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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 12 November, 2019
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Sitdown Sunday: Two sisters, one house, and a mystery death

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. You may want to marry my husband

shutterstock_571042981 Source: Shutterstock/marina_andrejchenko

This wonderfully sad but beautiful piece of writing has been doing the rounds this week – it’s written by a woman who is nearing death, and who wants her husband to find love again.

(New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

When I was working on my first memoir, I kept circling sections my editor wanted me to expand upon. She would say, “I’d like to see more of this character.” Of course, I would agree — he was indeed a captivating character. But it was funny because she could have just said: “Jason. Let’s add more about Jason.” He is an absolutely wonderful father. Ask anyone. See that guy on the corner? Go ahead and ask him; he’ll tell you. Jason is compassionate — and he can flip a pancake.

2. He heaviest man on the planet

GQ meets Paul Mason, who used to weigh close to 1,000lbs. He has now lost nearly all of the weight, but it leaves him with many questions about how he should live his life.

(GQ, approx 29 mins reading time)

The logistics of getting him into surgery were unprecedented. Engineers had realized before he arrived that the operating room probably wouldn’t be sturdy enough to hold him. After consulting blueprints, they ultimately installed metal supports beneath the floor. Then doctors had to make a scary guess about how much anesthetic to pump into their patient. He needed much more than a normal person; the customary amount would merely dissolve in his body. But too much could mean death.

3. How Greece fumbled the refugee crisis 

shutterstock_553494580 Source: Shutterstock/Nicolas Economou

Thousands of refugees have arrived on the shores of Greece looking for help. But some of them say that they’ve witnessed things go wrong there, leading to people living in miserable conditions. This is the despite the money that’s been pouring into the humanitarian response.

(The Guardian, approx 26 mins reading time)

For the established groups already working in Greece, the sudden influx of funds was both welcome and destabilising. Metadrasi, a Greek organisation known for training interpreters and caring for unaccompanied minors, had experienced staff poached by bigger new arrivals on the scene that could afford far higher salaries. The head of Metadrasi, Lora Pappa, believes the tide of money transformed refugees into “commodities” and encouraged short-term responses.

4. The night Biggie was murdered 

Twenty years ago this week, the rapper Notorious BIG was murdered. Here’s what happened on that night in Los Angeles.

(The Undefeated, approx 15 mins reading time)

In the final hours of his life, Biggie Smalls was surrounded by love. Love that should have propelled him to the next chapter of a still infant career. Biggie had survived a war that six months earlier had taken the life of his former friend. A death Biggie said blindsided him. But even before that, B.I.G. believed death was always around the corner. “I’m scared to death,” he said in 1994, sitting on the third-floor steps of his mother’s apartment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Scared of getting my brains blown out.”

5. The art of spying 

shutterstock_561916336 Source: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

Since 9/11, things have been changing in the world of spying, and the ‘global war on terror’ mindset has been the default at the CIA for the past 15 years. But this writer argues that the CIA is going to have to bring in even more changes to deal with today’s world.

(Politico, approx 16 mins reading time)

In short, the CIA looks very different today from the way it did at the height of the Cold War. The transformation was a necessary one, given the nature of the threat and the continuing evolution of groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The global risk environment is shifting again, however, and I fear that much of the institutional knowledge about running traditional espionage operations—which will be necessary in this new environment—is gone.

6. Two sisters, one house and a mystery

Two sisters, Sheryl and Lynda Waldman, lived a reclusive life in a 4,000-square-foot home in Wisconsin. Over the years, the house slowly fell into disrepair, but Lynda would appear in the door and refuse to take any of the help offered. Then the discovery was made that Sheryl had died in the house… a long time ago.

(Boston Globe, approx 24 mins reading time)

The sisters, who craved privacy above all else, are now the subject of public soul-searching in a town that prides itself on progressive government and neighborly compassion: Could it be that easy for someone in their midst to disappear and die without anyone knowing? Is this an isolated tragedy, or a reminder about the vulnerability of those who lead hidden lives? And another question in this haunting case cannot yet be ruled out: Could this death have been a crime? Or the result of frightful neglect?

… AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

shutterstock_526467031 Source: Shutterstock/kosmenkod

In 2000, Esquire carried a story about the ‘perfect fire’, a blaze that began with a candle in an abandoned warehouse and ended with firefighters in danger of losing their lives.

(Esquire, approx 75 mins reading time)

No windows interrupted the endless rows of brick, save for a few tiny panes on the second floor, which meant there were no easy vents to bleed out heat and smoke and, if things got really hairy, no obvious escape hatches for anyone trapped inside. Hardly any of the firefighters had ever been in it, except for a few old-timers who’d cleaned up gas leaks or doused spot fires before the warehouse was abandoned in 1987 and, later, a captain named Robert A. Johnson, who got lost in a maze of meat lockers during a routine inspection. “Jesus,” he had whispered to himself then. “We’d better never get a fire in here.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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