Monkeypox Likely Spread By Sex at 2 Raves In Europe

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.

A leading doctor who chairs a World Health Organization expert group described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as “a random event” that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe.

A leading adviser to the World Health Organization described the unprecedented outbreak of the rare disease monkeypox in developed countries as “a random event” that might be explained by risky sexual behavior at two recent mass events in Europe.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, said the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission among gay and bisexual men at two raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.

“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann. That marks a significant departure from the disease’s typical pattern of spread in central and western Africa, where people are mainly infected by animals like wild rodents and primates and outbreaks have not spilled across borders.

To date, WHO has recorded more than 90 cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries including Britain, Spain, Israel, France, Switzerland, the U.S. and Australia. Madrid’s senior health official said on Monday that the Spanish capital has recorded 30 confirmed cases so far. Enrique Ruiz Escudero said authorities are investigating possible links between a recent Gay Pride event in the Canary Islands, which drew some 80,000 people, and cases at a Madrid sauna.

Heymann chaired an urgent meeting of WHO’s advisory group on infectious disease threats on Friday to assess the ongoing epidemic and said there was no evidence to suggest that monkeypox might have mutated into a more infectious form.

Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rash, and lesions on the face or genitals. It can be spread through close contact with an infected person or their clothing or bedsheets, but sexual transmission has not yet been documented. Most people recover from the disease within several weeks without requiring hospitalization.

Vaccines against smallpox, a related disease, are also effective in preventing monkeypox and some antiviral drugs are being developed. So far, public health agencies in Europe have confirmed cases in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden.

In a statement on Friday, the WHO said that the recent outbreaks “are atypical, as they are occurring in non-endemic countries”. It said it was “working with the affected countries and others to expand disease surveillance to find and support people who may be affected”.

It is not yet clear why this unusual outbreak is happening now. One possibility is that the virus has changed in some way, although currently there is little evidence to suggest this is a new variant. Another explanation is that the virus has found itself in the right place at the right time to thrive.

Monkeypox may also spread more easily than it did in the past, when the smallpox vaccine was widely used. WHO’s Europe regional director Hans Kluge warned that “as we enter the summer season… with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate”.

He added that all but one of the recent cases had no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox was endemic. The first case of the disease in the UK was reported on 7 May. The patient had recently travelled to Nigeria, where they are believed to have caught the virus before travelling to England, the UK Health Security Agency said.

There are now 20 confirmed cases in the UK, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Friday. Authorities in the UK said they had bought stocks of the smallpox vaccine and started offering it to those with “higher levels of exposure” to monkeypox. Spanish health authorities have also reportedly purchased thousands of smallpox jabs to deal with the outbreak, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

Australia’s first case was detected in a man who fell ill after travelling to the UK, the Victorian Department of Health said. In North America, health authorities in the US state of Massachusetts confirmed that a man has been infected after recently travelling to Canada. He was in “good condition” and “poses no risk to the public”, officials said.

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Source: Expert: Monkeypox likely spread by sex at 2 raves in Europe

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Mental Health Startup Uses Voice ‘Biomarkers’ To Detect Signs Of Depression And Anxiety

Young female character having a panic attack, an imaginary monster shadow silhouette, mental health issues, psychology

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” Rima Seiilova-Olson says slowly and emphatically over Zoom.

The simple sentence holds enormous value for mental health care, she explains, smiling as if to acknowledge that it might be less than obvious how a silly phrase could be so meaningful to a computer programmer and leader of an artificial intelligence startup.

The short saying contains every letter of the alphabet and phoneme in the English language, says Seiilova-Olson, an immigrant from Kazakhstan who is cofounder and chief scientist of Kintsugi Mindful Wellness. Kintsugi believes these sounds offer invaluable insight that can help mental health providers better support people with depression and anxiety.

The Bay Area-based company is building AI software that analyzes short clips of speech to detect depression and anxiety. This so-called voice biomarker software is being integrated into clinical call centers, telehealth services and remote monitoring apps to screen and triage patients reaching out for support, helping providers more quickly and easily assess their needs and respond.

“There’s just not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed or anxious.”

Kintsugi CEO and co-founder Grace Chang

Seiilova-Olson, 36, first met co-founder and CEO Grace Chang, 40, a Taiwanese immigrant now based in Berkeley, in 2019 at an open AI hackathon in San Francisco. Surprised to cross paths at a male-dominated event, the women began comparing notes about their respective personal challenges trying to access mental health care:

Seiilova-Olson had struggled to secure a therapist during postpartum depression with her first child, and when Chang had needed her own support, she said it had taken months for anyone from Kaiser to call her back.

“Living in the Bay Area, you can push a button and a car can come to you or food can come to you,” Chang says. “But this was really a challenge.” As engineers, they viewed the dilemma differently than clinicians might.

“We saw this as an infrastructure problem, where you have so many people trying to jam through that front door,” Chang explains. “But there’s just not a lot of visibility as to who is severely depressed or anxious, who is low-to-moderate. And if we could provide this information to those frontline practitioners, then we’d maybe have an opportunity to greatly alleviate that bottleneck.”

Kintsugi was born out of that idea in 2019. It sits in a competitive space of health tech startups like Ellipsis Health and Winter Light Labs that are using voice biomarkers to detect mental health or cognitive issues, built on research showing that certain linguistic patterns and characteristics of a person’s voice can be correlated with psychiatric or neurological conditions.

Kintsugi last year raised $8 million in seed funding led by Acrew Capital, and in February, announced it had closed a $20 million Series A round led by Insight Partners, which valued the company at nearly $85 million, according to PitchBook.

In-person mental health facilities typically use questionnaires to gauge the severity of patients’ anxiety or depression, measures known as PHQ-9 and GAD-7 scores. But during telehealth visits or phone consults — where face-to-face interaction is lost, making it harder to pick up on symptoms — Kintsugi’s technology helps to fill that gap.

Nicha Cumberbatch, assistant director of public health at Spora Health, a provider focused on health equity and people of color, uses Kintsugi’s software to assess women in its all-virtual, doula-led maternal health program, Spora Mommas.

The voice analysis tool, which Spora began using for patient consultations a few weeks ago, has helped Cumberbatch identify women who are, or may be at risk of, experiencing anxiety and depression before, during or after their pregnancies. When a patient starts speaking to a Spora clinician or doula on Zoom, Kintsugi’s AI begins listening to and analyzing her voice.

After processing 20 seconds of speech, the AI will then spit out the patient’s PHQ-9 and GAD-7. The employee can then use that mental health score to decide what additional testing may be needed and how best to advise or direct the patient to resources — like a psychiatrist, cognitive behavioral therapist or obstetrician.

Cumberbatch says Kintsugi’s technology is allowing her to “​​keep a more watchful eye” on her patients “and then move forward with proactive recommendations around mitigating their symptoms.” And while it’s not meant to replace clinicians or formal medical evaluations, she adds, it can be used as a screening tool to “allow us to have a more well-rounded, 360-view of the patient when we don’t have them in front of our face.”

“That technology… [allows] us to have a more well-rounded, 360-view of the patient when we don’t have them in front of our face.”

Nicha Cumberbatch, assistant director of public health at Spora Health

Dr. ​​Jaskanwal Deep Singh Sara, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who has collaborated with Ellipsis and led research on potential uses of voice biomarkers for cardiology, cautions that while the technology is promising for health care, the field has a long way to go to ensure that it’s accurate, safe and beneficial for patients and clinicians alike.

“It’s not ready for primetime by any stretch of the imagination yet,” Dr. Sara says. Studies in psychiatry, neurology, cardiology and other areas have shown an association between voice biomarkers and various conditions or diseases, but they haven’t shown how this relationship can be used to improve clinical outcomes, he says.

Such research is “not the same as saying, ‘How can we instrumentalize it in clinical practice, and how feasible is it? How effective is it in gauging an individual’s medical trajectory?’” he explains. “If it doesn’t provide any benefits in terms of how we manage them, then the question is: why would you do it?”

He says addressing those questions is “one of many next steps that we have to undertake on this” and that larger clinical trials are needed to answer them. “If it makes health care delivery cheaper or more efficient, or if it improves outcomes for patients, then that’s great,” he adds. “But I think we need to demonstrate that first with clinical trials, and that hasn’t been done.”

To address these issues and validate its software, Kintsugi is conducting clinical studies, including with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the National Science Foundation has awarded Kintsugi multiple grants to ramp up its research. The company is also pursuing FDA “de novo” clearance and continuing to build its own dataset to improve its machine learning models.

(Data and insights from Kintsugi’s voice journaling app, as well as conversations with call centers or telehealth providers and clinical collaborations with various hospitals, all become part of an enormous dataset that feeds Kintsugi’s AI.) Seiilova-Olson says this self-generated, unfettered proprietary dataset is what sets Kintsugi apart in the AI health care space — where many technologies are reliant on outside data from electronic health records.

That collection of troves of data on individuals’ speech can be concerning — particularly in the mental health and wellness space, which is widely considered a regulatory Wild West. (These products and services are often not subject to the same laws and stringent standards that govern how licensed clinicians provide formal medical care to patients.)

But Kintsugi’s founders say that patient privacy is protected because what matters for its technology is not what people are saying, but how they are saying it. Patients are also asked for their consent to be recorded and care is not affected by their decision to opt in or opt out, according to the founders.

Kintsugi says it has served an estimated 34,000 patients. The company is currently working with a large health system with 90 hospitals and clinics across 22 states, and they are active in a care management call center that services roughly 20 million calls per year. It is also partnering with Pegasystems, which offers customer service tools for health care and other industries, to help payers and providers handle inbound calls.

Chang says other customers include Fortune 10 enterprise payers, pharmaceutical organizations and digital health applications focused on remote patient monitoring, but that she could not yet share their names. Kintsugi’s clinical partners include Children’s Hospital Colorado, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London and SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital in Spain, Chang said.

Prentice Tom, Kintsugi’s chief medical officer, adds that it’s working with the University of Arkansas to explore how the tool can be used to possibly identify patients with suicidal ideation, or increased or severe suicide risk, as well as with Loma Linda University, to look at how the technology can be used to spot burnout amongst clinicians.

The team is also looking for ways to expand availability and uses for younger and elderly patients, as well as for maternal and postpartum populations. And beyond patients themselves, it’s perhaps nurses who are benefiting most from Kintsugi’s work, according to the founding team: having a triage tool that helps reduce administrative work or the time spent asking generic questions enables nurses to more seamlessly move patients in their journey.

But Tom, a Harvard-trained emergency medicine physician and former faculty member at Stanford University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, says Kintsugi is now doing far more than addressing infrastructure issues alone. It’s democratizing access to mental health care, Tom said, moving away from a physician-centric paradigm that caters more to people with significant enough depression that they require medical evaluation.

“This tool actually creates a view of mental health in terms of mental wellness,” Tom said, “where everyone has the opportunity to understand where they sit on the spectrum and that actually stratifies treatment options well beyond the current infrastructure.”

I’m a Senior Writer at Forbes covering the intersection of technology and society. Before joining Forbes, I spent three years as a tech reporter at Politico, where I covered

Source: Mental Health Startup Uses Voice ‘Biomarkers’ To Detect Signs Of Depression And Anxiety

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More Than Half Of Ukraine’s Children Displaced By War

One month into a brutal war, Ukraine’s children are traumatized and in desperate need of assistance. UNICEF is on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries, working to provide lifesaving humanitarian aid to children and families.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine one month ago, 4.3 million children have been forced out of their homes. That’s over half the country’s estimated 7.5 million total child population.

More than 3.8 million people — including 1.8 million children — have crossed the border into Poland, Romania, Moldova and other neighboring countries to escape the ongoing violence since Feb. 24, according to UNHCR.

The rest of Ukraine’s children remain inside the country, trapped in a national nightmare.

“The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II.”

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell

“The war has caused one of the fastest large-scale displacements of children since World War II,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This is a grim milestone that could have lasting consequences for generations to come. Children’s safety, well-being and access to essential services are all under threat from nonstop horrific violence.”

93 children have been killed and 120 injured since the war began

Heavily populated civilian areas are increasingly being targeted, with children’s homes, hospitals, schools and orphanages coming under assault. The World Health Organization has confirmed 52 attacks impacting health care facilities across the country in the past four weeks, while Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science has reported damage to more than 500 education facilities.

According to the United Nations human rights office, OHCHR, 93 children have been killed and 120 injured since the war began. These figures represent only those reports that the United Nations has been able to confirm: the actual toll is likely far higher.

UNICEF is rushing medical supplies to children’s hospitals and maternity wards

UNICEF has 140 staff members on the ground in Ukraine, working around the clock from five regional offices on both sides of the contact line to provide urgent assistance to children and families in need.

In close collaboration with the Government of Ukraine, UN agencies and key humanitarian partners, UNICEF is scaling up emergency operations, including the delivery of medical supplies and equipment to dozens of hospitals across the country, where pediatricians and obstetricians are caring for injured children and delivering babies in basement hallways.

To aid mothers and children who have fled the country in search of safety, UNICEF has set up a network of Blue Dot refugee support centers where they can access emergency services.

Urgent assistance for families forced to leave everything behind

Strategically located along key transit routes, the Blue Dot support hubs provide health screenings, information on available accommodations and transportation, a safe place for children to play, registration for psychosocial support, counseling and protection services, and other vital forms of assistance.

Child-Friendly Spaces where kids can just be kids for a while

Staffed by social workers and psychologists and stocked with toys and games, the Blue Dot centers provide a sense of normalcy for children whose lives have been turned upside-down. “Mostly we do game therapy, but it will depend on the child, how ready he or she will be to play with us,” says psychologist Tatiana Andriesh, who works with children at a Blue Dot site in Palanca, Moldova.

“Somehow, the emotional state of the parents is passed on to the children. If a parent is hugging them very tightly, the child gets afraid. There are situations where the mothers are so emotionally affected that we have to work with the parents somehow, and after than we can give attention to the children.”

The threat of child trafficking is real and growing

More than 500 unaccompanied children were identified crossing from Ukraine into Romania between Feb. 24 and March 17. “The war in Ukraine is leading to mass displacement and refugee flows — conditions that could lead to a significant spike in human trafficking and an acute child protection crisis,” Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, warned on March 19. “Displaced children are extremely vulnerable to being separated from their families, exploited and trafficked.”

To protect the vulnerable, staff at Blue Dot centers are trained to identify unaccompanied and separated children and implement family tracing services so children can be reunited with their caregivers.

“Displaced children are extremely vulnerable to being separated from their families, exploited and trafficked.”

Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia

UNICEF is urging the governments of neighboring countries and other countries of destination to strengthen child protection screenings at border crossings, especially those with Ukraine, to better identify at-risk children.

“In just a few weeks, the war has wrought such devastation for Ukraine’s children,” said Russell. “Children urgently need peace and protection. They need their rights. UNICEF continues to appeal for an immediate ceasefire and for the protection of children from harm.”

Sarah Ferguson is the Editorial Director for Content and Social Media at UNICEF USA. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian,

Source: More Than Half Of Ukraine’s Children Displaced By War

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Critics:

Highlighting that nine in 10 of those fleeing unrelenting violence in Ukraine are women and children, Mr. Elder warned that youngsters are prey to traffickers, as they arrive in unfamiliar new surroundings. “To give a sense of the border that I used to visit – the main border, Medyka,  Poland to Ukraine – it is scores of people standing around buses and minivans calling out names of capital cities – or at least it was a week ago – people getting onto those,” he said.

“The vast, vast majority of course are people with wonderful intentions and great generosity, but there is no doubt given what we understand of trafficking in Europe, that that remains a very, very grave issue.” The development follows a warning from the UN Secretary-General, who on Monday said that Russia’s military offensive against civilians was “reaching terrifying proportions”.

Ane Lemche, a psychologist and child counselor with Save the Children, said children around the world might not fully understand what is happening in Ukraine and may have questions about the images, stories and conversations they are exposed to.   

Previous Save the Children research in conflicts such as Iraq and Syria has revealed heartbreaking accounts of children terrified by the shelling and airstrikes, anxious about the future, and distraught at not being able to go to school. The majority of children showed signs of severe emotional distress.

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Does AI Have The Answer To The Customer Experience Riddle?

The telecommunications industry is so many enterprises wrapped into one—they have to get every aspect of customer experience right. It’s a challenge every organization can learn from.

Everywhere you look, there’s another business attempting to harness data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to help them increase sales and crack the code to provide higher-quality, lower-cost goods and services.

Travel and hospitality companies want to make persuasive, personalized offers at just the right moment to drive bookings. Retailers are honing inventory management to better anticipate customer demand and drive same-store sales—while navigating the current supply chain challenges. Hospitals, health insurers, and even governments utilize AI to comb through vast data sets to develop predictive models of disease.

Financial institutions have accelerated credit and risk underwriting decisions using AI/ML models; they’ve also enhanced customer satisfaction online and on the phone with AI-driven virtual assistants. Manufacturers are employing AI to improve process efficiency, enable predictive maintenance, and scale quality control efforts in their core operations. And everyone is trying to reduce customer churn.

When you stop and think about it, the telecommunications industry and its myriad communications service providers (CSPs) do all of this—advertising, supply chain, online and physical stores, operations and maintenance, customer care—and more, for both consumers and businesses. Thus, CSPs offer a unique lens through which to examine how companies in any industry can utilize AI to convert data to insights and information to actions.

The pressure on CSPs to take action, to do more with less, has never been greater.

Growing demands on the network, growing demands for the network

CSPs are in an unusual position: As global demand for data has grown 256% between 2016 and 2020, intense competition has meant that revenues grew less than 13% over the same period. Operators have so far relied upon technical advances and gaining scale efficiencies through consolidation to manage the gap, but one of the greatest untapped opportunities remaining is to become dramatically better providers of customer service.

While the concept of “AI-driven customer service” may seem like an oxymoron—after all, what do algorithms really know about serving people better?—the answer now turns out to literally be more than you could ever know.

The decline of third-party cookies has many operators renewing their focus on collecting and acting upon their own first-party data across the customer lifecycle.

In an evolving industry like telecommunications, the race for customer acquisition and retention is paramount. This is driving heightened operator focus on better advertising performance and retail sales—whether in their own stores, their retailer partners, or various digital channels. AI can help here with informing target audience creation, creative optimization, and inventory forecasts.

Related: Google and Automation Anywhere reimagine customer experience by giving virtual agents a boost

The decline of third-party cookies has many operators renewing their focus on collecting and acting upon their own first-party data across the customer lifecycle. Here, too, AI models can help CSPs identify and act upon signals, such as usage patterns or customer care calls. This type of customer context, an often overlooked signal, can be especially valuable when it comes to identifying “at risk”’ customers for retention efforts.

Contact centers supporting upwards of 100 million subscribers are an expensive endeavor. Several top global operators have turned to conversational AI to decrease agent volumes and document AI tools to shorten call handle times. Some companies report Google’s conversational AI can cut the number of customer inquiries that need a human agent by half.  Besides helping reduce costs and maintain margins for the operator, many customers also appreciate the efficiency and control of self-service.

Furthermore, while CSPs may not have a “factory” in the traditional sense, their network operations are far-flung and national, even global, in scale. They must operate at the industry standard of “five 9’s” (i.e., 99.999%) reliability for emergency communications and simultaneously deliver massive amounts of bandwidth to meet the public’s insatiable demand for communications and data.

And if it seems like a lot now, just consider the 23% annual bandwidth growth the industry will undergo with the rise of 5G and all the IoT, VR, and Web3 experiences that come with it. Keeping up, and keeping customers happy, will take new levels of network automation and predictive maintenance that only AI can provide.

Related: Deploying and operating cloud-based 5G networks

TELUS, a world-leading communications technology company based in Canada, is already leveraging conversational AI through Google Cloud’s CCAI Insights to better serve its roster of global clients and their customers.

Read more:

Most Important Artificial Intelligence Skill: A Sense of Imagination

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in Business and Society

How Artificial Intelligence Powered Customer Service Will Help Customer Support Agents

Artificial Empathy: Call Center Employees Are Using Voice Analytics to Predict How You Feel

“As a company that supports our customers through many channels, we are able to provide a streamlined experience that transitions from digital support to live agent support,” Phil Schultz, vice-president of customer experience, told us in an interview. “With this new experience, we are able to provide a simple, consistent, intuitive, and friendly experience for simpler tasks, with our agents being able to focus on supporting our customers’ more complex issues. CCAI and Data Insight help TELUS ensure our customers get the support they need, when they need it.”

Realizing the value of AI for customer experience

Of course all of these grand data aspirations are easy to articulate but hard to implement—at Google Cloud, we know these challenges first hand. It’s why we empathize with the added challenges CSPs face from their legacy systems, and from the network complexity that has arisen over generations of technology and industry consolidation. It’s also why we’re excited to be partnering with top CSPs to solve these challenges.

Through our experiences in these partnerships, Google Cloud has identified four key success factors for driving business value from AI applied across the customer experience:

  1. Clear Focus. Success starts with a clear and shared understanding of what CSPs are solving for and the business value of doing so. This clarity will drive every activity to follow, with the business value serving as an important motivator to plow through challenges.
  2. No Silos. Nearly all enterprises struggle with how to break down data silos. Successful companies have a proactive strategy for data integration, data management, and analytics platforms to address the current as well as future needs.
  3. Data-driven. Choosing which part of the problem to tackle first and how to do so is a major determinant of value. Leading companies rely on data to help inform their approach to everything from deciding which use cases to tackle first, to developing and optimizing AI-driven virtual assistants.
  4. Shared risk & reward. We have found that success takes a partnership in which incentives are aligned, with partners having skin in the game.

In Google Cloud’s new report, “Using AI to win the customer experience battle in telecommunications,” we delve into these dimensions, using CSPs as a vehicle, and examine new and innovative ways to apply AI, and best practices for building an AI program focused on delivering value, not just promises.

For TELUS, the investment of time and planning required to execute on AI was apparent from the start. “Through our 10-year partnership with Google, TELUS is able to dive into all the phases of our customers’ journey ensuring it is easy for them to get the support they need,” Schultz said. “This allows our customers to more easily service themselves online, and our world class agents to have all of the information they need to provide quicker and easier support to our customers.”

AI solutions offer the exciting potential to transform the customer experience and bend the value curve for enterprises. Realizing this value requires thoughtful preparation, technology excellence, iterative progress, and a committed, aligned partnership. No company—whether an operator, cloud provider, or solution provider—can afford to let the sizable program investment become just another hype-cycle science experiment that fails to deliver business results.

Sean Allbee, Senior Principal, Customer Value and Transformation Advisory, Google Cloud

Sean works with telecommunications and media companies

Amol Phadke joined Google Cloud in June 2020 as managing director: global telecom industry solutions. He is responsible for working with the product and

Source: Does AI Have The Answer To The Customer Experience Riddle?

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Related Posts

How to Prepare for Climate Change’s Most Immediate Impacts

If you weren’t already convinced by the epic snowstorm, fatal heat dome, horrific flooding, apocalyptic fires, and terrifying IPCC report of 2021, let’s make one thing clear: Climate change is here, now, today. Even if we all became carbon zero overnight—an impossibility—the climate would still keep changing.

And while it’s important to keep fighting, lobbying, and making lifestyle changes to reduce the impacts of climate change, it’s also important to admit that our planet has irrevocably changed and each of us needs to learn how to adapt.

The biggest challenge of learning to live in a new climate is that there’s so much uncertainty about what’s going to happen, to whom, and when. “Climate change will cause mass migrations and economic disruptions,” says John Ramey, the founder of The Prepared, a website focused on prepping.

“What will happen when millions of homes are lost, people move, food and water is scarce, and whole economic sectors fail?” Nobody knows the answer to that question, much less whether it’s guaranteed that will all happen, but here’s a hint: Even a fraction of that is gonna be bad, and you’re gonna be glad that you read and took the advice in this article.

And if you’ve been eyeing cans of Spam at the grocery store, take heart that you’re not alone. According to a FEMA study, there’s been a recent growth in prepping—from 3.8 percent of American households in 2017 to 5.2 percent in 2019. Ramey predicts that after the double whammy of a pandemic and nonstop climate disasters, that number could now be as high as 10 percent.

“The climate crisis is one of the single largest reasons behind the huge growth in the modern prepping community,” Ramey says, “especially among people under the age of 35 or so, since they’re broadly well educated, believe the science, and have the fear or impression that the world will burn within their lifetime.”

When we hear the word prepping, most of us think immediately of a man with a long beard who lives in a hut in the woods, collects guns and “tactical” gear, and eats beans everyday for lunch. Or a Silicon Valley billionaire with a concrete fortress built to withstand nuclear war (with a bowling alley, because, you know, the apocalypse gets boring real fast).

“The media likes to highlight extreme characters and stories, such as a nutter wrapping his entire suburban house in foil or moving into the woods to teach combat shooting to their toddlers,” says Ramey. “Those people are no more representative of preppers than the Kardashians are of Californians.” At its core, prepping simply means taking actions to prepare yourself for a worst-case scenario. Chances are, you already do some form of prepping, whether that’s buying life insurance or installing a smoke alarm in your home.

While there may not be an exact blueprint for what climate change is going to do to each of our lives, experts have some solid guesses that, combined with some good old common sense, can help each of us prepare for our new normal. “I can’t tell you when you’re going to get hit by a climate disaster,” says David Pogue, tech journalist and author of How to Prepare for Climate Change. “But I can tell you that sooner or later, it’ll come.”

Climate-Induced Natural Disasters

The evidence is clear: Climate change is making natural disasters more frequent, more severe, and more expensive. “We’re getting freak heat waves and freak snowstorms, devastating droughts and historic downpours, flooding and water shortages,” explains Pogue. “Everything is changing simultaneously: oceans, atmosphere, plants, animals, permafrost, weather, seasons, insects, people.”

Because your risk of natural disaster is completely dependent on where you live, what’s most important is that you understand what disasters you, personally, may face (and don’t just rely on what disasters you’ve faced in the past—that’s not an accurate assessment anymore). You can do this by researching your city or county’s emergency preparedness tips and making sure you understand the basics of surviving an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.

Pogue says that, no matter where you live, you should make sure your homeowner or renter insurance covers the disasters you’re at risk for. He also points out that you don’t need to live on a coast to be at risk for flooding, and homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding.

After your insurance is squared away, he suggests prepping for two weeks of having no water, food, or power, packing a “go bag” to sustain you for a couple of days outside of your home, and making a plan with your family about where to meet if cell towers aren’t working. His last piece of advice is the simplest: download the Red Cross Emergency app.

It’s free and will give you early warning about disasters. “The most tragic way to die in a fire, flood, or hurricane is in your home because you never got the word to evacuate.”

Supply Chain Breakdown and Food Shortages

Whether or not you agree with experts who say that climate change could bring about a Roman Empire–esque societal collapse, it’s clear that shortages and supply chain disruptions are on the increasingly warm horizon. As Covid-19 showed us, those disruptions can impact anything from medical supplies to car parts to finding a winter coat. But the most concerning shortages that we face are access to food and water.

A 2019 UN report warns of a looming food crisis, and drought already threatens 40 percent of the world’s population, according to the WHO, and over 80 million people in the United States, according to the US government’s Drought Information system. A new paper published in Advances in Nutrition suggests that climate change will cause rising food prices, greater food insecurity, and may lead to micronutrient deficiencies in more people.

While there may be little you can do to impact the global food chain, you can start in your own backyard by planting a fruit tree or starting a garden, learning how to grow climate-appropriate vegetables, and making sure your pantry is fully stocked with two weeks of water and food, along with any necessary medical supplies. It’s also important to assume you won’t have warning before a food and water shortage, according to Ramey, so don’t put off stocking up until it’s too late.

Becoming Resilient Together

Resilience may be an overused term when we talk about climate change, but for most of us, it’s grossly lacking in how prepared we are to care for ourselves, our loved ones, and our property if emergency workers aren’t able to assist us. Barely half of Americans can perform CPR, only 17 percent know how to build a fire, and just 14 percent feel confident in their ability to identify edible plants and berries.

Basic skills—like learning how to operate a two-way radio, knowing the smartest escape route out of your city or neighborhood, or being able to change a bike tire—may sound simple, but can be the difference between life and death in a disaster.

Perhaps the most effective way to take care of yourself is to get close to others. According to FEMA, 46 percent of people expect to rely a great deal on people in their neighborhood for assistance within the first 72 hours after a disaster. “Prepping is not a lone wolf activity,” says Ramey. It’s important that your immediate neighbors know your name and who is in your family—including pets—so they can inform first responders in the case of an earthquake or a fire.

In the event of supply chain disruptions, your neighbors may be your only access to vital supplies like batteries or extra diapers. Building connections in your local community is also a great way to build an informal service network, because who knows when you may need help with an injury or a home repair. As Ramey puts it: “Community wins in 99 percent of situations.”

By: Emma Pattee

Emma Pattee is a writer from Portland covering topics related to feminism, climate change, and mortality. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Cut, The Washington Post, WIRED, Marie Claire, and more. 

Source: How to Prepare for Climate Change’s Most Immediate Impacts | WIRED

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