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sitdown sunday

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

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.

1. The real price of drugs
Jochen-Martin Gutsch and Juan Moreno wonder whether the global war on drugs is achieving anything, and whether the time has come for a new approach to an old problem. (Spiegel Online)

Popeye was the right-hand man of Pablo Escobar, head of Colombia’s Medellín cartel. Until his death in 1993, Escobar was the most powerful drug lord in the world. He industrialized cocaine production, controlled 80 percent of the global cocaine trade and became one of the richest people on the planet. The cartel ordered the killings of 30 judges, about 450 police officers and many more civilians. As Escobar’s head of security, Popeye was an expert at kidnapping, torture and murder.

2. The cannibal cop
Daniel Engber looks at the case of former New York City police officer Gilberto Vallue, as he goes on trial not because of what he did, but because of what he planned to do. (Slate)

Gilberto Valle slouches forward in his seat and holds that pose for hours, while the details of his sexual sadism – plans to cook his friends alive and worse – are read off and posted to a monitor beside him. If this embarrasses Valle, we wouldn’t know. If it angers him, it’s hard to tell. If he’s terrified, he doesn’t show it. He just sits there in the courtroom. He doesn’t do anything at all.

3. The butler did it
Sean Flynn takes a look back at the Vatileaks scandal, and wonders why butler Paolo Gabriele did what he did. (GQ)

A man was sitting in the chair. He told Nuzzi he had worked inside the Vatican for about twenty years. He professed to be a devout and pious Catholic, which Nuzzi would come to believe because the man quoted Gospel passages and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI from memory. The man was uncomfortable meeting with a journalist, but he said his conscience left him no alternative. There are scandals in the Holy See, he told Nuzzi, hypocrisies and frauds practiced upon the Church, and even upon Benedict himself, that he could no longer abide.

4. Going the distance
Jordan Conn tries to keep up with the man who ran his first marathon at 89 and will run his final one today, aged 101. (ESPN)

Looking to get out of the house, Fauja began running with fellow Punjabi expats at Sikh community gatherings. “I needed something to distract myself,” he says. Nearly 85 years after Fauja had been too weak to walk, he found himself in decent physical shape. While his new expat friends had spent much of their lives enjoying London’s conveniences, Fauja had spent his days laboring on the farm. He challenged fellow seniors to sprints. He won. When there was no one available to race, Fauja set off running by himself, and he built up his distance over time.

5. Unlocking genius
Adam Piore profiles an extraordinary group of people who have suffered brain damage and gone on to discover previously hidden talents. (Popsci)

It would be weeks before the full impact of Amato’s head trauma became apparent: 35 percent hearing loss in one ear, headaches, memory loss. But the most dramatic consequence appeared just four days after his accident. Amato awoke hazy after near-continuous sleep and headed over to Sturm’s house. As the two pals sat chatting in Sturm’s makeshift music studio, Amato spotted a cheap electric keyboard. Without thinking, he rose from his chair and sat in front of it. He had never played the piano – never had the slightest inclination to. Now his fingers seemed to find the keys by instinct and, to his astonishment, ripple across them.

6. After the heist
Daniel Grushkin looks back at the 2005 Miami heist which saw $7.4 million stolen, and how the robbery was to be the easy part. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Diaz was attentive at work, but not in the way his employers might have wished. To Monzon, he ticked off the security vulnerabilities inside the warehouse: The bills lay exposed; the security cameras didn’t work; the guards removed their guns before entering the building; and most alluring of all, the warehouse’s enormous bay doors led directly onto the street, which meant that one could bypass the perimeter fence and the airport gatehouse. Diaz didn’t want to join the robbery attempt, but for an even cut of the haul he would signal Monzon when it was time to strike. Monzon was in.


In the week that marked the 15th anniversary of his death, we look back at the 1997 interview that Dermot Morgan gave to James Rampton in The Independent.

Morgan, 45, is unfailingly lively company, always on full gag alert. His eyes dance mischievously beneath a thick helmet of grey hair. When the waitress in the posh Dublin hotel offers him the bread-basket, he says, “I’ll have a little roll,” before paying off with a twinkle: “not something thespians often ask for.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by >

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