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The Download: a cannabis disorder conflict, and ever-hotter heatwaves

July 20, 2022

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

The weed influencer and the scientist feuding over why some stoners incessantly puke

Alice Moon couldn’t stop throwing up. 

She had made a name for herself as an online cannabis influencer, but after a weed-infused dinner in a Malibu home in 2018, she spent more than two weeks constantly puking—unable to keep down food or water, going back and forth to urgent care for IVs, and at one point growing so weak she passed out in her yard. She was finally ready to accept it was the marijuana that had made her sick. 

Moon, now 33, has become a prominent figure in the online community of patients who have a rare disorder called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS. And she has spent the last few years in a bitter online battle with 70-year-old neurologist and psychopharmacologist Ethan Russo over his attempts to research CHS.

The influencer and the scientist have little in common—Moon never graduated from high school, and Russo doesn’t quite understand how to use Instagram—but still, their conflict has spun out with unusual vehemence. 

There have been accusations of scamming and sabotage, social media trash-talking, and an incident in which hundreds of people backed out of a scientific study. It is not an exaggeration to say their inability to get along may have forever warped the public conversation around CHS, just as the disorder is becoming increasingly common in emergency rooms across the globe. Read the full story.

—Amanda Chicago Lewis

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Recent heat waves are just a taste of what’s to come
The head of the UN’s weather organization warned that they’ll only become hotter and longer from here. (Bloomberg $)
About a quarter of the US is expected to experience dangerous levels of heat today. (NYT $)
The UK heatwave broke bits of the internet yesterday. (The Register)
 
2 Synchron says it’s beaten Neuralink to human trials in the US 
It’s testing its brain-computer interface in patients who have been severely paralyzed. (Insider)
Neuralink is neuroscience theater. (MIT Technology Review)
 
3 Google is testing augmented reality glasses (again) 👓
For tasks like translation, transcription, visual search, and navigation. (CNET)
 
4 Twitter and Elon Musk will go to trial in October
This is the outcome Musk was trying to avoid, although it’s hard to see any of this as a “win” for Twitter. (BBC
 
5 Ride-hailing giant Didi has been fined $1 billion by China’s regulators
Over lax security practices. (WSJ $)
 
6 Senators voted for a computer chips bill
Even though they don’t know what’s in it yet. (NBC)
The global computer chip shortage shows no sign of easing. (CNBC)
 
7 Amazon is redesigning Prime Video 
About time, frankly. It’s a mess of an experience. (The Verge)
+ Netflix is losing subscribers as people cut back on streaming services. (BBC)
 
8 Fans are mourning a Minecraft star they never met
The gamer built a following of millions of young players on YouTube, without ever revealing his identity. (NYT $)
 
9 BMW wants to charge for heated seats. Hackers have other ideas.
And they’ll unlock software-enabled features for a much lower price. (Vice)
 
10 Many Gen Z-ers look for info on TikTok or Instagram instead of Google
Many prefer visual platforms over good ol’ Search. (NBC)

Quote of the day

“I wasn't expecting to see this in my career.”

—Stephen Belcher, science and technology chief at the UK’s national weather service, reacts to the country breaching 40°C (104°F) for the first time yesterday. 

The big story

This is the real story of the Afghan biometric databases abandoned to the Taliban

August 2021

When the Taliban swept through Afghanistan last summer, reports quickly circulated that they had also captured US military biometric devices used to collect data such as iris scans, fingerprints, and facial images. Some feared that the machines could be used to help identify Afghans who had supported coalition forces.

In fact, the bigger threat was from Afghan government databases containing sensitive personal information that could be used to identify millions of people around the country. 

The tale highlights the fact that lessons on data security have not yet been learned—or that they must be relearned by every group involved. Read the full story

—Eileen Guo and Hikmat Noori

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ How to stay cool in a heat wave, according to science.
+ The ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list is out and a restaurant in Copenhagen has won the coveted first place. 
+ Tips for living a more fulfilled life. 
+ A fun fact: one in every four households in the UK owns a copy of Queen’s first Greatest Hits collection. 
+ The best 50 death scenes in fiction.

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