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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: Is bacon killing us?

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. Bacon is killing us

shutterstock_758704648 Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Food writer Bee Wilson writes a damning piece about how nitrates in bacon are horribly bad for us – but the industry insists on using them… even though it has other options.

(The Guardian, approx 31 mins reading time)

And yet the evidence linking bacon to cancer is stronger than ever. In January, a new large-scale study using data from 262,195 British women suggested that consuming just 9g of bacon a day – less than a rasher – could significantly raise the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. The study’s lead author, Jill Pell from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University, told me that while it can be counterproductive to push for total abstinence, the scientific evidence suggests “it would be misleading” for health authorities to set any safe dose for processed meat “other than zero”.

2. The John Giuca murder trial 

A young man was found shot on a Brooklyn street fifteen years ago – and even though a man was brought to trial, he’s in limbo and the details of the murder are still fuzzy.

(New York Times, approx 22 mins reading time)

There was a two-week trial. There were several state appeals. There was a federal appeal. There were countless legal hearings. There was even an exhaustive inquiry by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office. But all of them have so far failed to silence the stubborn whispers questioning the case that have long been heard in the circles that surround the Brooklyn courts.

3. The discovered tribe

shutterstock_544502683 Source: Shutterstock/Michal Knitl

An isolated tribe was shown to the world thirty years ago  – but what has happened to them since?

(The Smithsonian, approx 34 mins reading time)

Bob and Robin made three documentaries in the highlands, two of them about Joe Leahy and his neighbors. Each was a triumph, and they still are recognized as such, icons of a genre, touchstones of both anthropology and film. The initial one, First Contact, was nominated for an Academy Award, and the last, Black Harvest, had “extraordinary historical resonance,” the New York Times wrote, “so rich that watching it feels like taking an inspired crash course in economics and cultural anthropology.” Newsweek said it had “the scale and richness of classical tragedy.” Which was true, because everything ended so badly.

4. Monica Lewinsky and #MeToo

Monica Lewinsky writes thoughtfully and reflectively on her experiences with Bill Clinton in the light of the current #MeToo movement.

(Vanity Fair, approx mins reading time)

But as I find myself reflecting on what happened, I’ve also come to understand how my trauma has been, in a way, a microcosm of a larger, national one. Both clinically and observationally, something fundamental changed in our society in 1998, and it is changing again as we enter the second year of the Trump presidency in a post-Cosby-Ailes-O’Reilly-Weinstein-Spacey-Whoever-Is-Next world. The Starr investigation and the subsequent impeachment trial of Bill Clinton amounted to a crisis that Americans arguably endured collectively—some of us, obviously, more than others. It was a shambolic morass of a scandal that dragged on for 13 months, and many politicians and citizens became collateral damage—along with the nation’s capacity for mercy, measure, and perspective.

5. History of the word


The OED claims to provide a definitive record of every single word in the English language since the year 1000AD to the present. And these days doing that means combing Twitter and social media to find out how people are using words like ‘mansplain’ and ‘snowflake’.

(The Guardian, approx 26 mins reading time)

The dream of the perfect dictionary goes back to the Enlightenment notion that by classifying and regulating language one could – just perhaps – distil the essence of human thought. In 1747, in his “Plan” for the English dictionary that he was about to commence, Samuel Johnson declared he would create nothing less than “a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated; by which its purity may be preserved, its use ascertained, and its duration lengthened”. English would not be merely listed in alphabetical order; it would be saved for eternity.

6. The NRA lobbyist


A look at the life of Marion Hammer – an NRA lobbyist.

(The Trace, approx 37 mins reading time)

Hammer is the National Rifle Association’s Florida lobbyist. At 78-eight years old, she is nearing four decades as the most influential gun lobbyist in the United States. Her policies have elevated Florida’s gun owners to a uniquely privileged status, and made the public carrying of firearms a fact of daily life in the state.


Michael Morton was convicted of the murder of his wife in their home in 1986. But he hadn’t killed her.

(Texas Monthly, approx 65 mins reading time)

The last time he had seen her was on the morning of August 13, 1986, the day after his thirty-second birthday. He had glanced at her as she lay in bed, asleep, before he left for work around five-thirty. He returned home that afternoon to find the house cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape. Six weeks later, he was arrested for her murder. He had no criminal record, no history of violence, and no obvious motive, but the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, failing to pursue other leads, had zeroed in on him from the start. Although no physical evidence tied him to the crime, he was charged with first-degree murder.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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