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Sitdown Sunday 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the world.

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 this Sunday.

1. Six men, 19 months, one space capsule
Bill Donahue on the men who spent 520 days in cramped isolation on a ‘Mars mission’… in a Russian warehouse (Wired).

Charles was strumming on a plastic instrument, playing Guitar Hero. Urbina was singing. They were wearing socks without shoes, both of them, and they were killing time. It would still be more than a year until they could step out and see sunlight.

2. The rats of New York City
Mark Jacobson on the city’s unseen residents, and how they have become an obsession for some (New York magazine).

The rat population, spurred by ever more garbage for the rodents to eat, has increased, perhaps dramatically. You hear all sorts of numbers. One PMP told me there were “three, maybe four” rats for every person. “Thirty-two million rats?” I asked. “Well, at least 20 million,” the PMP replied.

3. How Rupert Murdoch – and his family – tackled the hacking scandal
Sarah Ellison talked to News Corporation insiders to discover what the hacking scandal looked like from Murdoch’s perspective (Vanity Fair).

Rupert kept doing things that didn’t help the cause. Despite explicit advice not to, he took a walk around Mayfair with Rebekah Brooks shortly after arriving in London. He responded to a question about his first priority by pointing to Brooks, saying, “This one.”

4. Owning a dog in Iran
Azadeh Moaveni on the strange life of a beagle in Tehran, where pet dogs are illegal (Guernica).

The customs officer scratched his pious stubble and leaned back in his chair, scanning the dog’s vaccination booklet. The beagle had come from a two-square-foot cage in Istanbul’s grand bazaar, and his vaccines were as suspect as the leather-jacketed, dog-despising pet dealers who’d sold him.

5. The last days of Colonel Gaddafi
Jon Lee Anderson on the mysterious power, and ignominious end, of Libya’s dictator (The New Yorker).

Gaddafi and a few loyalists made it into a pair of drainpipes buried in the earthen berm of a road. They were tracked down by a group of fighters from the Misurata unit. After an exchange of fire, one of Gaddafi’s men emerged from the pipe to plead for help: “My master is here, my master is here. Muammar Gaddafi is here, and he is wounded.”

6. Why you don’t make internet jokes in China
Brook Larmer on the people testing the limits of China’s internet freedom (New York Times).

Pi San finished the animation before dawn on April 4, less than 24 hours after Ai was detained [...] With a few clicks, he sent “Crack Sunflower Seeds” into cyberspace, posting it onto China’s top video Web sites. In just a few hours, a million or more netizens watched the animation online. Then the video began disappearing from Chinese Web sites one by one.


In December 1996, Neal Stephenson wrote about the laying of the longest wire on Earth – the transatlantic communications cable – for Wired magazine.

People who use the Internet (or for that matter, who make long-distance phone calls) but who don’t know about wires are just like the millions of complacent motorists who pump gasoline into their cars without ever considering where it came from or how it found its way to the corner gas station.

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