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Sitdown Sunday: Is modern life poisoning you?

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

Image: Shutterstock/Jose Luis Stephens

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 curse of genius 

This longreads looks at what it is like to be a ‘child genius’, and the impact that can have on your life. In particular, what happens when you are in a situation where your needs are not easily met?

(1843, approx 24 mins reading time)

A third characteristic of gifted children is that their interests often seem near-obsessive. They have what is sometimes called “a rage to master”. Jesse is five. When he was one and crawling, his father Richard tells me, he would do anything to avoid having his nappy changed. “We found that the only way we could keep him still was to give him things to take apart and put back together again. We had a yellow torch with a built-in bulb, and he would take the battery out, put it back in, and test whether it worked. If he’d put the battery in the wrong way round, he’d persevere until he got it right.”

2. Is modern life poisoning me?

Emily Holden wanted to know about the affect that everyday chemical exposure might have on her – after months of research and tests, here’s what she found out.

(The Guardian, approx 18 mins reading time)

“In Baton Rouge, I passed industrial facilities churning out gasoline and petrochemicals on drives to the airport or my favorite po boy shop for lunch. At home, I rarely thought about those chemicals when I moved my dad’s dirty coveralls from the washer to the dryer.”

3. The undercover fascist

Robbie Mullen regularly met with neo-Nazis in the north of England. He was an informant for an anti-fascist group – and one day he heard from one of the neo-Nazis that he planned to kill an MP. Last week, that man – Jack Renshaw – was imprisoned for his plan. Here’s the story of what happened.

(The New Yorker, approx 52 mins reading time)

He and his mother stopped discussing politics, because it led to confrontations. Georgina remembers one argument in which Mullen asked why there were so many immigrants in England, given that many native Britons lacked jobs. “I said, ‘Robbie, it’s just the way it is,’ ” Georgina told me. “ ‘These people will work harder and put up with what they’re putting up with, whereas English lads won’t.’ ”

4. Rape in a mennonite community

An insular Mennonite colony in Bolivia saw a group of its men rounded up in 2009, and later jailed for the rape and sexual assault of 151 women and girls. So why are leaders now lobbying for the men to be released from prison?

(BBC, approx 13 mins reading time)

While the whole family was drugged and incapacitated, all his daughters were attacked by men who broke into their home. At the time, shame prevented the girls from telling their parents.

5. The man who couldn’t die

Mark Olmsted contracted HIV in 1980s, and believed that it was a death sentence. Because of this, he got involved in various cons, believing he wouldn’t live long. The problem was: he’s still alive.

(GQ, approx 39 mins reading time)

To finance the life he kept thinking would end at any moment, he had committed increasingly creative and reckless varieties of fraud. He told me in our first conversations that he had faked his own death several times; I couldn’t quite keep track of how many. He had stolen his brother’s identity and faked his death, too, despite the fact that his brother was already dead.

6. The charcuterie board that revolutionised basketball

How the Warriors won two NBA titles… and all because of a plate of appetisers.

(ESPN, approx 17 mins reading time)

These ideas have, for weeks, been rattling around Kerr’s head. But he hasn’t yet begun to diagram plays, or the scheme itself. Until now. And so for 10 minutes, Ninkovich watches as Kerr lays the foundation for the most devastating offense the NBA has not yet seen — if only he could somehow turn the league’s worst passing team into its best.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

Theresa May resigned on Friday. This piece in Der Spiegel in March set out all that went wrong for the PM.

(Der Spiegel, approx 11 mins reading time)

May has merely been reacting to events for quite some time now. Rather than building bridges, she has burned them. And even though MPs have now voted against a no-deal exit from the EU and in favor of extending the deadline, it is unclear what that extra time should be used for.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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