Russia, the Arctic, Books of the Year: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

1. Russia has been mounting a disinformation campaign for years to frame Ukraine for its 2016 election meddling, American intelligence officials told senators.

The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican impeachment talking points. Above, President Vladimir Putin of Russia earlier this month.

Senior intelligence officials said Russian intelligence operatives deployed a network of agents to blame Ukraine for Russia’s 2016 interference starting at least in 2017.

In a nearly hourlong phone interview on “Fox & Friends,” Mr. Trump said he supported the protesters but that President Xi Jinping of China was “a friend of mine.”

The bill comes as Mr. Trump is trying to strike a trade deal with China. Mr. Trump’s apparent willingness to tie human rights issues to progress on the trade front drew rebukes from Republicans and Democrats.

Mr. Trump also took advantage of the live interview to attack the impeachment inquiry, accusing a witness of fabricating a phone call between Mr. Trump and Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the E.U. There is no evidence that the witness, David Holmes, a political counselor to the American ambassador in Ukraine, lied; Mr. Sondland confirmed Mr. Holmes’s account of the call.

In a conversation with host Michael Barbaro, Mr. Buttigieg spoke openly about why the presidency had been on his mind since high school, and about how growing up gay complicated his careful career planning.

In other 2020 news, Michael Bloomberg bought at least $30 million worth of television ads on Friday ahead of an expected Democratic run for president. That’s more than some campaigns have spent on ads all year.

4. If you’re going to read one thing this weekend, this is it.

The eccentric royal family of Oudh lived in a ruined jungle palace in New Delhi for decades. Their story was tragic and astonishing. But was it true?

For 40 years, journalists chronicled the deposed aristocrats — a prince, a princess and a queen, the last of a storied Shiite Muslim royal line.

Ellen Barry, a Times reporter and former South Asia bureau chief, met the prince, above in 2016, and spent years tracing the family’s story across continents — eventually finding the secret that they had tried so hard to bury.

5. Technology has created an uneven playing field for defense lawyers working for low-income clients.

Digital forensics labs are easily accessible by law enforcement, but cash-strapped public defender offices simply can’t afford them — even though the digital evidence can be the difference between prison time and freedom.

One public defender’s office in New York City spent $100,000 to build a digital forensics lab. Manhattan prosecutors spent $10 million.

Separately, researchers who track the death penalty say a significant number of current cases raise doubt about the guilt of the accused.

6. It’s cold, it’s dark 24 hours a day, and then there are the polar bears.

Two months into a yearlong expedition to study the Arctic’s changing climate, an international research team is now adrift 300 miles from the North Pole.

Thin ice has hampered operations and the construction of an ice runway that would allow planes to conduct relief flights. Polar bear encounters are taken very seriously.

“Luckily, no bad encounters and everyone (including the bears!) has remained safe,” one researcher told us.

7. “I wanted to surf, and I knew snow because I was a skier.”

When Jake Burton Carpenter began making snowboards in 1977, skiing was the dominant snow sport. A once-modest plan to make 50 snowboards a day turned into something far bigger: Burton Snowboards, a global business that helped transform snowboarding into a popular Olympic sport.

8. Typing these two letters may scare your co-workers.

A Gen X-er wrote our Work Friend columnist to ask if the new thing to type is “kk”: To write “O.K.” or “K,” their Millennial and Gen Z colleagues had told them, was to be passive-aggressive. Do you want to be that person?

In other pressing social norm questions, will Instagram ever #Freethenipple? For years, artists have put pressure on Facebook and Instagram to treat female and male nipples equally, but such a change may be too radical for Silicon Valley.

9. Two queens in their respective worlds.

Like Beyoncé or Prince, the tap dancer Dormeshia is singular enough to need no surname. Every time she improvises, the history of tap meets its cutting edge. Her professional reputation has never quite translated to wider recognition. But that could finally be changing.

And Lise Davidsen has swiftly risen to the top of the opera field. The soprano didn’t even see an opera until she was in her 20s, and now she’s making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera at 32. One conductor called her a “one-in-a-million voice.”

10. And finally, the Times Books Review has chosen the 10 best books of 2019.

They include: “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang, which explores the material consequences of time travel; Sarah Broom’s memoir, “The Yellow House,” on growing up in New Orleans; and “Night Boat to Tangier” by Kevin Barry, about two Irish gangster antiheroes on the Spanish coast.

So how did our editors choose the best fiction and nonfiction titles?

“We are trying to find books that we think are the best written, the best told, the best argued, the best researched or reported,” Pamela Paul, the editor of the Book Review, explains, “books that we think are for the ages and three years from now you would turn back and read.”

Have a page-turning weekend.

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