Thursday, August 17th, 2023


Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me

Drugs such as Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro started out as tools for patients to control high blood sugar numbers. That alone was pretty revolutionary and a major medical breakthrough. But then people on those drugs realized they weren't as hungry and didn't have the same food cravings anymore. Then the weight started coming off. And then, as you might imagine, the drugs went mainstream and are now in heavy demand. But here's the weird (and maybe a little disturbing) part. Doctors, researchers, and even the drug manufacturers are at a loss for how the drugs work. "While other drugs discovered in recent decades for diseases like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's were found through a logical process that led to clear targets for drug designers, the path that led to the obesity drugs was not like that. In fact, much about the drugs remains shrouded in mystery. Researchers discovered by accident that exposing the brain to a natural hormone at levels never seen in nature elicited weight loss. They really don't know why." Here's the skinny from Gina Kolata in the NYT (Gift Article): We Know Where New Weight Loss Drugs Came From, but Not Why They Work.


Oxy Moronic

The damage done by Oxycontin and the Sacklers is (rightfully) one of the most covered stories in America (articles, books, documentaries, movies, series). But there is another side of the story that gets less coverage: The patients who were actually being helped by these drugs and who now find themselves in dire circumstances. "They are among the countless people with chronic pain who have been the unintended victims of the national crackdown on opioid prescribing. In response to the deadly opioid crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines intended to limit opioid prescriptions. That advice soon became enshrined in state laws across the country. Suddenly, many pain patients lost the drugs that made their lives bearable. Some sought relief in suicide." An NYT (free) video: The Opioid Crisis is a Tragedy. But Our Response Caused a Second One.


Oh Captagon, My Captagon

"The amphetamine-type pill captagon is primarily produced and trafficked by individuals and groups tied to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his ally the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, according to the US State Department and Treasury, the UK's Foreign Office as well as independent researchers. Already popular in parts of the Middle East with everyone from teenagers to low-income construction workers, the narcotic is easy to make. Called 'the poor man's cocaine,' it's reported to trigger bursts of energy and productivity, wakefulness, euphoria as well as delusions and a sense of invincibility. The drug has also been associated with militants in Iraq and Syria." Bloomberg (Gift Article): ‘Poor Man's Cocaine' Costing $3 a Pill Threatens to Proliferate.


To Everything (Re)turn, Turn, Turn

"I did spend a pleasant morning studying items that other people were bidding on, among them a two-pallet lot containing six hundred and fifty-four pounds of sports-related Amazon returns. The lot included seven pellet guns, six clear-plastic umbrellas, an assortment of punching bags and punching balls, a double-bladed lightsabre toy, a shatter-resistant over-the-door mini basketball hoop, eight yoga mats, a minnow trap, an indoor exercise trampoline, a pair of hiking poles, a kickboxing shield, a car refrigerator, two hoverboards (one with Bluetooth and one without), a jump-rope rack, a quiver's worth of crossbow bolts, a fourteen-gallon red plastic gas can with a siphon pump, a set of four badminton racquets, and a mountain-bike handlebar." David Owen in The New Yorker: What Happens to All the Stuff We Return? (Even though it couldn't be much easier, I'm too lazy to return items. Pretty much everything listed in the blurb above can be found in a pile in my garage.)


Extra, Extra

Menace to Society: "A Texas woman was arrested and has been charged with threatening to kill the federal judge overseeing the criminal case against former President Donald Trump in Washington and a member of Congress." (Trump has been charged with everything except inciting violence; a crime he keeps committing.) Meanwhile, purported names, photos and addresses of Fulton County grand jurors circulate on far-right internet. (These people are in danger because of the rantings and threats of a former president, one still supported by his party. Covering this stuff is repetitive, but until it changes, it bears repeating.)

+ Blind Spots: In the past few days, I've seen countless think-pieces on the broader meaning of Michael Oher's suit against the family that took him in. But here's the thing: none of the people writing those think-pieces can possibly ascertain the broader meaning of the situation since they haven't had a chance to find out what's true and what isn't. And this is not an isolated trend. WaPo talked with the guy who wrote the book that led to the movie. Author Michael Lewis says only Hollywood cashed in on ‘Blind Side' success. "Michael Oher should join the writers strike. It's outrageous how Hollywood accounting works, but the money is not in the Tuohys' pockets ... What I feel really sad about is I watched the whole thing up close ... They showered him with resources and love. That he's suspicious of them is breathtaking. The state of mind one has to be in to do that — I feel sad for him." Lewis was a childhood friend of Sean Tuohy before writing the book. So don't write your think-piece on this update either.

+ Making a Siren Call: "A sole official in Maui is tasked with deciding when to pull warning sirens that sound out on Hawaii's second largest island during emergencies. In the case of blazing wildfires that leveled the historic town of Lahaina and left over 100 dead last week, that official chose not to sound the alarms — a decision he is now defending." (And his reasoning makes sense.)

+ Times Change: Israel clinches largest-ever defense deal with Germany for $3.5 billion after securing US approval. (And I still don't buy German cars.) Geopolitics are weird, man.

+ Paper and Fire: The warrant allowing the raid on the Marion County Record has been withdrawn due to 'insufficient evidence.' (Something tells me this story isn't over.)

+ Battery Pact: "In 2019, just two battery factories were operating in the United States with another two under construction. Today there are about 30 battery factories either planned, under construction or operational in the country." We spend so much time on the crime and the lies and the hate and the strategy, we often miss the actual policy stories. Let's check in on one. Tracking the EV battery factory construction boom across North America.

+ Soda Jerks: "It uncovered eight WHO panelists involved with assessing safe levels of aspartame consumption who are beverage industry consultants who currently or previously worked with the alleged Coke front group." WHO aspartame safety panel linked to alleged Coca-Cola front group. (We'll never get the whole truth on sugar and sugar-substitutes. Just drink water ... until we find out that is bad for you.)


Bottom of the News

"In the streaming era, as video consumption shifts from movie theaters toward content shrunk down for televisions, tablets and smartphones, making dialogue crisp and clear has become the entertainment world's toughest technology challenge. About 50 percent of Americans — and the majority of young people — watch videos with subtitles on most of the time." Can't Hear the Dialogue in Your Streaming Show? You're Not Alone.

+ "The book cover quoted a line from the Times saying the book was 'a philosophy of the meaning of life.' But it didn't mention that the review described that philosophy as 'bonkers.'" On Jordan Peterson's book cover quotes.

+ During a camping trip when we were kids, my friend Mordy and I awoke to see two otters playfully frolicking on a river's edge. It was a splendid moment, one for which we knew humanity would ultimately pay. And that time, it seems, has come. Two river otter attacks reported in Northern California. (Sadly, whatever river cred me and Mordy had is long gone.)