From Molly Olmstead at Slate: “There’s a strange saga unfolding in Texas. It involves allegations and accusations of illicit sexual relationships, drug use, theft, abuse, spying, planted evidence, and plots to steal a multimillion-dollar property. The people involved are Catholic priests, bishops, and some pretty fired-up nuns. What has become an open, bitter feud between the bishop of Fort Worth and 10 cloistered nuns in Arlington, Texas, has scandalized and thrilled American Catholics. The cops, the courts, and the Vatican are involved. Onlookers are taking sides. It’s still unclear who’s going to come out on top. And it all started with a startling confession from a devout nun. The series of events began in December 2020, shortly after Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, the 43-year-old prioress of the Discalced Carmelite nuns of the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Arlington, had a seizure. At some point during that month, she told a priest and her caregiver that she had committed some kind of sexual sin with another priest.”
When you have to make a momentous decision in your first day on the job
From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: “On September the 11th, 2001, terrorists hijacked four commercial jets with the intention of crashing them into buildings in both Washington, D.C., and New York City. As we all know, the terrorists were successful in three of the four cases; the fourth plane’s assault on the US Capitol was thwarted by the heroic passengers on board. While we now believe that no other planes were targeted, at the time, each of the other 4,000-plus flights scheduled to be in American air space at the time were at risk. But Ben Sliney, the Federal Aviation Commission’s National Operations Manager on duty that morning, prevented future harm. How? He made an unprecedented decision, making the call to ground every single commercial airplane in the country. But as incredible as his story is, one particular fact makes it even more jaw-dropping: September 11, 2001, was Ben Sliney’s first day on the job.”
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Afghanistan has seen thousands of cases of what appears to be mass delusion
From Lynzy Billing for Undark: “Anita was lying on a stained bed in the women’s room of the psychiatric ward in Herat Regional Hospital, a government-run facility in western Afghanistan. Stiff and covered in sweat, the 20-year-old was unresponsive. Before Anita was admitted to the hospital, she had gotten into a fight with her brother. After the fight, she fell unconscious. Then Anita started seizing. When she arrived at the hospital, though, doctors did not see any sign of a neurological condition or other physical cause that could explain the sudden collapse. Anita’s case was far from unique. According to hospital records, the women’s ward in Herat saw 900 such cases that April. In 2021, the facility recorded 12,678 cases, up from 10,800 cases in 2020. These mysterious ailments — often entailing loss of consciousness, convulsions, paralysis — have plagued women and girls in Afghanistan for more than a decade.”
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What it felt like when I was drowning
From Tim Cahill at Outside magazine: “On the matter of my death in the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, specifically after an alarming swim in Lava Falls—universally considered the canyon’s nastiest and most difficult rapid—I confess that I miscalculated badly. I miscalculated previous to the run and then again in the aftermath of the excitement to come. I had been thrown out of the raft at the top of the rapid, ambushed by some bit of rogue hydraulics, and recall attempting to swim against forces entirely beyond human control. My face turned blue, I’m told, then gray, and then my heart stopped beating altogether. Flatlined. I died that December day on Tequila Beach. This created a great deal of consternation—and it has tended to complicate my relationships with others ever since.”
For something synonymous with being bland, vanilla is actually surprisingly complex
From Ligaya Mishan for The New York Times: “In idiomatic usage, vanilla means “having no special or extra features.” So: the bare minimum, the absence of flourish. In a word, a bore. But true vanilla is a demanding crop, so labor-intensive that at times the market value of the beans has surpassed that of silver, weight for weight. And since each bean yields only 2 percent vanillin at best, the cost of pure vanilla is even higher. In 2017, after a cyclone decimated farms in the mountains of northeast Madagascar, where around 80 percent of the world’s natural vanilla is grown, the price of beans leaped to more than $600 per kilogram, which, at the rate of 20 grams of vanillin per kilogram of beans, comes to $30,000 per kilogram of pure vanilla. Although the vanilla boom may have lifted incomes, it also radically inflated prices — a chicken was suddenly $10 — and sparked a proliferation of crime, with machete patrols required to protect the fields.”
A pilot fell more than 20,000 feet with no parachute and survived
From Greg Ross at Futility Closet: “In January 1942, Soviet Air Force lieutenant Ivan Mikhailovich Chisov was serving as navigator on an Ilyushin Il-4 bomber when an attack by Messerschmitt fighters forced him to bail out. He left the plane when it was at 6,700 meters and decided to forgo opening his parachute until he’d dropped below the level of the battle. But due to the thin atmosphere, he passed out before he could pull the ripcord. Falling at an estimated 200 kilometres per hour, he struck the edge of a ravine whose steep sides were covered in deep snow. He tumbled to the bottom, where cavalrymen found him alive and still wearing his unopened parachute. He spent a month in critical condition with a broken pelvis but was flying again three months later.”
This piece of papyrus was signed by Cleopatra
From Roman History on Twitter: This papyrus signed by Cleopatra grants tax exemption from sales of imported wine to the Roman businessman Publius Canidius, a friend of Mark Antony. At the bottom, in a rare example of her handwriting, Cleopatra herself added the Greek word “ginesthoi,” “make it happen.”