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Sitdown Sunday 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web…

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. Watch the real Olympic relay – on eBay

Robery Shrimsley questions a side-sport emerging alongside the London 2012 Summer Games – Olympic auctioning memorabilia online (FT Magazine).

It’s the all-new torch relay, spelled out in the official instructions for torch-bearers: 1) wait, with torch aloft, at designated spot; 2) express pride and delight at being selected for this honour; 3) receive flame and jog with it for a mile accompanied by police bodyguards and vehicles bearing the sponsors’ logos; 4) pass flame to next torch-bearer; 5) shake off bodyguards, dash home with extinguished torch and stick the damn thing on eBay; 6) with the proceeds, jet off to Caribbean before Games begin to avoid the crush.

2. The 1 percent’s problem

Joseph E Stiglitz asks why America’s wealthy one percent won’t do more to tackle economic inequality because when it cripples the economy, the one percent will also suffer (Vanity Fair).

Put sentiment aside. There are good reasons why plutocrats should care about inequality anyway—even if they’re thinking only about themselves. The rich do not exist in a vacuum.

3. Guess what’s cooking in the garage

Jack Hitt looks into the rise of the amateur scientist for (Popsci).

Patterson is classic self-invented obsessive. A computer programmer and language theorist by day, she’s somebody who’s loved anything do-it-yourself since she was a little girl, working beside her dad fixing the family car or rewiring the house. Not long ago, she found herself in the grip of a new enthusiasm: homebrew bioengineering.

4. Yes, there are comedians in Qatar

Peter Savodnik tackles the thorny issue of stand-up comedy in Qatar, where certain topics of conversation are simply out of bounds on stage (The New York Times).

“You never know when you’re going to have a problem,” he said. Bilal, who has a mellifluous postcolonial accent, lacks any whiff of snarkiness or bite, which is a bad thing for a comedian in developed countries, where there is a long and noble tradition of eviscerating powerful people, but a very good thing in the Arab world, where there is not.

5. What’s really behind Europe’s decline? It’s the birth rate, stupid

Joel Kotkin writes that the biggest long-term threat facing the EU right now isn’t down to economic policy, but what’s happening in the bedroom (Forbes).

This decline in population and mounting out-migration of young people means Spain will experience ever-higher proportions of retired people relative to those working. This “dependency rate”, according to INE, will grow by 57 % by 2021; there will be six people either retired or in school for every person working.

6. The Vietnam solution

Robert D Kaplan explores dramatic changes in relations between the US and Vietnam as China’s power shifts (The Atlantic).

The Vietnamese have not forgotten that 20 percent of their country is uninhabitable because of unexploded American ordnance; or that, because of the defoliant Agent Orange, nothing will ever grow again on significant parts of the landscape. But three-quarters of all Vietnamese were born after the “American War,” as they call it to distinguish it from all the others they have fought before and since, and an even larger percentage have no memory of it.


Earlier this week, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years for war crimes. In this 1998 article for The New Yorker, Jon Lee Anderson travels to central Liberia to find out more about the civil war, power struggles, and bush devils.

President Taylor rarely makes public appearances, but most days, around midmorning, he leaves his residence under heavy guard and is driven downtown to the Executive Mansion in a high-speed convoy of two dozen new Mercedes-Benzes and Land Rovers and trucks full of bodyguards. The accompanying arsenal includes assault rifles, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and heavy machine guns.

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