The Holiday Shopping Season Is Coming . . . But The Shelves Are Empty + An Alternative To Rampant Holiday Consumerism

Today, we will explore an article outlining the coming supply shortages anticipated for this Christmas holiday shopping season. Following this will be an idea for an alternative to the shop till you drop nature of what the modern-day holiday season has become.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/10/21/start-holiday-shopping-early-2021/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

The supply chain meltdown will make holiday shopping messy this year. Here’s what you need to know.

Expect delays, limited inventory and higher prices but, most importantly, start early

The pandemic is haunting the global supply chain and, by extension, shoppers.

Two months out from the peak holiday shopping season, consumers are encountering empty storeshelves, rising prices and shipping delays that seem to stretch into oblivion. Container ships are clogging ports, awaiting cargo or unable to get past the gridlock to unload their goods. Some factories have gone dark, lacking raw materials and hands to run machines.

Shoppers are beginning to fret: A third of the more than 5,700 people recently surveyed by Oracle, which provides cloud services for such large retailers as Prada and Office Depot, worry they won’t get everything on their wish lists and will be paying more when they do. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a holiday shopping nightmare.

 

That is interesting wording, considering that I was under the impression that holiday shopping tended to be a nightmare for most people, supply chain restrictions or not. Hence the reason why stress and substance abuse tends to skyrocket during the lead-up and the peak of the holiday season.

But I digress . . .

 

Why are so many store shelves already empty?

The coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc on global supply chains since it began nearly two years ago, with suppliers and retailers wading through a sea of challenges — keeping the virus out of offices and factories, navigating shutdowns and business restrictions. Then there’s the steady rise of raw materials prices and skyrocketing shipping costs. The nation also is short on truck drivers and warehouse workers.

The tangle of pressures has driven inflation to a 13-year high of 5.4 percent, forcing many companies to pass costs along to consumers.

Problems have been compounded by a labor shortage that has intensified in recent months, as more warehouse and retail workers become part of “The Great Resignation” — a phenomenon driven by pandemic burnout and an existential reassessment of life and work. A record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, Labor Department data shows, and big box stores and local retailers alike are struggling to fill positions and store shelves.

All the while, demand is on the rise:Retail sales rose unexpectedly the past two months despite a resurgence in covid cases brought on by the delta variant, which had a dampening effect on business activity. Last month, U.S. retail sales hit $625.4billion as consumers flocked to shops, bars and restaurants, federal data show. Gasoline sales were up 38 percent compared with the same period in 2020.

 

This is certainly an interesting trifecta of factors.

A pandemic still wreaking havoc with production and shipping around the world. A revolting labour force fed up with putting their lives on the line for consumers and employers that don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves or the bottom line. And an energetic newly released public that is anxious to live it up in a way they haven’t been able to since 2009.

Virus + Fatige + Excitment = Pandamonium.

 

Holiday retail sales are projected to climb 7 to 9 percent, according to Deloitte’s annual forecast, to as much as $1.3 trillion this year.

Marwan Forzley, chief executive of Veem, a payments platform that works with thousands of U.S. retailers, said the outlook is promising given that more people are comfortable shopping in stores and dining out amid rising vaccination rates.

“We can expect this to continue into the winter months,” Forzley said in commentary emailed to The Washington Post.

Do I really need to start shopping now?

If you have specific gifts — especially trendy ones — in mind, yes.

Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer of Gooten, a supply chain solutions company, said that consumers should plan to get their shopping done well ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday window if they want gifts to arrive on time.

He pointed to the record backups at U.S. ports due to covid protocols and labor shortages, adding that the delay of raw materials will cascade through supply chains and create shortages across many product categories.

 

Good luck, folks. You are already too late!

 

President Biden recently called on the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest port, to stay open round-the-clock to ease some kinks in the supply chain. The White House even weighed tapping the National Guard to fill in the gaps across the country’s sprawling network of ports, planes, ships and trucks, The Post has reported.

Recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service will lengthen delivery times. On Oct. 1, the agency implemented new “service standards,” or the amount of time it says it should take for a piece of mail to get delivered, and raised prices for a variety of services.

“All of the major carriers — USPS, UPS, FedEx — are not guaranteeing any specific delivery times this year, so absolutely shop ahead as much as possible,” Kapczynski told The Post in an email.

 

Though this is strictly speculation on my part, I have to wonder how much of the current situation with the USPS is rooted in the sabotage efforts of its Post Master General under the previous administration. Though I don’t doubt that Biden stopped the bleeding, did he reverse the changes (such as the removal of sorting equipment)?

 

Holiday shopping season has been starting earlier and earlier since 2014, when big box stores first opened their doors for Thanksgiving Day deals, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry adviser for the NPD Group.

This year, more than half of shoppers surveyedplan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving Day, according to NPD’s Holiday Retail Outlook.

Consumers are expected to spend $785, on average, in 2021, which is higher than either of the past two years, according to NPD. The uptick reflects how they have “settled into the current phase of pandemic life,” Cohen wrote in commentary Wednesday, “and are balancing a new sense of comfort alongside remaining concerns.”

Early shoppers plan to spend more money, and have already started picking up consumer electronics, clothes and gift cards, according to NPD’s research. Retailers have catered their events and deals to the early birds: Amazon started hawking its “Deals for Days” promotion in early October. Nordstrom is opening its in-store holiday shops on Oct. 18. Lowe’s is having its “Season of Savings” kickoff on Oct. 28 and wheeling out its Christmas trees and twinkly lights in November.

Anxiety about delays and scarce inventory will motivate many shoppers to “grab what they want when they see it,” Cohen wrote, “instead of waiting for better deals later in the season.”
I will end my quotation of the article here since you know all that you need to know already. That is, if you thought that holiday shopping was stressful in a normal year, this year will be WAY worse.
 
This brings me to the amount that the average consumer is predicted to spend during this round of holiday-related consumption . . . $785. And this is only the average. Early shoppers are spending even more as retailers push the start of the holiday season further and further back in the year.
Given the state of the supply of many items, it would not surprise me to see scalpers buying up trendy items and scalping them on auction and marketplace sites for WAY more than their original MSRP in the coming weeks and months (this became a major issue for the tech industry recently). For the truly desperate, this can only drive the $785 figure even higher.  
 
It makes me wonder how many people actually want to participate in the whole gift exchange thing, to begin with.
 
This is where I propose my alternative.
 
Consider the gifts you received throughout the Christmas holidays in the past few years (if not indefinitely). How many have you actually made use of? How many ended up being tucked away in a cupboard, drawer or basement? And after this stage in the process, how many of these items end up being thrown in the trash due to non-use?
Sure, things can and do get donated. But given the glut of stuff that such organizations always have coming in, what is the chance that your likely outdated product is going to make the cut?
How many Christmas gifts have you used to the point wherein they actually get disposed of due to wearing out?
 
Then there is the alleged faux pas that is the re-gifting of undesirable items. How often have you simply passed on an item the next year (or at the next holiday function)? How many items end up in this endless loop before finally getting trashed?
 
Break the cycle of perpetually spending money we don’t have to buy crap that people around us don’t need. Instead, consider how that money could be better utilized.

For example, instead of loading up on consumer products, why not write a few cheques to charitable organizations that could use the cash?
If you like, you can tailor these donations to the interests and/or preferences of those for whom you would be buying gifts for.

If your family is one that actually enjoys one another’s presence more than once or twice a year, what about using that cash to purchase some activities that everyone can enjoy and that promote even more gathering opportunities?
For example, a pool or shuffleboard table or a videogame console. Such an investment can provide your immediate family entertainment at any time, and provide entertainment for family gatherings and party guests for years to come.
 
And of course, there is the option of not spending anything at all. Your reasons don’t matter since it’s a personal choice.
 
Not everyone will be on board with such a move. Once your new view of the holidays is known to your wider circle of friends and family, reactions may vary from “Whatever, Mr. Grinch!” to “We are no longer friends!”. Nonetheless, I can assure you that this new rocky social reality is still better for all involved than the old status quo.
Sure you will have your mindless critics that have likely never put a second thought into any of their collective traditions or practices. But I sense that this should be a short-lived problem. Give it a year or 2, and most should just accept your choice. After all, boiled right down, it’s just the mutual expectation of wanting nothing, and expecting nothing in return.

As for those that do still take issue . . . tell them where to go. I get that this can be much easier said than done (particularly in a familial context), but chances are if the person is selfish enough to take issue with this, then this is likely not the only area of your life that they are causing trouble in. Existence is too short to live with petty BS like that.
 
But overall, no matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to enjoy yourself and have a good time. Whether that means meeting with the family, having a quiet day by yourself, or making it magical for the kids, try and stay positive.
 
I used to be one of those people that dreaded the period between around October 31st right through to the 24th (if not January 1st) because of all the Christmas overload. Since my career has primarily been within the service and retail industries, much of this animosity was on account of the nastiness of everyday people in the lead-up to the big day. Never have I met a more miserable human being than the fellow dawning a badge proclaiming Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas!! .

Whatever happened to Merry Christmas?! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
 
Then there are the “It’s not the same as when I was a kid!” crowd. People who decided that it’s all changed WAY too much, and therefore they will inflict their holiday misery on everyone else around them. There is no looking for silver linings or making the best of it, Christmas is RUINED! It may be only November 5th, but they have decided that the whole thing is a loss because they are not in the christmas spirit
 
I get that. The holidays lost their magic way back when I was a teenager, in large part due to my then acceptance of my atheist stance. From grade 9 throughout the rest of high school, Christmas was a time of a lot of guilt for me. Though I was surrounded by and participating in the same religious rituals as the rest of the family, I felt some guilt in doing so. As though I was lying, and didn’t deserve to be part of the joy.

Of course, this all changed 2 years out from high school (of all times, a MONTH before Christmas!) when bad privacy settings on Facebook led to an image I commented on being shown to my entire friend’s list (this nsfw image). I ended up skipping out on that years gathering, and the one next year was a bit awkward (a few obviously still had an issue with the stance). But that has all evaporated now. If anyone cares, then they either have long forgotten or moved on.
 
Either way, as an adult, we will naturally assign magical details to our childhood experiences that will never live up. Not only has a lot changed since then, it’s also a function of our brains not being accurate. I can almost guarantee that even if a good effort was put in to accurately capture the atmosphere of the childhood celebrations, it still won’t feel the same. There will be details that you have long forgotten, and there will be negative details that you long ago scrubbed from mind. 

There is no reliving the past, hard as one tries. There is only finding out what can make the experience positive in the modern era. Whether that means going to see the family, or staying home and cracking a bottle of booze (or partaking in some legal cannabis!), the choice is yours. You don’t need to involve family OR drugs, it’s whatever suits you.

I will probably spend my holiday under the relaxing intoxication of one or 2 cannabis-infused beverages while doing some housework (or writing) to pass the time. That is what works for me. 
 
Figure out what works for you.
 
 

Using Recycled Plastic To Build Homeless Shelters – A Few Critiques

A few days ago, I came across a local Kickstarter with an interesting twist. Taking on 2 very prevalent problems of modern-day society (houselessness and plastic pollution), a Winnipeg man had the idea of recycling plastic into blocks to build shelters for keeping the desolate out of the elements. I’ll now refer to the CTV Winnipeg article for more details.

WINNIPEG – One Winnipeg man is hoping to help put an end to homelessness in the city – brick by brick.

Josh Griffin, 30, has started a fundraiser with the goal of creating temporary homeless shelters made out of recycled plastic that has been converted into bricks.

Griffin said the idea first came to him when he was living in Indonesia and noticed there was a lot of plastic waste washing up on the shores. Then, when he returned to Winnipeg, he began to notice there was a lot of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

He said his mom always taught him to help those in need, but he didn’t know what he could do. Eventually, an idea came to him.

“I remembered seeing a little video put out by Precious Plastics in the UK, showing how they were making bricks from discarded plastic waste. That was it,” he said in an email to CTV News.

“I was going to do that and build shelters for those that needed them.”

From there, Griffin began doing his own research to see what types of natural additives could be combined with plastic to make it safe and ensure it could withstand the frigid Winnipeg winters. He also found someone who could build him the customizable equipment he would need to start producing the products.

However, his challenge has been coming up with the funds, which is why he started a GoFundMe and Kickstarter.

https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/winnipeg-man-raising-funds-to-build-temporary-homeless-shelters-out-of-recycled-plastic-1.5618679

 

So far, there is nothing disagreeable about the project or its creator. Having looked up the Precious Plastics website, their shared goal of helping people anywhere start plastic recycling-related business ventures is enviable. And as for the end result product, I would have no issue with buying them and having them in my home.

Check out the chair pictured on the website or the tabletop showcased in the following video. Not only are they beautiful pieces, but they also utilize a material that is commonly rejected by North American recycling facilities from coast, to coast, to coast.

Black plastic. 

Being invisible to the cameras and sensors that now dominate many recycling facilities (since they blend in with the belt, which is also black), many communities ask that black items be trashed even if made of commonly recycled resins like #1, #2 and #5. Something worth considering when taking a walk down the personal care aisle at any store. Shampoos and body washes are notorious for this kind of bottle colour marketing (particularly brands and formulas targeted at males).

 

 

“I want to produce various high quality building materials,” Griffin said.

“I want to give home builders here in Canada an alternative to costly lumber. I want to be actively trying to reduce plastic waste by repurposing, which helps the planet! I want to be in a position where I can either organize a build or provide the materials for free to local groups that will have the biggest impact on the unsheltered.”

Griffin said he needs $60,000 for various costs, including securing a workspace, building equipment and molds, monthly utilities, and creating prototypes with different additive testing.

“I really want this to be a local (Winnipeg) new technique that we could introduce to the rest of Canada,” he said.

“However, at this point I have to consider all interests that may be presented, so that I can actually begin hands on.”

Griffin noted he’s been working on the project for two years, and is still not in the position to take it to the next level.

He said this process has been frustrating at times.

“I didn’t think that almost 2 years later I still wouldn’t have been able to get this accomplished,” he said.

“Going to keep motivated though. I have to.”

 

In terms of crowdfunding, he’s done a lot better on GoFundMe than on Kickstarter, earning $3,415 as of publication vs $101 on Kickstarter (though neither is even close to the Kickstarter goal of $62,000 or the GoFundMe goal of $18,000). Since the article is very sparse with the details of his proposed overall process, we will now turn to Josh’s Kickstarter page.

 

Long-lasting design

Plastic building materials last a lot longer then concrete wood or metal. And can always be recycled again in the end into new materials.

 

While it is in fact true that plastic lasts much longer than almost any other building material we know of currently, I question the recyclability claim at the end of life of the product. While it is true that high-density polyethylene (aka resin #2) is extremely recyclable, the term recyclable can be very problematic with plastics.

Unlike aluminum, steel, cardboard, glass and paper, plastic is far more of an umbrella term than a descriptor.

An aluminum can is an aluminum can, whether it had soda, carbonated water, beer or an energy drink in it. Same for a steel can (whether it had soup or cat food in it). Paper is a bit more complex, but generally speaking, most consumer scrap fits into 3 categories:

1.) Newsprint

2.) High-Grade Deinked Paper (letterhead/copy paper. envelopes)

3.) Mixed grade (everything else)

Glass has to be sorted by colour when properly recycled, but again, a glass bottle is a glass bottle. When it comes to plastic, however, the understanding is not nearly always as interchangeable. For example, let’s consider 2 items that I happened to have sitting in my own blue bin.

One initially held instant coffee and the other a delicious pumpkin spice coffee creamer I’ve never had before. Both are made of technically the same plastic resin #1 (PETE, or Polyethelene terephthalate). One is shaped very similarly to a typical 355ml/500ml/2L plastic bottle used for water/soda/juice (also made of PETE) and will likely be sorted as such.

The instant coffee package on the other hand has some very different properties to the bottle next to it leaving me to wonder if it really will be recycled in the end. The first is that it is much thicker than the bottle next to it. And the second is that it is very rigid (particularly the neck area) which may make it difficult to compact.

The reason this comes to mind is because of yet another type of PETE plastic which my city explicitly tells residents to trash due to the lack of a market for the material. That packaging is either square or rectangular trays that often hold berries or baked goods. This sort of thing:

 

 

Knowing that all of this is pertaining to materials made of the same resin, it’s no wonder that consumers are confused about what goes where. And even if we can get past the issues related to many resins of plastic, many colours of plastic and packaging that ships with more than 1 resin as part of the original packaging, you still run into the problem that is downcycling.

That is to say, viewing plastics recycling as a closed-loop (bottles to bottles, bottles to jars etc) is often wrong. Unlike a product like glass or most metals, plastic tends to degrade with each consecutive meltdown.

Less than 30% of plastic bottles are recycled in the U.S., but technically speaking, most are “downcycled.” Also known as cascaded recycling or open-loop recycling, downcycling occurs when a material is remade into an item of lower quality. These items typically can’t be recycled again, which cuts an item’s overall life cycle short. 

While recycling closes the loop and keeps an item in circulation – just like the chasing arrows on the recycling symbol would suggest – downcycling turns that loop into a one-way arrow. From there, a material can only go downhill: After outliving its usefulness as a carpet or a bench, the next stop is the landfill or incinerator.

Even with recycling, there are limits to how long an item can circulate. The idea that our recyclable waste will be “cycled indefinitely” is a widespread myth, according to Dr. Trevor Zink and Dr. Roland Geyer.

“The belief that recycling automatically diverts material from landfill ignores the fact that, even in the most ideal recycling cases, material degrades in quality, diminishes in quantity (yield loss), or both during each use and recovery (i.e., collection and reprocessing) cycle,” Zink and Geyer wrote in a 2018 paper.

https://oceana.org/blog/recycling-myth-month-plastic-bottle-you-thought-you-recycled-may-have-been-downcycled-instead


And speaking of Polyethelene terephthalate:

 

This is especially true for single-use plastics. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – the lightweight resin commonly used to make beverage bottles – diminishes in quality when recycled. According to Zink and Geyer, these bottles are often downcycled into fiber or wood replacements instead of being recycled into new bottles.

And if a manufacturer really wants to return a used bottle to its original purpose, they might need to add virgin plastics to the mix to achieve the same quality. That’s right: You have to add new plastics to recycle old ones.

PET is one of the most valuable types of plastic, so you can imagine how difficult it is to effectively recycle other plastic resins. Industry-funded website PlasticFilmRecycling.org notes that plastic film – a material notoriously difficult to recycle – can be downcycled into composite lumber and refashioned into decks, benches, and playground sets. In other cases, plastic air pillows or grocery bags may find new life as containers, crates, and pipes.

Oh yes, I forgot all about film plastics. Most often made from either High (#2) or Low (#4) density Poly Ethelene, this already virtually useless plastic product tends to finds its way from the grocery stores recycling box to the impoverished countrysides of nations like  Malaysia,  Vietnam or any other nation that wherein illegal importers can set up illegal recycling depots.

Yes, that is a thing. It has been since China slammed the door too close to all western originating recycled goods (which have been declining in quality for years). With enough of their own on account of a growing population and growing fatigue of dealing with all manner of unsorted and/or contaminated recyclables from other First World nations, the CCP put its foot down. With every city, town, and waste removal company in the western world now sitting on millions of tons of scrap plastic they could not pay anyone to move, the criminal underground seen an opportunity. Make some cash off the valuable material, and as for the worthless crap that gets sent with it . . . just dump it by the roadside.

Greenpeace Malaysia has been conducting a field investigation on the broken system of recycling and how it impacts Malaysian society. The findings were shocking: a new ‘dump site’ of plastic waste from more than 19 countries — most of them are developed countries. The investigation found illegal practices, and blatant violations causing environmental pollution as well as harming people’s health conditions.
Since China banned plastic waste imports in January 2018, countries in Southeast Asia – particularly Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia – have accepted an increased amount of plastic waste. Between January and July 2018 alone, Malaysia imported 754,000 metric tonnes of plastic — the weight of approximately 100,000 large elephants. It came from countries like the United States, Japan, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Canadian plastic ‘recycling’ polluting unregulated facilities in Southeast Asia

I could also get into the dynamics of how western nations have a tendency to flooding Africa with millions of tons of both e-waste and used clothing, both of which generate millions of tons of pollution yearly. However, we are already WAY into the weeds.

Getting back on track, despite the altruism behind the project of housing the homeless in a shelter built of sturdy and durable plastic, I fear that this is just another case of downcycling. Living in the same climate as Winnipeg (where this project’s creator is located) I can tell you that the bitter winter cold is not the only extreme that one has to deal with. We also have the baking hot summer sun which will promote photodegradation (depending on whether or not the plastic is protected). At the end of the lifecycle of the average poly building material, will what is left be of enough quality to be worth recycling?

And speaking of recycling, the limitation in the choice of material bothers me a bit. Only High-Density Poly Ethelene is proposed to be used for this purpose. 

While I know that I did in fact address my own concern here previously when talking about the different melting points of different plastics, frankly, it’s hard to see this as a solution to the problem when a big part of the problem is every not #1, #2 and #4 resin. Not that putting all them discarded milk jugs to good use isn’t a bad idea . . . it’s just hardly addressing the problem when that material already has a market. Unlike the hundreds of tons of PETE being dumped yearly in Manitoba alone.

According to the following source, the technology for using combined (once thought to be incompatible) resin types is improving, though it is still cheaper and easier to use single resins. In particular High-Density Poly Ethylene, and even more pointedly, milk jugs. Since their opaque nature allows for the end result to be pigmented into whatever colour is desired.

Polymer/Polymer Systems is an interesting new technology developed by Rutgers University, which discovered that specific blends of polymers, normally thought to be incompatible (such as polyethylene and polystyrene), can form composites with properties that dramatically exceed the expected performance of the blend. Under the right conditions of mixing and component levels, an inter-penetrating network of the polymer can achieve a better balance of modulus and impact strength.

A Review of Recycled Plastic Lumber Production

The additives section is also interesting. It looks like there are many options available for weatherproofing outdoor installations (much as metal-infused pigments).

Another thing that comes to mind upon reading that source is that lumber and building materials made from recycled plastic are already a fairly well-established market. If Josh plans on sticking to only sourcing HDPE, then I can see why both crowdfunding links are so under-funded. Why pay someone to follow the path of innovation towards the wheel when the wheel already exists in a well-defined form?

Keep in mind, this is only the case in terms of the single-stream polymer production process that seems to be the goal here. If the goal were finding a way to cheaply manufacture durable building materials and furniture out of combined resins, then that could certainly be an opening in the wider market. I can almost guarantee that such an end result would be desirable since the raw materials are dirt cheap, and any company using the methodology could market the hell out of the Green aspect of it.

I will now return to Josh’s Kickstarter page.

 

Reusability and recyclability

The product is made from recycled plastics and can be recycled again and again into new building materials

 

Are you sure about that?

Though I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, this seems to go against everything that we’ve learned about the overall plastics recycling system.

 

Sustainable materials

I plan to collect recycled hdpe #2 plastics from local business’s and turn them into plastic building materials to create temporary shelters for the ones in need

 

I have to say that sustainable materials sticks out like a sore thumb in this context. After all, the material collected from the businesses will almost certainly be sourced from virgin polymers. That is not sustainable.

Of course, whether or not the term actually applies will depend on if the end product is indeed recyclable (or more accurately, if the financials make sense for it to happen). As such, I will again give the benefit of the doubt.

 

Environmentally friendly factories

I’ll select a plant that minimizes its own impact

 

That statement is far too broad to even have any meaning.

 

Sustainable Distribution

Plastic pallets/shipping crates can also be made from recycled plastics!

 

Again, with that word . . .

Putting aside the argument I made earlier, the plastic pallets and shipping crates come with their own problems. That is, the creation of yet more microplastics to escape into the environment as the pallets and crates are slowly worn down by the grinding wear and tear of life in the distribution chain.

And by grinding, I mean quite literally. Working in a warehouse environment that moves around many pallets in a day (mostly wood, but with the occasional plastic one), the floor where the pallets are stacked before return to the DC is often covered with splinters of all sizes. Though plastic would have the same problem, the resulting particles will be much smaller. And much more contaminating of the natural environment should they be released outdoors.

As for the solution to this, the first thing that comes to mind is to stick to the tried and tested (wood). Though the lumber industry tends to be unsustainable as it exists today, this is not an unsolvable problem. Trees are self-replicating after all.

If you could find a solution to make contaminated cardboard and/or low-quality paper fibres mouldable and rigid enough to use as pallets or shipping crates, even better.  These will no doubt also shed fibres during their lifetime, but the result should be less problematic than microplastic (depending on the binding chemical, of course). Not to mention that the use of hemp could be considered as an alternative to cutting into the valuable high-quality paper supply if the low-quality supply somehow vanishes.

Though this post is filled with critiques that could be viewed as anything from nitpicky to unreasonable, I do only have good intentions in mind. Whilst my inner cynic definitely makes a strong appearance in this piece, it is only because people have to be cynical when it comes to crowdfunding.

When it comes to coming up with inventions and business ventures, no one blames visionaries for having no bounds in terms of the potential they see in their projects. However, this optimism can come at the expense of blindness to phenomenons that may not bode well for the vision but are not considered (or just not known about).
In the traditional way in which business ventures have been seed-funded, these concerns are addressed by business coaches, loan officers and such. Though their judgements may not always be correct (such is the way of humans), the process generally serves as a way to ensure funding only goes where it’s most useful. Not only does such due diligence protect investors, but it could also protect visionaries from putting too much funding into what may well end up being a failed venture.

While it is easy for crowdfunding fans to view the technology as a way of evening the playing field for all future entrepreneurs (I really hate that word), what crowdfunding lacks is this inherent vetting process. Your backers are just as invested (blinded?) by the dream as the founder, thus potentially bad ideas end up getting WAY more traction than they otherwise would (or should).

In closing, this post may seem harsh given the details. Nonetheless, any venture worth its weight will be able to easily brush past such critiques with facts and details. If critiques do not serve to make a business venture stronger, then I would really question its long-term viability.

And besides, if you think that THIS is harsh, you should see what I wrote about Solar Freakin Roadways.

Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Figurehead, Denounced By Over 50 Scientists, Scholars and Communicators

It’s 6 years since I last dabbled in the area of GMO research and thus came across this name. But Vandana Shiva has continued her war on all things GMO in the ensuing years, and as such, has caught the attention of a fairly large and very knowledgeable cohort.

Let’s dig in.

https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2021/10/06/prejudiced-anti-science-anti-social-stances-letter-denounces-university-of-missouri-lecture-series-speech-invitation-to-anti-biotechnology-misinformation-spreading-vandana-shiva/?mc_cid=b57d992726&mc_eid=2262665973

Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist philosopher who maintains the Green Revolution was a failure and promotes small-scale farming to address the growing global food needs, is speaking at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on October 7 as part of its “Social Justice” series. According to Shiva’s website, she is paid $100,000 plus business class travel reimbursement to advocate on behalf of the poor. A group of more than 50 scientists, scholars and communicators, including a Nobel Prize winner and a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have signed a joint letter addressed to the Chancellor outlining Shiva’s misrepresentations. 

Below is the letter, the response from the Chancellor, and a response to the Chancellor from Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts:

Date: 28 September 2021

To:  C. Mauli Agrawal, Chancellor, chancellor@umkc.edu

Cc: Sheri Gormley, Chief of Staff, gormleys@umkc.edu; Andre Logan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Andre.logan@umkc.edu; Veronica C. Jackson, Senior Executive Assistant, vjackson@umkc.edu

Ref.: University of Missouri-Kansas City Social Justice Book and Lecture Series on Oct. 7 with Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Dear Chancellor,

We are scholars of life sciences and social sciences who have published many scholarly papers and articles about agriculture, food and related biotechnologies; some of us are science communicators and agronomists.

Perhaps you are unaware of Dr. Vandana Shiva’s constant use of anti-scientific rhetoric to support unethical positions. We are surprised that any science-based and ethically inspired institution would invite her to speak.

Here are just a few examples of her prejudicial, anti-science, anti-social stances:

1. Her astonishing tendency to nonsense

See the absurd statement regarding the supposed functioning of the Genetic Use Restriction technology (GURT), from her book Stolen Harvest (p. 82-83):

Molecular biologists are examining the risk of the Terminator function escaping the genome of the crops into which it has been intentionally incorporated, and moving into surrounding open-pollinated crops or wild, related plants in fields nearby. Given Nature’s incredible adaptability and the fact that the technology has never been tested on a large scale, the possibility that the Terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment MUST be taken seriously. The gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a globalcatastrope that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet

She has repeatedly used the same words in other documents in her websites. One may need to read these statements twice, because they are too bewildering to be understood at first sight. In fact, she claims that sterile seeds – which of course cannot germinate – can spread sterility. A middle school student expressing such views would fail the biology exam.

 

Interestingly enough, I have heard this argument and precaution before. Not from Vandana herself (or in my research), but from my father, him being very much knowledgable of plants and horticulture (though not officially trained or employed in the field). That he would have come across this concern in his journeys online outlines the risk that such misinformation represents. When even people with some knowledge in the area can not tell the difference between science and propaganda, problems are bound to result.

Knowing how complex this entire field of study is to navigate (having done so myself in the past), I don’t blame my father (or anyone like him) for getting lost in the debate. It makes me really feel for the everyday laypeople in which people like Vandana Shiva are really targeting with this stuff. If people with knowledge can’t sort this stuff out, what hope does your grandmother or father have?!

 

2. Her stunning ignorance

 

Somebody should explain to her that Bt proteins are toxic to some clearly identified classes of insects (plant pests), but not to fish, birds, or mammals. See also the scientific papers quoted in response to her delusional Twitter post, in particular, the “classic” study by Ames et al. which clarifies that plants naturally produce substances to defend themselves from pests and 99.99% of pesticidal substances in food are natural – and harmless to humans.

 

I can also attest to this, having looked into this claim myself (Twice. 1 and 2). If I remember correctly, the toxin was activated in the stomach of insects attacking the corn by the alkaline content of their stomach, but it had no effect on humans since our stomachs are not alkaline. Our stomachs are acidic. Hence, stomach acid.

Let’s just do a quick check for ourselves.

 

Is Bt Safe for Humans to Eat?


Bt is a bacterium that is not toxic to humans or other mammals but is toxic to certain insects when ingested.


Bt works as an insecticide by producing a crystal-shaped protein (Cry toxin) that specifically kills certain
insects.


Bt is naturally found on leaves and in soil worldwide and has been used commercially both in organic and
conventional agriculture for over fifty years.


Most genetically engineered, insect-resistant crops express one or more Bt insecticidal Cry toxins.


Over two decades of review, the EPA and numerous scientific bodies have consistently found that Bt and
engineered Bt-crops are not harmful to humans.


What is Bt?


Bacillus thuringiensis (often referred to as simply “Bt”) is a common, naturally occurring bacterium found in soils and
on plant leaves worldwide. First discovered in 1901 in Japan, Bt has revolutionized how we stop insects from eating
our crops. For over fifty years, Bt has been applied directly to a variety of agricultural crops and plants in home gardens
as a living pesticide to control insect pests.


The secret to Bt’s success is a family of proteins that these bacteria produce that specifically target insect digestive
tracts. These proteins are shaped like crystals, so they are commonly called “Crystalline toxins” or “Cry toxins.” These
Cry toxins remain inactive until consumed by an insect. Once digested, the protein is activated and then binds to specif-
ic receptors in insect guts. Once bound, the Cry toxins pierce holes in the insect’s gut, ultimately causing the contents
to leak and the insect to starve. Importantly, humans do not have the same receptors or gut conditions as insects, which
means Cry toxins pass through us with no effect. Studies show that humans digest Cry toxins like any other protein that
would be ingested when eating foods like meat, beans, leafy greens, or tofu.

What are Bt-crops?

Crops that have been genetically engineered to produce Cry toxins are often described with the prefix “Bt” (such as Bt-cotton or Bt-corn), even
though they do not contain living Bt bacteria; rather, they contain genes from Bt for producing insect-specific toxins.

Click to access ESA-Factsheet-Bt.pdf

 

This abstract has a bit more explanation of the role of PH in bt activation.

 

In general, PFT producing-bacteria secrete their toxins and these toxins interact with specific receptors located on the host cell surface. In most cases, PFT are activated by host proteases after receptor binding inducing the formation of an oligomeric structure that is insertion competent. Finally, membrane insertion is triggered, in most cases, by a decrease in pH that induces a molten globule state of the protein ().

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1857359/

I am not a biologist, so most of that sentence (and that scientific paper) is WAY over my head. But decrease in PH tells me that I am not far off from the knowledge of the matter.


Speaking of things related to the BT corn conversation (but unrelated to the current post), it occurred to me years ago that the fear people had of BT corn (and of all corn-containing products) could potentially be causing another issue. The jist of the argument surrounds parents with children and corn-containing foods such as children’s snacks. Since people were freaked out about feeding any corn to themselves (let alone their children), the next most commonly available grain for children’s snacks tends to be rice. And true to that, some corn-fearing influencers (a name they didn’t have back in 2014/1015, but a name that seems to fit best now) listed rice products as a good alternative to corn.

This was a problem for me since much rice is known to contain some level of arsenic. These levels increase in processed rice foods (like chips or cereals). So known is the risk that governing bodies actually have maximum recommendations in terms of rice (in particular, of processed rice products).

Quoting myself:

 

Rice is known to often times have MEASURABLE amounts of arsenic. To the point where it is recommended to severely limit the intake of rice and processed rice foods for children. Because very little (particularly for processed foods) can put them at (or above) the recommended limit.

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm

Though I am not 100% sure how the arsenic content of rice and rice based foods compares to the amount of genetically modified genes that constitutes 0.1% of an alfalfa shipment, im almost certain that were talking more then traces. Just by the measurements.

An entire shipping container, verses a bowl of cereal, a few rice cakes or a quart of rice milk.

As always, context is everything.

The 2015 Round Up Ready Alfalfa Disaster

 

Fortunately, someone was paying attention, which led to the publication of THIS ARTICLE later. Whether or not my critique had anything to do with its creation is debatable (my ego certainly would love to take credit!). Either way, it’s good to know that not everyone was blindly willing to trade a largely benign hazard for one that was very real. 

Anyway, back to why Vandana Shiva is an ideologically biased hack.

 

3. Her proclivity to outrage

 

She compares farmers, who grow crops which are scientifically and legally recognized as safe, to rapists! It’s a grotesque insult to millions of honest workers who use modern technologies to farm more sustainably and efficiently. Understandably, her outrageous abuse raised many angry reactions (see the replies to the same post).

 

Holy Guacamole!

I knew the woman was a nut, but god damn . . . this makes Oprah Winfrey’s feud with the meat industry back in the 90’s look tame.

 

The American cattle industry was already in the spotlight amid growing concerns of mad cow disease in England, but the queen of daytime talk shows ratcheted up the problems for US beef on a 1996 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

A discussion with animal rights activist Howard Lyman focusing on mad cow disease put the famous talk show host at odds with the American cattle industry.

With Lyman offering his prediction of widespread impact to American beef from the disease, Oprah declared that the conversation had, “stopped me cold from eating another burger.”

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/joshbillinson/oprah-winfrey-texas-beef-industry

 

Don’t get me wrong, Oprah’s reason for causing that whole fiasco was largely irrational given the state of the beef industry at the time (no disease yet detected in North America). And there are plenty of reasons to adopt a diet with less beef. But fortunately, she rightfully won the lawsuit against her brought by the beef industry.

As irrational as the attitude was, it is in fact protected by free speech.

Either way, god damn . . . Vandana really went there. Despite being born in a  nation with a terrible rate of sexual assault, she actually degraded the term rapist.

Boy howdy.

 

4. Her rejection of technologies which help farmers (mostly women and children) to alleviate the painful, back-breaking labour of hand-weeding

Indian women selectively do weeding by hand, hereby preserving our biodiversity

(Photo and caption at p.21)

This is a preposterous statement; any act of weeding is exactly aimed at eliminating detrimental plant “biodiversity” which, in a field, stifles crops.

 

It is easy to speak from a pedestal when you are not actually doing the work, after all. Particularly when people are paying you thousands in endorsements for doing so. 

Check your privilege, Vandana!

 

5. As a final treat, a ridiculous statement

Fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture. I think it’s time to ban it. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Its use is like in war, because it came from war.

From a speech in 2011 quoted in the New Yorker and in other websites.

Let us ask her if she is going to ban metallurgy, since it has been used to forge cannons.

 

This one is almost too idiotic to retort. Since there are probably several thousand ways to approach this, ill settle for 2.

1.) Airplanes (and in particular, jet engines) were also a product of war. This doesn’t stop Vandana from hopping on an airliner and flying to various venues to share her propaganda, however.

2.) Without fertilizer, MILLIONS of people in all areas of the globe would not be alive. I am almost certain that I would not exist without fertilizer. Though it is certainly a major containment in waterways when used improperly, that makes it no different than any other tool (when used improperly, the result may be less than desirable).

A hammer in the wrong hand can be a murder weapon. As such, should hammers not exist?

 

We would greatly value a point-by-point response to the important matters we raise. Here are some links to articles that contained reasoned criticism of Dr. Shiva’s untenable stances:

Who is Vandana Shiva and why is she saying such awful things about GMOs? (Reprinted in Forbes: Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Celebrity: ‘Eco Goddess’ Or Dangerous Fabulist?)
Vandana Shiva: ‘Rock Star’ of GMO protest movement has history of opposing Green Revolution and agricultural technological innovation
The GMO-Suicide Myth
Seeds of Doubt
Vandana Shiva Compares GMOs to Rape
Vandana Shiva’s Myth Busted: Monsanto Didn’t Cause Farmer Suicides In India
Counterview: In GMO debate, Vandana Shiva has chosen fear-mongering and denialism
Vandana Shiva: Fearmongering in Oregon
Lies, Lies And More Lies
Activism and the gift of delusion
Vandana Shiva is confusing ideology for science – and getting rational people to believe her
Viewpoint: GMO critic Vandana Shiva’s anti-modernity crusade threatens world’s poor
‘Social Justice Warrior’ Vandana Shiva Is A Poor Advocate For The Poor

Sincerely yours,

[Signatories in alphabetical order. Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only and does not indicate institutional endorsement]

Philipp Aerni – University of Zurich, Switzerland, Director, Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Geography, Public Policy
Klaus Ammann – University of Bern, Switzerland, Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
David J. Bertioli – University of Georgia, USA, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and Professor, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics
Giuseppe Bertoni – Università Cattolica, Piacenza, Italy, Professor Emeritus of Animal Husbandry
Peter Beyer – Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Germany, Professor (retired). Co-inventor of the Golden Rice. Member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Borut Bohanec – University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Biotechnical Faculty, Plant Biotechnology and Breeding
Ildebrando Bonacini – Agricultural organization manager, agri-food journalist, Cremona, Italy
Enrico Bucci – Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, Adjunct Professor in Systems Biology, Sbarro Health Research Organization
Trevor Charles – University of Waterloo, Canada, Professor in the Department of Biology, Director, Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research
Bruce M. Chassy – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Felice Cervone – University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy, Full Professor, Dept of Biology and Biotechnologies, M.A.E. (Member of Academia Europaea)
Pellegrino Conte – University of Palermo, Italy, Full Professor, Agricultural Chemistry
Gilberto Corbellini – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Rome, Italy, Full Professor of Bioethics and History of Medicine, “Sapienza” University of Rome
Terry Daynard – Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Former Professor of Crop Science, former Associate Dean of Research and Innovation
Roberto Defez – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Naples, Italy, Senior Researcher, Microbial Biotechnology laboratory
Adrian Dubock – Former Global Head M&A, Ventures and Licensing, Syngenta, Switzerland (retired), Member & Executive Secretary, Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Jon Entine – Genetic Literacy Project, Cincinnati, OH, USA, Executive Director
Edgardo Filippone – University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy, Full Professor, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Section of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Kevin Folta – University of Florida, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Professor
Corrado Lodovico Galli – University of Milan, Italy, Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences
L. Val Giddings, PhD – PrometheusAB, Inc., USA, Expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Jonathan Gressel – Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, Professor, Plant & Environmental Sciences
Alberto Guidorzi – Agronomist, Sermide Felonica (Mantua), Italy
Larson C. Hannah – University of Florida, Professor Emeritus, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology & Horticultural Sciences
Klaus-Dieter Jany – Wadi International University, Syria, Vice-President for Teaching and Research
Jonathan D. G. Jones FRS – The Sainsbury Lab, Norwich, UK, Professor and Senior Group Leader
Drew L. Kershen – University of Oklahoma, USA, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus
Marcel Kuntz – University of Grenoble-Alpes, France, Director of Research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Christopher J. Leaver CBE FRS FRSE – University of Oxford, UK, Emeritus Professor of Plant Science
Michele Lodigiani – Agronomist, farmer, science communicator. Piacenza, Italy
Alan McHughen – University of California, Riverside, USA, Botany and Plant Sciences, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Henry I. Miller, M.Sc., M.D. – Senior Fellow, Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, USA, Founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology
Giovanni Molteni Tagliabue – Como (Italy), Independent researcher in philosophy of life sciences, political science
Eliano Morello – Agronomist, Padua, Italy
Piero Morandini – University of Milan, Italy, Researcher, Environmental Science and Policy Department
Jean-Paul Oury – Chief Editor of “The European Scientist” website, Paris, France, PhD in history of science and technology
Marco Aurelio Pasti – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili, Venice, Italy
Deborah Piovan – Farmer and scientific communicator, Padua, Italy
Ingo Potrykus – ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Institute of Plant Sciences, Professor Emeritus, Co-inventor Golden Rice, Chair Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Channa Prakash, Tuskegee University, USA, Dean, Arts & Sciences
Sir Richard John Roberts – Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs, Ipswich, USA, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Daniele Rosellini – University of Perugia, Italy, Associate Professor of Agricultural Genetics
Eddo Rugini – Università della Tuscia, Italy, Past Full Professor in Fruit Tree Science and Biotechnology
Donatello Sandroni – PhD in Ecotoxicology, Journalist & Science communicator, Italy
Angelo Santino – Institute of Sciences of Food Production, National Research Council (CNR), Lecce, Italy, Senior Scientist
Giuseppe Sarasso – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili and Accademia di Agricoltura of Turin, Italy
Teemu Teeri – University of Helsinki, Finland, Professor in Plant Breeding
Roberto Tuberosa – University of Bologna, Italy, Professor in Biotechnology Applied to Plant Breeding, Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences
Ignazio Verde – Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), Rome, Italy, Senior scientist on Plant Genetics and scientific advisor
Robert Wager – Vancouver Island University, Canada, Molecular biology, Biochemistry
Allan Wenck – BASF, Morrisville, NC, USA, PhD molecular, cell and developmental biology

 

The University of Missouri responded to the letter with this:

To which one signatory retorted with this:

 

Response from one of the signers, Sir Richard John Roberts:

Dear Chancellor Agrawal:

Frankly, I am appalled by your response (attached) to Dr. Giovanni Tagliabue and his colleagues. You seem to consider Vandana Shiva’s views as merely controversial, when she continuously spews lies and falsehoods to support her views. Has the University of Missouri lost faith in the value of the truth?

Controversy implies opposing interpretations of facts, not pitting facts against fabrications. By exposing your students to blatant lies and giving them equal credence with truth you do them a great disservice.

It is not too late to rescind your decision to invite her to speak.

Rich Roberts

Sir Richard J. Roberts Ph.D. F.R.S.
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Chief Scientific Officer
New England Biolabs
240 County Road
Ipswich, MA 01938-2723 USA

 

To be honest, this letter (and most notably, the reply above) presents me with some internal conflict. It feels a bit Cancel Culture-esk. A phenomenon that I have no doubt Vandana Shiva would jump behind in a heartbeat if she thought it would help her get ahead. And in this climate of political discourse, there is no doubt that it would help.

Which makes this an interesting situation. While much of what Vandana spews is nonsense and at times propaganda, it’s not exactly hate speech. Though I have no doubt that she contributes to phenomenons that hold back biotechnology research (and arguably science in general), that is very different from speech that can be seen to incite. Which makes me hesitant to call for her removal from the roster of speakers at this event.

Having said that, I completely concur that her views should not be showcased to uneducated pupils of any age as though they are simply the flip side of some debate. Without context being made clear at the outset, I do not doubt that her views can result in people being dragged in the wrong direction. At the very least, the platform should allow for critiques (if not during, then directly afterward). This should ensure that most people viewing the presentation will also see the critique.

Her presentation should not be cancelled. However, it would indeed be doing the students of the University of Missouri a great disservice to have her presentation happen without any other context presented.

 

Note: As it turns out, I’m coming to this 3 days too late. I don’t know how the presentation turned out, but if it is posted online, I will link it below.

CIA Plots To Kill Jullian Assange – WHAT?!

Jullian Assange is back in the news. And unlike the last time I covered his plight back in early 2019, I actually have some sympathy for the man. For it is through him that we now get to see how dark things really got at the upper levels of the Trump administration.

While I fully expect there to be many more frightening revelations in the coming months and years relating to the Trump Administration, this one was certainly a doozy.

 

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange in London is a Story that is Being Mistakenly Ignored

Three years ago, on 2 October 2018, a team of Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The purpose of the killing was to silence Khashoggi and to frighten critics of the Saudi regime by showing that it would pursue and punish them as though they were agents of a foreign power.

It was revealed this week that a year before the Khashoggi killing in 2017, the CIA had plotted to kidnap or assassinate Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who had taken refuge five years earlier in the Ecuador embassy in London. A senior US counter-intelligence official said that plans for the forcible rendition of Assange to the US were discussed “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration. The informant was one of more than 30 US officials – eight of whom confirmed details of the abduction proposal – quoted in a 7,500-word investigation by Yahoo News into the CIA campaign against Assange.

 

As much as this doesn’t really surprise me (given the many times that the US has resorted to underhanded tactics in order to forward its own national and/or corporate interests), it still has quite the punch when viewed from the perspective that is not even a decade ago.

 

The plan was to “break into the embassy, drag [Assange] out and bring him to where we want”, recalled a former intelligence official. Another informant said that he was briefed about a meeting in the spring of 2017 at which President Trump had asked if the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide “options” about how this could be done. Trump has denied that he did so.

The Trump-appointed head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said publicly that he would target Assange and WikiLeaks as the equivalent of “a hostile intelligence service”. Apologists for the CIA say that freedom of the press was not under threat because Assange and the WikiLeaks activists were not real journalists. Top intelligence officials intended to decide themselves who is and who is not a journalist, and lobbied the White House to redefine other high-profile journalists as “information brokers”, who were to be targeted as if they were agents of a foreign power.

Among those against whom the CIA reportedly wanted to take action were Glenn Greenwald, a founder of the Intercept magazine and a former Guardian columnist, and Laura Poitras, a documentary film-maker. The arguments for doing so were similar to those employed by the Chinese government for suppressing dissent in Hong Kong, which has been much criticised in the West. Imprisoning journalists as spies has always been the norm in authoritarian countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, while denouncing the free press as unpatriotic is a more recent hallmark of nationalist populist governments that have taken power all over the world.

 

Given the things Donald has said in full view of the public, I have no doubt that he inquired about this course of action. In a way, none of this is really news. Everyone already knew that Trump loved the ways of the authoritarian. Shocking as this instance is, it’s just more of the same.

As for Glenn Greenwald, this certainly brings an interesting twist to his new stances. While the money of a grift is certainly good, avoiding being in the bad graces of potential future authoritarian tyrants is certainly also a good incentive. Though still a futile one, since I have no doubt that they will still find a way to make him an enemy.

Wow. This just got a whole lot bleaker.

 

It is possible to give only a brief precis of the extraordinary story exposed by Yahoo News, but the journalists who wrote it – Zach Dorfman, Sean D Naylor and Michael Isikoff – ought to scoop every journalistic prize. Their disclosures should be of particular interest in Britain because it was in the streets of central London that the CIA was planning an extra-judicial assault on an embassy, the abduction of a foreign national, and his secret rendition to the US, with the alternative option of killing him. These were not the crackpot ideas of low-level intelligence officials, but were reportedly operations that Pompeo and the agency fully intended to carry out.

This riveting and important story based on multiple sources might be expected to attract extensive coverage and widespread editorial comment in the British media, not to mention in parliament. Many newspapers have dutifully carried summaries of the investigation, but there has been no furor. Striking gaps in the coverage include the BBC, which only reported it, so far as I can see, as part of its Somali service. Channel 4, normally so swift to defend freedom of expression, apparently did not mention the story at all.

In the event, the embassy attack never took place, despite the advanced planning. “There was a discussion with the Brits about turning the other cheek or looking the other way when a team of guys went inside and did a rendition,” said a former senior US counter-intelligence official, who added that the British had refused to allow the operation to take place.

 

I can’t imagine WHY the Brits would refuse to have an operation like that go down right in the heart of Britain’s largest city. I mean, talk about bad optics when that hit the press.

Imagine how many tourists would go to Turkey if it was revealed that they sanctioned the whole Kashoggi thing . . .

 

But the British government did carry out its own less melodramatic, but more effective measure against Assange, removing him from the embassy on 11 April 2019 after a new Ecuador government had revoked his asylum. He remains in Belmarsh top security prison two-and-a-half years later while the US appeals a judicial decision not to extradite him to the US on the grounds that he would be a suicide risk.

If he were to be extradited, he would face 175 years in prison. It is important, however, to understand, that only five of these would be under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, while the other 170 potential years are under the Espionage Act of 1917, passed during the height of the patriotic war fever as the US entered the First World War.

Only a single minor charge against Assange relates to the WikiLeaks disclosure in 2010 of a trove of US diplomatic cables and army reports relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars. The other 17 charges are to do with labeling normal journalistic investigation as the equivalent of spying.

 

As much loathing as I have for the man for evading justice for his alleged sexual assault in Sweeden by simply going into hiding in essentially plain sight, even I agree that 170 years (life in prison, really!) is too much.

First off, this seems like a good argument for selectively delaying the statute of limitations of sexual assault cases under some circumstances. In this case, though everyone knew where the man could be found, he was unavailable for prosecution for reasons uncontrollable by either the victims or the authorities trying the case. As such, I don’t think it unreasonable to have a clause in law wherein the statute of limitations for the crime should be put on hold until such a day that it is at least feasible to try the case. Though the Assange situation is a one-off, consider cases where a  person flees town (or even the country) in order to avoid prosecution. Given that a person can hop on a plane and be in a nation without an extradition treaty in under 24 hours, the laws of nations really should really take this into consideration when limitation timeframes are determined.

As for the Assange charges themselves, no, he should not be in prison for 170 years for espionage.

This is a hard thing to consider knowing that the data dumps did in fact put some lives in danger. However, unless there are details that we are not privy to, this does not sound like espionage. Though I touched on an instance of Assange seemingly trying to open up a backchannel with Sean Hannity in order to undermine the Democratic Party, political favouritism is hardly espionage. Treating it as such will only set a dangerous precedent for the future.

Imagine a 2ed Trump presidency (or worse!) with this precedent woven into the fabric of American law.

 

Pompeo’s determination to conflate journalistic inquiry with espionage has particular relevance in Britain, because the home secretary, Priti Patel, wants to do much the same thing. She proposes updating the Official Secrets Act so that journalists, whistle-blowers and leakers could face sentences of up to 14 years in prison. A consultative paper issued in May titled Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity) redefines espionage as “the covert process of obtaining sensitive confidential information that is not normally publicly available”.

The true reason the scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed is rather that he is unfairly shunned as a pariah by all political persuasions: left, right and centre.

 

Yeah . . . don’t do that Britan. You can do much worse than Brexit and Boris Johnson. If you thought Tony Blair was bad . . .

 

To give but two examples, the US government has gone on claiming that the disclosures by WikiLeaks in 2010 put the lives of US agents in danger. Yet the US Army admitted in a court hearing in 2013 that a team of 120 counter-intelligence officers had failed to find a single person in Iraq and Afghanistan who had died because of the disclosures by WikiLeaks. As regards the rape allegations in Sweden, many feel that these alone should deny Assange any claim to be a martyr in the cause of press freedom. Yet the Swedish prosecutor only carried out a “preliminary investigation” and no charges were brought.

Assange is a classic victim of “cancel culture”, so demonised that he can no longer get a hearing, even when a government plots to kidnap or murder him.

 

I was going to ignore the mild Assange pandering in the previous paragraph, as it was mild in comparison to other instances (not to mention that the overarching topic at hand is much more pertinent).

I was going to ignore it. But then the author turned into a rape apologist.

There was only a preliminary investigation and no charges were brought . . . no fucking kidding. There were no charges because he was not even in Sweeden at the time! He left the country and evaded the charges so as not to also deal with being potentially extradited to the United States.

One can certainly point the finger of blame at the United States for causing the whole mess in the first place. And assuming that there are no details of which we are unaware, he should not have to face a lifetime in prison in the US (or elsewhere). However, he is not a victim of cancel culture. HIS VICTIMS are victims of cancel culture, you deluded moron! 

Assange should not be a martyr, PERIOD. For the simple reason that in the eyes of the ideologically focused (or just the idiotic), a martyr can do no wrong. One step above the superstar status of people like Elon Musk, the martyr has the benefit of having even more wiggle room when it comes to curating their own public persona. Though the masses often stop associating human traits (both positive and negative) to both superstars and martyrs, martyrs often are assumed as altruistic strictly on account of the principles n which they stand for. 

I get it. There was a time back in 2016 wherein I just assumed that Jullian Assange would do what was best for the American democratic process. After all, the WikiLeaks stuff was certainly (for the most part, anyway) beneficial to the public good. However, like the human that he is, he soon proved that he did have a favourite pick to win. And also like the human that he is, he used his unique position in order to help boost his chosen political affiliation. And judging by the Hannity revelation of 2018, this behaviour is less an outlier than it is the norm.

Few flawed humans have the self-control to properly bear the title of martyr. Suffice to say, Jullian Assange is NOT one of them.

 

In reality, Khashoggi and Assange were pursued relentlessly by the state because they fulfilled the primary duty of journalists: finding out important information that the government would like to keep secret and disclosing it to the public.

 

As scathing as the last paragraph was, I can’t help but agree with this sentiment.

Allowing governing officials to dictate who and what entities are considered to be journalists is dangerous, but particularly so in the face of an ever-evolving media landscape. With many forms of what can be labelled as traditional journalism either stagnant or slowly dying due to changing media consumption habits, it’s risky to assign too much rigidity to the term.

First off, because fledgling traditional journalistic entities are going to be more vulnerable to burying inconvenient stories if pressured to do so. But also because the face of journalism is changing. Information sources (and platforms) are gradually fragmenting. Though the big powerhouses of cable and print news media still dominate the scene today, I suspect that these days are numbered. There is still much to sort out, but I’m almost certain that the media landscape will be very different some 20 or 30 years from now.

Journalism isn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) be about your employer or your job title. It should be about the information that you bring to the table. Be it in front of a TV studio broadcasting to millions, or sitting behind a laptop with a current readership in the tens, journalism comes in many forms.

Fuck Jullian Assange. Long live journalism.

Cali Recall Candidate Claims Electoral Fraud Before Results Even Called

After the 2016 election, though the news cycle was filled with all manner of stuff to talk about, I mostly quit commenting about American politics. It wasen’t because of a lack of opinion on the matter. It was more because I (for the most part) didn’t have anything new to add to the discourse that was not already out there. This, along with the fact that as filled and fast-moving as the news cycle of the past 4 years has been, it’s been mostly childish nonsense. That is to say, I can likely walk into any grade 3 class in North America (short of the deep south) and come across a more competent assessment of current affairs than one can garner from viewing sessions of US congress.

In a nutshell, this stuff is mind-numbingly stupid. As dangerous as many aspects of this new era is, it’s just mind-numbingly fucking stupid.

Take, for example, Ted Cruz. He was on Twitter shitting on California’s power grid months before his own state’s grid would prove ill-prepared for a short cold snap (AND a summer usage spike a few short months after that!).

The grid is straining as Texas attracts more residents and new companies. U.S. Census data shows Texas’s population – already second-largest only to California – rose by 16% in the last decade, more than all but three other states.

ERCOT operates the grid on a thin margin of reserve capacity of about 16%, or half the cushion of other U.S. grids. Last week, ERCOT put customers on edge when it said generator outages spiked to 11,000 megawatts, compared with a typical level of about 3,600 megawatts for this time of year.

The grid is straining as Texas attracts more residents and new companies. U.S. Census data shows Texas’s population – already second-largest only to California – rose by 16% in the last decade, more than all but three other states.

Bob Hall, a Republican Texas state senator, said the grid’s operating problems have not been fixed. “If I were a business right now, as desirable as Texas is, if I’m dependent on a steady supply of electricity, I’d be very concerned about coming here right now,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/texas-power-grid-faces-summer-having-changed-little-february-freeze-2021-06-24/

 

Let’s stop and talk about the politics of electricity so we can bring some context to this picture. It can be fairly easily summed up in 3 images.

 

In North America, though there are a number of regional power authorities that control various geographical regions of the continent, Canada and the United States are broken up into 5 distinct interconnections (Western, Eastern, Texas, Quebec and Alaska). Of the 5, only 3 are directly interconnected (and thus, can aid in electrical distribution). The 2 outliers are Alaska (due to its location far from the rest of the southern grid) and Texas. Like Quebec, Texas maintains its own interchange for the purpose of political clout. Having their own interconnection isolates them from many regulatory standards employed by of the rest of the grid.

Unlike the Quebec interconnection, however, Texas has few (if any) connections to the rest of the North American power grid. And unlike the Quebec interconnection (which was built with the Canadian climate in mind), most Texas utilities spared the expense of winterizing their infrastructure, failing to see a need for such measures.

After all, it’s Texas! Heat and hurricanes are the main threat.

This was the reason why the Texas interchange very nearly collapsed under the strain of the February cold snap as the rest of the North American power grid was shifting energy from and too all over the continent to cover skyrocketing demand. Failing and frozen infrastructure would cripple the entire ERCOT interchange, necessitating massive load shedding (aka shedding thousands of customers worth of demand). The longevity of the cold snap resulted in billions of dollars in property damage to homes all over Texas (because much of the equipment could not be restarted due to being frozen!). While these homes will in fact be recovered by insurance (up goes the customer’s rates!), this could have all been avoided with at minimum, winterization of the grid. Joining the Eastern and Western interconnections would also be great, but not necessarily life or death. 

Yes. The billions of dollars and the catastrophe (not to mention the lives lost) were completely preventable. Yet billions of dollars and 7 months later, little has changed.

Bob Hall, a Republican Texas state senator, said the grid’s operating problems have not been fixed. “If I were a business right now, as desirable as Texas is, if I’m dependent on a steady supply of electricity, I’d be very concerned about coming here right now,” he said.

Can you afford to shutter (and potentially sustain property damage) during what would otherwise be just a bitterly cold period in nearly any other part of the country?

* * *

With that out of the way, we can now get back on track.

 

Larry Elder Claims “Fraud” Before California Even Publishes Recall Results

The California recall election results have not yet been tabulated or released to the public — yet the leading Republican challenger in the race has already pushed discredited and errant claims of fraud in the election, disputing a loss that hasn’t even officially happened yet.

The latest aggregate of polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows that current Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is in a good place heading into recall election day, with the average of polls showing 57 percent of voters currently want him to retain his position in office. Less than 42 percent of voters support his removal.

Republican candidate Larry Elder, whom many see as the leading GOP choice to replace Newsom should he lose the confidence of voters in the recall, has so far refused to say whether he will accept the election results. Elder’s campaign, however, is already prognosticating his loss — and without evidence of any kind, they are blaming fraud for Newsom’s win.

 

The last time I heard the name Larry Elder was when I was listening to Dave Rubin interview him about something years ago. I think it was this interview, but it could have been before that too. It’s been years since I’ve taken Dave Rubin with any seriousness.

Either way, I wish that had been the last time I heard his name (either name, really). But that is not to be.

Instead, we all have to deal with a cringeworthy video of Dave Rubin faking (?) a hot mic reaction to Larry Elder’s loss. And we have Elder himself declaring the results of the election fraudulent before the counting of the ballets had even been completed.

While this instance of the new Republican normal from here on out (really, November of 2020 on out) is particularly idiotic in Elder’s failure to even attempt to hide the scheme that he is pulling, this is nonetheless what we now have to look forward too.

A public that has been conditioned to believe the nonsensical. And a party filled to the brim with radicals and pragmatists that are ready and willing to trade in their credibility for everlasting political clout.

See?

Mind numbingly fucking stupid.

On the bright side, however, now you know a little more about Texas than you did before. Knowledge to remember the next time either a cold snap or a prolonged heatwave sends ERCOT into a panic, causing much misery (if not death) for citizens caught in the crossfire of the State’s unregulated pro-business status quo.

Holographic Performances From Dead Celebrities – Awesome? Or Despicable?

Today, we will be exploring an article titled Dead Celebrities are being digitally resurrected — and the ethics are murky, written by Jenna Benchetrit and published by CBC News. While it’s not the first time I have heard of this concept (nor seen it explored in pop culture, as in the case of Black Mirror), I have never really stopped to consider the implications. That is to say, how I would respond to coming across one of my cherished idols or artists digitally resurrected for my enjoyment.

Being the nature of the subject, the resulting conclusions can only be subjective. We will all naturally come to a different stance based on the many things that make us all . . . us. As such, this will be (for the most part) more an act of personal exploration than ethical vetting. Nonetheless, feel free to share your views in the comments if you wish.

Let us begin.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/dead-celebrities-digital-resurrection-1.6132738?cmp=newsletter_CBC%20Newsletter_4450_299391

 

Hologram performances, artificial voices and posthumous albums pose tough ethical questions, critics say

It’s a modern phenomenon that’s growing increasingly common with innovative technology and marketing appeal: the practice of digitally resurrecting deceased celebrities by using their image and unreleased works for new projects.

Michael Jackson moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards years after his death; rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, though he died in 1996; and late singer Aaliyah’s estate spoke out recently after her record label announced that some of her albums would be released on streaming services.

A slew of recent controversies have renewed complicated questions about whether projects involving the use of a deceased celebrity’s likeness or creative output honours the artist’s legacy or exploits it for monetary gain. 

Prince’s former colleague released a posthumous album comprised of songs the artist recorded in 2010 then scrapped; an artificially-engineered model of Anthony Bourdain’s voice was used in a new documentary about the chef and author’s life; and a hologram of Whitney Houston will perform a six-month Las Vegas residency beginning in October 2021.

 

Interestingly enough, this brings to mind a conversation (a debate of sorts) I had with a friend some years back at work. Him being a fan of old school grunge and the Seattle scene, he hated the reincarnation of Alice In Chains with the presence of a new lead singer. At the time, I recall viewing the sentiment towards the name as kind of silly (what difference does it make?). I happened to like the music of both configurations of the band, so the sentiment that they should have proceeded under a different name seemed . . . purist.

Then around 3 years later, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame died by suicide. Upon considering my previous viewpoint at some point later, I was struck by the realization that I had similar reservations about someone else fronting Linkin Park in place of Chester Bennington. I had no real rational reason for this. It just felt weird for someone else to step into the role that of someone that I had become familiar with since my teen years. Hybrid Theory and Meteora came out when I was in high school. I literally grew up with this band as part of the soundtrack of my life.

Even though I stopped paying as much attention to most of the releases after Minutes To Midnight, it still felt . . .weird.

But that was years ago. Having not thought about it since probably 2017, I’ve realized that most of the sentiment towards the name Linkin Park (likely a result of the death being so recent at the time) is gone. Which it seems is not a moment too soon since the rest of the group (mostly on hiatus since 2017) is starting to release remixed and new material starting in 2020. So far there has been 1 track re-released in August 2020 and a remixed released in January of 2021. We will see what goodies the rest of LP have for us in the coming post-pandemic years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linkin_Park#2020%E2%80%93present:_Return_to_music

This isn’t even the first time I’ve had this inner dialogue, either. It also occurred back in 2016, when I heard (with horror at the time) that Axel Rose of Guns & Roses infamy was set to replace ACDC’s Brian Johnson, who was forced to retire due to hearing problems. This was not on account of sentiment either (remember that Brian Johnson replaced the deceased Bon Scott back in 1980). More, it was due to the volatile and infamous nature of Rose himself. Though his antics are well known and documented (up to and including inciting a riot in Montreal), even my aunt has a story of annoyance associated with working security at a G &R show (the band came on stage an hour late).

An interesting side note of the Montreal riot . . . lost to history is the fact that Axle was also suffering from a torn vocal cord at the time of the incident, which seems to have weighed into the decision. This, along with the fact that only around 2000 people (of the 10,000ish in attendance) were thought to have participated in the riots.

This is also something that I have not thought about for a long time. Probably because, as it turns out, the 23 show ACDC collaboration appears to have gone off without a hitch. And though the group was on hiatus since 2016, the 2014 lineup reunited in 2020 to release Power Up, an album that I enjoy.
Not that ACDC has ever put out an album that I didn’t enjoy.

Sure, the music is simple in comparison to the various shades of metal that I’ve since moved on to. Yet, it also remains enjoyable since the group is delightfully unserious when it comes to songwriting, never fearing to tread into the low brow. As evidenced by the 2020 track Money Shot, a tune that made me laugh out loud.
And one can’t complain much of the simplistic nature of the pub rock genre, because if you want something more, look no further than Airbourne (like ACDC. they also started in Australia). Though it is obvious who their influences are, they certainly take things to a whole other level.

Sticking to the topic still, we come to another band that I grew up with that changed frontman. Three Days Grace.

Growing up, I used to think of the first 2 3DG albums as another soundtrack to my teenage years. I also liked (and own) the subsequent 2 albums under the original lineup. But when lead singer Adam Gontier left the group and was replaced by Matt Walst of My Darkest Days,  it took some (who am I kidding . . . MUCH!) persuasion to appreciate the new Three Days Grace.

Or, Nu 3DG as it were.

But as it turned out, the unexpected change of lineup was not the awful thing that times closer to the change made it out to be. Under the lead of Matt Walst, Three Days Grace has moved into a newer and more interesting sound. And Adam is heading an equally interesting project in St. Asonia. The best of both worlds.

Also worth noting is the Foo Fighters. While I am almost certain that Courtney Love would NOT have let Dave Grohl and the rest of the trio continue forward under the Nirvana brand, it would be interesting to see what the results of a different timeline would have been. For example, the ACDC timeline.

Would fans embrace the new frontman (as seems the case with ACDC)? Or would they detest the new configuration (as with AiC)? 

Whatever the case does not matter, anyhow, since the Foo Fighters did perfectly fine even without the old brand behind them.

Looking back at this, it’s funny that I once looked at my friend’s distaste of NU-AiC as amusing and purist. As it turns out, I am just as human in my distaste of the alterations of the familiar. Hell . . . it’s one of my biggest critiques of many baby boomers that I know, and of the generation in general. The lack of interest in even trying to accept the new, let alone accepting that the old way is largely on the way out. Often for good reason.

So much have I pondered this that I now conclude that change is almost always actually a good thing for a band.

The first example of this that comes to mind is Seether. Their first 3 albums were also part of the soundtrack of my teenage years, with the 4th coming out just as I was coming of age as an adult. Though I still liked the fourth album despite its slight move away from what one was used to, I can’t stand anything released afterward.
The same goes for Theory of a Deadman. I liked the first 2 albums, but what followed was Gawd awful.  I don’t normally throw away music that I own, but I did toss The Truth Is because, for the life of me, I didn’t know why I spent $15 or $20 on it.

Remember buying CDs?

Yeah . . . I don’t miss it either. I do miss the days before people like me and streaming sucked much of the money out of the music industry, forcing artists old and new to resort to commercials and advertising as a steady income stream. But I suppose that is a different entry altogether.

Either way, rare is the musician from my childhood that has continuously put out new material, yet avoided the pitfall of toning it down for mainstream popularity. So rare is the case that only Billy Talent comes to mind as an artist that bucked the trend.

No matter the backlash, when artists decide to do the seemingly unthinkable and make a big change, the results are almost always alright. Another example that I just recently discovered was Aaron Lewis. Best known by me (and probably most people) as the lead singer behind Staind, imagine my surprise in discovering Country Boy in a country playlist. I can’t say that I like it, per se. But it’s certainly different, and Aaron is suited for the genre.

Considering that I used to hate country, the fact that I’m starting to get accustomed to some of it is shocking in itself. And I do in fact mean some of it. Though I like a couple Dierks Bentley songs and a Joe Nichols tune that most people likely know among some others, the pickings are slim. Aside from learning that a coon dog isn’t an incredibly racist lyric, I still find the formulaic nature of much of the country genre to be annoying.



To be fair, much of what I am describing is prescribed to a category within Country music that many call Bro-Country. Having said that, even the old-time stuff tends to lean in this direction. Hence why also can’t stand Alan Jackson or Toby Keith (he irked me long before the Red Solo Cup abomination).

I am very selective indeed . . . but it’s a hell of a change from a year ago. Not to mention that I figure it would be hard to find someone that has everything from Slipknot, to Weird Al, to Dierks Bentley on the same playlist.

But at long last, I come to the topic that the readers have come here for . . .  holograms.

 

Michael Jackson moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards years after his death; rapper Tupac Shakur performed at the 2012 Coachella music festival, though he died in 1996; and late singer Aaliyah’s estate spoke out recently after her record label announced that some of her albums would be released on streaming services.

* * *

Prince’s former colleague released a posthumous album comprised of songs the artist recorded in 2010 then scrapped; an artificially-engineered model of Anthony Bourdain’s voice was used in a new documentary about the chef and author’s life; and a hologram of Whitney Houston will perform a six-month Las Vegas residency beginning in October 2021.

 

This is certainly an interesting thing to ponder. Though I CAN think of 1 reason why I would not want to see Micheal Jackson moonwalking in a show post-humously, the ethical reasoning has nothing to do with him being dead. Frankly, the same goes for anyone that would want to present a holographic Kobe Bryant. I find the continued praise and worship of both those people to be problematic, but again, that is a whole other post.

To boil it down:

1.) While one should always reserve judgement, the evidence weighs heavily in one direction. As does the fact that the case was settled out of court.

2.) Micheal Jackson was NOT proven innocent, contrary to how Twitter recently reacted. The court only dismissed the notion of the victims that 2 companies representing Jackson’s interests had any bearing of responsibility towards their safety and welfare. Nothing more.

Moving on from that red hot potato, I come to Tupac Shakur and Whitney Houston. When it comes to these 2, I am neutral. Assuming that neither said anything in life against the concept of post-humous holograms and assuming the concept isn’t going against either majority fan or estate wishes, I see little issue with it. It is but a new medium for the broadcast and display of recorded media, after all. In my opinion, no different than watching a Whitney Houston music video on YouTube. Or as I happen to be doing at this moment, listening to the long-deceased Johnny Cash in MP3 form.

I know . . . who still does that?!

Speaking of times changing, we come to the release of dead artist’s music on streaming platforms. Short of the artist taking issue with it in life (as seems would be the case with Prince), I have little issue with it.
For all intents and purposes, the cat is already out of the bag. In fact, it has been since the debut of Napster in 1999, continued to be so in the early 2000s with the decentralized P2P platforms, and continued ever beyond in the realm of torrents and discographies. Today, people scrape YouTube videos for audio.

And even that isn’t really correct anymore, with most people using ad or subscription-based streaming services. My preferred choice is YouTube Music since it comes with fewer limitations than Spotify (though I use Spotify for podcasts).

Any artists refusing to join the streaming platforms at this point are just pissing into the wind. This is not to say that the modern monetary sharing scheme is optimal (cause it’s not. It’s even more shit than it was in the past!). Nonetheless, however, when even the Nirvana and Tool catalogues can now be streamed, you know we’re in a different era. 

As for using machine learning algorithms to reanimate the voice of the now-deceased Anthony Bourdain, however . . . THAT IS WHERE I DRAW THE LINE! 

Yeah . . . just kidding.

Personally, having seen Desperate Housewives back in the day (remember the homophobia of seasons 1 and 2? That didn’t age well :/ ), the idea of a show narrated by a character deceased from the plot is interesting. 
As much as I’d love the Bourdain doc to open with a line like “Guess what, guys! I’m dead!” (I can see him doing something like that!), it probably wouldn’t go over well with the normies among us. 

No one seems to take issue with a dead Paul Walker showing up in a run of the mill Holywood movie, but throw a dead guy joke into a Bourdain documentary . . .

*GASP*

CANCELLED!

 

Ethical and legal ramifications

It’s a matter of both ethics and law, but the ethical concerns are arguably more important, according to Iain MacKinnon, a Toronto-based media lawyer. 

“It’s a tough one, because if the artist never addressed the issue while he or she was alive, anybody who’s granting these rights — which is typically an executor of an estate — is really just guessing what the artist would have wanted,” MacKinnon said.

“It always struck me as a bit of a cash grab for the estates and executors to try and milk … a singer’s celebrity and rights, I guess, for a longer time after their death.”

According to MacKinnon, the phrase “musical necrophilia” is commonly used to criticize the practice. Music journalist Simon Reynolds referred to the phenomenon of holographic performances as “ghost slavery,” and in The Guardian, Catherine Shoard called the CGI-insertion of a dead actor into a new film a “digital indignity.”

 

This is indeed an almost cut and dry case when it comes to copyright law. Though it sounds like one single area, what copyrights equate to are a great many single rights.

Say I am writing a book called “Crazy Cats of New Haven”. The moment the pen hits the paper (or the finger hits the keyboard), the resulting document in its entirety is covered under international copyright law. However, beyond just being your proof in a court of law, having this control over the main copyright also means you have control of any other rights whether currently available or future. For example:

  • audiobook
  • audio (song?)
  • theatrical (movie? play?)

The reason I am aware of this is on account of a short copyright course I took aimed at aspiring authors. Instructed by a seasoned and published author, the goal was to introduce us to a sample book contract and ensure we are aware that not all contracts are alike. Like every other area of the media and entertainment industry, not all publishers are equal.

This is where the future rights portion of this comes in. Though I have yet to come across my first contract at this point, most are said to automatically include every right that is available and future rights. Or in normie speak, if the project ever blows up and goes cross-platform (eg. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter), the publisher is often in a much more powerful position than the author or writer.

And this isn’t uncommon either. The writers in the music industry often make peanuts even if they write hits.

 

Songwriters are guaranteed a royalty from every unit sold (CDs, vinyl, cassette, etc.).

These royalties are paid out differently in different countries, but in the U.S., they come out to $0.091 per reproduction of the song – nine cents every time a song is reproduced/sold.

In other countries, the royalty is paid out at 8 to 10% of the value of the recording.

What does this equate to?

Take the song “Pumped Up Kicks” – a huge hit for Foster The People. The track sold 3.8 million copies and the album itself sold 671,000 copies.

The frontman of the band Nate Foster has the sole writing credit on the song, so he collects every penny of the mechanical royalties, which would come out to around $406,861.

And that’s just the mechanicals. There are other ways that song was making money – it received a ton of radio play and was licensed on TV shows like Entourage, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, which added to Foster and the band’s earnings.

 

Digital Download Mechanical Royalties

Digital download mechanical royalties are generated in the same way physical mechanical royalties are generated, except they are paid whenever any song is downloaded.

iTunes, Amazon, Google Rhapsody, Xbox Music, all generate and pay these royalties to songwriters whenever a song is downloaded.

Again, these are paid out at a rate of $0.091 per song.

Streaming Mechanical Royalties

Streaming mechanical royalties are generated from the same Reproduction and Distribution copyrights, but are paid differently.

They are generated any time a song is streamed through a service that allows users to pause, play, skip, download, etc.

This means Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, Pandora, etc.

In the U.S. (and globally for the most part) the royalty rate is 10.5% of the company’s gross revenue minus the cost of public performance.

An easier way to say this, is that it generally comes out to around $0.005 per stream. Less than a cent!

How Much Do Songwriters Make Per Song, Per Stream & In Other Situations?

An easier way to put the last sentence is that its sweet fuck all.

Imagine that many nations in the world quit manufacturing the 1 cent penny because of its production cost (over a cent!). Most songwriters earn less than that.

 

The problem here is as obvious and immediate as a whacking great pop hook.

Think of the biggest songs on Spotify over the past decade. Here they are, courtesy of Kworb:

  • Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You (1.77bn streams);
  • Drake – One Dance (1.48bn streams);
  • The Chainsmokers – Closer (1.28bn streams)
  • Luis Fonsi – Despacito Remix (1.07bn streams)
  • Post Malone – Rockstar (1.05bn streams)

All of them were co-written, alongside the featured artist, by very talented people.

Some of these co-writer’s names: Steve Mac, Johnny McDaid, Shaun Frank and Jason ‘Poo Bear‘ Boyd.

How many people amongst Spotify’s 75m paying subscribers, you wonder, heard songs written by these people and thought; ‘I love that track – I want to play it now… I’ll try Spotify.’

And then: ‘Wow, this service is amazing, I’m going to pay for it.’

Yet the songwriters who penned these tracks presumably aren’t getting a penny for their compositions from corporate Spotify stock sales.

Instead, they’re being left out in the cold during one of the industry’s most historic windfalls.

Songwriters got screwed by the Spotify equity bonanza. The industry has to ask itself questions.

 

Now that we have explored all the reasons why MB Man will never be writing any songs anytime soon, let’s move onto the movie industry. We will now explore the shady realms of Hollywood Accounting. How to turn a multi-billion dollar grossing blockbuster into cash bleeding loss.

 

On today’s Planet Money, Edward Jay Epstein, the author of a recent book called The Hollywood Economist, explains the business of movies.

As a case study, he walks us through the numbers for “Gone In 60 Seconds.” (It starred Angelina Jolie and Nicolas Cage. They stole cars. Don’t pretend like you don’t remember it.)

The movie grossed $240 million at the box office. And, after you take out all the costs and fees and everything associated with the movie, it lost $212 million.

This is the part of Hollywood accounting that is, essentially, fiction. Disney, which produced the movie, did not lose that money.

Each movie is set up as its own corporation. So what “lost money” on the picture is that corporation — Gone In 60 Seconds, Inc., or whatever it was called.

And Gone In 60 Seconds, Inc. pays all these fees to Disney and everyone else connected to the movie. And the fees, Epstein says, are really where the money’s at.

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2010/05/the_friday_podcast_angelina_sh.html/

 

May I first note that the last name appears to be coincidental in this case. Unsurprising, given my doubts that Jeffrey Epstein would like having an investigative journalist around the island of rich pedos.

ANYWAY . . .

That is how you turn a billion-dollar grossing moneymaker of a film into a cash-losing flop. And as usual, I veered off-topic.

Well, sort of. We now know the stance of the entertainment industry in terms of ethics . . . there are none. Given the power afforded to the rights holder, I suspect that we will see a lot more deceased celebrities doing everything from performing in Vegas to selling coffee and toothpaste on TV commercials.

Just kidding . . . clearly the cash is now in YouTube and Spotify ads.

 

Richard Lachman, an associate professor at Ryerson University who researches the relationship between humans and technology, said that as artists age and develop a better sense of their legacies, they may take the time to protect their images and file appropriate contract clauses. 

But not every artist will grow old. Indeed, a common thread between many of the artists whose works and likeness have been used in this capacity is an unexpected or accidental death.

Prince died in 2016 of an accidental opioid overdose, Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in 2018 and Whitney Houston drowned in her bathtub in 2012 as a result of heart disease and cocaine use. Tupac, Amy Winehouse and Aaliyah all died unexpectedly at young ages. 

Lachman said if this is the case, then it’s possible that clauses accounting for image use didn’t get written into wills. He also noted that artists who die prematurely don’t grow old, giving an impression of perpetual youth that reminds audiences what an artist looked like in their prime.

And while fans might be protective of the artists they love, they’re also the primary consumers to whom these digital resurrections appeal.

“Yes, we know that [a hologram of] Whitney Houston is not the real Whitney Houston,” Lachman said. “But it’s a chance for us to engage in some of that fan behaviour, something that binds us to one another.”


I agree with the final sentence.

As explained earlier, I am not against the concept of posthumous holograms. Even taking the Whitney Houston hologram example and replacing her likeness with Chester Bennington or Warrel Dane (2 artists that mean much more to me than Whitney Houston), I still don’t really find myself against the concept. Assuming that the family and/or next of kin is on board with the process, this seems to be just an ultramodern example of what we have been taking for granted for decades. The ability to store information onto various mediums. 

First came the song. Then the video. Now, potentially, the whole experience. Whether the experience is to be predetermined (akin to a pre-recording) or interactive (play out based on the audience, presumably) depends on the technology.

Though I can see why this kind of thing may be considered horrifying by some, consider the opportunity. Before now, if your favourite artist were to die, that is it in terms of opportunities for interaction. Though there may be shows if their surrounding act decides to continue, the opportunity of seeing the artist live will never happen again. Particularly notable when it comes to solo acts.

For people who have never seen that artist live, this may well be the opportunity of a lifetime. Indeed, it’s not the REAL thing. But it’s a very special opportunity nonetheless. An opportunity that my grandfather (who died in 1998) did not have in his lifetime.

For this reason, those in charge of these shows will have to be extra careful when it comes to smooth and flawless production performances. Not only will these performances serve as a typical live show, they will also serve as the farewell tribute that many of us wish we could have had with long-lost loved ones (beloved celebrities included). Auditoriums housing such performances may be wise to keep lots of tissues on hand.

 

For some, releasing archived material might not seem as harmful as resurrecting a person with virtual reality, MacKinnon said.

“I think there’s different degrees and a spectrum of uses that can be made of dead performers.”

 

There is no doubt no comparison between the 2. If it was not explicitly trashed by the artist, it may well have ended up released later in their career anyway.

The Prince example from earlier has to be mentioned, however. The posthumous release of an album of songs written by (and scrapped by!) Prince. Prince’s feelings towards the material were clear. Any person of ethics and integrity would know to leave the trash in the trash.

So naturally, they took the other path and cashed in on the fanbase for some cash. 

There will always be unscrupulous actors in an industry devoid of ethical and moral virtues. Thus, it is important not to let their actions dictate our opinion of anything we are speaking of. Unscrupulous people will always be unscrupulous, after all.

 

Prince is an artist who’s been on both sides of that spectrum.

Last month, his posthumous album Welcome 2 America was released to fanfare. But there was another controversial incident in which it was rumoured that a hologram of Prince would perform alongside Justin Timberlake at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show. The plans were eventually scrapped, with Prince’s ex-fiancée Sheila E. confirming that Timberlake wouldn’t go through with it. 

The incident renewed interest in a 1998 interview with Guitar World, in which Prince said performing with an artist from the past is “the most demonic thing imaginable.”

 

I don’t know who had the bigger say in this decision, but if it was Justin Timberlake, good on him for seemingly honouring the wishes of Prince. Seemingly, because I can only imagine how much public pressure was driving the decision. This is the age of social media and Twitter, after all.

 

Sarah Niblock, a visiting professor of psychology at York St. John University in York, England, who has long studied Prince and co-wrote a book about the artist, says efforts to dig into his vault and use his image for profit are in contention with his publicly expressed wishes.

“He was fully in control of his output, sonically and visually, and the way everything was marketed, and of course, those who performed with him and all of his artists that he produced,” Niblock said.

The situation is further complicated because Prince didn’t leave a will when he died. Without one, “a person’s estate can exploit or license those rights if they want to,” MacKinnon said.

While the legal boundaries are relatively clear, the ethical question of whether an artist is being exploited or not is subjective.

For Niblock, digital resurrections that enrich the estate and its executors at the expense of an artist’s known wishes cross a line.

“Trying to somehow use that death to create a mythic quality that the artists themselves would have not necessarily intended, to then market that for money … I mean, it’s extremely cynical and disrespectful.”

 

There is no respect in capitalism. Only profits.

 

Legal considerations must be made before death

While promoting his new documentary Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, director Morgan Neville said he had recreated Bourdain’s voice using machine learning, then used the voice model to speak words Bourdain had written.

The incident prompted a wave of public discussion, some of it criticism levelled at Neville.

A tweet from Bourdain’s ex-wife suggested that he wouldn’t have approved. A columnist for Variety considered the ethical ramifications of the director’s choice. And Helen Rosner of The New Yorker wrote that “a synthetic Bourdain voice-over seemed to me far less crass than, say … a holographic Tupac Shakur performing alongside Snoop Dogg at Coachella.”

Recent incidents like the Bourdain documentary or Whitney Houston’s hologram residency will likely prompt those in the entertainment industry to protect themselves accordingly, said MacKinnon.

 

Having considered things a bit (and watched the Tupac Coachella appearance), I would hardly consider it as crass. The audience in attendance certainly didn’t. Nor do most of the people in the YouTube comments. Nor do the 274k people that liked the video (verses around 6k dislikes). I’d say the only people that cared were exactly where they should be . . . NOT AT THE SHOW!

Feel free to check it out for yourself. It was linked in the CBC article, believe it or not.

 

“I think now, if they haven’t already, agents, managers, lawyers, performers are all going to be telling their clients that if they care about this, if they care about how their image is used after they die, they need to be addressing it right now in their wills.”

Robin Williams is a notable example of a public figure who foresaw these issues. The late actor, who died by suicide in 2014, restricted the use of his image and likeness for 25 years after his death.

 

It’s cool that Robin Williams had the foresight to consider this before his tragic demise. While I am not as averse to the thought of a post-humous Robin Williams comedy special as I would have been closer to 2014, the man has spoken.

We have indeed entered a new era.

A passing thought . . . though we will never know what opinion past comedians like George Carlin or Bill Hicks would have of this technology, I sense that both would have a lot of fun with it.  

 

Hologram technology improving

According to both Lachman and MacKinnon, artists would do well to make similar arrangements, as the technology behind these recreations will only get more sophisticated.

Holograms of Tupac at 2012 Coachella and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards were produced using a visual trick from the Victorian-era called “Pepper’s Ghost,” named for John Henry Pepper, the British scientist who popularized it.

In the illusion, a person’s image is reflected onto an angled glass pane from an area hidden from the audience. The technique gave the impression that the rapper and the king of pop were performing on stage.

Nowadays, companies like Base Hologram in Los Angeles specialize in large-scale digital production of holograms. The recreation of Bourdain’s voice was made possible by feeding ten hours of audio into an artificial intelligence model.

Lachman said that it will become “almost impossible” for the average consumer to know the difference between a hologram creation and the real person. 

He said that while the effects are still new and strange enough to warrant media attention, digital resurrections will continue to have an uncanny effect on their audience — but not for much longer, as audiences will likely grow accustomed to the phenomenon.

Though he said there may be purists who disagree, it seems like audiences have been generally accepting of the practice.

“It seems like the trend is we’re just going to get over it.”

 

I agree. This phenomenon, as somewhat creepy and new as it is, ain’t going anywhere. But as far as I’m concerned, that is a good thing.

There will no doubt be people that will take advantage of this technology so long as celebrities don’t take precautions. Such is the world we live in. Aside from that, I’d say we have a very unique opportunity.

Certainly for tasteful send-offs of beloved stars and musicians (imagine something like a Whitney Houston final Farewell tour). Beyond that, really, the sky is the limit.

Should Canada Day Celebrations Be Cancelled?

Today, I will tackle an interesting question that has come up in the public discourse within Canada recently. Given the recent discovery of yet more mass graves containing hundreds of unidentified murdered indigenous children, is it a time to be celebrating a nation built on genocide?

Though I know full well what the reactionary response to this question will be (let the latest Cancel Culture hysteria begin!), there is an interesting case to be made when it comes to those of us unconcerned with blindly protecting mindless patriotic tradition and pageantry. Do proponents of cancellation of the holiday for this year have a point?

Though there are no doubt hundreds (if not more) of articles covering this subject available, I will focus on 1 from CTV Winnipeg for the sake of simplicity. This is an opinion piece, after all.

But, let us begin.

 

Movement calls for cancellation of Canada Day celebrations in Manitoba

https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/movement-calls-for-cancellation-of-canada-day-celebrations-in-manitoba-1.5486437

WINNIPEG — A movement is calling for the cancellation of all Canada Day celebrations in the wake of the discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites.

Gerry Shingoose, a residential school survivor, took to Twitter to call out the celebrations earlier in June.

“I’m asking that you wake up,” Shingoose, who was wearing a shirt reading ‘CancelCanadaDay,’ said in a video posted to social media.

“I’m going to be wearing it on Canada Day. It’s Cancel Canada (Day) and no pride in genocide.”

With the discovery of hundreds of unmarked children’s graves at former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan, some communities are not celebrating Canada Day.

Cities in New Brunswick have cancelled plans and earlier this month Victoria did the same.

In Manitoba, the Shamattawa First Nation is going one step further.

“I don’t think this year is a year to celebrate,” said Shamattawa Chief Eric Redhead.

Redhead said his community will not celebrate Canada Day, as a way to honour the children who never made it home from the residential schools. All Canadian flags in the community have been taken down.

“Those flags that we’ve taken down will not go back up as long as I’m Chief—until the government recognizes the residential school system as an act of genocide.”

 

The first thing I will note from this is its nature as a request. No one is demanding that Canadians do anything. It is more of a “please consider this before. . . ” situation. This sentence being for the patriotic hysterics that will no doubt latch onto this for all the wrong reasons.

As for my own opinion on the matter, I am not in disagreement with the sentiment. I find the concept of patriotism and absolute pride in one’s nation as problematic, to begin with, so frankly I can go either way. While I am in favour of communities making their own decisions on this matter, I don’t feel negatively toward communities that go ahead with celebrations regardless.  I feel this way because people have the right to boycott or protest such celebrations. And I feel this way because the Canadian Government is not the only responsible party in this genocide (though it was certainly the enabler).

Lacking in this CTV article is any mention of the role of the Catholic Church in these murders and cover-ups. Not only has the Catholic Church gotten away with its crimes nearly in their entirety (only having to issue a toothless apology), but they have not had to pay a penny towards victims of their abuse. Unlike the Canadian Government. Indeed, Canada has been WAY too slow in dealing with this dark legacy, but unlike the Catholic Church, they have at least started down the road.

I used to jokingly say that the Catholic Church was the biggest organized crime organization on the face of the earth. Back then, it was based on the ease in which the hierarchy made pedophiles in their ranks disappear like the cash in the collection plates (Sometimes right into sovereign diplomatic protection of Vatican City!).
Though I once called the Catholic Church the biggest organized crime organization on earth, I missed the fact that they are also both the worst AND the most legally sanctioned. Say what you will about mafias, gangs, syndicates and triad’s spanning the globe. . . all of these eventually have setbacks and fall. Quite the contrast to the Catholic Church (an organization that I will now call Big Catholic), which has naved faced any pushback from any governing body.

Hence, I say Invade The Vatican (#InvadeTheVatican).  If they won’t pay up and/or fess up, then let’s use the world’s military might for a good cause for once.

 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about Canada Day Friday.

“I think all of us need to aspire and work hard to get to the point where everyone across this country will be able to celebrate fully,” said Trudeau.

 

Dare I say it . . . what the FUCK are you talking about?!

Granted, I suppose that answer was a lose-lose no matter how you slice it. I can only imagine how the PC’s and the Trudeau-haters would react to him denouncing Canada Day celebrations (even if just for this year). I don’t think I could handle the sheer volume of stupid.

 

Premier Brian Pallister said people should dedicate themselves to reconciliation, but not by stopping Canada Day festivities.

“I don’t think denying Canada Day celebrations is a respectful way for us to move forward,” Pallister said. “I think we should celebrate our country but celebrate it with its warts too.”

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he will celebrate Canada Day with his family, but not without reflection.

“I’ll also be taking a moment to pause and reflect on how we can strengthen our community and live up to those ideals that we all hold dear,” said Bowman.

 

Yet compared to those 2 replies, Trudeau’s seems not half bad.

1.) To Brian Pallister (Manitoba’s Premier):

I’m not sure that even I approve of viewing a cultural genocide as a wart to be celebrated. Oy vey.

Let’s acknowledge this dark past and push for solutions to help make things right for everyone affected. There is a time and a place for noting celebrations, but this isn’t it.

2.) To Brian Bowman (Winnipeg’s Mayor):

Frankly, what does that even mean? We will celebrate Canada day, but not without reflection?

I suppose I should extend the same consideration to these 2 that I gave Trudeau. Though I suspect Brian Bowman would likely be more apt to cancelling Canada Day festivities than our conservative Premier, I can also imagine the backlash that such a decision would cause. With everyone already being on edge about the province being in code red since last October . . . oh boy!

Nonetheless, the 3 takes still instill disappointment.

This concludes the CTV article, and my take on this really.

Having no interest in patriotism, to begin with, I am open to whatever decision my (and any) community comes to in regards to this matter. If celebrations (Covid regulations permitting of course) are to go forward, fine by me. If it is decided that the opposite should occur, also fine by me. After all, no one can stop individuals and families that want to celebrate from doing so. And no one can stop people from protesting the celebration of Canada Day at this time.

 

 

 

Rare Marijuana Side Effects

Though I have found myself writing a lot of these lately, I have here yet another one. A reaction to someone else’s article on the subject of marijuana. Though I let the vast majority of these articles slide (few venture into territory that I have not already covered), this one is alarmist enough to justify some analysis. And it also highlights a new problem that I had not yet come across.

So, let’s begin. Written by Julia Naftulin for Insider, the article (titled Rare marijuana side effects, from uncontrollable vomiting to lung damage) was published on June 12th, 2021.

 

https://www.insider.com/rare-marijuana-side-effects-vomiting-lung-damage-psychosis-2021-6

When it comes to smoking cannabis, experiences like blood-shot eyes, getting the munchies, and an impaired sense of time are near-universal.

But for a small subset of the population, using cannabis creates unwanted side effects, either from the weed itself or the method used to consume it.

These effects are still being studied and little conclusive research exists due to cannabis’ federal illegal status.

 

So far, so good. Though, I admit that it be nice if some of these journalists would be less matter-of-fact when reporting on the illegality of marijuana hampering research. I get it, it is just a part of how things are. But that does not mean that it isn’t idiotic. Particularly with what is to follow this sentence.

But, that is just my critique.

 

A mysterious syndrome causes regular weed users to endure unrelenting nausea

Cannabis researchers are currently studying cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, a rare disorder that affects some frequent cannabis users, Insider previously reported.

Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, usually sets in when a person is in their thirties and is characterized by vomiting and nausea.

People who have been diagnosed with CHS previously told Insider it felt like a flip was switched on them: One day they were fine with the normal cannabis consumption, and the next they were violently vomiting hours after smoking.

The only known way to treat CHS is to quit cannabis altogether.

 

This was the main reason I decided to analyze this article as I have never heard of CHS before now. And I still don’t know anything about it, as what you see is the depth in which this article bothers to cover the illness. We’re barely skin deep!

So let’s dig.

 

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that leads to repeated and severe bouts of vomiting. It is rare and only occurs in daily long-term users of marijuana.

Marijuana has several active substances. These include THC and related chemicals. These substances bind to molecules found in the brain. That causes the drug “high” and other effects that users feel.

Your digestive tract also has a number of molecules that bind to THC and related substances. So marijuana also affects the digestive tract. For example, the drug can change the time it takes the stomach to empty. It also affects the esophageal sphincter. That’s the tight band of muscle that opens and closes to let food from the esophagus into the stomach. Long-term marijuana use can change the way the affected molecules respond and lead to the symptoms of CHS.

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/cannabinoid-hyperemesis-syndrome.html

 

I would assume that by molecules, the source article is referring to receptors of the endocannabinoid system in layman’s terms. An understandable approach to take in terms of education on this topic.

While I looked at a few sources for information, all seem to share the sentiment of this one. That is to say that this disorder is considered to be rare, and only affects chronic users of marijuana. And the solution is indeed permanent abstinence from marijuana.

 

To fully get better, you need to stop using marijuana all together. Some people may get help from drug rehab programs to help them quit. Cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy can also help. If you stop using marijuana, your symptoms should not come back.

What are possible complications of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

Very severe, prolonged vomiting may lead to dehydration. It may also lead to electrolyte problems in your blood. If untreated, these can cause rare complications such as:

  • Muscle spasms or weakness
  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Shock
  • In very rare cases, brain swelling (cerebral edema)

Your healthcare team will quickly work to fix any dehydration or electrolyte problems. Doing so can help prevent these problems.

What can I do to prevent cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

You can prevent CHS by not using marijuana in any form. You may not want to believe that marijuana may be the underlying cause of your symptoms. That may be because you have used it for many years without having any problems. The syndrome may take several years to develop. The drug may help prevent nausea in new users who don’t use it often. But people with CHS need to completely stop using it. If they don’t, their symptoms will likely come back.

 

https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/cannabinoid-hyperemesis-syndrome.html

 

While the complications of ignoring the condition are indeed dire and should be heeded, the condition itself, fortunately, seems to be quite rare. Something that isn’t exactly clear in the original article that I quoted from. A tact that seems far more concerned with scaring than informing. 

I really wish the media would quit doing this. It may work on ageing adult parents, but teens and kids can see this nonsense from a mile away. And unlike me, they likely won’t bother doing research to confirm (or debunk) these arguments. They will just assume they are being lied to, and likely have to learn the hard way.

Just say no . . . to drug propaganda.

 

https://www.vox.com/2015/12/22/10621810/internet-marijuana-legalization-drugs

Having gotten that off my chest once more, I will now go into some speculation. Though this is not well understood (much like the endocannabinoid system itself), I have to wonder if this is yet another effect of increasing THC potency in modern strains. A case of the body being able to handle it until . . . it just can’t anymore.

But that is just layman speculation. For all we know, it could also be one of the hundreds of other cannabinoids aside from THC and CBD that we don’t yet know anything about. Something we don’t know, may I again reminds you, because of panicked and biased drug prohibition laws.

However, I’m done with my soap box speech. On to the rest of the Insider article.

 

Some weed users have reported psychosis

For people with a personal or family history of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, consuming cannabis could lead to a psychotic break, current research suggests.

A March 2019 study suggests using high-potency cannabis with more than 10% THC could also cause psychosis.

The researchers were unable to prove cannabis directly caused psychosis, since they didn’t follow users from the first time they ever used cannabis.

But they observed that cannabis users in European cities where high-potency weed is more available were more likely to report a first-ever psychotic episode.

 

The first paragraph of the studies summary reads thus:

 

Cannabis use is associated with increased risk of later psychotic disorder but whether it affects incidence of the disorder remains unclear. We aimed to identify patterns of cannabis use with the strongest effect on odds of psychotic disorder across Europe and explore whether differences in such patterns contribute to variations in the incidence rates of psychotic disorder.

https://www.thelancet.com/article/S2215-0366(19)30048-3/fulltext

The underlining slash bolding was on my part, to emphasize that the study authors had much broader intentions than repeating what is already established. It was less about proving than it is about looking for patterns in usage corresponding to instances of psychiatric episodes.

And aside from that, this topic has been well explored already by Gary Wenk Ph. D in this Psychology Today article. His write-up is such a breath of fresh air on the subject matter that it has become my go if this comes up (after exploring it HERE).

We can now move on to the last paragraph of the insider article (which concerns vaping).

 

Vaping cannabis has led to permanent lung damage in some users

Another rare side effect of cannabis involves a particular method of ingesting it, vaping, rather than the substance itself.

In 2019, a spate of vaping-related illnesses popped up around the United States, with hundreds of people being hospitalized due to vaping-related lung injuries, Insider previously reported.

The trend led health officials to investigate ingredients in both THC and nicotine-containing devices. They found certain additives in vape “juice,” like vitamin E acetate and glycerin, could damage a person’s lungs and cause symptoms like chronic coughing, shortness of breath, and nausea.

Now, the illness is referred to as EVALI, or e-cigarette and vape-associated lung injury.

 

And, thus concludes the article.

The way that most governments have reactively responded to the unethical actions that drove the growth of the vaping industry has annoyed me for some time now. Though they were viewed and sold as largely harmless smoking cessation tools by most people for many years, the industry finally seems to be having its social media-esk reckoning. Though not before hooking a whole new generation on nicotine. Not to mention being the cause of a still growing number of illnesses and injuries relating to the almost entirely unregulated nature of the vaping marketplace. A tainted market that has now at times become entangled with the newly budding legal marijuana market as companies (and users) look to alternatives to smoking.

While my own personal advice would be not to vape THC, CBD or anything else period, that is just me. For those that do vape, I suppose the best you can do is try to ensure that you know what you are paying for. Both in terms of the other ingredients in the juice, and in terms of the THC content of the product. Being the unregulated nature if the industry, this could involve some research into the products you are using. Some investigative news organization or research entity is bound to have checked the legitimacy of the label claims at some point.

For those that doubt the prospect of a company violating the trust of its customers that much, consider what the supplement industry has been getting away with for decades.

On the whole, we believe them. Supplements are a $30 billion industry in the US. Recent surveys suggest that 52 percent of Americans take at least one supplement—and 10 percent take four or more. But should we? Are we healthier, smarter, stronger, or in any way better off because of these daily doses?

The answer is likely no. Most supplements have little to no data to suggest that they’re effective, let alone safe. They’re often backed by tenuous studies in rodents and petri dishes or tiny batches of people. And the industry is rife with hype and wishful thinking—even the evidence for multivitamins isn’t solid. There are also outright deadly scams. What’s more, the industry operates with virtually no oversight.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/02/supplements-are-a-30-billion-racket-heres-what-experts-actually-recommend/

 

My personal viewpoint on vaping is quite regimented in comparison to my views on everything else. I know . . . “Okay boomer!”. More like “Okay Milliniel!”, but nonetheless. 

In terms of vaping as a form of relaxation (in the same way that others smoke, or drink alcohol), I won’t ever attempt to stand in your way. It’s not great, but such is the tax of many things that make life bearable.

And the same goes for those that vape THC. Having said that, however, given the many other options increasingly available on the legal edibles and drinkables market, the choice certainly perplexes me. One of my local dispensaries alone has infused cola, vanilla rooibos (red) tea, gummies and many other options that are much preferable to either smoking or vaping (just watch the dose!). However, to each their own.

In closing, the insider article is yet another example of why it is often pertinent to fact-check the media when it comes to controversial and fairly complex topics such as marijuana. Though the issue is not always willfully perpetuated mistruths, perpetuated misunderstandings can be just as damaging.

Things That Annoy Me – Part 22

104.) Drug Testing For Menial Shitty Unskilled Labour Jobs

Here you are, on a Saturday evening or a Tuesday morning, looking up job postings. You could be doing anything else, but lack of employment (or shitty employment) has you contemplating square 1 once more.

And there you see it. A new job that may well be up your alley and within your skillset. But for one single conflict based around an activity, you participated in outside of work hours in your own home.

Maybe it is not immediately obvious to you, in which case I will specify.

Mandatory Drug And Alcohol Test

With all due respect, boss and owner of this cleaning outfit . . .GET FUCKED!

Imagine employing a crew of unskilled people to do some of the most boring and monotonous work possible, and then thinking that you have the right to also control every minute of their life. Just because it is easier not to have employees do drugs at all than to worry about babysitting them on the job site, everyone must suffer and conform.
Even though I would technically not have any issue with applying for that position (contrary to recent interests, I would still pass that test!), I still would not on principle. Other businesses have already solved this problem by forbidding drug and alcohol use and intoxication during work time. If people fall afoul of this rule, take what actions are deemed necessary.

I am not entirely against drug tests for all positions. When people are in charge of operating dangerous and/or sensitive equipment (such as large factory machinery), the compromise is understandable (and the worker is likely well compensated for the compromise). Though this may also overlap with the previous category, jobs with a large amount of responsibility to passengers or bystanders (such as airline pilots, train captains and even bus drivers) should also qualify for such testing if their employer so desires.

People operating a vacuum cleaner, mop or a washrag, however?

Not so much.

Maybe this company was burned at some point by a misbehaving employee which could have cost them a cleaning contract. Maybe the owner just wants to avoid any issues right off the bat. No matter what the reasoning, I still consider it an unjust overreach into someone’s life just because they choose to join your cleaning company (out of a selection of others).
And considering that this isn’t the only janitorial outfit that I’ve seen advertise with this stipulation in their job post (particularly after marijuana was legalized here in Canada), it’s an unfortunate trend that is taking hold.

Hopefully not a trend that starts to take hold in other shitty job sectors (like retail, fast food and elsewhere in the service industry). Because if that were to happen, it may be time to start pushing for fairness in free time legislation. 

 

105.) Sanitation Theater / Covid Fatigue

Working in retail during this pandemic of Covid 19 has been quite the shit show of a year. It’s almost hilarious to think about it, really.

First was the great purge. That is the great purge of toilet paper and paper towels from every single store in the universe. Then the great purge of the grocery stores in general as everyone for some reason felt the need to buy 10 years’ worth of supplies all at the same time. Then came the washing and sanitizing of every square inch of the earth’s surface. And then, for the first time ever, most people suddenly realized the most obvious thing ever . . . if all the employees at the hospitals, grocery stores, liquor stores etc left their posts and torched the facilities as they went, they would be SCREWED. Society would become 2005 New Orleans in 2 days flat.

Though being highly regarded was nice at first, it would not take long before it was all back to normal once more. Except, not quite normal. Because customers were not their normal selves, they were all bitchy because there is still no tuna and hockey and shit is cancelled and they are bored out of their minds. Having all the creativity beaten out of them by our consumer culture, they now fester in boredom as all that is available to consume is quickly used up.

Don’t get me wrong, I do empathize with people that can not work because of this pandemic. Though working at a carnival or a theatre is likely not a great job, it’s still a job. And if the governing bodies in charge where you live don’t care about your well-being, this problem is exaggerated even more.

But having said that, having had a year to figure something out, I’m losing patients with people that still can not fathom life without gyms, restaurants and other amenities of normal times. If it’s not arguments about losing freedom and liberty, it’s virtue signalling worthwhile subjects for strictly selfish reasons.

Take one fellow I know who advocated the exemption of gyms from the closing measures since they have a place in maintaining mental health. We no longer talk since he took issue with my argument that was gyms were a privilege for those that can afford them, and thus (like restaurants) should NOT get such an exemption.

Then there was another follow who suddenly became aware of the rising suicide rate (not to mention the rates of drug addiction and other maladies) that have been associated with the lockdown. They care about mental health and the suicide rate NOW, when it’s shockingly high enough to be setting off alarm bells. However, their solution is having all the young and not all that adversely affected roam free, while the highly susceptible stay in their homes and isolate.

Brilliant solution. Aside from seemingly missing the obvious flaw in this, the suicide rate being what it is now is a direct implication of the mental health care system being in shambles even before Covid 19. I would love to think that people like this fellow would keep on being concerned about mental health once this disease becomes a distant memory. But I highly doubt it. They are already sentencing the immunocompromised to a stay-at-home prison sentence!

Adults, in general, are ridiculously oblivious and obtuse to all things Covid related. While many fingers used to be pointed at the young running around like idiots last year (sometimes rightfully. Like the spring break jackasses), it has been the adults that have been the most idiotic in my experience. From watching the news (Sturgis 2020, anyone?!), to watching customers and people locally, to every single adult in my inner circle.  
Despite being in the most high-risk age groups, I still see them running multiple times a day to coffee shops, inviting friends inside, sometimes even running back and forth out of town (even out of province!) without a second thought. Even when the laws forbid gathering in order to lesson transmission, they continue to act as though nothing is happening.

Since my province is now making headlines as far away as New York City on account of this behaviour crippling our healthcare system, I almost wish that governments would start writing fines in the thousands of dollars. Just as many children are punished by losing their allowance, do the same to the children running around in adult bodies. Stop fucking around threatening to add more restrictions and actually focus on compliance.

If an adult in my life ends up paying thousands because they didn’t follow the rules . . . so be it. No one is above the law.

Switching back to employment, another irritating aspect of COVID 19 has been (is!) the sanitation theatre that has taken hold since the spring of 2020. Though most stores in the grocery sector were happy to hire on (or schedule) extra help for cleaning during the early (and very profitable!) part of the pandemic, as the sales slowed, so to did this interest in cleaning and sanitation. The problem was it had already been mandated (or at the very least, recommended) by health authorities, so stores were now stuck with the task no matter what.

The result of this, at least in my experience, turned what was once a 15 to 20-minute endeavour (cart collection) into a 30 to 45-minute endeavour (depending on what help you had. Often times none. I’m not even going to get into that). Keeping handles clean and wiping high traffic areas also became an every 2 hour 30 to 45-minute task involving a rotating crew of people that didn’t have time to start with. So was the start of the managerial solution that is write it and forget it

Put a name on the board, and done.

Bulk food self-dispensers are now open again? Write a reminder on the board that all 20 or 30 of those handles have to be cleaned along with the other 40+ door handles and other areas, and done. Problem solved!

All of this, while the science of the spread of COVID has pretty much stated that it’s the droplets that matter. What you breathe in and out matters a lot more than what you touch on a shopping cart or a freezer door handle. Because most people don’t lick their hands immediately after handling a door handle, shopping cart or other publicly shared objects!

Yet despite all this concern about the surfaces, there is little concern about face coverings. Management isn’t worried about gators or other cloth masks that have been proven less effective than other types. They are not worried about masks JUST over the nose so that it’s hidden, but you can see that no seal exists on top. They don’t worry about masks looped around the ears so as to form a big ole pathway for droplets to enter and escape on BOTH sides of the mouth. Until recently, they didn’t even care about people using face shields in lieu of masks.

It makes me wonder if there would be so much dismissiveness of this virus if it had the same transmissibility, but shared the same symptoms as say . . .  Ebola Zaire.

106.) Idiotically Implemented Virtual Phone Systems

Maybe this entry shows that I’m getting old. Or, maybe some of these setups are completely asinine to the point of incomprehension. Translation . . . it’s old yeller time for the jackass who thought this was a brilliant idea.

I suppose I should give you the reason why I am so hot under the collar.

Back in 2017, I switched from one of Canada’s big 5 national banks over to a credit union. At the time, the transition was mainly one of convenience (I found myself around shared Credit Union ATMs far more than my big banks ATM’s). However, it was also partly based around the then well-reported fact that life working within many Canadian banking institutions could be hellish. Though I don’t think that my then bank has ever fraudulently signed me up for any accounts or cards, I was certainly upsold a lot of things.

One memorable engagement came when I was contacted by a financial advisor about some ways that I could adjust my services in order to streamline my costs a bit. I agree to it all and went on my way. Only to be contacted by the same financial adviser some months later upselling me on the very products that she had advised against last time. I don’t know if she knew what she was doing at the time (or if customers are just a pesky impediment to a monthly quota), but I certainly came away from that conversation very differently than I did from the first. And she didn’t make her quota with my help!

Needless to say, many people know the story. They can’t do enough for you until you say you are leaving, at which point they stop giving a damn. Such was the feeling on my departure. It felt nice to hand back my now-defunct debit card and say “Nah. Just shred it” when the person told me to keep it just in case I wanted to reopen my account.

My new bank has better customer relations and even more networked ATMs than your entire bank’s national network. So I’ll be just fine, thank you very much! 

So it has been for some 4 ish years. I rarely interact with banks in person anyway, but what has been missing are the cold calls upselling stuff. I don’t miss that.

As such, imagine my surprise when my newly minted Visa Debit card arrives in the mail today from ex big bank. Being attached to a savings account that no longer exists, I call the activation line thinking that the path to cancelling it was there. While I managed to activate it and get hung up on by that machine, I moved onto the big banks regular line.

There, I call in and end up talking to their newly implemented male-voiced virtual assistant. I press zero because all automated systems that are built to be customer friendly have this option to allow the elderly, the tech illiterate or the edge cases to proceed to a human without friction. Upon this not working, I am asked to speak an option, even though they always end in me needing an account number that I don’t have. I know . . .

Guess you should have kept that debit card, JACKASS!”

Trying to appease the man in the machine, I give it the virtual Visa card number. The tone of the reply was oddly akin to:

“That’s a credit card number, you silly goose! I need a debit card number!”

***

I don’t have a debit card! Representative!”

***

“I’m sorry. Please call back when you have your debit card number. Goodbye!”

*click*

***

“YOU MOTHERFUCKING PIECE OF MOTHERFUCKING SHIT!!”

 

Needless to say, I was starting to get JUST a little irked after that last engagement. As the poor soul in charge of monitoring the recordings for quality control and satisfaction may well discover lol. By the end, I was running out of patience with the headway I was making without using the word fucking in a query, so what was there left to lose?

No, I don’t normally swear at machines. But HOLY FUCKING MONKEY BALLS. . . even Canada’s first and second-largest cell carriers by size (translation: Evil Red and his slightly less evil sister Blue) have better automation systems. I have called both as not a customer for different reasons, and always been able to speak to a rep with little friction.

But it is now evening, and as such all the people behind the scenes at big bank are now gone home. And I still have not solved my problem. Though I could call and swear at the machine some more, I’ll leave it till tomorrow. If I have to go to a real branch and have them show me the way, so be it. 

An no, I won’t swear at them in real life. I’m not that much of an asshole 😉 .

Surprising Side Effects of Marijuana?

Today, I am going to be reviewing an article from Eat This, Not That! , a platform devoted to healthy living. The author of the article is Leah Groth, a freelance journalist and contributor to several well-respected wellness publications (including Prevention and Men’s Health, among many others).

Though I normally cover/review articles based on their hyperbole or malicious nature, this is not the case with this one. This work is meant to inform at its heart. I am just concerned by at least one of the points of concern that the author has raised.

Let us begin.

 

Marijuana, also referred to as weed, pot, dope, or cannabis, is the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. “It contains mind-altering (e.g., psychoactive) compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as well as other active compounds like cannabidiol, or CBD, that are not mind-altering,” explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marijuana is used for many reasons, some recreational and others medicinal. However, no matter what you are using it for, there can be side effects, explains Niket Sonpal, MD, NYC Internist and Gastroenterologist, Faculty Member Touro College of Medicine. Read on to learn about the surprising side effects of marijuana.

Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these 19 Ways You’re Ruining Your Body, Say Health Experts.

https://www.eatthis.com/surprising-side-effects-of-marijuana-say-experts/

 

1.)There May Be a Lowered Reaction Time

One potential short-term negative effect of marijuana is a lowered reaction time. “Slower reaction times may occur due to the THC, the main psychoactive in marijuana. It’s believed that the thalamo-cortico-striatal circuit network in the brain (portion related to the perception of time) contains many receptors that bind with THC,” explains Dr. Sonpal. “When this binding happens, your internal clock speeds us, thus leading you to feel as if everything has slowed down around you.” 

 

While I have never heard the medical explanation of this phenomenon before, this isn’t really anything new. It serves as a good reason why driving under the influence of cannabis isn’t a great idea, though.

 

2.) It May Promote Severe Anxiety

While marijuana has a calming effect on some people, others experience severe anxiety. “Someone may experience increased feelings of anxiety because high THC levels cause the brain to receive more cannabinoids than usual. This over-stimulates the amygdala, which causes some people to feel anxious,” says Dr. Sonpal.

 

While this also isn’t new information, I have to wonder how much of this is based on the combination of increased/increasing THC content and decreasing (or the complete lacking of) of CBD content in many modern strains of marijuana (sold both legally and illegally). 
I mention this partially because CBD has become a well-known (albeit, not well researched) aid in controlling anxiety, but also because the 2 compounds are thought to work in unison when it comes to delivering a fairly stable THC high.

Again, science has yet to catch up to the claims. Nonetheless, however, when THC and CBD are both present in cannabis or cannabis derivatives consumed, the CBD is thought to work as a sort of buffer to the at times chaotic sharper edges of THC intoxication.

This site puts it best:

 

Taken alone, both CBD and THC may have unique and isolated effects, but when taken together, research shows that the negative side-effects of THC is reduced greatly.

Clinic studies and research shows that the combined effects of taking CBD and THC together reduces pain and cancer related symptoms.

The overall understanding of medicinal cannabis, CBD and THC and their effects on the human body is in its infancy.

https://www.cannabisplace.com.au/learn/cbd-and-thc/

 

The format of the list format of the OP article may not be conducive to the intricate details of nuance such as those above. However, given the purpose of the article, the omission of these details seems somewhat deceptive (even if unintentional).

I am lenient when it comes to journalists quoting experts, however. It would not be the first time that I’ve come across quoted experts who are taken seriously solely on account of their resume containing the letters MD. Just as it would not be the first time I’ve come across a quoted expert who is quick to parrot negative effects of cannabis (such as anxiety), yet not understand anything beyond this symptom. BECAUSE this is not their area of expertise.

You can find one of my favourite examples of this HERE.

Journalists want sources with well-respected credentials. And there are many people out there that fit the bill, even if they may have just as much understanding of what they are claiming expertise to as the very journalist in which they are speaking. It’s annoying, but so long as people don’t know any better, it is what it is.

Is that what is happening here?

I don’t know. Like many media quirks and biases, it is not always possible to know the answer to this question for sure. However, it is something to keep in mind when reading articles (in this case, on the subject of marijuana) going forward.

 

3.) It May Negatively Impact Your Heart

Using marijuana not only makes the heart beat faster, but could also lead to increased risk of stroke and heart disease, says the CDC. However, they do point out that most of the scientific studies linking marijuana to heart attacks and strokes are based on reports from people who smoked it. “Smoked marijuana delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, but it also delivers harmful substances to users and those close by, including many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke, which are harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system.

 

Again, this is not really news. Though the bad for the heart aspect has been getting a fair amount of online media coverage recently, I am glad the author has made clear the limitations of that research.

Overall, i’de say that this falls into the realm of common sense. Smoking anything isn’t healthy. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options.

 

4.)It Might Result in Long-Term Brain Damage

Per the CDC, marijuana affects brain development. “When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce attention, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions,” they explain. “Marijuana’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent. This means that someone who uses marijuana may not do as well in school and may have trouble remembering things.”

 

This was the main point I wanted to touch on in this article. Something that I have come to see as borderline scaremongering after writing THIS a month ago.

The part of the linked article that is most pertinent is this:

How old are you? Why age matters

Still in the womb? The prenatal brain is very vulnerable to the presence of cannabis.

You’re an adolescent? The available evidence indicates that the adolescent brain is still vulnerable to exogenous cannabinoids. Essentially, cannabis alters the normal trajectory of brain maturation, although the consequences are less severe than those seen following prenatal exposure. The combined evidence from numerous human and animal studies suggests that exposure to cannabis during adolescence has the potential to produce subtle, but lasting, alterations in brain function and behavior. The severity differs according to the duration of use, age at first use, and underlying genetic vulnerabilities that are more likely to appear during adolescence, such as various psychopathologies.

If you’re beyond middle age, the use of whole plant medical cannabis does not have a negative impact on cognition in older patients. Why are the effects of cannabis age-dependent? The answer to this question remains unknown but there is one fascinating potential mechanism that involves what is happening to the stem cells in your brain. Stem cells undergo neurogenesis and give birth to new neurons every day. Neurogenesis is obviously critical for the developing brain from prenatal to adolescence. Neurogenesis begins to decline around middle age and is nearly absent by the time you are ready to retire.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-brain-food/202104/can-marijuana-cause-psychosis

 

And to quote myself (as sourced from the link in the previous paragraph):

First of all, the term psychopathologies seems to be psychologist speak for various mental illness traits. It sounds kind of like psychopathy, but it’s not. If memory serves, psychopathy generally starts showing up long before adolescence.

And just so I am clear to my readers:

Note: If you are under the age of majority where you live, leave the intoxicating experiences until you are legal age!

 

While I again do not advise that minors consume marijuana or any other drugs, I have to point out what most of these hyperbolic scare-mongering articles seem to miss. Contrary to the squeaky clean world that adults wish we and our children live in, there will be teens that use cannabis. Rather than pushing the hyperbolic talking points which essentially say Marijuana is bad, PERIOD! (which will only lead to problems when teenagers inevitably call your bluff and ignore this prudish nonsense), be realistic.

No, people under the age of 18 (or whatever the legal age is where you live) should not be using marijuana. But since that is as much wishful thinking as promoting an abstinence-only education curriculum, teach them some facts about what they are getting into, starting with reviewing the article I quoted above.

 

5.) It May Help You Sleep Better

A potential short-term positive effect? Marijuana may help you sleep better. “Marijuana acts as a sleep aid because the THC’s sedative effects lengthen the time spent in deep sleep and shorten the amount of time it takes to fall asleep,” explains Dr. Sonpal.

 

Knowing people that use cannabis partly for this benefit, I have to concur that this isn’t new. Though, like all sleep aids (including over-the-counter melatonin), one may want to be wary of continuous dosage for this purpose. There may be reliance or addiction factors to consider.

Another odd omission on the part of our quoted MD.

 

6.) Risk of Prescription Opioid Use

A potential long- term negative effect is increased risk of prescription opioid abuse, states Dr. Sonpal. “Research has suggested that individuals who use marijuana may be more likely to misuse opioids than nonusers,” he explains. 

 

This was another point that grabbed my attention since it struck me as being opposite to what one would expect. The fact that neither MD nor author has bothered to cite any source to back this claim is also bothersome.

But I may understand what the concern is. And for that, I have to again consult my entry from a month ago.

 

This is certainly new to me. I have in the past, come across research indicating that substances like alcohol and nicotine act (or CAN act) as sort of magnifiers of the effects of other drugs (one of them being THC). A better word to use may be primer (as opposed to magnifier).

In my previous (linked) post, it was indicated that THC may be linked to alcohol use disorder due to a  priming effect on the brain. It makes me wonder if the connection between marijuana, nicotine and schizophrenia may have similar origins.

“Can Marijuana Cause Psychosis?” – (Psychology Today)

Though that article was more focused on a possible association between marijuana use, tobacco use and the development of schizophrenia, the phenomenon we are concerned with is the so-called priming of the brain. This may be the factor that increases the risk of marijuana users abusing opioid medications.

 

Brain endocannabinoid and opioid signaling systemshave overlapping behavioral functions, playing keyroles in pain, memory, and reward ‘‘liking’’. In accordancewith this hypothesis, drugs likeD9-tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) and heroin that target these endogenous systemssuppress pain, interferewith memory, and have eu-phoric effects. Cannabinoid and opioid signalingalso enhance hedonic ‘‘liking’’ of food rewards, and fa-cilitate incentive motivational ‘‘wanting’’ that, whenexcessive, can lead to development of compulsive drugseeking in addiction. Given rising use and addiction toopioid and cannabinoid drugs, a better understandingof how these endogenous signaling systems interact inthe brain is of significant interest.The overlapping affective functions of opioids andcannabinoids in nucleus accumbens (NAc) may not beseparate, but instead involve synaptic interactions be-tween these signaling systems. For example, cannabinoidreceptor type 1 (CBR1) andlopioid receptors are fre-quently found in the same cells and afferent axons inNAc shell. Their co-use of Gi/o signaling pathways,as well as their ability to form heterodimers3alsopoint to these signaling systems interacting to modulatebehavior. Indeed, there is evidence that cannabinoidand opioid receptor systems interact functionally.For example, cannabinoidantagonists block opioidstimulation of accumbens dopamine release, heroinself-administration, reinstatement of heroin seeking, andfood intake.

Conversely, opioid antagonists block cannabinoid drug self-administration, the reinforcing ef-fects of THC, and THC-elicited food intake. In ad-dition, cannabinoid and opioid drugs demonstratecross-sensitization and tolerance, and THC can prime heroin seeking in a self-administration model.

Click to access Mitchell-et-al-CannCannRes-2018.pdf

 

Well, that is handy-dandy. But the paper itself is a nightmare. However, the relevant information can be found near the end of the quoted text.

I am assuming this was the relationship eluded to by the OP author (or more accurately, her quoted MD). A citation would certainly have been great.

 

7.) It May Help Treat Chronic Pain

Dr. Sonpal also reveals that s potential long-term positive effect of marijuana is that it can treat chronic pain. “THC in marijuana reduces pain perception and pain signaling by interacting with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, thus relieving pain,” he says. And to get through life at your healthiest, Don’t Take This Supplement, Which Can Raise Your Cancer Risk.

 

And again, there is nothing really new being added here. Though this reply is surprisingly well explained (compared to the last one).

Thus ends this article, and exploration. Though I had a few critiques, it is good for a piece tailored for everyday people who are ignorant of the ins and outs of marijuana. While it contains a couple tropes common in media reporting on the subject, such tropes tend to be more common than not, and (most importantly) are generally not the fault of the journalist. They are just writing what they are being told.