Short summary of the ncurses bug:

- when you call start_color() and then endwin() twice without calling
use_default_colors() in the middle, endwin() resets the color to grey on
black (and then clears to end of line, which leaves an ugly black bar in
my gnome-terminal which uses a white background).

Translated into muttrc:

- when you shell out to external programs before configuring 'default'
as a color name, you get this bug

This leads to a workaround I've just tested:

- edit /etc/Muttrc and insert

    color normal default default

  just above the last line, which is

    source /usr/lib/mutt/source-muttrc.d|

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https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/1582629

Title:
  mutt does not properly restore console colors on exit

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