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Dublin: -1°C Saturday 23 January 2021

Sitdown Sunday: Two ships, a superstorm, and one chance for survival

Grab 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 death of Emmett Till

People-Lil Wayne Emmett Till Source: AP/Press Association Images

Emmett Till was just a young teen when he was murdered in Mississippi, with photographs of his horrific lynching seen around the world. John Edgar Wideman looks at Till’s life, and that of his father – and whether his father died due to a perversion of justice.

(Esquire, approx 40 mins reading time)

Today Emmett Till is generally viewed as a civil-rights martyr, but the shabby trial that exonerated his killers, and the crucial role played by Till’s father afterward, have largely disappeared from the public’s imagination. Silenced, the Till trial serves as an unacknowledged, abiding precedent. Again and again in courtrooms across America, killers are released as if colored lives they have snatched away do not matter.

2. Life and death in El Salvador

Rachel Nolan tells the story of young women in El Salvador, where “an active medical and law-enforcement system finds and tries women who are suspected of having had abortions”. This means that women who have miscarriages or stillbirths have much to fear.

(Harpers, approx 46 mins reading time)

The sentence is two to eight years in prison. But because El Salvador’s constitution classifies a fertilized egg as a legal person, in many cases prosecutors arbitrarily upgrade the charge to aggravated homicide, which carries a penalty of between thirty and fifty years in jail. (The aggravated-homicide charge is meant to apply to cases in which the fetus is more than twenty-two weeks old, but judges rarely learn the details of a pregnancy.) In July, the conservative party ARENA proposed to the Legislative Assembly that the minimum prison sentence for women convicted of abortion be raised to thirty years.

3. Baseball prospect turned hitman 

shutterstock_424817452 Source: Shutterstock/Andrey Yurlov

Maurice Lerner was a baseball player with talent, but it wasn’t enough to stop him from entering a life of crime. Here’s his story.

(New York Times, approx 25 mins reading time)

He also seemed to carry a self-destructive fear of success. Family lore has it that he sabotaged a chance to move up to the Pirates after Mazeroski got hurt — it is true, at least, that Mazeroski, a future Hall of Famer, incurred a couple of injuries at the time — by picking a fight with his manager. “One of his biggest regrets,” Glen Lerner says. “Whenever he was going to get promoted, he would do something to undermine it. He didn’t know how to explain it.”

4. Iceland, women, and equality

Is Iceland the best country in the world to live in? It’s seen as progressive and equal, and here’s the background on how it got to where it is.

(The Guardian, approx 9 mins reading time)

For the past six years, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index and looks likely to do so again this week. The Economist recently named Iceland the world’s best place for working women – in comparison, the UK came in at No. 24. Ólafsdóttir’s philosophy seems to sit well with the nation’s progressive accomplishments, but her network of schools has been going for less than 20 years. So, if preschoolers trained in feminism aren’t the reason for this gender success story, what is?

5. Surviving life under Isis

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shutterstock_232674181 Militants in the Qandil Mountains, PKK (The Kurdistan Workers Party). Source: Shutterstock/thomas koch

National Geographic journeys to Mosul to find out what life was like under Islamic State rule, as the Iraqi military amongst others begins to destroy their hold there. What they find paints a chilling picture.

(National Geographic, approx 56 mins reading time)

In 2015 Mosul was cut off by security forces. The markets went empty. The electricity was cut, then the water. ISIS got more brutal. When Ali bandaged the hand of a woman who wasn’t fully covered, he was accused of being sexually involved with her. He was jailed and received 50 lashings and counted himself lucky to still have his head. Air strikes flattened Mosul around him. He realized he must risk a quick death and leave—or stay and die slowly.

6. Storm rescue

In 2015, two giant ships – the Minouche and the El Faro – sailed into a superstorm. The storm had defied all prediction, and the ships were headed into serious danger. Their only chance of survival? A young Coast Guard crew.

(GQ, approx 32 mins reading time)

With the ship unable to navigate, the waves took over, turning the boat until she was broadside to the waves. Drifting powerless, the Minouche was now nature’s punching bag. On board, they were running out of options. Night was descending, and there was nothing left to do but enact the terrible routines that every sailor dreads. A crew member sent a hurried e-mail to the ship’s agent in Miami and activated the emergency signal that provided would-be rescuers with the ship’s location. Meanwhile, the captain authorized a distress call on the Inmarsat satellite network. Then he ordered the crew to prepare to abandon ship.


Source: LionsgateVOD/YouTube

In 1977, Maureen North reported in Newsweek on the filming of the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now. Her tales from the middle of the jungle bring us right to the heart of the shoot.

(Maureen North, approx 15 mins reading time)

Life on the set – four different locations in the Philippines – also escalated quickly to apocalyptic dimensions. The young crew, composed largely of Americans, Filipions and Italians, weathered a typhoon, survived dysentery and sweated through day after day of relentless heat – alleviated by periodic R&R trips to Hong Kong. Stuntmen amused themselves by diving from fourth-story windows into the motel pool below. The prop man, Doug Madison, became adept at fabricating top secret CIA documents, thought nothing of driving 400 miles to fetch a special Army knife, and made a connection with a supplier of real corpses – before he was vetoed.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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