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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: The office tracking down the last perpetrators of the Holocaust

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. One man’s quest for immortality

Tech multi-millionaire Bryan Johnson has spent over $4 million developing a life-extension system in an effort to reduce his “biological age”. His end goal? To live forever.

(Time, approx 21 mins reading time)

Johnson is not the only ultra-rich middle-aged man trying to vanquish the ravages of time. Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel were both early investors in Unity Biotechnology, a company devoted to developing therapeutics to slow or reverse diseases associated with aging. Elite athletes employ therapies to keep their bodies young, from hyperbaric and cryotherapy chambers to “recovery sleepwear.” But Johnson’s quest is not just about staying rested or maintaining muscle tone. It’s about turning his whole body over to an anti-aging algorithm. He believes death is optional. He plans never to do it.

Outsourcing the management of his body means defeating what Johnson calls his “rascal mind”—the part of us that wants to eat ice cream after dinner, or have sex at 1 a.m., or drink beer with friends. The goal is to get his 46-year-old organs to look and act like 18-year-old organs. Johnson says the data compiled by his doctors suggests that Blueprint has so far given him the bones of a 30-year-old, and the heart of a 37-year-old. The experiment has “proven a competent system is better at managing me than a human can,” Johnson says, a breakthrough that he says is “reframing what it means to be human.” He describes his intense diet and exercise regime as falling somewhere between the Italian Renaissance and the invention of calculus in the pantheon of human achievement. Michelangelo had the Sistine Chapel; Johnson has his special green juice.

2. Sweet deal

assortmentofproductswithhighsugarlevel-foodthatsbad Shutterstock / Ekaterina Markelova Shutterstock / Ekaterina Markelova / Ekaterina Markelova

The food industry is paying registered dieticians thousands of dollars to push and promote certain products and eating habits to their followers on apps like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

(The Washington Post, approx 17 mins reading time)

Another dietitian with a large social media following, Jenn Messina of North Vancouver, posted a video on Instagram where she added a lollipop to a dinner plate. She told parents the strategy will “prevent sweets obsession” and help kids develop healthier relationships with food. In another Instagram video, she told parents they can make Halloween less stressful by allowing kids to eat as much candy as they want when they’re done trick-or-treating. “This helps decrease the stash and makes it less of a ‘big deal,’” she wrote in the text alongside the video. “Yes, they may barf. That’s a great life lesson.”

Messina also was paid by the Canadian Sugar Institute, which she disclosed on her posts and in an interview. Messina said that, while her advice is “nontraditional,” her goal is to help parents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that too much added sugar can contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Messina declined to say how much the sugar institute pays her for sponsored videos. She said she pitches ideas for videos to the institute but has “full say” on what she posts. “I don’t work with any industries that tell me what to say or how to say it — it has to be 100 percent my voice, or I won’t do it,” she said.

3. The last Nazis

German prosecutors are quietly working to track down the last living perpetrators of the Holocaust. Tom Lamont writes about what that work looks like, and what justice might look for those who are caught. 

(GQ, approx 30 mins reading time)

In the hunt for names, Will and his colleagues read pay slips, sick notes, expense requests, uniform and equipment bills, medals, memorials, roll call records, transfer orders, promotion lists, passenger manifests, and passports. Sometimes they request that foreign governments unseal confidential spy reports. They try to find out which Germans emigrated where after the war and whether those emigrations were suspicious. Having spent so long picking over this evidentiary trail, having read so many documents that richly detailed genocide, Will said he felt mostly unshockable: “I am professionally damaged maybe.” He once flew to Canberra in Australia to pick through old files that were originally from a Nazi extermination camp. He chose a file at random, opened it, and found that it was full of human hair. Will touched his chest, even now a little frightened. “I was not prepared for that.”

4. The assassination of Shinzo Abe

A fascinating read about the murder of the former prime minister of Japan, the alleged killer’s explanation and the role of The Unification Church.

(The Atlantic, approx 30 mins reading time)

The assassination exposed deep divisions over the legacy of Abe, who is hailed by some for restoring Japanese influence around the world and reviled by others as a dangerous throwback to the country’s warlike past. The influence of the Moonies on Abe and the LDP remains a live issue, and last November the Kishida government—eager to clear its name—opened an inquiry that could threaten the Unification Church’s legal status in Japan as a religion. That could prove a lethal blow, and might raise questions about the church’s role in the other 100 or so countries where it has a presence, including the United States. Because the group’s leaders have not been charged with any crime, the Japanese government would, in essence, be asserting the power to decide when a religion does more harm than good. All of this might have remained hidden were it not for the desperate act of a man who had failed at just about everything else. As he awaits trial in the solitude of his prison cell, Tetsuya Yamagami can console himself that he may be among the most successful assassins in history.

5. Stalker

manshandwithasmartphoneinadark Shutterstock / milicad Shutterstock / milicad / milicad

A shocking but important read from Laura Barton about her experience dealing with obsessive behaviour by a man which began in the form of liking her posts on Twitter.

(The Guardian, approx 15 mins reading time)

It is difficult to express the vulnerability I felt during that time. I lived alone, and throughout the pandemic I did not socialise. I felt curiously exposed in my isolation. I lived in a community small enough for me to stand out, and I realised that Peter could find me quite easily. I wondered whether I ought to casually mention it to my neighbours. But really, how to explain it? That a strange man might turn up at my door uninvited because he liked some things I had written? It seemed ridiculous. Whenever Peter had shown up at events, pre-pandemic, I had been friendly, albeit in a distant way. This seemed the best approach. I hadn’t wanted to seem grand, or to make him feel unwelcome. After all, I wasn’t anyone special, and he hadn’t done anything wrong – he was a person who had simply connected to my work. And isn’t that what a writer is supposed to want?

6. Martin Scorsese 

The veteran director speaks about his career, his upcoming movie Killers of the Flower Moon, and gives a rundown of his ten favourite films. 

(Time, approx 13 mins reading time)

There are still many of us who see the past, present, and future of film as a continuous, regenerative strand, who find pleasure in the filmmaking of the past even as we harbor hopes for its future. If you think that way, you might imagine everyone does. But the reality is more dismal. Content is king, and entertainment billionaires want to keep shoveling it our way, at the lowest possible cost to themselves. In their eyes, we’re no longer moviegoers—a word that, in 2023, has a painfully romantic ring to it—but consumers of content, and the consumers have spoken: They want art on their own terms. Their fandom must be served. Both moguls and audiences are leaning into their worst impulses. Scorsese hesitates to use the word art when he’s talking about movies; he knows how it sounds, and he knows as well as anyone who’s seen a double bill of Out of the Past and Bambi that art and entertainment can blur and fuse, wonderfully. But the very idea of movie artistry is in crisis, and it doesn’t look as if it’s getting better anytime soon. Scorsese is worried about that, and if you care about movies, you should be worried too.

“It should be one cinematic culture, you know? But right now everything is being fragmented and broken up in a way.” We’ve always had film genres, he says, but when he was growing up, people who loved movies would just go. “Not everybody liked musicals. Not everybody liked westerns. Not everybody liked gangster films or noirs. But at the time, we just went to the movies, and that’s what was playing.” By itself, knowing a lot about film means nothing. That bank of knowledge needs to be entwined with curiosity about the world; seemingly definitive answers lead only to more questions.

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

rupert-murdoch-retirement Rupert Murdoch leaving his London residence the day after he addressed the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on phone hacking claims in 2011. Lewis Whyld / PA Wire Lewis Whyld / PA Wire / PA Wire

After Rupert Murdoch announced that he was stepping down as chair of Fox and News Corp, this award-winning three-part story from 2019 details how his global media empire reshaped the world as he know it, the internal divisions over his successor and the future of Fox.

(The New York Times Magazine, approx 89 mins reading time)

Over the years, Lachlan and James had traded roles, more than once, as heir apparent and jilted son. It was no secret to those close to the family that Murdoch had always favored Lachlan. (“But I love all of my children,” Murdoch would say when people close to him pointed out his clear preference for Lachlan.) But it was James who spent the first decades of the 21st century helping reposition the company for the digital future — exploiting new markets around the world, expanding online offerings, embracing broadband and streaming technology — while his older brother was mostly off running his own businesses in Australia after a bitter split from their father. When Lachlan finally agreed to return to the United States in 2015, Murdoch gave him and James dueling senior titles: All the company’s divisions would report jointly to them. It was an awkward arrangement, not only because they were both putatively in charge of a single empire. James and Lachlan were very different people, with very different politics, and they were pushing the company toward very different futures: James toward a globalized, multiplatform news-and-entertainment brand that would seem sensible to any attendee of Davos or reader of The Economist; Lachlan toward something that was at once out of the past and increasingly of the moment — an unabashedly nationalist, far-right and hugely profitable political propaganda machine.

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