How two Irish men almost took Nigeria for $11 billion

How two Irish men almost took Nigeria for $11 billion

From the NYT: "Like a lot of explosive financial scandals, the story of Michael Quinn and Brendan Cahill could fairly be described as a simple proposition that spun completely out of control. The two had been working in Nigeria since the 1970s, doing small-time deals in the energy and defense sectors, like fixing tanks and siting oil wells. But in the mid-2000s, they spied a bigger opportunity. They knew that Nigeria’s refineries were burning off most of the gas during oil drilling, so they proposed a plant that would take in that gas and use it to power the grid. Then the government changed its mind, so they went to arbitration. Quinn and Cahill hadn’t laid a single pipe for the gas-leaning facility, but this was immaterial. When the arbitration finished, the government of Nigeria was defeated and the decision was in P.&I.D.’s favor. The damages were $6.6 billion."

The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous tried LSD and ignited a controversy still raging today

From Inverse: "It’s August 29, 1956. A philosopher, a psychiatrist, and his research assistant watch as the most famous recovering alcoholic puts a dose of LSD in his mouth and swallows. The man is Bill Wilson and he’s the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, the largest abstinence-only addiction recovery program in the world. By the time the man millions affectionately call “Bill W.” dropped acid, he’d been sober for more than two decades. His experience would fundamentally transform his outlook on recovery, horrify A.A. leadership, and disappoint hundreds of thousands. All this because Wilson believed other recovering alcoholics could benefit from taking LSD as a way to facilitate the “spiritual experience” he believed was necessary to successful recovery. "

One of the last people to use an iron lung has died of COVID

From the BBC: "Paul Alexander contracted polio in 1952 when he was six, leaving him paralysed from the neck down. The disease left him unable to breathe independently, leading doctors to place him in the metal cylinder, where he would spend the rest of his life. He would go on to earn a law degree — and practise law — as well as publish a memoir, since he only needed to be in the iron lung at night while sleeping. His brother Philip said he admired how self-sufficient Paul was, even as he dealt with an illness that stopped him performing daily tasks such as feeding himself. "He was the master of his domain, helping people to help him," Philip added. Paul's health deteriorated in recent weeks and the brothers spent his final days together, sharing pints of ice cream."

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Why most Koreans and many other Asians don't have any real body odour

Getting Rid of Dark Armpits for Smooth, Even skin | Clinikally

From Pulse: "During the hot summer season, a lot of people, especially those who sweat a lot, are concerned about the body odour excreted from their sweaty armpits. But this is not an issue for people from Korea as they do not get body odour. When we produce sweat, this sweat contains salts, proteins, and other compounds in addition to water. Bacteria on our skin break down these compounds, and the breakdown leads to the release of smelly substances, hence body odour. Our armpits and groin contain apocrine glands regulated by a gene called ABCC11 which makes them produce an even stronger odour. Basically, the ABCC11 gene is responsible for armpit odour production. This gene is present in more than 80% of Europeans, Africans, and Latin Americans. But only 0.006% of Koreans have the gene, according to research scientists."

In Mesopotamia being named King for a Day often turned out to be a death sentence

Who are the Assyrians? — AACO

From Atlas Obscura: "The solar eclipse is coming. Preparations are underway, and everyone is buzzing with anticipation. You are getting anxious. It is early June, in the year later known as 763 B.C. You are a prisoner of war in Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, and you have good reason to be afraid. The Assyrians worship the Sun God, so a total eclipse of the Sun holds tremendous spiritual and political significance. If it was forecast to fall over Assyria, like the one in June 763 B.C., the eclipse would foretell the death of the king. And this is why you are afraid. The Assyrians had something called the “substitute king ritual.” If priests divined an ill omen, the real king would go into hiding, while a substitute was placed in his stead. The substitute king would enjoy all the trappings of regency before being ritualistically killed to fulfill the prophecy."

Cole Brauer just became the first American woman to sail solo nonstop around world

From the Newport Daily News: "Cole Brauer made history, becoming the first American woman to sail solo nonstop around the world. The 29-year-old from Long Island, New York, celebrated at the finish line in Spain by drinking champagne from her trophy. Friends, peers and sailing enthusiasts had been cheering Brauer on since last October, when she embarked on her more than four-month journey. As the only woman racing solo, nonstop around the world in the first Global Solo Challenge, Brauer said she was determined to prove there's nothing women and girls cannot accomplish. "I push so much harder when someone's like, 'No, you can't do that,'" Brauer told NBC Nightly News. Brauer is the first American woman to sail solo around the world, but Kay Cottee of Australia was the first woman to do so in 1987."

The eruption of Krakatoa ruptured the eardrums of people 40 miles away

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.