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Sitdown Sunday: Theresa May's impossible choice

Grab a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

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. Theresa May’s Impossible Choice

Bulgaria: Mural Festival in the Staro Zhelezare Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Brexit has put Theresa May between a rock, a hard place and Jacob Rees Mogg. But, should we predict her next moves? This profile paints a three-dimensional portrait of a woman in a most difficult political position.

Since the referendum, the central task in British politics has been to try to square two conflicting demands: to respect the democratic impulse of Brexit while limiting the economic consequences. It is a version of the challenge posed by populist anger everywhere. How far should governments go in tearing up systems that people say they dislike—the alienating structures of global capitalism and multilateral government—when the alternatives risk making populations poorer, and therefore presumably more furious than before?

(The New Yorker, 52 minute reading time)

2. The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier, American Hostage

Last year, Otto Warmbier returned home from North Korea. The American student had been held hostage for a year and a half. This was no triumphant homecoming, though – Otto would soon be dead.

For the next two months, until his forced confession, Otto would probably have been relentlessly interrogated; American missionary Kenneth Bae said he was questioned up to 15 hours a day. The goal wasn’t to extract the truth but to construct the fabulation that Otto read off handwritten notes at his news conference.

(GQ, 48 minute reading time)

3. Inside China’s Surveillance State

Olympics - Beijing Olympic Games 2008 Source: PA Archive/PA Images

China is a world leader in many things, including the surveillance of its own people.

A surveillance system, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence, tracks the state school’s 1,010 pupils, informing teachers which students are late or have missed class, while in the café, their menu choices leave a digital dietary footprint that staff can monitor to see who is gorging on too much fatty food.

(FT, 17 minute reading time)

4. Should we treat crime as something to be cured rather than punished?

Crime is a problem that societies have been trying to grapple with for centuries. New methods are often looked at as too lenient, but is it time to treat crime as an illness?

One young man came into the hospital in the middle of the night with a knife wound across his face. Goodall dreaded the morning ward round the next day, when she would have to tell him that it would be impossible to avoid a serious scar. But his reaction surprised her. “He was very offhand about it,” she says. “Some of his friends came to see him later that afternoon and I realised why it wasn’t going to be a problem for him – because they all had one. He’d just joined the club.” The incident has stayed with her, an indication of how bad the situation in her city had become.

(The Guardian, 21 minute reading time)

5. You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Ocean

Great White Shark Source: DPA/PA Images

More and more, white sharks are being spotted off the coast of California and scientists and researchers are wondering why.

The summer of 2017 in particular, dubbed the “summer of sightings” by NBC Los Angeles, saw a massive spike in reports of shark activity along the California coast. Surfers, swimmers, kayakers, and boaters reported seeing sharks in the water, and many not far from shore.

(The Ringer, 20 minute reading time)

6. Inside the Binge Factory

Netflix didn’t hire all those actors, writers and directors you like to make shows you like by accident. The company leverages its data to serve content it knows people will enjoy. Here’s how.

Netflix’s overthrow of television’s old business model began just seven years ago. That’s when the Silicon Valley company best known for mailing DVDs in little red envelopes outbid AMC and HBO for the rights to a drama from director David Fincher, a remake of the British mini-series House of Cards. It was a big deal at the time, both because of the money Netflix was spending ($100 million for two seasons) and because it was the first hint of the streaming platform’s ambitions to evolve beyond a digital warehouse for other conglomerates’ intellectual property.

(Vulture, 44 minute reading time)

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES… 

What do you know about Rasputin? Other than that he was the lover of the Russian queen? In 1924, a Russian writer named Teffi published essays on her encounters with the trusted friend of the last tsar of Russia.

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