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Dublin: 7 °C Monday 14 October, 2019

Sitdown Sunday: The horrific abuse at a Catholic orphanage

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. Flat Tummy Co

The Flat Tummy Co is – as you can imagine from its name alone – a controversial business. It makes its money selling products that promise a flatter stomach, including appetite-suppressing lollipops. This article looks at how it uses Instagram to attract followers and customers.

(The Guardian, approx 12 mins reading time)

Indeed, Instagram is such a crucial factor in Flat Tummy Co’s value that when the company was sold for $10m in 2015, its “significant social media presence” was highlighted in a press release ahead of actual assets or sales figures. Armies of “influencers” – including KimKhloe and Kourtney Kardashian and Kylie and Kris Jenner – promote its products to their followers. Most of the influencers are strictly Instagram-famous: semi-professional models with tens of thousands of female followers who almost always fail to disclose that their endorsements are bought and paid for.

2. Ethan Hawke takes himself seriously

This article about Ethan Hawke is not just about the actor – it’s about what it’s like to be a creator, to pursue your work and art because you want to, and not to appease critics.

(New York Times, approx 26 mins reading time)

Mr. Hawke found that so moving, the idea of ignoring what the world was telling you about yourself and instead living only by standards that you had, yourself, carefully defined for your life and work. He vowed right then that he would do whatever it took to make good art on his own terms, no matter what anyone said. He would take himself seriously, even if no one else did.

3. The ghosts of the orphanage

Source: BuzzFeed News/YouTube

Millions of children were placed in orphanages in the 1940s in the USA. But many of them died. This article looks at interviews and court cases which shed light on the horrifying experiences of those children. (Note: This article contains descriptions that may be upsetting or disturbing for some readers)

(Buzzfeed, approx 133 mins reading time)

Across thousands of miles, across decades, the abuse took eerily similar forms: People who grew up in orphanages said they were made to kneel or stand for hours, sometimes with their arms straight out, sometimes holding their boots or some other item. They were forced to eat their own vomit. They were dangled upside down out windows, over wells, or in laundry chutes. 

4. Glenn Greenwald

A profile of the leftist reporter Glenn Greenwald and his crusade against establishment Democrats in the US.

(The New Yorker, approx 62 mins reading time)

Greenwald has experienced his own share of criticism, but is not known for showing kindness to critics. Michael Hayden, the former director of the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., has written that debating him was like looking “the devil in the eye.” Leading American progressives—speaking off the record, and apologizing for what they describe as cowardice—call Greenwald a bully and a troll. One told me that “he makes everything war.” The spouse of one of Greenwald’s friends visualizes him as the angry emoji. 

5. Raised by wolves

shutterstock_1040461282 Source: Shutterstock/Waitandshoot

Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja was abandoned as a child, and had to live alone in the wild for 15 years. He says he was raised by wolves, away from humans and losing the ability to speak in human language.

(The Guardian, approx 27 mins reading time)

Twelve years later, police found him hiding in the mountains, wrapped in a deerskin and with long, matted hair. He tried to flee, but the officers caught him, tied his hands and brought him to the nearest village. Eventually a young priest brought him to the hospital ward of a convent in Madrid, where he stayed for a year and received a remedial education from the nuns.

6. The original cult wine

There’s a vineyard in California, in the small town of Oregon House, called Renaissance. It’s not your average vineyard – it’s also the headquarters of the Fellowship of Friends, which is known to many as a doomsday cult.

(SF Chronicle, approx 33 mins reading time)

The story of Renaissance — how it came to produce such great wines, and how it fell this far — is a painful one. It’s a story about a guru and his followers, about scandals and schisms, about belief and unbelief. It’s a story about this curious, secretive community, the Fellowship of Friends, to which the fortune and folly of Renaissance Winery has always served as an obscure window.


In the mid-1970s a group of women took it upon themselves to transform the macho Rolling Stone magazine. Here’s an oral history of how they did it.

(Vanity Fair, approx 19 mins reading time)

Their stories have historically been obscured by the long shadows of the men they worked for and wrangled—Hunter S. Thompson, Joe Eszterhas, Cameron Crowe—but the history these women recall is the story of how Rolling Stone became a true journalistic endeavor, and the story of women learning to speak for themselves decades before topics like sexual harassment and equal pay became mainstream.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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