The Upshot
  • Top Russian spy defects after unmasking U.S. ring

    moscowRemember that Russian spy-ring that authorities rounded up back in June? Right, that one.

    Well, it looks like members of the operation were betrayed by their boss. And it turns out he has defected to the United States, throwing Russia's foreign intelligence service into turmoil.

    [Related: Maxim lands interview with Anna Chapman]

    A Moscow newspaper, Kommersant, has reported that a Colonel Shcherbakov, who ran Russia's deep-cover U.S. spying operations, was responsible for the spies' unmasking, and that he left Russia just days before the spy-ring arrests were announced June 28. Gennady Gudkov, a Russian lawmaker who sits on Parliament's national security committee, has confirmed the Kommersant report.

    Shcherbakov, whose first name was not reported, would become one of the most high-ranking turncoats since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990.

    Read More »from Top Russian spy defects after unmasking U.S. ring
  • NYT to include e-booksipadkindleAs digital publishing picks up speed thanks to the success of the iPad, Kindle and other tablet devices, e-books are about to get another nudge into the mainstream.

    The New York Times announced Thursday that it will publish fiction and nonfiction best-seller lists for e-books starting early next year. The Times list is the most influential gauge of print book sales in the country--and the addition of e-books just reflects the shifting habits of book buyers, newspaper officials say.

    "The vibrant growth of digital publishing has created a need for an impartial, reliable source for tracking and reporting the top-selling eBooks across the country," said Janet Elder, the Times' news surveys editor, in a statement. "As with all The Times's rankings, these additional lists will benefit from corroborative sourcing and we will watch for trends in the industry."

    For instance, "sales aggregated from a growing number of online service providers who sell e-books to consumers," according to a press release, will help determine the rankings. And the Times has partnered with a software platform called RoyaltyShare to fact-check the data.

    As the Times notes in its own report on the announcement, 2010 has been something of a breakout year for e-books. Sales nearly tripled in the first nine months of the year, to $304.6 million from $105.6 million, according to the Association of American Publishers.

    Read More »from N.Y. Times to publish best-seller lists for e-books
  • cigs1

    The Food and Drug Administration says it plans to plaster "gruesome" images on cigarette cartons in an attempt to scare away some of the 20 percent of Americans who smoke despite rising costs and proven health risks.

    "Some very explicit, almost gruesome pictures may be necessary," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told the Associated Press. "This is a very, very serious public health issue, with very, very serious medical consequences."

    Some of the proposed warning labels, shown below the jump, show a mother breathing smoke into her baby's face, rotting lungs, and what looks like a dead man post-autopsy. (You can see all of the proposed labels at the FDA website.) The labels will take up half the pack, as shown in the AP illustration above.

    Read More »from FDA proposes gruesome new cigarette warnings

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  • Djokovic close to scaling tennis's Everest: Agassi

    By Martyn Herman LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic may never have a better chance to complete his career grand slam than at this year's French Open but those predicting the decline of claycourt king Rafa Nadal should be wary, according to Andre Agassi. Had it not been for the Spaniard, Djokovic would already be part of the elite club of players to have won all four majors -- one that Agassi joined when he finally prevailed in the French capital in 1999 against Andriy Medvedev. Twice Djokovic has been felled by Nadal in the final while in 2013 he lost an epic five-set semi-final. World number one Djokovic's dominant start to the year and Nadal's sluggish return from more injury woes means that the odds are shortening on him ending the Spaniard's dominance on the red dirt which has earned him a record nine titles in 10 years.

  • Azarenka powers past Venus, Safarova awaits in Qatar final
    Azarenka powers past Venus, Safarova awaits in Qatar final

    Former world number One Victoria Azarenka continued her comeback from injury on Friday in Doha by beating Venus Williams for the first time to make the Qatar Open final. Azarenka, now ranked 48th in the world since losing most of 2014 to a foot injury, stormed back from losing the first set to brush Williams aside 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, in a thrilling semi-final watched by, among others, former England football captain David Beckham. Twice winner of the tournament, wildcard entrant Azarenka will play the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova in Saturday's final. Williams coped with the cool and windy conditions much better earlier on and looked likely to secure her first ever final place in Qatar.

  • Sri Lanka unhappy with 'tiring' World Cup travel
    Sri Lanka unhappy with 'tiring' World Cup travel

    Sri Lanka flew back to New Zealand on Friday grumbling about their World Cup travel following a hectic dash across the Tasman sea for just one game even as some other teams enjoyed a relaxed schedule. Angelo Mathews' men played their first two matches in New Zealand and then flew across to Australia to complete a 92-run drubbing of Bangladesh at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday.

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