Audio: Sadia Shepard reads. In Connecticut, Hassan shared a desk with a woman—a girl, really. Later, this would be what he remembered most about the job, long after the inconvenience of his morning commute, the banality of his days spent making spreadsheets, and the mediocrity of the cafeteria had faded from memory. He would remember Hina the way he saw her on her first day. The crunched, focussed expression on her small, sharp face as she claimed her half of the desk, a purse over one arm and a duffelbag over the other, a light sheen of perspiration on her upper lip, a dark-gray head scarf wound tightly around her head and fixed above her right ear with a long, silver pin. Hina nodded at Hassan in greeting and then took a brass-colored nameplate out of her purse, placing it carefully on her side of the desk. It was the kind of thing you might order from a mall kiosk that specialized in monogrammed gifts. “My name is Hina Bhati,” she said, pointing at the nameplate, in case he hadn’t noticed it. “Yes, I see that,” Hassan said. Hassan had been at the bank eight weeks. Long enough to know that there was a slow way he could take from the men’s room back to his cubicle, a route that killed off three minutes of the work day. Long enough to learn that casual Fridays meant khakis, not jeans. Long enough to feel that the two-person, T-shaped desk he’d been assigned to was his alone. Hina Bhati looked to be in her early twenties, at least seven or eight years younger than he was. Why on earth were they sharing a desk? Hina had an accounting degree from SUNY Albany, a fact that he learned from the diploma she hung on the wall next to her computer, tapping a tiny nail into the plaster with a miniature, purse-size hammer. On her desk she arranged a tissue box with a crocheted cover, a small, iridescent vase with three silk flowers, and a sturdy, expensive-looking ballpoint pen. She put several large computer manuals on the floor Continue Reading

From Russia With Blood

This is Part Two of a BuzzFeed News investigation.Part One: Poison In The SystemPart Three: The Man Who Knew Too MuchPart Four: The Secrets Of The Spy In The BagPart Five: Everyone Thinks He Was WhackedPart Six: Holes In The InvestigationThe London square was still and cold when the body fell, dropping silently through the moonlight and landing with a thud. Impaled through the chest on the spikes of a wrought iron fence, it dangled under the streetlamps as blood spilled onto the pavement. Overhead, a fourth-floor window stood open, the lights inside burning.The dead man was Scot Young. The one-time multimillionaire and fixer to the world’s super-rich had been telling friends, family, and the police for years that he was being targeted by a team of Russian hitmen – ever since his fortune vanished overnight in a mysterious Moscow property deal. He was the ninth in a circle of friends and business associates to die in suspicious circumstances. But when the police entered his penthouse that night, they didn’t even dust for fingerprints. They declared his death a suicide on the spot and closed the case. A two-year investigation by BuzzFeed News has now uncovered explosive evidence pointing to Russia that the police overlooked. A massive trove of documents, phone records, and secret recordings shows Young was part of a circle of nine men, including the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who all died suspiciously on British soil after making powerful enemies in Russia. The files reveal that Young lived in the shadow of the Russian security services and mafia groups after fronting for Berezovsky – a sworn enemy of the state – in a series of deals that enraged the Kremlin, including the doomed Russian property deal known as Project Moscow. British police declared the deaths of all nine men in Berezovsky’s circle non-suspicious, but BuzzFeed News can now reveal that MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, asked its US Continue Reading

The Insane True Story Of How “Titanic” Got Made

The first time I saw Titanic, my father left the theater in the middle of the movie to get a haircut. I didn’t notice he was gone. I wasn’t conscious of any reality but Titanic, even though I already knew exactly what was going to happen. One of my friends had briefed me on what to expect: Jack and Rose fall in love, the ship sinks, and Jack finds a piece of wreckage floating in the sea and helps Rose clamber onto it, saving her from the freezing death that claims him before the lifeboats return for survivors. But it wasn’t fair, my friend explained: It was obvious to her that there was room for them both.It didn’t matter that I knew exactly what was coming. I couldn’t think about anything else while the movie played. And even when the lights came up and I realized my father was missing, his absence didn’t seem to matter much. I was 9, but I already understood he had a habit of wandering off when he got bored. I was even used to it. What was new was this feeling: that I had to get back to Titanic as soon as possible. The credits were barely rolling as I began to strategize my next viewing. I knew that the movie had completely devastated me, and I knew that all I wanted was to be devastated again. But why?Viewers — many of them adolescent and preadolescent girls like me — would go back to Titanic over and over again while it was in theaters. It was the No. 1 movie in the US for 15 consecutive weeks, a feat that has yet to be surpassed, and likely never will be.Well before it was released, James Cameron’s passion project became notorious as the most expensive movie ever made, with a final budget of $200 million. Then it became the first movie in history to earn $1 billion at the box office. And it achieved this success despite months of advance press claiming that the movie was all but doomed; despite the widespread belief that James Cameron, who previously helmed the Alien and Terminator franchises, had no Continue Reading

Killer Robots Are Coming And These People Are Trying To Stop Them

A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: “Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.” A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.There will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch them. So you can just imagine that in many parts of the world humans will be hunted. They will be cowering underground in shelters and devising techniques so that they don’t get detected. This is the ever-present cloud of lethal autonomous weapons.They could be here in two to three years.— Stuart Russell, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California BerkeleyMary Wareham laughs a lot. It usually sounds the same regardless of the circumstance — like a mirthful giggle the blonde New Zealander can’t suppress — but it bubbles up at the most varied moments. Wareham laughs when things are funny, she laughs when things are awkward, she laughs when she disagrees with you. And she laughs when things are truly unpleasant, like when you’re talking to her about how humanity might soon be annihilated by killer robots and the world is doing nothing to stop it.One afternoon this spring at the United Nations in Geneva, I sat behind Wareham in a large wood-paneled, beige-carpeted assembly room that hosted the Continue Reading

The Des Moines Register Metro’s Best for 2017

Auto Repair FIRST PLACE: DOWNEY TIRE PROSTaking their business seriously, but also having fun, Downey Tire Pros creates a comfortable atmosphere for its customers, while getting down to the important task of quality oil changes, steering and suspension repairs, brake service, diesel engine repair and much more. Bonus services include pick-up and delivery and a lounge stocked withFind it: 103 W 2nd Ave., IndianolaInfo: 515-961-0345; downeytire.com SECOND PLACE: WEST SIDE AUTO BODYAttributing their long-running success to a staff of “outstanding” well-trained employees, West Side Auto Body has been a destination for collision repair since 1976, offering free estimates on minor and major work and a lifetime warranty on most repairs.Find it: 1838 Fuller Rd., West Des MoinesInfo: 515-223-0134; westsideautobodyinc.com THIRD PLACE: WOODY'S REPAIR SHOPDedicated to producing consistent, quality work, the Woody's Auto Repair Service team can draw on a wide range of specialty knowledge, including four-wheel-drive systems, air bags and computer diagnostics. They also keep a large inventory of tires and batteries on site.Find it: 217 E. 1st St, AnkenyInfo: 515-964-7925; woodysautorepairservice.comBody Shop FIRST PLACE: ANKENY AUTO BODYFamily-owned since 1978, customer satisfaction is the goal at Ankeny Auto Body. Painting, hail damage, dent and glass repair are all part of their daily work and they also warranty the work for as long as you own your vehicle.Find it: 1501 SE Cortina Dr., AnkenyInfo: 515-964-7291; ankenyautobody.com SECOND PLACE: GRAHAM COLLISIONWorking directly with your insurance company and offering a lifetime warranty on all repairs, Graham Collision computer scans every vehicle THIRD PLACE: WEST SIDE AUTO BODYAble to fix both major and minor issues, West Side Auto Body offers laser frame repair among its many expert methods to help pinpoint Continue Reading

To Giuliana Rancic’s defenders, Kelly Osbourne looks a little flushed after race jest on ‘The View’

Pals of Giuliana Rancic didn’t have much sympathy for Kelly Osbourne after the purple-haired TV host put her foot in her mouth while co-hosting “The View” on Tuesday. “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?” the clueless former “Fashion Police” co-host blurted out, while attempting to discuss Trump’s view on immigration. After the British star shocked the panel with her clumsy quote, she quickly issued a statement saying, “I will take responsibility for my poor choice of words but I will not apologize for being a racist, as I am NOT.” Her statement also noted that she cleans her own toilets. Insiders tell [email protected] that Rancic’s supporters couldn’t help but remember that Osbourne had been unwilling to cut her “Fashion Police” co-host some slack after Rancic’s own fumbled quip about dreadlocked Zendaya Coleman looking like she smelled of “weed and patchouli oil” on the Oscars red carpet. At the time Osbourne tweeted, “I do not condone racism, so as a result of this I’m seriously questioning staying on the show!” She subsequently quit. “Maybe Kelly will be more understanding next time someone slips up on live TV,” a friend of Rancic’s told us. An outgoing co-host of “The View,” Rosie Perez, tweeted later, “My apologies @KellyOsbourne, I took your point wrong — #Trump #Latinos. My bad. You’re (sic) heart is so pure & righteous. I adore you.” ZAYN A BIG SINGLE AGAIN Zayn Malik is a solo act in more ways than one. After People magazine reported the former One Direction star had split with fiancée Perrie Edwards, she was spotted without her engagement ring Tuesday, getting frozen yogurt with Little Mix bandmates in L.A. The singer had been wearing the sparkler when she Continue Reading

‘I would have painted the walls with my blood so you could clean it up’: Police release chilling notes left behind by young couple in Florida cop murder-suicide case

Florida police have released a chilling series of notes left behind by the demented young lovers who allegedly shot a small-town cop and then killed themselves over the weekend.  In one of the notes, Alexandria Hollinghurst, 17, rips into her mother, saying "when people compare us, I vomit on the inside."  "I could write to you for days, but I know nothing would actually make a difference to you. You are much too ignorant and self concerned (sic) to even attempt to listen or understand," the teen wrote, before going on to say her mother accused her of being anorexic for years. She went on: "If I had stayed another minute I would have painted the walls and stained the carpets with my blood, so you could clean it up. "You are a waste of space, ignorant, and a rotten [expletive]. I wish I were never born." Hollinghurst also wrote notes to her father and sister, Polk County authorities said.  In those, she struck a loving tone. "You're so much younger but you’re a better person than me, you always have been," she wrote to her sister, Hannah. "I hope you never take a wrong turn like I did, I hope you continue to grow." And in her final message to her father, she apologized for "disappointing" him.  "I love you to death, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Everyday became harder and harder," she wrote. Meanwhile, Brandon Goode, 18, wrote one note, addressed to his "loving parents."  In it, he apologized for the "pain and misery" he brought them — in 2012, he was arrested for attacking his mother with an ax — and said he wished to die with Hollinghurst.  They were engaged, he said.  "Please don’t be sad, this is what I want now, I get to die peacefully with the woman I love, the woman of my dreams, my fiancée (yes we were engaged!)," Goode wrote. "I miss ya both so much already." In addition to the notes, the Polk County Sheriff's Office also released a Continue Reading

NYC’s new style stars: Christina Hendricks, Estelle and Becki Newton follow their own fashion path

Christina Hendricks has had our undivided attention ever since her killer curves and no-nonsense attitude took over Sunday nights. And now "Mad Men's" voluptuous master of office politics is poised for even greater fame when her movie "Life As We Know It" hits the big screen. "Christina has captured our collective imagination," says Elle magazine editor Maggie Bullock, who, along with creative director Joe Zee, authored "The ELLEments of Personal Style " (Gotham Books), which features Hendricks as one of the 25 most stylesavvy women alive. "The fact that she's so different from the standard starlet makes her really interesting to us and to our readers." In a world of scaryskinny, overexposed, hard-partying celebrities, 35-year-old Hendricks has that rarest of qualities: a glimmer of Old Hollywood glam. That may be in part because her alter ego lives in the 1960s. But while Joan Harris is a sultry secretary who dominates her ad industry bosses with stealth tactics a general would admire , Hendricks' charms are more modern — but no less compelling. "Like Joan, Christina is unapologetic," says Zee. "She celebrates her figure. She shows off everything she wears, she doesn't hide behind it." Zee cites the lavender Zac Posen boudoir gown she wore to this year's Emmy Awards, which attracted both scrutiny and praise for the frank way it framed Hendricks' stunning cleavage. Hendricks (left) is classically glam, while Estelle (right) prefers 'clean' and 'sharp' looks. (photo: Thomas Whiteside) Another role Hendricks and Joan share is that of the classic New York woman: Joan is a Big Apple career girl before her time, and Hendricks (who splits her time between L.A. and New York) embodies an individuality and fashion-forwardness that has today's NYC working women taking notice. "Christina's style is to completely do her own thing, and that's what makes her so very New York," says Zee. "She isn't crammed into a trend. She does what she wants." Continue Reading

Denise’s paradise lost

A romantic vacation in Hawaii ended in tears for Denise Richards. Months after the end of her relationship with Richie Sambora, a pal of the actress tells us she had been expecting him to propose on the island. Instead, he broke up with her. "She was devastated," says the source, "and kept up appearances as if they were still together." That may explain why news of the February split took three months to hit the media. Richards talked about their then-year-old relationship in an interview that ran in the June issue of Glamour magazine. "Recently we went to Hawaii and people came up to us and said, 'We're so happy for the two of you,'" she said. "So people are starting to accept the relationship, realizing it's not just a fling." Richards' spokeswoman denies she was anticipating a proposal during the vacation; a Bon Jovi band rep said, "No comment." It's 'London' calling for Josh & Fergie"Transformers" star Josh Duhamel has a hit movie and a great life with his famous girlfriend, Fergie.Could there possibly be a drawback?"Every night at around 11 p.m., someone pulls up in front of their home in L.A., rolls down the car windows and plays 'London Bridge' really loud," a pal of the couple laughs.'Joshua' premiere is adults onlyJosh Hartnett and David Schwimmer turned out Tuesday for the premiere of "Joshua," a creepy-kid flick set on the upper East Side (where, let's face it, they belong).But while Vera Farmiga, Dallas Roberts and Celia Weston from the film walked the red carpet, absent were Sam Rockwell and the malevolent title character, played by 12-year-old Jacob Kogan. (Spoiler warning: Stop reading now if you want to see the film!)So where was this demon child, who frames his dad, messes with his mom's medication, crushes on his gay uncle and pushes his grandmother to her death down the steps of the Brooklyn Museum of Art?"Oh, he has summer camp," shrugged a publicist. New York MinuteIt's H2O-a-go-go for the Continue Reading

Fall 101: The best things to do, see, hear, taste, buy & experience this season!

LITTLE RED LIGHTHOUSE Head below the George Washington Bridge to Fort Washington Park and tour Manhattan's only remaining lighthouse as part of the 15th annual Little Red Lighthouse Festival on Sept. 15. There are celebrity readings and hayrides, too. Call (212) 360-8737. SCOTT ON She's had a period of silence and a recent divorce, but Jill Scott isn't giving up her R&B crown quite yet. The tunes on her album "The Real Thing," out Sept. 25, are as soulful and sexy as ever. Also, be sure to catch her big-screen debut in Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" (out Oct. 12) to see how she's shaping up for an even bigger film role - in "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency," currently in production. TOOTHY ENCOUNTERS They're back! (Again.) A fresh crop of blood-sucking vampires hits both big and small screens. The monsters chase Josh Hartnett in director David Slade's "30 Days of Night," out Oct. 19, in which Hartnett's efforts to enforce the law (and battle evil) in an Alaskan town are challenged by deep winter darkness that allows the fiends to roam free. On CBS' "Moonlight," premiering Sept. 28, Alex O'Loughlin smolders his way into the role of Mick St. John, a private investigator who happens to have a rather thirsty past. Still as youthful as the day he was bitten by a nasty ex-girlfriend, St. John can't stand fellow vampires who quaff human cocktails. He wiles away his infinite days trying to help the living with his acute crime-solving skills, but all could change forever when an intrepid mortal reporter (Sophia Myles) catches his eye. CELEB SMACKDOWN TMZ Gossip Web site TMZ takes its tricks to television Sept. 10 with a nightly newscast promising to be anything but tame. "We don't do red carpets, we don't do junkets," the site's mastermind, Harvey Levin, has said of its celeb coverage. "We're going to be fair, but we're not going to fear publicists." In fact, it's the publicists who should be scared. In New York, "TMZ TV" airs on WNYW/Ch. Continue Reading