Welcome to the weekend, after a big week of news focusing on petrol prices and warnings over 4am doorknocks.

Now though it's time to take a breath, put your feet up and catch up on some of the great journalism we've had on offer this week from our premium international syndicators.

Their mothers chose donor sperm. The doctors used their own

Growing up in Texas, Eve Wiley learned at age 16 that she had been conceived through artificial insemination with donor sperm.

Her mother, Margo Williams, had sought help from Dr Kim McMorries, telling him that her husband was infertile. She asked the doctor to locate a sperm donor. He told Williams that he had found one through a sperm bank in California. Williams gave birth to a daughter, Eve.

Advertisement

In 2017 Wiley, now 32, took a consumer DNA test. The results? Her biological father was not a sperm donor in California, as she had been told — the doctor, McMorries, was. The news left her reeling.

The New York Times looks at how children born through artificial insemination have learned from DNA tests that their biological fathers were he doctors who performed the procedure.

Eve Wiley with a photo of her birth. Photo / Allison V. Smith, The New York Times
Eve Wiley with a photo of her birth. Photo / Allison V. Smith, The New York Times

'Ma, I've been sold': Brides trafficked to China

China's "one child" policy has been praised by its leaders for preventing the country's population from exploding into a Malthusian nightmare. But over 30 years, China was robbed of millions of girls as families used gender-based abortions and other methods to ensure their only child was a boy.

These boys are now men, called bare branches because a shortage of wives could mean death to their family trees.

To cope, Chinese men have begun importing wives from nearby countries, sometimes by force. The New York Times reports.

Nyo, 17, back home in Myanmar, after being trafficked by brokers who sold her and her friend to men across the border in China. Photo / Minzayar Oo, The New York Times
Nyo, 17, back home in Myanmar, after being trafficked by brokers who sold her and her friend to men across the border in China. Photo / Minzayar Oo, The New York Times

How Charles Koch turned family business into one of America's richest?

In an unfashionable corner of the American heartland sits a self-effacing business leader who can boast that his company's book value has grown 26 times faster than the S&P 500 in the more than five decades since he took control.

Guided by fundamentals rather than fashion, he has become one of the world's wealthiest people by sticking to unglamorous businesses that provide the essentials of everyday life.
The Financial Times looks the rise and development of Koch Industries.

Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries. Photo / AP
Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries. Photo / AP

It's not always excellent to be Jamie Oliver

That adorable mop of hair Jamie Oliver had 20 years ago when he slid down a banister and splashed into popular food culture as the Naked Chef is cropped now. At 44, Oliver comes off more like a pleasant, world-weary high school teacher than the arrogant jokey bloke everyone wanted to hang around with back when he blew up food TV.

Advertisement

In May, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group went into administration. The company, according to some accounts, owed creditors nearly $157 million. Oliver said he tried his hardest to keep the business alive. But after closing some restaurants, injecting millions of his own money and searching for a new investor, he gave up.
The New York Times looks at how 20 years after he vaulted to fame, the brash British chef, TV star and cookbook author has lost his restaurant empire — but not his taste for hard work.

Jamie Oliver making ravioli at his headquarters in North London. Photo / John Kernick, The New York Times
Jamie Oliver making ravioli at his headquarters in North London. Photo / John Kernick, The New York Times

Many are abandoning Facebook. These people have the opposite problem

For a decade, Christopher Reeves, an Uber driver in Seattle, used Facebook for everything. But one day in June, as he was uploading photos he found himself abruptly logged out.

When Reeves tried to sign back in, the Facebook page said that his account had been disabled. He tried everything and eventually gave up and sought out a page in Facebook's help centre for people who think their accounts have been disabled by mistake.

Days passed and still he heard nothing.

The New York Times looks at what you do when you're stuck in Facebook's light-blue purgatory.

Kicked off of Facebook, some users are trying - really, really hard - to find a human employee to let them back on. Photo / Sarah Mazzetti, The New York Times
Kicked off of Facebook, some users are trying - really, really hard - to find a human employee to let them back on. Photo / Sarah Mazzetti, The New York Times

What 'victory' looks like: A journey through shattered Syria

"Picking our way around the ruins of the Damascus suburb of Douma, it took a little while to realise what was missing.

"There were women carrying groceries, old men droning by on motorbikes and skinny children heaving jugs of water home.

"But there were few young men."

On an eight-day visit, New York Times journalists given rare access to Syria find ruin, grief and generosity.

Residential buildings destroyed during the war by government forces. Without government reconstruction funds, rebuilding depends on individuals. Photo / Meridith Kohut, The New York Times
Residential buildings destroyed during the war by government forces. Without government reconstruction funds, rebuilding depends on individuals. Photo / Meridith Kohut, The New York Times

A year later, the fight over Aretha Franklin's estate deepens

At Aretha Franklin's funeral in Detroit a year ago, members of her family, dressed in crisp black and white, filled an aisle in the Greater Grace Temple as they walked together toward her coffin — a solemn image of unity after the death of their matriarch.

But that harmony seems all lost, as some of Franklin's closest kin — including her four sons — jockey for control of her estate and trade barbs in court over matters as serious as each other's competence and as minor as who gets to drive Franklin's Mercedes-Benz.

The New York Times reports on the fresh debate - whether any of the handwritten documents found in her house qualify as valid wills.

Aretha Franklin in 2010. When the singer died a year ago, her family believed she had no will. Photo / AP
Aretha Franklin in 2010. When the singer died a year ago, her family believed she had no will. Photo / AP

Russian break dancer dreams of Olympic gold

Last year Sergey Chernyshev, a break dancer known as Bumblebee, won the gold medal for boys at the first Youth Olympic break-dancing event, solidifying his standing as one of the more promising young breakers in the world.

When it was announced this year that break-dancing would be added to the program for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris — a development that produced predictable snark and puzzlement in some quarters — Bumblebee suddenly had a new life goal.

The New York Times looks at how the inclusion on unconventional sports in future Olympics is creating a new breed of aspiring medalist.

Sergey Chernyshev trains at Infinity Dance Studio in Voronezh, Russia. Photo / Emile Ducke, The New York Times
Sergey Chernyshev trains at Infinity Dance Studio in Voronezh, Russia. Photo / Emile Ducke, The New York Times

What to fear in coming months: How a recession could happen

These three things are all true: The United States almost certainly isn't in a recession right now. It may well avoid one for the foreseeable future. But the chances that the nation will fall into recession have increased sharply in the last two weeks.

That is the unmistakable message that global investors in the bond market are sending.

So if there's going to be a recession in 2020 — if the pessimistic signals in the financial markets prove correct — how would it happen?
The New York Times investigates.

Specialist Mario Picone works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo / AP
Specialist Mario Picone works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo / AP

The rise of ultra mums: Meet the women who run ultramarathons while breastfeeding

Imagine yourself nine months pregnant. Or perhaps a few weeks post-birth. Now imagine running 16km, up a mountain. No, nor us!

But a fitness phenomenon is afoot, and a new breed of women are pushing the limits of what was previously thought possible during pregnancy and post-birth, and in their wake attitudes towards exercise for expectant mothers are shifting.

The Times meet an inspiring tribe of mothers who are changing the perception of what women are capable of postpartum - by following their passion for extreme sports.

Emelie Forsberg had her first child in March and resumed training two weeks later after getting the nod from her doctor. Photo / Emelie Forsberg Instagram
Emelie Forsberg had her first child in March and resumed training two weeks later after getting the nod from her doctor. Photo / Emelie Forsberg Instagram

Why Hollywood left Antonio Banderas 'tired and angry'

It's no exaggeration to say that Antonio Banderas has spent 37 years preparing for his latest role. In 'Pain and Glory' the Spanish actor plays Salvador Mallo, a thinly veiled facsimile of his close friend and longtime collaborator, director Pedro Almodóvar. It's a remarkably honest and at times unflattering self-portrait by Almodóvar, led by arguably the best performance of Banderas's career.

But in some ways Banderas' preparation went deeper still — albeit un­wittingly. The saturnine character of Salva is determined to a large degree by the litany of ailments from which he suffers, and Banderas, though in enviable shape for a man of 59, is himself now no stranger to health scares, having suffered a heart attack in 2017.

The actor opened up to the Financial Times about his relationship with the director, their new collaboration — and how his heart attack changed him.

Actor Antonio Banderas walks onstage to receive the best actor Palme d'Or award during the awards ceremony at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo / AP
Actor Antonio Banderas walks onstage to receive the best actor Palme d'Or award during the awards ceremony at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo / AP