away and is being taken away, and its a real thing,” says Crabtree, who is encouraged and inspired by people making their own version of the costume.

Deborah Marsh, a 65-year-old retiree who is one of the Texas handmaids, says people who get the reference often approach her on the street or in the capitol’s rotunda to thank her profusely for the act of defiance. Some, however, have seen the symbolism and don’t like it. Marsh says a few people on the street have had “outbursts” or called the women “pathetic.”

Joe Pojman, executive director of the anti-abortion rights nonprofit group Texas Alliance for Life, seemed to criticize the handmaids a few times, focusing on the fact that they’ve used smartphones while silently protesting in the gallery, a silly point that Marsh feels makes their case about men who are obsessed with policing women’s behavior.

What Marsh didn’t expect was how confident she would feel while wearing the costume. “It’s such a bold costume, it’s making such a bold statement,” she says. “And my body is inside that costume, so why wouldnt I feel bold? Why wouldn’t I feel empowered?”

Among reproductive rights activists like Marsh, the Texas legislature is infamous for its anti-abortion legislation. In 2013, the state passed a law that effectively led to the closure of dozens of abortion clinics, which the Supreme Court found unconstitutional last year. The Republican-led legislature recently voted to ban the safest type of second-trimester abortion and require hospitals and abortion clinics to bury fetal remains, including those from miscarriages that happen at home. Texas has already moved to keep Planned Parenthood from state and federal funding.

In other words, as Texas limits access to both abortion and reproductive health care like birth control, it’s easy to imagine a future in which women have little practical control over how and when they have children. That vision shouldn’t be limited to Texas either; other Republican-dominated states are pursuing a similar agenda with regard to limiting access to reproductive health care, as is the Trump administration.

“I still have a credit card, I still have a nice car, but I can feel the future here,” Marsh says. “If [people] aren’t affected by it today, they are going to be affected by it in four yours. Texas is a little bit ahead of the game.”

“Am I going to change someones mind who is pro-life? I dont expect that. Im aiming higher. I want to change the culture.”

Stephanie Martin, a mom from Round Rock, in central Texas, who recently dressed up as a handmaid for the first time, says she’s realistic about who the message is going to reach.

“Am I going to change someone’s mind who is pro-life?” she asks. “I don’t expect that. I’m aiming higher. I want to change the culture.”

It’s still early to gauge exactly how that culture will respond beyond the videos and photos that have gone viral. But the parallel between the male aggression and control that characterizes Gilead feels particularly fresh in a week where a Republican congressional candidate body slammed a reporter for asking a question he didn’t like, and the president appeared to shove aside a European leader to get a better position in a photo-op.

Let’s not forget the complicity of Ivanka Trump, who promotes herself as a champion of gender equality but says nothing critical about healthcare and budget proposals that are arguably hostile to women. Nor can we ignore the benign-looking malevolence of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who couldn’t come up with a single instance of discrimination at publicly funded schools that would give her pause when asked about it at a congressional hearing. In Gilead, after all, the women who are not outrightly oppressed get the privilege of wielding what small power they have against the vulnerable and marginalized.

Morgan admits that some people won’t make connections between what’s happening today and Atwood’s fiction. Yet she urges skeptics to focus less on a dramatic, sweeping end to women’s rights. What’s more important, at this point, is the underlying implication of attitudes and laws that see no harm in making it more difficult or even impossible for women to determine their own fate.

“These are steps on the same path,” she says of the parallels between Gilead and Trump’s America. “You have to start somewhere.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/28/handmaids-tale-protests-costumes/

This radical video by Shonda Rhimes and Dove is what unapologetic body positivity is all about

Fat girls dance.

That three word statement may seem simple and declarative. Yet, the assertion that fat girls do dance challenges a ton of assumptions and stigma around what plus-size people can and can’t do.

Cathleen Meredith, a self-proclaimed “fat girl,” knows the importance of dancing while people are watching. Meredith is the subject of the first video in an anticipated partnership between acclaimed producer Shonda Rhimes and Dove, called Dove Real Beauty Productions. The series spotlights real women redefining beauty and Meredith is no doubt doing just that through her brainchild Fat Girls Dance.

The video racked up over 1.5 million views in less than two days, exposing countless people across social media to Meredith’s story of self-acceptance. A shortened version of the video also appeared as an ad during the season finales of Rhime’s shows Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy on May 18.

Meredith started Fat Girls Dance in August 2016, pledging to post a video of fat girls dancing every single week for a year. Meredith calls the choreographed dance series a “radical act of fearlessness.” Her mission through Fat Girls Dance was to bring more visibility to the joy of plus-size women, and challenge ideas that fat women aren’t active, talented, or sexy.

“I had always loved myself and always thought that Cathleen was dope. But I didn’t think that Cathleen’s body was dope.”

Her story is one of resilience and radical body positivity, challenging a society rampant with fatphobia and bias to see the beauty in women like her.

“I think there is a negative connotation with the word fat,” Meredith says in the video. “But I never saw it as something negative, just something that I was. And I was not negative. I was awesome.”

But the year-long Fat Girls Dance campaign not only ended up challenging society’s views of fat bodies. Meredith says the watching herself dance on video began to challenge bias toward her body that she didn’t even known she had.

“When you’re dancing on a video and then you see it, you’re like, ‘Oh god, I am fat,'” she says in the Dove video. “And it’s very strange ’cause you knew you were fat. But you didn’t see it the way you see it on camera.”

Meredith says looking at herself over and over again in Fat Girls Dance videos helped her truly love her body, realizing its ability and power. Through that self-reflection and self-acceptance, she was able to truly embody a motto of Curvy. Confident. Conqueror.

“I didn’t know that it was a love affair I had been missing my entire life,” she says. “I had always loved myself and always thought that Cathleen was dope. But I didn’t think that Cathleen’s body was dope.”

That deep self-love is a lesson Cathleen wants to help spread to other plus-size women who are constantly told their bodies are not good enough. And she hopes to do that through Fat Girls Dance.

“If I could give that to every fat chick I ever met, then that would be worth it,” she says.

This thoughtful video on radical body positivity comes at a good time for Dove. The brand was recently criticized by some body positive activists for trivializing and capitalizing the movement by their body wash bottles reflect different body sizes for a campaign.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/20/dove-video-fat-girls-dance-shonda-rhimes/

Well, someone is spray painting condoms on graffiti dicks in London

Graffiti penises are “outdoor decor” you probably think you’d rather not encounter. But a safer sex advocate from the UK might just change your mind on that.

An anonymous 28-year-old Londoner is raising awareness of sexually transmitted infections and the importance of protection by spray painting condoms on graffiti penises. Yes, you heard that right. And it’s damn genius.

Sure, it’s technically illegal. But it’s also a pretty genius way of starting a conversation about safer sex.

“One night I did some research on STI rates, and then the idea just came to me to make stencils of a condom and a link where people can get free condoms then I just went out and did it,” the man, who is an art director by day, told BuzzFeed.

City Cock 5 #protectcitycocks

A post shared by ProtectCityCocks (@protectcitycocks) on

The condom artist has been at it since April, with each fluorescent condom accompanied by the URL for Shine, a reproductive health organization in London providing free STI screenings and free condoms through six National Health Service clinics.

So far, he’s added about 20 dicks to his portfolio.

City Cock 1 #protectcitycocks

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The creative process is basically a graffiti dick scavenger hunt. Wherever the condom vigilante sees a spray painted penis already in place, he adds a condom. Simple as that.

“If there’s going to be cocks scattered everywhere that nobody wants to see, we might as well have people learn something from the cocks,” he told Buzzfeed.

City Cock 3 #protectcitycocks

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In 2015, there were approximately 435,000 diagnoses of STIs made in England, mostly impacting straight youth under 25 and men who have sex with men.

The mystery artist has been particularly focused on spreading his message to youth because he noticed many of the graffiti dicks were at school bus stops. Shocking.

“It just shouldn’t be the norm to just have your wang out, especially unprotected,” he told Buzzfeed. “I just thought it sent the wrong message.”

City Cock 2 #protectcitycocks

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The anonymous man-on-a-mission recently started an Instagram to document his safer sex project called @protectcitycocks. And while the creative effort is pretty goofy and giggle-worthy, the artist hopes it spreads a serious message.

“I just hope that this has some positive impact and that it could get more people to use condoms and eventually help lower the STI rates,” he said.

Insert cheeky “no glove, no love” joke here.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/20/spray-painted-condoms-penis-uk/

Facebook and The Trevor Project hope to help prevent LGBTQ youth suicides

Facebook has been working to make users feel safer on the platform for years, and in its latest effort to enhance the online community, the social media platform partnered with The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

On Tuesday in the middle of Mental Health Awareness month Facebook announced that users will be able to connect with mental health resourcesfromThe Trevor Project right from their direct messages. The project rolls out over the next few months.

According to The Trevor Project’s website, the rate of suicide attempts is “four times greater for LGB youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth,” so it’s clear how helpful access to a supportive chat bot could be. And though The Trevor Project is aimed at helping suicide prevention in young people, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 40 percent of transgender adult respondents reportedly made a suicide attempt during their lives, so Facebook users of all ages could certainly benefit from the helpful resource.

The messenger crisis support will also expand awareness to other areas of the mental heath community with the help of participating organizations likeCrisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The social media site recently received a great deal of backlash surrounding the spread of live-streamed suicide videos and earlier this month after a violent video of a Cleveland man shooting and killing a 74-year-old man was posted to the site founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted more human intervention is necessary on the site to ensure the safety of users.

The site also collaborated with mental health organizations back in 2016 to launch tools and resources aimed at supporting the mental health community. Users now have easily accessible support groups along with the ability to report concerning posts related to self-injury or suicide directly to Facebook.

Back in March the site was even testing a pattern recognition system that would use AI to identify posts that include certain keywords pertaining to suicidal thoughts.

Studies have shown that excessive social media us could increase levels of depression, so the more resources the better.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/facebook-lgbtq-trevor-project/