A Tycoon’s Deep-State Conspiracy Dive

Patrick Byrne, of Overstock, had always been outspoken. Did an affair with a Russian agent push him too far?

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/12/14/a-tycoons-deep-state-conspiracy-dive
Byrne told me that he immediately wondered if Butina was a “red sparrow”—a reference to the 2013 novel that was turned into a film starring Jennifer Lawrence, in which a former ballerina becomes a spy for the Russian government, seducing and killing her targets. Before their lunch, Byrne said, he crafted sharp weapons from two coat hangers, which he stashed under the bed and under the sofa, and made a mental note to keep a close watch over his food and drink.

The mystery of the Gatwick drone

The long read: A drone sighting caused the airport to close for two days in 2018, but despite a lengthy police investigation, no culprit was ever found. So what exactly did people see in the Sussex sky?

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/dec/01/the-mystery-of-the-gatwick-drone
A few years ago, a T-shirt became popular among Britain’s drone flyers. “Before you ask”, it says. “It’s a drone. Yes, it was expensive. Yes, it has a camera. About 25 minutes. Over a mile away. No, you can’t fly it.” Since the Gatwick incident, the men told me, people who see them flying drones are often more hostile than before. I heard several drone flyers repeat some variation of a new saying: “Gatwick drone? There’s more evidence for the Loch Ness monster.”

Report Points to Microwave ‘Attack’ as Likely Source of Mystery Illnesses That Hit Diplomats and Spies

A government-commissioned report provides the most definitive explanation yet for “Havana syndrome,” which struck scores of American employees, first in Cuba and then in China, Russia and other countries.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/05/business/economy/havana-syndrome-microwave-attack.html
“My government looked the other way when they knew I and my family were injured,” he said. “This report is just the beginning and when the American people know the full extent of this administration’s cover-up of the radiofrequency attacks in China in particular they will be outraged.”

The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal

How a state that was never in doubt became a "national embarrassment" and a symbol of the Republican Party’s fealty to Donald Trump.

Link: https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/11/24/michigan-election-trump-voter-fraud-democracy-440475
That November 4 missive James retweeted from his campaign adviser—“Stop making up numbers, stalling the process and cheating the system”—has since been deleted. But there is no denying the advent of a pattern. Republicans in Michigan and across America have spent the past three weeks promoting baseless allegations of corruption at the ballot box, the rabid responses to which they use as justification to continue to question the fundamental integrity of our elections. It’s a vicious new playbook—one designed to stroke egos and rationalize defeats, but with unintended consequences that could spell the unraveling of America’s democratic experiment.

Police Drones Are Starting to Think for Themselves

In one Southern California city, flying drones with artificial intelligence are aiding investigations while presenting new civil rights questions.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/05/technology/police-drones.html
When the man left the car, carrying a gun and a bag of heroin, a nearby police car had trouble following as he sprinted across the street and ducked behind a wall. But as he threw the gun into a dumpster and hid the bag of heroin, the drone, hovering above him, caught everything on camera. When he slipped through the back door of a strip mall, exited through the front door and ran down the sidewalk, it caught that, too.

India’s Leading Documentary Filmmaker Has a Warning

Anand Patwardhan spent decades tracking the rise of Hindu nationalism. And now, under an increasingly repressive government, he holds his screenings in secret.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/magazine/india-documentary-anand-patwardhan.html
Over four hours, “Reason” documents how the world’s largest democracy has plunged into a majoritarian abyss since the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., came to power in 2014, and Narendra Modi was voted in as the prime minister. With testimonies from witnesses to mob lynchings, stories of college students driven to suicide by intense right-wing ostracism and interviews with Hindu nationalists willing to defend the frequent murders of journalists and activists, Patwardhan contradicts the narrative that the B.J.P. routinely projects to the country’s 900 million voters: a story where, under Modi, India is at last starting to fulfill its potential, more than 70 years after independence. A week before the parliamentary elections last year, 16 clips from “Reason” were anonymously posted on YouTube. Watching them I grew afraid, not just for the fate of the film at the hands of the Censor Board but also for Patwardhan.

In Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Deal, Putin Applied a Deft New Touch

The iron-fisted tactics used against Georgia and Ukraine seem to have fallen out of favor, replaced by a more subtle blend of soft power and an implicit military threat.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/world/europe/nagorno-karabakh-putin-armenia-azerbaijan.html
“What else is to be done?” Mr. Mikaelyan asked, after taking another look at the blown-out hotel room door, the TV ripped off the wall, the trails of blood still stuck to the third floor. “The European Union is doing nothing. The Americans are doing nothing.”

Why the Assassination of a Scientist Will Have No Impact on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Since Friday’s killing, the question increasingly being asked in Washington and the Middle East is about motive.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/why-the-assassination-of-a-scientist-will-have-no-impact-on-irans-nuclear-program
On Friday, the Muslim holy day, he was reportedly travelling with his wife, in a black Nissan sedan, from Tehran to visit his in-laws in Absard, a town famed for its apple and cherry orchards, about forty-five miles away. Highways around the capital are notoriously clogged, but travel restrictions imposed during the covid-19 crisis have meant far less traffic. As Fakhrizadeh’s car neared a roundabout, a blue pickup truck parked near an electricity transmitter opened fire on the car and then exploded, cutting off local power, including to a nearby clinic; roadside cameras were disabled. One account claimed that a dozen gunmen—one group jumped out of a parked S.U.V. and another arrived on motorcycles, while snipers were hidden nearby—opened fire. A separate account, by Fars, the nation’s semi-official news agency, reported that all the fire came from the pickup truck, which was remote-controlled. Fars claimed that there were no human assailants at the scene; the whole operation took three minutes, the agency said. Both accounts said that Fakhrizadeh, hit multiple times, fell out of his car and bled out on the ground. The Iranian media released photos of the bullet-riddled car and the blood stream. By the time a rescue helicopter got Fakhrizadeh to Tehran, he was dead.

Opinion | Dear Joe, It’s Not About Iran’s Nukes Anymore

Biden wants to reinstate the nuclear deal, but first he must confront the new Middle East.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/29/opinion/iran-biden-nuclear-scientist.html
In effect, Trump forced Israel and the key Sunni Arab states to become less reliant on the United States and to think about how they must cooperate among themselves over new threats — like Iran — rather than fighting over old causes — like Palestine. This may enable America to secure its interests in the region with much less blood and treasure of its own. It could be Trump’s most significant foreign policy achievement.

Guns, Drugs and Viral Content: Welcome to Cartel TikTok

Mexico is set to shatter another murder record, but that grim reality is nowhere to be seen on the TikTok videos that go viral by showcasing drug cartel culture.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/world/americas/mexico-drugs-cartel-tiktok.html
But while some videos are still made to strike terror, others are created to show young men in rural Mexico the potential benefits of joining the drug trade: endless cash, expensive cars, beautiful women, exotic pets.