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Dublin: 10°C Tuesday 13 April 2021

Sitdown Sunday: Why America continues to be so divided on masks

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

Image: Shutterstock/Ivan Marc

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 deadly trade in diet pills

Deadly, poisonous diet pills are being marketed and sold to vulnerable people online. An industrial chemical used to make explosives – DNP – is that deadly diet pill.

(The Guardian, approx 26 mins reading time)

In the UK, it is not an offence to own or sell DNP. It is legally used as an explosive, a fertiliser, a pesticide and a dye. It is illegal to sell it for human consumption, and yet it seems to be remarkably easy to do so. With a little bit of searching, you can find DNP on websites promoting supplements and diet aids, somewhere among the fat burners, appetite suppressants, carb-blockers, protein shakes, potions, powders and tablets promising to assist weight loss, muscle building and body sculpting. 

2. What will it take to get a vaccine?

GQ takes a speculative look at how the creation of a vaccine might work, with input from scientists, physicians and public health experts.

(GQ, approx 15 mins reading time)

The idea behind this kind of vaccine, called “whole killed” or “inactivated,” has been successfully used many times in the past, from the Salk polio vaccine to annual flu shots. But will this formulation stimulate the body’s immune defenses enough? Or, conversely, will it trigger dangerous adverse reactions, like the 1976 swine flu vaccine that left 450 with a crippling neurological disease?

3. How Boomers have adapted to Zoom

How has the pandemic impacted on how college professors interact with their students? One professor details their journey to not only develop technological skill but relationships with their students.

(Wired, approx 35 mins reading time)

I have never used Zoom. I am having enough trouble figuring out how to use my new BlackBerry (itself an anachronism), which replaced my old BlackBerry, which did not support either Android or iOS apps, which meant I was the only person I knew who couldn’t call a Lyft, which meant that whenever I needed a ride I had to ask my students to reserve one and hand them a small stack of dollar bills. At the moment, my new BlackBerry sends but refuses to receive texts. It makes little pings at all hours to alert me to various things that I call “things” because I have no idea what they are.

4.Why are Americans so angry about masks?

A detailed look at why mask-wearing has become such a partisan issue in the US.

(BBC, approx 8 mins reading time)

Bob Palmgren tried to be polite – at first. He told a customer he had to wear a mask inside his restaurant, RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack in Mission, Kansas. The customer, a man in his forties in a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap, had flashed a gun and said that he was exempt from a state-wide mask requirement. He said that he could explain the exemption in the law to Mr Palmgren.

5. Covering Portland’s protests

The story of how local reporters are experiencing protests in the US, and how they’re coping with increased tension and anxiety.

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(Courthouse News , approx 10 mins reading time)

“We’re all gonna have some serious PTSD from this shit one day,” a dude standing nearby said Friday night with a laugh. He’d just seen me jolt when someone threw the plastic cap from a water bottle and it hit the side of my neck. I was edgy from an earlier round of flash bangs and tear gas.

6. The women searching for Canada’s most prolific romance scammer

This piece delves into the world of romance scammers in Canada, and one man who’s scammed thousands of dollars out of his partners.

(Chatlaine , approx 30 mins reading time)

This is the other way that social media has changed the romance scam racket. To a con man, your Facebook page provides an invaluable cheat sheet: a years’ long record of your interests, values and personality, including the organizations you care about, the politics you subscribe to, your hobbies and favourite TV shows. So suddenly you’re not just meeting some guy—you’re meeting a fellow right-of-centre Christian and outdoor enthusiast who also loves dogs or basket weaving or your favourite country song.


This piece from 2014 is all about how Monopoly was used to sneak escape tools into POW camps all across Europe during WWII.

(Eurogamer, approx 40 mins reading time)

Houdini received this sort of letter every day, but Clayton Hutton’s was different. Clayton Hutton was different. By accepting his challenge – by promising Clayton Hutton the considerable sum of £100 if the packing case in question defeated him – Houdini set in motion a strange chain of events that would, in a wonderfully mad and circuitous manner, impact the course of a vast global conflict that was at the time still 26 years away.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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