History Poetry Forgotten History Lost in History

You probably don’t know about Hettie Jones, a crusading Beat poet

You’ve heard of a Jack Kerouac, but have you ever heard of a Hettie Jones?

The Beat Literary Movement of the 1950s is coined for its explicit subject matter and bohemian lifestyle. Americans in the 1950’s lived in largely suburban towns and felt threatened by things like communism. Men went to work in suits and women stayed home to cook, clean, and tend to the children.

The rebel, beatnik, group of authors that made up the Beat Generation were iconoclastic. Much of their work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. They experimented with form and structure while writing about sex, drugs, and religion. Traditional literary houses rejected them and looked down on them as a group as being defiant, untalented, and unprofessional. 

I think that their being unconventional was the whole point, though.

They were the antithesis of mainstream American life.

They wanted to publish anything that was deemed inappropriate by society. These people were tired of the routine, and frankly, felt beaten down by the conservative lifestyle that they were stuck in. They were highly controversial in that they were the antithesis of mainstream American life and writing. Many of their works of poetry and prose focused on shifts of consciousness and escaping “squareness.” The stereotype around the Beats is that they were not in favor of what they considered to be straight jobs. Instead, they lived together, packed into small and dirty apartments, sold drugs, had sex with each other, and committed crimes. They are also known for exploring homosexuality, which was a highly taboo topic in 1950’s America.

Though they set many precedents together, the Beats still succumbed to the blatant sexism of the time. Most, if not all, of the women involved in the Beat literary movement were overshadowed by their male counterparts for no particular reason other than gender. These women were just as intelligent and qualified to question society as the beatnik men who have become well-known poets and activists.

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One of the most iconic, and downplayed, female poets of that time who deserves righted acknowledgment is Hettie Jones. 

Hettie Jones published 23 books- and yet, we forgot her

Hettie Jones is most known for her marriage to the famous Beat Poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Few people know that Hettie helped run Totem Press, one of the more important beat publishers, along with her husband. She went on to publish about 23 books, one being a memoir of her time spent with Amiri and the rest of the Beats titled, How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). She has also written for many prestigious journals, lectured writing across America, and began the literary magazine “Yugen.”

Hettie is one of my favorite poets, so I think that her writing deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement, right there with the boys who got so much praise for their work. 

Hettie’s writing is rooted in practical idealism. She left her family home in Long Island to go to college and to fully discover herself. When she graduated in 1955, she never turned back, and moved to New York City. She met Amiri while working at The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was a young, black poet with just as much intelligence and intensity as Hettie. They quickly fell in love and moved in together. They would go to poetry readings at cafes and bohemian bars, where they met many of the other Beat poets.

Hettie deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement.

When the pair founded their own magazine, they published the writings of many of the iconic beat players who could not find a home for their writing in the traditional sphere. Hettie was in charge of editing the works that were to be published in the magazine. It was here that she honed her craft and found power in the refined writing that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

By 1960, Hettie and Amiri had two children, were married, and lived in New York City. Being a biracial family, though, countless bigoted remarks were directed towards them regardless of the Beat scene. Hettie was on the receiving end of most of these cold stares and was able to see the world through the eyes of her husband and children. This affected her incredibly and eventually became a recurring theme in her writing.  

When Amiri became tightly involved with the Black Power movement, he was criticized for having a white wife. They divorced in 1968. Hettie thrived on her own though and made a living with her children while teaching and editing. Her separation from her husband also gave Hettie an outlet to speak up and finally publish works of her own. She has been quoted to say, “Without a him in the house, there was more space/time for her, and I tried to redefine the way a woman might use it.” 

To this day, Hettie’s writing is compassionate. She writes about her own experiences in a compelling manner while weaving in the issues that she cares about. Currently, Hettie lives in New York City, and is a writer and lecturer. In addition, she runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women where she recently published a volume of writing by incarcerated women.

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The World

What we forget when we glamorize narcotics traffickers

Like most people who watched Narcos, from the minute I heard Rodrigo Amarante’s “Tuyo” introducing the cast of the first season I was instantly hooked. I was finally getting a deep dive into Pablo Escobar’s rise and fall in the narcotics industry and gaining an understanding of the nature of this man. I was also getting to learn about the role the DEA played in trying to stop him.

Escobar captivated the world for all the wrong reasons. Twenty-six years later, the world is still deeply invested in the myth that surrounds him.

And yet, even knowing what we all know about Pablo Escobar’s dealings, about the violence he unleashed on civilians, there is still a sense of awe and bewilderment concerning just how expansive his narcotics empire was at the time. At its strongest, it was bringing in four billion dollars a year. For all intents and purposes, it was a Fortune 500 company that worked outside a legal framework.

For much of the show, it’s Escobar’s emotions and actions that are explained. DEA agents Pena and Murphy’s battle with bureaucracy and inaction are of less importance.  Of course, this isn’t the only piece of pop culture that invites us to identify with Escobar. The infamous drug trafficker has been immortalized on many a rapper’s song. There is an entire oral history of Pablo references in hip hop.  There are also shirts you can find online with Escobar’s smiling face in that well-known mugshot on them. How can we forget about the famous ‘fun fact’ of Escobar once setting a million dollars on fire to keep his daughter warm? 

El Chapo’s image is going the route of Escobar.  The ways in which he gets narcotics across the border are mysterious, terrifying and impressive. His ability to thwart the authority of the Mexican government are of singular interest. Escaping and eluding capture at least three times with a maze of tunnels, back channels, and reinforced safe houses have been instrumental in upping his profile. Not just as a successful drug trafficker, but as a fugitive.

All of these things have not just gotten the attention of current events, but of pop culture at large. Much in the same way Escobar’s actions did. Part of the reason why El Chapo as a character was featured in Narcos Mexico is because of this. The public at large followed his trial after his final capture with rapt attention. Often glomming onto the gruesome murders and the tearful testimony of his mistress at the time.  The combination of his escapes, his trial, and his family melodrama took over social media feeds and newspaper front pages for weeks. However, the capture and subsequent release of El Chapo’s son, has brought a new type of publicity. Ovidio Guzman like his father before him freed himself from the constraints of capture.

Mexican troops raided a house in Culiacan in an attempt to carry out extradition to the US. Chaos erupted with weapons being taken from guards at the local prison and members of the cartel creating diversions. Intersections were impeded, toll booths were occupied and a gunfight ensued. The eruption of violence is a stark reminder that people like El Chapo and Escobar are not folk heroes or Robin Hood figures. Nor are they mythical badasses that are sung about in songs or rapped about boastfully. 

They may very well be complex, complicated individuals that we get to see portrayed on screen in shows like Narcos. In the end though, none of this matters. Because so were the victims of their brutality, forever silenced by these men’s actions. For every ‘fun’ or ‘interesting’ fact about Escobar, we must remember that he ordered the murders of the Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara and the presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.   

El Chapo’s escapes and the gossip-worthy family unit can often obscure his large scale disruption of his country. It is important that we don’t forget that his cartel is responsible for the entire state of Sinaloa being under constant threat of violence. The Ovidio Guzman debacle is a chance for us to reimagine perspectives.  By engaging in an art that bears their depiction we walk a fine line between glorifying them and seeing them for what they are. Narco terrorists.

It’s easy to be seduced by the handsome leading actors that embody these men and expert storytelling. But the effects of men like El Chapo and Escobar’s actions are not a story, they are real.  For a long time as consumers of pop culture, we often prize the point of view of the traffickers. But it’s the victims of such violence who deserve to be heard. Not the traffickers, not the DEA, but the people who are forced to live in a war zone. Maybe the events concerning Ovidio Guzman can remind us of that.

Policy Inequality

We need to take a more compassionate approach to the opioid crisis

The national opioid crisis has been a conversation piece for so long, that the staggering losses due to overdoses rarely makes frontpage news anymore. It’s become an exhausted talking point, where politicians say something has to be done, but rarely have any new ideas on how to approach the issue.

It’s about time that the classic approach to locking up addicts and dealers is turned on its head. Several small police departments think it’s time to try a compassionate approach.

The Massachusetts town of Gloucester made the first attempt at changing the way that police departments treat those suffering from opioid addiction. The city is located on the small island of Cape Ann, about 35 miles northeast of Boston. It’s a town where police often live on the same block as the people they’re serving.

In June 2015, they changed the culture of policing the opioid crisis.

When a person suffering from addiction walks into the Gloucester Police Department, the officers bring that person to the hospital where they are paired with a volunteer “Angel.” That Angel will work with the person to find them a space in one of 12 partner rehabilitation centers to get them into treatment. Research says that in the first year, 400 people were treated by the ANGEL Program.

The program started with a simple promise. “If you have drugs or drug paraphernalia on you,” the department assured. “We will dispose of it for you. You will not be arrested. You will not be charged with a crime. You will not be jailed. All you have to do is come to the police station and ask for help. We are here to do just that.”

Over 100 other departments have instituted ANGEL programs of their own, using the resources in their communities to help those suffering from addiction recover, and move on from this deadly disease.

Some communities may not have the full range of resources as these communities. Huntington, West Virginia is following a model built in Cincinnati, called the Quick Response Team (QRT.)

The QRT combines the efforts of police, EMS, and mental health providers to provide care to patients in the 72 hours after an overdose. The aim is to familiarize the patient with resources that can help guide them to an intervention.

The change in culture was something Huntington desperately needed. In August 2017, the Appalachian city saw over 28 overdoses in a 4 hour period. After that tragedy, the true problem with treating those addicted to opioids became clear – not one of those people received any follow-up care.

In the QRT’s first week, the team sought to reach out to 28 people who’d been treated by emergency services. They were able to connect four people with rehabilitation services to put them on a path for recovery.

The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 115 Americans die every day from opioid overdose. Traditional methods of policing and treatment have not been successful.

It’s essential that we change the method of attacking the opioid crisis to move away from crime and punishment and towards a method that treats the problem in a human way. The success of the ANGEL and QRT programs comes from seeing the subjects of the opioid crisis as victims or patients, instead of criminals.

There is quantitative evidence that shows that compassionate care works. It is the solution that politicians are asking for.

Now, we have to have the compassion to see addicts as patients and not just criminals.

Science Now + Beyond

New hepatitis C medications offer low-cost alternative for treatment

Imagine this: You get sick with an illness that threatens your ability to function, and maybe even threatens your life, but you’re not able to afford the medication that you need to get well again. Unfortunately, this situation is a reality for millions of people.  I know how difficult it was for my grandparents to be able to afford all the medication that they needed, and it broke my heart to see them worry about it.

Medications can often be extremely expensive, costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, even with support from insurance companies. The costs associated with purchasing medication can often push people into making the tough decision of refusing medications in order to not worsen their financial situation. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, millions of Americans are unable to afford all of the medication that they need, with roughly 8% of Americans choosing not to take their prescribed medication due to cost factors.

Naturally, the issue of not being able to afford medications is also a global issue, although research is limited to how many overall are struggling to afford proper medication.

One of the diseases whose medication oftentimes come with a hefty price is Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can often be asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) but can eventually lead to serious liver damage and cause serious weight loss and fatigue issues. A hepatitis C infection can also be deadly; roughly 400,000 people die each year from their infections. Unfortunately, although roughly 71 million people worldwide have hepatitis C, only three million people are receiving treatments for it. In fact, more people are infected with hepatitis C each year than will begin their treatment for the condition.

Naturally, the high costs of the most effective hepatitis C medications can be considered a reason as to why hepatitis C cases remain so widely untreated.

According to CNBC, in 2017, six of the most expensive 10 medications on the market were for the treatment of hepatitis C, and hepatitis C drugs were the top three most expensive medications overall. The most expensive hep C drug on the market was more than $80,000 dollars at the time the article in CNBC was published. Even with assistance from insurance companies, those medications are still too costly for a lot of people to afford, meaning that they have to forgo needed treatments.

That’s why a nonprofit is seeking to get a new hep C drug combination on the market that will be significantly cheaper than the drugs being offered by pharmaceutical companies. The nonprofit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) and an Egyptian pharmaceutical company, Pharco Pharmaceuticals, are working together on developing the treatment, which will include a combination of a the drug ravidasvir, made by Pharco, and a generic version of another hepatitis C drug named Sovaldi, which was developed by Gilead Pharmaceuticals. So far, the drugs have been priced at $300 for a 12-week supply.

Although the drug combination still requires more testing before it’ll become widely available, early trials have indicated that the drugs are overwhelmingly successful in treating hep C. In the early trials, 96% to 97% of the patients were cured after the 12-weeks, including those with more advanced staged illnesses and serious liver damage. The effectiveness of the DNDI’s medication combo is comparable to the effectiveness of the other, more expensive, medications on the market, meaning that DNDI’s treatment will work just as well for thousands less than the traditional hep C treatments.

A cheaper treatment option could help millions of people get help for their hep C infections. For example, the $300 cost for the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative’s medications represent almost a 100% decrease in price for hep C treatment in Malaysia, which makes the medications much more affordable for those in need. The DNDI’s treatment once approved, will have the potential to benefit so many people who otherwise would have to forgo treating their hepatitis C, and should be celebrated.

The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

DYSTOPIAN MIX: Drowning in Dystopia

Dystopian novels have been trending as a genre lately with the political disasters that people are watching right here in the United States.

Dystopias typically depict the dangers of government entities threatening the authentic freedom of the public, and/or sci-fi disasters that threaten existence. The fun thing about dystopian works is that they may be far-fetched, but their tales are still conceivable, possible, and their dark elements do indeed manifest in our world.

Dystopias can even be worlds where things seem fine, but under the surface, they are not. There is an element of darkness that lurks in the theme. Similarly, the following music is a collection of lovely, but also uncomfortably dark selections. Some pieces sound bright but are actually sad, and the others sound melancholy simply because they are.

Tune into (or use the music to tune out) the sound of the world falling apart.

1. My Life in Rewind by Eagulls

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Filter Magazine

Dark and lovely reverberations make your life in rewind eerily bearable. This song is such a well-made recording of the sound of melancholy that you wonder why its so beautiful. “A thousand regrets” sound fine in retrospect if they sound like this.

2. True Faith by New Order

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Don’t you dare tap your foot to the intro or enjoy the music. The “morning sun” isn’t the happy bright thing you want to believe it is. The song is great to listen to as long as you don’t think about the reality of drug abuse and addiction problems in our world. As great as New Order’s music is (as it is beautiful and unique), the very founding of the band is actually sad to recall. Other sordid associations with the song might make you a little nauseas when it plays, but if you love the song for what it is, you will be fine.

3. Fascination Street by The Cure

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I’m warning you ahead of time that Robert Smith’s singing style is not something most of us are used to, especially in darker songs. The song even sounds like it was put together by accident at first. However, its the instrumentals in Fascination Street (as is the value of all the songs off the Disintegration album) which put it on this list.

Sad piano notes struggle past an aggressive guitar, bringing the hope of softer notes. We know the music won’t get softer though- the piano becomes a part of the sound of misery. It is dark, and maybe scary for some, yet it can grow on you.

Whatever “Fascination Street” is, Robby doesn’t sound happy about it.

If you need to recover, switch to the classic “Friday I’m in Love” and try your best not to sing along.

4. There is a Light that Never Goes Out by The Smiths

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Sweet, sad, gone. What else should we make of Morrissey’s descriptions of the road accidents he imagines dying in? We love them. “To die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.” The sound of the song is a short walk under the sun, even as the brightness dissolves. “Driving in your car, I never never want to go home- because I haven’t got one.” Morrissey himself describes the light that never goes out as hope. “It’s a fallacy, of course, but it’s a form of religion. You have to believe. There is a light that never goes out and it’s called hope.”

5. Mad World by Tears for Fears

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The Quietus

The song is legendary, and a cover by Gary Jules is prominent for being featured in Donnie DarkoTears for Fears’ version has doses of that uppity 80s sound, but it doesn’t dare overshadow the sadder music. Though it sounds sorrowful, its kind of a nice reminder that life is pointless. What else could better describe the darkest implications of our favorite dystopian work?

Many old school songs carry an element of cheeriness with dark lyrics and meanings, but these are the best I can give you. In the meantime, don’t worry too much about humankind shooting itself in the foot everyday. Just be happy that you’re here to see this world and appreciate some wonderful eery art.

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Science Now + Beyond

Reusing drugs might not be such a bad idea, after all

At its heart, science is collaborative, and discoveries made in one field may have surprisingly positive effects on another. This is probably most obvious in the world of pharmaceuticals, where the repurposing of drugs occurs quite often. Most of these discoveries have been the result of happy accidents, which tends to be par for the course when it comes to science.

Researchers at King’s College London have recently discovered that a drug previously used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease could also assist in the regeneration of rotten teeth. At the moment, rotten teeth are either pulled or filled, because the body does not naturally replenish dentine, the mineral that protects your teeth.

Fillings can be finicky and painful, and may also need refilling during the course of a lifetime. These researchers have found a way to stimulate stem cells in teeth order to generate new dentine. This means a possible end to seeing that needle full of localized anesthetic enter your mouth, or the sound of a drill whirring in your ears.

Have a sweet tooth? This is one scientific advancement you might want to keep an eye on.

One of the molecules used by the team was Tideglusib, which has been used in a number of other clinical trials to treat neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease. The team is hoping to start clinical trials on humans within the year, pending positive results when tested in rats. After this, it might take anywhere from 3-5 years for the treatment to become available commercially. This doesn’t mean you should stop brushing your teeth or looking after your oral hygiene straight away. But if you’re prone to getting holes in your teeth (or maybe you just like candy?) keep your eyes peeled!

Viagra, or Sildenafil, is probably one of the most well known drugs around. It was initially designed in an attempt to treat symptoms of heart disease, such as hypertension and angina. However, during clinical trials, it was found to have a positive effect on treating erectile dysfunction in males, which it was then marketed for. It has also been the subject of a winning Ig Nobel Prize submission, where researchers from Argentina showed that Sildenafil had the ability to help hamsters combat the effects of jet lag. Interestingly, researchers are investigating whether other drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction may be able to help treat pulmonary hypertension.

Propecia, otherwise known as Finasteride, was originally devised as a treatment for prostate enlargement. It is still used to treat prostate enlargement in the form of Proscar, which contains 5mg of Finasteride. However, it was also found to have the ability to treat male-pattern baldness. Propecia, the resulting drug, contains just 1mg of Finasteride. Other interesting findings include the fact that it may be used to mask steroid use.

As a result, athletes are banned from taking it in any form.

Science Now + Beyond

ASK A SCIENTIST: What are superbugs?

You may have heard the term “superbugs” in some media headlines. You’ve also probably been prescribed an antibiotic by a doctor before. Have you ever wondered why you haven’t been prescribed one for a cold?

Don’t be fooled: “superbugs” aren’t some kind of superhero insects. They’re the villainous faces behind a global health crisis causing 700,000 deaths per year. What are “superbugs”, and why sould we be worried about them?

The difference between bacteria and viruses

Bacteria are unicellular organisms that cause many of the diseases animals (including humans) can get through infection. The type of infection depends on how they enter our bodies. To name a few: Staphylococcus aureus bacteria often enter through skin and cause skin infections, Streptococcus pneumoniae can enter through our airways and cause pneumonia, Escherichia coli can enter through our urethras and cause UTIs, and Chlamydia trachomatis can enter through our reproductive tracts to cause an STI. Some of these bacteria have multiple sources of entry, causing various other diseases.

Viruses, meanwhile, are infectious agents that exist somewhere in the grey area between living and non-living. They don’t meet our current definition of “life”: they cannot replicate outside of a host cell. They have very different properties from the ones that make up the cells of bacteria. Rhinovirus is the most prevalent virus genus responsible for the common cold, while influenza virus causes flu, and norovirus causes food poisoning.

How do antibiotics work?

There are many classes of antibiotics, and their distinctions are based on where in the bacterial cell they are attacking or how they are attacking. One drug most familiar to us — penicillin — works by inhibiting an enzyme in bacteria that helps create the bacterial cell wall. This stops the bacteria from being formed. Another antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, kills an infection by interfering with bacterial DNA replication and transcription. The drug erythromycin does this through a third mechanism: by inhibiting bacterial protein synthesis.

Because viruses do not have those properties being targeted by antibiotics, those drugs will not effectively kill them. Some viruses have antiviral drugs that work against them, like acyclovir for herpes simplex virus, but others have no treatment whatsoever, like the common cold.

So, what are “superbugs”?

Just like us humans, bacteria undergo genetic mutations, which make each one of them a little bit unique within their species. Perhaps a mutation causes a bacterium in the bunch to produce an extra, powerful enzyme.

Now, let’s say this population of bacteria lives in a human’s body and is being treated with an antibiotic for five days. Each day the person takes the drug, they kill more and more bacteria, until (hopefully) it’s gone. But if any were left, what qualities might they have?

Remember “survival of the fittest”? The weaker bacteria are killed first, while the strongest survive. The survivors could be those organisms with the extra, powerful enzyme. These bacteria go on to replicate and pass their drug-resistant genetic material on to generations of billions of microorganisms, and the new norm for the population’s traits changes. Voilà, natural selection in action.

This really happened! Penicillin was the earliest antibiotic discovered by modern medicine. Decades after it was put into practice, scientists started to find an enzyme called penicillinase in the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. This enzyme deactivated the drug penicillin. So, drug researchers developed clavulanic acid to specifically target that bacterial enzyme. It was added to penicillin-like drugs to be able to fight these stronger bacteria, and we still use Augmentin (amoxicillin + clavulanic acid) for ear infections.

An antibiotic can also kill off good bacteria which serve important purposes in our bodies. This promotes an environment ripe for resistant bacterial infections to reproduce unhindered.

Developing Drug-Resistant Infections

Penicillinase hasn’t been modern medicine’s only obstacle. Over the years, our response has been to develop new antibiotics that work in novel ways. But bacteria continue to find more ways to trick us. MRSA (Methcillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a common, fatal threat in hospitals. The CDC recently reported that there was a fourfold increase last year in resistance towards one of the drugs used to treat gonorrhea. And multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumanii, already being treated with one of the strongest antibiotics on the market, has growing resistance to this last-resort drug.

Drug development is a grueling process that can’t keep up with superbug evolution. Soon, there may not be any big guns left.

What can be done about “superbugs”?

To tackle to the problem, we must correctly identify the causes.

Healthcare workers can help fight the problem of resistance by properly educating patients on antibiotic use, only prescribing antibiotics when needed, and prescribing the least powerful antibiotic effective for a treatment or immediately downgrading to a lower spectrum antibiotic when cultures come back. They should also practice proper hand hygiene, especially in hospitals where resistant bacteria spread rampantly.

All of us can help tackle resistance by only using antibiotics prescribed by our doctor, finishing the full prescription even when symptoms are gone, and not stockpiling or sharing antibiotics. For the virus-caused common cold, drink lots of fluids and seek symptom relief through over-the-counter drugs only. Prevention of infection in the first place is ideal, which means practicing hand hygiene as well as using barrier protection for STIs. Factory farms pump antibiotics into animals whether they’re sick or not, and when the livestock develop drug resistant infections they get passed down to us through unhygienic food handling. So, we should wash meat and produce, and try to buy organic when possible. And finally, stay informed: You can read the CDC’s report about the current biggest global infectious threats here.

Our individual antibiotic use doesn’t exist in a vacuum. But our collective action can help turn global health around for the better.

Science Now + Beyond

Science reveals that LSD and MDMA might not be as bad as you think

Many of us American millennials were raised in the post-Reagan D.A.R.E. generation of “Just Say No” and  “This is Your Brain on Drugs.” But within the past decade, the national discourse on recreational drugs has been changing. Harper’s Magazine recently published an article in which a Nixon aide revealed that their administration created the War on Drugs as a political tool to vilify black people and the antiwar left. If this was the case, how can we know what we were taught as children was true, and that the dangers of illegal drugs were based on scientific evidence?

Truth is, most were never given a chance. According to U.S. law, schedule I controlled substances are drugs classified as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”.  This puts marijuana, “magic mushrooms”, LSD, and MDMA in the same category as heroin — and in a stricter category than cocaine.

Conclusive, large-scale clinical trials had not been conducted prior to these four drugs’ scheduling — and since their scheduling, daunting regulatory hurdles halted research on psychedelics for decades. However, in this new age of challenging preconceptions about drugs, scientists are starting to explore new frontiers in research.

1. Marijuana

Public opinion on marijuana has come a long way within the 21st century alone. What was once attributed disparagingly to niche communities of hippies and burnouts is expanding its target audience, and business people, politicians, and doctors are now coming out in support of medical marijuana.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, it has been prescribed for chemotherapy-induced nausea, appetite stimulation in patients with debilitating chronic illnesses, muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, nerve pain, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, and more. However, since marijuana is not approved by the FDA, many of these uses have not been formally tested on a national level.

Some progress has begun: this past April, the DEA approved the first-ever national drug trial for marijuana for PTSD. And just this past month, The Salk Institute published research showing that compounds in marijuana may help promote the removal of amyloid-beta, a toxic protein present in Alzheimer’s disease, allowing nerve cells to survive.

2. Psilocybin mushrooms

Psychedelic therapy is an even fresher frontier. Psychedelics — by definition, “mind-manifesting” — are a group of drugs (LSD, MDMA, mushrooms, and others) that induce states of mind different from ordinary consciousness. It is believed that they may be used to explore the psyche on a transcendental level — which is why psychedelic plants, including mushrooms, have documented historical use in the religions of cultures globally.

Potential for use in modern therapy is evident from understanding the brain with mental illness: in depression and OCD, for example, an area of the brain involved in perception of self and sense integration is thought to be overactive, leading to rumination. With psilocybin mushrooms, the part of the brain associated with emotional thinking instead becomes more active and self-consciousness areas less active.

These hypotheses have lead to some successful preliminary research. A clinical trial in the Lancet Psychiatry journal has shown mushroom’s effects on lifting treatment-resistant depression, but larger, randomized control trials have yet to come. A Johns Hopkins trial has demonstrated psilocybin‘s efficacy in helping smokers quit. Studies conducted on patients through NYU and JHU showed improvement in end-of-life anxiety in terminal cancer patients who took psilocybin mushrooms.  According to some patients’ first-hand accounts, it broke down their fears of death by reducing their self-conscious attachments and increasing their empathy towards others.

3. LSD

Though LSD is human-made, it too has a history of therapeutic use. In middle of the 20th century, before the FDA ban, psychotherapists started using LSD to break down boundaries and get their patients to open up. Bill Wilson, the founder of AA, deemed LSD beneficial for alcoholics in treating their addiction by helping a recovering addict reach their “moment of clarity.”

Now, just like with psilocybin, LSD has had some success helping those suffering from severe depression due to terminal illnesses. Positive trends have been observed in trials in the reduction of anxiety during LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions.


MDMA is sometimes called an “empathogen” for its promotion of empathy, emotional openness, and connectivity with others. In fact, it was used in couples therapy until it became a schedule I drug in 1985. It is now being re-explored for use in therapy sessions with professionals, wherein a therapist or psychiatrist gives a small amount of MDMA to a patient and then has the patient discuss topics relevant to their life. MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, predicts that with current research underway MDMA-assisted therapy could be legal by 2021.

MDMA has also been studied for use in treating end of life anxiety in patients with terminal cancer,  in PTSD, and in social anxiety in autistic adults.

Many of these drugs sound scary to us on first mention because of what we’ve learned in school. But these perceptions need changing, because truth is — for marijuana, LSD, mushrooms, and MDMA, a lot of it is fear of the unknown. Scientific exploration is all about inquiry into the unknown, and for now, we are seeing potential for good use of these drugs in the healthcare world.

Movies Pop Culture

10 movies that will absolutely make you question whether you’re real

So you’re in one of those moods again. It’s okay, we’ve all been there: questioning every established law of science, thinking you’re in a dream where everyone is part of a grand scheme, realizing that every rule you’ve believed your whole life could be completely false. Yeah, it’s okay. I mean it, we really have all been there.

[bctt tweet=”Do you ever question every law of established science?” username=”wearethetempest”]

And hey, I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. I mean, there’s a whole world around us telling us about laws of science and what they would like to call “reality.” But that could all be lies, and the real reality is out there for us to discover (or at the very least hypothesize). So if you want your mind  blown, and I mean really blown, check these out:

[bctt tweet=”It COULD all be lies…” username=”wearethetempest”]

1. The Matrix

Hey, sorry guys, I had to start with a classic! Watch our favorites, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Laurence Fishburne, blow all your expectations of reality out the window. Have you ever asked yourself, “Is this real?” (I know you have.) Well, in a few words, The Matrix is basically that question on steroids. So you choose: red or blue?

2. Inception

What if it was all dream? Well, in Inception you’ll find out.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt work with Ellen Page and other great cast members to protect the intellectual property of high-profile clients through dreams. But what happens when they have unwanted visitors which forces them to go further, entering into a dream within a dream? The plot only thickens from there.

3. Enter the Void

How to describe Enter the Void in one word? Trippy. And I mean that literally, as much of this film is spent on trips from multiple hallucinogenic drugs. But this movie even takes drugs to a whole new level, as they don’t only become mind-altering, but reality-altering for main character Oscar (Nathaniel Brown). Prepare to enter into two hours of the most psychedelic movie you’ll ever see.

4. The Butterfly Effect

Ashton Kutcher has a strange power—going back in time as his younger self. So when the love of his life dies, he has the chance to go back and save her. However, there’s always a catch, as one small change in the past greatly affects the future. Watch Kutcher confuse time repeatedly and see time travel in its most realistic form.

5. Donnie Darko

What if you kept seeing a frightening bunny rabbit named Frank? What if it also told you the world was going to end in less than a month? Well, that’s how this movie starts, for real. This is more than just a psychological thriller (although it is one), as discovering what’s real and what’s not is a game of life or death.

6. Waking Life

If you’re looking for something really really really out there, this is your movie. Existentialism, morality, metaphysics, politics, consciousness, free will, the meaning of life, reality—nothing’s off the table. In strange, psychedelic animation, the main character moves through life where the real and unreal, conscious and unconscious are indecipherable, meeting various characters with different philosophical conversations.

7. Pi

Before Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, Darren Aronofsky directed Pi, a black-and-white surrealist psychological thriller. It follows Max, an obsessive number theorist, has social anxiety, cluster headaches, paranoia, and cluster headaches. Through his confusing and scattered narration, we join him on his search to understand the world entirely through numbers. When you’re feeling like the world could all just be a string of numbers, Pi is the movie for you.

8. Melancholia

At the beginning, Melancholia is probably the movie you’d least expect to challenge your perspective and effectively blow your mind. Kirsten Dunst gets married, and she has the perfect wedding with the perfect husband. But her family is really less than ideal, as we find out during the reception. We also discover there’s a planet called Melancholia that is going to collide with Earth at any moment. Yeah, a few other things happen too.

9. Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich is great when you’re in that really specific mood of feeling like people are inside your head controlling you. But don’t worry, that only happens to John Malkovich when John Cusack and Cameron Diaz go through a hidden tunnel in Cusack’s office. But there’s some weird stuff going on here, that will definitely make you question what’s going on.

10. Twelve Monkeys

In 2035,  Bruce Willis is one of the lucky 1 percent of humans that has survived a horrific epidemic in 1997. However, the epidemic was man-made, produced through a mysterious organization called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. He is set on a task to go back in time and save the human race, but accidentally lands in 1990 and subsequently a mental institution. Willis, committed to saving humanity, travels through time and through unexpected corners of life and his mind to find the answers he’s looking for.


Race The World Inequality

5 reasons why Recovery Road needs to return to Freeform

Freeform’s Recovery Road was recently cancelled after one season, and I’m so upset.

Recovery Road tells the story of mixed-race teenager Maddie Graham as she enters a sober house to overcome her drug addiction. On Freeform’s website, Maddie is described as a “whip-smart” student who’s “thrust into a completely alien world” as she tries to navigate the all-too familiar teenage struggles of school and romance. Although initially in denial about her addiction, she eventually learns to get along with the various people around her and comes to terms with being an addict. It’s a transformation that’s human and sincere.

Despite how new it was, RR was exciting, compelling, and very well-received by the general audience. Not to mention – Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes gave it some pretty solid scores. But then, on May 13th, Executive Producer Holly Sorensen announced on Twitter that the show had been cancelled.


It was well-received by critics, so why cancel it? Didn’t it fit the usual mold of Freeform’s typical teenage drama tropes of backstabbing, dark/trendy suspense, and conventional plot twists? 

To amount of mixed race and interracial representation on the show was the main thing that impressed me, personally. If Freeform doesn’t allow the show a second chance to emphasize the struggle of addiction, relapse, and improving identity development, at least have the show continue for the sake of mixed race visibility. I wanted more than the ten episodes I got online.

Here are five reasons why Recovery Road needs to return to Freeform for mixed race visibility. And don’t worry, I will try my absolute best not to spoil anything, for those who intend to watch it on Freeform’s website. 

1. It will continue to shine a light on how mixed race girls may get into drug addiction.

In the first episode, the viewer sees how Maddie didn’t expose herself to alcohol and other drugs until after her father died in a car accident (caused by a drunk driver.) Her father had white descent, and her mother has African American descent. In a later episode, she explains to her new friend Wes (played by Sebastian de Souza) that she viewed herself as an alien growing up. To experience that kind of social struggle, and then lose a part of her identity by losing her father, can be very straining for a mixed race person. Additionally, it was interesting to analyze that coupled with the struggle of addiction. Addiction does not affect a certain “type” of person – it’s race-blind. 

2. It could open up an opportunity for multiracial visibility. 

Maddie’s mother, Charlotte Graham (played by Sharon Leal), could be implied to be monoracial, placing Maddie’s racial identity in a binary. However, Sharon Leal is African American and Asian American, and Jessica Sula is Afro-Latina, Asian, and white. When I first heard of the show and saw the diversity among the cast, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to shed light on biracial parents and their multiracial children.

I can’t help but think that this was a formula created by the show’s creators on purpose, but simply fell by the wayside due to the mere ten-episode arc they were given. If this show were to be given a second chance, I’d root for an expansion of a multiracial storyline all the way.

3. It shows the humanity behind single-mother parenthood. 

Seeing Charlotte trying harder and harder, and getting better and better, at reconciling her relationship with her daughter always made my heart happy. After Maddie’s father died and Maddie became more involved in drugs, her relationship with her mother wasn’t as open. According to her mother in the first episode, Maddie was closer to her father, and he was usually able to pick up on anything that was wrong with her. Maddie’s stay in the sober house contributed to her willingness to become more open with her mother about the difficulties of being away from friends and withdrawal. Therefore, even though a part of her may be lost, there is part of Maddie who is still with her: Charlotte. Viewers should be allowed to see that relationship continue to evolve through different obstacles the show could have offered if allowed a second season.

4. It displays the family dynamic of various interracial families.

Besides Maddie being a member of an interracial family, her fellow resident in the sober house Margarita, played by Paula Jai Parker, is a Jamaican woman who runs a restaurant with her white husband, and their biracial son works for them. Before entering the sober house, Maddie’s roommate Trish, played by Kyla Pratt, is a black woman in a relationship with a white man, and it’s implied that they have a child together (this isn’t a spoiler, you have to watch it to see what I mean). Moreover, there was no single point in the show where Maddie or Margarita’s son is exoticized or prodded upon by other characters for their multiraciality. To the creators and writers of Recovery Road, I say thank you, for that. The show’s cancellation means a huge missed opportunity for interracial visibility.

5. It shows the stigma of mental health and addiction for mixed race women and other women of color.

The viewer can see other women of color – the character Trish especially – struggling to cope with their mental health and staying sober. However, to see a mixed race woman of color trying to cope may be new for most viewers. Maddie has a lot of difficulty trying to hide from her friends that she’s been living in a sober house. Referring back to Maddie’s “alien” comment about herself can help the viewer see how mixed race women may struggle with personal issues such as these as much as monoracial women of color, if not more. Seeing Maddie struggle harder and harder with keeping secrets to herself was intriguing to see, especially as someone who has been to therapy and has attempted to keep secrets from others for a long time. This show had so much potential to expand on this!

So again, um…what? Why Freeform? Why?

If this is truly the last we’ll ever see of Recovery Road, I do hope that new projects can emerge with similar topics such as this show. But, if the channel is willing to bring back the show despite the announcement of cancellation, hopefully these five reasons would be taken into consideration in order to expand on mixed race visibility on the show.

Love Life Stories

My Muslim dad has no clue how I spend my weekends

I really do try to avoid going out on Saturday nights. Six hours of pretending to be a practicing Muslim is hard enough when I’m not hungover.

But, as is to be expected, this is not normally the case. All too many times, I’ve had to shimmy into my headscarf and abaya while picking strange things out of my hair and applying copious amounts of under eye concealer – all in the hopes of keeping my secret.

And after five years, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. My poor dad doesn’t suspect a thing.

The secret was a lot easier to keep once my mom was in on it. Every Sunday morning as I got ready to spend the day with him, she’d let me borrow her hijab pins and remind me to flip my septum ring up into my nose. Then I’d walk downstairs, slip into the passenger seat of his car, and put on an Oscar-worthy performance for the next six hours. I would always nod sweetly when he asked me if I said my prayers that morning and held my tongue when he scoffed in disgust at what he believed was disgusting American culture.

My mom would joke that God must be on my side: five years, and not once did I run into my father in public, not once did he try and look me up on Facebook, not once did we run into someone we knew. I started getting cocky and less careful, sure that after all this time nothing could blow my cover.

That was, until one day, as I sat next beside him in his car and rifled through my bag, about to spend the weekend with him for the first time in years, that I noticed a bright orange pill bottle completely stuffed with pot from the night before.

It took a second for the smell to hit me. I zipped up my bag with a noticeably frantic fervor. “Hey Baba,” I loudly interrupted as he droned on with the argument. “Smells like a skunk must have gotten run over!”

He absentmindedly claimed he couldn’t smell anything. I leaned my head on the back of the seat, my bag at my feet, and sniffed the air as subtly as I could. Nothing. Was the smell really hidden, I immediately panicked, or was I just used to it? I leaned over a bit – still nothing. Brought my bag to my lap – sure enough, there it was.

I cranked the window down, hoping to air out what I could. “Close your window,” my dad barked from next to me. “The heat is on!” I wanted to melt into my seat as I very slowly rolled it back up.

While I restlessly shuffled around in my seat, he launched back into one of his seemingly endless political rants. His worldviews are shaped from his exclusive reading of tabloid magazines and self-help books. As he vehemently argued with no one that Facebook is solely responsible for the rise of alcoholism in young teens, I continued performing various contortions to try and detect where the smell was strongest.

It was a fruitless endeavor. Desperate, I then closed my eyes and prayed silently. Surely God was watching me squirm and was dragging this scene on as punishment. It didn’t need to smell this strongly, this trip didn’t need to be quite so long. I bargained. I promised I’d never indulge in any more illicit activities if He could just let me get through this one unharmed.

With a sigh of relief, I lightly tossed my bag back on the floor, smoothed out my abaya, and allowed myself to relax. Forty-five minutes later, when we were almost at his house, he sniffed the air again.

“Huh, weird,” he said. “Now I smell that skunk. I usually love the smell of skunk, but not when it’s this strong.”