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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 November, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: My trip on a conspiracy theory cruise

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. Wodapalooza

Flesh Eating Bacteria Crossfitter CrossFit is being embraced by people who have prosthetic limbs, like another woman, Marine veteran Cindy Martinez. She's pictured at the Crossfit Goat gym in Dacula, Georgia Source: LISA MARIE PANE

CrossFit athlete Lindsay Hilton is about to go and take part in Wodapalooza, an international competition. Unlike most of the other CrossFit athletes, she has had to adapt her equipment because she was born without lower arms or legs. Here’s how she did it.

(ESPN, approx 8 mins reading time)

“I feel like if I didn’t play rugby, I wouldn’t know what I would do on Tuesday and Thursday nights,” she says. “I thought I would be done, but I don’t think I am. I’m still having fun, so I don’t see why I would stop.” Rugby also introduced Hilton to two more integral parts of her life: Matt Melanson, an avid rugby player who has been dating her for four years, and CrossFit. She started that fitness regimen after winning a gym membership during a burpee contest at a rugby tournament.

2. Murder by fake news

South Sudan Refugee Boom A South Sudanese refugee cooks food at a restaurant in the Bibi bidi refugee camp in Bidi bidi, Uganda Source: Justin Lynch

Fake news isn’t just something that is annoying – in South Sudan, it can have a real and devastating impact on the people who live there.

(Buzzfeed, approx 12 mins reading time)

 The online networks spreading fake news and hate speech in South Sudan are surprisingly similar to those that have spread like wildfire in the United States. The groups are based abroad, are believed to be for-profit, prey on a general lack of media literacy, and specialize in setting up confusingly named websites to share false news and unverified images. The Facebook “community pages” populated by members of a single tribe or political group create echo chambers of hate. There are also pages featuring multiple tribes or groups, which turn toxic as different sides clash, mirroring the real-life fighting among the tribes.

3. Camden is dying 

HS2 plans threaten city markets Markets in Camden Source: Steve Parsons

Many an Irish person has headed to Camden during a trip to London, to experience some of the alternative culture there. But as Hannah Ewens writes, things are changing there rapidly – and it’s losing some of its alternative spirit.

(Vice, approx 13 mins reading time)

What’s odd in this case is how smoothly it’s gone. When gentrification’s threatened other London institutions, grassroots groups have retaliated. Take Dalston’s Passing Clouds: campaigners occupied the building and organised a march of hundreds of people before developers finally took control of the site. Or iconic gay pub the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where London night czar Amy Lame directed a successful campaign to get the building listed status. Here, an e-petition to stop the redevelopment of Camden Lock Village got a matter-of-fact response from the mayor’s office and that was that.

4. The exit interview

Obama Biden Joe Biden during the ceremony where he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Source: Susan Walsh

Joe Biden is no longer Vice President of the USA. Here’s his exit interview.

(New York Times, approx 12 mins reading time)

Biden was afflicted with regret. He was sorry that, on the campaign trail, he had spoken so often about Donald Trump’s unfitness for office and not enough about what Hillary Clinton would do for the middle class. He was sorry he didn’t push harder inside the White House for a middle-class tax cut. And he was still torn over his decision not to run for president, a race that he said would have been “brutal” but that he also believed he could have won.

5. The Mumbai company that could teach Deliveroo a lesson

INDIA VIRGIN ATLANTIC Source: AP/Press Association Images

Dabbawalas deliver hundreds of thousands of meals – on foot – to people in Mumbai every day. How they do it could teach companies like Deliveroo how to do their work even better.

(BBC, approx 9 mins reading time)

Despite relying on an unskilled workforce, a two-tier management system and nothing more high-tech than Mumbai’s train network, this 5,000-strong cooperative is recognised as one of the world’s most efficient logistics systems. They make a tidy side-line hosting executives from delivery giants like FedEx and Amazon. Even Richard Branson has spent a day learning their secrets.

6. A new England

Brexit Source: Dominic Lipinski

A Cambridge professor writes about Brexit, and how it results “from a failure to come to terms with the loss of an empire”.

(The New European, approx 15 mins reading time)

The emotion central to the Leave campaign was the fear of what is alien, and this trumped the Remainers’ Project Fear-of-wholly-foreseeable-damage. The true Project Fear was the Leave party’s unrelenting presentation of the EU as a lethal threat to national identity, indeed as the stranger and enemy who had already stolen it: give us back our country, they said, our sovereignty, our £350m a week, let us control our borders, let our population not be swamped by immigrants or our high streets by Polish shops – and to vote against the EU was to vote to recover what we had lost. The voting pattern, however, revealed that appeal to that emotion, and that vision of the EU, worked only in England.


Last year, Bronwen Dickey went on a conspiracy theory cruise. Seriously. On the Conspira-Sea Cruise, she rubbed shoulders with people who debated vaccines, chemtrails, crop circles and the illuminati.

(Popular Mechanics, approx 25 mins reading time)

Inside my orientation tote bag was a shiny blue bracelet I was supposed to wear at all times. “Makes it easier to find members of the group,” Adele said. But that wasn’t necessary. Most of the cruisers—the vacationers, not our group—were generally outfitted in bright colors and loud prints. As the days passed, a lot of them began wearing novelty captain’s hats from the gift shop. The conspiracy group, on the other hand, was mostly serious-looking senior citizens in “Infowars” T-shirts. Some of them wore casts, others walked with canes. Two relied on motorized scooters. None looked like he or she could afford to spend money frivolously. One eighty-year-old man’s toes poked through the tops of his worn leather loafers.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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