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7 deadly reads

Sitdown Sunday: How one man managed to steal millions from billionaires while behind bars

Settle down in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

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. ‘The grass is greener’

There is a new wave of young people emigrating from Ireland. Two of them speak to Jack White about why they left, and what it would take for them to come back.

(The Irish Examiner, approx 8 mins reading time)

Saorlaith Mullan who left East Cork to move to Australia said it would take a change in Government for her to consider returning home. The rent she pays is expensive for Australia, she said, adding that there is currently a rental crisis in Sydney, with costs rising significantly. 

Despite this, she pays about €860 per month on rent in a two-bed apartment which is a six-minute walk from Bondi Beach, an area which has a reputation for being expensive. She shares her apartment with a friend who is also from East Cork.

“It’s obviously incredibly difficult to be on the other side of the world away from family when you miss out on milestones but I just felt like there wasn’t much more I could progress in while I was working in Ireland. Australia has always been portrayed as somewhere with a lot more opportunities and It’s something that always attracted me,” she said.

2. Making millions from prison

thedoorofaprisonordetentioncenter-background Shutterstock / Pedal to the Stock Shutterstock / Pedal to the Stock / Pedal to the Stock

Arthur Lee Cofield Jr stole millions of dollars from billionaires for over a decade and spent the cash on houses, cars and gold, all while he was in prison. This is how he did it.

(The New Yorker, approx 30 mins reading time)

Arthur Cofield probably stole more money from behind bars than any inmate in American history. His methods were fairly straightforward, if distinctly contemporary: using cell phones that he’d had smuggled into prison, and relying on a network of people on the outside, he accessed the bank accounts of the very wealthy, then used their money to make large purchases—often of gold, which he’d typically have shipped to Atlanta, where it was picked up by his accomplices. Some of that gold he seems to have converted to cash: he and his associates bought cars, houses, and clothes, and they flaunted all of it on social media. (At one point, Cofield wrote on Instagram, “Making millions from bed.”) By the time Cofield was charged—with identity theft and money laundering, among other crimes—he had likely stolen at least fifteen million dollars. “I don’t know of anything that’s ever happened in an institutional setting of this magnitude,” Brenda Smith, a law professor at American University who has researched crime in prison, told me. Cofield, she said, was “something of an innovator.”

3. The great divide

An interesting study on the difference in health outcomes in the US by geography and how it is influenced by government policy.

(Politico, approx 16 mins reading time)

Step back and look at a map of life expectancy across the country and the geographic patterns are as dramatic as they are obvious. If you live pretty much anywhere in the contiguous U.S., you can expect to live more than 78 years, unless you’re in the Deep South or the sprawling region I call Greater Appalachia, a region that stretches from southwestern Pennsylvania to the Ozarks and the Hill Country of Texas. Those two regions — which include all or parts of 16 deep red states and a majority of the House Republican caucus — have a life expectancy of 77, more than four and a half years lower than on the blue-leaning Pacific coastal plain. In the smaller, redder regional culture of New France (in southern Louisiana) the gap is just short of six years. So large are the regional gaps that the poorest set of counties in predominantly blue Yankee Northeast actually have higher life expectancies than the wealthiest ones in the Deep South. At a population level, a difference of five years is like the gap separating the U.S. from decidedly unwealthy Mongolia, Belarus or Libya, and six years gets you to impoverished El Salvador and Egypt. It’s as if we are living in different countries. Because in a very real historical and political sense, we are.

4. The lunar south pole

this-image-provided-by-the-indian-space-research-organisation-isro-shows-vikram-lander-as-seen-by-the-navigation-camera-on-pragyan-rover-on-aug-30-2023-indias-moon-rover-has-confirmed-the-presen This image from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) shows Vikram lander as seen by the navigation camera on Pragyan Rover on the Moon. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

After India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed there last week, Jonathan O’Callaghan writes about why so many countries are in a race to explore the Moon’s South Pole. 

(BBC Future, approx 8 mins reading time)

Already Chandrayaan-3 and its suitcase-sized rover have sent back a few tantalising hints of the strange environment they find themselves in. Travelling at around 1cm (0.4 inches) every second across the dusty surface, the Pragyaan rover has edged itself several metres away from its mothership. Burrowing it’s sensors into the lunar soil along the way, it has revealed a curiously sharp drop in temperature beneath the surface. At the surface it measured a temperature of around 50C (120F), but just 80mm (3 inches) below this, it fell to -10C (14F) – a temperature difference that has ”surprised” scientists.

Onboard chemical analysis equipment has also indicated the presence of sulphur, aluminium, calcium iron, titanium, manganese, chromium and oxygen in the lunar soil. Both of these early findings hint at why scientists are eager to explore the south polar region of the Moon.

5. Leaving Afghanistan

Franklin Foer chronicles the chaos and casualties of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which happened two years ago this week. 

(The Atlantic, approx 40 mins reading time)

Every intelligence official watching Kabul was obsessed with the possibility of an attack by ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS‑K, the Afghan offshoot of the Islamic State, which dreamed of a new caliphate in Central Asia. As the Taliban stormed across Afghanistan, they unlocked a prison at Bagram Air Base, freeing hardened ISIS‑K adherents. ISIS‑K had been founded by veterans of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban who had broken with their groups, on the grounds that they needed to be replaced by an even more militant vanguard. The intelligence community had been sorting through a roaring river of unmistakable warnings about an imminent assault on the airport.

As the national-security team entered the Situation Room for a morning meeting, it consumed an early, sketchy report of an explosion at one of the gates to HKIA, but it was hard to know if there were any U.S. casualties. Everyone wanted to believe that the United States had escaped unscathed, but everyone had too much experience to believe that. General McKenzie appeared via videoconference in the Situation Room with updates that confirmed the room’s suspicions of American deaths. Biden hung his head and quietly absorbed the reports. In the end, the explosion killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 150 Afghan civilians.

6. Paul Mescal

paul-mescal-arrives-at-the-oscars-on-sunday-march-12-2023-at-the-dolby-theatre-in-los-angeles-photo-by-jordan-straussinvisionap Paul Mescal at the Oscars in March. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Oscar-nominated actor speaks about his whirlwind success, growing up in Ireland and his upcoming film projects – including a sci-fi drama opposite Saoirse Ronan and a starring role in a Gladiator sequel.

(Esquire, approx 20 mins reading time)

We’re sitting on a bench in Soho Square, which is full of people lounging on the grass, while a group of primary-school kids in high-vis jackets chatter noisily nearby. Nobody seems to be paying him much attention, which I’m a little surprised by, given how often his movements seem to be surveilled by unseen lenses, and which he says he’s keen to keep that way. “If you were, like, I don’t know, Harry Styles, it might be a bit different,” he says, which is also a good example of the slightly hesitant, unassuming way that he talks.

Two years before he got the part in Normal People, Mescal had completed a bachelor’s degree in acting at The Lir Academy in Dublin, a course he’d squeaked onto with a late application. He’d done some theatre work — his professional stage debut while still in college was Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby at Dublin’s Gate Theatre — and an advert for Denny’s sausages (tagline: “Seize the Denny!”), but no TV or film to speak of. Like his drama-school peers, many of whom also auditioned for the Connell role, he saw how big an opportunity the show would be for “a young, unknown Irish actor. It doesn’t really happen.”

…AND A CLASSIC FROM THE ARCHIVES…

What would you do if you found out your parents were Russian spies? That is exactly what happened to Tim and Alex Foley in 2010. 

(The Guardian, approx 26 mins reading time)

At the door, she was met by a different kind of surprise altogether: a team of armed, black-clad men holding a battering ram. They streamed into the house, screaming, “FBI!” Another team entered from the back; men dashed up the stairs, shouting at everyone to put their hands in the air. Upstairs, Tim had heard the knock and the shouting, and his first thought was that the police could be after him for underage drinking: nobody at the party the night before had been 21, and Boston police took alcohol regulations seriously.

When he emerged on to the landing, it became clear the FBI was here for something far more serious. The two brothers watched, stunned, as their parents were put in handcuffs and driven away in separate black cars. Tim and Alex were left behind with a number of agents, who said they needed to begin a 24-hour forensic search of the home; they had prepared a hotel room for the brothers. One of the men told them their parents had been arrested on suspicion of being “unlawful agents of a foreign government”.

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