Magic’s greatest card trick and other premium stories you may have missed this week

Welcome to the weekend.

Settle down with a cuppa and catch up on some of the best content from our premium syndicators this week.

Happy reading.

The mystery of magic's greatest card trick

In the late 1940s, British magician David Berglas started refining a trick that came to be known as “the holy grail of card magic.” To this day, nobody is certain how he did it.

Decades into his retirement, he has revealed just about every secret in his long, storied career. This includes the time, in 1954, that he made a grand piano vanish in a London hotel banquet room filled with guests. But even now, when the subject of Berglas’ famous effect is raised, he remains as cryptic as ever.

At 94, the magician David Berglas says his renowned effect can’t be taught.

But as The New York Times asks, is he telling the truth?

Fragile wealth: Covid spawned more billionaires than ever, but will the bubble burst?

It is the most unsettling of booms. Over the past year tens of thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us have feared for our livelihoods. But at the very same time more people have become billionaires than at any point in British history.

But just how fragile is their wealth?

Rich List compiler Robert Watts of The Times asks when the bubble might burst.

• What is holding would-be female billionaires back?
• How the pandemic has changed attitudes toward wealth

A culture of fear at the firm that manages Bill Gates' fortune

For 27 years, Bill Gates has entrusted the management of his enormous wealth and the endowment of his giant foundation to a single man: Michael Larson.

Larson has invested the Microsoft co-founder’s money in farmland, hotels, stocks, bonds, even a bowling alley. Thanks in part to Larson and the soaring value of Microsoft’s shares, Gates’ fortune has gone from less than $13.7 billion to about $178.6 billion.

But Larson, 61, also engaged in a pattern of workplace misconduct at Gates’ money-management firm, Cascade Investment, according to 10 former employees as well as others familiar with the firm.

The New York Times investigates.

Can we build it? NZ's dangerous lack of infrastructure

New Zealand has a $20 billion infrastructure deficit in building or upgrading our pipes, roads, ports, broadband, tunnels and bridges. There are 2400 projects in the pipeline. But can we get them done?

Alan Bollard of The Listener reports.

Welcome to the Space Jam, again

Every three hours, every day, for the past 7 1/2 years, an anxious, spirited Twitter bot has transmitted a short message of perseverance and hope into the universe.

“The Space Jam website is still online,” it tweets. Or: “Hooray! Space Jam is still online!”

To date, the bot, @SpaceJamCheck, has assured a changing world more than 20,000 times that the official website of the 1996 live-action/animated sports comedy Space Jam remains a functional web destination. If it surprises you to learn that people care whether or not the promotional website for a mid-’90s children’s movie is still online, congratulations — you’ve just revealed your utter, humiliating ignorance about all matters relating to the mildly famous Space Jam website.

The New York Times with a story about the old Space Jam website — from 1996 to infinity.

• Astronauts on set: Space Station may host wave of TV shows and films

A timeline of what has happened in the year since George Floyd's death

As dusk neared on May 25, 2020, a teenager walking to a corner store in South Minneapolis whipped out her cellphone and recorded a shocking sight: A white police officer kneeling on the neck of a Black man for more than nine agonising minutes.

In the hours that followed, the cellphone video showing George Floyd’s murder would spread across the globe and incite an uprising for racial justice nearly unparalleled in American history.

The New York Times takes a look back at what has transpired in the year since Floyd’s death.

Vaccines versus variants: Will the world ever reach herd immunity?

When the news broke at the end of last year that coronavirus vaccines could be more than 90 per cent effective, it seemed to usher in the prospect of eradicating the disease.

But over the past couple of months, those heady hopes have given way to a more complicated reality. For governments, the appearance of new variants and the persistent hesitancy over vaccines are causing problems for their plans to reopen economies and bring some normality back to life.

The New York Times reports.

• The short shelf life of pandemic national success stories
• New variant posing threat, as global vaccine drive falters
• Opinion: We can end the Covid pandemic in the next year

Roman Protasevich: A Belarus activist who 'refused to live in fear'

Since his teenage years as a rebellious high school student in Belarus and continuing into his 20s while in exile abroad, Roman Protasevich faced so many threats from the country’s security apparatus that “we all sort of got used to them,” a fellow exiled dissident recalled.

So, despite his being branded a terrorist by Belarus late last year — a capital offense — Protasevich was not particularly worried when he set off for Greece from Lithuania.

But that sense of security was shattered on Sunday when they were snatched by Belarus security officials on the tarmac at Minsk National Airport after a MiG-29 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept his commercial flight.

The New York Times looks at what led Roman Protasevich to a life in opposition.

• Opinion: A state-sponsored skyjacking can’t go unanswered
• Who is Roman Protasevich, the captive journalist in Belarus?

A curious golfer, a lawn mower and a thousand hours in lockdown

While others in Britain spent the past year or so navigating coronavirus lockdowns and picking up indoor hobbies, Chris Powell estimated that he had spent roughly 1,000 hours roaming this land that was once his town’s local golf course — a site that closed more than five decades ago and has slowly been melding into the landscape ever since.

Powell became obsessed with his Welsh town’s golf course, long lost to time and the land. So he rebuilt it, to play for a single day.

The New York Times reports.

Witness to horror: What a teacher in a Chinese detention camp saw

In 2018, Sayragul Sauytbay, a Kazakh doctor and teacher, escaped over the border from Xinjiang in China’s far west into neighbouring Kazakhstan without a passport. A few weeks later, she was picked up by the police and put before a court to decide whether she should be deported back to China.

Her subsequent trial, covered by global media, was significant. Sauytbay testified that she had been taken against her will to teach in an internment camp, run by the Chinese state and filled with Uighur and Kazakh inmates.

She testified about beatings, mistreatment and torture, and that inmates had been injected with unknown drugs, possibly to sterilise them.

The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s modern-day concentration camps is her nightmarish account of what happened.

Jeremy Rees of The Listener reviews the grim account of the gulags of our time.

Epic vs Apple: what we learnt from the trial that could change the iPhone

When Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, opened its case against Apple at the start of this month, accusing the iPhone maker of operating an illegal monopoly, the legal analyst Nick Rodelli gave the software developer a one-in-three chance of prevailing. Others put the odds even lower.

By the time the judge retired on Monday to consider her verdict, which could have big consequences for a billion iPhone users and thousands of app developers — not to mention Apple’s profits — the case looked harder to call.

The Financial Times look at five takeaways from the trial.

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