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The Titan submersible. Alamy Stock Photo
deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: The best longreads of the year

Time for our bumper annual round-up.

WE’VE HAD 12 months of compiling excellent longreads every week for Sitdown Sunday – and now it’s time to pick the best of the bunch.

Here were the highlights from across 2023, month by month.

January

 A woman called Carrie Jade Williams claims her Airbnb guests said her disability aids offended them – her TikTok videos about it spark off a cascade of events that end up with her very identity being questioned.

(Vice, approx 22 mins reading time)

Everything seemed to be going so well for Williams. Despite challenging circumstances, she was flourishing as a writer and creator. Friends said she was a “lovely person,” an inspirational figure living with Huntington’s Disease. Except that Carrie Jade Williams does not exist.

Adam Gollner writes about the Fargo-esque story of how a small-town Canadian couple became entangled with hapless hitmen, Mob moles and a murder plot.

(Vanity Fair, approx 38 mins reading time)

According to Italy’s anti-Mafia brigade, for decades Montreal has been “the key that turns the lock of America.” Since 1980 or so, the kingpins with the keys had been the Stitches, as the city’s Sicilian faction is known. Before then, going back to the era of Lucky Luciano and the so-called French Connection, Calabrians ran the books. But in the late 1970s, they’d been forced to hand things over after a blood feud with the Stitches. And wiping out Sollecito was part of a vendetta intended to reverse that defeat. As Sollecito’s murderer would later explain, “The goal of the Calabrians was to get rid of all the Sicilians, take the power, and prevent them from getting back on their feet.”

February

harrison-ford-bei-der-premiere-des-kinofilms-indiana-jones-and-the-dial-of-destiny-indiana-jones-und-das-rad-des-schicksals-auf-dem-festival-de-cannes-2023-76-internationale-filmfestspiele-von Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The legendary actor, who isn’t particularly fond of interviews, speaks about his career, the Yellowstone prequel and acting into his 80s.

(The Hollywood Reporter, approx 24 mins reading time)

When asked what he’d want written on his tombstone, Ford replies: “I wouldn’t want it to be  ‘Harrison Ford, blah-blah-blah, actor.’ I’d settle for ‘Was Useful.’ ” I point out that’s a particularly reductive way to sum up a life, and Ford shoots back: “Well, there’s not a lot of space on a tombstone.”

Sophie Elmhirst checks into a clinic in Zurich where billionaires spends hundreds of thousands a week for luxury, discretion, isolation and their own team of psychiatrists, doctors, yoga teachers and therapists.

(The Guardian, approx 24 mins reading time)

Ultra-exclusive mental health treatment is one of many new micro-industries that have sprung up to serve the super-rich. The Spears 500, an annual index of advisory services, now recommends experts on everything from vineyard acquisition to crypto reputation management. Dr Ronit Lami, a Los Angeles and London-based “ultra-high-net-worth psychologist”, told me that when she started working in 2000, nobody knew much about the field. Now her clients want specialised professionals who understand the specific intricacies of succession planning and generational wealth transfer. Their desire is like many of their other desires, for a service that comes in a bespoke, exclusive form, a private jet rather than a commercial airline.

March

Fraud, lies and links to Russian spies – a riveting read exploring what led to the collapse of the multibillion dollar fintech company, described by a parliamentary inquiry as “the largest financial scandal in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany”.

(The New Yorker, approx 54 mins reading time)

It was against this backdrop that German institutions supported Wirecard. The country’s traditional industry is in cars and energy systems—BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler, Siemens. Wirecard represented the nation’s challenge to Silicon Valley, its leap into financial technology and the digital era. “German politicians were proud to be able to say, Hey, we have a fintech company!” Florian Toncar, a German parliamentarian, observed. Wirecard’s rising stock price was regarded as a sign that the business was dependable, that its critics were clueless or corrupt. The German business newspaper Handelsblatt called Wirecard’s C.E.O. a “mastermind” who had “come across the German financial scene like the Holy Spirit.” But it was not regulators or auditors who ultimately took the company down; it was a reporter and his editors, in London.

UK criminologist Betsy Stanko has spent the last two years conducting an investigation into the Metropolitan Police’s record on tackling sexual violence. This extraordinary piece explores what she found.

(The Guardian, approx 33 mins reading time)

What Stanko’s team found was alarming: investigations that focused on the victim (Was she drunk? Was she lying?); impossible workloads; inadequate training. The austerity years had seen an exodus of senior officers, and the new officers, most of them hired since 2020, had little understanding of how to investigate rape cases. In an interim report published in December 2022, Stanko’s team shared anonymised conversations with officers from four forces, including the Met. One recalled the junior colleague who asked a woman to swab herself vaginally, something that should be done by a forensic specialist; another said: “When a sexual offence job comes in, there’s almost like this panic of like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’”

April

A billion dollar lawsuit against Fox News, a divorce from Jerry Hall and a broken engagement have made for an interesting 12 months for the 92-year-old media baron.

(Vanity Fair, approx 32 mins reading time)

At the age of 91, Murdoch blew up his fourth marriage. [Jerry] Hall was waiting for Murdoch to meet her at their Oxfordshire estate last June when she checked her phone. “Jerry, sadly I’ve decided to call an end to our marriage,” Murdoch’s email began, according to a screenshot I read. “We have certainly had some good times, but I have much to do…My New York lawyer will be contacting yours immediately.” Hall told friends she was blindsided. “Rupert and I never fought,” she told people. There had been disagreements over his antiabortion views and some friction with the kids over Hall’s rules about masking and testing before they saw Murdoch, according to sources. But Hall never felt Murdoch treated these as major issues.

Hall and Murdoch finalized their divorce two months later. (One of the terms of the settlement was that Hall couldn’t give story ideas to the writers on Succession.) Hall told friends she had to move everything out of the Bel Air estate within 30 days and show receipts to prove items belonged to her. Security guards watched as her children helped her pack. When she settled into the Oxfordshire home she received in the divorce, she discovered surveillance cameras were still sending footage back to Fox headquarters. Mick Jagger sent his security consultant to disconnect them. 

river (67) The Estació de França in Barcelona. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A podcast on the captivating story of a woman’s search to find her birth parents after being left outside a train station with her two brothers at just two-years-old, and the mystery  The text version can be read here.

(The Guardian, approx 44 mins listening time/33 mins reading time)

In 2014, Elvira had a son with her partner, Marco, an Italian eyeglasses designer based in Barcelona. During her pregnancy, as her body changed, Elvira started to feel unsettled by how little she knew about her biological family. What if her parents had some sort of hereditary disease? After her son was born, her curiosity increased – and increased further with the birth of a second son in 2017. (That same year, Elvira and Marco married and bought a flat a few minutes from where Elvira had grown up.) Looking down at a breastfeeding child, Elvira wondered whether her mother had breastfed her, and what other rituals they had shared during the brief time they had together. Elvira’s sons were so obviously, heart-wrenchingly precious to her that she imagined only a life-shattering event could have driven her mother to abandon her children. As Elvira’s sons grew older, she realised something else was seriously amiss. “What five-year-old can’t name their parents?” she asked herself.

May

A horrific and engrossing account of the experiences of four women in Dubai’s ruling royal family, and their efforts to escape the abuse and control of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s absolute monarchy.

(The New Yorker, approx 75 mins reading time)

Latifa was running away to claim a life “where I don’t have to be silenced,” where she could wake up in the morning and think, “I can do whatever I want today, I can go wherever I want, I have all the choices in the world.” (Attorneys for Sheikh Mohammed denied any wrongdoing on his part, but declined to respond to detailed questions.) Aboard the yacht, Latifa texted a friend, “I really feel so free now. Walking target yes but totally free.” A week into the voyage, though, the captain spotted another ship apparently tailing them, and a small plane circling overhead. The runaways were about thirty miles off the coast of India, and the yacht was running low on fuel. The captain feared that Latifa had been located. “They will kill her,” he texted a friend on March 3rd.

At a time when you can become famous overnight using TikTok or YouTube, the weird and wonderful Guinness Book of World Records continues. But has it just become another business?

(The Guardian, approx 25 mins reading time)

Super record-breakers are the kind of people who try to break a record a week. David Rush, a teacher living in Boise, Idaho, broke his first record – the longest duration juggling while blindfolded – in 2015, and since then has broken more than 250 more. No human in history has caught as many marshmallows fired from a homemade catapult in the space of one minute (77), nor has anyone put on more T-shirts in 30 seconds (17). “Not only can you get better at anything,” Rush told me in a Zoom interview, “but the belief you can get better at something dramatically improves your ability to do so.” One of Rush’s frequent direct competitors is Silvo Saba, a gym owner from just outside Milan and the man who currently holds the most Guinness World Records: 193. Saba’s particular genius is in identifying what are known as “soft records”: ones that most people would be capable of breaking, if they approached it in the right way.

June

mel-brooks-attending-the-ee-british-academy-film-awards-held-at-the-royal-albert-hall-kensington-gore-kensington-london-press-association-photo-picture-date-sunday-february-12-2017-see-pa-stor Mel Brooks at the BAFTAs in 2017. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Judd Apatow spoke to the legendary director ahead of his 97th birthday about fighting in World War Two, his extensive career in Hollywood and the secret to happiness. 

(The Atlantic, approx 27 mins reading time)

The wonderful part was camaraderie. The day the war ended, or was going to be ended, it was May 7. And they said, “Tomorrow, the war ends.” A buddy came with me from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where we both learned how to be radio operators for the Field Artillery—we both located into the combat engineers. He said to me, “Come with me.” We were in a little schoolhouse. And in the basement, he had set up a table with white wine. And he said, “We’re going to sleep here tonight and stay here all day tomorrow.” And I said, “Why?” He said, “Because tomorrow is going to be V-E Day. And knowing soldiers, they’re going to shoot their rifles up and yell and celebrate. Shoot a lot of stuff up in the air, forgetting that some of those bullets have to come down. So we’re going to spend all of it here.” Until when the celebration was over.

Years later when we made The Elephant Man, we had a 20-day break because we were going to a location in London, and the writers had roughly 20 days where we could rewrite. I said, “How would you guys like to see where I was stationed?” So we took the ferry and then hired a car in Paris, and we went to Normandy. I knocked on the door of the farmhouse. And the door opened: a bear of a man with a great big black beard. Scary guy. “Que voulez-vous? ” “What do you want?” And he said, “Un moment, un moment.” “One minute.” [Gasps] “Ah, Private Mel!” he shouted. I said, “Oh my God. You were that little—” “Yes! Je suis l’enfant.” “I was the little boy.” He was a monster. He was a big, beautiful guy. And it was a great afternoon.

When a young woman was murdered in a sleepy Texas town in 1987, everyone thought they knew who did it. Something which allowed the real culprit to escape justice and continue his crimes for years.

(Texas Monthly, approx 63 mins reading time)

Hensley had a search warrant drawn up. He then accompanied a crew of Indianapolis officers who descended on the house. “They tore it apart and took everything I owned,” Michael says, “with the exception of my guitars, the clothes on my back. They took my cassette tapes, they took my underwear, they took my clothing, they took everything that was mine. Then they found, after their exhaustive search, a marijuana roach in my sister-in-law’s purse. So they arrested me and my brother for that roach, put us in jail, let us out the next day. Never went to court on it.” No charges were pursued. But the arrest got Hensley what he wanted: the prints. On the flight back to Texas, he sensed the noose closing around Michael’s neck. He began drawing up an extradition request. He wasn’t at all prepared for the news he got once he returned to Stephenville and compared the prints. “They didn’t match,” he says. “F—ing. Didn’t. Match.”

July

230623-washington-d-c-june-23-2023-this-file-photo-released-by-shows-the-titan-submersible-the-u-s-coast-guard-announced-on-thursday-that-a-debris-field-found-by-searchers-near-the-titanic The Titan submersible. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A fascinating analysis from Ben Taub with interviews, emails and exclusive documents that reveal how numerous warnings about OceanGate’s Titan submersible went unheeded before tragedy struck. 

(The New Yorker, approx 33 mins reading time)

In early 2018, McCallum heard that Lochridge had left OceanGate. “I’d be keen to pick your brain if you have a few moments,” McCallum e-mailed him. “I’m keen to get a handle on exactly how bad things are. I do get reports, but I don’t know if they are accurate.” Whatever his differences with Rush, McCallum wanted the venture to succeed; the submersible industry is small, and a single disaster could destroy it. But the only way forward without a catastrophic operational failure—which he had been told was “certain,” he wrote—was for OceanGate to redesign the submersible in coördination with a classification society. “Stockton must be gutted,” McCallum told Lochridge, of his departure. “You were the star player . . . . . and the only one that gave me a hint of confidence.” “I think you are going to [be] even more taken aback when I tell you what’s happening,” Lochridge replied. He added that he was afraid of retaliation from Rush—“We both know he has influence and money”—but would share his assessment with McCallum, in private: “That sub is Not safe to dive.”

A fun account of how ten friends trekked through the Guatemalan jungle to attend a friend’s wedding, full of visceral details and cautionary tales.  

(Outside, approx 20 mins reading time)

I lie half naked and miserable in a puddle of my own sweat. I open the tent flap to breathe but there’s no relief, even at midnight. Who comes to the Guatemalan jungle in July? Yesterday’s hike was rough, but the 15 miles today were raw pain. The mosquitoes were so vicious that by mile two even our local guides had asked to borrow our 100 percent deet. Bugs here suck down lesser repellent like an aperitif. Nothing provides complete protection. Our destination is La Danta, one of the largest pyramids on earth. It’s located in the ruins of El Mirador, a centerpiece of Maya civilization from 800 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. that was abandoned nearly 2,000 years ago. There are no restrooms, no gift shops. In fact, the site is still being excavated. This is where Angela and Suley want to get married. So, accompanied by a pair of guides, a half-dozen pack donkeys, and their ten toughest (or least informed) friends, the brides are determined to march us 60 miles over five days through Parque Nacional El Mirador in northern Guatemala to La Danta to say “I do.”

August

Complicated, romantic hero or grifter? Constance Grady profiles the billionaire after reading a romance novel written by a woman who married Musk twice. 

(Vox, approx 18 mins reading time)

According to a 2012 Esquire article, Musk became obsessed with the question of how to become famous shortly after he founded SpaceX in 2002 and found himself in need of rocket parts. “Nobody will sell me any parts if they don’t know who I am,” he reasoned to his mother, model Maye Musk. That was when he started talking about going to Mars, a lot, to anyone who would listen. He made himself a public figure through sheer force of will. These were the glory days of Elon Musk, celebrity billionaire: the days from 2009 up until 2018, when he courted the press assiduously and received one glowing headline after another. All that changed, however, in 2018.

louis-goldenburg-alec-wildensteinart Louis Goldenburg and Alec Wildenstein in 1970. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The fascinating story of the Wildensteins, a family with an art collection estimated to be worth billions, and a widow whose efforts to expose them has landed them before France’s highest court accused of operating “the longest and the most sophisticated tax fraud” in modern French history.

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 32 mins reading time)

Over the course of several years, she would fly around the world to tax havens and free ports, prying open the armored vaults and anonymous accounts that mask many of the high-end transactions in the $68 billion global art market. Multimillion-dollar paintings can anonymously trade hands without, for example, any of the requisite titles or deeds of real estate transactions or the public disclosures required on Wall Street. She would learn that the inscrutability of the trade has made it a leading conduit for sanction-evading oligarchs and other billionaires looking to launder excess capital. The Wildensteins were not just masters of this system — they helped pioneer it.

Over 150 years, the family has amassed an art collection estimated to be worth billions by quietly buying up troves of European masterpieces that would be at home in the Louvre or the Vatican, holding their stock for generations and never revealing what they own. When Sylvia realized the magnitude of her stepsons’ deception, she devoted the rest of her life to unraveling the family’s financial machinations, and even left a will asking that Dumont Beghi continue her fight from beyond the grave.

September

Did you know that tennis is the world’s most manipulated sport when it comes to gambling? This two-part feature by Kevin Sieff looks at Grigor Sargsyan, the man behind the biggest match-fixing scandal in the sport’s history, and how he was caught. Read part two here.

(The Washington Post, approx 55 mins reading time)

“Do you like gambling?” Sargsyan asked, and the player immediately seemed to know what he was talking about. They walked outside. Sargsyan made his offer. He would pay the player to lose the second set of the match 6-0. The man accepted instantly, Sargsyan recalls. The odds on the match were 11 to 1. The player tanked, just as he said he would, missing even easy returns, double-faulting, performatively slapping balls into the net. Sargsyan walked away with nearly $4,000. He paid the player, whom he would not identify, about $600. “It was an incredible feeling,” he said. If there was something about the rush of competition that had almost broken him in his chess career, filling him with an overwhelming sense of losing control, fixing tennis matches felt like a renewed source of power.

Jessica Blanchard is an operator for Never Use Alone, a hotline that drug users can call if they are using by themselves. It was set up to prevent overdose deaths. This moving piece follows Jessica’s work and the impact it has had. 

(Slate, approx 16 mins reading time)

It was a turning point for Blanchard. “That’s when it hit me: ‘Just don’t die.’ That was literally the moment my brain shifted. Because even standing there, bleeding, I was looking at my baby, and she was OK. And that was all that mattered.” In that instant, Blanchard unlearned everything she had been taught in nursing school about drug addiction. “We’re taught drugs are bad, ‘Just Say No,’ deputy dog, D.A.R.E. That’s the kind of stuff we were taught. That’s not realistic,” she said. “We were taught, ‘Well, you did it to yourself.’ That was the mantra. For some reason, that didn’t feel right to me. I was often deemed a soft, bleeding-heart pushover. I thought I was just being nice.” After that, Blanchard became involved in harm reduction. “I didn’t want her to die. This whole thing—every fucking thing I do is about her not dying. Then about her and her homie not dying. Now it’s about the entire town,” she said.

October

A chilling account of the fate of many journalists who attempt to report on the drug violence and corruption in Mexico, and how reporters in one town tried to fight back.

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 33 mins reading time)

Mexican journalists have faced phone hacks, death threats, beatings, torture and, in one case, grenade attacks on their newsroom. They face these perils in part because the authorities whose job it is to protect them have in many instances long been infiltrated by the cartels: Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former secretary of public security, for example, was convicted in the United States this year for taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel in the early 2000s, when he was head of the Mexican equivalent of the F.B.I. And in 2014, police officers in the rural city Iguala kidnapped 43 students on buses headed for a march in Mexico City and handed them over to a drug cartel that mistakenly assumed they were part of an attack from a rival. This year, a trove of text messages showed that nearly every branch of government in the region — including soldiers, the police and a local mayor — were communicating with the cartel, which killed the students and incinerated some of them in a crematory.

venice-italy-september-04-sofia-coppola-and-priscilla-presley-attends-a-red-carpet-for-the-movie-priscilla-at-the-80th-venice-film-festival Sofia Coppola and Priscilla Presley attending the Priscilla premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The director of Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides – and the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola – speaks about her film which sets out to tell Priscilla Presley’s story. 

(W, approx 11 mins reading time)

Priscilla was 14 when she met Elvis, and 17 when she persuaded her parents to let her live in Graceland. “By day, Priscilla went to Catholic school in Memphis for her senior year, and at night she would party with Elvis,” Coppola continued. “I found that reality fascinating: She wasn’t allowed to have friends over to Graceland, and she’d hear other girls whispering about her. She was so isolated. It was strangely relatable: In my 20s, I remember having a crush on a guy, and part of it was, if I was with him, then I wouldn’t have to develop an identity of my own: I could just be the girlfriend of this guy, and that would be so much easier. I was devastated when that relationship didn’t work out. But it forced me to find my own personality, and that’s a similar story to what happened with Priscilla—she lost herself in Elvis.”

November

In 1973, teenagers Mitchel Weiser and Bonnie Bickwit left home to hitchhike to the Summer Jam concert in New York. They were never heard from again. Today, their families and friends want a task force to be set up to find out what happened to them.

(Rolling Stone, approx 25 mins reading time)

“This case is unique,” adds Marissa Jones, founder and host of The Vanished podcast, who has reported on 400 missing-persons cases. “There is a huge concert with people coming from all over. There’s hitchhiking. It’s a tough case to establish a firm timeline — we don’t know if they even made it to the concert or at what point. It’s a tough one to pull apart.” The case is exacerbated by law enforcement’s initial bungling in 1973. Police investigators in three New York counties originally ignored pleas by Mitchel’s and Bonnie’s parents to investigate, dismissing the teens as two hippie runaways. “There was never really an investigation,“ claims Bonnie’s older sister Sheryl Kagen.

A fascinating analysis by Joshua Leifer about how Israel’s longest-serving leader has shaped the country in his image, and how his approach is likely to outlast his political survival.

(The Guardian, approx 23 mins reading time)

After he returned to power in 2009, Netanyahu vowed never to lose it. As Israeli journalist Ben Caspit details in his book, The Netanyahu Years, Netanyahu crushed or expelled any potential rivals within Likud. By 2015, he had “metamorphosed”, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn wrote, “from a risk-averse conservative into a rightwing radical”. He transformed a party that, while always staunchly and even violently nationalist, had once included economic and social liberals into an authoritarian populist party centred on his charismatic personality. Encouraged by his wife, Sara, and his son, Yair, Netanyahu also began to think of himself as indispensable, as the incarnation of the national spirit, as identical to the state itself. “Without Bibi,” Sara Netanyahu has repeatedly said, “Israel is doomed.”

December

Simon Hughes writes about Quincy Promes, the former Ajax footballer who has been sentenced to prison for stabbing his cousin, and the overlap between the worlds of criminality and football in Amsterdam.

(The Athletic, approx 14 mins reading time)

In the deal that brought him to the attention of the law, the Dutch justice department believes Promes, who was born and raised in Amsterdam, invested €200,000 into the drug trade. In that deal, it was alleged that the convicted drug trafficker Piet Wortel and another well-known trafficker “earned €6 million”. At the start of 2023, the PPS claimed Promes had paid a substantial fine to Wortel for a batch of drugs that was stolen by a rival gang. According to the PPS file, Wortel was also suspected of being behind the 2019 murder of former professional footballer, Kelvin Maynard, who was shot multiple times in front of a fire station in south-east Amsterdam, allegedly in revenge for the theft of 400kgs of cocaine. Both Promes and Wortel denied these allegations. While Promes’ lawyer described the suggestion his client had paid Wortel as “total nonsense,” Wortel’s representative insisted there was little evidence against his client over Maynard’s death, calling the claims “gossip and backbiting.”

file-taylor-swift-performs-during-the-eras-tour-may-5-2023-at-nissan-stadium-in-nashville-tenn-swift-is-adding-one-more-accolade-to-her-repertoire-this-year-a-resolution-recognizing-2023-as Taylor Swift performing during The Eras Tour in Nashville. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

An interview with the US pop superstar who was named Time’s Person of the Year after smashed industry records this year with both her tour and its accompanying film.

(Time, approx 31 mins reading time)

Her epic career-retrospective tour recounting her artistic “eras,” which played 66 dates across the Americas this year, is projected to become the biggest of all time and the first to gross over a billion dollars; analysts talked about the “Taylor effect,” as politicians from Thailand, Hungary, and Chile implored her to play their countries. Cities, stadiums, and streets were renamed for her. Every time she came to a new place, a mini economic boom took place as hotels and restaurants saw a surge of visitors. In releasing her concert movie, Swift bypassed studios and streamers, instead forging an unusual pact with AMC, giving the theater chain its highest single-day ticket sales in history.

Archive reads

  • In 2005, an alternate reality game encouraged people to find a man based on a photograph – it took 15 years to solve the mystery.

(Wired, approx 26 mins reading time)

That was when it hit me,” he recounted later on his website. “That was when I knew I’d found the Cube.” Four days later, Darley walked into the office of Mind Candy, a gaming company based in London, to present his find and claim a £100,000 prize.

  • In 1999, a series of apartment bombings in Moscow rocked the Russian people. This article explores who was behind them, and how they accelerated Vladimir Putin to power.

(GQ, approx 42 mins reading time)

It is peculiar, then, how few people outside Russia seem to have wanted that question answered. Several intelligence agencies are believed to have conducted investigations into the apartment bombings, but none have released their findings. Very few American lawmakers have shown an interest in the bombings. In 2003, John McCain declared in Congress that “there remain credible allegations that Russia’s FSB [Federal Security Service] had a hand in carrying out these attacks.” But otherwise, neither the United States government nor the American media have ever shown much inclination to explore the matter.

mourners-gather-around-a-sea-of-supporters-scarves-on-the-pitch-at-anfield-liverpool-football-club-after-the-disaster-at-hillsborough-stadium Mourners gather around a sea of supporters scarves on the pitch at Anfield after the disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in 1989. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

  • A piece from 2021 about the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and their decades-long fight for justice. 

(The Guardian, approx 32 mins reading time)

The lies began even as people were dying. The police officer in command, Ch Supt David Duckenfield, failed to take control of the chaos and organise a concerted rescue operation, but he started the false narrative that would form the foundation of enduring injustice. In an episode still profoundly shocking decades on, at 3.15pm Duckenfield lied to the Football Association official, Graham Kelly, telling him that Liverpool supporters had forced open a gate, and rushed into the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

  • In the 1980s, the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians came very close to getting the world to act on climate change. This longread explores why it never happened. 

(New York Times Magazine, approx 152 mins reading time)

Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect” — a metaphor dating to the early 1900s — was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Why didn’t we act?

tina-turner-us-singer-in-1990 Tina Turner performing in 1990. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

  • A classic interview from 1986 with Tina Turner, who died in May this year aged 83.

(Rolling Stone, 33 approx mins reading time)

I’m self-made. I always wanted to make myself a better person, because I was not educated. But that was my dream – to have class. Now it’s too late for that. You can’t read a book like my autobiography and say, “She’s classy.” You can say, “She’s a respectable woman,” but you can’t say “classy.” My role model was always Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Now, you’re talking about high stuff, right? [Laughs.] My taste was high. So when it came to role models, I looked at presidents’ wives. Of course, you’re talking about a farm girl who stood in the fields, dreaming, years ago, wishing she was that kind of person. But if I had been that kind of person, do you think I could sing with the emotions I do? You sing with those emotions because you’ve had pain in your heart. The bloodline of my family didn’t come from that kind of royalty. Why I relate to it, I don’t know. That’s the class I wanted to be. But I wasn’t, so I dealt with the class I was in. I have never disrespected myself, and I’m still very proud of myself. But society doesn’t look at that as class, that type of woman. Society respects me, I think, because I’m self-made and I climbed to the top.

  • An article from 2019 about the unsolved murder of Sweden’s then-prime minister Olof Palme, who was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986. You can also listen to it here

(The Guardian, approx 23 mins reading time/37 mins listening time)

Following Palme’s death, the country was cast first into turmoil and then into confusion. Over the past three decades, one chief investigator after another has failed to solve the case, and today the official inquiry remains open. In 2010, Sweden removed the statute of limitations on murders, specifically so that investigators could continue their search for Palme’s killer for as long as it takes. More than 10,000 people have been questioned in the case, whose files now take up more than 250 metres of shelf space in Sweden’s national police headquarters. It is the largest active murder investigation archive in the world.

river (15) File photo of investigation board. Shutterstock / DedMityay Shutterstock / DedMityay / DedMityay

  • A 2018 longread about how a rookie FBI agent spent a decade investigating the conspiracy surrounding the murder of a high-ranking member of the notorious Mexican Mafia gang, la Eme.

(The Atavist, approx 43 mins reading time)

From their outpost, Guadian and Aragon watched. The cameras picked up video but no audio. When a few guys clustered together, the officers zoomed a camera in on the inmates’ hands and feet, looking for the surreptitious exchange of weapons or contraband. They scanned for any unusual or sudden movements. A little over an hour into their shift, the officers hadn’t spotted anything noteworthy. Then, at 8:21 a.m., Guadian thought he saw something. “Hey, go back,” he said to Aragon, who was controlling the cameras. Aragon spun a camera to the left and zoomed across the length of the rec yard. There, in a corner, an inmate was lying on the ground. He didn’t appear to be moving.

  • A 2019 dive into awful catfishing of hopeful parents-to-be who want to adopt a baby. 

(BBC, approx 17 mins reading time) 

It must be hard for the scammer to remember exactly what she has said to different couples. When Sam is first contacted it’s by someone pretending to be 16 years old. But a month later, Ashley says she will get her dad to call the adoption attorney “since I am only 15″. The scammer tells another couple that her middle name is Lorraine. Later, they suggest Olivia Lorraine as a potential name for the baby. She then replies, “Olivia is my middle name! Sounds perfect to us!” But these are not her biggest mistakes.

  • An incredible, Pulitzer Prize-winning longread from 2021 about one family’s grief two decades after losing someone in the 9/11 attacks in New York.

(The Atlantic, approx 58 mins reading time)

Early on, the McIlvaines spoke to a therapist who warned them that each member of their family would grieve differently. Imagine that you’re all at the top of a mountain, she told them, but you all have broken bones, so you can’t help each other. You each have to find your own way down. It was a helpful metaphor, one that may have saved the McIlvaines’ marriage. But when I mentioned it to Roxane Cohen Silver, a psychology professor at UC Irvine who’s spent a lifetime studying the effects of sudden, traumatic loss, she immediately spotted a problem with it: “That suggests everyone will make it down,” she told me. “Some people never get down the mountain at all.” This is one of the many things you learn about mourning when examining it at close range: It’s idiosyncratic, anarchic, polychrome. A lot of the theories you read about grief are great, beautiful even, but they have a way of erasing individual experiences. Every mourner has a very different story to tell.

  • Jeanne Calment was said to be the oldest person who ever lived. In 1997, she died at 122 years of age. But was that really her age?

(The New Yorker, approx 43 mins reading time)

At a hundred and ten, Calment was still living alone, in the Rue Gambetta apartment, where she had never bothered to install a modern heating system. One day, she climbed up on a table to unfreeze the boiler with the flame of a candle, starting a small fire. She agreed to move to a local retirement home, the Maison du Lac, until the weather improved. She ended up staying, and, in 1988, at a hundred and twelve, was briefly recognized as the “doyenne of humanity,” the oldest person in the world. Soon afterward, the title was given to a Florida woman three months her elder, who had spent seventy-five years in a mental hospital after being diagnosed with “post-typhoid psychosis,” a disease that doctors no longer believed existed. After the woman died, at a hundred and sixteen, in 1991, Calment became the oldest person ever known to have lived.

astronaut-floating-in-space-astronaut-capt-bruce-mccandless-in-the-untethered-manned-maneuvering-unit-mmu Capt. Bruce McCandless floating above the Earth in Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

  • In 1984, Bruce McCandless floated above the earth using a device he had helped to create. In this article, the astronaut – who died in 2017 – talks about how he did it.

(Smithsonian Magazine, approx 7 mins reading time)

When I was growing up, we didn’t have astronauts. But we did have comic strips—Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, people of this sort. When I mentioned to my parents that I wanted to fly like Buck Rogers, they would say, “Well, man may eventually fly in space, but surely not before the year 2000. So why don’t you come down to Earth and do something practical, like learn to drive a battleship, or something of that sort.” 

Instead of learning how to drive a battleship, I opted to go into the U.S. Naval Academy, and was firmly committed to nuclear submarines, the first of which, the USS Nautilus, had come to the Naval Academy on a visit. I was headed in that direction until one afternoon in October 1957, when we heard that a Sputnik had been launched. I happened to have a short-wave receiver in my room as a lordly senior upperclassman, and so we dropped a wire out the window, five stories down to the moat, and we were actually able to receive the beep-beep-beep as Sputnik went by.

  • The legendary musician, songwriter and singer Shane MacGowan passed away earlier this month at the age of 65. Revisit an interview he did with Marion McKeone last year.

(The Business Post, approx 22 mins reading time)

That MacGowan’s name now features on Andipa’s roster of artists – sandwiched between Roy Lichtenstein and Henri Matisse on the gallery’s website – is an astonishing achievement, one of those collisions of serendipity, chutzpah and talent that have defined MacGowan’s success to date. A week or so later, we’re sitting in MacGowan and Clarke’s Ballsbridge apartment on a wet Tuesday evening. Clarke, whose cooking has come a long way since the London days, has prepared an impressive spread of champagne and scallops, lasagne and chocolate cake. When I joke that marriage has improved her culinary skills, MacGowan gazes up at her affectionately. “She’s always been great at cooking,” he says softly. “She’s always been great at everything. She’s still great… And we’ve finally won the economic war,” he jokes, as he raises his glass in celebration. He’s referencing the British-Irish economic war of the 1950s. Now he observes, people in Ireland are drinking champagne on a Tuesday night while “the Brits have f***ed themselves with Brexit”.

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