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Stamp out quackery!

Medical quackery has a long history, but anyone who thinks that peddlers of snake oil and cure-alls are a thing of the past doesn't have an email account (or has the best spam filter ever made). The number of blatant come-ons I'm sent advertising "miracle" weight loss or sexual enhancement pills is so astounding -- the postmodern equivalent of the huckster shouting about his panacea powders on a street corner and skipping town as soon as he's sold a few bottles -- that I thought I'd delve into the history a bit. Turns out "quack" comes from the Dutch "quacksalver," meaning "boaster who applies a salve." (Sounds about right.)

Quack medicines (also known as "patent medicines") became popular in 17th century Britain, and were heavily imported to the US until the War of Independence (oh yeah, that thing we celebrated yesterday), when many British imports were curtailed. By the Civil War era, however, Americans had begun producing their own domestic cure-alls, which usually had no medicinal value and were sometimes even harmful to the user. William Radam's "Microbe Killer," which claimed to "cure all diseases," was actually a solution of dilute sulphuric acid and red wine. (Sounds like it might cure the user of his life right along with those diseases.) The quack business slowed down a lot in 1906 with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act, which removed many of the most dangerous ingredients from these so-called "medicines." But sham doctors still had plenty to do between the passage of the act and the rise of quack spam today, as evidenced by this hilarious PSA from the 50s, Stamp Out Quackery!

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Tips For Baking Perfect Cookies
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Perfect cookies are within your grasp. Just grab your measuring cups and get started. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education.

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Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
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Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
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