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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 15 July, 2020

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. Inside the Ukip insurgency

Rochester and Strood by-election Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

For a party with just two MPs, Ukip gets a lot of press in the UK. Ahead of Thursday’s Rochester by-election, where the party took a second House of Commons seat, the Huffington Post’s Asa Bennett spent the day on the trail with the party and their campaigners.

She also expresses dismay at the “silly” comments made by former Ukip members like Godfrey Bloom, who infamously joked that women who do not clean behind the fridge were “sluts”.”I told my local chairman that I may have to resign as I don’t clean behind the fridge and so I am a slut!” she joked.

Estimated reading time: 25 minutes, 18 seconds. Contains 5062 words

2. The Islamic State’s colonies

As the Islamic State group moves into Northern Africa, chaos ensues. Der Spiegel’s Mirco Keilberth, Juliane von Mittelstaedt and Christoph Reuter find that chaos is a perfect breeding ground for IS.

The IS puts down roots wherever chaos reigns, where governments are weakest and where disillusionment over the Arab Spring is deepest. In recent weeks, terror groups that had thus far operated locally have quickly begun siding with the extremists from IS.

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes, 31 seconds. Contains 3305 words

3. Firestone and the Warlord

ProPublica is an American non-profit focused on investigative writing. In this collaboration with Frontline, T. Christian Miller and Jonathan Jones examine the role the Firestone tyre company played in the brutal reign of Liberian warlord Charles Taylor.

The killers wore ripped jeans and T-shirts, women’s wigs and cheap rubber sandals. Grotesque masks made them look like demons. They were electric with drugs. They clutched talismans of feather and bone to protect them from bullets. In the pre-dawn darkness, they surrounded Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.


Estimated reading time: 10 minutes, 40 seconds. Contains 2134 words

4. Inside the mind of Christopher Nolan

The Dark Knight Rises Source: Nocookie

He’s the man who, for many, made the blockbuster relevant again. But what makes Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar director Christopher Nolan tick? The Guardian found out.

The first time they met, Nolan came around to the actor’s house in Surrey with a copy of the script for the first film in his Batman trilogy. [Michael] Caine thought the blond, blue-eyed young man on his doorstep was a messenger.“My name’s Chris Nolan,” he said, “I’ve got a script for you.”

Caine asked what role Nolan had in mind for him. “I want you to play the butler,” Nolan replied.

“What do I say, ‘Dinner is served?’”

“No. The butler is Bruce Wayne’s stepfather.”

“Well, I’ll read it and get back to you.”

“No, no, can you read it now?” Nolan waited, drinking tea in the actor’s living room, until Caine had finished the script, then he took it away with him. “He’s very secretive,” Caine said.

5. Paradise Road, Mississippi

Mississippi St Alabama Football Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott Source: Butch Dill

If you don’t follow college American football, you probably don’t know that for the first time in a long time, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are both rather good this year.

Wright Thompson of ESPN is a Mississippian and he was called back to the Magnolia State to capture the duality, the contradictions and the weight of a segregationist state that has shaped both the teams and the people.

Leaving his office, I pass the building next door, named for James Vardaman, a former governor and U.S. senator who once said, “If it is necessary, every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy.”That’s the kind of detail that usually defines stories about Ole Miss, but I love what the university did. Instead of renaming it, they used it for many years to house the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation (it moved recently), the ultimate repudiation of Vardaman.

The centre takes the ideas of hope and peace from the university to the state and to the world.

6. How did gangs take over prison?

Originally for self-preservation, gangs are now an engrained part of prison life. How did that come to pass? Graeme Wood of The Atlantic found out.

If a white guy starts yelling and keeps everyone awake, the Aryan Brothers will discipline him to avoid having blacks or Hispanics attack one of their members. White power is one thing, but the need to keep order and get shut-eye is paramount.

And a classic from the archives…

7. 9/11: The 73 minutes that changed my life

Like many, Artie Van Why saw the 9/11 terror attacks from below on a New York City street. It made his life spin off on a wildly different course, as he told the BBC in 2011.

“I walked a short distance to Church Street where the towers were and that’s when I saw the North Tower for the first time. I was dumbstruck. It was hard to comprehend what I was seeing.

“There was a huge black hole, the flames were bright orange and the smoke was billowing out of the tower.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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