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Friday 31 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo File photo of Portvasgo, a small bay near Melness.
# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: The spaceport at the edge of the world
Settle down 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. The spaceport at the edge of the world

A fascinating look at how a spacecraft launch site ended up in a tiny village in the Scottish Highlands, the effect it has had on the locals and how it could transform the area for the better. 

(Wired, approx 23 mins reading time)

Pritchard’s own hopes for the spaceport were humbler but no less urgent. In it she saw a way to preserve Melness’ crumbling future. Her father had been a crofter who, like many in the village, worked at the nuclear power plant down the coast and built offshore oil rigs. She’d started lambing at 8 years old, and her childhood memories were crowded with weekend dances that once surged with dapper teens from Strathy to Durness. By 2015, though, the oil industry was declining, the nuclear plant had been deactivated, the dance halls were empty, and the school rolls were dwindling. The town was down to a single hotel, a single store, a single nursing home. Every year, Pritchard saw her former students reach their late teens and flee to the cities down south: Inverness, Aberdeen, even Edinburgh. Keeping youngsters on the good side of Ben Loyal and Ben Hope, the two peaks that overshadow Melness, had become her obsession.

2. The hunt for Russian collaborators in Ukraine

The Ukrainian city of Izyum was invaded and, after 163 days, liberated. But those who cooperated with Russian forces now face ostracization and, in some cases, criminal charges

(The New Yorker, approx 45 mins reading time)

The most obvious cases are those in which a person took up arms against Ukrainian forces or was involved in spying or sabotage to aid the Russian war effort. But assessing culpability can get murky at the level of local governance. “We’re looking for people who worked for the benefit of the Russian occupation,” Kravchenko told me. “But does that apply to a welder or carpenter who maintained buildings or equipment for the occupiers? Or people responsible for critical infrastructure?” There wasn’t an easy answer or policy, he said.

3. How old are you really?

New AI technology has been developed to calculate our biological age – which scientists have said reflects our physical health and can differ from our actual age by years. Here’s how it works.

(National Geographic, approx 11 mins reading time)

According to Andre Esteva, the founder and CEO of a medical AI start-up in Los Altos, California, Han’s work has the potential to upend preventative medicine: “If you could take a photo and get back your biological age, that could really influence your lifestyle.” With this tool, physicians could also track and manage the care of patients undergoing onerous treatments known to prematurely age people, such as chemotherapy. And it has potential to aid research into aging too.

4. De-Influencing

The latest viral trend supposedly encouraging people not to buy products that influencers tell them to. Is it working? Not really. 

(Rolling Stone, approx 7 mins reading time)

If influencing is convincing people to buy products, de-influencing, in theory, should be telling people to save their money. But while the term has become a buzzword on for-you-pages — it currently has over 69 million views on TikTok — the top de-influencing videos don’t tell people to avoid impulse purchases. Rather, they all feature creators mentioning (and sometimes downright roasting) viral beauty products that didn’t work for them. But instead of leaving it there, they offer dozens of similar products that people can — you guessed it — purchase instead.

5. Homelessness in the US

A sobering look at the extent of the homeless crisis in America, written during the annual tally of those without a home in the United States.

(The New York Times, approx 22 mins reading time)

There is one factor — the high cost of housing and difficulty of finding anything affordable — that rises above the rest. The numbers bear this out, explaining why expensive West Coast cities like Los Angeles have long had the nation’s worst homeless problems, why growing cities like Phoenix are now seeing a troubling rise, and why it is seemingly easier to solve homelessness in places like Rockford, Ill., a once-thriving factory town that has lost a lot of jobs but where housing remains cheap.

6. M. Night Shyamalan

The director behind The Sixth Sense and Split speaks about his career and his new psychological horror film, Knock at the Cabin.

(The New Yorker, approx 13 mins reading time)

“Knock at the Cabin” is replete with Shyamalanian trappings: a confined location, a parable-like narrative, cosmic stakes, a surprise conclusion. From a certain angle, the movie almost looks like self-parody, which is why it’s interesting to note that it’s one of his rare features developed from someone else’s material. Shyamalan was originally attached only as a producer, but, after the initial production fell through, the rights holders returned and asked him if he wanted to make it himself. “I just started to see the images, and it was a little bit like I couldn’t stop myself,” Shyamalan said.


A 2019 article written by Carmel McMahon about Ireland, emigration, and the treatment of women in recent history.

(Longreads, approx 16 mins reading time)

Does the story begin when I had my first drink around the age of 10? It was during the recession-wracked ‘80s, and my father did not have a job. That Christmas, Santa brought us all the same digital watch and an orange. We were not pleased or grateful. Poverty shrank us. We spent Saint Stephen’s Day at my uncle’s house in Dublin. The living room, where the adults gathered, had leather sofas and Lladro ornaments. The air was thick with cigarette smoke that got thicker, and laughter that got louder as the evening progressed. 

Note: The Journal generally selects stories that are not paywalled, but some might not be accessible if you have exceeded your free article limit on the site in question.

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