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Sitdown Sunday: The perfect family - until a tragedy revealed their hidden secrets

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. Two mums and their family secrets

OR: Bernie Sanders Rally in Portland One of the Hart children, Devonte, at a Bernie Sanders rally in 2016 with his mother Jennifer next to him (right). Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Jen and Sarah seemed like perfect foster mothers to the six children they cared for. But after most of the family died in a car crash last year, the house of cards they had built came tumbling down.

(Glamour, approx 36 mins reading time)

As for the hardest question—why?—we may never have a satisfying answer. Maybe Jen, tasked with looking after six kids, became overwhelmed. One coworker at Kohl’s told investigators that Sarah constantly took calls from her wife who said the kids were “making her crazy.” Sarah had told colleagues that Jen struggled with depression and anxiety, and often stayed in bed to cry.

2. Are influencers wrecking the environment?

Instagram is all about that beautiful image, and for some it’s about showing what amazing out-of-the-way places they have visited. But is that affecting the environment?

(Racked, approx 7 mins reading time)

On the app, geotagging lets you share the location where a photo was taken. Tap on a tag — say, Yosemite — and you’ll see all the public photos associated with that locale. But geotagging can also get specific, and that’s where the real issues start. “We’re having a lot of problems with people geotagging hidden or sensitive places,” Boué said, adding that these places don’t always have the infrastructure to handle a lot of new visitors. 

3. The transformation of China 

CHINA-ZHEJIANG-NIGH LIGHTING SYSTEM-START OPERATION (CN) A woman takes photos on the bank of Dongyang River in Dongyang City. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Novelis Yu Hua looks at the change in China over the past 50 years. 

(The Guardian, approx 21 mins reading time)

In late 2012 came the third dramatic change in my lifetime, when China entered the era of Xi Jinping. No sooner did Xi become general secretary of the Communist party than our new leader launched an anti-corruption drive, the scale and force of which took almost everyone by surprise. The third surge in suicides followed.

4. The women code breakers who unmasked Soviet spies 

During World War II, talented female code-breakers were tasked with some of the toughest jobs imaginable – and they succeeded. 

(Smithsonian, approx 29 mins reading time)

Their persistence and talent brought about one of the greatest counterespionage triumphs of the Cold War: Venona, the top-secret U.S. effort to break encrypted Soviet spy communications. For nearly 40 years, Angie and several dozen colleagues helped identify those who passed American and Allied secrets to the Soviet Union during and after World War II. Their work unmasked such infamous spies as the British intelligence officer Kim Philby, the British diplomat Donald Maclean, the German-born scientist Klaus Fuchs and many others. They provided vital intelligence about Soviet tradecraft. Their work was so highly classified that President Harry Truman likely did not know about it.

5. I am part of the anti-Trump resistance

Trump President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Montana. Source: Jim Urquhart

In case you haven’t read it – here’s the much-talked about op-ed by a member of the ‘resistance’ against Trump in the White House.

(New York Times, approx 10 mins reading time)

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

6. A turbulent mind

Andrew Goldstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for pushing a woman to her death on subway tracks. He’s due to be released on 14 September. Here’s his story.

(The Marshall Project, approx 23 mins reading time)

During his 19 years, 16 of them in the state’s flagship prison mental ward at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, and most recently in Sing Sing, Andrew has been teased and bullied by the high-functioning mental cases. Everyone inside seems to know at least the tabloid outlines of his crime. In January 1999, suffering from schizophrenia and given to explosive violence when off his medication, Andrew, then 29, pushed a 32-year-old receptionist into the path of an oncoming N train at the 23rd Street subway station.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES… 

In 2011, GQ covered this story of three teenagers who went out for a sail after having a few beers… and wound up being lost on the ocean for 51 days. 

(GQ, approx 43 mins reading time)

The dinghy, fourteen feet long and low to the water, was designed for traveling on lakes or hugging a shoreline. There was no way it should’ve been in this part of the Pacific. If the San Nikunau had passed a quarter mile to either side, likely no one would have noticed it. Anyway, it appeared empty, another bit of the ocean’s mysterious flotsam. But then, as the big ship was approaching the dinghy, something startling happened. From the bottom of the tiny boat, emerging slowly and unsteadily, rose an arm—a single human arm, skinny and sun-fried and waving for help.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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