Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# 7 great reads
Sitdown Sunday: 'I was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Vietnamese jungle'
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. Juventus

A fascinating look at the financial scandals that have led to the current crisis at what some consider Italy’s most iconic football club, and the relationship between football and finance on the whole.

(The Guardian, approx 25 mins reading time)

The plusvalenze scandal didn’t involve Juventus alone. The €70m transfer from Lille to Napoli of Victor Osimhen, the star of this season’s Serie A, is also mired in controversy: the four minor Napoli players traded for Osimhen are alleged to have been massively overvalued at €19.8m in order to offset the cost. Yet while Juventus wasn’t the only club moving players around like chess pieces merely for accounting purposes, the allegations, if proven, would show that the club took the practice to new levels. One Juventus executive, recorded by investigators looking into the club’s murky finances, said: “I feel as if I’m selling my soul.”

2. Niall Collins

The Fianna Fáil TD has been in the headlines this week in relation to the controversial sale of council land to his wife in 2008. Here is a comprehensive timeline of what happened.

(The Journal, 11 approx mins reading time)

The Bruff committee was one of five local area committees on the old Limerick County Council, and was made up of seven councillors – including Collins – at the time. It met once a month to coordinate services for communities in the Bruff area, as well as to propose votes on local issues at full council meetings. In January 2007, the committee recommended that a full council vote should take place on the sale of land in Patrickswell; Collins was present at the meeting, and his wife Eimear O’Connor, a GP, had already written to the council through her solicitor to express an interest in the land a month previously. Collins has become the focus of controversy for allegedly not recusing himself from the discussion or declaring that his wife had an interest in the land.

3. ‘The Hazards of Helen’

A profile of Helen Gibson, Hollywood’s first professional stuntwoman, and how she rose to fame in the 1910s.

(Smithsonian, approx 10 mins reading time)

It was 1916, and a significant segment of American society didn’t consider women capable of casting a vote, let alone driving a car. At the time, there were no Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and few (if any) organizations prioritizing actors’ welfare. If Gibson broke enough bones to limit her continued participation in the shoot—and she’d already had her share of “scrapes,” as she called them—she’d simply be replaced.

4. Supercentenarians

Matt Reynolds speaks to Jean-Marie Robine, who studies people who live into their 110s, and investigates what the limit to the human lifespan is.

(Wired, approx 11 mins reading time)

If you’ve ever read an interview with a supercentenarian, there is one question that will inevitably come up: What’s the secret? Well, take your pick. The secret is kindness. Not having children. Connecting with nature. Avoiding men. Or, being married. Smoking 30 cigarettes a day. Not smoking 30 cigarettes a day. Drinking whisky. Abstaining from alcohol altogether. We mine the lives of the super-old for hints on how we should live our own. But this is the wrong way to approach the question, says Robine. His style is to step back, take a look at how many supercentenarians there have been, and figure out when they lived and died. The limits of human longevity won’t be found by looking at individuals, he believes, but by examining super-long-lived people collectively. It’s a statistical puzzle: to crack it, you need to know exactly how many people died at age 111, 112, 113, and so on, to work out the likelihood that a supercentenarian won’t make it to their next birthday.

5. Survival

In 1992, Annette Herfkens was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 30 people, including her fiancé, and spent eight days in the Vietnamese jungle before being rescued. Here, she reflects on how the experience changed her.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

For Herfkens, the transformation began in the hours immediately after the crash. While she lay injured and thirsty, waiting to be rescued, she thought of the bond markets. She had been working for Santander in Madrid, and had been the only woman on the trading floor. She also thought of her mother back in The Hague. It seems incredible, given that she had no food or water, but while she waited for the rescue party, who eventually carried her down the mountain on a hammock, what Herfkens did not think was that she was going to die. “I stayed in the moment,” she says. “I trusted that they were going to find me … I did not think: ‘What if a tiger comes?’ I thought: ‘I’ll deal with it when the tiger comes.’

6. AI and politics

Colin Horgan explores whether artificial intelligence has the potential to change the future of politics forever.

(The Walrus, approx 13 mins reading time)

In 2018, actor and director Jordan Peele allowed his voice to be digitally altered and then grafted onto a manipulated video of Barack Obama so that it looked like the former US president was actually speaking Peele’s script. This kind of video is made with generative AI and is called a “deepfake.” Peele’s was created as a warning against the potential for sophisticated misinformation campaigns in the future, including the 2020 US election. But that election passed without any significant AI-induced confusion. Instead, “simple deceptions like selective editing or outright lies have worked just fine,” NPR concluded that year in an attempt to explain the lack of deepfakes.  But, at the time, there were technical and cost limitations. “It’s not like you can just download one app and . . . provide something like a script and create a deepfake format and make [an individual] say this,” one expert told the broadcaster. “Perhaps we will [get to that point] over the next few years, then it’s going to be very easy, potentially, to create compelling manipulations.” We’re there now.


In the 1980s, the efforts of a small group of American scientists, activists and politicians came very close to getting the world to act on climate change. This longread from 2018 explores why it never happened. An unbelievable feature that is well worth a read.

(New York Times Magazine, approx 152 mins reading time)

Nearly everything we understand about global warming was understood in 1979. By that year, data collected since 1957 confirmed what had been known since before the turn of the 20th century: Human beings have altered Earth’s atmosphere through the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. The main scientific questions were settled beyond debate, and as the 1980s began, attention turned from diagnosis of the problem to refinement of the predicted consequences. Compared with string theory and genetic engineering, the “greenhouse effect” — a metaphor dating to the early 1900s — was ancient history, described in any Introduction to Biology textbook. Nor was the basic science especially complicated. It could be reduced to a simple axiom: The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet. And every year, by burning coal, oil and gas, humankind belched increasingly obscene quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Why didn’t we act?

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.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel