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Thursday 1 June 2023 Dublin: 14°C
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# seven great reads
Sitdown Sunday: How a university debating society shaped modern British politics
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. The cabin on the mountain

An exploration of lateral thinking puzzles and how they relate back to ordinary life as people struggled with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

(Longreads, approx 24 mins reading time)

Sometimes, the mechanism of the answer is something ludicrously complex, a thing that must be pieced out bit by bit. Several people were in a hot air balloon that drifted into the desert and started to lose altitude because of the heat and air pressure. They threw everything they could overboard, including their clothes, but when that wasn’t enough they drew straws to see who would jump overboard to save the others. Other times, though, the solution is simpler, but requires retooling your perspective. You hear “hole in his suit” and you think of a three-piece suit and your mind goes to a bullet wound. Once that image is set in your mind, it can take some work to dislodge it. You don’t necessarily think: “space suit.”

2. Bucha

A detailed account of the operation to find and document the Ukrainians who were killed in Bucha after the Russian withdrawal. 

This story contains graphic images.

(BBC, approx 15 mins reading time)

Lobas consulted the map in front of him, and on a plain piece of paper he wrote down the necessary information in neat handwriting, one line per body. By mid-morning, he had filled one side of A4 and moved on to the reverse. The previous day there had been 64 bodies, he said. The day before, 37. He did not know how many there would be that day, but he was expecting the number to jump by around 40 because a mass grave was being dug up nearby. Lobas is only in charge of one part of this region, and many more bodies are being found outside his jurisdiction.

3. Tory donor links to sanctioned oligarch

 A BBC investigation into links between a significant Tory donor and a company run by a sanctioned Russian oligarch, Suleiman Kerimov

(BBC, approx 5 mins reading time)

Papers seen by the BBC appear to show that Mrs Chernukhin, then Lubov Golubeva, was appointed a director of offshore company Radlett Estates Limited, in 2005 – following its acquisition of a substantial property, 1 Radlett Place, in north London.

4. How a college debating society shaped modern British politics

Simon Kuper explores the Oxford Union, a university debating society that has generated generations of British politicians and shaped how they do politics.

(The Guardian, approx 15 mins reading time)

Probably the main reason Oxford has produced so many prime ministers is the Oxford Union debating society. Founded in 1823, based in a courtyard behind the Cornmarket shopping street, the union when I encountered it was a kind of children’s House of Commons. Like its London model, it resembled a gentlemen’s club complete with reading rooms, writing room and bar, and, across the garden, Europe’s largest purpose-built debating chamber. 

5. The DIY duo behind the Amazon Labour Union

Josefa Velasquez dives into the Amazon Labour Union and how it began with the DIY duo Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer

(The City, approx 26 mins reading time)

They’re seeking a $30-an-hour minimum wage and better working conditions, including two paid 30-minute breaks and an hour-long paid lunch break, along with transparent promotion policies.Along with his friend Derrick Palmer, who works at the JFK8 sorting facility, Smalls and a handful of others are now leading the efforts of the Amazon Labor Union, an independent group made up of current and former Amazon workers at the Staten Island facility. 

6. The great American wasteland

A look at the US state of Louisiana and the coastal erosion leading to a loss of wetlands at an alarming rate.

(Longreads, approx 23 mins reading time)

Cameron Parish is Louisiana’s largest by landmass, once made up of thousands of miles of grass, marshland, and water. So much of this wilderness has already washed into the Gulf. Louisiana’s coast is among the most rapidly disappearing places on earth: What is lost amounts roughly to the size of the state of Delaware; what is left continues to go. 


A 2020 longread on American political merchandising and how it is used to help boost candidates in the everlasting US election cycle.

(Esquire, approx 10 mins reading time)

Making the job harder still is catering to a population that’s becoming increasingly diverse – and polarised. “Campaigns have a wide audience: all of America,” says Ida Woldemichael, associate creative director at Wide Eye and a former designer for Clinton’s 2016 presidential run. “Merch cements the campaign into history via traditional products, but you also have to respond to moments by rapidly creating and selling things.” Woldemichael points to a recent release from the Biden camp – the ‘truth over flies’ swatter – as an example of an effective and rapid response to the daily drama of a presidential campaign. It referred to the moment in which a fly parked itself on Mike Pence’s head during a heated exchange in the vice presidential debates. “There has to be something for everyone, and every moment, and a logo that is simple and concise is ideal.”

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