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.

Matthew McConaughey on his past, his future and that naked arrest

He’s the Oscar winner who lived in a trailer park, turned down roles for years and refused to play by Tinseltown’s rules. Now he’s gone rogue again – the actor has written a brilliant memoir that lays bare everything from his eccentric family to his run-in with the law.

Ben Hoyle of The Times talks to McConaughey about Hollywood, the Academy Awards and his naked arrest.

Inside story: What went wrong in Wuhan and could the world have been spared?

This week the Financial Times launched a major series, Coronavirus: could the world have been spared?, investigating the global response to the crisis and whether the disaster could have been averted.

They spoke to dozens of medical professionals, government officials and ordinary citizens in Wuhan to find out what really happened in the first weeks of the outbreak.

During the investigation, some of the people approached were threatened by police, who said that the FT had come to the city with “malicious intent”. Police harassment of virus victims, their relatives and anyone hoping to speak to them is continuing, raising doubts about whether Xi Jinping’s administration is really willing to facilitate the impartial investigation into the pandemic that it has promised the world.

Read the first part of the Financial Times series.

• Part 2: How coronavirus exposed Europe’s weaknesses
• Part 3: How New York’s missteps let Covid-19 overwhelm the US

A Biden landslide? Some Democrats can't help but whisper

President Donald Trump held a rally in Georgia on Friday, 18 days before the November general election. It wasn’t a good sign for him.

That Trump is still campaigning in what should be a safely Republican state is evidence to many Democrats that Joe Biden’s polling lead in the presidential race is solid and durable.

For some Democrats, Trump’s attention to red states is also a sign of something else — something few in the party want to discuss out loud, given their scars from Trump’s surprise victory in 2016.

But as The New York Times reports, some are allowing themselves to contemplate a Biden victory big enough to reorder the nation’s politics.

• Why Donald Trump supporters loved him
• Could Amy Coney Barrett swing voters back to Trump?
• Why these voters rejected Clinton but are backing Biden

So long, Jack Reacher. Why Lee Child is handing over the series

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, about a US military police veteran turned itinerant crime fighter, is ranked among the world’s most valuable publishing franchises. Every 13 seconds someone buys one of his books in one of 101 countries. In total, an estimated 100 million copies have been sold.

And now, the age of 65, the thriller writer is hanging up his pen as his younger brother takes over the bestselling series.

Nick Rufford of The Times tracks down the British-born author in the hills of Wyoming to ask why.

Google antitrust fight thrusts low-key CEO into the line of fire

When Sundar Pichai succeeded Larry Page as the head of Google’s parent company in December, he was handed a bag of problems: Shareholders had sued the company, Alphabet, over big financial packages handed to executives accused of misconduct. An admired office culture was fraying. Most of all, antitrust regulators were circling.

As The New York Times reports, Pichai has been CEO for less than a year and already faces the internet giant’s biggest threat in its 22 years.

• It’s Google’s world. We just live in it

'White supremacy' once meant the KKK. Now it refers to much more

In a time of plague and protest, two words — “white supremacy” — have poured into the rhetorical bloodstream with force and power. With President Donald Trump’s overt use of racist rhetoric, a spate of police killings of Black people and the rise of far-right extremist groups, many see the phrase as a more accurate way to describe today’s racial realities, with older descriptions like “bigotry” or “prejudice” considered too tame for such a raw moment.

The New York Times reports.

The most influential 'Kiwi' politician you've never heard of

Born in Auckland on August 15, 1930, Leo T McCarthy is the New Zealand-born politician who has gone the furthest in American politics, despite having received little recognition for his Kiwi roots and eventual influence back home.

The Auckland-born son of a pub owner, McCarthy became a progressive icon in Californian politics and later mentored Nancy Pelosi.

Ben Stanley from New Zealand Listener takes a look at the life of Leo T McCarthy.

Odd noises and strange illnesses: Concerns of foreign attacks on US diplomats

The strange sound came at night: a crack like a marble striking the floor of the apartment above them.

Mark Lenzi and his wife had lightheadedness, sleep issues and headaches, and their children were waking up with bloody noses — symptoms they thought might be from the smog in Guangzhou, China, where Lenzi worked for the State Department. But air pollution could not explain his sudden memory loss, including forgetting names of work tools.

What began as strange sounds and symptoms among more than a dozen US officials and their family members in China in 2018 has turned into a diplomatic mystery spanning multiple countries and involving speculation about secret high-tech weapons and foreign attacks.

As The New York Times reports, American officials in China, Cuba and Russia say US agencies are concealing the true extent of the episodes, leaving colleagues vulnerable to hostile actions abroad.

Threat of double-dip recession rises in Europe

Europe’s economy is sliding towards a double-dip recession, with economists warning that rising coronavirus infections and fresh government restrictions on people’s movement are likely to cut short the region’s recent recovery.

Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands have all announced measures in the past week to contain the second wave of Covid-19 infections, with more expected in the coming days.

The Financial Times reports.

•Analysis: Restructuring after Covid will matter more than recovery
• With Covid-19 under control, China’s economy surges ahead
• Pandemic will hit the pension prospects of billions, warns study

Trump records shed new light on Chinese business pursuits

President Donald Trump and his allies have tried to paint the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, as soft on China, in part by pointing to his son’s business dealings there.

Senate Republicans produced a report asserting, among other things, that Biden’s son Hunter “opened a bank account” with a Chinese businessman.

But Trump’s own business history is filled with overseas financial deals, and some have involved the Chinese state.

The New York Times investigation into Trump’s taxes reveal details about his own activities in China, including a previously unknown bank account.

Heavenly feature: An Angel at My Table, 30 years on

It’s been thirty years since An Angel at My Table brought Janet Frame’s autobiographies to the cinema.

Looking back now, Jane Campion has complicated feelings about the trilogy she initiated in her late twenties and made in her early thirties.

In the New Zealand Listener Russell Baillie reveals the creation of the Kiwi classic.

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