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Dublin: -1 °C Monday 18 November, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: Inside the failing state of Venezuela

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. The failing state of Venezuela

Venezuela Political Crisis People queuing for bread in Caracas. Source: Ariana Cubillos

This essay on the economic crisis in Venezuela is an incredibly difficult read, showing the huge impact it has had on ordinary people, particularly those who are in hospital.

(The New Yorker, approx 53 mins reading time)

I was introduced to a surgeon, who took me outside to speak. We stood under a tin roof, near piles of garbage and a deserted loading dock. The surgeon was bearded, heavyset, nervous. He looked exhausted. He did not want me to know his name, let alone use it. “We have no basic trauma tools,” he said. “Sutures, gloves, pins, plates.” He ran down a list of unavailable medications, including ciprofloxacin, an all-purpose antibiotic, and clindamycin, a cheap antibiotic. The doctors lost surgical patients because they had no adrenaline.

2. The Aids epidemic

Thursday of this week was a day for remembering the impact of Aids and the work people are doing to educate people about it. This article looks back at the fight on the frontline against the epidemic since it first emerged in the 1980s.

(The Guardian, approx 22 mins reading time)

But throughout the plague years – when no effective treatment existed, and death was quite nearly guaranteed – New York City remained the epicentre of the disease, and America the main obstacle to research and treatment. It took two years for the city’s mayor, Ed Koch, to acknowledge its existence publicly. President Ronald Reagan waited six. But their words were hollow. Both continued to practise obfuscation, budgetary strangulation, and aggressive apathy even as the number of dead Americans passed 20,000, and 1.5 million more were believed to be infected.

3. Speak no evil

shutterstock_113473264 Source: Shutterstock/David Lee

Varsity football coach Philip Foglietta was accused of abusing dozens of students in the 1960s – so why was nothing done about it?

(Esquire, approx 34 mins reading time)

The recent expiration of the judge’s 2012 gag order has revealed new details about Foglietta’s decades-long campaign of depravity. The story told by the court records shows how a revered authority figure can repeatedly abuse children over decades; how that abuse gets ignored and normalized; how those responsible can construct arbitrary barriers of proof to avoid addressing problems; how stereotypes of masculinity can lead to willful blindness; and how victims can be shamed into silence for decades, only to end up being victimized again by hard-nosed litigation tactics and the rigidity of the legal system.

4. The story of where hair extensions come from

The hair on real hair extensions has to come from somewhere – so Olivia Carville and photographer Mike Scott went to China and tracked how hair goes from the head of a young girl to the head of a woman in New Zealand. It’s a sobering read.

(NZ Herald, approx 17 mins reading time)

Consumers don’t want to think about the women who grew their hair or the chains of labour that led to it landing on their scalp because, hair trade academics argue, the thought of wearing someone else’s body part is grotesque. We contacted 22 salons across New Zealand that specialise in hair extensions and found demand has almost tripled in the past five years. But not even the hairdressers who work with these products know where they’re coming from.

5. Behind the fake news

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There has been a lot of talk about fake news lately, so an NPR show tracked down a guy who creates fake news at his home. Here’s an insight into why he does it.

(NPR, approx 16 mins reading time)

Coler is a soft-spoken 40-year-old with a wife and two kids. He says he got into fake news around 2013 to highlight the extremism of the white nationalist alt-right. ”The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction,” Coler says.

6. The lady and Project Mercury

The story of Katherine Goble is a fascinating one – she worked on Nasa’s Project Mercury, at a time when both her race and sex meant the odds were stacked against her in the workplace. But tenacious and intelligent, she didn’t let any barriers stand in her way.

(, approx 33 mins reading time)

Let me do it,” Katherine said to Ted Skopinski. Working with Skopinski as a computer (or “math aide,” as the women had been renamed when the NACA became NASA), she had proven herself to be as reliable with numbers as a Swiss timepiece and deft with higher-level conceptual work. She was older than many of her colleagues, some of whom were just out of college, but she matched them at every turn for enthusiasm and work stamina. The fellas were putting everything they had on the line, and she was not going to be left out. “Tell me where you want the man to land, and I’ll tell you where to send him up,” she said.


shutterstock_128458394 Source: Shutterstock/Marcelo Costa

In 2009, Raffi Khatchadourian wrote about the tastemakers, the people who create food flavourings. It’s the sort of thing you didn’t realise you wanted to know about until you had the chance to find out more…

(The New Yorker, approx 51 mins reading time)

Flavor additives are no less a contrivance; in fact, flavor re-creations typically have less fidelity than digital photography or MP3s. They more closely resemble paintings: subjective creations, made by people who work in competing styles. There are the hyperrealists, who strive for molecular-level precision; the neo-primitivists, who use centuries-old palettes of extracts and essential oils; the Fauvist types, who embrace a sensually heightened sensibility. Placed in the context of art history, the flavor industry today would be in its modernist phase, somewhere in the waning days of Cubism, for even the most outlandish flavor concoctions take direct inspiration from the real world.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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