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Good Reads: Hillsborough, rural Russians, and chasing dreams of spaceflight

This week's long form good reads include a recounting of the Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield, insights into the political thinking of rural Russians, and the Dream Chaser spaceplane's history.

By Staff writer / September 14, 2012

People gather at St George's Place to attend a vigil in memory of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough stadium disaster in Liverpool, England, Wednesday.

Peter Byrne/AP


Few events resonate in the British sporting consciousness like the Hillsborough disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England, on Apr. 15, 1989. Thousands of fans of the visiting Liverpool soccer club filled the overcrowded stands – little more than cages in that era – in such numbers that they were crushed against the 10-foot-tall metal fences, killing 96 people and injuring hundreds more.

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Europe Editor

Arthur Bright is the Europe Editor at The Christian Science Monitor.  He has worked for the Monitor in various capacities since 2004, including as the Online News Editor and a regular contributor to the Monitor's Terrorism & Security blog.  He is also a licensed Massachusetts attorney.

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The official line had always been that rioting fans were to blame for causing the crush – much to the frustration of the victims’ families. But last Wednesday [9/12], after a three-year investigation of the disaster, the Hillsborough Independent Panel announced that the disaster was the result of a “failure in police control.” Moreover, the police had been involved in a massive cover-up to hide that fact, altering more than 116 police statements and telling a local news outlet that ticketless, drunk, violent fans were running rampant at the stadium.

The level of anguish over Hillsborough – and the catharsis provided by the new report – may be hard to grasp for those unfamiliar with it.  But The Daily Mirror’s Brian Reade, who was at the stadium that day, provides a wrenching, easily understandable account of the disaster.  He traces both the events of the day – the growing crush, the dawning realization of what was happening, the doomed efforts of rescuers – and the following years, as victims’ families sought justice in the aftermath.  His account lets newcomers easily understand why the disaster has such resonance.

Putin losing touch with the heartland

In the aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s disputed election to a third presidential term last December, Russian urbanites took to the streets to protest in numbers unimaginable just a few years ago. But despite the high profile of the protests, it has generally been assumed that Mr. Putin’s rural constituents, who make up the vast majority of the country’s population, stand solidly behind him.

That assumption appears to be wrong. According to new data from the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Research, which surveyed people across the country, rural Russians are bucking the stereotype of “politically apathetic conformist” and may in fact be potential allies for Russia’s urban activists.


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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

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