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Explainer: What to Know About Monkeypox

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Explainer: What to Know About Monkeypox

The COVID-19 pandemic is still fresh in the minds of the people around the world, so it comes as no surprise that recent outbreaks of another virus are grabbing headlines.

Monkeypox outbreaks have now been reported in multiple countries, and it has scientists paying close attention. For everyone else, numerous questions come to the surface:

  • How serious is this virus?
  • How contagious is it?
  • Could monkeypox develop into a new pandemic?

Below, we answer these questions and more.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus in the Orthopoxvirus genus which also includes the variola virus (which causes smallpox) and the cowpox virus. The primary symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a distinctive bumpy rash.

There are two major strains of the virus that pose very different risks:

  • Congo Basin strain: 1 in 10 people infected with this strain have died
  • West African strain: Approximately 1 in 100 people infected with this strain died

At the moment, health authorities in the UK have indicated they’re seeing the milder strain in patients there.

Where did Monkeypox Originate From?

The virus was originally discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in monkeys kept for research purposes (hence the name). Eventually, the virus made the jump to humans more than a decade after its discovery in 1958.

It is widely assumed that vaccination against another similar virus, smallpox, helped keep monkeypox outbreaks from occurring in human populations. Ironically, the successful eradication of smallpox, and eventual winding down of that vaccine program, has opened the door to a new viral threat. There is now a growing population of people who no longer have immunity against the virus.

Now that travel restrictions are lifting in many parts of the world, viruses are now able to hop between nations again. As of the publishing of this article, a handful of cases have now been reported in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and a number of European countries.

On the upside, contact tracing has helped authorities piece together the transmission of the virus. While cases are rare in Europe and North America, it is considered endemic in parts of West Africa. For example, the World Health Organization reports that Nigeria has experienced over 550 reported monkeypox cases from 2017 to today. The current UK outbreak originated from an individual who returned from a trip to Nigeria.

Could Monkeypox become a new pandemic?

Monkeypox, which primarily spreads through animal-to-human interaction, is not known to spread easily between humans. Most individuals infected with monkeypox pass the virus to between zero and one person, so outbreaks typically fizzle out. For this reason, the fact that outbreaks are occurring in several countries simultaneously is concerning for health authorities and organizations that monitor viral transmission. Experts are entertaining the possibility that the virus’ rate of transmission has increased.

Images of people covered in monkeypox lesions are shocking, and people are understandably concerned by this virus, but the good news is that members of the general public have little to fear at this stage.

I think the risk to the general public at this point, from the information we have, is very, very low.
–Tom Inglesby, Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

» For up-to-date information on monkeypox cases, check out Global.Health’s tracking spreadsheet

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Technology

33 Problems With Media in One Chart

In this infographic, we catalog 33 problems with the social and mass media ecosystem.

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problems with media

33 Problems With Media in One Chart

One of the hallmarks of democratic society is a healthy, free-flowing media ecosystem.

In times past, that media ecosystem would include various mass media outlets, from newspapers to cable TV networks. Today, the internet and social media platforms have greatly expanded the scope and reach of communication within society.

Of course, journalism plays a key role within that ecosystem. High quality journalism and the unprecedented transparency of social media keeps power structures in check—and sometimes, these forces can drive genuine societal change. Reporters bring us news from the front lines of conflict, and uncover hard truths through investigative journalism.

That said, these positive impacts are sometimes overshadowed by harmful practices and negative externalities occurring in the media ecosystem.

The graphic above is an attempt to catalog problems within the media ecosystem as a basis for discussion. Many of the problems are easy to understand once they’re identified. However, in some cases, there is an interplay between these issues that is worth digging into. Below are a few of those instances.

Editor’s note: For a full list of sources, please go to the end of this article. If we missed a problem, let us know!

Explicit Bias vs. Implicit Bias

Broadly speaking, bias in media breaks down into two types: explicit and implicit.

Publishers with explicit biases will overtly dictate the types of stories that are covered in their publications and control the framing of those stories. They usually have a political or ideological leaning, and these outlets will use narrative fallacies or false balance in an effort to push their own agenda.

Unintentional filtering or skewing of information is referred to as implicit bias, and this can manifest in a few different ways. For example, a publication may turn a blind eye to a topic or issue because it would paint an advertiser in a bad light. These are called no fly zones, and given the financial struggles of the news industry, these no fly zones are becoming increasingly treacherous territory.

Misinformation vs. Disinformation

Both of these terms imply that information being shared is not factually sound. The key difference is that misinformation is unintentional, and disinformation is deliberately created to deceive people.

Fake news stories, and concepts like deepfakes, fall into the latter category. We broke down the entire spectrum of fake news and how to spot it, in a previous infographic.

Simplify, Simplify

Mass media and social feeds are the ultimate Darwinistic scenario for ideas.

Through social media, stories are shared widely by many participants, and the most compelling framing usually wins out. More often than not, it’s the pithy, provocative posts that spread the furthest. This process strips context away from an idea, potentially warping its meaning.

Video clips shared on social platforms are a prime example of context stripping in action. An (often shocking) event occurs, and it generates a massive amount of discussion despite the complete lack of context.

This unintentionally encourages viewers to stereotype the persons in the video and bring our own preconceived ideas to the table to help fill in the gaps.

Members of the media are also looking for punchy story angles to capture attention and prove the point they’re making in an article. This can lead to cherrypicking facts and ideas. Cherrypicking is especially problematic because the facts are often correct, so they make sense at face value, however, they lack important context.

Simplified models of the world make for compelling narratives, like good-vs-evil, but situations are often far more complex than what meets the eye.

The News Media Squeeze

It’s no secret that journalism is facing lean times. Newsrooms are operating with much smaller teams and budgets, and one result is ‘churnalism’. This term refers to the practice of publishing articles directly from wire services and public relations releases.

Churnalism not only replaces more rigorous forms of reporting—but also acts as an avenue for advertising and propaganda that is harder to distinguish from the news.

The increased sense of urgency to drive revenue is causing other problems as well. High-quality content is increasingly being hidden behind paywalls.

The end result is a two-tiered system, with subscribers receiving thoughtful, high-quality news, and everyone else accessing shallow or sensationalized content. That everyone else isn’t just people with lower incomes, it also largely includes younger people. The average age of today’s paid news subscriber is 50 years old, raising questions about the future of the subscription business model.

For outlets that rely on advertising, desperate times have called for desperate measures. User experience has taken a backseat to ad impressions, with ad clutter (e.g. auto-play videos, pop-ups, and prompts) interrupting content at every turn. Meanwhile, in the background, third-party trackers are still watching your every digital move, despite all the privacy opt-in prompts.

How Can We Fix the Problems with Media?

With great influence comes great responsibility. There is no easy fix to the issues that plague news and social media. But the first step is identifying these issues, and talking about them.

The more media literate we collectively become, the better equipped we will be to reform these broken systems, and push for accuracy and transparency in the communication channels that bind society together.

Sources and further reading:

Veils of Distortion: How the News Media Warps our Minds by John Zada
Hate Inc. by Matt Taibbi
The Truth Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Separating Facts from Lies and Stopping Fake News in its Tracks by Bruce Bartlett
Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare by Thomas Rid
The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour
After the Fact by Nathan Bomey
Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
Zucked by Roger McNamee
Antisocial: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Highjacking of the American Conversation by Andrew Marantz
Social media is broken by Sara Brown
The U.S. Media’s Problems Are Much Bigger than Fake News and Filter Bubbles by Bharat N. Anand
What’s Wrong With the News? by FAIR
Is the Media Doomed? by Politico
The Implied Truth Effect by Gordon Pennycook, Adam Bear, Evan T. Collins, David G. Rand

 

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Misc

Visualizing the Current State of the Global Gender Gap

At our current rate of change, it will take up to 136 years to close the global gender gap. Here’s a look at gender inequality across regions.

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Map showing gender gaps in each region

The Current State of the Global Gender Gap

As a global society, we still have a long way to go before we reach gender equality around the world.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest Global Gender Gap Report, it could take up to 135.6 years to close the global gender gap, based on the current rate of change.

This graphic by Sebastian Gräff gives a breakdown of gender equality worldwide, showing how long it will take before each region reaches gender parity.

How Gender Gap is Measured

In its 15th edition, the Global Gender Gap Report analyzes gender-based discrepancies across 156 different countries. To gauge each region’s gender gap, the report digs into four key areas:

  1. Economic Participation and Opportunity
  2. Educational Attainment
  3. Health and Survival
  4. Political Empowerment

Each subindex is given its own score, then an average across the four pillars is calculated to give each country a final score between zero (exceptionally unequal) and one (completely equal).

Regional Breakdown

Out of all the regions, Western Europe has the smallest gender gap, with a score of 0.78. At this rate, the gender gap in Western Europe could be closed in approximately 52.1 years, more than 83 years faster than the global estimate.

RankRegionOverall Gender Gap Index (2021)
1Western Europe0.77
2North America0.76
3Latin America and the Caribbean0.71
4Eastern Europe and Central Asia0.71
5East Asia and the Pacific0.69
6Sub-Saharan Africa0.67
7South Asia0.62
8Middle East and North Africa0.61
Global Average0.69

Western Europe scores particularly high in educational attainment (1.0) and health and survival (0.97). Here’s a look at the category breakdown for each region:

RegionEconomic Participation and OpportunityEducational AttainmentHealth and SurvivalPolitical Empowerment
Western Europe0.701.000.970.44
North America0.751.000.970.33
Latin America and the Caribbean0.641.000.980.27
Eastern Europe and Central Asia0.741.000.980.14
East Asia and the Pacific0.700.980.950.14
Sub-Saharan Africa0.660.850.970.21
South Asia0.340.930.940.28
Middle East and North Africa0.410.940.970.12
Global Average0.620.960.970.22

But it might be surprising to see that political empowerment in Western Europe received a score of only 0.44. This is higher than the global average for political empowerment of 0.21, but still indicative of a large gender gap in this area.

Globally, political empowerment tended to receive the lowest scores in the report, as women are grossly underrepresented in politics. A study by the Council of Foreign Relations revealed that out of 195 different countries’ national cabinets, only 14 countries had at least 50% of their ministerial positions held by women.

Economic participation and opportunity is the second weakest category, with a global average score of 0.58. A good example of how this gap manifests itself is in entrepreneurship and business, where women still struggle to find investors and gain access to venture capital. Further, on average, women continue to make less money than men. According to the UN, women across the globe make approximately 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The Economic Benefit of Gender Equality

Research shows that empowering women in the workforce is in everyone’s best interest. Closing the gender gap in the global workforce could lead to a boost of more than $28 trillion to the global economy.

Yet across the globe, COVID-19 has created new challenges that have hindered our progress towards gender equality. This is partly because some of the sectors that have been impacted the most by COVID-19 restrictions, such as hospitality, food services, and personal care, are largely dominated by female workers.

As we continue to recover from the impact of COVID-19, world leaders will face numerous policy challenges, including how to build back better, creating more opportunities for women to thrive in the global economy.

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