Weekend reads: 11 of the best premium syndicator pieces

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.

Will coronavirus break the UK?

When the virus struck, it presented a unique challenge: a UK-wide crisis with no respect for borders but in an area where policy was not controlled from the centre. Over a series of interviews with key players, the Financial Times has pieced together the tensions and disputes that have left many in Westminster feeling that new institutions and methods are now needed if the union is to hold.

Could Covid-19 push the four nations even further apart?.

• How Africa fought the pandemic – and what coronavirus has taught the world

How Trump manoeuvred his way out of trouble in Chicago

The financial crisis was in full swing when Donald Trump travelled to Chicago in late September 2008 to mark the near-completion of his 92-floor skyscraper.

He and his family hoped the Trump International Hotel & Tower would cement their company’s reputation as one of the world’s marquee developers of luxury real estate.

Instead, the skyscraper became another disappointment in a portfolio filled with them.

Yet for Trump and his company, the Chicago experience also turned out to be something else: the latest example of his ability to strong-arm major financial institutions and exploit the tax code to cushion the blow of his repeated business failures.

The president’s federal income tax records, obtained by The New York Times, show how Trump defaulted on his loans, sued his bank, got much of the debt forgiven — and largely avoided paying taxes on it.

• Trump had one last story to sell. The Wall Street Journal wouldn’t buy it
• Trump’s philanthropy: Tax write-offs and claims don’t always add up

Why are an awful lot of people bingeing an awful lot of terrible TV?

Lockdown and the purgatory that followed have done strange things to us all. Some of us turned to gardening, but an awful lot of people have watched an awful lot of bad television.

They provide some vital comfort TV — but we need more than that from them.

The Times looks at why television audiences have lost the plot this year.

All at sea: The danger of NZ's warming oceans

The ocean has buffered us from the worst of climate change by soaking up most of the heat and carbon dioxide we are generating. But new studies show this process is rebounding on us – with extreme consequences.

Veronika Meduna of the Listener looks at the areas of New Zealand expected to be most affected by rising sea levels.

How Trump and Bolsonaro broke Latin America's Covid-19 defences

The coronavirus was gathering lethal speed when President Donald Trump met his Brazilian counterpart, Jair Bolsonaro, on March 7 for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Twenty-two people in Bolsonaro’s delegation tested positive for the virus after returning to Brazil.

The Mar-a-Lago dinner, which would become infamous for spreading infection, cemented a partnership between Trump and Bolsonaro rooted in a shared disregard for the virus. But even before the dinner, the two presidents had waged an ideological campaign that would undermine Latin America’s ability to respond to Covid-19.

As The New York Times reports, the two presidents drove out 10,000 Cuban doctors and nurses, they defunded the region’s leading health agency and they wrongly pushed hydroxychloroquine as a cure.

• US hospitals reeling under 45 per cent spike in Covid-19 patients
• ‘A colossal failure of leadership’: America and Covid
• Classrooms without walls, and hopefully Covid

The evolution of the It-bag: From the Hermès Birkin to Telfar

Alongside tracksuit bottoms and facemasks, sales of luxury handbags soared during lockdown — notably, Gucci and Saint Laurent spiked as women diverted their social life savings into a leather consolation prize. Put simply, we are a generation of bag ladies.

The Times looks at our love affair with the ultimate accessory.

Biden's limited campaign schedule: Wise tactic or misguided gamble?

When the history of the Biden campaign is written, the measured pace he maintained at the end of the race may be remembered as evidence that he wisely tuned out conventional wisdom in an extraordinary year.

In victory, supporters will see him as having offered voters a steady alternative to the tumult of the Trump era.

But as The New York Times reports, if he loses this measured pace may be scrutinised.

• Obama’s new gig: Gleefully needling Trump
• Trump’s army of angry white men

Now and Then at 25: Girlhood finally taken seriously

When Now and Then was released in 1995, it had the makings of a hit: an A-list cast, a coming-of-age narrative about an unbreakable sisterhood, a nostalgic filter and an underlying mystery. At the time, it was sidelined, panned by critics and largely forgotten. That hasn’t stopped it from gaining a cult following in the 25 years since, becoming a touchstone for girls yearning to be seen.

The New York Times looks back at the 90s classic.

Roots of war: When Armenia talked tough, Azerbaijan took action

For years, the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia had agreed to postpone discussion about the status of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, to avoid inflaming passions. But that changed suddenly this spring, when Armenia’s populist prime minister declared the area indisputably Armenian.

The two countries returned to all-out war a month ago, with Azerbaijan determined to retake the roughly 13 per cent of its land that Armenia seized 26 years ago, displacing 800,000 Azerbaijanis in the process.

The New York Times looks at the history behind the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

It started with a tweet: The complicated erasure of Mesut Özil

A year ago, he was one of the Premier League’s highest-paid players. Now, after angering China and refusing a pay cut, he has simply vanished.

The New York Times looks at what happened to Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil.

They scream! We scream! Meet the people paid to wail

What’s more fundamental to scary movies than the bone-chilling shriek? But delivering a terrifying wail isn’t easy. It’s an entire art with a history and a world of its own.

The New York Times meets some of the people who are paid to scream.

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