Welcome to the weekend. After the disappointment of cancelled Rugby World Cup games last weekend, Kiwis eagerly await Saturday night's quarter-final clash against Ireland.

To save you anxiously pacing the room until then, here's a selection of content from our premium international syndicators to keep you occupied.

CIA torture exposed: 'It will never be out of my head'

For years, Daniel J Jones worked in a windowless room in Virginia, poring over documents detailing acts that can only be described as torture.

Over and over again, he read about wall-slams and beatings, people waterboarded until their eyes rolled back and the liquid bubbled from their nose. Some were kept awake for days in bright rooms amid deafening noises, or had power drills placed against temples, or were forcibly rehydrated, rectally, or were nailed into coffin-sized boxes packed with crawling insects and left to scream.

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All of this, Jones read, noted, catalogued, weekends and weekdays alike, late into the night. And then, when he'd finally get home at one or two in the morning, he'd crawl into bed next to his sleeping, neglected girlfriend and often unwind by reading Game of Thrones.

Hugo Rifkind of The Times hears his incredible story.

• Also read: My secret life as a CIA agent in the war on terror

An Iraqi detainee in a 'humane restraint chair' in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq, October 2005. Photo / Getty Images
An Iraqi detainee in a 'humane restraint chair' in Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq, October 2005. Photo / Getty Images

Taking a powerful psychedelic when you're a senior citizen

At 74, venture capitalist George Sarlo might not have seemed an obvious candidate for an ayahuasca experience. Sarlo, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1956, has had great professional success as the co-founder of Walden Venture Capital. He lives in an upscale San Francisco neighbourhood, in a large house with an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

And yet something was always lacking. Sarlo's father had disappeared from their Budapest home in 1942. He had been drafted in a forced labour battalion, an experience he did not survive. At age 4, George had told himself that it was because he was "a bad boy" that his father had left that day, early in the morning, without saying goodbye. He believes that he never recovered from that early loss.

Casey Schwartz of the New York Times reports.

How to cope with turning 50

I turn 50 next week. I feel overwhelmed by luck at having made it, when several peers haven't. But how to make sense of reaching the fifth floor?

Perhaps it's the mix of responsibility and physical decline (coupled with a detachment from one's own alien, ageing body) that makes this a generally unhappy age.

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Simon Kuper of the Financial Times contemplates life at 50.

"I used to joke that 50 was half-time, but now I realise we're almost done." Photo / 123RF

Peter Jackson has a lot of power in NZ. Some say too much

Peter Jackson, the film director behind the Lord of the Rings series, is a towering figure in New Zealand, admired as both a down-to-earth titan of the box office and a one-man income generator for the country's moviemaking and tourism industries.

But Jackson now finds himself at the centre of a debate over how he has exerted that influence. This week, he helped catapult to victory a mayoral candidate who shared his opposition to a proposed development project near his studios, an unheard-of local political intervention in a country where money, fame and power are most often wielded lightly.

The New York Times reports.

Peter Jackson helped catapult Andy Foster to victory as Wellington Mayor. Photo / AP
Peter Jackson helped catapult Andy Foster to victory as Wellington Mayor. Photo / AP

A British actor left Hollywood to fight Isis - now he's marooned in Belize

It sounded like death made airborne in those brutal days in Raqqa.

Bullets screamed across the ruined streets in swarms thicker than flies on roadkill. Machine guns rattled.

For days in that sweltering October of 2017, Michael Enright crouched in an apartment building turned battle station. Enright was the most unlikely of soldiers, pinned down there alongside his Kurdish and expat militia brothers.

Less than two years earlier, Enright - a Hollywood actor by way of Britain - had been tooling around Los Angeles in an aging black Porsche 911 and hobnobbing with movie stars at awards ceremony after-parties.

The Washington Post looks at how a bleeding heart idealist with a Kalishnikov and a respectable IMDb page got himself exiled from America.

Actor Michael Enright, who vowed he was willing to die when he joined the Kurdish militia to fight Isis. Photo / Jeffery Salter, Washington Post
Actor Michael Enright, who vowed he was willing to die when he joined the Kurdish militia to fight Isis. Photo / Jeffery Salter, Washington Post

Scheming spires: The incredible scandal at Oxford University

In December 2017 Martyn Percy emailed one of the people who set his salary. As dean of the Oxford college of Christ Church, Percy was already among the best paid clerics in the Church of England — earning more than the Archbishop of Canterbury.

But he was unhappy. A priest since his late twenties, the 55-year-old was not rich by the standards of college heads. At Christ Church, with its huge quadrangles and £500m endowment, he was surrounded by wealth. He felt overworked. Perhaps, he told the college's salaries board, he should "adjust [his] availability" — and skip a fundraising tour of the US?

From such exchanges has arisen one of the most embarrassing and expensive debacles in the university's recent history.

The Financial Times looks at how an acrimonious management dispute has shaken the institution's grandest college.

Christ Church College in Oxford has been shaken by a management dispute. Photo / 123RF
Christ Church College in Oxford has been shaken by a management dispute. Photo / 123RF

Inside a brazen scheme to woo China: Gifts, golf and a $6,754 wine

It was a brazen campaign to win business in China by charming and enriching the country's political elite.

The bank gave a Chinese president a crystal tiger and a Bang & Olufsen sound system, together worth $28,00. A premier received a $13,800 crystal horse, his Chinese zodiac animal, and his son got $15,800 in golf outings and a trip to Las Vegas. A top state banking official, a son of one of China's founding fathers, accepted a $6,754 bottle of French wine — Château Lafite Rothschild, vintage 1945, the year he was born.

This was all part of Deutsche Bank's strategy to become a major player in China, beginning nearly two decades ago when it had virtually no presence there. And it worked.

The New York Times investigates how Deutsche Bank's hiring practices curried favour with China's elite.

The towering International Commerce Center houses Deutsche Bank's offices in Hong Kong. Photo / Antony Kawn, The New York Times
The towering International Commerce Center houses Deutsche Bank's offices in Hong Kong. Photo / Antony Kawn, The New York Times

Would you pay $125,000 for this luxury flight?

The Airlander 10 promises "a flying five-star hotel", with polar bears and whales lingering below.

The round-trip from Svalbard to the North Pole on the world's largest aircraft, a blimp called the Airlander 10, includes cocktails, dinner and breakfast, lunch in the snow, and another dinner and cocktail on board, and takes 38 hours.

The cost? A mere $15,000.

The Financial Times looks at how this might herald a new era for luxury aviation.

The Airlander takes you close enough to see whales in the water below. Photo / Hybrid Air Vehicles Facebook
The Airlander takes you close enough to see whales in the water below. Photo / Hybrid Air Vehicles Facebook

Impeachment crisis shines a spotlight on Trump's state of mind

He was hectoring and imperious. He was domineering and defiant. And he was audacious and cavalier.

In the nearly three weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened an impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump has struck a posture of raw aggression. His visceral defences of himself - at the most vulnerable point of his presidency - have shined a spotlight on Trump's state of mind.

Like an aging rock star, the president is now reprising many of the greatest hits from his hellion days. He has bullied and projected - at times levelling against others the very charges he faces - while simultaneously depicting himself as a victim.

The Washington Post looks at how Staring down impeachment, Trump has seemed to play the role of the nation's Shakespearean monarch.

• Also read: The Clinton legacy: Impeachment hurts the President

James Comey would like to help end Trump's presidency

President Trump stops to talk to reporters as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn at the White House. Photo / Jabin Botsford, Washington Post
President Trump stops to talk to reporters as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn at the White House. Photo / Jabin Botsford, Washington Post

48 hours in the strange and beautiful world of TikTok

In 2019, we take our entertainment in microdoses. A complete story may be unspooled in a fleeting video snippet, a tweet, a GIF.

The social media app TikTok has built an entire world on that premise, amassing a vast global collection of 15-second clips that are changing the way we sing, dance, pose, joke, dress, collaborate and cook.

Five critics from the New York Times take a look at what they see when they go down the TikTok rabbit hole.

Young boys make videos for TikTok in a park in New Delhi, India. Photo / Getty Images
Young boys make videos for TikTok in a park in New Delhi, India. Photo / Getty Images

How to prevent robots cooking the cat

It is all too easy to imagine scenarios in which increasingly powerful autonomous computer systems cause terrible real-world damage, either through thoughtless misuse or deliberate abuse.

Suppose, for example, in the not-too-distant future that a care robot is looking after your children. You are running late and ask the robot to prepare a meal. The robot opens the fridge, finds no food, calculates the nutritional value of your cat and serves up a feline fricassee.

The Financial Times asks how can we ensure that computers do what we want them to do when they are increasingly doing it for themselves?