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The Business of Drugs Season 1, Episode 2 recap: Synthetics



Netflix’s The Business of Drugs 102:  Synthetics

Former CIA analyst Amaryllis Fox continues examining the world of substances deemed “illicit” in The Business of Drugs. This time she examines the world of synthetics, first introducing us to the legacy of Alexander Shulgin, the “godfather of psychedelics.” Shulgin is known for introducing MDMA, or “ecstasy,” which is the most popular synthetic drug of all time, which was first developed primarily for its therapeutic potential.

Ann Shulgin, Alexander’s wife and “accomplice” in his endeavors, mentions the drug’s potential for “true self-acceptance.” In fact, some believe MDMA is valuable for treating PTSD. The Business of Drugs breaks down drug use as aspects of a chemical process and suggests that Ronald Reagan (and others, obviously), started cracking down on it for political reasons. The big question is: Is the drug war another hyper-politicized extension of anti-science?

The Business of Drugs: Hard drugs, harder questions

As “The Business of Drugs” visually goes through the “Schedules” of 1-5, one can’t help but notice a few glaring points. For starters, marijuana is listed as Schedule 1, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Of course, medical marijuana is more commonly accepted at this point in history, and making marijuana illegal just drove it underground and encouraged potentially dangerous copycat drugs. As Fox notes, synthetic cannabis is a perfect example of the drug war’s consequences.

If that’s not enough, even the word “marijuana” is considered a bit of a xenophobic term, as a historical attempt to link the substance uniquely to Hispanics. Actually, anti-pot crusader Harry Anslinger stated: “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing result from marijuana use.”)

(Note:  Anslinger is not mentioned in the episode, but his beliefs seem instructive regarding why regular “marijuana” is still considered dangerous. despite its noticeable lack of history of overdose cases.)


We also meet psychedelic chemist Hamilton Morris, who tells us about “thrill-seekers” and risk-takers as a product of the prohibitionist market. Along the way, we also meet drug users like Nicole, who says that her use of a new drug helps her achieve “ego death.”

Rodrigo Canales, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale, paints it all in business terms: There will always be new psychedelic technology and innovators. Indeed, so-called “underground chemists” can always tweak formulas to keep them technically legal, as they become somewhat of a different substance with similar (if not more dramatic) effects.

The Business of Drugs then heads to Brooklyn, NY, to talk to JT the spice dealer. Spice is sprayed on dried herbs. Unlike conventional pot, overdoses are possible due to increased toxicity. In fact, we are shown a so-called “K2 Zombies” news clip featuring addicts of the substance in the street. Fox says: “That’s not a zombie outbreak, that’s a client base.”

Predictive drug manufacturing

We then meet David Kokel and Roy Gerona at UCSF. In his toxicology lab, Gerona shows us that he is testing drugs on zebrafish. He actually provides the unique skill of developing “prophetic cannabinoids.” Basically, he is predicting what underground drug labs might create next. Their lab had already made the so-called “K2 Zombie drug,” giving people a chance to save lives and offer treatment.

Oddly enough, what Gerona’s doing isn’t entirely different from what the Shulgins did with their books, “PIHKAL” and “TIHKAL.” Whereas the Shulgins were swarmed by the DEA in 1994, the UCSF lab is apparently allowed to continue. Either way, prohibited drugs continue to be available, both on the “dark web” and even through international mail. On that note, we briefly meet a “Molly” dealer named X, who says he can make more than 300% profit on a deal.

MDMA as a treatment for PTSD?

While drugs remain a controversial subject, so does PTSD. On that note, “The Business of Drugs” introduces us to a war veteran named Jonathan M. Lubecky. He mentions that, upon returning home, he felt suicidal. When he went to the hospital, they gave him 6 Xanax and told him to give all his guns to his neighbor. Insufficient care led to his suicide attempt.

In his own account, he had pulled the trigger but the ammunition malfunctioned. Not long after the incident, someone surreptitiously encouraged him to try MDMA for therapy. Lubecky compares it to “doing therapy while being hugged by everyone who loves you on the planet in a bathtub full of puppies licking your face.” Fox says it eliminates PTSD in 2 out of 3 veterans.

What are your thoughts on The Business of Drugs? Let us know in the comments!

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PC vs. Chromebook: Which Laptop is Best For You?



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A computer is one of the only gadgets that’s completely necessary to get work done at school and in the workplace. Until recently your only choices were to choose between a desktop and laptop, whether to get a Mac or a PC. Chromebooks — laptops that run an operating system based on Google’s Chrome browser — are a new, third option.

Traditional laptops and Chromebooks share a lot of the same DNA: they’re portable computers, designed to access the internet, consume media, and get work done. That said, they differ in some fundamental ways, like how they handle privacy, what apps they can run, how powerful their hardware is, and the tasks they’re best suited for.

There’s no “wrong” choice, but I’ve broken down the main differences between traditional PCs (ones that run Windows; Macs are a different beast entirely) and Chromebooks below, and recommended one of each once you’ve decided which one fits your needs best.

Both Can Handle Common Tasks, But PCs Are Faster

Raw processing power used to be the easiest way to choose a computer, but that hasn’t been the case for many years. Every computer — regardless of the brand and model — can handle basic word processing, web browsing, and streaming videos in HD.

On paper traditional computers win the power war: they have faster processors, so they can run powerful apps more quickly, they have more RAM (memory), so they can keep more apps running at the same time, and they have more storage, so you can hold more files. If your job involves editing photos, videos, or music, or you like keeping a lot of media files on your computer at all times, this is going to make a big difference.

On the other hand, Chromebooks have enough power to handle the basic tasks I mentioned earlier. If your work depends on Microsoft Office, and you primarily spend your leisure time watching videos, posting on social media, or browsing the web, you won’t really notice the difference in performance. It’s nice to know you have a lot of power under your computer’s hood, but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t use it.

The only tech spec I recommend looking at is storage. Chromebooks don’t have very much, so you should only consider one if you stream movies and music, and keep your photo library backed up on the cloud. If you like keeping a local movie, music, and photo library, it’s best to stick with a PC.

Chromebooks Run Fewer Apps, But Are Less Likely to Get Viruses

The PC’s biggest strength is its ability to run millions of different apps you can get from anywhere on the internet. This is due in part to the Windows operating system PCs use, which is easy to program for. Chromebooks have a far more limited app library, and you can only get software available in the Google Chrome web store, and Google’s Play Store.

Both platforms share some big name apps like Microsoft Office, but if you need a specific piece of software (lets say an audio converter that supports niche formats), you’re out of luck on a Chromebook. You’ll definitely apps suited for common tasks (photo editing, video conferencing, general productivity), but apps you’re used to using on a PC may not be available if you go the Chromebook route.

Again, this limitation isn’t likely to bother you if you rely on your computer for general tasks, and it comes with a big upside. Chromebooks run on the ChromeOS operating system, which is basically a souped-up Chrome tab with a basic file system beneath. Because ChromeOS is locked down, and can’t run software downloaded from anywhere on the web, you’re far less likely to run into any viruses, spyware, or spam. Bad apps can still get into the Chrome web store and Google Play Store, but it’s far less likely, and those apps can be removed easily. This upside is huge if you’re worried about cyber security, and only need computers for basic tasks.

If you need to run specific software, it’s still worth getting a PC that runs Windows, but you should definitely get some additional computer security tools if you decide to go that way.

PC vs. Chromebook: Which One is Best?

In many ways, Chromebooks are the computer of the future: you don’t need to keep your files on it, they’re in the cloud; you don’t need that much power, it’s more than enough to get you by; all the apps you need run well, and its operating system is much safer than Windows.

If that view of the future doesn’t match your present, though, a traditional PC laptop running Windows will let you run almost any app you want from anywhere in the world. You won’t have to worry about software compatibility or performance (unless you’re doing truly resource intensive work), and can take simple precautions to avoid cyber threats.

There are hundreds of good choices regardless of which type of computer you get for school or work, so we’ve recommended one of each to help you out.

Best PC: Lenovo IdeaPad 3


If you need a PC laptop running Windows for school or work, Lenovo’s IdeaPad 3 is the way to go.

The computer has a 14-inch 1080P (1920X1080) display, so you’ll be able to see everything you’re watching or reading very clearly. It has 8GB (Gigabytes) of RAM, which is enough to run several apps at the same time with no hit to performance, and a 256GB SSD that provides ample storage for your data. The computer’s standout extra is the AMD Vega 8 graphics chip that comes bundled with its 2.1Ghz dual-core processor.

This laptop has a built-in webcam for video calls, and a shutter you can physically close for privacy. It supports Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi 5, which are fairly new versions of those wireless standards, and has an array of ports, so you can connect different accessories. There are three USB ports, one HDMI port, an SD Card reader, and a headphone jack, which covers all of the basics. Lenovo doesn’t mention any exact figures about this computer’s battery life, but the amount you get will vary based on which apps you use, and how bright you keep the screen.

Lenovo’s IdeaPad 3 is more than powerful enough to handle all but the most demanding apps, and even some light to moderate gaming, so it should serve your needs as a worker or student for many years.

Best Chromebook: HP 14a-na0010nr

HP 14a-na0010n


HP’s HP 14a-na0010nr is the perfect Chromebook for light to medium computing tasks.

The computer has a 14-inch HD display with a resolution of 1366 x 768. You may notice some graininess when reading text, but images and videos should look pretty sharp. It has 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 1.1Ghz dual-core Intel Celeron processor, integrated Intel graphics, and a built-in webcam. These specs are perfectly fine for writing papers, posting on social media, streaming videos, creating presentations, and even some light photo editing.

HP partnered with Bang & Olufsen on this Chromebook’s audio system, which uses a custom tuning to make your music and movies sound great. On the ports side, the 14a-na0010nr fares a lot better than most Chromebooks. It has two USB-C ports, one USB-A port, a Micro-SD Card slot, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack.

You shouldn’t find any problems connecting any accessories to this computer without having to find an adapter. This Chromebook also supports both WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0, so you’re covered if you’d like to use this computer with wireless peripherals. HP says the 14a-na0010nr gets up to 13.5 hours of battery on a single charge (the apps you use and your screen brightness will impact this a lot). It also supports fast charging, so you can refill its battery to 50% in about 45 minutes.

If the work you do doesn’t require Windows, and you want a computer with solid specs and excellent battery life, HP’s 14a-na0010nr is the right pick.

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Hipgnosis Songs Acquires Catalog of Jay-Z, Kanye West Collaborator No I.D.



Hipgnosis Songs has acquired the music royalty catalog of songwriter-producer No I.D. (Ernest “Dion” Wilson), best known for his work with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Usher, Common Drake, Alica Keys, Ed Sheeran, Big Sean and Common, the company announced early Thursday. Hipgnosis has acquired 100% of the artist’s worldwide copyrights and publishing royalties, including writer’s share of income in the catalog, which comprises 273 songs.

That catalog includes such hits as “Run This Town” by Jay-Z featuring Kanye West and Rihanna, “Holy Grail” by Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z’s “The Story of O.J.,” Drake’s “Find Your Love,” West’s “Black Skinhead,” “Bound 2,” “Dark Fantasy,” “Gorgeous,” “So Appalled” and “Heartless,” and Sheeran’s “Kiss Me.”

Hipgnosis Songs Founder Merck Mercuriadis said: “The words NO I.D. are a stamp of excellence on any album. From Kanye West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and ‘Yeezus’ to Jay-Z’s astonishing run from ‘American Gangster’ through ‘The Blueprint 3’, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ and ‘4:44’, Dion has been in the middle of everything that is great about Hip Hop for more than two decades. He is a special creator and everyone in the Hipgnosis Family is proud to have him standing next to us.”

No I.D. said:“Not many have the best intentions for the artist and the creators. Merck and the Hipgnosis team have shown that they are a safe home for the songs that score our lives.”

Hipgnosis Songs recently released its annual report, which showed its revenues soaring in its first full year of business, climbing to $81 million in the 12 month period ended in March 2020 from around $8.9 million in the preceding period. The firm, which has been on an unprecedented acquisition binge of hit songwriter and producer catalogs —  been buying up catalogs by hitmakers ranging from Timbaland and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart to Jack Antonoff and Jeff Bhasker —  began trading on the London Stock Exchange in July of 2018. Between March 2019 and March 2020, the company spent nearly $700 million to acquire 42 catalogs.

In the report, Mercuriadis notes, “When compared with the three major song companies, we have achieved between 7% and 12.5% of their revenue on between 0.5% and 0.9% of their number of songs.” This is a result of the group’s highly selective investments, which he summarizes in the report thus: “All of our songs have a proven track record and we do not speculate on new songs regardless of the past performance of the songwriter, producer or artist. These proven hit Songs produce reliable, predictable and uncorrelated cash flows which are highly investible.”




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Bartenders Shout Out The Most Refreshing Beers To End Summer Strong



The strangest summer of our lives is winding down. You almost certainly didn’t take a big vacation this year. Maybe you snuck in a road trip. A day spent at a swimming hole, hiking local trails, or on a quick overnight camping trip is even more likely. Whatever the case, Summer 2020 was jarringly different.

Still, even in these dark and strange times, we have refreshing beers to see us through. Seasonal sippers that are perfect for hot August nights. While we always encourage you to support your local breweries during COVID, we know you want to give nearby bottle shops some love, too. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the refreshing beers they’ll be drinking to close out summer 2020.

Creature Comforts Bibo

Bill Myers, bartender at Kimpton Brice Hotel in Savannah, Georgia

Creature Comforts out of Athens, Georgia makes some great lagers like the Classic City Lager and Bibo. I was first drawn towards this brand because of their Tropicalia IPA, but soon realized that their lighter styles are just as good as their nationally acclaimed IPA.

Bad Dad I’ll Turn This Car Around

Payden Jones, bartender at Grains & Grill in Fairmount, Indiana

One of our favorite hazy, summer beers is Bad Dad Brewing Co.’s New England IPA, I’ll Turn This Car Around. It’s smooth, with no bitterness. Unlike the family road trip.

Monopolio Lager Clara

Sondre Kasin, principal bartender at Cote in New York City

Monopolio Lager Clara is an excellent lager for the summer. This Mexican beer is light, fresh, crisp, and still has a lot of flavor.

Perfect for barbecue, Mexican food, and while sitting outside in the sun.

Kona Longboard Island Lager

Eva Al-Gharaballi, bartender at Datz Restaurant Group in Tampa, Florida

Summer is perfect for light lagers. Kona Longboard Island Lager is my favorite lager from one of my all-time favorite breweries. Hydrating with a smooth aged flavor.


Melissa Reigle, beverage manager and head bartender at Byblos in Miami

Summer is citrus. Schofferhofer has a fantastic grapefruit hefeweizen that’s perfect for summer drinking or try your local brewery. If you’re looking for something else, Miami’s MIA Brewery offers Miami Weiss, a lightly yeasted, flavorful summer Weiss. Or just add a little sprite to your Lowenbrau and enjoy a radler.

Brooklyn Summer Ale

Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami

Brooklyn Summer Ale. Round, slightly malty, and extremely drinkable. This beer is refreshing and light enough for those hot sunny days — aptly deemed a ‘sunny pale ale’.

Three Weavers Cloud City

Steve Livigni, food and beverage partner at Hotel June in Los Angeles

I’m really loving Cloud City Hazy IPA from Three Weavers. It’s just light, easy, and delicious with tons of great citrus notes. It’s great with food, too.

Sixpoint Jammer

Nazar Hrab, beverage director at The Pineapple Club in w York City

There are so many different opinions and so many craft beers, it’s hard to pick just one. As long as you know which style you’re in the mood for and as long as it’s crisp and cold, you really can’t go wrong. For this, I’ll go with Sixpoint Jammer. It’s refreshing, tangy, and highly crushable.

Writer’s Picks:

Rogue Newport Daze

Potentially the best beer to drink near a body of water on a hot day, Rogue Newport Daze is a refreshing hazy pale ale with hints of juicy tropical fruits that’s well suited for sitting in a gravity chair and not worrying about what time it is.

Springdale Pearly White Ale

Summer was made for hazy wheat beers like Springdale Pearly Wit. This 4.5 percent ABV country-style wheat is full of flavors like coriander and orange zest. It’s refreshing, subtly tart, and pairs well with tank tops and flip flops.

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