From Valentine Faure for The Atlantic: “At the small elementary school in France, Gisèle Marc knew the rumor about her: that her parents were not her real parents. It was the late 1940s, a time when whispered stories like this one passed from parents to children. Women who were said to have slept with occupying soldiers had their heads shaved and were publicly shamed by angry crowds. At the age of 10, she gathered her courage and confronted her mother, who told her she was adopted when she was 4. Later, she found her adoption file, but it contained little information. As an adult, she wrote wrote to the Arolsen Archives, the international center on Nazi persecution, in Germany, to ask if there was any mention of her in the records. They told her she was born in Belgium, in a Nazi maternity home that had been set up by the SS, through which the regime sought to encourage the birth of babies of “good blood.”
When Shakespeare’s First Folio disappeared from the Bodleian Library
From the London Review of Books: “The chance meetings, narrow escapes and spooky coincidences that fill Shakespeare’s romances are also a feature of the histories and provenances of the 235 surviving copies of the First Folio of his work. One such tale concerns the copy of the First Folio that was sent to the Bodleian Library in 1624, shortly after it was published, and later disappeared. In 1905, an undergraduate named G.M.R. Turbutt brought his battered family Folio to Oxford to be dated by the experts; his great-great-great-grandfather had bought it c.1750. The librarians soon realised that what they held in their hands was the lost copy, still in its original bindings. A case of Jacobean theft was the initial assumption, but it was later discovered that the library felt the Third Folio from 1663 offered even better value, so it sold the copy of the First Folio.”
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America doesn’t use the metric system because Caribbean pirates stole a small copper cylinder
From Joe Palca at NPR: “One reason the US never adopted the metric system might be pirates. Here’s what happened: In 1793, the brand new United States of America needed a standard measuring system because the states were using a hodgepodge of systems. In New York, they were using Dutch systems, and in New England, they were using English systems. This made interstate commerce difficult. Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson knew about a new French system and thought it was just what America needed, so he wrote to his pals in France, and the French sent a scientist carrying a small copper cylinder with a little handle on top. It was about 3 inches tall and about the same wide. This object was intended to be a standard for weighing things. But the scientist’s ship ran into a giant storm, which blew him south into the Caribbean. And you know who was lurking in Caribbean waters in the late 1700s? Pirates.”
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The Louisiana court that deliberately ignored appeals from Black prisoners
From Anat Rubin for ProPublica: “Two years into his 25-year sentence for attempted aggravated rape, Nathan Brown could tell the man sitting across from him was not going to help him get out of prison. He had an eighth grade education and his only qualification was a prison paralegal course. He began translating Brown’s grievances into a legal petition. But the Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeal delivered a rejection just a week later. Something didn’t feel right. How could they return the ruling so quickly? The answer to those questions would come years later, in the suicide note of a high-level court employee who disclosed that the judges of the 5th Circuit had decided, in secret, to ignore the petitions of prisoners who could not afford an attorney.”
Archaeologists find 24 bronze statues that were preserved in a Tuscan spa for 2,300 years
From Molly Enking for the Smithsonian: “Archaeologists have been excavating ancient thermal baths outside Siena, Italy, since 2019. But just last month, peeking out through the mud and water, small unidentified fragments slowly began to appear: a hand, an elbow, a glimmering coin. Since then, researchers have unearthed 24 perfectly preserved bronze statues dating back some 2,300 years, as well as a cache of thousands of coins and other significant artifacts. The discovery in San Casciano dei Bagni, a small hilltop town in the Siena province known for its thermal baths, is nothing short of groundbreaking, experts say. The find is the largest deposit of bronze statues of the Etruscan and Roman age ever discovered in Italy and one of the most significant in the Mediterranean.”
A work birthday party that turned out to be very expensive for the company
From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: “In 2018, a Kentucky man named Kevin Berling started a new job at a medical testing company. But his tenure there lasted only about ten months. Why? He didn’t attend his own office birthday party, and then showed signs of what appeared to be antisocial behavior. But Berling wasn’t just shy or a curmudgeon — he suffered from debilitating panic attacks, and he had one after learning about a planned lunchtime celebration, which was to have included birthday wishes from colleagues and a banner decorating the break room. Berling chose to spend his lunch break in his car instead. The next day, he had a panic attack in a meeting with two supervisors who confronted him about his behavior. This prompted a second panic attack, after which the company sent him home. He was fired three days later. He sued, claiming his dismissal was unjust.”