London Beautician Suspected of Abduction Scheme in Spy Ring Case

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Five Bulgarian nationals suspected of being part of a Russian spy ring appeared in a London court on Tuesday to face accusations that they were collecting information intended to be useful to Moscow.

The accused—Orlin Roussev, 45, Bizer Dzhambazov, 41, Katrin Ivanova, 31, Ivan Stoyanov, 31, and Vanya Gaberova, 29—are suspected to have conducted reconnaissance for Russia in order to help Moscow with potential abduction plans for some targets, according to The Guardian. They have been remanded to custody before a hearing next month.

The five were arrested in February under the Official Secrets Act for alleged criminal activity, including conspiracy to conduct espionage. Roussev’s home was allegedly an “operating hub” for espionage for the team, though their operations spanned Europe, prosecutor Kathryn Selby said, according to the BBC.

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Texas Judges Give Book Ban Law The Green Light

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A trio of judges on Monday gave the go-ahead for Texas to proceed with a book-ban law, which a Trump-appointed judge had halted earlier this month on constitutional grounds.

Texas’s “Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources” (READER) Act requires booksellers to rate sexual content in all books sold to schools. Critics have decried the law as overbroad, unconstitutional, and designed to restrict access to books about gender and LGBTQ issues. Earlier this month, a federal judge sided with publishers who sued to stop the law. The judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the legislation, arguing that the law “likely violates the First Amendment by containing an unconstitutional prior restraint, compelled speech, and unconstitutional vagueness.”

Less than a week later, a three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overrode that injunction, with a one-sentence administrative order that will allow the READER Act to go into effect.

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Dax Shepard Under Fire for Confronting Jonathan Van Ness on Trans Rights

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On the latest episode of his highly popular Armchair Expert podcast, host Dax Shepard got into a heated conversation about gender-affirming care and transgender children competing in sports with his guest, Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness , that culminated with Van Ness breaking down into tears of frustration.

“Do I wish that the trans woman athlete had access and could play and follow her dream? I do,” Shepard said at one point during the interview. “Will I elevate her rights over women? We’re pretending that women aren’t the ultimate marginalized class throughout history.”

“I could just cry because I’m so tired of having to fight for little kids because they just want to be included,” Van Ness, eventually responded as they could be heard audibly shedding tears. “I wish that people were as passionate about little kids being able to be included or grow up as they were about fictitious women’s fairness in sports.”

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RFK Jr. Adds 9/11 to Growing List of Conspiracies: ‘Strange Things’ Happened

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Longshot Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has a lot of questions about who was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks, saying there were “strange things that happened” during the collapse of the World Trade Center and that he’s not sure he buys the “official explanation.”

Kennedy’s open skepticism about 9/11 hardly comes as a surprise at this point. The anti-vaccine activist has recently made headlines for embracing wild conspiracy theories under the guise of questioning narratives, whether it’s wondering if the CIA was responsible for his father’s assassination or if COVID-19 was ethnically engineered to spare Jewish and Chinese people.

During a wide-ranging podcast interview with CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, Kennedy eventually brought up 9/11, prompting Bergen to ask whether the presidential hopeful bought the bipartisan 9/11 commission’s conclusion that al-Qaeda attacked the United States.

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JPMorgan Pays Out Tens of Millions to U.S. Virgin Islands Over Epstein Ties

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JPMorgan Chase has once again agreed to a massive settlement over its long-term relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein —this time paying the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands to end its sex-trafficking lawsuit against the financial giant.

Late last year, the Caribbean territory sued JPMorgan, accusing the bank of facilitating Epstein’s sex ring while collecting millions via the late trafficker’s client referrals. One of Epstein’s victims, referred to as Jane Doe, had filed a class-action lawsuit against JPMorgan with similar claims that was settled in June for $290 million.

The USVI’s settlement—totaling $75 million—comes about a month before the case was scheduled for trial in Manhattan federal court. In July, the government stated in legal filings that it was seeking a minimum of $190 million from the bank.

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Ukraine Taking The War to Russia

Nico Hines, The Daily Beast (“Russian Naval Commander and 33 Officers Obliterated in Biggest Blow Yet, Says Ukraine“):

In one of the most devastating blows of the war so far, Ukraine says it took out a whole chunk of Russia’s naval leadership in a single missile attack, which killed the commander of the notorious Black Sea Fleet.

Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov was allegedly killed in Friday’s missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet’s HQ in Crimea, which was illegally occupied by Russia in 2014.

Sokolov, who was drafted in to beef up the faltering navy last year, was attending a meeting of top naval and military figures when the missile crashed into the building in Sevastopol, according to the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine. The Spetsnaz unit claims that 34 officers in total were killed in the explosion.

A huge plume of black smoke was seen billowing from the building last Friday in one of Ukraine’s most stunning missile assaults of the war. The direct hit on the naval command center was a symbolic blow for Russia as the Black Sea Fleet has been a source of national pride since it was established by Catherine the Great in 1783.

President Vladimir Putin fired the commander of the fleet last year after it suffered a series of embarrassing setbacks including the sinking of its lead warship, the Moskva, and an attack on its air base in Crimea that saw eight warplanes destroyed.

Sokolov, who previously held a prestigious role as the head of a military academy, was brought back into active service to reinstate pride in the Black Sea Fleet.

His death—compounded by those of so many of his colleagues—in the heart of the fleet’s operation would represent a severe blow to that pride.

Over the weekend, rumors on social media began to suggest that Sokolov had been caught up in the explosion. The Special Operations Forces posted its confirmation on Telegram on Monday.

“After the attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters, 34 officers, including the Commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, lost their lives, with an additional 105 occupants sustaining injuries. The headquarters building is beyond repair,” the Telegram statement read.

The special forces unit did not name any of the other victims of the attack by one of the Storm Shadow air-launched missiles donated by Britain and France earlier this year.

Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, previously said Col. Gen. Alexander Romanchuk, the commander of Russian forces on the southern front, and Lt. Gen. Oleg Tsekov were seriously wounded in the attack.

Ukraine has been desperate to prove that it can make serious gains in the remainder of the fighting season before winter sets in and, in particular, Kyiv wants to show the skeptical West that it is capable of retaking Crimea.

Benedict Smith, The Telegraph (“Ukrainian drone strike plunges Russian villages into darkness“):

Several villages in Russia’s Kursk region were left without power this morning after a Ukrainian drone reportedly struck an electricity substation.

Kursk governor Roman Starovoit said: “A Ukrainian drone dropped an explosive device on an electricity substation in the village of Snagost in Korenevsky District. Seven settlements were left without power.

“None of the residents were injured. Emergency crews will start restoring power as soon as the situation allows.”

The region, which borders Ukraine, has been a frequent target for drone attacks allegedly coordinated by its eastern neighbour.

Ukraine’s energy minister warned last week that Russia had resumed a campaign against its power stations, which left millions without electricity and water last year.

The Economist (unsigned) (“War has arrived in Crimea“):

Two ukrainian missiles smashed into the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet before noon on September 22nd. This time, there could be no cover-up. After a Ukrainian attack on a nearby command post two days earlier, censors had scrubbed most social-media posts written by locals. But the daytime strike in central Sevastopol, timed to coincide with a meeting of senior generals, was impossible to hush up. Local chatrooms buzzed with gossip. “Day 576 of a three-day war to take Kyiv,” read one. “What about our red lines? Time to wipe these bloody Ukries from the face of the earth,” another. Amid Ukrainian claims that they had killed the commander of the fleet and another 33 officers, Russian authorities even started turning on early-warning air-raid sirens—something they had previously tried to avoid.

One and a half years in, Vladimir Putin’s war has come to Crimea in earnest. Since the beginning of summer, Ukraine has massively stepped up strikes on the peninsula annexed by the Kremlin in a largely bloodless coup in 2014. Using a mix of new home-made drones and foreign-supplied cruise missiles, it has hit military bases, air bases, and command-and-control centres.

On September 13th a strike on the Sevmorzavod dry dock in Sevastopol took out an amphibious landing ship and one of just six kilo-class submarines capable of launching cruise missiles near the Ukrainian shore. A day later drones and Ukrainian cruise missiles destroyed a cutting-edge s-400 air-defence system that had an export price tag of over $1bn. On September 23rd, a day after the strike on the headquarters, another salvo of cruise missiles hit a pier in Sevastopol. Slowly, and methodically, Ukraine is chipping away at Russia’s Crimean firepower.

Ukrainian military sources say the operations are not necessarily ends in themselves. They should rather be seen as auxiliaries to two more important efforts. The first is Ukraine’s ongoing land counter-offensive, focused on the Zaporizhia region to the north-east of Crimea. Any Ukrainian success in degrading air power, railways and logistics, they say, undermines the Russian troops there who are directly supplied from the peninsula.

The second focus is a naval contest in the Black Sea. Here, Ukraine is trying to deny Russia a monopoly of the sea and to regain control of vital shipping routes. It is destroying Russian warships wherever it can, and pushing the rest out to a distance that makes striking ports, cities and a new sea corridor as difficult as possible. The process began in April 2022 with the sinking of Russia’s flagship Moskva, hit with a home-produced Neptune cruise missile that the navy wasn’t sure even worked. Since then Ukraine has sunk or damaged at least 19 Russian ships.

Ukraine’s economy rests on the success of a new sea corridor in and out of Odessa, announced in August in the wake of Russia’s refusal to extend a grain deal. The safety of the route, which hugs the shoreline inside Ukrainian territorial waters, depends on two things: a bet that Russia will not target civilian ships sailing under neutral flags; and a viable threat of retaliation should that not prove enough.

The latter is already real. At the start of the war Russian warships were positioned menacingly close to Odessa. Today, they rarely enter the north-western Black Sea—a remarkable achievement for a Ukrainian navy without a single operational warship. “The Ukrainians have adapted to become a mosquito fleet [using naval drones, missiles and artillery],” says John Foreman, a former British defence attaché in Moscow and Kyiv. “It’s a classic sea-denial strategy that others used against the [British] Royal Navy in the past.”

Ukraine’s war aim has always been maximalist: not simply pushing Russian troops to the pre-2022 invasion status quo but retaking Crimea. I’m still not sure that’s possible without substantially more Western participation but they’re certainly making it very costly for Russia to hold the territory.

NATO countries, and the United States in particular, have very slowly ratcheted up the deadliness and range of weapons they are willing to supply Ukraine. They’ve just taken possession of US M-1 Abrams tanks and President Biden has promised ATACMS missiles, which have a range upwards of 200 miles. While maddeningly slow from the Ukrainian perspective, it makes sense given Western fears of escalation. It’s not clear what Putin’s “red line” is and at what point he’ll go into desperation mode.

Kate Middleton’s Friends Push Back at ‘Absurd’ Claims She Is Slacking

Andrew Matthews/Pool via Reuters

Friends of Kate Middleton have hit back at anonymous suggestions that she should be doing more foreign trips as part of her remit as Princess of Wales, saying the fact that she is widely considered one of the most popular members of the family shows that the public support her focus on raising her young family.

A friend of Kate’s told The Daily Beast that the accusations were “absurd.”

In the most recent data, William is the most popular member of the family with a 67 percent approval rating , followed by his aunt Anne then Kate on 63 percent and 62 percent respectively.

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David Brooks’ $78 Airport Burger

Most of you have likely seen the reaction to a certain NYT columnists’ tweet earlier this week. Just in case, here’s what he posted:

He was roasted for this when Internet sleuths, noting the glass of whiskey in the background, surmised that the bar tab constituted a significant amount of the $78, which was later confirmed in a vital tweet (or whatever the hell they’re called now) that the burger and fries were around $14 ad the booze “almost 80%.”

The pile-on came from both left and right, with The Daily Beast and Hot Air producing near-identical roundups.

In his weekly PBS NewsHour appearance last night, an embarrassed Brooks contended that the whole thing was a poor attempt at a joke:

(Start at 8:22 in the video)

Given how prominently the whiskey is in the photograph, I’m inclined to believe him.

Regardless, he rightly notes that it was in poor taste:

“I was insensitive. I screwed up. I should not have written that tweet.”

“The problem with the tweet, which I wrote so stupidly, was that it made it seem like I was oblivious to something that was blindingly obvious,” he said. “That an upper middle class journalist having a bourbon at an airport is a lot different than a family living paycheck to paycheck. And when I’m getting sticker shock, it’s like an inconvenience. When they’re getting sticker shock, it’s a disaster.”

Aside from it being cute that he thinks he’s merely “upper middle class,” he’s not wrong. And, even more importantly, he notes that people “feel” inflation in the form of higher gas and food prices in ways that the broader economic measures used to gauge inflation and recession do not.

As to price gouging in airports, which has been a staple of late-night comics for decades, a WaPo report notes,

The high cost of airport food has been a consistent complaint  for travelers for years. But airports have made an effort in recent years to reimagine the food options  that people should have while traveling , including restaurants from classic hometown institutions and notable chefs from the cities they’re in.

In New York, officials announced  in 2022 that they were cracking down on high prices for food and drinks at the region’s airports, saying that vendors can’t charge more than “street prices,” or what people would pay outside the airport, plus 10 percent. 

I don’t fly nearly as often as I used to but I have noticed that the food has generally gotten better and the prices have become more reasonable.

Meanwhile, Maurice Hallett, the owner of 1911 Smoke House Barbeque, the site of Brooks’ infamous tweet, is making hay of the situation.

Before this week, the restaurant had received regional attention from food bloggers when he introduced a “C-Rock Special” to his menu, in honor of comedian Chris Rock’s role in the 1988 movie “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” Rock’s character in the film asks for one rib and a sip of Coke, and Hallett has made that exact combo available on his menu for $2.15.


restaurant has capitalized on the attention of the viral post, boasting on Facebook: “We’re the topic of America right now!” Hallett has also made a new meal available to customers: the “D Brooks Special .” Instead of paying $78, customers can get a burger, fries and a double shot of whiskey for $17.78.

“It’s going to be a permanent part of my menu,” he told The Post, saying the special will go underneath the menu item dedicated to Rock.

He added that the item will be available at his Trenton location. Hallett sent the new item to SSP America to get it on the airport menu, but “I doubt they’ll do it.”

As the late Don King would say, Only in America.

Mel Gibson’s Flop Casting Makes Terrible ‘John Wick’ Series Even Worse

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Not sure what to watch next? Subscribe to The Daily Beast’s Obsessed See Skip newsletter here and get the latest show and movie recommendations every Tuesday.

There are roughly 47,000—oh, wait, a new Netflix Original just dropped; make that 47,001—TV shows and movies coming out each week. At Obsessed, we consider it our social duty to help you see the best and skip the rest.

We’ve already got a variety of in-depth, exclusive coverage on all of your streaming favorites and new releases, but sometimes what you’re looking for is a simple Do or Don’t. That’s why we created See/Skip, to tell you exactly what our writers think you should See and what you can Skip from the past week’s crowded entertainment landscape.

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