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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: 'What happened when I tried to quit my Diet Coke habit'

Settle back 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. Lies online

Guy Babcock’s reputation was destroyed by lies online – but when he went looking for their source, he was shocked by what he discovered. 

(New York Times, approx 20 mins reading time)

“The Babcock family had been targeted by a super-spreader, dragged into an internet cesspool where people’s reputations are held for ransom. Mr. Babcock was sure there was a way to have lies about him wiped from the internet. Many of the slanderous posts appeared on a website called Ripoff Report, which describes itself as a forum for exposing “complaints, reviews, scams, lawsuits, frauds.” (Its tagline: “consumers educating consumers.”)”

2. Diet Coke addiction

Sirin Kale writes about trying to quit her Diet Coke habit.

(The Guardian, approx 13 mins reading time)

“The greatest love story of my life has been with a carbonated beverage. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t addicted to Diet Coke. Some memories: I am sitting at the kitchen table at my grandmother’s house in northern Cyprus, screaming because my mother won’t refill my yellow-and-green patterned glass. I am four or five years old. My grandmother looks on, disturbed, as I wail disconsolately. My mother does not give in.”

3. The mysteries of smell 

One of the symptoms of Covid-19 for some people has been a loss of sense of smell. Can this help us actually learn more about smell?

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 39 mins reading time)

“Smell is a startling superpower. You can walk through someone’s front door and instantly know that she recently made popcorn. Drive down the street and somehow sense that the neighbors are barbecuing. Intuit, just as a side effect of breathing a bit of air, that this sweater has been worn but that one hasn’t, that it’s going to start raining soon, that the grass was trimmed a few hours back. If you weren’t used to it, it would seem like witchcraft.”

4. Reporting or rioting

John Sullivan was at the recent Capitol riots. He says he was there as a journalist, but was he?

(The New Yorker, approx 19 mins reading time)

“John Sullivan made a habit of blurring the lines between activism, advocacy journalism, and opposition research. He tried to stay abreast of where the next big protest or riot was likely to break out, monitoring activist group chats on Signal and Telegram. “I was able to collaborate with the left in their community to gather information,” Sullivan wrote in an unpublished draft of a memoir. “But I also can connect with the right and successfully be in their presence without them being combative towards me.” When he was surrounded by left-wing activists or right-wing activists, he sometimes gave the impression of being one of them; at other times, he implied that he was working undercover to expose one side or the other. 

5. Vaccine access 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on why vaccine nationalism is immoral.

(Foreign Policy, approx 8 mins reading time)

“At present, rich countries with just 16 percent of the world’s population have bought up 60 percent of the world’s vaccine supply. Many of these countries aim to vaccinate 70 percent of their adult population by midyear in pursuit of herd immunity. But COVAX—the multilateral mechanism created by the World Health Organization together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to ensure that vaccines reach all people everywhere—is struggling to purchase enough doses to cover just 20 percent of the population of lower-income countries by the end of 2021.” 

6. Major League baseball and mental health

The story of Drew Robinson, a San Francisco Giants player who dealt with mental health issues. (Content warning: suicide, suicidal ideation)

(ESPN, approx 49 mins reading time)

“The reason, Drew says, is because “I was supposed to tell a story,” and not just the story of what happened. The real story — the important story — is what happened after: every minute he’s alive, moments good and bad. It’s not some sanitized version where a man is saved and happily ever after is the outcome. It is raw and beautiful and ugly and melancholy and triumphant and everything in between.” 


Let’s go back to July of last year for this, the story of a man’s search for his identity, after being found as a baby wrapped in his mother’s coat. 

(BBC, approx 20 mins reading time)

He had been found wrapped in a bright blue woman’s coat on Victoria Embankment, a road lined with trees and occasional benches that runs along the north bank of the Thames. The boy was judged to be one month old and, after no-one came forward to claim him, he was allotted a birthday. He also needed a name. It was common at the time to refer to the place a child was found – and so he became Victor Banks. “I always wondered who they were, you know? And why I would have been abandoned, I think that’s the main thing.”"

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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