IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair.
We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.
The New Yorker excels in longform reporting like this – a journey to the border of Isis territory, where the writer Luke Mogelson meets Iraqi civilians in Mosul who are fighting to survive.
(The New Yorker, approx 43 mins reading time)
“All of their positions were linked underground,” Gauda said when we were outside again. “They were also digging a tunnel up the hill, toward our position. Luckily, they didn’t finish in time.” He said that many of the buildings were rigged with explosives, and at one point he showed me a bomb lying amid the rubble on the street: a metal cylinder connected by blue wire to four plastic jugs.
Connie Converse’s music was recorded back in the 1950s – 20 years later, she packed up her life and disappeared. But then, in 2014, she became an unexpected hit on Spotify. Here’s the strange story.
(Priceonomics, approx 18 mins reading time)
None of this did anything for Converse’s career. There’s no evidence of a label ever showing any interest in her. Very much the introvert, Converse does not seem to have been particularly adept at self-promotion. But even if she was, the singer-songwriter subgenre of folk music was not even remotely ‘mainstream’ until the 1960s. Converse’s songs, full of humor, passion, pining and poignancy were, tragically, ever-so-slightly before their time.
Kate Elazegui and Emily Kehe, a married couple, wanted to have kids, so they started fertility treatment. Then they both ended up getting pregnant at the same time…
(The Cut, approx 28 mins reading time)
We didn’t know how fertile she was. Emily is the poster girl for womanhood. Her body was like, boom! Dr. Kang called two weeks later and said, “I did not expect that to happen. You’re pregnant.” That day was both totally amazing and really sad for me. I didn’t really tell Emily, but I felt very sad inside. That was one part I couldn’t really share with her because I didn’t want to take away any joy and I didn’t want her to feel guilty. I wanted to be so happy, and I was happy for us. I was.
When attorney Rob Bilott took a call from a cattle farmer called Wilbur Tennant, he had no idea how huge it was. Tennant thought that a chemical company was responsible for the death of his cows, and though Bilott shouldn’t have taken on his case, he did. He then became the chemical company DuPont’s worst nightmare.
(New York Times, approx 44 mins reading time)
Bilott watched the video and looked at photographs for several hours. He saw cows with stringy tails, malformed hooves, giant lesions protruding from their hides and red, receded eyes; cows suffering constant diarrhea, slobbering white slime the consistency of toothpaste, staggering bowlegged like drunks. Tennant always zoomed in on his cows’ eyes. ‘‘This cow’s done a lot of suffering,’’ he would say, as a blinking eye filled the screen. ‘‘This is bad,’’ Bilott said to himself. ‘‘There’s something really bad going on here.’’
It’s been a sad week. First Bowie, then Alan Rickman, both gone. Back in 2013, the Guardian interviewed people who were involved with Bowie’s career, and it’s a fascinating look at how he worked with people.
(The Guardian, approx 23 mins reading time)
He’s an emotional, passionate person who put everything into the music. I’ve seen him in the studio burst out crying after finishing a song – Life On Mars springs to mind. After some gigs, he’d say, “The audience were a bit quiet.” I’d say, “David, they’re staring at you with their mouths open.” He had created this fierce storm, but he was the only one in it. He felt as if everyone was feeding off him, like leeches.
Daniel Rigmaiden got involved with a multi-million dollar fraud, but did his utmost to cover his tracks. So when he was caught, it was shock. Turns out it was because of a secret tracking device that police had never made public.
(The Verge, approx 23 mins reading time)
The informant led the task force to a nest of bank accounts where he’d been instructed to deposit money, but they were all in false names — Sam Blat, Benjamin Cohan, Aaron Johnson. There was more than $400,000 spread across the accounts, all of which could have been shuttered and seized using evidence the task force already had — but that would just have spooked the target. They wanted to catch him, not to scare him off.
…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…
The Big Short is out in Ireland soon, and the book it’s based on is all about a guy called Michael Burry, who became secretly obsessed with the bond market. Here’s an excerpt from the much-lauded book.
(Vanity Fair, approx 59 mins reading time)
A lot of hedge-fund managers spent time chitchatting with their investors and treated their quarterly letters to them as a formality. Burry disliked talking to people face-to-face and thought of these letters as the single most important thing he did to let his investors know what he was up to. In his quarterly letters he coined a phrase to describe what he thought was happening: “the extension of credit by instrument.” That is, a lot of people couldn’t actually afford to pay their mortgages the old-fashioned way, and so the lenders were dreaming up new financial instruments to justify handing them new money.