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sitdown sunday

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. Living with the dead
Julia Heaberlin talks to Dr Rhonda Roby, who specialises in identifying the bodies of humans and who, on 13 September 2001, found herself on a plane bound for New York. (D Magazine)

On a few occasions, when the identification of a victim relied heavily on DNA, she was called in to explain the science to grieving families. She remembers sitting across from relatives of victims who worked in the kitchens at the top of the World Trade Center as dishwashers and cooks. The families couldn’t speak English. Roby couldn’t speak Spanish. She was sharing a painful, scientific truth that would change these families forever, but a middleman, an interpreter, was relaying it. This bothered her immensely. So Roby, in her late 30s, set a new goal for herself: to learn Spanish.

2. Raising a prodigy
Andrew Solomon looks into the trials and tribulations of raising a child prodigy and the difficulties they can face. (The New York Times)

Drew Petersen didn’t speak until he was 3½, but his mother, Sue, never believed he was slow. When he was 18 months old, in 1994, she was reading to him and skipped a word, whereupon Drew reached over and pointed to the missing word on the page.

3. Crisis can produce serenity
James Fallows talks to productivity expert David Allen about how we can cope with being constantly “connected”. (The Atlantic)

The interesting thing about crisis is that it actually produces a type of serenity. Why? Because in a crisis, people have to integrate all kinds of information that’s potentially relevant, they have to make decisions quickly, they have to then trust their intuitive judgment calls in the moment. They have to act.

4.The campaign to keep people sweet about sugar
Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens look in to how marketing and spin brought the sugar industry in the US back from the brink. (Mother Jones)

THE SUGAR ASSOCIATION’S earliest incarnation dates back to 1943, when growers and refiners created the Sugar Research Foundation to counter World War II sugar-rationing propaganda—”How Much Sugar Do You Need? None!” declared one government pamphlet. In 1947, producers rechristened their group the Sugar Association and launched a new PR division, Sugar Information Inc., which before long was touting sugar as a “sensible new approach to weight control.”

5.Looking for four more years
Douglas Brinkley got 45 minutes with Barack Obama as he continues his fight for a second term in office. (Rolling Stone)

No wonder the right has such a gleam of hatred for Obama – he is the roadblock to their revolution. The conservative movement, however, has a crippling problem: If they can’t beat Obama with a 7.8 percent unemployment rate, then how can they hope to derail Hillary Clinton in 2016 when presumably that number will be substantially lower?

6.A fake film and a plan
Nate Jones delved into the official CIA account of the story that became the film Argo. (Foreign Policy)

Despite the eventual successful rescue from Tehran, the operation did not go off without hitches. The Canadians discovered that one of the CIA’s forged Iranian visas had been mistakenly issued in the future — its forger had “misinterpreted the Farsi calendar.”


In March 1979, Lynda Miles and Michael Pye wrote in The Atlantic about George Lucas and the seminal sci-fi film he’d made just two years before that broke all the records.

Star Wars has been taken with ominous seriousness. It should not be. The single strongest impression it leaves is of another great American tradition which involves lights, bells, obstacles, menace, action, technology, and thrills. It is pinball-on a cosmic scale. On May 25, 1977, Star Wars went out on test release to twenty-five theaters. In nine days, it had grossed $3.5 million. Within two months it had recouped its $9 million costs, and it was in profit before its general release.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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