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Dublin: 6°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Sitdown Sunday: The deadly trade in diet pills

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

Image: Shutterstock/ABO PHOTOGRAPHY

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 inferno and the mystery ship

After the shocking explosion in Beirut port, the question remains: who knew about the dangerous cargo, and who is to blame for what happened to it?

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

Broken glass crunched underfoot on the last stretch of road before entering the city, and a tractor roared through, clearing piles of rubble. Buildings were barely recognisable, with empty window frames and no lights in sight. A few silent figures emerged from the dark, some wounded but walking, others sitting and waiting with empty stares and barely a sound. The closer to Beirut, the darker it got.

2. Cancer dating stories

People share their tales about what it’s like dating with cancer – and how for one woman, a Hinge date saved her life.

(BBC, approx 8 mins reading time)

“When you’re stuck inside and you’re so poorly with no sense of normality, you want to talk to new people,” she says. “I downloaded some dating apps and I used pictures from when I had hair.” She chatted to one guy who asked her out. Emily accepted, then panicked about her lack of hair. While she stressed about what to do, he texted her. ”Oh by the way, I’ve just had to shave my head because I’m thinning,” he said. “Me too!” she replied.

3. China’s internet 

This detailed longread delves into the current situation with the internet in China, and how it could impact the rest of the world.

(New York Times, approx 22 mins reading time)

In the two years since then, businesses have created more than a million of them, equal to half the number of iOS apps available in Apple’s App Store. They come from global conglomerates like McDonald’s and Tesla and from local businesses like restaurants, hair salons and gyms. All of them are drawn in by the gravitational pull of WeChat’s enormous number of users and its standardized software infrastructure. It resembles the European Union in the way it has evolved into a market ecosystem

4. Bodies at war

This piece looks at how many Covid-19 patients may be dying from their immune response to the virus, and not the virus itself.

(New York Times, approx 27 mins reading time)

She suspected that the greatest danger here wasn’t the coronavirus itself but an immune overreaction so severe that it could cause lungs to fill up with fluid and prompt organs to shut down, possibly killing the patient. Rheumatologists often describe this type of immune reaction as a “cytokine storm” or “cytokine release syndrome.” Cytokines are proteins released by cells in order to send messages to other cells — signaling, for instance, that a viral invasion is underway. The number of different cytokines is large, perhaps exceeding 100, and each one calls for a specific response. To save her patient, Navarro-Millán decided that she would have to calm his immune system and prevent that storm from getting started.

5. Dream jobs

An Irish couple landed the dream job of caretaker for the Great Blasket island. Then Covid-19 struck…

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(CNN, 5 mins reading time)

“Our job is to keep the cottages clean and turned over on time, and light the fires and get the coal,” says Birney. With no electricity, cleaning work is “just elbow grease and getting down and dirty.” Water can be heated by kettle and they have a gas stove for cooking.
“When you sit down at the end of the day, it’s a lovely feeling,” she laughs.

6. The deadly trade in diet pills

DNP is deadly, but is still being marketed to people in diet pills, as this investigation shows.

(The Guardian, approx 24 mins reading time)

DNP is a lethal poison. “There is no such thing as a safe level of use,” Simon Thomas, professor of clinical pharmacology at Newcastle University, told me. “You can move from well to critical to dead within a few hours. What begins with sweating, high temperature and rapid heartbeat can rapidly progress to muscular spasms, seizures and multi-organ failure. Its fatality rate is very high indeed.”


Into house music? Here’s a longread about Chicago House and how it got its groove back in the 90s. 

(Chicago Reader, approx 30 mins reading time)

House music has belonged to the world as a whole for most of its history. But like everything else in club life, Chicago-purist house has its vogues of popularity and wider cultural relevance. The mid-to-late 90s was such a time—just as right now is. The original sound of Chicago house music labels Trax and DJ International has been reintegrated into clubland’s matrix with increasing frequency. A number of producers have made back-to-’87-style tracks. Vintage-Chicago-house 12-inches pop up on mixes by under-25 DJs such as Benjamin Damage & Doc Daneeka (their XLR8R Mix, from March, pivots halfway through on Armando’s “Downfall,” first released on Trax in 1988).

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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