The healing power of ayahuasca

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Michael Costuros is an "executive coach" in California's Marin County (birthplace of the hot tub) who every year takes a group of entrepreneurs to South America on a trip within a trip. Each spends $10,000 to hopefully leverage "the healing power of ayahuasca," Costuros says. From Chris Colin's feature in California Sunday:

Chris Hunter, co-founder of the company behind the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko, signed on in hopes that it would help him navigate some sticky professional relationships. Jesse Krieger, publisher of Lifestyle Entre­preneurs Press, wished for insight into growth strategies. Other participants included the founder of a financial technology company, the scion of a footwear empire, and a firearms executive looking for a pivot. Under the guidance of Costuros and a local shaman, they would participate in a San Pedro ceremony — San Pedro is another powerful plant-based psychedelic — followed by two separate ayahuasca ceremonies....

The participants — all men this year — spent their first day traveling to the retreat center, getting situated, and enjoying massages. At 8 a.m. the next day, they assembled in a small, open-air structure. Following an initial cleansing ceremony, they drank their first batch of medicine (fermented wheatgrass and dirt is how Krieger described the taste) and lay down on thin mats under a thatched roof. There they’d remain for ten hours.

The first 60 minutes of the ayahuasca ceremony felt like two weeks for (AirHelp CEO Henrik) Zillmer. Uncontrollable vomiting and feverish shivering aside, he was unable to move and watched helplessly as his mind departed his body and descended into a vast black hole.

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Movie tickets are at an all-time high

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The average price of a US movie ticket hit $8.72 during 2016's second quarter, the highest they've ever been -- in possibly related news, ticket sales were down 9.5% in the same period. Read the rest

Surprise: Copyright trolls rip off the rightsholders they supposedly "represent"

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The copyright troll business-model: a sleazy lawyer gets copyright holders to one or more films (often, but not always, porn) to deputize them to police those rights; then the lawyer's company uses sloppy investigative techniques to accuse internet users of violating those copyrights; they use deceptive notices to get ISPs to give them contact details for those users (or to get the ISPs to pass notices on to the users); then they send "speculative invoices" to their victims, demanding money not to sue -- usually a sum that's calculated to be less than it would cost to ask a lawyer whether it's worth paying. Read the rest

It's official: the Olympics result in the worst budget overruns of any megaproject

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In "The Oxford Olympics Study 2016: Cost and Cost Overrun at the Games," three researchers from the University of Oxford's Said Business School examine the cost estimates and actual costs of every Olympic games since 1960, and finds that they are the most likely of all megaprojects to exceed their estimates, and also exceed those estimates by the largest amount of any megaproject. Read the rest

Vivendi lobbyist appointed to run copyright for UN agency

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Francis Gurry, the fair-use hating, web-hating, North Korea embargo-breaking, witch-hunting, blackmailing head of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has a new pick to run copyright at the UN agency: Sylvie Forbin, a lobbyist for for French entertainment giant Vivendi. Read the rest

Amazon is full of Chinese counterfeits and they're driving out legit goods

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When Amazon decided to allow Chinese sellers to direct-list their products on the service (rather than going through domestic importers), it was seen as a defensive move against Alibaba, their deep-pocketed Chinese rival and vendor of everything from legit gadgets to crime supplies. Read the rest

Negative Swiss 50-year bond yields just shattered the global insecurity barometer

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National treasury bonds are the safe option in times of global turmoil, and the more uncertain things are, the more people buy them, and the higher their prices go. Read the rest

Wordy, incendiary Trump tees

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Stallion Mancakes is kickstarting these wordy Donald Trump tees, reading, "I VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS STUPID RACIST SEXIST FRAUDULENT OPPORTUNISTIC DIMWITTED EAR-GRATING EGOTISTICAL SOLIPSISTIC PANDERING SHYSTERING CHEAP-O MONEY-GRUBBING SCAPEGOATING HATEMONGERING ISOLATIONIST FASCIST POW-BASHING DRAFT-DODGING UNHINGED VACUOUS BILIOUS HYPERBOLIC DELUSIONAL MANIPULATIVE UNDIGNIFIED MERITLESS HOT-TEMPERED DANGEROUS SLEAZY SLIPPERY SILVER-TONGUED SILVER-SPOONED INSECURE VAMPING THUMB-SUCKING BODY-SHAMING SMALL-MINDED SHORT-FINGERED SHORT-SIGHTED UNDERBAKED OVERHYPED ARTLESS SHALLOW HOLLOW CRASS UNJUST TWO-FACED IRRESPONSIBLE UNETHICAL MANIACAL HYPOCRITICAL CERTIFIABLE LOUSY...T-SHIRT." Read the rest

NYC's sloppy records gave $59.2M in tax breaks to dead people

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New York's elderly people qualify for the Senior Citizen Homeowners' Exemption and the Enhanced School Tax Relief Exemption, but the city's Finance Department is supposed to solicit confirmations of eligibility every two years to make sure that the people receiving the tax-breaks are still alive -- a duty the department failed to perform for a solid decade, costing the city nearly $60M in lost revenue. Read the rest

Tenant farmers: how "smart" agricultural equipment siphons off farmers' crop and soil data

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The agricultural sector is increasingly a data-driven business, where the "internet of farming" holds out the promise of highly optimized plowing, fertilizing, sowing, pest-management and harvesting -- a development that is supercharging the worst practices of the ag-business monopolies that have been squeezing farmers for most of a century. Read the rest

Claude Shannon, MOOCs, and nanoassembly: what 3D printing is really about

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Neal Gershenfeld, founder of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, has been talking about making digital things physical and physical things digital longer than almost anyone, and his books -- notably FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop -- are visionary and inspirational ways to think about how information technology has changed our species' relationship with the universe; while the Fab Labs he helped invent represent the best and most thoughtful way that a makerspace can be built to suit local community needs. Read the rest

Rebate for IoT thermostat requires that you give permission to your utility to read "all data"

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Aaron writes, "While filling out this seemingly great rebate for $100 for a recently purchased wifi-enabled thermostat, I happened to read the Terms and Conditions, which includes the fact that I must unwittingly agree to share all my thermostat data with my electric and gas companies (It was odd that they asked for my thermostat's MAC address). Because I have an ecobee3, this includes information on how often I'm in my bedroom, or when I'm home or out!" Read the rest

White House contends with AI's big social challenges, July 7/NYC

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Meredith from Simply Secure writes, "Artificial Intelligence is already with us, and the White House and New York University’s Information Law Institute are hosting a major public symposium to face what the social and economic impacts might be. AI Now, happening July 7th in New York City, will address the real world impacts of AI systems in the next next 5-10 years." Read the rest

Ubisoft's gamer survey first asks if you're female, and terminates if you say "yes" -- UPDATED

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The first question in this Ubisoft customer survey is "What is your gender" with "Male" and "Female" as permitted responses; if you choose "Female," you're dumped into a screen that informs you that "your profile doesn't suit the survey." Read the rest

Customer support is deliberately unbearable (unless you complain in public)

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Companies that lock you in with long-term contracts (mobile phones) or have a monopoly over your business (cable) carefully calculate exactly how terrible their customer service can be before you incur the pain of trying to get out of your contract or find an alternative. Read the rest

Peak indifference: privacy as a public health issue

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My latest Locus column, "Peak Indifference", draws a comparison between the history of the "debate" about the harms of smoking (a debate manufactured by disinformation merchants with a stake in the controversy) and the current debate about the harms of surveillance and data-collection, whose proponents say "privacy is dead," while meaning, "I would be richer if your privacy were dead." Read the rest

Low income US households get $0.08/month in Fed housing subsidy; 0.1%ers get $1,236

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America is in the grips of one of the worst housing crises in its history, with 1 in 3 households spending more than 30% of their income on mortgage or rent payments; the US government has two kinds of housing subsidy, one for poor renters and the other intended for middle-income mortgage payers, but guess who gets most of the money? Read the rest

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