10 People With Amnesia Who Literally Lost Their Minds

For most of us, memory is the cornerstone of who we are. Our past defines us and shapes both who were are now and who we will become. Many of us deliberately set out to make memories that we can enjoy later.

It is commonly known that memories fade a little with age, and conditions such as dementia can rob people of parts of their former selves. But for people with neurological conditions like amnesia, the loss of memory can prove utterly devastating and leave them with no clue as to the person that they are.

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10 Henry Molaison

Photo credit: Unknown

Born in 1926, Henry Molaison, or H.M. as he was referred to in medical journals, had suffered epileptic seizures since the age of ten, possibly as a result of being run over by a bicycle at age seven. His seizures increased in severity, and by the time he was 16, he was suffering major seizures daily. The seizures continued until 1953, when he was offered an experimental procedure which would remove parts of the left temporal lobe. Though the surgery was a success as far as controlling the epilepsy went, Molaison was left with profound amnesia.[1]

Molaison could remember his childhood. He knew his name and those of his family. He even remembered the Wall Street Crash of 1929. However, he had trouble remembering things from roughly a decade preceding the surgery. He also lost the ability to make new memories. He would wake every day without any memory of the day before.

Henry Molaison allowed neuroscientists to study his brain for over 50 years, until his death in 2008. This has resulted in major discoveries about how we make and store memories. He even donated his brain to science after his death.

9 Ansel Bourne

Photo credit: Fremont Rider

Ansel Bourne was an evangelical preacher. In 1887, he “woke up” to find himself running a general store, without any knowledge of how he had arrived there. The last date he remembered was two months prior to his arrival in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Bourne is said to have experienced a disassociative fugue, causing him to forget his own identity. People in this state often adopt a new identity and travel long distances. The fugue state is most often brought on by trauma, and there is no treatment, though the condition is often temporary. Bourne’s is probably the best known case of disassociative fugue and may have been Robert Ludlum’s inspiration when he came to naming his character in The Bourne Identity.[2]

Though many people doubted the truthfulness of Bourne’s account of his “lost weekends,” there seems to be little to suggest that he was doing anything disreputable while he was away. In fact, he spent most of his time selling sweets and going to church. He made very little capital out of his adventure. In fact, his fugue-state self seems to have been remarkably boring.

8 W.O.

A patient, identified only as “W.O.” or “William,” visited the dentist in March 2005 for root canal surgery. Up until the time of his injection, W.O. could remember his life as well as anyone else. Since that time, however, he can only store memories for 90 minutes before they are wiped out again. Neuroscientists are baffled as to the cause of the condition.

W.O., who is believed to suffer from anterograde amnesia, can remember getting into the chair and being injected with local anesthetic but nothing from that point onward. He wakes up every morning believing that it is still 2005. His wife has written notes of major events for him in a file labeled “First Thing—Read This.”

Neuroscientists are baffled as to why the anesthetic might have caused the memory loss. Since 2005, W.O. has only managed to remember one new thing: his father’s death. It is thought that his powerful grief forced itself along the memory tracks of his brain, when everything else just slipped away. Doctors treating him hope that this means they will be able to build on this to help him create new, happier memories.[3]

7 Clive Wearing


Clive Wearing was an accomplished classical musician when, in 1985, he contracted herpesviral encephalitis. The virus attacked his central nervous system, damaging his ability to store new memories. His loss of memory is so profound that he can hold on to current memories for no longer than 30 seconds.

The condition has left him in a constant state of confusion. He cannot understand what has happened to him, and when people try to explain, he has forgotten the question long before they reach the end of the answer. Wearing also remembers little of his life before 1985, except his love for his wife. He has kept a diary of his thoughts over the years, which has consisted of repeated variations of the same sentence: “Now I am awake.”[4]

Astonishingly, however, Wearing’s ability to play the piano has not diminished. He continues to be able to read and play music. However, when the sheet music calls for him to repeat a section, he will repeat it over and over again, forgetting each time that he has already played it.

6 Anthelme Mangin

Anthelme Mangin was a French soldier who fought in World War I. In 1918, he was sent home suffering from amnesia, along with 65 other casualties, all of whom had, literally, lost their minds. Unlike most, however, Mangin was not carrying any identification. He gave his name as “Anthelme Mangin.” He was diagnosed with a form of dementia and placed in an asylum in France.

In 1920, a newspaper published a feature with the pictures of several unidentified patients. Some 300 families, desperately looking for missing loved ones, claimed Mangin as their own. He met with each family to try to spark recognition, but without success.

He was finally identified in 1930 as Octave Monjoin, who had been taken prisoner on the Western Front in 1914. No one knows what happened to him between his capture and his discovery in 1918. Mangin was taken to his hometown. He was left at the train station, and his caregivers watched from a distance as he walked from the station directly toward his father’s house. He recognized his hometown, including the local cafe and the lightning-struck tower of the church, but did not know his father or brother.

Though it seemed the mystery was solved, other claimants to “the ghost man” refused to accept that Mangin was not their own missing son, and he was kept in the psychiatric hospital until a court case was decided. By the time the case was over, and he was officially declared to be Octave Monjoin, his father and brother were both dead.

In a sad conclusion the unknown soldier’s story, Anthelme Mangin lived out the rest of his life in the asylum, dying in 1942 of malnutrition and neglect.[5]


5 Michael Boatwright

In 2013, an unconscious man was found in a motel in Southern California and was taken to a hospital. His identification documents named him as Michael Boatwright, a former US Navy aircraft engineer and a native of Florida. When he finally came to, however, Michael Boatwright could remember nothing of his life in Florida or his military service. He didn’t even recognize his name, his nationality, or his language.

Michael Boatwright believed himself to be Johan Ek. And he also believed he was Swedish.

Despite being shown photographs of his previous life, he could not feel any affinity with Michael Boatwright. And, indeed, his previous life appeared to have been rather complicated. When found, he had five tennis rackets in his room but had no idea why. Investigators discovered that Boatwright had at some point married a Japanese woman and had a son, taught English in China, and ran a consultancy company with a Swedish name.

Boatwright appeared to be in a fugue state, the cause of which is most often trauma or an accident. He spoke only Swedish and appeared to have forgotten the English language. He remained at the hospital for five months while social workers tried to uncover his past. Despite finding a sister in Louisiana, Boatwright moved to Sweden, believing that this was his true home. Unfortunately, his life took another strange turn, and he was found dead in his new apartment soon after, from what is believed to have been suicide.[6]

4 Kent Cochrane

In 1981, Kent Cochrane, or Patient K.C. as he came to be called, had a motorcycle accident which resulted in the loss of parts of his memory. Cochrane was able to recall facts but not personal memories.[7]

Cochrane was unable to form new memories, nor could he remember events immediately prior to his crash. He knew facts about himself but couldn’t generate memories from them. So, he could, for example, look at a photograph and recognize the people in it and even the occasion when the picture was taken, but looking at it would not trigger any memories outside of the photo.

However, Cochrane’s intellect did not seem to be damaged by his memory loss, and he could learn, albeit with much repetition. He learned, for example, to check the refrigerator door for messages from his family and how to file books in the library where he worked.

Kent Cochrane was the subject of over 30 scientific papers, and his brain was studied by neuroscientists around the world. He died in 2014.

3 Michelle Philpots

In 1994, Michelle Philpots developed epilepsy as a result of two car accidents, both of which caused head trauma. Her seizures grew steadily worse, and Michelle began to become forgetful. She was eventually fired from her job after photocopying a single document over and over again, forgetting each time that she had already done it.

And then her memory stopped working altogether. Michelle Philpots is now permanently stuck in 1994. Every day when she wakes up, she is the person that she was then. Her rare form of anterograde amnesia means she wakes up next to a husband, who, to her, has aged a quarter of a century overnight. She cannot even remember her own wedding, relying on the photos to prove it really happened.[8]

To remind herself who she is, she leaves herself notes around her home. She is rarely able to leave home alone and has to use sat-nav to walk to her local shop. Damaged brain cells were removed during an operation in 2005, but although the operation managed to control her seizures, there is no way to repair the brain damage or restore her memory.

Michelle Philpots is destined to live in 1994 forever.

2 Susie McKinnon

Susie McKinnon does not have amnesia, despite the fact that she cannot remember being a child or, indeed, any age other than the age she is now.

Having had the condition since birth, it was years before McKinnon realized that when other people told stories from their past, they weren’t just making up the details as they went along. It was only when a friend who was studying medicine asked her to take part in a memory test that she realized that her memory did not work in the same way as other people’s. She could recall events from her past but could not remember what it felt like to be there.[9]

McKinnon suffers from Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory, or SDAM. She cannot remember how she felt when she was at school or imagine how she will feel when she goes on holiday in the future. She is unable to recall any fond memories. On the upside, however, she is never plagued by self-doubt and is incapable of holding a grudge because she forgets why she was annoyed in the first place. Her condition also means that she does not feel painful things, such as grief, as profoundly as other people.

Researchers have so far failed to discover any disease or injury which may have caused her condition. However, McKinnon also suffers from aphantasia, or the inability to picture things in her mind. Researchers are still investigating whether there is a link between her lack of autobiographical memory and her “blind mind.”

1 Giulio Canella

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1927, Mrs. Giulia Concetta Canella saw a newspaper photograph of a man who had been found wandering around a cemetery in Turin in the dead of night. The man had been trying to steal a copper vase, but when approached, he began to cry, saying he had no idea who he was.

Mrs. Canella recognised her husband, Professor Giulio Canella, a philosophy scholar who had been missing in action since World War I. She visited the hospital and, convinced that the man was her husband, took him home, which would have been fine, except that a few days later, an anonymous letter claimed that the man was, in fact, an anarchist and petty criminal named Mario Bruneri.

Bruneri’s family were traced, and his wife, son, brother, two sisters, and his mistress all identified him immediately. Canella/Bruneri is said to have fainted when he saw them, possibly from the trauma but probably from embarrassment.[10]

Mrs. Canella, after her beloved husband had come back to her from the dead, would not give up so easily. When Bruneri’s fingerprints were discovered in the police archives and found to match those of the amnesiac, she took the whole thing to court. After several years of trials and retrials, the court concluded that the amnesiac was Bruneri. Mrs. Canella, the man she was sure was her husband, and the three children they’d had together in the meantime all moved to Brazil.

Prof. Canella/Bruneri died in 1941 in Brazil, and his wife spent the rest of her life trying to prove that her husband had not been an imposter.

Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.

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10 Things Believed To Exist (That Really Don’t)

We all know the old phrase, “You can’t always believe what you see,” but sometimes, even what we think are facts can’t stand up to scrutiny. And even when a notion is proven wrong, it can continue to be accepted as true for some time.

There are things that we believe are self-evident, even scientifically proven, which are nothing but figments of popular culture’s imagination. Sometimes, even the “authorities” get it wrong. And sometimes, they do it on purpose.

10 Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten sensitivity is a condition suffered by those with celiac disease, which causes gastrointestinal distress. In 2011, a study by Peter Gibson found that even some people without celiac disease can suffer similar symptoms upon ingesting gluten. This triggered the gluten-free craze that spawned a multibillion-dollar market. The problem was that Gibson wasn’t convinced it was as prevalent as advertisers would have us believe, so he tested it again.[1]

He tested 37 people who self-identified as gluten-sensitive, none of whom had celiac disease. Each subject went through a period of high-gluten, low-gluten, and no-gluten diets without being aware of which they were on at any time. The results were that every patient reported symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity throughout the entire trial.

Gibson took into account that the subjects were paying more attention to their condition during the trials. He also considered that the presence of gluten in foods is usually accompanied by other potential symptom triggers, yet that still would not account for the reports of symptoms found during the gluten-free period of the trials. In other words, the man who created the concept of non-celiac gluten sensitivity no longer believes it exists.

9 Pterodactyls Only Existed for About 30 Years

Photo credit: Matthew P. Martyniuk

“Pterodactyl” is the name we ascribe to the well-known flying dinosaur from popular imagination. The problem is that a dinosaur named “pterodactyl” only existed for about 30 years. The “father of paleontology,” Georges Cuvier, named the winged reptile “pterodactyl” after its long finger that stretched into a wing. After his find, however, paleontologists started discovering many more “pterodactyls” that varied more and more widely in their features—too widely for a single species to account for such diversity.

The classification “dactyl” was meant to describe these dinosaurs, but it couldn’t hold the dearth of new finds. A new, more general classification of “pterosaur” was created that better described them. Further research found something even more interesting about pterosaurs—that they were not dinosaurs at all but a type of flying reptile that existed alongside them.[2]

This was due mostly to when paleontologists took a closer look at the term “dinosaur” and defined what it really meant. Pterosaurs were reclassified into a group on the dinosaurs’ family tree, but not quite close enough to be considered dinosaurs themselves. Pterodactylus antiquus, the flying reptile that could be pinned down as what the term “pterodactyl” is meant to represent, is, in fact, now the only species of its genus.

8 Photographic Memory Is Just A Memory

The idea of certain people having a photographic memory, or the ability to perfectly recall a piece of visual information from their memory, has been around for a long time. Whenever it has been put to scientific examination, however, it has either failed miserably or failed to be replicated. One of the most famous photographic memory studies that “proved” its existence was done by a scientist who soon married his subject afterward and never attempted to replicate the test. Other studies of photographic memory have likewise either failed to confirm its existence or failed to replicate their initial results.[3]

The closest thing to photographic memory is called an eidetic memory, but unlike popular culture icons would have us believe, it is not some lesser incarnation of perfect visual memory. An eidetic image is a kind of mental picture that remains in the mind’s eye for a short length of time. Somewhere between two and 15 percent of children actually possess this kind of memory, but its prevalence diminishes with age. Even then, those with eidetic memories do not have anything close to perfect recall. They might believe they do, but it is only their mind filling in the gaps.

The only instances of photographic-like memories were autistic savants, but even while their memories were far beyond most people, they still did not have the absolute perfect recall associated with the condition.

7 30 Years Of Chemistry Relied On A Nonexistent Particle

The existence of a substance used for decades in chemistry calculations is now being challenged, potentially calling into questions a large swath of research that relied on it. Scientists at the University of Western Australia say that there is no evidence that sulfide ions, as dissolved in a aqueous solution, do, in fact, exist. They discovered (or maybe “undiscovered?”) this while they were doing research on metal sulfides. Sulfide ions drew their attention because they failed to even detect them as expected.[4]

Older spectroscopic equipment was not sensitive enough to pick up the theoretical substance, so older chemistry simply relied on predictions of its presence from calculations. When researchers never detected it, they still assumed it was present, but only in quantities too small to detect.

The UWA researchers call that much assuming from the scientific community “laziness” and “bad practice.” Furthermore, this is not even the first time such an experiment has been performed. Another experiment done in 1983 used the same procedures to reach the same conclusion, but was largely ignored by a presumably “lazy” scientific community.

6 Hunter Island Penguins Never Existed

In 1983, scientists found the bone fragments of a new species of penguin on an island off the coast of Tasmania. They believed the “Hunter Island penguin” was a species of penguin that went extinct about 800 years ago. Nevertheless, the true identity of the penguin and what place it occupied in the fossil record remained somewhat of a controversy until the advent of DNA testing.

Scientists tested the fragments of bones that made up the previously unknown species of penguin. Their findings flipped the cold case upside down. They extracted some DNA from the degraded bones and then compared them to a catalog of known penguin DNA. They had hits from three separate penguin species, all of which are still very much alive.

Modern DNA testing has led to many discoveries and reevaluations of varying species. In this case, it meant that the penguin assumed to be a separate species did not, in fact, exist. It’s not quite as exciting as finding an original species, but it is still shedding light on the past. It proved that the three types of penguins had all lived on the same island at some point and that their remains got mixed together throughout the years. Perhaps they even lived alongside each other.[5]


5 The Supermodel Who Never Was

Photo credit: Cameron-James Wilson

In February 2018, a picture of a beautiful dark-skinned model started garnering attention on Instagram after it was reposted by Fenty Beauty, Rhianna’s makeup brand. The striking photo of “Shudu” made people interested in the presumably African model. But by March, Shudu was getting attention for something other than her looks: It was discovered that she wasn’t human.[6]

She was the product of Cameron-James Wilson, a fashion photographer who created her from a 3-D digital art program. While Shudu was first praised for breaking into the notoriously undiverse modeling industry where black women are underrepresented, when it was discovered that she was only a fictional character created by a British white male, the praise quickly turned into fierce criticism.

Wilson was accused of racism, profiting off a white male fantasy, and denying real black models jobs that might be taken by his digital creation. Although the exposure Wilson has gotten from his creation is undeniable, he has yet to actually receive any direct profit from Shudu. He has so far made no deals involving her representing any brands (though he does intend to in the future). Regarding jobs, he says that 3-D modeling is a minute section of the fashion industry and will not take away jobs. Even if it does grow bigger, jobs will be created to make the digital models, albeit in very different fields than his critics are concerned with. For better or worse, it seems that Shudu and other digital models are here to stay.

4 Multitasking Is A Figment Of Popular Culture

The idea that some people are “multitaskers” and have the ability to do several things at once is actually just a notion that popular culture invented. If someone is writing while engaging in a conversation, for example, they are not really doing both activities at the same time, just rapidly switching between them.[7] To say that multitasking doesn’t exist may just sound like splitting hairs, but research shows that the brain simply cannot do two similar activities at once, which makes multitasking a bad idea if you want to be productive.

Engaging in “multitasking” does not devote enough cognitive resources to either task. This equates to lower productivity, since neither task is receiving adequate attention. One study even found that those who identify as chronic multitaskers have the worst performance of anyone. They make the most mistakes, remember less, and take longer to complete activities.

But while people who consider themselves multitaskers are, in fact, just rapidly switching between two things, that is not to say that true multitasking does not exist. It’s just not what most people think it is. Listening to wordless music and studying, for example, are completely compatible multitasking behaviors because they are processed in different parts of the brain. Add lyrics to the music, however, and suddenly Beyonce is actually interfering with your English homework because your brain is using the same area to process the language of both activities.

3 London’s Best Restaurant

Photo credit: Chris Bethell

Oobah Butler used to write fake reviews for restaurants, and his experiences seeing restaurateurs profit from his deceptive reviews stuck with him even after he moved into professional writing. Eventually, he wanted to see how far he could carry the deception by creating a fake restaurant of his own on TripAdvisor and then seeing how popular it would become.

Butler set up a fake website that had the physical address of his private shed. To accept calls for reservations, he used a disposable phone. A few delicious-looking photos (with ingredients that didn’t include actual food) were posted, and “The Shed at Dulwich” was in business. When it received requests for reservations, the imaginary restaurant was always fully booked, yet the requests kept coming, and the restaurant quickly climbed through TripAdvisor’s ranks.

Eventually, it became the top-rated restaurant in London.[8] By then, Butler was getting calls from companies wanting to work with the Shed. He was ever-ready with an excuse to not actually meet any representatives, but eventually, TripAdvisor itself requested more information about his fictional restaurant. Since the jig was up, he came clean—but not before setting up a dining space in his backyard and actually taking requests for reservations. Guests arrived to microwaved food and lawn chairs but did not actually pay for anything since they were told, somewhat truthfully, that they were participating in a documentary. Butler documented the entire deception from beginning to end.

2 Learning Styles

The idea of learning styles has been ingrained into the education system for years. Recent studies, however, have failed to provide evidence to show that learning styles either actually exist or have any effect on learning.[9] In fact, many have shown the opposite.

One study showed that students who categorized themselves as auditory or visual learners did no better on memorizing words when presented with their preferred style of learning than others. Another failed to show evidence of learners performing better on comprehension tests when material was presented in their preferred learning style.

The idea of learning styles is rooted in the idea that when a student is given material in their brain’s learning style, their performance will be better. While the researchers who found otherwise now refute that assumption, they do not refute that there are indeed learning preferences. So while the method of presenting new material may not have a direct effect on student performance, students still prefer to learn in certain modes. This means that teachers might not want to abandon their visual and kinesthetic lessons in favor of boring lectures just yet. There are still certain ways that students like to learn, even if the method isn’t proven to affect performance.

1 Fictitious Entries

Despite reference material like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and maps being considered authoritative, some are intentionally inaccurate. Fictional entries are imaginary or inaccurate entries that are purposely constructed to alert the publishing company to plagiarism, should they be copied. There have been several high-profile fictional entries throughout the years.

The 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia has an entry about Lillian Virginia Mountweazel. Mountweazel was a fountain designer who switched careers to become a mailbox photographer. She died young in a violent explosion while doing work for a magazine called Combustibles. Mountweazel’s explosive demise, however, was fortunately a work of fiction. The encyclopedia’s editor-in-chief said it’s a tradition to insert a false entry so that any reproduction can be traced back to the original.[1]

It later became known that the New Oxford American Dictionary had a fictitious entry somewhere in the “e’s.” Interestingly, an investigation was done in order to ferret out the fake. Lexicographers were sent the suspected words, and the majority decided that “esquivalience” was the fraud. Their theory was soon confirmed by the editor, who said that the word was chosen as an inside joke. The fake would mean the opposite of “working really hard,” which the staff had been doing to compile the dictionary. Plagiarizing the word, after all, would mean that any fraudster would be doing the opposite of hard work by merely copying and pasting.

Mike lives on the East Coast. He does in fact exist.

16 People Tried To Copy Famous Pictures But Surprisingly Ended Up With New Masterpieces.

It is said you must follow the footsteps of your idol. These people have just done the exact thing. They tried to copy the poses from their inspirations but failed miserably. Although, their photos turned out to be beautiful in their own unique way.

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They did not exactly we created the picture, but added their own essence to it. Posing sensitively with your best you was in the past, now it’s time to show the world your real colours.

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Any beach-side vacation is not complete until you click a picture with shadow of palm tree on your body. People do that all the time but this recreation is one of a kind.

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This person tried to recreate the original picture as much as possible, even though she was freezing to death.

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Animals surely are unpredictable. They can turn any normal photo into an extraordinary one. It sometimes works on your favour and the other times create a disaster.

Brexit: An ‘Escape Room’ With No Escape

Brexit: An ‘Escape Room’ With No Escape

Brexit is beginning to look a lot like an “escape room” with no exit.

An escape room is an increasingly popular adventure game that requires participants to solve a series of puzzles before they can leave the room and advance into another one with additional riddles.

Brexit now seems to be a riddle that can’t be solved, after UK lawmakers voted down Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to leave the European Union. This means there’s no way to “win,” yet no clear way to end the game that began with a 2016 referendum.

That’s bad news for the British. But based on my research on international business, that’s bad news for US businesses and the “special relationship” between the two countries as well.

This decades-long relationship, based on common values and similar views on global issues, has been weakened by President Donald Trump and will deteriorate further without a post-Brexit plan.

Anti-Brexit and pro-Brexit protesters argue outside the Houses of Parliament. (Photo Courtesy: Reuters/Henry Nicholls)

The Brexit Puzzle

The first escape room was relatively easy to solve, consisting of just one puzzle: leave or remain.

In June 2016, British citizens narrowly voted to exit the union it joined in 1973, which moved the UK into the next room.

The second one was more complicated, since it required the UK to resolve domestic divisions over Brexit. Citizens who wished to remain – majorities in London, Scotland and Northern Island – refused to participate in the game any further, other than to urge fellow players to return to the first room and answer that puzzle differently by holding another referendum.

The remaining participants, specifically the majority Conservative Party led by May, started fighting among themselves while trying to solve the puzzle of what the UK wanted from Brexit.

This room took the longest time to leave – over two years – since it required specific and lengthy negotiations on the terms of Brexit with the EU. Having reached an agreement, the prime minister stumbled out of this room in November with her supporters and presented the plan to Parliament.

No Road Map for US Business

That plan went down in a stunning defeat on 15 January – May lost 432-202 in the biggest upset in parliamentary history – putting the UK in uncharted territory.

Opponents are pushing for new elections or another referendum – back to the first room – while May’s own party is discussing ways for Parliament to take control of Brexit. And the EU says the deal cannot be renegotiated before the 29 March deadline.

Back in June 2016, before the referendum, I explained why Americans should care about the vote’s outcome, in part because Brexit would hurt US-UK trade and investment. But it is clear to me now that the impact will extend beyond business to the essence of the “special relationship” between the two countries.

US companies still have no road map for how to proceed. Uncertainty reigns on tariffs, regulations, whether to locate staff in the UK versus Europe and countless more business-related issues.

Business hates uncertainty. Foreign investment in the UK has already dropped 19 percent over the past two years as companies have been wary to invest in or expand their operations. Banks and other American companies seem more interested in closer ties to the EU’s single market than doing business in the UK.

HSBC tells Welsh customer not to complain in ‘foreign’ language

HSBC tells Welsh customer not to complain in 'foreign' language

The Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith criticised the bank’s ‘insulting’ reply. Photograph: Barry Batchelor/PA

A major bank told a customer who wrote to it in Welsh to complain that some services were not available in her language that she should communicate with it in English rather than a “foreign” tongue.

Nia Lloyd, a classroom assistant from Wrexham in north Wales, wrote to HSBC pointing out that online services were not available in Welsh.

Customer support replied that her message was in a “foreign” language and asked her to resend it in English. Both Welsh and English are official languages in Wales.

Lloyd said: “I was shocked that they would respond to my complaint in that way. I thought the bank would have more respect for the Welsh language. They should celebrate all the beautiful cultures and languages of the world.”

The Welsh-language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith criticised the bank’s reply. A spokesperson for the group, Tamsin Davies, said: “These comments are insulting, but unfortunately not unexpected; after all, banks are disrespecting Welsh speakers every day. There isn’t a single bank that provides online banking in Welsh.”

Lloyd is one of hundreds of people who have written to banks about the lack of online services in Welsh, Davies said. “We believe people in Wales should have the right to live their lives in Welsh,” she added. “Instead of taking these complaints seriously, it seems that many within HSBC and other banks think that these kinds of comments are appropriate.”

Not all organisations are legally obliged to use Welsh. More than 120 public bodies in Wales, including the NHS and local authorities, face fines if certain services are not available in Welsh. Those rules were due to be rolled out for some private sector entities last year but the Welsh government put the plans on hold because they were “costly and complex”.

Davies said other large companies were nonetheless offering online services in Welsh. “But these seriously wealthy banks refuse to provide online banking in Welsh, which for more and more people is the main way they bank.”

Lloyd wrote to HSBC: “I would like to complain about the fact that your online banking services are not available in Welsh. I, like a large number of other customers, want to be able to bank online in Welsh. With fewer and fewer services provided in branches, and increasing demand for online banking services, I believe that you should provide complete services in Welsh online. That includes providing an online banking interface that works fully in Welsh. I look forward to hearing your response to this.”

A customer support worker wrote back: “I notice that we have received the message in [a] foreign language. I request you to kindly send the message in English and we will be glad to assist you further. I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to you.”

Lloyd replied (in English): “I am based in Wrecsam, Wales, and our language is Welsh, therefore not foreign in my country.”

The bank then did reply in Welsh and said the request should have been forwarded to the Welsh department.

An HSBC spokesman said: “We apologise for any offence this may have caused Ms Lloyd, that was not our intention. We have a Welsh speaking team and work hard to provide Welsh-language services for those customers who prefer to converse in Welsh, but unfortunately on this occasion we fell short. We have contacted Ms Lloyd to apologise and are looking what can be done to prevent this from happening again.”

Last year, the Welsh-language commissioner, Meri Huws, asked Welsh speakers how they felt banks treated them.

She reported: “There was a general feeling among customers that Welsh-language services were deteriorating. Many said that it was impossible to do any online banking in Welsh. Several said the closure of branches had a negative impact on their ability to discuss their money in Welsh. Others said Welsh language telephone banking services were inconsistent and that the service was not being promoted adequately.”

Earth hit by more asteroids since time of dinosaurs, say scientists

Earth hit by more asteroids since time of dinosaurs, say scientists

For representational purposes

WASHINGTON DC: According to a new study, the number of asteroids colliding with the Earth and Moon has increased by up to three times over the past 290 million years.

The study, published in Science, is based on a major study involving the University of Southampton.

Scientists have, for decades, tried to understand the rate that asteroids hit the Earth. They have usually done so by studying the craters and dating the rocks around them. However, the problem with doing this is that many experts assumed that the earliest craters have worn away due to erosion and other geological processes.

However, the new study found that we can learn a lot about the impact history on Earth by studying the Moon.

Researchers believe both bodies are hit in the same proportion over time. Furthermore, according to scientists, the Moon is immune to processes like plate tectonics that gradually destroy the Earth’s craters.

Speaking about it, William Bottke, an asteroid expert at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado and a co-author of the paper said, “The only obstacle to doing this has been finding an accurate way to date large craters on the Moon.”

The research saw the team studying the surface of the Moon using thermal data and images collected by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), to determine the ages of the lunar caters. The NASA spacecraft’s thermal radiometer showed scientists how heat is being radiated off the Moon’s surface, with larger rocks giving off more heat than finer lunar soil.

Paper co-author Rebecca Ghent, calculated the rate at which Moon rocks break down into soil, and revealed a relationship between the amount of large rocks near a crater and the crater’s age. Using Ghent’s technique, the team compiled the ages of all lunar craters younger than about a billion years.

According to the scientists, younger craters tend to be covered by more boulders and rocks than older craters. This happens because the boulders ejected by an asteroid strike get ground down over hundreds of millions of years by a constant rain of tiny meteorites.

On comparing the ages and numbers of craters on the Moon to those on Earth, they made the remarkable discovery that they are extremely similar, challenging the idea that Earth had lost so many craters. “This means that the Earth has fewer older craters on its most stable regions not because of erosion, but because the impact rate was lower prior to 290 million years ago,” said Bottke.

Dr Thomas Gernon, Associate Professor in Earth Science at the University of Southampton, and co-author on the study, further added, “Proving that fewer craters on Earth meant fewer impacts–rather than loss through erosion–posed a formidable challenge”.

Gernon added an unlikely line of evidence to piece together the story. Long extinct diamond volcanoes called kimberlite pipes that stretch a couple of kilometres below the surface in stable terrains are largely intact. This indicated that large impact craters formed over the same period and in the same terrains should also be preserved. This explained the similarity of the Earth and Moon’s impact crater records, and helped the team establish that the sparsity of craters formed before 290 million years ago is because there were fewer asteroid strikes before then.

The team’s work led to the discovery that the rate of crater formation over the last 290 million years has been two to three times higher than in the previous 700 million years.

The team’s findings related to Earth, meanwhile, have implications for the history of life–which is punctuated by major extinction events and rapid evolution of new species. Although extinction events could have many causes, the team points out that asteroid impacts are very likely to have played a major role. In particular, the dinosaurs proliferated about 250 million years ago, and “as a species were particularly vulnerable to large impacts from the get-go, more so than earlier animal groups”, says Gernon.

“It’s perhaps fair to say it was a date with destiny for the dinosaurs–their downfall was somewhat inevitable given the surge of large space rocks colliding with Earth”, Gernon concluded.

Greeks rally against Macedonia name accord, police fire tear gas

Greeks rally against Macedonia name accord, police fire tear gas

Protesters throw smoke grenades during a demonstration against the agreement reached by Greece and Macedonia to resolve a dispute over the former Yugoslav republic’s name, in Athens, Greece, January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

ATHENS (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Greeks rallied in Athens on Sunday to protest against a deal with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that settles a row between the two countries and is set for a vote in Greece’s parliament next week.

Soon after the rally started at 1200 GMT, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside parliament as demonstrators chanted Macedonia is Greek and waved Greek flags.

The rally was one of the biggest demonstrations in Athens, over the Macedonia name agreement.

Many Greeks believe the name Macedonia implies a territorial claim over their country’s own northern region of that name.

The issue evokes strong emotions among Greeks who consider Macedonia, the ancient kingdom ruled by Alexander the Great, to be an integral part of their homeland and heritage.

The accord clinched between Athens and Skopje was ratified by Macedonia’s parliament this month. Greek parliamentary endorsement is a necessary step for the tiny Balkan nation to start the process to join the European Union and NATO.

Action not words needed over biggest public health failure of our time: pneumonia | Larry Elliott

Action not words needed over biggest public health failure of our time: pneumonia | Larry Elliott

The World Economic Forum says Davos 2019 should all be about setting a course for Globalisation 4.0. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Davos this year will be like Hamlet without the prince. Donald Trump was all set to be the star of the show for the second year running but has decided that giving a keynote address to a hall full of billionaires is politically problematical at a time when the US government is shut down.

Emmanuel Macron is giving the World Economic Forum a miss for similar reasons. If you have been dubbed the president of the rich the last place you really want to be seen is at the annual gathering of the 1%. Theresa May has decided she has better things to do with her time..

But even without Trump, Macron and May, there will be plenty for the global elite to talk about. The World Economic Forum, the body that has organised the event since 1971, says this week should all be about setting a course for Globalisation 4.0.

Davos 2019: do the global elite have the will to fix the world’s problems?

Without doubt, there is room for improvement on Globalisation 3.0, the model that has crashed and burned over the past decade. But it is a bit of a stretch to imagine that the Davos regulars are the ones to do the job. These are the people, after all, who lionised financial liberalisation, snaffled most of the proceeds of growth, salted their money away in tax havens and pressed for tax cuts for themselves while insisting on austerity for the poor.

It is not hard to specify the problems. This year’s Davos comes at a time when global growth is slowing and political discontent is growing; when global problems such as climate change are becoming more pressing and yet the global cooperation needed to deal with them is at its weakest since the 1930s.

The attendees at the WEF get all that. There will be plenty of talk in the conference hall and at the after-dark cocktail parties about how “something must be done” about inequality and how the economic benefits of the robot age must be shared by all. What there won’t be, at least on past form, is any action to back up the rhetoric. There is a complete disconnect between these problem solvers and the real-world challenges they consistently fail to tackle.

Let’s take one example: the battle (or, more accurately, the non-battle) against pneumonia, which is the biggest public health failure of our time.

Pneumonia attracts little attention, in large part because it is assumed to be a disease that kills old people. That’s true in the west but in the developing world pneumonia is the biggest killer of children going. In 2016 it cost the lives of almost 900,000 children – more than for malaria and diarrhoea combined. Most of them were less than two years old.

Nor is tackling pneumonia difficult or expensive. As Kevin Watkins, the chief executive of the charity Save the Children, wrote in a recent article for the Lancet: “Almost all pneumonia deaths could be prevented through vaccination or early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics costing less than 50 US cents.”

A child is dying every two minutes from something that could be easily and cheaply treated

Why is there no outrage at the idea that somewhere in the world a child is dying every two minutes from something that could be easily and cheaply treated? Where are the international initiatives? Where is the coalition of rock stars, billionaire philanthropists and politicians announcing at Davos a major drive to eradicate this disease? The answer is that it is nowhere to be seen, despite the fact that on current trends by 2030 – the target date under the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) for ending preventable child deaths – 750,000 children a year will still be dying of pneumonia.

In part, the painfully slow progress in eradicating childhood pneumonia reflects the failure to make tackling inequality central to achieving the SDGs. There is no real point in setting ambitious targets for health unless health systems are designed and funded to cater for the most marginalised people in developing countries.

Poverty and pneumonia are inextricably linked. The children most at risk are invariably from the poorest families in rural regions and urban slums. They are the most likely to be malnourished and the least likely to be immunised, diagnosed and treated.

What’s more, pneumonia is confined to the poor. Unlike measles, cholera or HIV/Aids it does not readily cross social boundaries, which means that the children of those with the loudest political voices in developing countries don’t suffer from it. Health priorities are set by those with different priorities.

That goes for the international community as well. If pneumonia could be transmitted across borders like, say, Ebola, western donor countries would take it a lot more seriously than they do. “Pneumonia,” Watkins says, “is a disease that can be contained in poor communities of poor countries – and this is a prescription for policy inertia.”Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

There is one final reason pneumonia remains the world’s Cinderella disease: treating it requires long-term investment in health care systems skewed towards poor communities. That means trained doctors and nurses that can spot the symptoms early and have the necessary resources to respond. Insecticide-treated bed nets have helped in the fight against malaria but no magic bullet exists in the battle against pneumonia.

Instead, what is required is action at all levels: higher spending on health in developing countries; specific action plans to tackle pneumonia and international initiatives to increase supplies of cheap drugs.

Doubtless, there will be much hand-wringing this week about the importance of international cooperation in creating a new and better globalisation. The willingness to tackle pneumonia is a test of that commitment because it requires a global partnership, the transfer of resources and an eagerness to put the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable first. Above all, it requires a willingness to act not only talk.

Bangladesh ‘Tree Man’ returns to hospital as condition worsens

Bangladesh ‘Tree Man’ returns to hospital as condition worsens

Abul Bajandar. — File photo

Dhaka, January 20

A Bangladeshi father dubbed “Tree Man” for the bark-like growths on his body returned to hospital on Sunday after his condition worsened, he told AFP.

Abul Bajandar has had 25 surgeries since 2016 to remove the growths from his hands and feet at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.Doctors were on the verge of declaring their treatment a success before a sudden relapse prompted Bajandar to flee the clinic in May without notifying staff.

But on Sunday he was readmitted to the hospital after his condition deteriorated, with the growths now covering almost the entirety of his hands and feet, the 28-year-old said.“I made a mistake by leaving the hospital. I sought alternative treatment but could not find any. I now I understand I should have stayed and continued the treatment here,” Bajandar said.

Samanta Lal Sen, a plastic surgeon at the hospital, said doctors would resume treatment “very soon”, adding the growths had spread to other parts of his body.

“I requested Bajandar to return as soon as possible. Now we have to start from the very beginning. We’ll have to conduct more surgeries,” Sen told AFP.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had promised free treatment for Bajandar after his plight captured the sympathies of the country.

He lived in the hospital’s expensive private cabin with his wife and daughter for nearly two years during his first round of treatment.

The father of one suffers from epidermodysplasia verruciformis, an extremely rare genetic condition also known as “tree-man syndrome”.

Sen said that fewer than half a dozen people worldwide have the disease.

His hospital also treated a young Bangladeshi girl suffering from the condition in 2017.

Doctors declared her surgery a success, but her father later said the growths had returned in even greater numbers, prompting the family to halt treatment and return to their village. — AFP

Sheikh Mohamed visits site of oldest mosque in UAE

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabiand Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has said that the new archaeological discoveries in Al Ain emphasise the richness of the history, civilisation and culture of this region, which contribute to the recognition of the nature of its inhabitants.

He made his remarks during a visit to the site of the oldest mosque in the country, which dates back to Islam’s Early Golden Age of the Abbasid Caliphate, 1,000 years ago.

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Sheikh Mohamed was briefed by Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), Saif Saeed Ghobash, DCT Under-Secretary, and Archaeologist Dr. Peter Magee, Head of Archaeology at DCT, on the historical and social significance of this discovery, which has shed light on the region and the lives of its inhabitants during that period.

His Highness said that these discoveries in Al Ain reflect the city’s status as a cultural centre since the early Islamic period. He also stressed the importance of monuments and heritage in linking the past with the present and the future, noting the importance of historical evidence of urban heritage as a link between civilisations.

He pointed out that the status of monuments and their social importance lies in the role they play in forming the citizens’ identity, and their understanding of the history, civilisation and the life of their ancestors, which strengthen their sense of belonging to their country.

Accompanying Sheikh Mohamed were Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Sheikh Khalifa bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Executive Director of the Martyrs’ Families’ Affairs Office of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court; Dr. Ahmed Mubarak Al Mazrouei, Secretary-General of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Jassim Mohammed Buatabh Al Zaabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Office; and Mohamed Mubarak Al Mazrouei; Under-Secretary of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.

In September 2018, DCT Abu Dhabi archaeologists discovered close to the construction site of the new Sheikh Khalifa mosque in Al Ain – several aflaj, – subterranean irrigation channels – the remains of at least three buildings and the foundations of a mosque which is the earliest yet discovered in the UAE.