Links: Best of 2018

Happy holidays! Here's this year's collection of 4-star links, ranked to the best of my ability.
The White Darkness / New Yorker

The man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness. Every direction he turned, he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth: white ice and blue ice, glacial-ice tongues and ice wedges. There were no living creatures in sight. Not a bear or even a bird. Nothing but him. It was hard to breathe, and each time he exhaled the moisture froze on his face: a chandelier of crystals hung from his beard; his eyebrows were encased like preserved specimens; his eyelashes cracked when he blinked. Get wet and you die, he often reminded himself. The temperature was nearly minus forty degrees Fahrenheit, and it felt far colder because of the wind, which sometimes whipped icy particles into a blinding cloud, making him so disoriented that he toppled over, his bones rattling against the ground. The man, whose name was Henry Worsley, consulted a G.P.S. device to determine precisely where he was. According to his coördinates, he was on the Titan Dome, an ice formation near the South Pole that rises more than ten thousand feet above sea level. Sixty-two days earlier, on November 13, 2015, he’d set out from the coast of Antarctica, hoping to achieve what his hero, Ernest Shackleton, had failed to do a century earlier: to trek on foot from one side of the continent to the other. The journey, which would pass through the South Pole, was more than a thousand miles, and would traverse what is arguably the most brutal environment in the world. And, whereas Shackleton had been part of a large expedition, Worsley, who was fifty-five, was crossing alone and unsupported: no food caches had been deposited along the route to help him forestall starvation, and he had to haul all his provisions on a sled, without the assistance of dogs or a sail. Nobody had attempted this feat before. Worsley’s sled—which, at the outset, weighed three hundred and twenty-five pounds, nearly double his own weight—was attached to a harness around his waist, and to drag it across the ice he wore cross-country skis and pushed forward with poles in each hand. The trek had begun at nearly sea level, and he’d been ascending with a merciless steadiness, the air thinning and his nose sometimes bleeding from the pressure; a crimson mist colored the snow along his path. When the terrain became too steep, he removed his skis and trudged on foot, his boots fitted with crampons to grip the ice. His eyes scanned the surface for crevasses. One misstep and he’d vanish into a hidden chasm. Worsley was a retired British Army officer who had served in the Special Air Service, a renowned commando unit. He was also a sculptor, a fierce boxer, a photographer who meticulously documented his travels, a horticulturalist, a collector of rare books and maps and fossils, and an amateur historian who had become a leading authority on Shackleton. On the ice, though, he resembled a beast, hauling and sleeping, hauling and sleeping, as if he were keeping time to some primal rhythm.

http://bit.ly/2CcSQPY



"The Clock Is Ticking": Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades / Vanity Fair

In the darkness before dawn on Thursday, October 1, 2015, an American merchant captain named Michael Davidson sailed a 790-foot U.S.-flagged cargo ship, El Faro, into the eye wall of a Category 3 hurricane on the exposed windward side of the Bahama Islands. El Faro means “the lighthouse” in Spanish. The hurricane, named Joaquin, was one of the heaviest ever to hit the Bahamas. It overwhelmed and sank the ship. Davidson and the 32 others aboard drowned. They had been headed from Jacksonville, Florida, on a weekly run to San Juan, Puerto Rico, carrying 391 containers and 294 trailers and cars. The ship was 430 miles southeast of Miami in deep water when it went down. Davidson was 53 and known as a stickler for safety. He came from Windham, Maine, and left behind a wife and two college-age daughters. Neither his remains nor those of his shipmates were ever recovered. Disasters at sea do not get the public attention that aviation accidents do, in part because the sea swallows the evidence. It has been reported that a major merchant ship goes down somewhere in the world every two or three days; most are ships sailing under flags of convenience, with underpaid crews and poor safety records. The El Faro tragedy attracted immediate attention for several reasons. El Faro was a U.S.-flagged ship with a respected captain—and it should have been able to avoid the hurricane. Why didn’t it? Add to that mystery this simple fact: the sinking of El Faro was the worst U.S. maritime disaster in three decades. [...] The recorder—a circuit board barely 2.5 inches long—was eventually retrieved. It contained the final 26 hours of conversations among nine doomed people on the bridge. The audio quality was poor, but a technical team was able to extract most of the spoken words and produce a 496-page transcript, by far the longest in the N.T.S.B.’s history. The transcript is a remarkable document—an unadorned record of nothing more than the sounds on the bridge. The people involved are identified in the transcript only by their shipboard ranks, but the names of the officers are part of the public record, and in the time since the tragedy other names have been revealed. It is now possible to know with reasonable certainty what occurred.

http://bit.ly/2JIwGdz



"I Don't Want To Shoot You, Brother" / ProPublica

A shocking story of police and lethal force. Just not the one you might expect.

http://bit.ly/2rcM5uC
A Kingdom from Dust / California Sunday Magazine

Stewart Resnick is the biggest farmer in the United States, a fact he has tried to keep hidden while he has shaped what we eat, transformed California’s landscape, and ruled entire towns. [...] My grandfather, a survivor of the Armenian genocide, traveled 7,000 miles by ship and train in 1920 to find out if his uncle’s exhortation — “The grapes here are the size of jade eggs” — was true. My father, born in a vineyard outside Fresno, was a raisin grower before he became a bar owner. I grew up in the suburbs where our playgrounds were named after the pioneers of fruit and canals of irrigation shot through our neighborhoods to the farms we did not know. For half my life, I never stopped to wonder: How much was magic? How much was plunder? I’m going to Kern County, just shy of the mountains, to figure out how the biggest farmers in America, led by the biggest of them all, are not only keeping alive their orchards and vineyards during drought but adding more almonds (79,000 acres), more pistachios (73,000 acres), more grapes (35,000 acres), and more mandarins (13,000 acres). Even as the supplies of federal and state water have dropped to near zero, agriculture in Kern keeps chugging along, growing more intensive. The new plantings aren’t cotton, alfalfa, or carrots — the crops a farmer can decide not to seed when water becomes scarce. These are trees and vines raised in nurseries and put into the ground at a cost of $10,000 an acre to satisfy the world’s growing appetite for nuts and fruits. [...] There was a majordomo of the house, a butler, a chef, a sous-chef, three housekeepers, a limo driver, and a trio of assistants who worked in the basement, juggling Lynda’s calendar and the buying, wrapping, and shipping of gifts she handed out to her Rolodex of “highfalutin people.” Stewart had made it clear that Lynda would not be joining us. She had her own book — about her genius as a marketer — going. He had spent the morning on his exercise bike reading Fortune. Fresh from a shower, a red Kabbalah string tied around his wrist and a multihued pair of socks covering his feet, he welcomed me. If he had his druthers, he said, he’d still be living in a little ranch house in Culver City. “None of this is my idea. This is my wife. This is Lynda.”

http://bit.ly/2E1a6JZ



Blood Will Tell (Part I) / New York Times Blood Will Tell (Part II) / New York Times

Is Joe Bryan an innocent man, wrongfully imprisoned for the past 30 years on the basis of faulty forensic science?

https://nyti.ms/2Hg1u2P

https://nyti.ms/2sCzLUz


Jerry and Marge Go Large / Huffington Post

One year, when he and Marge went to a used-book sale at a library to find gifts for their family, Jerry’s main purchase was a stack of college math textbooks. When their daughter Dawn asked why, he replied, “To keep my skills sharp.” So perhaps it was only fitting that at age 64, Jerry found himself contemplating that most alluring of puzzles: the lottery. He was recently retired by then, living with Marge in a tiny town called Evart and wondering what to do with his time. After stopping in one morning at a convenience store he knew well, he picked up a brochure for a brand-new state lottery game. Studying the flyer later at his kitchen table, Jerry saw that it listed the odds of winning certain amounts of money by picking certain combinations of numbers. That’s when it hit him. Right there, in the numbers on the page, he noticed a flaw—a strange and surprising pattern, like the cereal-box code, written into the fundamental machinery of the game. A loophole that would eventually make Jerry and Marge millionaires, spark an investigation by a Boston Globe Spotlight reporter, unleash a statewide political scandal and expose more than a few hypocrisies at the heart of America’s favorite form of legalized gambling. [...] About a week before a roll-down drawing, they would drive the 700 miles from Michigan, cutting across Canada to save time, listening to James Patterson novels on tape. They’d book a room at a Red Roof Inn in South Deerfield, and in the mornings, they’d go to work: Jerry to Jerry’s Place; Marge to Billy’s. They started at 5:30 a.m., before the stores opened to the public, and went straight through to 6 p.m., printing as many tickets as the terminals would handle, rubber-banding them in stacks of $5,000, and throwing the stacks into duffel bags."

http://bit.ly/2Dju4OJ



Nuance: A Love Story (My affair with the intellectual dark web) / Medium

Questions that had once been treated as complicated inquiries requiring scrutiny and nuance were increasingly being reduced to moral absolutes, especially as far as liberal types were concerned. I first noticed it with issues pertaining to feminism. If, for instance, you suggested that (or even wondered aloud if) the gender wage gap might not be due entirely to systemic sexism but also to women’s interests, choices, and the inconvenient but unavoidable realities of pregnancy and young-child rearing, you were likely to be labeled an internalized misogynist. This same dynamic played out in other spheres of public debate, of course: gun control, immigration, and due process in campus sexual assault cases, to name a few. If you more or less toed the requisite liberal line but thought there were some gray areas that warranted consideration, you were quite possibly on the wrong side of history. If you called for nuance, you were part of the problem. [...] For the most part, though, I spent most of my adulthood fairly aligned with the kinds of people I’d gone to college with. That we were all on the same team was simply a given. We all read the New York Times, listened to NPR, and voted for Democrats. We would all go to the mat for women’s rights, gay rights, or pretty much any rights other than gun rights. We lived, for the most part, in big cities in blue states. When Barack Obama came into the picture, we loved him with the delirium of crushed-out teenagers, perhaps less for his policies than for being the kind of person who also listens to NPR. We loved Hillary Clinton with the fraught resignation of a daughter’s love for her mother. We loved her even if we didn’t like her. We were liberals, after all. We were family. [...] For me, it was as if the obscure indie rock band I’d been following for years suddenly hit it big. I was excited but also a little worried. For starters, “intellectual dark web” was a terrible name. It reeked of sci-fi histrionics and, moreover, was too easily confused with that cybercrook-choked subbasement of the internet known as the regular “dark web.” Not that it was any better than the name I’d privately assigned them: Free Speech YouTube. What will I do tonight? Make some popcorn and hang out with Free Speech YouTube! I didn’t agree with my Free Speech YouTube friends on every point; far from it. Still, I was invigorated, even electrified, by their willingness to ask (if not ever totally answer) questions that had lately been deemed too messy somehow to deal with in mainstream public discourse.

http://bit.ly/2xZPrE3



Why Doctors Hate Their Computers / New Yorker

A week or two after my visit with Cameron, I called him to review his laboratory results. A scan had pinpointed a parathyroid tumor in the right side of his neck, which would be straightforward to remove. A test showed that he didn’t have the genetic syndrome, after all, and a brain scan showed no pituitary tumor. I had more time for his questions now, and I let him ask them. When we were done and I was about to get off the phone, I paused. I asked him if he’d noticed, during our office visit, how much time I’d spent on the computer. “Yes, absolutely,” he said. He added, “I’ve been in your situation. I knew you were just trying to find the information you needed. I was actually trying not to talk too much, because I knew you were in a hurry, but I needed you to look the information up. I wanted you to be able to do that. I didn’t want to push you too far.” It was painful to hear. Forced to choose between having the right technical answer and a more human interaction, Cameron picked having the right technical answer. I asked him what he meant about having been in my situation. As a construction-site supervisor, he said, he spends half his day in front of his laptop and half in front of people. [...] The technology is more precise, but it’s made everything more complicated and time-consuming. He faces the same struggle that I do.

http://bit.ly/2qEoHWD


How Goop’s Haters Made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Company Worth $250 Million / New York Times

At first, Goop — so named not just for her initials and for, you know, goop, but because someone along the way told her that all the successful internet companies had double O’s — appealed to an audience that admired G.P.’s rarefied lifestyle. [...] By the time she stood in that Harvard classroom, Goop was a clothing manufacturer, a beauty company, an advertising hub, a publishing house, a podcast producer and a portal of health-and-healing information, and soon it would become a TV-show producer. It was a clearinghouse of alternative health claims, sex-and-intimacy advice and probes into the mind, body and soul. There was no part of the self that Goop didn’t aim to serve. “I want to help you solve problems,” G.P. said. “I want to be an additive to your life.” Goop is now worth $250 million, according to a source close to the company. [...] The minute the phrase “having it all” lost favor among women, wellness came in to pick up the pieces. It was a way to reorient ourselves — we were not in service to anyone else, and we were worthy subjects of our own care. It wasn’t about achieving; it was about putting ourselves at the top of a list that we hadn’t even previously been on. Wellness was maybe a result of too much having it all, too much pursuit, too many boxes that we’d seen our exhausted mothers fall into bed without checking off. Wellness arrived because it was gravely needed. Before we knew it, the wellness point of view had invaded everything in our lives: Summer-solstice sales are wellness. Yoga in the park is wellness. Yoga at work is wellness. Yoga in Times Square is peak wellness. [...] The weirder Goop went, the more its readers rejoiced. And then, of course, the more Goop was criticized: by mainstream doctors with accusations of pseudoscience, by websites like Slate and Jezebel saying it was no longer ludicrous — no, now it was dangerous. And elsewhere people would wonder how Gwyneth Paltrow could try to solve our problems when her life seemed almost comically problem-free. But every time there was a negative story about her or her company, all that did was bring more people to the site — among them those who had similar kinds of questions and couldn’t find help in mainstream medicine.

https://nyti.ms/2y4S73g


When Winter Never Ends / ESPN

Ichiro is a meticulous man, held in orbit by patterns and attention to detail. This place specializes in beef tongue, slicing it thin by hand and serving it raw alongside hot cast-iron skillets. They do one thing perfectly, which appeals to Ichiro. Tonight he's got dark jeans rolled up to the calf, each leg even, and a gray T-shirt under a white button-down with a skinny tie. His hair looks darker than in some recent photos, maybe the lighting, maybe a dye job. Either way, not even a 44-year-old future Hall of Famer is immune from the insecurities and diminishments that come with time. This winter is the most insecure and diminished he's been. He doesn't have a professional baseball contract in America or Japan. His agent, John Boggs, has called, texted and emailed teams so often that one MLB general manager now calls Boggs "the elephant hunter," because he's stalking his prey. Boggs recently sent an email to all 30 teams. Only one wrote back to decline. Ichiro hasn't spoken to Boggs once this offseason, locked in on what he and his aging body can control. [...] Later they turn nostalgic and talk about the past. He started training every day in the third grade and has never stopped. Once during his career he took a vacation, a trip to Milan that he hated. This past October, Marlins infielder Dee Gordon came to get something at the clubhouse after the season. He heard the crack of a bat in the cages and found Ichiro there, getting in his daily swings. "I really just hope he keeps playing," Gordon says with a chuckle, "because I don't want him to die. I believe he might die if he doesn't keep playing. What is Ichiro gonna do if he doesn't play baseball?" Former teammates all have favorite Ichiro stories, about how he carries his bats in a custom humidor case to keep out moisture, how in the minors he'd swing the bat for 10 minutes every night before going to sleep, or wake up some mornings to swing alone in the dark from 1 to 4 a.m. All the stories make the same point: He has methodically stripped away everything from his life except baseball. Former first baseman Mike Sweeney, who got close to Ichiro in Seattle, tells one about getting a call from an old teammate who'd had an off-day in New York. You're not gonna believe this, the guy began. He'd brought along his wife and they walked through Central Park, thrilled to be together in such a serene place. Far off in the distance, at a sandlot field with an old backstop that looked leftover from the 1940s, they saw a guy playing long toss. The big leaguer did the quick math and figured the distant stranger was throwing 300 feet on the fly. Curious, he walked closer. The guy hit balls into the backstop, the powerful shotgun blast of real contact familiar to any serious player. He became impressed, so he got even closer, close enough to see. The man working out alone in Central Park was Ichiro.

http://es.pn/2Fwc3ig



The untold story of NotPetya, the most devastating cyberattack in history / Wired

All across Maersk headquarters, the full scale of the crisis was starting to become clear. Within half an hour, Maersk employees were running down hallways, yelling to their colleagues to turn off computers or disconnect them from Maersk’s network before the malicious software could infect them, as it dawned on them that every minute could mean dozens or hundreds more corrupted PCs. Tech workers ran into conference rooms and unplugged machines in the middle of meetings. Soon staffers were hurdling over locked key-card gates, which had been paralyzed by the still-mysterious malware, to spread the warning to other sections of the building. [...] The release of NotPetya was an act of cyberwar by almost any definition—one that was likely more explosive than even its creators intended. Within hours of its first appearance, the worm raced beyond Ukraine and out to countless machines around the world, from hospitals in Pennsylvania to a chocolate factory in Tasmania. It ­crippled multinational companies including Maersk, pharmaceutical giant Merck, FedEx’s European subsidiary TNT Express, French construction company Saint-Gobain, food producer Mondelēz, and manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser. In each case, it inflicted nine-figure costs. It even spread back to Russia, striking the state oil company Rosneft. The result was more than $10 billion in total damages, according to a White House assessment confirmed to WIRED by former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert, who at the time of the attack was President Trump’s most senior cybersecurity-­focused official. Bossert and US intelligence agencies also confirmed in February that Russia’s military—the prime suspect in any cyberwar attack targeting Ukraine—was responsible for launching the malicious code.

http://bit.ly/2PtaB4E



Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy? / New Yorker

Ancient Rome became a lifelong fascination, first because of the language (“It’s very much like coding or math, and so I appreciated that”) and then because of the history. Zuckerberg told me, “You have all these good and bad and complex figures. I think Augustus is one of the most fascinating. Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established two hundred years of world peace.” For non-classics majors: Augustus Caesar, born in 63 B.C., staked his claim to power at the age of eighteen and turned Rome from a republic into an empire by conquering Egypt, northern Spain, and large parts of central Europe. He also eliminated political opponents, banished his daughter for promiscuity, and was suspected of arranging the execution of his grandson. “What are the trade-offs in that?” Zuckerberg said, growing animated. “On the one hand, world peace is a long-term goal that people talk about today. Two hundred years feels unattainable.” On the other hand, he said, “that didn’t come for free, and he had to do certain things.” In 2012, Zuckerberg and Chan spent their honeymoon in Rome. He later said, “My wife was making fun of me, saying she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus.” The couple named their second daughter August. [...] As Facebook grew, Zuckerberg and his executives adopted a core belief: even if people criticized your decisions, they would eventually come around. In one of the first demonstrations of that idea, in 2006, Facebook introduced the News Feed, a feature that suddenly alerted friends whenever a user changed profile pictures, joined groups, or altered a relationship status. (Until then, users had to visit a friend’s page to see updates.) Users revolted. There was a street protest at the headquarters, and hundreds of thousands of people joined a Facebook group opposing the change. Zuckerberg posted a tepid apology (“Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.”), and people got used to the feed. [...] In 2006, Zuckerberg made his most unpopular decision at the fledgling company. Yahoo was offering a billion dollars to buy Facebook and, as Matt Cohler, a top aide at the time, recalls, “Our growth had stalled out.” Cohler and many others implored Zuckerberg to take the offer, but he refused. “I think nearly all of his leadership team lost faith in him and in the business,” Cohler said. Zuckerberg told me that most of his leadership “left within eighteen months. Some of them I had to fire because it was just too dysfunctional. It just completely blew up. But the thing that I learned from that is, if you stick with your values and with what you believe you want to be doing in the world, you can get through. Sometimes it will take some time, and you have to rebuild, but that’s a pretty powerful lesson.” [...] The caricature of Zuckerberg is that of an automaton with little regard for the human dimensions of his work. The truth is something else: he decided long ago that no historical change is painless. Like Augustus, he is at peace with his trade-offs. Between speech and truth, he chose speech. Between speed and perfection, he chose speed. Between scale and safety, he chose scale. His life thus far has convinced him that he can solve “problem after problem after problem,” no matter the howling from the public it may cause. At a certain point, the habits of mind that served Zuckerberg well on his ascent will start to work against him. To avoid further crises, he will have to embrace the fact that he’s now a protector of the peace, not a disrupter of it.

http://bit.ly/2xYcCic


Virgin Galactic's Rocket Man / New Yorker

At 5 a.m. on April 5th, Mark Stucky drove to an airstrip in Mojave, California, and gazed at SpaceShipTwo, a sixty-foot-long craft that is owned by Virgin Galactic, a part of the Virgin Group. Painted white and bathed in floodlight, it resembled a sleek fighter plane, but its mission was to ferry thousands of tourists to and from space. Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program’s lustre. Stucky walked into Virgin Galactic’s large beige hangar. He is fifty-nine and has a loose-legged stroll, tousled salt-and-pepper hair, and sunken, suntanned cheeks. In other settings, he could pass for a retired beachcomber. He wears the smirk of someone who feels certain that he’s having more fun than you are.

http://bit.ly/2L7XD9V



Love Letters From the Battlefield / The Walrus

The Canadian soldier, Harry Mac­donald, my grandfather, had sent Jacquelyn Robinson dozens of letters, spanning several years—letters written in spidery cursive by candlelight as rain ­pounded down on corrugated rooftops or amid the blasts of nearby shelling. His letters were often rushed or cut short, with some started and finished with hours or even days in between. He ­frequently apologized for his messy handwriting, hoping his words would be legible. One letter, sent five days before, written in haste, contained a question for which he anxiously awaited a reply. The letter had begun with a familiar two words, “Dear Jacquie,” and ended with a question: “Will you marry me?” But, impatient for an answer, he wrote her again. It was March 14 when he found the typewriter. He needed his words to be as clear and as confident as his thoughts. “When I think that even now I could be calling upon you, taking you to a dance, going to a show and doing those things normal people could be doing I feel personally one of the greatest horrors of war—the separation of men from those they love,” he typed. “However, I suppose that if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m in the service it might have taken ­longer for me to realize just how lucky I am. I hope for the best, darling, no matter which way things turn out.” He signed the bottom of the page, folded the sheet, and slipped it into an envelope and carefully wrote a Vancouver address. Now he waited, not knowing what would come first: death or a reply.

http://bit.ly/2qUN1DL


The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal / Quartz

But the idea that the region’s coal industry is dying is not quite true. For much of the hundred-plus years of its existence, the industry has been on a kind of artificial life support, as state and federal governments have, directly and indirectly, subsidized coal companies to keep the industry afloat. The costs of this subsidy aren’t tallied on corporate or government balance sheets. The destruction of central Appalachia’s economy, environment, social fabric and, ultimately, its people’s health is, in a sense, hidden. But they’re plain enough to see on a map. It could be lung cancer deaths you’re looking at, or diabetes mortality. Or try opioid overdoses. Poverty. Welfare dependency. Chart virtually any measure of human struggle, and there it will be, just right of center on a map of the US—a distinct blotch. This odd cluster is consistently one of America’s worst pockets of affliction. At the root of these problems lies the ironic insight that struck Nick Mullins as he mined coal deep in the earth his family once owned. The extreme imbalance of land ownership in central Appalachia shifted the power over where and how Appalachians lived to corporations. The political and economic impotence of Appalachian residents that resulted has permitted a deeply cynical capitalist experiment to take place, in which coal companies are kept profitable by passing on the costs they incur to the public. The many ways in which politicians and coal barons have kept coal artificially cheap has, over the course of generations, devoured the potential of the area’s residents, and that of their economy.

http://bit.ly/2qyT9nP



The art of stealing / NRC

Olga is on her own. Her son is in prison, being held on suspicion of having committed what they are calling on television ‘the art theft of the century’. She knows that the accusation is correct. Along with friends, her son Radu stole seven valuable artworks from a museum in Rotterdam, loaded them into a car and drove them to Romania. There, in Carcaliu, a remote village at the poor south-eastern tip of the country, Olga stands in front of the heating stove in the bathroom. A short while ago she lit the fire then stepped out into the biting cold, making her way to the small graveyard opposite her house where, in the dead of night, she dug up the paintings and brought them back inside. Picasso, Gauguin, Matisse, Monet, Meijer de Haan and Freud. On television they are talking about a loot worth hundreds of millions of euros. The amount is not important to her. The pictures are evidence against her son and destroying the evidence seems like the only way she can help him. The artworks go up like tindersticks.​ [...] Early in the morning of 16th October 2012, seven valuable artworks were stolen from the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. The theft was world news. But what first seemed like a sophisticated burglary by professionals, turned out to be the work of a few small-time Romanian criminals who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They knew about house burglaries, not art, and they certainly didn’t know about selling art. This is the story of the Kunsthal robbery, based on the case files and conversations with those involved.

http://bit.ly/2ObBIk4



Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father / New York Times

President Trump participated in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents, an investigation by The New York Times has found. Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help. But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day. Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings. These maneuvers met with little resistance from the Internal Revenue Service, The Times found. The president’s parents, Fred and Mary Trump, transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million under the 55 percent tax rate then imposed on gifts and inheritances. The Trumps paid a total of $52.2 million, or about 5 percent, tax records show.

https://nyti.ms/2RyVIzK



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