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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: The boy who they claimed died and saw heaven

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. Sacrificing a province for the coronavirus

A look at how China has ‘sacrificed a province’ to help save the world from the spread of the coronavirus.

(Bloomberg, approx 7 mins reading time)

The 110 intensive care unit beds in the city designated for virus patients had already been filled many times over when China announced on Jan. 23 that it would take the unprecedented step of sealing off Wuhan, preventing possible pathogen carriers from traveling out, but also preventing most people from coming in. The quarantine soon widened to encompass nearly the entire province.

2. I did not go to heaven

A Christian bestseller claimed that a young boy died and saw heaven. But years later, he renounced the book.

(Slate, approx 27 mins reading time)

Although The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven has been off shelves for years now, yanked by the publisher after Alex’s disavowal, the drama around it has quietly continued to roil. In 2018, Alex filed a lawsuit against Tyndale House, a major Christian publisher based in suburban Chicago, accusing the company of defamation and exploitation, among other charges. He’s seeking a payout at least equal to the book’s profits. Alex, who turned 21 in 2019, now lives with his mother. He was valedictorian of his high school, but he has been a quadriplegic since the accident and requires full-time care. 

3. Hidden biases against veganism

Why are people SO annoyed about other people being vegan? That’s what this piece sets out to investigate.

(BBC Future, approx 8 mins reading time)

If you bring your cod and chips home to eat in front of your beloved goldfish, or tuck into a rabbit stew mere moments after cooing over various #rabbitsofinstagram, you’re likely to encounter “cognitive dissonance”, which occurs when a person holds two incompatible views, and acts on one of them. In this case, your affection for animals might just start to clash with the idea that it’s OK to eat them.

4. My father the heartbreaker

Laura Zinn Fromm writes a truly moving piece about her father, who lived a troubled life. Though his family tried to understand him, he also came from a family where his parents were troubled themselves. (Note – this piece contains descriptions of suicidal intent and violence)

(New York Times, approx 5 mins reading time)

He could be impossible to deal with. His anger at us, and the world, often escalated into rage. Depression and suicidal ideation ran in his family. My father’s father, Grandpa Nat, had been hospitalized for depression and also received ECT. He was a short balding man in a gray suit, who sold fur coats at Macy’s. When my Grandma Lee was still alive and we visited them in their apartment in White Plains, he would take me down to the corner store and buy me Juicy Fruit gum. I thought he was glum but not unkind.

5. Inside the mind of Dominic Cummings

Sure who wouldn’t want to look into the curious Cummings’ mind?

(The Guardian, approx 23 mins reading time)

I can’t honestly claim to do much by way of community service but, as some twisted equivalent of a new year resolution, I decided I would sacrifice myself for the common good in January by spending the greater part of the month reading The Complete Blogs of Dominic Cummings. Well, perhaps not quite complete, as I have only gone back to 2013 and I have skipped several of the more functional or repetitive pieces, but I have more than compensated for any light-footed skimming by reading all 133,000 words of his magnum opus, posted in 2014 and titled “Some thoughts on education and political priorities”, in which he described his ideal of “an Odyssean education”. What follows is my report on this unusual body of work.

6. The money behind Trump’s money

What it says on the tin.

(New York Times, approx mins reading time)

The roughly $425 million that Offit helped arrange for Trump back in 1998 was the start of a very long, very complicated relationship between ­Deutsche Bank and the future president. Over the course of two decades, the bank lent him more than $2 billion — so much that by the time he was elected, ­Deutsche Bank was by far his biggest creditor. Against all odds, Trump paid back most of what he owed the bank. 


Back in 2016, Rebecca Solnit wrote about how we can survive when living in dark times.

(The Guardian, approx 16 mins reading time)

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It is also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both. The 21st century has seen the rise of hideous economic inequality, perhaps due to amnesia both of the working people who countenance declines in wages, working conditions and social services, and the elites who forgot that they conceded to some of these things in the hope of avoiding revolution. The attack on civil liberties, including the right to privacy, continues long after its “global war on terror” justifications have faded away.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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