People with Havana Syndrome show no signs of brain damage

People with Havana Syndrome show no signs of brain damage

From Scientific American: "In late 2016 U.S. diplomats and family members based in Cuba began reporting a wide swath of neurological symptoms, including dizziness, headaches, deafness and difficulty concentrating, following exposure to ear-splitting noises around their homes. This “Havana syndrome” outbreak disrupted U.S. relations with Cuba, spawned congressional hearings on the “attacks” and left some people with years of disabling symptoms, leading to years of debate among scientists about possible causes, which ranged from pesticides to group psychology to noise from crickets. Now two medical studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health might finally have an answer. The researchers compared more than 80 of these affected individuals with healthy people. The results, detailed in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show no clinical signs of any brain or medical illness."

Trailblazing French artist Rosa Bonheur is finally getting the attention she deserves

OPENER - studio at chateau

From The Smithsonian: "The richest and most famous female artist of 19th-century France, Marie-Rosalie Bonheur lived and worked here at her small Château de By, above the Seine River town of Thomery, for almost 40 years. There were other female painters in her day, but none like Bonheur. Shattering female convention, she painted animals in lifelike, exacting detail, as big and wild as she wanted, studying them in their natural, mud-and-odor-filled settings. That she was a woman with a gift for self-promotion contributed to her celebrity—and her notoriety. So did her personal life. She was an eccentric and a pioneer who wore men’s clothes, never married and championed gender equality, not as a feminist for all women but for herself and her art. Her paintings brought her fame and fortune and she was sought after by royals, statesmen and celebrities."

An armless man and a blind man planted more than 10,000 trees

From Now I Know: "In 2000, Jia Haixia lost vision in one of his eyes in an accident at the factory he was working at. For Haixia, this was a crippling injury; he was born with a cataract in his other eye, and due to the factory accident, was now fully blind. One of his best friends, Jia Wenqui, lost both of his arms at age three after touching an unprotected electric cable lying on the ground, requiring a double amputation. He performed for many years in a traveling troupe of disabled people in which he demonstrated calligraphy written with his feet. But in 2001, Wenqui reconnected with Haixia, who was living in poverty, and proposed an idea. Wenqui had experience planting trees, so the two signed a contract with the local village giving them permission to plant trees, and any that successfully grew would become theirs to chop down and sell."

Editor's note: If you like this newsletter, please share it with someone else. And if you really like it, perhaps you could subscribe, or contribute something via my Patreon. Thanks for being a reader!

Swedish composer is Spotify’s most-famous musician you’ve probably never heard of

From The Guardian: "A secret composer who has released music under hundreds of different names has been identified as Sweden’s most-listened-to artist on Spotify – pulling in more plays than Britney Spears or Abba. Johan Röhr, a Stockholm-based musician, has been unmasked as the person behind more than 650 different artists on the streaming service who have been played 15bn times, making him Sweden’s current most-played artist. According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which identified the 47-year-old, Röhr has created more than 2,700 songs on the platform. Much of his success is believed to be associated with his presence on more than 100 of Spotify’s official instrumental playlists, which the company itself curates. With names like “peaceful piano” or “stress relief”, such piano-heavy playlists are particularly popular among users seeking music to play in the background while they work."

Pie used to be a savory meal made with crow meat until the US made it sweet

Kentucky Bourbon Pie Recipe (Kentucky Derby Pie)

From Slate: "In medieval England, pie began as a decidedly savory affair. The word pie likely derives from magpie, the bird known for collecting odds and ends in its nest. This etymology reflects the fact that pie eaters were not picky: They happily supped on chickens, pigeons, rabbits, and just about any other animal you could swaddle in crust. “Eat crow” and “four and 20 blackbirds” aren’t just common sayings but holdovers from the era when crow was a common pie filling. (According to some accounts, their feet made useful handles in a pre–oven mitt era.) Alas, these pies’ crusts were nothing like the layers of flaky, buttery stuff that are the main point of eating pie today. Medieval pie crust was purely functional, a tough vessel that had to be cracked open in order to scoop out the delicious crow therein. Fittingly, it was known as a “cofyn.”

Don't even think about naming your baby Jennifer, Layla or Zoe in Iceland

From Guide to Iceland: "Names in Iceland must be pre-approved by law—but who holds the authority to decide what is and is not acceptable? The Icelandic Naming Committee. you are more than allowed to name your child: Bergljót, Dögg, Hálfdan, Valdimar, Jens. Grímur, Gróa, EirnýDagfinnur, Greipur. In fact, there are over 1700 male names and 1800 female names to choose from. The name “Duncan”... and the letter “c” are strict taboos, however. Whilst researching the traditions of Icelandic naming, I stumbled across a list of names rejected by the Icelandic Naming Committee, including those for boys, girls and families. Among the rejected first names were Woman, Spartacus, Princess, Viking, Eagle and Layla. Toby, Jerry, Zoe and Jennifer were also rejected."

Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece

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.