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Dublin: 5°C Saturday 10 April 2021

Sitdown Sunday: Why did some countries get dealing with Covid-19 right, and some get it wrong?

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

Image: Shutterstock/SamaraHeisz5

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 British government vs Covid

Here’s a deep dive into how the British government has dealt with Covid since it first emerged.

(BBC, approx 20 mins reading time)

Ministers and officials had already been meeting to discuss the virus in China – but it felt thousands of miles away. There was a “lack of concern and energy,” one source tells me. “The general view was it is just hysteria. It was just like a flu.” The prime minister was even heard to say: “The best thing would be to ignore it.” And he repeatedly warned, several sources tell me, that an overreaction could do more harm than good.

2. Sex every day

Daisy Buchanan writes about how having sex every day changed her. 

(Noon, approx 15 mins reading time)

However, we are mysteriously bad at making time to do this thing we love, when there is always work to be done, laundry to be sorted, gyms to be attended, a phone to be squinted at. I don’t quite understand why my sexual appetite does not work in the same way as my constant craving for Hobnobs. 

3. Getting Covid-19 right and wrong

How come some countries seemed able to deal with the coronavirus better than others?

(Intelligencer, approx 40 mins reading time)

Sridhar is pointing her finger at British authorities, but in her diatribe you could comfortably substitute for the U.K. almost any nation in Europe. In its broad strokes, the picture has been the same in Belgium and France and Italy and the Czech Republic, too, in Portugal and Poland, Sweden and Switzerland and Spain, even Germany and the Netherlands, and dozens of other countries across the Continent. From the spring panic through the fall surge, pandemic policy differed nation to nation, but failure was general all across Europe. Aside from the three Nordic outliers of Finland, Norway, and Iceland, no European state has managed the coronavirus well by global standards — or by their own much higher ones.

4. The Simpsons and Citizen Kane

Here’s an oral history of the excellent Simpsons episode, Rosebud, which was its take on Citizen Kane.

(The Ringer, approx 17 mins reading time)

While “Rosebud” shows how [Orson] Welles’s impact has loomed large in Hollywood for decades, going through multiple cycles of reappraisals, it also found another culture-defining force, The Simpsons, facing a crucial moment in its own creative future. No longer satisfied with just being the best domestic sitcom on television, its ambitions became more daring and less bound by primetime conventions. Citizen Kane represented an ideal guiding force. “I always say if you’re going to steal, steal from the best,” jokes former Simpsons showrunner David Mirkin.

5. Facebook 

A look at Facebook and its use of AI.

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(Technology Review, approx mins reading time)

Zuckerberg’s obsession with getting the whole world to use Facebook had found a powerful new weapon. Teams had previously used design tactics, like experimenting with the content and frequency of notifications, to try to hook users more effectively. Their goal, among other things, was to increase a metric called L6/7, the fraction of people who logged in to Facebook six of the previous seven days. L6/7 is just one of myriad ways in which Facebook has measured “engagement”—the propensity of people to use its platform in any way, whether it’s by posting things, commenting on them, liking or sharing them, or just looking at them.

6. The identity hoaxers

How and why do some people feign oppression?

(The Atlantic, approx 21 mins reading time)

Krug had cultivated her assumed identity over several years, and used it to speak “authentically” about race in America. The deception appears to have begun while she was studying at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where Krug “used to identify as half Algerian, saying that her father was a white man of German ancestry who had raped her mother,” a fellow academic told The Cut. When Krug moved to New York, she became Afro-Latinx, and used the name “Jessica La Bombalera” for her activism. One of her former students said: “There was this theme in her teaching of being super-representative of her communities and saying that folks had destroyed it and gentrified it. Now looking back, she was talking about herself.”


A 2016 piece about the Izzy Stradlin, the elusive Guns n Roses guitarist.

(LA Weekly, approx 27 mins reading time)

To his critics, Stradlin is a deserter; to the purveyors of his cult, a purist, an unwilling arena rocker whose integrity was bruised by GNR’s success. When he was a no-show at the music video shoot for “Don’t Cry,” a Use Your Illusion power ballad he co-wrote with singer Axl Rose, it was the beginning of the end. “I’m just not into the big production videos,” he told his hometown paper, the Lafayette Journal & Courier in 1993. 

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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