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Sitdown Sunday: The night of the floods

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

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

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. Afghanistan

Shukira Barazkai’s escape from Kabul. 

(BBC, approx 12 mins reading time)

Suddenly, everyone was rushing to get on a plane. Ms Barakzai’s flight to Turkey was cancelled. She quickly found another flight and tried to buy a ticket, but the airline would not accept her credit card. Cash only. She only had US$100 (£73) on her, not enough for new tickets. She found a friend in the crowd and borrowed the extra money, bought tickets for herself and her husband, and they quickly boarded the plane. It looked like they would get out just in time.

2. Long Covid

Many people with long Covid feel that science is failing them. Neglecting them could make the pandemic even worse.   

(The Atlantic, approx 21 mins reading time)
Despite long-haulers’ fight for recognition, any discussion of the pandemic still largely revolves around two extremes—good health at one end, and hospitalization or death at the other. This ignores the hinterland of disability that lies in between, where millions of people are already stuck, and where many more may end up. The coronavirus is here to stay, and even as vaccines diminish the threat of hospitalization and death, we don’t know yet how well they will protect against the disability of long COVID. The choice we make about how to study this condition will define the toll that SARS-CoV-2 takes for years to come.

3. Ireland’s biodiversity crisis

Loss of Ireland’s biodiversity is accelerating – and we’re missing the chance to halt it.

(Noteworthy, approx 26 mins reading time)

Just over half of the 60 species in Ireland protected under the Habitats Directive are in a favourable condition, while a whole host of important habitats and the species that depend on them are in poor or inadequate condition, including the freshwater pearl mussel, Atlantic salmon, and the once common marsh fritillary butterfly.

4. The Floods

Scenes from Ida’s chaotic, tragic night in New York. 

(Curbed, approx 18 mins reading time)

We left the bar at about 12:30 and we got home at almost 2 o’clock. And the basement had flooded. We have a bunch of stuff in the basement—we have it all up because of Henri. Weirdly, we had prepared for something that never happened, and then it happened 10 days later.”

5. First Language

For many children of immigrants, to “succeed” in America, we must adopt a new language in place of our first.

(The New Yorker, approx 12 mins reading time)

I grew up during the nineties in Sheepshead Bay, a quiet neighborhood located in the southern tip of Brooklyn, where the residents were mostly Russian-Jewish immigrants. Unable to communicate with neighbors, my parents kept to themselves and found other ways to participate in American culture. Once a month, my dad attempted to re-create McDonald’s chicken nuggets at home for my two brothers and me before taking us to the Coney Island boardwalk to watch the Cyclone roller coaster rumble by. On Sundays, my mom brought me to violin lessons, and afterward I accompanied her to a factory in Chinatown where she sacrificed her day off to sew blouses to pay for my next lesson while I did homework. These constant acts of love—my parents’ ideas of Americana—shaped who I am today. Why is it so difficult for me, at age thirty-two, to have a meaningful discussion with them? As an adult, I feel like their acquaintance instead of their daughter.

6. Afghan women

Some of Afghanistan’s most skilled and educated citizens have been forced to flee, while those who remain can no longer be who they are.

(The Atlantic, approx 6 mins reading time)

The situation doesn’t look promising. Although the Taliban has attempted to portray itself as a more moderate reincarnation of its previous self, it hasn’t renounced its old ways completely. There have already been reports of the Taliban segregating classrooms at Kabul University by gender (a move that could result in the de facto end of women’s education), persecuting ethnic minorities, and hunting down targets whom the group had previously said would be granted amnesty.

7. Back from extinction

Can we bring back animals from extinction by freezing their cells to preserve their genes?

(Wired, approx 20 mins reading time)

By transferring his skills from horses to endangered species, Matson is planning to build the biggest biobank of animal cells in Europe. Nature’s SAFE, a charity which he founded in December 2020, aims to collect 50 million genetic samples and “freeze them in time”, storing cells from critically endangered species including the Amur leopard, black rhino and mountain chicken frog in cryogenic tanks. Working with partners including Chester Zoo, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and researchers at the University of Oxford, his idea is to harvest and preserve samples of semen – as well as ova and other tissue – that could one day be used to regenerate dwindling animal populations and prevent them from going extinct.

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