Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Shutterstock/Bjoern Wylezich
# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: The murder of a young mother that took 26 years to solve
Settle down in 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 cold case that took 26 years to solve

In 1996, Jasmine Porter was found dead in her Bronx home. The case went cold for nearly a quarter of a century, until one detective got a call that set him on the trail to solve it.

(The New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

There were interview notes, forensic biology reports and autopsy findings that showed she had been six months pregnant. One report that said clippings of Ms. Porter’s fingernails were “retained but not tested.” Detective Klein paused. Ms. Porter must have scratched her assailant. If he could find the clippings, he thought, perhaps DNA on them could lead to the killer. Two days later, he called the city medical examiner. Officials there said it could take months to locate the clippings, if they could find them at all. He hung up and waited. Detective Klein identified at least two people of interest in the weeks that followed. He visited both, though not much came of those meetings. But in the spring, the medical examiner located Ms. Porter’s nail clippings. By Thanksgiving, they had a hit.

2. The Good Friday Agreement

Former BBC correspondent in Belfast Brian Rowan looks at the legacy of the peace process, and how, after 25 years, strong leadership is needed more than ever.

(The Journal, approx 7 mins reading time)

Twenty-five years after Good Friday there is yet another crisis in northern politics. Those who walked away in ’98, are still walking away; this time from the Windsor Framework; a renegotiated and complex post-Brexit trading arrangement between GB and Northern Ireland, that unionists argue damages the Union. And those who are shouting loudest now shouted loudest for Brexit. We watched as they ran down its blind alleys. The learning, if only they would listen to someone other than themselves, is that politics is not just about what you want, but what comes with it. We know those who have overplayed their hand. They do it time and time again. So, in the waiting, we once again watch the pathetic, pantomime, pedestrian plays of Stormont.

3. Will flying ever be green?

As aviation companies look towards electric aviation, Christopher de Bellaigue investigates whether we will really ever see a net-zero flight.

(The Guardian, approx 19 mins reading time)

The aviation industry revels in its own exceptionalism, which is indivisible from its sense of entitlement and is reflected in the bizarre privileges it enjoys. To this day aviation has no equivalent of the tax that, when you drive a car in the UK, for example, accounts for more than a third of the price you pay at the petrol pump. Nor is VAT levied on international air tickets. Like shipping – another sector that scorns national jurisdictions – cross-border aviation is absent from the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, in part because of the difficulty of assigning responsibility for the emissions of international flights in which a carrier from one country flies from a second country to a third.

4. Grease is the word

With a Grease prequel hitting our TV screens, several members of the cast and crew of the original film look back on the making of the 1978 classic. 

(The Guardian, approx 15 mins reading time)

Casting began in LA in 1977 over a three-week period of dance tryouts and callbacks. “It was John who wanted Olivia Newton-John for the role of Sandy. Unusually for a star like Olivia, she asked for a screen test because she was a singer, not an actor, and she was unsure about being quite a bit older than John. We set up a full film test of the drive-in scene and she was perfect. She was so good that I didn’t have a back-up Sandy – if Olivia had said no, you’d see me in the film in a skirt and a blond wig!”

5. How mobile phones have changed our brains

It’s 50 years since the first mobile phone was made. How have they affected our brains since then?

(BBC Future, approx 7 mins reading time)

As you might expect, with our societal dependence on devices increasing rapidly every year, the research struggles to keep up. What we do know is that the simple distraction of checking a phone or seeing a notification can have negative consequences. This isn’t very surprising; we know that, in general, multitasking impairs memory and performance. One of the most dangerous examples is phone use while driving. One study found that merely speaking on the phone, not texting, was enough to make drivers slower to react on the road. It’s true for everyday tasks that are less high-stakes, too. Simply hearing a notification “ding” made participants of another study perform far worse on a task – almost as badly as participants who were speaking or texting on the phone during the task.

6. The Brighton bombing

A new book from Irish journalist Rory Carroll examines how close the IRA came to killing Margaret Thatcher and the British Cabinet in the 1984 attack.

(The New Yorker, approx 20 mins reading time)

Carroll can’t quite believe that the Brighton bombing, “an attack that had almost wiped out the British government,” isn’t better commemorated, or more famous. He considers it, reasonably, to be “one of the great what-ifs” of modern history. There are multiple what-ifs built in. What if Thatcher, or other members of the Cabinet, had died? Pretty much all of them were there. Surviving, she had six more years in office, including the run-up to the first Gulf War. What if Norman Tebbit had stayed on the path he was on before the bombing and become, as was expected, Thatcher’s successor? Instead, he absented himself from electoral politics in order to care for his badly injured wife, and emerged, from the sidelines, as an increasingly shrill critic of the European Union, helping to drag the country to Brexit. Perhaps most provocative, what if the Provisional Irish Republican Army hadn’t chosen to go after the Prime Minister by blowing up a hotel filled with hundreds of people?


An article from 2020 looking into former US president Donald Trump’s battles with the country’s intelligence agencies.

(The New York Times, approx 40 mins reading time)

According to multiple officials who saw it, the document discussed Russia’s ongoing efforts to influence U.S. elections: the 2020 presidential contest and 2024’s as well. It was compiled by a working group consisting of about a dozen senior analysts, led by Christopher Bort, a veteran national intelligence officer with nearly four decades of experience, principally focused on Russia and Eurasia. The N.I.E. began by enumerating the authors’ “key judgments.” Key Judgment 2 was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president: Donald Trump.

Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel