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Sitdown Sunday: Inside Trump's battles with US intelligence agencies

Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.
Aug 23rd 2020, 9:00 AM 29,020 9

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.

1. Trump and intelligence agencies

A look inside Trump’s battles with US intelligence agencies,

(New York Times, approx 39 mins reading time)

According to multiple officials who saw it, the document discussed Russia’s ongoing efforts to influence U.S. elections: the 2020 presidential contest and 2024’s as well. It was compiled by a working group consisting of about a dozen senior analysts, led by Christopher Bort, a veteran national intelligence officer with nearly four decades of experience, principally focused on Russia and Eurasia. The N.I.E. began by enumerating the authors’ “key judgments.” Key Judgment 2 was that in the 2020 election, Russia favored the current president: Donald Trump.

2. The future of music streaming

A look at how Spotify and Bandcamp work, and what they mean for the future of music.

(NPR, approx 12 mins reading time)

To be fair, Ek says he does have another mission in mind for Spotify. It’s one he spelled out a couple of years ago, before podcasting entered the picture but right before the company went public on the stock exchange: he said he wanted Spotify to help “one million artists to be able to live off their art.” This sounds good, especially if you’re one of a million artists, rather than one in a million. But what can it mean, when Spotify’s royalty rates are so low that to earn a living wage of $15 an hour, a musician needs 657,895 streams per month*? (And if you aren’t a solo artist, multiply that by the number of people in your band.)

3. Giving birth as a black woman in America

Naomi Jackson writes about the difficulties of being a pregnant black woman in the US.

(Harper’s, approx 25 mins reading time)

Having a black child in America has always been an act of faith. In the antebellum South, one in every two children born to an enslaved woman was stillborn or died within a year. If they lived, the babies were often sold away from their mothers. Black women in the Jim Crow era feared that their children would be sexually assaulted or lynched, and that the crimes would go unreported, unsolved, and unpunished. Still today, we worry that our children will not survive. The gap between infant mortality rates for black and white babies is wider now than it was during slavery. 

4. My life as a test tube baby

A young woman writes about her discovery that her dad isn’t her father.

(Medium, approx 10 mins reading time)

They had struggled to have children, she explained, so my parents made the choice to undergo IVF using both his sperm and sperm from an unidentifiable donor. (Just a few months after I was born, the legislation changed so that all UK sperm donors became traceable — timing that leaves me feeling somewhat hard done by.) But the use of two sets of sperm floated an inevitable possibility, a 50/50 chance that my dad could be my biological father. The hope almost made it more cruel.

5. Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection of films is seen as a film canon – but as this article shows, it’s dominated by white male filmmakers. 

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(The New York Times, approx mins reading time)

“When you’re Criterion and you have the ability to stamp something and say, ‘This is valuable,’ but the list only includes certain films and certain filmmakers, that speaks for itself,” Boyd said. “If someone looking at it doesn’t see that many Black filmmakers, without even thinking about it, they’d probably assume that Black filmmakers aren’t that important, or at least they don’t make the kind of critically acclaimed movies you might see in the collection.”

6. Gone phishing

Obinwanne Okeke was a rags-to-riches success story – until the money trail was followed.

(Rest of World, approx 15 mins reading time)

But that much-lauded business empire existed alongside Okeke’s criminal enterprises, the FBI later wrote in an August 2019 affidavit. Turns out, Okeke had been involved in a string of sophisticated online scams since at least 2015 — including when he was gracing that glossy Forbes Africa cover. He was arrested at Dulles International Airport, Virginia, on August 6, 2019, for defrauding a company of nearly $11 million.


Following 9/11, the US was rocked by a series of deadly anthrax attacks. A culprit was found – but he was the wrong person. In 2010, he spoke out.

(The Atlantic, approx 35 mins reading time)

Don Foster, the Vassar professor, was among those who set the wheels of injustice in motion. Scouring the Internet, Foster found an interview that Hatfill had given while working at the National Institutes of Health, in which he described how bubonic plague could be made with simple equipment and used in a bioterror attack. Foster later tracked down an unpublished novel Hatfill had written, depicting a fictional bioterror attack on Washington. He discovered that Hatfill had been in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe) during an anthrax outbreak there in the late 1970s, and that he’d attended medical school near a Rhodesian suburb called Greendale—the name of the invented school in the return address of the anthrax letters mailed to the Senate. The deeper Foster dug, the more Hatfill looked to him like a viable suspect.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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Aoife Barry


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