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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: New clues in the case of the Isdal Woman mystery

Settle back 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. American camps

They’ve been called concentration camps – huge camps housing man people. Masha Gessen looks at the wording and why it’s contentious. 

(The New Yorker, approx mins reading time)

But the argument is really about how we perceive history, ourselves, and ourselves in history. We learn to think of history as something that has already happened, to other people. Our own moment, filled as it is with minutiae destined to be forgotten, always looks smaller in comparison. As for history, the greater the event, the more mythologized it becomes. Despite our best intentions, the myth becomes a caricature of sorts. Hitler, or Stalin, comes to look like a two-dimensional villain—someone whom contemporaries could not have seen as a human being. 

2. GoFundMe for your healthcare issues

As more people start to turn to GoFundMe to help answer their healthcare woes, this article asks about the impact it is having on them – and whether it is not the answer needed to help repair a broken system.

(The New Yorker, approx 33 mins reading time)

“The whole GoFundMe thing is weird,” Gonzalez said. “It’s so new that we as a society haven’t decided what’s good and what’s not. I would love there to be some kind of verification, but aren’t people entitled to privacy? Should they be required to share their information to prove they have this illness they’re claiming?”

3. What really happened between the US and Iran

ProPublica delves into the issue of Iran and the US, and in particular Trump’s comments on how 10 American sailors were captured by Iran in 2016.

(ProPublica, approx mins reading time)

Just before sunset on Jan. 12, 2016, 10 American sailors strayed into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, a navigation error with potentially grave consequences. On their way to a spying mission, the Americans had set sail from Kuwait to Bahrain. It was a long-distance trek that some senior commanders in the Navy’s 5th Fleet had warned they were neither equipped nor trained to execute.

4. The rise and fall of

This is a fascinating insight into the sharp rise and fall of the NYC-based site, which was aimed at millennial women and experienced a viral moment thanks to an article about a young woman’s date with Aziz Ansari.

(The Cut, approx 30 mins reading time)

And yet was created during an era when to be a woman saying just about anything online was now, theoretically, classified as feminist. When I asked them about it, the site’s writers described theirs as “not the brand of feminism where we have to unconditionally support every woman no matter what she does. Because women can be problematic too.”

5. Death in Ice Valley

New leads have been found in the curious Isdal Woman mystery. A woman’s body was found in a remote spot of Bergen in Norway in 1970. In 2018, a podcast delves into the mystery – and now more facts are being discovered.

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

Modern science has shed new light on this most cryptic unsolved case. Last year, we worked with forensic police to carry out isotope tests on her teeth and jawbone, the only parts of her body not buried after the case was closed in 1971. They connected the woman tentatively with Nuremberg in Germany. And the woman’s likely age was revised – closer to 40 than 30.

6. How refugees get stuck in indefinite detention

We have heard a lot about the Irish system of Direct Provision – here’s a longread on the UK’s refugee detention system.

(The Guardian, approx 18 mins reading time)

Jean Paul was taken to the detention centre at Harmondsworth. “At first it looks beautiful,” he said, “from the outside. There’s no barbed wire. But once inside, you go through a first and then a second set of security doors. You’re locked in; you can’t open them from the inside. It’s really a prison. There’s nothing to do in there.” It was very frightening. “There are some there, too, who’ve just completed sentences for serious crimes. When they’re released, they’re handed over to immigration – together with people who are simply seeking asylum.”


Let’s go back and tell the full story of the Isdal Woman – at least, what we know so far. (Note: Contains one graphic image)

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

But it is the positioning of the objects that leaves the strongest impression on Tormod Bønes, one of the forensic investigators. The woman is not wearing the watch or her jewellery – instead, they have been placed beside her. “The placement and location of the objects surrounding the body was strange – it looked like there had been some kind of ceremony,” he says.  

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday

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