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Sitdown Sunday: How six brothers and their lion terrorised a Libyan town

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

Image: Shutterstock/Sergei Mironenko

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. Sutcliffe and Sheffield

Catherine Taylor was a pre-teen when the Yorkshire Ripper was caught after a string of murders. Here, she writes about living through that time.

(Granta, approx 20 mins reading time)

It was growing dark and beginning to snow as we left Haworth to drive home to Sheffield across those same moors. The Monday, 5 January, was to be the start of the new term, but my school was unexpectedly closed. A man had been arrested that Friday night, after we made our way back to the city through the silence of the midwinter darkness. At 4 p.m., around the same time we were departing Haworth, the man had left his home in nearby Bradford to drive first to Leeds, then on to Sheffield. By 10 p.m. his car, a brown Rover with stolen number plates attached with black tape, was cruising the red-light district around Broomhall, close to where my sister and brother-in-law lived, an area of student bedsits, squats and cramped terraces just around the corner from incongruously large, beatifically-beautiful Victorian villas, such as the original Broom Hall, where the cutlery designer David Mellor and his wife, biographer Fiona McCarthy, lived and worked. 

2. Body positivity

There can be a paradox to body positivity online, which Rebecca Jennings investigates here.

(Vox, approx 20 mins reading time)

But there is another effect of our near-constant exposure to an endless carousel of beautiful faces and perfect bodies, wrought by the extraordinary cultural power of increasingly shrewd algorithms. Like the failures of a political system that allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to die of the coronavirus and the racial justice movements that exploded in what became one of the US’s biggest protest movements in history, a reckoning is coming to what is widely, if improperly, dubbed the “body positivity” internet. Thin people, it seems, are finally beginning to hear what activists have been saying for decades: that our world is set up to be uniquely hostile to fat people at every possible turn, and that fat people are blamed for it.

3. Covid getaways

UK influencers have been jetting away to Dubai during the pandemic…

(The Guardian, approx 5 mins reading time)

Meanwhile, The Only Way Is Essex star James Lock posted at least two images of his laptop, with unspecified graphs on screen, in his stories. On Wednesday morning he told his followers he and his girlfriend, Yazmin Oukhellou, were “working away, despite what you may think, we are still grafting”. He posted a video of himself sunbathing, with a drink but no laptop, an hour later. 

4. The siege at the Capitol

How a string of failures led to the ‘dark day’ at the US Capitol.

(New York Times, approx 18 mins reading time)

It was just one failure in a dizzying list that day — and during the weeks leading up to it — that resulted in the first occupation of the United States Capitol since British troops set the building ablaze during the War of 1812. But the death and destruction this time was caused by Americans, rallying behind the inflammatory language of an American president, who refused to accept the will of more than 81 million other Americans who had voted him out of office.

5. ‘I hate men’ and a French phenomenon

Pauline Harmange faced a backlash in her native France when she wrote a book called I Hate Men.

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(The New York Times, approx 7 mins reading)

The threat backfired. No sooner was it made public than “I Hate Men” became a cause célèbre in the French news media — and brought attention to misandry, the dislike or mistrust of men, as a social phenomenon. Since Monstrograph couldn’t keep up with demand, a major French publisher, Seuil, won a bidding war to reprint the book, which has sold 20,000 copies since. The translation rights for 17 languages have been sold. In the United States, HarperCollins will release “I Hate Men,” translated by Natasha Lehrer, on Jan. 19. 

6. Six brothers and their lions

How the ‘family from hell’ – six brothers and their lions, ‘terrorised’ a Libyan town.

(BBC, approx 10 mins reading time)

For seven months, workers in white chemical protection suits have been returning to the small agricultural town of Tarhuna, about an hour’s drive south-east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. They have marked out neat rectangles with red-and-white tape, across the fields of reddish-brown earth, and from these plots they have lifted 120 dead bodies, though large areas still remain untouched… 
The graves are the gruesome legacy of a reign of terror, lasting nearly eight years, imposed on the town by a local family, the Kanis, and the militia they created. 

 …AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

This piece from 2017 is about the making of an American terrorist, Dylann Roof.

(GQ, approx 50 mins reading time)

During two stages of his trial, Dylann Roof decided to represent himself. When family members of the victims testified, they listened to him, without looking over, as he lifted himself weakly from his chair and dismissed them from the stand with his deep, always bored, blunt voice, which sounded like his mouth was full of Karo syrup. He didn’t object often, but when he did it was because he was bothered by the length and the amount of testimony that the families offered. Could they keep their stories about the dead quick? Whenever he stood to be walked back to his holding cell, his mouth moved with what I first thought was a sigh or a deep exhale—really, it was an ever present twitch, a gumming of his cheeks that sometimes ended with his tongue lolling out and licking his thin lips. 

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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