Hostile Architecture and Homelessness

Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

Back in 2014, Kuala Lumpur joined the many modern cities around the world who had certain anti-home measures set up.

Soup kitchens that provided food to the less fortunate on the streets, were once banned from operating by Former Minister of Federal Territories, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor. Mansor bore the brunt of criticism and online outrage following the announcement, but overturned the ban within months amid public pressure.

Homeless figures in Malaysia are not immediately available but even if they are, they are not all accurate. According to a 2016 study, over 1,500 to 2,000 are believed to be homeless in Malaysia. Today, there are at least 8,000.

When compared with other surrounding countries such as China, the Phillipines or even those further such as the United States, Malaysia seems like a droplet in an ocean as the Philippines is reported to have at last tens of thousands to several million that are homeless.

In the U.S., seventeen out of every 10,000 people experience homelessness and have to resort to makeshift homes and beds under pedestrian bridges, highways or just any “livable” area that provides shelter.

Safe to say, the city of Kuala Lumpur hasn’t since resorted to anti-homeless architecture such as those seen under the bridges of Guangzhou , China and New York City as while many individuals and organizations are in the fight to end homelessness, some are in it to end it too, but to literally end them.

Anti-homeless spikes to prevent lying down, bolts installed on steps to discourage sleeping, benches specifically designed to stop people from sleeping on them. These are just the few of many hostile architectures that is used to prevent homeless people from relying on public space.

Metal bars on public benches may seem aesthetic at first, but giving it thought, it is used to divide the benches to avoid lying down. Bolts on ledges are also put in place to discourage homeless people from sitting on them.

Some say this type of urban design is essential in maintaining order and discourage soliciting behavior, but hostile architecture especially in modern cities has increasingly attract backlash and criticize as targeting a certain vulnerable demographic – homelessness.

They, as a modern city, have forced those who have nowhere to go to have actually nowhere else to go. At times when the world looks to modern cities for homelessness solutions, the method that is hostile architecture has since been passed on one by one.

When walking along the streets of Jalan Tun Perak at certain times of the day or night, one can’t help but to notice the amount of homeless people seeking shelter outside restaurants or shop lots. 

Due to the movement control order (MCO), many of the homeless were left out on the street. On top of not having sanitary products at their disposal, a deadly pandemic was in the happenings. Luckily, homeless people were gathered and provided shelter by the government and responsible authorities. 

According to Berita Harian, part of the 800 homeless people are scheduled to go through job interviews for manufacturing factory operators or DBKL general workers whereas if successfully hired, will be paid between RM1,200 to RM1,400 

The homeless will also be placed in two boarding houses provided by DBKL or their future employer while waiting for their first day of work to start.

A lot goes into stopping homelessness; and it’s good to mention that, at least, measures are being set up here locally to help the homeless and not stop them such as those seen in the horrid sight that is hostile architecture.

How The U.S. Topped 5 million COVID-19 Cases

While the world continues its fight against containing the coronavirus, the U.S. who still leads in the infected numbers, has recently reach 5 million confirmed cases. A rather grim milestone is also reached as it also logged a whopping 1 million infections in a mere two weeks, according to John Hopkins University.

California and Florida reported more than 500,000 cases so far and Texas is closely approaching that number as well. U.S. officials fear the virus may be widely circulating in parts of the Midwest now.

“Every country has suffered. We, the United States, has suffered … as much or worse than anyone,” Fauci said during an interview with CNN and the Harvard School of Public Health.

“I mean when you look at the number of infections and the number of deaths, it really is quite concerning,” he said.

So how did it get to this? A virus smaller than a piece of dust mite, has humbled and shaken up all 34 states in the U.S. to its knees. 

Up to 30 CDC staffers were removed in China prior to the pandemic

  • The Trump administration cut staff by more than two-thirds at a key U.S. public health agency in China 
  • Most reductions were made at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and happened over the past two years, according to public CDC documents viewed by Reuters.
  • Staff members could’ve warned about the spreading of coronavirus but were just not there to do so

Warnings fell on wrong ears

  • American intelligence warned about the threats in January, but Donald Trump has since been dismissing experts and evidence
  • Repeated statements about how the virus would “go away” and the American people have nothing to worry about as the numbers would go down; on top of that, Trump had a habit of disregarding intelligence briefings.
  • On February 26, Trump asserted that cases were “going to be down to close to zero.” Over the next two months, at least 1 million Americans were infected.

Ineffective travel bans

  • Travel bans create travel. People desperately will sort to use indirect routes through third party countries and make a six hour journey last for more than two days
  • The travel ban from continental Europe essentially created a surge of travellers that packed up America’s airports creating unnecessary delays where social distancing was not possible
  • Special exceptions also allowed in tens of thousands of returnees or entries from mainland China

Tests were also short in supply

  • There weren’t enough tests to be going around and the criteria for getting those tests were extremely rigid
  • At the end of February, tens of thousands have likely been infected but only hundreds had been tested
  • Diagnostic test are easy to make, but the U.S did not manage to create one; and to make things worse, no Plan B was prepared

Neglection of nursing homes

  • The hardest hit buildings were those jammed packed with people and especially without social distancing in practice
  • Nursing homes were ripped off their staff when the Trump administration reduced the influx of immigrants, leaving many nursing homes across the country understaffed
  • Tests and protective equipment were passed towards the state instead of being supplied to nursing homes
  • Nursing homes, now in a bad place, had many existing staff stopped working and faced the issue of many elderlies who were uncared for
  • As of mid-June, they accounted for 40 percent of its coronavirus deaths. More than 50,000 residents and staff have died. At least 250,000 more have been infected

Millions cannot afford health insurance

  • The U.S spends more on healthcare than any other country
  • At least 27 million lack any health insurance, and the figure is set to rise as unemployment numbers rise
  • Patients risk getting high bills from emergency room visits and ventilators that they cannot pay for
  • U.S. hospitals received $9.8 million from a federal bailout but was disappointed with how it was divided
  • There were however, no extra funds for financially distressed hospitals or for those situated in Covid-19 hotspots.

A pandemic can be prevented in two ways. Stop it from ever arising, or stop it from increasing in numbers. 

There are a variety of viruses out there and almost too many animals play as a harbour to them, which makes the first method almost impossible. The infamous “covid courier”, bats alone could be a host to many kinds of coronaviruses, and according to the Atlantic, almost one out of every 20 bats in Chinese caves is infected. 

The U.S. underperformed and one error filed on the other. Still there is hope, as trial and error eventually works.

There are also a few signs that Americans are learning the important lessons as a June survey showed that 60 to 75 percent of Americans were still practicing social distancing. A gap still exists, but it has since narrowed.

This pandemic has been devastating and yet educating. We all carry the responsibility in the fight against it and it’s important that we give thought about what other stakes this pandemic brings and what we can do to address them.

Elderly Man Scavenges Through Trash for a Face Mask

Current standard operating procedure (SOP) guidelines means that any individual caught in public areas without a face mask would be fined up to RM1000. 

With this in place, and everyone flocking to prepare a supply of face masks for themselves, a Twitter image was circling around social media lately of an elderly scavenging through a dumpster area in search for a facemask. 

Similar to the time where there was a panic buy for toilet paper, the same thing has since happened with facemasks. Fearing that he won’t have the money to pay the hefty fine, the man has resorted to a doing so as face masks have also become dry in supply these days.

On top of that, the price of face masks being really liquid as of the very writing of this article, it is no wonder that he is being forced to pick up on what others won’t.

In the Twitter image that now has over eight thousand retweets, the elderly man is seen standing in the middle of a garbage dump, which according to the Twitter user, is located in Pasar Besar Ampangan, Seremban.

The tweet has since routed Malaysians on Twitter with many acknowledging the elder man’s desperation for a single face mask.

“Yeah not everyone can afford to buy mask when the money can only be use to barely survive from hunger.” said a user by the handle of @rashidtokwan.

Job hunting during a pandemic

Job searching in the midst of a pandemic

Universities going fully online, countless Zoom meetings, graduation ceremonies where a robot replaces the actual graduate, and a whole new norm of social distancing guidelines. 

5 months ago, we wouldn’t have ever imagined that we would be where we are today and with what is being in place as our reality today, job hunting has become that much more complicating as we’re forced to being in front of a screen 24/7.

The pandemic has slowed down the economy heavily and more people are eventually going into unemployment as of today. 2020 graduates are walking into a job market that may be grimmer than any we’ve seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

So what does this mean for our university graduates who are beaming with hope of landing that first job? Thankfully, we live in an ever so connected world and information on multiple social platforms that are available right at our fingertips.

Here are a few ways that fresh graduates could master the hunt for a job during this mayhem of a year.

1) Have a plan

Firstly, you should know your goals. This doesn’t at all mean to have a plan in place immediately though; use the time at home to your advantage, set a specific time on your calendar to fully focus on certain aspects of job hunting such as networking or updating your resume.


2) Bulk up on connections and professional networking

Building a career network doesn’t necessarily mean to ask for a job, it can be about seeking information from peers or seniors that could offer advice for you and your current situation. Being able to build rapport and a professional connection is an opportunity that comes with asking for help. By doing so, you’ll realise that there are always people out there that are willing to aid you.


3) Build and maintain a digital image

What would employers see when they look you up online? Do you maintain a professional image on Twitter and Instagram? If it’s up online, there are possibilities that somebody would come across it someday. Maintain what is being published in your name, and be mindful of your content and message.


4) Reflect and recreate

With almost all the time in the world, what else can you do? Now is a time better than any for a moment of reflection. Understand what you’re good at and what you might need to improve on. Take a moment to reflect on your past achievements or even small successes that you feel should be noticeable by an employer. Now that you’ve done all that, create content for your resume or recreate content to fit the current circumstances.


5) Pivot

Pivot means to turn or to swing; in terms of finding a job, it means to go with the punches and venturing into career paths that you never thought you will. The pandemic and economy is beyond our control, we can however control what we choose to do. By pivoting, more career paths can be discovered and you’d never know how something you never thought you’ll be capable of doing be the one thing that keeps you going in the next year or so. The job market is limited and you may have to settle for a position that is not what they’ve trained ideally for. On top of that, income isn’t what you expected; don’t be too picky as things aren’t always going to be stay bad forever.


6) Consider a side-gig

When times are hard, it’s always safe to pick up a means of income on the side just to be safe. The opportunities are endless, do your research of the ones that are available in your area. Have a car? Consider providing a ridesharing service. Speak more than one language? Try your hand at teaching or translating. Have too much time to spare? Consider being a waiter or waitress at that nearby café. Take initiative to get yourself out there as you’ll never know if one thing can lead to another.


7) Patience, patience, patience

Rome wasn’t built in a day, be patient and go at your own pace. What’s important is that you have plan in place and to tick off one checkpoint one at a time.

What other ways do you use to navigate the current job market? Share them in the comment section below!

Should you wash your face mask?

Reusable face mask

With face masks being mandatory from August 1st onwards, one can’t help but to wonder about the already rising number of disposable face masks being used in the country.

Those caught in public places without a face mask will be fined 1000 ringgit as of said date, it is inevitable that many of those who didn’t do so before to start following the guidelines one way or another and those who already do before, continue doing so without hesitation.

Sights of facemasks on the ground have been a usual sight and it’s hard fact to swallow that perhaps more facemasks are being thrown away or dropped when compared to the ones that are actually being used.

In combat to that, the public have shifted to using bandannas, face scarves and masks made of fabric, such as cotton with hopes to reduce the wastage.

According to Hopkins Medicine, you should clean your mask after every wearing. This not only reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus or other germs but also reduces the waste as we are so succumbed to throwing away facemasks after each use.

Now why should we wash our face masks? The reason is simple.

A face mask whorks by keeping you from breathing out if you happen to be sick and asymptomatic. 

Imagine your saliva being contaminated with coronavirus. That’s where the mask fulfil its roll, the mask keeps your spit contained at the cost of itself becoming full of the virus. 

You wash your hands to prevent the spreading of viruses to surfaces or other people. So, you wash your mask for the same reason.


How should you do it?

  • Bandanas, face scarves and masks made of fabric and cotton can be washed such in a regular laundry machine using hot water.
  • However, it is important to know that disposable blue surgical are to be disposed of immediately after use and not to be washed.
  • After washing your fabric mask, tumble dry them in the dryer on a high setting or hang them out on the clothing line to dry for at least a few hours.
  • Consider using a non-scented laundry detergent if you are sensitive to the smell as you’ll be wearing it for pretty much all day depending on your schedule.
  • You can also hand wash your mask under hot, soapy water for 20 seconds while scrubbing.
  • Remember to store your mask in a clean and dry place when you’re not using them to prevent contamination of other kinds.

Do you know of any other places that make fabric face masks? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

The Monk Who Set Himself On Fire As Protest

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June 11th, 1963 will for always be remembered as the day that truly changed history forever. This was the day monk Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death as a protest against the Vietnamese corrupt government which was implying very demanding and unfair laws on monks. Throughout history, many people have self-immolated for various causes, but until that moment no one was known to suicide in such a gruesome and painful way in order to protest against something or for the right of a community such as the sacred monks.

Self-Immolation of Thich Quang Duc by Rollie Hicks - Lord Buddha ...

The story behind this act

Most if not all events that had taken place throughout history were influenced by a previous event, the same case is in this story too. The influential event took place on May 8th, 1963 when the Buddhist community was celebrating a special day in the city of Hue. This special day is called Phat Dan or better described as the birthday of Buddha. The streets were crowded with people from all over Vietnam who came to celebrate this special day among monks. An imperative aspect that I have to mention is that most people were waving Buddhist flags.

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Ngo Dinh Diem

This aspect is very important as at the time, it was illegal in Vietnam to display a religious flag. This law was implemented by President Ngo Dinh Diem which was a Catholic. The law was implemented as he wanted to make Vietnam more prosperous by “westernizing” it. This law was never welcomed by the population of Vietnam as 90% of the nation was in fact Buddhist. As in most countries and nations, religion was a big part of the Vietnamese culture, and trying to change the culture of a nation would not make anyone happy.

On the day of the Buddhist celebration, Diem had sent armed policemen reinforced by the Vietnamese army. This turned the celebration into a full-blown protest and quick enough things got out of hand. Once the Army lost their patience they opened fire into the crowd and even vehicles were driven into the crowd. At the end of the day, over 100 people were injured and 9 had died. From the 9, two of them were children that were run over by police cars and army trucks.

The Buddhist community responding to the massacre

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Malcolm Browne

Since the massacre, things have heated up in Vietnam, with many different protests happening around the country. 2 months after the massacre, the news reached Thich Quang Duc. The news reached very late as Duc was living in a totally isolated temple in the mountains of Vietnam, in fact, he spent the last 3 years of his life at this very temple. Once he got word of the massacre he knew that something had to be done in order to keep the Buddhist community safe.

On the 10th of June, 1963 the Saigon bureau chief for the Associated Press by the name of Malcolm Browne got a piece of anonymous information that something important would happen the very next day (11th of June) outside of the Cambodian Embassy. Due to the high tensions around Vietnam, Browne believed this piece of information.

The very next day, Malcolm Browne reached the Cambodian Embassy where he was welcomed by Thich Quang Duc himself as well as all the other 350 monks and nuns who took part in the protest that was about to happen. By this point, Browne was still unaware of what was about to happen.

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A monk pouring gasoline on Thich Quang Duc on 11th of June 1963

Thich Quang Duc took a cushion which he placed in the middle of the street and sat on it with his legs crossed as if he was just about to go into a deep meditation. Another monk took out of Duc’s car a five-gallon petroleum canister and poured it all over Duc, making sure he was covered by gasoline. What followed was Duc bending his neck and chanting his last prayer to Buddha.

At that point, Browne realized what was just about to happen, so he prepared his camera to make sure that he would capture every moment of it and that everyone around the world will be hearing about this act.

Once Duc finished his prayer, he struck the match and the whole crowd exploded with panic. As the screams of all the monks at the crowd could be heard for miles, a monk was yelling into a microphone:

“A Buddhist priest burns himself to death! A Buddhist priest becomes a martyr!”

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Thich Quang Duc corpse collapsed and burning whilst the rest of the monks praying for him in 1963

In all of this chaos, the only person which was surprisingly calm was Thich Quang Duc himself. Those who witnessed mentioned that whilst Duc was burning, he never flinched nor moved a muscle. For 10 minutes he sat in a meditating posture burning until he collapsed, conforming to the authorities, and most of the people present that he had passed away.

Aftermath

After the fire went out, the monks took Duc’s corpse to the pagoda to cremate his body. Just minutes after the cremation, the pagoda was swarmed with police which wanted to make sure that word of this incident would not make it out of the city, not of the country. However, it was already too late as Browne had already sent the pictures of the event with a letter explaining the event to the United State via what he called a secret carrier pigeon. By the next day, the image of Thich Quang Duc’s burning body had appeared on the front cover of newspapers all over the world.


This had changed the course of history as Thich Quang Duc’s sacrifice made other nations pressure the Vietnamese government into changing the laws in accordance with the Buddhist community. This ultimate type of protest had proven that the world cannot be changed without dire sacrifices.

Even if the picture does still marks many people around the world, it will never compare to the experience faced by those who were present at the event. The same idea was exclaimed by Malcolm Browne.

How the American Idiot Made America Unlivable

Protesters in Texas, other states demand end to lockdowns day ...

New Zealand declared victory over Coronavirus yesterday. “Team New Zealand,” as Kiwis refer to themselves, celebrated having a virus free country. America, on the other hand, had close to 70,000 cases. Seventy thousand — and exploding.

What the American Idiot has done to America is to make it an impoverished country. Not just any kind of poverty — what you might call deep poverty. Let me explain.

New Zealand has zero new cases of Corona. In America, they’re spinning out of control. One way to think about it is to say that your chances of dying of this lethal pandemic are now…infinitely higher in America than in New Zealand. Compared to Europe and Canada, they’re about a hundred times higher.

That’s a kind of poverty, too. A poverty of public health. Americans have spent decades being impoverished of public health by the American Idiot — the kind of person who votes against better healthcare for everyone, including themselves, their kids, their parents. What the? What kind of idiot does that? A very, very large number of Americans.

The result of that attitude was a society poor in a gruesome and strange way — poor in public health itself. What I mean by that is that American life expectancy is the lowest in the rich world, and plummeting, that Americans have the highest rates of all kinds of preventable chronic diseases, from diabetes to obesity to heart disease. You can see it on American faces, in fact: a society poor in health is a society of unhealthy people.

We expect much, much poorer societies to be impoverished in public health. It’s a strange concept to have to think about precisely because we don’t expect it of a rich country. Perhaps one of a poor one, that’s never really developed at all. This is a syndrome unique to America — a form of poverty that Europeans and Canadians struggle to understand, because, well, they’ve mostly eliminated it. But in America, health poverty is endemic.

So endemic that you can see America’s gotten shockingly poorer and poorer in health — right down to the resurgence of old, conquered diseases, from measles to mumps. Again, that’s the work of the American Idiot — the kind of person who won’t vaccinate their kids, which is an idea that in the end takes society right back to the medieval days of endemic smallpox and polio.

So what was going to happen when a society impoverished in terms of health met a pandemic? Utter catastrophe. America’s mortality rate and infection rate are so high precisely because America was a time bomb of failing public health waiting to go off.

What then are the results of creating a society impoverished in public health? Well, Americans face a gruesome choice that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the rich world, even in much of the poor one: your money or your life. “Medical bankruptcy” is the result — I put in quotes because it’s a notion that scarcely exists elsewhere.

How did all that happen?

UN Expert Reveals Shocking Facts about Poverty in the U.S. - IDN ...

Americans are culturally impoverished, too. The American Idiot has turned American culture into the one of the world’s regressive, short-sighted, narrow-minded, and, well…idiotic. Literally the tiniest shreds of decency and sanity come under a murderous, withering barrage of denial and false “debate” — from things as simple as wearing masks to ones as large as educating Americans about how the rest of the rich world and even the poor one now has vastly better functioning societies.

Huge chunks of American culture are so hateful, foolish, or bizarre that they’d be either illegal, laughable, or bewildering in much of the rest of the world, from Canada, Europe, or Asia. “Debating” whether the answer to school shootings — which happen nowhere else — is to arm teachers? The idea that billionaires are somehow good for society, or that things like healthcare, retirement, pensions, income, and safety aren’t human rights? That money is all that should matter? Nearly everyone else in the world finds such notions jaw-droppingly foolish by now, which is how the American Idiot made his country a laughingstock the world over.

The point of a Culture of Idiocy, of course, is to create idiots, and American Culture is the cradle and mothers’ milk of the American Idiot. From Tucker Carlson to Bill O’Reilly to Ancient Aliens, an impoverished culture keeps Americans ignorant, pliable, submissive, and frightened.

Tucker will fill your head with misinformation, and the reality TV will make it seem normal to be an idiot. The result of cultural impoverishment, though, is that Americans they stay poor in more visible, visceral ways — like poor in healthcare, in equality, in power, in money.

But also poor in time. That’s my next dimension of poverty. Americans can’t do much to change their society — not nearly enough — because they’re time poor.They work harder than anyone else in the rich world, by a very, very long way. Taking a vacation in America is something that mostly, you’ll get fired for. Commuting three hours a day? That’s your problem. Americans have no time — and they don’t quite understand yet that that’s a deep form of poverty. Because when you’re always running out of time, when do you save, invest, educate, reflect, or just have a decent life? You don’t. You’re always weary, tired, panicked, on a hair trigger, and eventually, you go numb.

That brings me to the next kind of poverty — emotional poverty. Americans live severely impoverished emotional lives. America consistently ranks as a much, much unhappier country than Scandinavia, and falling. It’s among the angriest place and most stressed out place in the world.

Backing all that up, rates of depression have soared way, way past global norms, suicides are skyrocketing, and hopelessness and despair are endemic, too.

Imagine that you live a life of financial poverty, time poverty, and public health poverty, like most Americans do. What kind of life is that, emotionally? A poor one. It’s full of nights where you can’t sleep, wondering how to pay the bills. It’s riddled with anxiety and panic. Uncontrollable thoughts race through the mind. Pretty soon, you’re like, well, most Americans: angry, stressed out, depressed. No matter how hard you work, you never seem to able to make ends meet. You never have enough time to spend with your loved ones — or just relaxing, or learning something new. But those are the greatest sources of happiness of all. Is it any wonder Americans are miserable and furious, mostly, then?

The American Idiot made all that happen, too. Who votes, again and again, for no real mental healthcare? In America, you can get medicated— the lowest cost answer, or you can get “therapy.” But getting proper mental healthcare, the way you can in Europe or Canada — careful, long-term psychotherapy? That doesn’t exist at all in America, outside maybe a handful of major cities.

The American Idiot responded, instead, to life becoming a nightmare of dystopian stress, misery, and anger, with something else. With rage. With hate. With the cruelty and brutality that have made America a laughingstock the world over. Why does the American Idiot deny everyone — including themselves — better incomes, healthcare, retirement, pension, more time to have a decent life? Because they’ve internalized the notion that nobody has any intrinsic worth. And therefore, everybody must be a vicious competitor, fighting everyone else off, for a morsel of basics, whether jobs, healthcare, pensions, and so on.

But these are things that when people cooperate — as they do in Canada and Europe — they can simply give each other.

Never mind. The American Idiot — led off a cliff by greater fools, like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump — believes that the only way out of an abusive society is to be a bigger, hungrier, more vicious predator.

But all that happens that way is that society implodes into a spectacular orgy of self-destruction, and becomes an unlivable place, because unbelievable cruelty to the rest of the world becomes the norm — like letting kids be shot at school, in indifference to life which culminates, ultimately, in the mass death of a virus.

All that brings me to another kind of poverty: one we don’t yet have a good name for. A poverty of trust, of goodness, of decency. Americans are impoverished in this deep way, which I can put most simply and accurately by saying that they seem to genuinely hate each other. It’s not nice living in a society of people who hate each other. A society of hateful people can’t ever cooperate to accomplish anything, whether beating a deadly pandemic, or creating a better future by investing together in schools, hospitals, ideas, research, accomplishments.

Now, I don’t mean that you hate anyone. I mean it in a more technical way, one that’s almost invisible in America, because like air, it’s just the atmosphere that surrounds everyone. What else, though, can it really be called, when some large number of Americans deny, over and over, everyone else the right to have healthcare? An education? A job with decent standards? Free time? A rising income? A democracy?

You only do those things if you hate people. Yes, really hate them. I would never deny you healthcare, goes the sentiment in Europe and Canada, where even the hard right wing isn’t against basic public goods. American Idiots will deny their own kids and parents decent lives, though.

The only accurate word to describe such a sentiment is hate — because when you deny someone the basics, like medicine or retirement, you are also hurting them badly, and in very real ways. They are going to suffer much, much worse lives — whether measured in longevity, happiness, income, or relationships — as a result of that denial.

The American Idiot is an abuser. He abuses everyone he can, right down to his own loved ones — and think that’s sanity, compassion, goodness. It’s not: it’s only a recipe for self-destruction. Because a society of people — enough of them — hell-bent on abusing everyone else, right down to their loved ones — can only implode into ruin, bitterness, hardship, and suffering.

That brings me to my final form of poverty. If I deny you the basics — healthcare, education, and so on — what am I really doing? I am destroying your human potential. And that is America’s truest and deepest form of poverty.

Americans now live lives of sharply limited and circumscribed possibilities. Go-nowhere, dead-end lives. You can see that, too, in basic statistics, like the death of upwards mobility, the loss of hope in the future, the fact that young people can’t afford to move out and start families, that half of all jobs are now “low-wage service work.”

In America, your life is going to be much, much poorer than in any other rich country. Elsewhere? You can probably get an education — a much better one — and not be crippled by debt for life. There are more better jobs, with better standards. There’s more free time, to have a family, to form bonds, to love. There are better social protections, which mean you spend less time anxious and stressed out. All of that doesn’t just add up to less depression and suicide and more happiness — happiness is facet of an even greater thing, human potential.

There you are, a young person in America. What are your options? Most industries have now imploded, from news to media to education. That’s why half of jobs are now “low-wage service work,” which is polite pundit’s way of saying: being a servant.

You end up driving an Uber, delivering an Instacart. Doing gig work. Pursuing your side hustle when and where you can. What the hell? You’re educated. You have a long collection of degrees and diplomas.

And yet you never become the thing you could have. The one that would have benefited everyone. That scientist, researcher, novelist, journalist, professor, musician. Who can? Nobody can make ends meet. Nobody has time for anything but to be exploited and abused, in the name of trying to make ends meet. So what is there left over in time or money to invest in one’s self?

One dimension of human potential is what you make of yourself professionally — and you realize, one day, terrified, that you will never amount to what you wanted to, but be a glorified neo-servant for much of your life. But another is relational — what you make of yourself socially. And as an American, now, you can’t even afford to start a family, have a home, develop a lifelong relationship.

That’s how badly your human potential has been destroyed. That’s how poor you are in human possibility. You won’t not just be that scientist, researcher, journalist, novelist — you also won’t be that dad, mom, grandparent, husband, wife, loved one.

You will work, for a pittance, and then die. You’ll make billionaires trillionaires — and demagogue dictators — along the way. But you?

You’re expandable, disposable, nobody.

The Fall of America – A Bitter Tale to Tell | Think Magazine

That’s thanks to the American Idiot. He’s a person so breathtakingly foolish to the rest of the world he’s made America a laughingstock. Precisely because he believes nobody’s life has any intrinsic value — beginning with his own, extending to his loved ones…all the way to you, to everyone. If he’s happy to abuse himself — having internalized the lesson he’s been taught all his life, that only brutality matters and cruelty counts — why wouldn’t he abuse everyone else, too?

America’s become unlivable. Sure, you can live there, and you’ll be OK. But you’ll be poor. Poor in ways that are strange and hard to comprehend because they’re both old and new. You’ll be poor financially, of course, like someone living in a collapsing society — but that’s just the beginning.

You’ll be poor in terms of public health, like someone from medieval times. You’ll be poor in terms of time and power, like a peasant from pre-war times. You’ll be poor emotionally, like someone living in a country with no hope. And you’ll be poor socially, politically, and culturally, like in a country turning fascist-authoritarian. All that adds up to the coup de grace — you’ll be poor in terms of human potential. You’ll never become what you’re capable of being — not to the same degree as elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong. Humanity has lived through a lot. Plagues, wars, collapses, implosions. Life doesn’t come to an end. It goes on. But you know what the point of all those things was? Not to repeat them.

That is the most minimal definition of what progress is. And so far, America has yet to meet even that. Maybe, then, that’s what the truest kind of poverty is, too.

The 7 Dwarfs of Auschwitz

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The story of the seven fiddler dwarfs from the Maramures village of Rozalvea, who survived the Auschwitz camp, continues to fascinate decades after the heinous experiments they were subjected to by the well-known Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. The band “Liliput”, composed of seven brothers, all dwarfs, began to become known in the 1930s. The “Ovicers”, as their neighbors called the members of the Ovitz Jewish family, became famous throughout Europe with their variety shows, even singing for King Charles II.

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The Ovitz family at one of their famous performances in 1938

After the occupation of Transylvania by horticulturists, the members of the “Liliput” band knew what to expect, given their Jewish descent, so they hid all their belongings in a pit which they dug under their car.

Upon reaching Auschwitz

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Perla (right) and Elizabeth Ovitz: as the five sisters and two brothers were all good-looking and musically gifted, the stage seemed the perfect career

The Ovitz brothers, five girls and two boys, were taken to Auschwitz along with several hundred other Hungarian Hungarians. As they entered the camp gate, all elegantly dressed and well-dressed, an officer demanded that Dr. Mengele be awakened urgently.

Dr. Josef Mengele was known for his passion for strange people, from hermaphrodites to giants, so the incorporation of seven dwarfs into the Auschwitz extermination camp could only be a source of joy for him. Hearing of the arrival of the seven members of the “Liliput” band, Mengele jumped out of bed and wanted to see them immediately.

While waiting for the doctor, Perla Ovitz, who was 23 at the time, remembers seeing people, including her relatives, taken to a two-chimney building from which smoke constantly came out. The pearl, naive, thought it was a bakery, but was soon awakened to reality by a prisoner of the camp: “There is no bakery. This is Auschwitz, and you will soon be in those ovens. ”

But Mengele’s passion for strange people saved them from death, but the seven dwarfs from Rozalvea had a perhaps more cruel fate.

Meeting with the diabolical Dr. Mengele

“I have been working for 20 years now!” Exclaimed Mengele when he saw the seven dwarfs. The doctor, who had gassed five hundred women a few months ago to escape a typhus epidemic, was simply charmed by the Ovitz family.

In just three hours since they arrived at the extermination camp, much of the Jews they had brought on the train were already dead. Both the seven members of the “Liliput” band and their relatives were spared. In total, 22 people.

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All members of the Ovitz family which survived Auschwitz

The “ovicers” told the doctor at Auschwitz that their father, also a dwarf, had been twice married to tall women, who gave birth to seven dwarfs and three children of normal size.

Like the other prisoners, members of the Ovitz family were put in a barracks and fed the same strained soup. In the room where they were kept, there was also an aluminum bowl in which they washed every day because Mengele was obsessed with hygiene. However, the dwarves were not shaved and were allowed to keep the clothes they had brought with them.

Unsuccessful experiments

At first, Mengele just wanted to take their blood, but this became a weekly routine, weakening the malnourished “ovaries.”

“He was stabbing us carefully, and the blood was jumping. I was often dizzy and vomiting. We were returning to the barracks, but until we returned, we were called again “, said Perla Ovitz.

Mengele didn’t know exactly what he wanted from them either, although he took their blood weekly and did x-rays. According to the documents, the doctor was doing routine tests for kidney and liver problems, but he did not make any discoveries about dwarfism. Then he began to test them for syphilis and torture them, pouring cold and hot water into their ears. Pearl said that water torture was very painful and led them to the brink of madness. The doctors also extracted their teeth and took their genes for testing.

Strange friendship with Mengele

“We were used to the idea that we would never leave the camp,” Perla Ovitz said in an interview more than 10 years ago. But Mengele saved them once again from a painful death because they were to be gassed. The “Lilliputians” had even heard of two dwarfs who had been killed at Mengele’s behest just to show their skeletons in Berlin.

Although subjected to painful experiments, Perla said there was a strange friendship between the dwarves and the sadistic doctor Mengele. “Dr. Mengele was like a star, he looked better and better. Anyone could have fallen in love with him, “Perla recalled. “When he was nervous, he calmed down as he entered our barracks. When he was in a good mood, people said, “Most likely he visited the dwarves.”

Frieda, one of the sisters, often flirted with Mengele, and he responded to the flirtation, calling her “Meine Liebe” (“my love”). All the Ovitz brothers treated him with respect and addressed him with “Your Excellency.

One day, Mengele announced that they were going on a trip and provided them with makeup kits, asking them to look their best, because he was going to give a show in front of important people. After squabbling, the dwarves took to the stage in front of hundreds of SS officers. Dr. Mengele was waiting for them on stage, who suddenly returned to them and shouted: “Undressing!”.

Trembling and trying to hide their private parts, the dwarves stood naked in front of the whole room. In fact, the Ovitz brothers had been brought on stage to make a strong impact on the speech given by the sadistic doctor Mengele about how the Jewish race degenerates into disabled and dwarfs. At the end, the audience stood up and applauded, and the SS officers went on stage to see the dwarves more closely.

Finally, free

In 1945, the “ovicers” were removed from Auschwitz and, after a few months in Moscow, returned to the country. Once in Rozavlea, the dwarves found, under the car, their jewelry and gold objects.

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The Ovitzs leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945

In 1949, the family emigrated to Israel, where they continued to perform variety shows. Perla Ovitz, the last member of the dwarf family, died on September 9, 2001 of natural causes.

Why Can’t America Stop Trolling Science and Wear a Mask?

DIY face-mask brace from ex-Apple engineer gives masks a tighter ...

If things continue as is, by November 1, Covid-19 will have killed more than 224,000 Americans. The adjusted forecast, released last week by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), is largely attributable to the surge in infections and hospitalizations in states like Texas, California, Arizona, and Florida. No place on Earth is immune from the pain and suffering this global medical crisis has wrought, but the United States of America has behaved as if it’s determined to lead in deaths.

The latest IHME projections went up by 16,000 — a nearly 8% rise — but there’s a simple way to prevent more than 40,000 deaths from that dire total. All Americans have to do is stop trolling science and wear a mask.

“If 95% of Americans wore masks each time they left their homes,” the IHME said in a statement, “infection rates would drop, hospitalizations would drop, and forecast deaths would drop.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees. “If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner. “I think in four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control.”

But things rot from the head down. I remain my angriest at the person influencing these fools. As I’ve said it for months to anyone who will listen: We were collectively doomed when Donald Trump couldn’t be bothered to put on a mask.

On Monday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams took to Fox & Friends to literally beg viewers to do just that. And he used a curious new position to make his case: According to him, “This whole administration is now supportive of masks.” I usually have a soft spot for people named Jerome thanks to kinfolk and old episodes of Martin, but this Negro (I’m not Roger Stone) used the word “now.”

Now.

It’s been months since the coronavirus pandemic began, so “now” sounds about 140,000 deaths too late. But the only thing more loathsome than what Adams said was the fact that his claim remains meaningless — and will be for as long as the administration refuses to act.

As we learned the day prior in President Trump’s interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, while Trump professed to be a “believer in masks,” he continued to display a flippant attitude toward the science. When Wallace mentioned that the CDC stresses that widespread mask-wearing in America can reduce its infection rates, Trump barked back, “I don’t agree with the statement that if everyone wore a mask, everything disappears.”

A simpleton loves nothing more than to tell you that they “don’t agree” with a fact. In this case, the facts (based on new reviews of a range of studies) are that wearing a mask can reduce your own risk by up to 65% and that if all people wore a mask transmission from asymptomatic people would be cut by nearly a third. I don’t know who took Donald Trump’s SATs, but I do know that the American education system ought to focus less on multiple-choice tests and more on critical thinking in order to minimize the odds of another dummy like this having sway over our fates.

Between that and his claim that “masks cause problems too” — a conspiracy theory aimed straight at the people who have become convinced that Covid is a hoax and masks are a tool of social control — it’s no wonder that Trump, “very stable genius,” is so impressed that he “aced” a test requiring him to identify the star of Dumbo. But nothing sounded more inane than his rationale for refusing to issue a nationwide mask mandate: “I want people to have a certain freedom and I don’t believe in that, no.” The person currently sending secret police to cities like Portland to escalate peaceful protests is a champion of freedom?

Meanwhile, Trump’s surgeon general is trying to convince Fox News viewers that science has nothing to do with the Constitution. If anything, Adams sees it in more moralistic terms. “Please understand that we are not trying to take away your freedoms when we say wear a face covering,” he said. “We’re not trying to take away your ability to go out when we say keep restaurant capacity under 50%. We’re saying if we do these things, we can actually open and stay open. We can get back to school, to worship, to jobs. We can do this. And I’m a hopeless optimist. But I really do believe Americans will do the right thing.”

Adams must be an optimist if he went on a Fox News program and tried to use reason with an audience craving anything but. Either way, this is the sort of statement that presidents are supposed to make when faced with a national crisis, not their appointees. Too bad I don’t share his optimism about what can be expected to happen under this president.

While his pleas seem earnest, this American nightmare can’t be solved solely by the actions of Americans. Yes, I resent people confronted with the fact that masks can prevent the spread of the coronavirus — and elect not to do so anyway. That includes Trump loyalists, people who liken masks to the Holocaust, and folks insisting on partying inside or at packed gatherings. All of you motherfuckers are a) goofy and b) on my last damn nerve.

And those of you (usually boomers, almost always White) who are posting photos wearing lace and mesh masks like you’re cute, why is this a game to you? It’s like you’re actively trying to court and spread “the shit,” as my countriest folks back in Houston are calling it. How many more Zoom funerals, how many more stories of mask doubters dying, do you need to hear about to take the hint?

But things rot from the head down. I remain my angriest at the person influencing these fools. As I’ve said it for months to anyone who will listen: We were collectively doomed when Donald Trump couldn’t be bothered to put on a mask.

In May, the president reportedly was worried that wearing a mask would “send the wrong message” and make him look “ridiculous.” He focused on reopening the country’s economy while minimizing its medical crisis, not grasping how intertwined the two were. People died — people are still dying — because a stupid, insecure, shallow man was worried that we wouldn’t think he looked like the Lone Ranger in a mask and couldn’t understand that the economy won’t work if a sizable portion of the workforce is sick and/or dead.

Even a fool should be able to tell people to put on a mask. Even a man of little intellect and curiosity should be able to grasp that doctors should be in charge of medical crises. No adult should believe you can simply ignore a medical crisis and have it go away. But here we were again, with Trump doubling down using the logic of a broken clock: “I’ll be right eventually.”

Republican governors like Greg Abbott of Texas and Brian Kemp of Georgia followed Trump’s poor examples to predictably disastrous results for their citizens — the Black and Brown of whom are being infected at triple the rate of their White counterparts. And for local government officials who did buck the president, they were reminded of how little influence they yield by comparison. “When we were trying to get people to wear masks, they would point to the president and say, well, not something that we need to do,” Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, told the New York Timesas part of a lengthy exposé on the Trump administration’s failings on the pandemic.“People follow leaders. People follow the people who are supposed to be leaders.”

Adams is likely to see similar results from Trump’s core audience on Fox News. Worse, Adams is trying to rally people’s better consciences on behalf of the Trump administration, even as the Trump administration is trying to cut funds for more testing, contact tracing, and money to the CDC. Between that and the administration trying to take control of Covid-19 data reported to the CDC, it’s clear what the Trump administration’s collective message to people during the pandemic: Go ahead and die — just be quiet about it.

By comparison, in France, face coverings became required in all public enclosed spaces as of Monday. On Friday, England will begin enforcing new rules that make masks mandatory inside supermarkets and other shops. The differences in those countries and ours can not be tied to personal responsibility.

We didn’t have to repeat the same (ultimately lethal) mask debates that we had with the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. We could have been better. He could have been better, and in the process, cemented his reelection that he’s so obviously obsessed with over public health. But by Monday, when he finally tried to reverse his poll slide by wearing a mask, the damage was long done — not that using racism is really a helpful way of encouraging people to do the right thing.

The people protesting masks aren’t the cause of these issues, but a symptom. The entire country saw what happened in New York in the spring; medical authorities advising the government knew exactly what was needed to prevent other states from sharing that fate. The fault here lies solely with Donald Trump, the person with more control over what happens in America than any other American. His personal negligence has let untold thousands of Americans die. His putting on a mask on Monday does not change that — and certainly not when he’s actively spreading more misinformation about the pandemic, as he doubtless will when daily White House coronavirus briefings resume this week.

If Americans do the right thing and mask up en masse, if they finally do the one thing that will help us put this nightmare to rest for good, it won’t be because of the president. It’ll be because science means more than ideology. That’s something we’ve been always been able to count on — I just hope we still can.

The Story of How a Sleep Tracker Became the Hottest Device of the Pandemic

Build a sleep tracking app using Oura. Part 1: Interface the Oura ...

The Oura ring is suddenly everywhere. The $299 sleep tracking device has adorned the digits of Prince Harry, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and, since July 9, 1,000 employees at the Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas, and most of the NBA players entering the Walt Disney World “bubble” in Florida. The reason for the hype? The ring’s sensors monitor users’ health data, including heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate. Oura crunches this data into a daily “readiness” score, which their connected app serves up to users each morning — the score indicates how hard to push yourself that day; for example, if you’ve slept badly, and your score is low, maybe skip the workout that day. Early studies also suggest the ring’s a useful early detection tool for signs of Covid-19.

Why Harry's new ring has an Oura of desperation about it | Life ...

With no vaccine in sight, wearable tech is having a field day in the time of Covid-19. PGA golfer Nick Watney credits his Whoop watch as the reason he got tested. Duke University launched CovIdentify, asking people with a Fitbit, Garmin watch, or iPhone to download their app in order to analyze if their data can predict infection or severity. Scripps Research Institute put out similar asks for their DETECT study, which aims to speed up identification of areas with outbreaks. And Fitbit, which Google intends to acquire, announced they’d built Ready for Work, a connected app that allows bosses to monitor their employees’ health. Some startups are even floating the idea of wearable smart patches.

It’s no wonder why employers are flocking to wearables like the Oura ring right now; doing something, anything that might potentially prevent or diagnose the disease is very alluring, especially for businesses that have been crushed by the contagion or by reopening restrictions. No one wearable has emerged as “the best” so far, and all studies, while encouraging, only have early-stage results, and aren’t peer reviewed. So how has a sleep-tracking gizmo that’s sold approximately 150,000 rings since early 2018, compared to Fitbit’s estimated 16 million in 2019 alone, become the post-Covid prerequisite?


From the beginning, Oura, which launched version one of their ring in 2015, billed itself as a health and lifestyle company, with a focus on sleep. “Sense. Understand. Inspire.” was splashed across its 2015 homepage. “We’ve always wanted to empower people to understand their full potential,” says Harpreet Singh Rai, Oura’s CEO, who joined Oura in 2017, after a decade managing investments at a global asset management firm. “We started with sleep because that’s an important area of health that’s underlooked. By understanding your own health, you can improve yourself.”

Oura, which is based in Oulu, Finland, and has operations in San Francisco and Helsinki, was founded in 2013 by a group of three friends who were searching for a wearable device to make their lives healthier. They believed that by tracking their data, they’d learn how lifestyle choices influenced their lives. Frustrated by the accuracy, style, and durability of current wrist wearables, they built their own — opting for a ring form factor, as their research showed that fingers were a good place to capture physiological data. In 2015, Oura raised a $2.3 million seed round and launched its first Oura ring to the public, a chunky, Goth-looking gizmo.

Doing something, anything that might potentially prevent or diagnose the disease is very alluring, especially for businesses that have been crushed by the contagion or by reopening restrictions.

In 2018, Oura upgraded the ring to a sleek titanium band that’s available in black, gray, and silver (plus a diamond-crusted $999 premium model). They added sensors, improved the fit, and added an inductive charging system. The ring, which resembles a utilitarian wedding band, weighs between four to six grams, depending on size, which for comparison, is on the lower end of engagement ring weight. Embedded in the band are the temperature and infrared LED sensors, plus a gyroscope and accelerometer, that track temperature, pulse rate, sleep data, and physical activity.

Prior to the pandemic, the ring was beloved by biohackers and techie types, but its price point kept it a niche product.

Enter Covid-19.

On March 5, Petri Hollmén, the 40-year-old founder of Lytti, a Finnish event management startup, flew from his home in Turku, Finland, to Zurich, Switzerland, then on to Tyrol, Austria, followed by an overnight stay at home, and then on to Stockholm, Sweden, for a day. Tyrol had become a coronavirus hotspot, so Hollmén self-quarantined, with his wife, three children, and dog, out of concern for his employees. He’d worn his Oura ring the entire time. On March 12, Oura gave him a readiness score of 54, around 30 points lower than normal. His Oura data indicated his temperature was elevated. He felt fine, but called his doctor anyways — he felt embarrassed about calling, he says. His doctor sent him for testing. He had the virus. Back to quarantining. His wife and eldest daughter also developed low-level symptoms, but his two other kids were unaffected. There wasn’t a lot of information about this in his community so he uploaded a selfie with his pup, Miisa, on Facebook, alongside a screed about his experience.

Hollmén’s post went viral, first in Finland and then worldwide. An Oura staffer noticed it, and slacked Rai the link. Hollmén’s elevated temperature didn’t surprise Rai. “Every year, around cold and flu season, users tell us that they saw [their] body temperature increasing,” he says. “This year, that data was obviously much more important.” Sensing a PR opportunity, Rai set up a call with Hollmén. “Thanks for posting that,” Rai told Hollmén. They discussed Hollmén’s recovery and his experience with Oura.

Harpreet Rai - CEO @ ŌURA | Crunchbase
Rai

Then Rai paused. “Would you be willing to talk to journalists in the U.S.?”


Since early 2020, researchers across America had started pivoting their work to coronavirus-centric studies; detection, prognosis, treatments, cures. In early March, Ashley Mason, a psychiatric sleep researcher at UCSF, was informed that her investigation of saunas as a treatment for depression was on hold; all non-essential research had been nixed until further notice, they said. Her sauna study, which had not been funded by Oura, had used the company’s rings to track patients’ temperatures.

When she saw an article about Hollmén and his Oura ring potentially detecting coronavirus, she called Rai. “Have you seen the story?” she asked. She wondered: Could the rings possibly act as an early-detection tool for high-risk health care professionals? They were an especially vulnerable group — CDC data estimates that 98,000 American health care workers have been infected so far. Being able to identify infection early could help mitigate spread, and hopefully save lives. “I said, come on board,” Rai says. “We have to collect research to learn more about this illness.” Oura put up some funding for the study (after grants and other funds UCSF received, Oura contributed less than 15% of the funds).How the Roomba Became the Pandemic’s Unlikeliest WinnerIn the midst of a recession, even the company was surprised by the increased demand for a $1,000 vacuummarker.medium.com

The result: The UCSF TemPredict study, announced in April. Oura supplied rings to 2,000 frontline workers, and UCSF encouraged any Oura-owning member of the public to enroll in the study online as well. (They must complete a screening survey, answer daily surveys, and allow Oura to share their data.) The end goal, Rai says, is for UCSF to build an algorithm from the data that can identify onset, progression, and recovery patterns. He stressed that any supported studies are independently assessed, and that Oura does not influence the outcomes.

Other researchers with ongoing Oura partnerships also switched up their focus. In West Virginia, the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) developed AI models to forecast symptoms using physiological and behavioral biometrics from Oura data. On May 28, RNI reported that their A.I. platform detected symptoms three days before they materialized, with a 90% accuracy rate. They’ve scaled their program to health care employees at universities across America.

RNI’s preliminary findings caught the eye of the NBA Wearables Committee, who approve and validate players’ devices for use during gameplay. To keep their Disneyland social bubble well monitored, alongside regular Covid testing, they purchased 2,000 smart rings to monitor the players and staff (though wearing them is optional). Around the same time, Las Vegas Sands, which runs the Venetian and Palazzo casinos, also purchased 1,000 to pilot with their staff, and say they’ll purchase 9,300 more if the trial goes well. To aid companies in tracking possible infections in their workforce, Oura developed an enterprise management platform, which lets employers monitor ring-wearers’ health, and provides them with illness probabilities for every opted-in employee or NBA player.

Company of the week: Oura Health | PitchBook

The media hype around Oura — all savvily overseen by Rai — has been great for business. On March 17, Rai announced Oura had raised a $28 million Series B round. (To date, they’ve raised $75.5 million.) Since shelter-in-place took effect, numerous startups have folded, or furloughed to eke out their runway, but Oura’s team grew 20% between February and June, including new hires in social media and engineering. Just in the past month its social following grew by more than 100% on Twitter and Instagram, according to estimates from stat tracker Social Blade.

One of the company’s main challenges right now is keeping up with demand in the midst of supply chain issues created by coronavirus. The situation highlighted the inefficiencies of using Finland as the location for the company’s main fulfillment center. Shipping to the U.S. slowed, and many of the ring’s components that were sourced from China are taking longer to receive. And more and more research studies are asking to use Oura data. “We never imagined that in 2020 we’d be doing studies with nearly 50,000 enrollees,” says Rai. Oura can’t handle 50 new studies, he says, (their main focus is still consumer sleep tracking) so he has offered Oura’s open API share data with researchers. Despite building an app to let employers track employee biometrics, Rai is emphatic that the Oura ring “doesn’t diagnose or treat,” but says the data could be useful to people.

Meanwhile, researchers are going full speed ahead. In early March, Michael Snyder, PhD, a genetics professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, in conjunction with Fitbit turned his attention from researching wearables’ place in assessing risk for Lyme and Type 2 diabetes, to using wearables for Covid-19 detection. “We’re device agnostic,” Snyder says — any high-risk or exposed person who owns an Oura, Fitbit, Garmin, Samsung, or Apple watch can join his Covid-19 Wearables study, in which users link their wearable to an app and self-report additional symptoms. “We can detect Covid-19 with a smartwatch,” Snyder claims.

Whether or not the Oura ring is an effective Covid-19 alert system is still to be determined, and if research ends up discounting the device, that could become a major challenge for the company.

According to his preliminary data, algorithms detected elevated heart rates three of four days before symptoms appeared in around 80% of cases. “Heart rate is a better measure than skin temperature as a lot of people don’t get fever with Covid-19,” he says. However, so far, the data can’t differentiate between, say, Covid-19 and the common cold. And, at least according to Snyder, there’s no clear wearable winner. “We don’t know which wearable is best, as they all measure different things,” he says. “We’ll see which features turn out to be the most important.” Snyder believes that once the algorithms improve, most people will purchase wearables for early detection. “It’s a no-brainer,” he says.

Others wonder if Oura may be getting too much attention. “Without doubt Oura is the most successful smart ring company today,” says Mikko Nurmimaki, editor of Smart Ring News. “It is beautiful. But we are yet to see objective, medical evidence on the accuracy of detecting Covid-19.” Nurmimaki posits that Oura’s buzz has overshadowed smart rings like the CIRCUL, created by California startup Bodimetrics. Its SP02 sensors measure blood oxygen levels, which might be a better diagnostic.

Rishi Desai, the chief medical officer at Osmosis, a medical education platform, and former epidemic intelligence officer at the CDC, isn’t convinced. “Wearables aren’t a major part of the solution for the problem we have today,” he says. “Joe buying it today will not help Joe, today or tomorrow.” He does however see them as “increasingly important technology for problems that we have in the future” in that collected data from wearables will hopefully drive medical research that develops the cures of tomorrow. Desai, who objects to capturing temperature data from a finger because it’s not “a good measure of core temperature,” also says the high cost of Oura and most wearable tech makes it inaccessible to many, noting that “the people that are highest risk are living on the margins.”

Even so, William Haseltine, BA, PhD, an infectious disease expert at ACCESS Health International and author ofA Family Guide to Covid suggests it’s a “good idea” for people to purchase wearables because they make people more aware of social distancing and their symptoms. “There is variable accuracy,” he admits, “but the ask is to call their doctor — that’s not an onerous intervention.” They give people back some autonomy, he says, “where they’ve been left to their own devices as the government isn’t protecting them.” And of course, he adds, their data’s valuable for epidemiologists.

Whether or not the Oura ring is an effective Covid-19 alert system is still to be determined, and if research ends up discounting the device, that could become a major challenge for the company. In the next few weeks, its data is likely going to be under more scrutiny; at Stanford, Snyder’s rolling out a text message system to alert users of wearables — including Oura rings and Fitbits — if their metrics suggest they have the virus.

Osmosis’ Desai is worried about this next step. “Can you imagine if everybody in New York City starts calling with a fast heart rate? It would completely overwhelm the system,” he says. The Oura might be the shiniest new tech toy right now, he says, but that shine could be a misdirection. “The most important wearable right now to be focusing on is masks,” he says. “Anything that’s not talking about masks as the wearable of choice is a distraction.”