October 7, 2019

Ronan Farrow has released a new book excerpt diving into how he was surveilled while investigating Harvey Weinstein that reads like something out of a spy novel.

The reporter, who in 2017 published an exposé detailing rape allegations against the disgraced producer, published an excerpt in The New Yorker Monday from his book Catch and Kill, which details how he was surveilled during the course of his reporting by two operatives, Igor Ostrovskiy and Roman Khaykin, working for an Israeli private-intelligence agency, Black Cube, reportedly hired by Weinstein.

The two men, Farrow writes, staked out his apartment and followed him, including once to the New Yorker offices.

"Some days, they would stay in Khaykin's car, a silver Nissan Pathfinder," he writes. "Other times, the two would use separate cars. Khaykin would be ready to follow me if I left the building, and Ostrovskiy would keep an eye on my apartment. When separated, they stayed in touch by text."

One of the men, Farrow writes, claims he was able to track his cellphone's geolocation to track him; although a source told Farrow Black Cube didn't authorize cell phone tracking, Farrow explains how Khaykin was able to successfully place him near the World Trade Center, where he was to discuss his Weinstein reporting with The New Yorker.

"I was on edge," Farrow writes. "In the preceding weeks, I'd begun to suspect that I was being followed. My building superintendent had told me that he'd seen men lurking outside. Sources had advised me to get a gun and move out of my apartment."

Ultimately, Farrow, who previously reported on Black Cube in 2017, explains Ostrovskiy came to him with details about the operation, saying of the Black Cube work, "I fear that it may be illegal." Additional excerpts from Catch and Kill will be published by The New Yorker this week ahead of its Oct. 15 release. Brendan Morrow

8:06 a.m.

After three long years, Xiyue Wang is on his way home.

Wang, a Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton University who had been detained in Iran since 2016, was freed Saturday when Iran and the United States conducted a prisoner exchange in Zurich, Switzerland. The exchange also saw the release of Iranian scientist Massoud Soleimani who had been convicted of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.

Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative for Iran, worked with Swiss intermediaries — who look out for American interests in Tehran since there's no U.S. embassy — to negotiate the exchange. He flew to Zurich with Soleimani and is expected to return with Wang, who will be able to reunite with his wife and young son. President Trump confirmed the swap Saturday, as did Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Wang, a student of late 19th- and early-20th-century Eurasian history, reportedly went to Iran to learn Farsi and conduct archival research for his dissertation. He reportedly disclosed his research plan to the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., and Princeton said he was not involved in an political activities or social activism. But Tehran believed he had ties to U.S. intelligence agencies, which led to his detainment. Read more at The New York Times and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

December 6, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants you to know she has "no health problems that would keep her from fulfilling the duties of the President of the United States," per a doctor's letter that the 70-year-old senator publicly released Friday.

Her medical record also showed that she has never "smoked, used drugs or had any problem with alcohol use," and "exercises regularly and follows a healthy diet," and only takes medication for "an underactive thyroid gland," CBS News observes.

This comes a day after the Los Angeles Times published a poll revealing a third of voters are worried about the age of several top presidential candidates, possibly due to potential health concerns. The poll found voters are less concerned about Warren's age than that of her fellow White House aspirants, former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 78, who had a heart attack in October. Meanwhile, President Trump, 73, also faces speculation about an unscheduled doctor's visit last month.

Though the Times survey found only 7 percent expressed concerns regarding Warren's age, 50 percent of Democratic voters told Pew Research Center they would prefer a candidate in their 50s.

Warren is the first Democratic candidate in the top trio to release a medical report, reports Politico, though Biden and Sanders have also pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses in early February, according to CNN. Warren's early move will likely initiate "a new primary-within-a-primary...to be the hardiest septuagenarian running for president," predicts Boston Globe. Ramisa Rob

December 6, 2019

Earlier this year, Friends star and human mortal Jennifer Aniston turned 50 years old, because that's how time works.

Of course, Aniston is also a famous actress, which means she also has to answer weird questions about how she manages to "embrace" the completely involuntary process of aging. Her answer: "What's the alternative?" Because, frankly, that's the only sensible response to an inquiry that stupid. Read more at People. Scott Meslow

December 6, 2019

Big news from the Garden State: Nicole Polizzi, better known as Snooki, has gym'ed and tanned her last laundry.

On the podcast It's Happening With Snooki & Joey, the Jersey Shore star announced her preemptive retirement from the fourth season of MTV's sequel series Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, reports Deadline.

Of course, Jersey Shore: Family Vacation hasn't even been ordered for a fourth season yet, so this might just be the reality-star equivalent of a "you can't fire me, I quit." Read more at Deadline. Scott Meslow

December 6, 2019

President Trump is taking "no obstruction" very seriously.

Trump is apparently sick of flushing toilets, the world unnecessarily learned on Friday. In some unknown place, some unknown people are cursed with "flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times" before everything goes where it needs to go, Trump said in a White House tirade against environmental protections.

"We have a situation where we're looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms," Trump said, perhaps hinting at toilet paper or even hand towels. "You turn on the faucet, you don't get any water," Trump said of these places where there are "tremendous amounts of water." "They take a shower, the water comes dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times," Trump said of this mystery population. "So the EPA is looking at this very strongly," Trump reassured the nation's stressed-out flushers.

Earlier in the same rant, Trump complained about the energy efficient lightbulbs that are apparently giving him an "orange look," which he does not want. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 6, 2019

We've all been there: You're expected to attend the annual Diplomatic Corps reception at Buckingham Palace, but you just can't figure out which tiara to wear.

For the record, the prevailing theory is that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, will wear the century-old "Lover's Knot" tiara, which consists of diamonds and pearls bound in pretzel-shaped knots.

If you're looking for a similar effect without breaking the bank, we hear your local Burger King may still have some of those cardboard crowns in the back room. Read more at People. Scott Meslow

December 6, 2019

The Trump administration wants to keep impeachment off your holiday menu.

Democrats have spent the past few weeks holding impeachment hearings to build a case against President Trump. But a White House spokesperson seems to think that's a waste of time, mostly because impeachment doesn't... feed anybody?

Yes, that's what White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said to argue against continuing impeachment proceedings in a Friday Fox News appearance. "As you head into Christmas, as you head into the holiday season, people are going to want results," Gidley said. "But now all they're getting is hatred, vitriol, and a sham impeachment hearing that doesn't put food on the tables of the America people."

Gidley is uh, right on that one thing: Impeachment doesn't have anything to do with feeding families. But the Trump administration's recent rule change that could cut 600,000 people off from food stamps? Well, that certainly does. Kathryn Krawczyk

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