This inventor made two of history’s biggest mistakes
In the fall of 1940, Thomas Midgley contracted polio, and the dashing, charismatic inventor soon found himself in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. He took on his disability with the same ingenuity that he applied to everything, and designed a mechanized harness with pulleys attached to his bed. On the morning of Nov. 2, 1944, Midgley was found dead in his bedroom. The public was told he had been accidentally strangled to death by his own invention. But the dark story line of Midgley’s demise would take an even darker turn in the decades that followed. While The Times praised him as “one of the nation’s outstanding chemists," today Midgley is best known for the terrible consequences of that chemistry, thanks to the stretch of his career from 1922 to 1928, during which he managed to invent leaded gasoline and also develop the first commercial use of the chlorofluorocarbons that would create a hole in the ozone layer. There may be no other single person in history who did as much damage to human health and the planet, all with the best of intentions.
The family behind Ferrero Roche and Nutella
Giovanni Ferrero is Italy’s richest person, with a net worth of $36B. The source of his wealth is Ferrero Group, the Italian confectionary giant which sold $14B of sweets last year (and is the world’s 2nd biggest candy maker). The private business employs 40k+ people and runs 30+ plants globally. Nutella — the hazelnut spread — accounts for 1/5th of total sales (~$3B) but Ferrero also owns Kinder Surprise, Mon Cheri, TicTac, Crunch Bar, Nerds, Thornton’s and many more. The OG Nutella was invented in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. Italian chefs started using ground hazelnut to stretch their dwindling chocolate supplies. The product they created was called gianduja. Fast forward to 1946. Europe was dealing with yet another continent-wide shortage of cocoa following the end of World War II. An Italian pastry chef by the name of Pietro Ferrero whipped out the recipe for gianduja and created a snack aimed at regular folk working on tight purse strings.
The Godfather almost never happened
Paramount Senior VP Robert Evans wanted to make the movie, but he couldn't find a director. Evans recalled: "Here I sit controlling the biggest book in the world, yet my company won’t make it and I can’t find a f**cking maestro to direct it.” Twelve directors rejected the project, including Coppola, who did not like the studio’s angle. He wanted an “intellectual film about power and succession” but the project was a pseudo-Hollywood, Frank Sinatra story that glamourized the mafia. In fact, an Italian-American civil rights group protested the portrayal of Italians in the book and proposed film project. Paramount realized that Coppola — who is Italian-American — could deflect some of the criticism (previous Hollywood mob films were done by non-Italians). So the studio made a push to get him on board. American Zoetrope — the film studio started by Lucas and Coppola — was struggling financially. While The Godfather was much more Hollywood than Coppola wanted, you know the saying: beggars can’t be choosers.
He was facing life in prison. Now, he’s the CEO of the ‘Instagram for the Incarcerated.’
At the age of 15, Marcus Bullock made the biggest mistake of his life. It was 1996, and he was living in Prince George’s County, Maryland. One night, he and a friend carried out an armed carjacking on a man sitting idle in a shopping mall parking lot. Several years before Bullock’s conviction, the 1989 Central Park jogger case — in which 5 minority youths were (falsely) charged with raping a jogger — made national headlines. In the aftermath of this high-profile case, nearly every state passed new laws that made it easier for courts to try youth as adults. Just 15 at the time of his conviction, Bullock was sentenced to a penitentiary full of men twice his age. He eventually served 8 years in a Virginia state prison. During that time, Bullock decided to turn his life around. Today, he is the founder and CEO of Flikshop, an app that allows anyone to send a personalized postcard photo or message to any incarcerated person in the United States. The Hustle recently spoke with Bullock about his inspirational journey.
The Fugee, the fugitive and the FBI
The phone call awoke Pras Michél in the middle of a spring night in 2017. His “cousin from China” needed to meet, the woman on the line said. The caller was an ex-girlfriend who Michél, a rapper, producer and member of legendary hip-hop group the Fugees, hadn’t spoken to in years. He grew up in a Haitian family in New Jersey and doesn’t have a cousin from China, but he knew what the message meant. Michél dressed and called a car to take him to the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th Street in Manhattan. The front desk clerk handed him a note. It instructed him to exit the hotel and circle the block twice, scanning to see if he was being tailed. Michél did as he was told and returned to the clerk, who gave him a room key. He went up to an empty suite and waited. “They can’t kill me in the Four Seasons,” Michél said to himself. About two months later an FBI special agent interrupted Michél at brunch near his apartment in SoHo. The agent had 12 photos of Chinese officials and many questions, including: How had a famous rapper and record producer found himself in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation between global superpowers?
Pablo Escobar’s ‘cocaine hippos’ face deportation to India & Mexico
The governor of a region of Colombia where a herd of some 150 hippos -- descendants of animals once owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar -- are breeding out of control said Monday he hopes for the greenlight to send half of them to sanctuaries in India and Mexico. "We hope that the permits required by the national institutions can be approved in the first half of this year, so that we can make arrangements for the air shipment," Anibal Gaviria, governor of Antioquia in the northwest, told AFP. A small herd of hippos arrived in Colombia in the late 1980s, brought in by the fabulously wealthy cocaine lord Escobar. After his death in 1993, the animals were left to roam freely and populated the region of Magdalena Medio, a hot savanna criss-crossed by rivers, marshes and swamps where food for hippos is abundant. The growth of the hippopotamus population "is a complex situation for the inhabitants" of Magdalena Medio, some of whom have been threatened by the animals, which can weigh two to three tons.