The sex strike that has shaken the ultra-Orthodox world

From The Cut: “Fifty miles northwest of New York City is a town built as a kind of experiment: an attempt to insulate a religious community from the vagaries of time and assimilation. There, the women serve Sabbath meals that would not be out of place in 19th-century Eastern Europe — gefilte fish, golden challah, buttery kokosh cake — and the men dress in black coats and long sidelocks. In that town, a girl grew up to be a woman, and she got married, and the marriage turned bad. For four years, 30-year-old Malky Gold Berkowitz has been fighting to be freed from her husband, Wolf Berkowitz, a man who she says has subjected her to extensive harassment and physical assault. Malky lives in Kiryas Joel, or the City of Joel, an ultra-Orthodox enclave whose strictures on women make it an outlier even among other ultra-Orthodox sects — a world within a world.”

The rocket scientist who invented the Super Soaker water gun in his spare time

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From The Smithsonian: “You might think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to invent a squirt gun like the Super Soaker. But Lonnie Johnson, the inventor who devised this hugely popular toy that can drench half the neighborhood with a single pull of the trigger, actually worked on the Galileo and Cassini satellite programs and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped develop the B2 stealth bomber. Johnson is a prodigious creator, holding more than 120 patents on a variety of products and processes, including designs for lithium batteries and electrochemical conversion systems, heat pumps and a ceramic proton-conducting electrolyte. But Johnson has also patented such amusing concepts as a hair drying curler apparatus, wet diaper detector, and Nerf Blasters, the rapid-fire system with foam darts that tempts the child in all of us.”

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She can see 100 times more colors than the average person

From Popular Science: “When Concetta Antico looks at a leaf, she sees much more than just green. “Around the edge I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue,” she said. “It’s like a mosaic of color.” Antico doesn’t just perceive these colors because she’s an artist who paints in the impressionist style. She’s also a tetrachromat, which means that she has more receptors in her eyes to absorb color than the average person. The difference lies in Antico’s cones, structures in the eyes that are calibrated to absorb particular wavelengths of light and transmit them to the brain. The average person has three cones, which enables him to see about one million colors. But Antico has four cones, so her eyes are capable of picking up dimensions and nuances of color—an estimated 100 million of them—that the average person cannot. “It’s shocking to me how little color people are seeing,” she said.

He has climbed Mount Everest every year since 1994 and holds the record at 29 times

Getty Images Kami Rita Sherpa waves to supporters from the top of car after arriving back at base camp after his 28th climb in 2023

From the BBC: “Kami Rita Sherpa, 54, scaled the world’s tallest mountain for a 29th time. Already the world-record holder, he beat his own landmark in setting the new standard. A guide for over two decades, he first climbed the summit in 1994 and has made the peak almost every year since. The climbing season has just started on Mount Everest, which is expecting hundreds of climbers to make the trek over the coming weeks. Sherpa reached the 29,000ft summit on Sunday. Last week, he had posted to Instagram from Everest base camp saying he was back to try a 29th summit “to the top of the world”. The sherpa has said his climbs are just work – but he did do the trek twice last year to reclaim his crown from long-time rival and compatriot Pasang Dawa Sherpa.”

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Blue jeans were actually invented in the 1600s

From The Smithsonian: “An upcoming show at Galerie Canesso features two paintings by a mysterious artist who was active in northern Italy in the 1600s. The painter’s oil canvases depict early iterations of the stiff blue fabric beloved today, as worn by Italian peasants. According to a statement, the pieces have proved to be important artifacts in garment history, pushing back the provenance of blue jeans by centuries. When Levi Strauss started selling denim work pants in the late 1800s, he merely added metal rivets and structure to a fabric that already boasted a storied European past. Jeans come from Genoa, while denim comes from the French city of Nîmes. Until the 11th century, no one could wear blue fabric because they didn’t know how to make blue color adhere; the genius of the Genoese was to find the indigo stone in India and make it a low-cost process.”

General Weyler and the New York City Army Cats of 39 Whitehall Street

Heroic Cats Who Served in the Military | Reader's Digest

From Hatching Cat: “General Weyler was a cat. Not just any cat, but a veteran in a troop of Army cats who served their country in the commissary storehouse in New York City’s Army Building at 39 Whitehall Street. In Old New York, most warehouses and other large buildings in Lower Manhattan were infested with mice and rats. The best soldiers cut out for the job of extermination were the Army cats. Cats were first employed by the U.S. Army shortly after the end of the Civil War. In July 1898, America was involved in the short-lived Spanish-American War. During this time, many of the Army cats had names affiliated with Spain and the war. One of the cats serving in New York City was Queen Regent (named for the queen regent of Spain, Maria Cristina De Habsburgo-Lorena). There was also General Blanco (named for Ramón Blanco, the Captain-General of Cuba).”

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