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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: The poisoning of a Russian double agent

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 poisoning of a Russian double agent 

Salisbury incident Personnel in hazmat suits work to secure a tent covering a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill by exposure to a nerve agent. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The poisoning of Sergei Skripal was shocking – and the UK government is still investigating it. This article looks into the incident, and what it says about Vladimir Putin’s war with the West.

(GQ, approx 33 mins reading time)

Next they went to an Italian restaurant to eat. An hour passed. Finally, walking back to their car at around 3:30 P.M., the Skripals began to feel truly unwell and had to put themselves down on a bench, where they drifted in and out of consciousness, slumped over and gesturing strangely. Passersby assumed they were high. At a quarter to four, the cathedral clock sounded again. The Skripals’ pupils had shrunk, and they were sweating. They were foaming at the mouth. An off-duty nurse was the first to attend them, and a small crowd gathered. At 4:15 P.M., an ambulance was called, come quickly, forthwith.

2. Elon Musk and his excruciating year

It’s been one hell of a year for Elon Musk, as this interview shows.

(New York Times, approx 11 mins reading time)

At multiple points in an hourlong telephone interview with The New York Times, he choked up, noting that he nearly missed his brother’s wedding this summer and spent his birthday holed up in Tesla’s offices as the company raced to meet elusive production targets on a crucial new model. Asked if the exhaustion was taking a toll on his physical health, Mr. Musk answered: “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.”

3. Could sex robots revolutionise marriage for the better?


shutterstock_720993676 Source: Shutterstock/Fossiant

That’s what Marina Adshade argues in this article for Slate. She says that sex robots could make marriages stronger than ever.

(Slate, approx 13 mins reading time)

The reality is that marriage has always evolved alongside changes in technology. Between the mid-1700s and the early 2000s, the role of marriage between a man and a woman was predominately to encourage the efficient production of market goods and services (by men) and household goods and services (by women), since the social capacity to earn a wage was almost always higher for husbands than it was for wives. But starting as early as the end of the 19th century, marriage began to evolve as electrification in the home made women’s work less time-consuming, and new technologies in the workplace started to decrease the gender wage gap.

4. Who’s listening to women when they talk about their health?

Ashley Fetters writes in the Atlantic about how women who have felt unlistened to by doctors have turned to the media to get their message out.

(The Atlantic, approx 9 mins reading time)

Additionally, because PCOS often causes obesity or weight problems, many women with PCOS experience not just sexism but what Ottey calls “weight bias” in the health-care system. “Many women and young girls are told, ‘Oh, it’s all in your head. Just eat less and exercise more,’” says Ottey, who herself recalls being initially instructed by an endocrinologist to lose weight and come back in six months. “People who are following an eating plan and present their diaries to their physicians or nutritionists will be told, ‘You left something off. You’re lying. You’re not doing enough.’”

5. Stephen Miller is a hypocrite 

UPI 20180716 Source: UPI/PA Images

So says Miller’s uncle, who writes for Politico about his very controversial nephew and his views on immigration.

(Politico, approx 10 mins reading time)

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses— the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants — been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom.

6. War without end

This in-depth article looks at the US soldiers who fought the failed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the aftermath of this for them.

(New York Times, approx 56 mins reading time)

The United States has at various times declared success in its many campaigns — in late 2001; in the spring of 2003; in 2008; in the short-lived withdrawal from Iraq late in 2011; and in its allies’ recapture more recently of the ruins of Ramadi, Falluja, Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State, a terrorist organization, formed in the crucible of occupied Iraq, that did not even exist when the wars to defeat terrorism started. And still the wars grind on, with the conflict in Afghanistan on track to be a destination for American soldiers born after it began.


U.S.-LOS ANGELES-ARETHA FRANKLIN Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, sadly died this week at the age of 76. Here’s an article from 2016 where David Remnick writes about her revival.

(The New Yorker, approx 33 mins reading time)

On the counter in front of her, next to her makeup mirror and hairbrush, were small stacks of hundred-dollar bills. She collects on the spot or she does not sing. The cash goes into her handbag and the handbag either stays with her security team or goes out onstage and resides, within eyeshot, on the piano. “It’s the era she grew up in—she saw so many people, like Ray Charles and B. B. King, get ripped off,” a close friend, the television host and author Tavis Smiley, told me. “There is the sense in her very often that people are out to harm you. And she won’t have it. You are not going to disrespect her.”

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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