Professional empaths, Surrealist corpses, Mars colonies, psychic marines, and Puerto Rican cannabis.

Monday, June 26th - Sunday, July 2nd
Stories from The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffpost, The Daily Beast, and Leafly.

EMPATHY GURUS

As the term “empath” surges in popularity, so too do the professionals.

People like Los Angeles-based David Sauvage and New York-based Noah Berman have turned what sometimes felt like a curse, the ability to experience the emotions of others, into a career.

Sauvage’s sensitivity left him detached, distracted, overwhelmed by the emotions of those around him and resulted in bouts of serious depression. He credits his recovery to LSD and a 2015 ayahuasca ceremony which forced him to follow his authentic self.

“Empathy was a gift that became a curse, that became a gift, that became a skill, that became a superpower, that became a mission,” he said. Sauvage now hires out his skills to business clients and holds readings at places like Burning Man and a New York art gallery.

Noah Berman had premonitions from an early age. He was bullied by classmates who were freaked out by the information he could intuit. Now 26, Berman, who also runs a wellness startup, shops his skills to tech and business clients.

In a world where empathy has been declining since 1979, according to a 2011 University of Michigan meta-analysis of dispositional empathy, and one in which millennials are persistently accused of being overly individualistic, these professional empaths are part of a growing swing against disassociation.

“People have such shitty emotional literacy,” Sauvage says. “We’re emotional ignoramuses. We’re so stuck in the way things ought to be – we don’t spend any time figuring out how people actually are.”

SURREAL PARENTS

Salvador Dalí’s body will be exhumed for a paternity test.

A Spanish tarot card reader and astrologer named Pilar Abel says her mother, a maid near Dalí’s summer home, had an affair with the surrealist artist in 1955. She was born in 1956.

Abel’s mother apparently kept talking about her father, so in 2007 Abel attempted to settle the matter with a test using nasal gastric tubes that had supplied oxygen to the artist when he was hospitalized after a fire in 1984.

The results were inconclusive. Abel then sought help from Dalí’s biographer, Robert Descharnes, who sent samples to a lab in Paris but Abel says she never got an answer.

In 2015, she took the case to court and decided that if there were no alternatives, the body would need to be dug up. Last week, a Madrid judge motioned for the grave digging to move forwards. The Dalí Foundation says it plans an appeal.

Abel stands to gain a new last name, as well as 300 million euros of artwork.

OUTER LIMITS

NASA denies it is running a slave colony on Mars, rebutting Infowars guest.

An Infowars interview last week with ex-CIA case officer Robert David Steele, who claims that NASA operates a clandestine mars colony, has garnered an official denial.

“This may strike your listeners as way out, but we actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20-year ride,” Steele said. “So that once they get to Mars, they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.”

Steele further claimed the abductees are tortured and killed. “Pedophilia does not stop with sodomizing children,” he said. “It also includes murdering them so that they can have their bone marrow harvested as well as body parts.”

“This is the original growth hormone,” Jones responded, adding that “90 percent of the NASA missions are secret.”

NASA spokesman Guy Webster denied the allegations. “There are no humans on Mars,” Webster said. “There are active rovers on Mars. There was a rumor going around last week that there weren’t. There are. But there are no humans.”

CREATIVE SOLDIERS

Marines are learning to weaponize their intuition, according to a training manual obtained through the FOIA.

The Office of Navel Research calls the technique “sensemaking” and it involves trainees learning to trust their gut instinct. The four-year and $4 million initiative launched in 2014.

“This is an attempt to improve what regular people already have,” John Alexander, the author of The Warrior's Edge and an expert in fringe military research, told The Daily Beast.

According to the manual, sensemaking involves two distinct skills: "perspective-taking" and "characterizing.” The first requires relating to a sequence of events from different viewpoints while the second involves piecing together disparate chunks of information to form conclusions.

In one scenario, a Marine on his first day in Afghanistan finds an Afghan officer yelling at his own soldiers. The marine brushes off the officer, but later learns the yelling was because the soldiers had been stealing food instead of asking for help. In another, teams of Marines patrolling a small park see patterns of people moving, eventually concluding a bomb is being planted.

Despite the connections drawn with other attempts by the military to harness psychic powers, this manual does not actually train marines to use ESP.

Sensemaking is just one of the many programs the Navy funds in order to improve Marines' "situational awareness," Bob Freeman, a spokesman for the Office of Naval Research, told The Daily Beast. "We have a bunch of programs for helping Marines figure out situational awareness using virtual reality and things like that."

POT PARADISE

For young cannabis entrepreneurs, Puerto Rico could be a big opportunity.

With a tropical climate ideal for marijuana, and as a territory of the United States which makes it exempt from many federal taxes, Puerto Rico’s potential for the cannabis industry has brought together an eclectic mix of advocates.

Carmen Portela and Gaby Pagan, founders of consulting company Growth Leaders, are on a mission to “develop an ecosystem of the cannabis industry for it to be more inclusive.”

After an executive order in 2015 which made medical marijuana legal for some conditions, a more thorough piece of legislation called Senate Bill 340 is making the rounds. However, licenses can be prohibitively expensive with a fee of $20,000 for a dispensary license.

To counter this, one of Portela and Pagan’s goals is to build a network of “creatives and innovators” who don’t have the capital to invest on the production side but could find opportunities in branding, marketing, and design.

As Puerto Rico struggles with unemployment around 60 percent, mindsets are shifting from “colonialist thinking” which glorifies the mainland to “this is Latin America,” says Frances Aparicio, a 28-year-old promoter and partner in the Regenerative Group, a medical cannabis holding corporation.

“I want to contribute to Puerto Rico,” he said. “This is the most important thing. I want to give great jobs. I don’t want minimum federal wage; I hate that. I want people to work with me, not for me.”

THE SHORTLIST

Ask a Witch: How To Bring Witchcraft Into Your Regular Life - NYLON

This Stylish ‘Harry Potter’ Clothing Collaboration Will Help Your Inner Witch Or Wizard Shine - Bustle

The brain on DMT: mapping the psychedelic drug’s effects - WIRED UK

What a ‘Transcendent Experience’ Really Means - Science of Us

Mushrooms Are the Safest Drug - Men’s Journal

That’s all for this week. Look out next Monday morning.