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Psilocybin Mushrooms Are Changing the Way You Die

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

For thousands of years, people have used psychedelics to pursue life-altering experiences. With relatively low risk, these drugs have provided great insight to many. They also have, in smaller doses, helped to improve concentration and mental ability. Recently, LSD microdosing even became the subject of an anonymous public study. Now, information is out about the healing effects of psilocybin mushrooms on depression and anxiety on the terminally ill.

Also known as magic mushrooms, the drug can produce vivid hallucinations in heavy doses, but the overdose and injury risk are both particularly low. As a result, Denver is actually considering decriminalizing the drug, but they are not alone in showing support; a recent study points to a very interesting medical use for psilocybin mushrooms.

Psilocybin Mushrooms and Terminal Cancer

In December of 2016, the Journal of Psychopharmacology published a groundbreaking study on the effects of psilocybin mushrooms on terminal cancer patients. It’s fairly common knowledge that those facing a terminal illness have higher rates of depression and anxiety; of course, people with terminal cancer are prone to these effects. But evidence shows that the drug may have a major effect on their condition.

In the study, researchers looked at 51 cancer patients, each of whom had symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. A month after getting baseline measurements of depression and anxiety, half of the group received 3 micrograms of psilocybin (less than a microdose, a placebo). The other half consumed 30 micrograms, which is a medically significant quantity.

Five weeks later, the two groups reversed, getting the opposite dose. The researchers also monitored depression and anxiety levels after the first and second trial, as well as six months later. They then published their results from after the first and second session and at the follow-up.

The Results

Psilocybin mushroom trial results

Astonishingly, the drug had a clinically significant effect on the patients. The researchers defined this as depression and/or anxiety decreasing 50% or more from the baseline. For those that received the high dose first, the results were immediate. After the first session, 92% of subjects with depression and 76% of those with anxiety saw a clinical response. For 60% and 52%, respectively, the symptoms were in full remission.

On the other hand, those with the placebo dose did not see these changes. Clinical response rates were 32% and 24%, while remission rates were a paltry 16% and 12%. But once they received their dose the second time, the numbers shot up.

After session 2, the group that then received the high dose (the low-dose group from session 1) saw similar results to the high-dose group from session 1. Their clinical response rates for depression and anxiety were 75% and 83%, while remission rates spiked to 58% and 42%. At the six-month follow-up, the figures only changed marginally.

What Can We Conclude?

All in all, this study strongly suggests that psilocybin mushrooms may be very helpful in treating depression and anxiety in cancer patients. After all, just one dose sent over half of all participants into remission. Of course, the drug is not helpful in treating the diseases themselves. However, it can still change the way that people die, altering their perception of life for the better.

At this time, the biggest obstacle to treatment will almost certainly be governments across the world. In most countries, it is a crime to consume psilocybin mushrooms or other hallucinogenic drugs. Very few allow the practice and those that do have many nuances in the law. For example, psilocybin is illegal in Brazil, but the sale and consumption of mushrooms containing them are not. The United States, along with most countries, has a blanket ban on the substance.

With increasing evidence for medical capability, it is entirely possible that the world will soon see a push to legalize mushrooms. This could play out quite like the drive to legalize marijuana. As stated previously, Denver is already considering the measure. The FDA is also beginning to approve trials for their use. However, there likely will be pushback, particularly from more conservative lawmakers hesitant even to take action on marijuana. The future of psilocybin as a medical treatment is quite unknown, but one thing is clear: the drug has the potential to make a major impact on the world.


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The Red Scarves Rise in Response to the Yellow Vests

Ivan Misiura | United States

A new player has emerged on the field of Paris and threatens the legitimacy of the so-called “Yellow Vests” group. The roughly 10,000 protestors dub themselves the “Red Scarves”, taking a page out of the book of the Vests’ branding strategies. They are rising up in opposition to the Yellow Vests’ movement. However, they share a lot of ideas, and the Red Scarves instead are opposing the methodology.

Who Are the Red Scarves?

The Red Scarves are comprised primarily of the same demographics as the Yellow Vests; many of them are part of a discontented middle-class citizenry, but also have a commitment to non-violence. The Local France reports that the group is shouting various slogans and chants. These include words such as “yes to democracy, no to revolution”, “stop the violence”, and surprisingly, “merci la police” (thank you police).

European correspondent John Litchfield tweeted on the demonstrations: “A crowd of militant moderates is quite a thing. They are singing the Marseillaise as Gilets Jaunes do. But mood is chatty and humorous rather than angry and aggressive”.

Goals of the Movement

An interview of one of the protesters seems to sum up the general milieu of the new movement. “[The Yellow Vests] have every reason to grumble, but this verbal and physical violence must stop”.  This protest took place in Paris on Sunday, January 27th and according to the New York Times “remained peaceful to the end”.  Interested in a general sense of well-being, the Red Scarves made the statement to The Local France: “There are other places to discuss this than the street. You cannot block the country and economy because you consider the president to be illegitimate.”

They hope that these demonstrations do not convey that they are anti-Yellow Vest principles, but rather that people are hearing the Vests’ demands. The number of protesters that Sunday was double that of the figure the Yellow Vests brought to their demonstration a day prior. One cannot ignore that the Red Scarves are certainly a voice of the people and indeed are the people.


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Baltimore to Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession Cases

Indri Schaelicke | @ISchaelicke

Marilyn Mosby, State of Maryland Attorney for Baltimore, announced on Tuesday that she would stop prosecuting cases of marijuana possession. She told NBC News, “For far too long, we have sat back and watched idly as communities and families are literally destroyed by the failed policies of the war on drugs”. She also argued that marijuana laws disproportionally affect blacks, saying that they receive “the majority of citations”. This is an argument that proponents of marijuana legalization push consistently. Without a doubt, it looks like the Democratic prosecutor believes it.

Mosby said prosecuting marijuana possession is “costly and counterproductive to the limited resources we have in the city of Baltimore”. The attorney who oversaw the infamous Freddie Gray investigation stated, “If you ask a mother who lost her son where she would like you to use those resources, she will tell you, ‘l want you to use those resources to find my son’s killer,’ as opposed to jailing and incarcerating people for possession of marijuana.”

New Marijuana Laws in Baltimore

Within the limits of Baltimore, the government will not prosecute those possessing marijuana, no matter the weight or criminal history. Mosby also announced several other changes to Baltimore city marijuana policy. For example, the city will only prosecute cases of distribution of marijuana if police can present evidence of intent to distribute beyond possession. Even in these cases, however, there will be some legal change. All people receiving charges for the first time with felony possession with intent to distribute or with felony distribution will be referred to diversion programs. As part of these major reforms, Mosby is looking to vacate nearly 5,000 cases of possession of marijuana, dating back to 2011.

Mosby’s announcement comes as 10 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana. Moreover, a growing number of prosecutors nationwide have announced they will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases. Overall, the nation is beginning to reconsider its stance on marijuana use. Several other states could also legalize marijuana soon, including traditionally red states Kentucky and West Virginia.


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Germany Is Phasing Out Coal, Moving to Renewable Energy

Othman Mekhloufi | United States

A government-appointed German ‘Coal Commission’ released a recommendation to the German government on the morning of January 26th. The goals of said recommendation are to curb carbon emissions, turn to renewable energy, and take steps towards the deceleration of climate change.

The Report

The 28-member commission represents various German mining regions and utility companies. After 21 hours of negotiations, they reached a decision to fully phase out coal over a 19 year period (by 2038). This move will, in turn, shut down all 84 of Germany’s coal plants. Germany has also moved to fully shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022. This decision is part of another report by the commission that was legislated in 2011.  As of now, Germany shut down 12 of the 19 nuclear power plants in the nation.

The progress will be regularly reviewed by the commission in 2023, 2026, and also 2029. The goal is to find out if phasing out coal is possibly by 2035. Nonetheless, 2038 will remain the legally defined date to fully phase out coal pending German government drafting legislation based on the report.

The commission’s report is not legally binding as it still requires the action of the federal government. The report holds a set of guidelines and suggestions for the federal government to legislate accordingly in hopes of curbing climate change and CO2 emissions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will likely approve the commissions’ proposal.

Coal in Germany

Coal plants in Germany currently account for 40% of electricity and power production. Renewable energy surpassed coal as the leading source in 2018. It now accounts for 41% of energy use. By fully phasing out coal and nuclear power, Germany aims to rely on renewable energy. Ideally, renewable energy will provide 60%-85% of Germany’s power.

Germany is currently #8 in global coal consumption, although the nation only accounts for 2% of such emissions.

The Impact

There are roughly 60,000 jobs with ties to the coal industry. Consequently, phasing out coal would put those jobs in jeopardy. There will likely be negative economic repercussions which will fall upon the companies and workers, as well as the families of workers. However, the commission allocated for $45 billion in aid to ease the economic hardships caused by their decision to end the industry. The aid includes an adjustment fund, as well as pension compensation for all employees aged 58 years or older. Younger workers out of a job will also receive aid in the form of education and training for jobs in renewable energy sources.

As we move towards the future, coal is being phased out on a global scale. Climate change is progressing. Therefore, many believe the shift towards renewable energy sources is a must.


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Reports: Instagram Down Across the Globe

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

As of Monday at 7:40 PM, EST, many individuals worldwide are reporting that Instagram is down. When users try to use the site, they are able to access previously loaded posts. This, however, is because of the fact that these posts are downloaded on the users’ devices. Users report being unable to refresh their content or view any new posts.

With Instagram down across North America and the world, it is unclear when the outage will correct itself. The company has yet to make an official statement on the matter. As of 7:30 PM, an outage website had reported more than 5,000 outages. That number will only steadily increase until the company resolves the issue.

This is not the first time in recent history that major social media networks have faced outages. Just last November, YouTube’s servers were unexpectedly down for an extended period of time. Thus, both Google and Facebook have dealt with major shutdown issues in a short span.

Instagram Down: Updates

7:55 PM, EST: No reports of change. Down Detector reports that the outages are most frequent in the Northeastern and Southwestern United States. However, these are also two major population centers. Thus, it is possible that these areas have simply reported the outage, whereas other locations have not done so with great frequency yet. Some smaller pockets of outage reports include Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Wales, and Central Europe.

8:02 PM, EST: #instagramdown and #instagramoutage are garnering thousands of posts on Twitter. The site has still not released an update. It is unclear whether we will see Instagram down for an extended period of time.

8:18 PM, EST: Some reports are beginning to clear up. Particularly, users have had success viewing direct messages. However, other users still report outages, particularly in the United States.

8:28 PM, EST: Reports state that Instagram is now properly functioning. The shutdown lasted for about an hour.


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