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Bumper Sitdown Sunday 12 deadly reads for Christmas
A special double edition of the very best writing from around the web.

EVERY WEEK, brings you the very best of the week’s writing from around the world. And seeing as it’s Christmas, we’ve prepared an extra special double edition – with a great read for every day of the holidays. Enjoy!

1. Why do we kiss under the mistletoe?
Rob Dunn on the story behind the traditional Christmas plant, and why it means romance (Smithsonian).

Then, as Baldur paused to celebrate his release from torment, he felt a pain in his chest. He had been stabbed and killed by an arrow made from the wood of a mistletoe plant. Mistletoe was the one species on earth his wife and mother had failed to notice.

2. The thing about twins
Peter Miller on how identical twins are always just a little different – and what that could teach us (National Geographic).

“After they took my picture,” Dave says, “I asked one guy if I went out and committed a crime and then went home and shaved, would they be able to tell it was me? He kind of looked at me and said, ‘Probably not. But don’t go out and commit a crime.’ ”

3. Inside Syria’s death zone
An anonymous correspondent writes from locked-down Homs, the town at the centre of Syria’s uprising and brutal crackdown (Der Spiegel).

“It’s been like this for two months now. This is a prison. Even worse. I live over there (on the other side of the street). But I can’t run so fast anymore. They’ll kill me if I try to go home. They kill everyone. Katl, katl,” she says, repeating the Arabic word for “kill.”

4. The story behind that kiss
Remember the photo of the young couple kissing amid the Vancouver riots? Chris Ballard teases out the full story of what happened that day (Sports Illustrated).

He and Thomas had met shortly after he arrived, and they were scheduled to depart in three days for a California vacation before flying to Australia. Though the couple hadn’t yet packed, they couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Like everyone else, they came downtown to witness history.

5. Why do we like waxworks so much?
Hephzibah Anderson on why millions still flock to museums like Madame Tussaud’s  (Prospect).

In the 18th and 19th century the models were ringed off by red ropes. Now that they’ve been removed, we can all mingle with the great and the good. The word “celebrity” is no longer restricted to an elite circle of the rich and glamorous.

6. The fight against fracking
Avi Kramer on how a West Virginia community is fighting back after their landscape was polluted (Guernica).

WCAG members told me about others they’ve helped: a young man who was sprayed in the face with toxic powdered lime and nearly blinded; the worker whose nylon suit melted to his skin after a condensate tank he was working on exploded.

7. No hair down there
Ashley Fetters on the reasons behind the Brazilian wax phenomenon, and its increasing dominance among women young and old (The Atlantic).

“Some girls talked to me and wrote in their papers that they had always had pubic hair, and in a couple cases never did anything to their pubic hair,” she said. “They never thought it was a problem. But when he said that, they went home and changed it. They really started to feel ashamed about their bodies.”

8. Where the generals meditate
Katie Drummond on how the ultra-macho Pentagon is turning to alternative therapies (Wired).

The Pentagon is turning to alternative medicine to help alleviate the devastating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that afflict more than 250,000 military personnel; soothe the brain trauma that’s left thousands more with tremors, speech impediments and memory lapses

9. A massacre in Jamaica
Mattathias Schwartz on how the Jamaican military invaded one of its own cities, with deadly consequences (New Yorker).

Coke does not appear menacing—he is five feet four inches tall, with a round baby face—but his dominion in Tivoli Gardens was absolute. His organization, known to residents as “the system,” had its own penal process, including a jail, magistrates, and executioners.

10. How prescription drugs are killing people
Lane DeGregory on how an epidemic of oxycodone addiction is making everyday Floridians into junkies (St Petersburg Times).

She twisted her long, honey-colored hair into a knot. Zipped her sweatshirt. Underneath, she was wearing two bras, a tank top, two white T-shirts and three pairs of panties. She wanted to be sure she would have a change of underwear in jail.

11. A conversation with the ‘Fire Fiend’
Aaron Gell on the complicated prison life of  the journalist who dressed up as a fireman before attacking, imprisoning and sexually assaulting a co-worker (New York Observer).

Peter now rivals even Mr. Rifkin in tabloid notoriety—apparently a source of some annoyance for the man who is often called the most “prolific” serial killer in New York history. “I’m not competitive with him, but he’s competitive with me,” Peter said. “Serial killers are very snobbish.”


In 1996, Asia scholar Orville Schell went to North Korea. When he came back, he wrote ‘In the land of the Dear Leader’ about his experiences, for Harper’s Magazine.

Pyongyang is both clean and silent; there is not a scrap of trash anywhere, no garish neon signs, no sirens screaming through traffic-clogged streets, and virtually none of the pollution that chokes other Asian capitals – a blessing attributable less to good environmental planning than to poverty.

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