Welcome to the weekend. For those of you lucky enough to live in the Auckland region that means an extra-long one.

The country is in for some beautiful summer days this weekend so find a nice spot in the shade and check out some of the best pieces of content from our international syndicators.

The secretive company that might end privacy as we know it

Until recently, Hoan Ton-That's greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump's distinctive yellow hair on their own photos.

Then Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

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Kashmir Hill of The New York Times looks at how this little-known start-up "might lead to a dystopian future."

Hoan Ton-That showing the results of a search for a photo of himself. Photo / Amr Alfiky, The New York Times
Hoan Ton-That showing the results of a search for a photo of himself. Photo / Amr Alfiky, The New York Times

The truth behind the gut health craze

We are, it appears, in the middle of a faecal fixation, with people downloading bowel movement journals and even packing off their own poo specimens for personalised readings. Plus, there has been an, um, explosion in the gut-health market, with millions supplementing their diets with expensive probiotics and fashionable ferments such as kombucha, kefir, kvass and skyr.

It's the latest wellness buzz, but how strong is the science behind gut health?

Fleur Britten of The Times reports on the links between lifestyle and tummy trouble — while two writers test the advice that goes far beyond food.

The wellness world has gone potty for gut health. Photo / 123RF
The wellness world has gone potty for gut health. Photo / 123RF

Impeachment schedule explained: Why the trial could last weeks

The impeachment trial of Donald Trump could be over in two weeks, or it could stretch on much longer, depending on how much time is used by each side and how much additional evidence — if any — senators vote to review.

Michael D. Shear of The New York Times looks at what to expect over the coming days or weeks.

The US flag flies above the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Photo / T.J. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times
The US flag flies above the Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Photo / T.J. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times

A luxury dish is banned, and a rural county reels

Last October, when the New York City Council passed a ban on foie gras as inhumane, Mayor Bill de Blasio called foie gras "a luxury item that the vast majority of us would never be able to afford."

But two hours northwest of the city, in one of New York's poorest counties, foie gras plays a much different role. There, it is not a luxury splurge but a domino in a fragile local economy. Almost all of the foie gras produced in the United States comes from two duck farms in Sullivan County, where about 400 workers, mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, rely on it for their livelihood.

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John Leland of The New York Times looks at how hundreds of low-wage immigrant labourers are bracing for the impact of the ban.

Marcus Henley, vice president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Photo / Desiree Rios, The New York Times
Marcus Henley, vice president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Photo / Desiree Rios, The New York Times

These Syrian women rarely left the house. Then the men disappeared

The women of eastern Aleppo were rarely visible before the war, but now they shape the bitter peace. In the poor, conservative districts of Syria's ancient commercial capital, many women seldom used to leave the house, and only with their husbands if they did; the men not only won the bread, but also went out to buy it.

Then came the civil war.

Eight years and counting of bloodshed has ruptured Syria beyond recognition.

Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad of The New York Times look at how moving forward is now up to the women left behind.

Hayat Kashkash, left, at Manoukian's garment workshop. Her husband had once forbidden her to work. Photo / Meridith Kohut, The New York Times
Hayat Kashkash, left, at Manoukian's garment workshop. Her husband had once forbidden her to work. Photo / Meridith Kohut, The New York Times

Saudi crown prince implicated in hacking of Amazon boss' phone

Forensic experts hired by Jeff Bezos have concluded with "medium to high confidence" that a WhatsApp account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in a 2018 hack of the Amazon founder's phone.

The Financial Times viewed the report on the hack.

The relationship between Jeff Bezos (left) and Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) soured after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (centre). Photos / AP and Getty Images
The relationship between Jeff Bezos (left) and Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) soured after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (centre). Photos / AP and Getty Images

Why these Australia fires are like nothing we've seen before

In late October, lightning struck brittle earth on Gospers Mountain in New South Wales. The remains of trees bone dry from consecutive winters with little to no rain were ignited, and the fire quickly spread.

Three months later, it is still burning.

More than 16 million acres have gone up in flames. And it has happened in populated areas, unlike most of the world's other blazes of this scale.

Jamie Tarabay of The New York Times reports.

A man tried to protect his property in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, on New Year's Eve. Photo / Matthew Abbott, The New York Times
A man tried to protect his property in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, on New Year's Eve. Photo / Matthew Abbott, The New York Times

Yappy valley: Inside the lavish world of Silicon Valley dogs

San Francisco is ground zero of the future, home of tech giants from Airbnb and Pinterest to Uber. It is also a place where canines outnumber children.

The city's canines are pampered to within an inch of their lives by techies who are, generally, young, have money to burn and are having kids later — if at all.

Danny Fortson of The Times takes a look at how wealthy techies are spoiling their pets rotten and turning workplaces into doggie havens.

Wealthy techies in San Francisco are spending thousands of dollars spoiling their pets. Photo / 123RF
Wealthy techies in San Francisco are spending thousands of dollars spoiling their pets. Photo / 123RF

Caneel Bay: Why a Caribbean paradise remains in ruins

Long considered the crown jewel of St. John, a small emerald island found among the US Virgin Islands and cut with curved bays and set against the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, more than 15,000 people annually visited Caneel Bay.

Two weeks in September 2017 changed that. Hurricanes Irma and Maria — both Category 5 storms — flogged St. John, ripping apart structures and flooding what remained.

Even as other accommodations in the region have reopened, Caneel Bay remains in tatters.

Emily Palmer of the New York Times investigates how the storms' lingering aftermath laid bare the resort's long festering problem.

Caneel Bay, established by a member of the Rockefeller family, was one of the first eco-resorts in the United States. Photo / Anne Bequette, The New York Times
Caneel Bay, established by a member of the Rockefeller family, was one of the first eco-resorts in the United States. Photo / Anne Bequette, The New York Times

This is the guy who's taking away the likes

On a recent afternoon, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, assembled members of his staff to discuss the secret details of a critical project: the elimination of public "likes."

Likes are the social media currency undergirding an entire influencer economy, inspiring a million Kardashian wannabes and giving many of us regular people daily endorphin hits. But lately, Mosseri has been concerned about the unanticipated consequences of Instagram as approval arbiter.

Amy Chozick of The New York Times looks at how Instagram is learning from the mistakes of its parent company Facebook.

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, at the social media platform's offices in Manhattan. Photo / Ricky Rhodes, The New York Times
Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, at the social media platform's offices in Manhattan. Photo / Ricky Rhodes, The New York Times

How Boeing's responsibility in a deadly crash 'got buried'

After a Boeing 737 crashed near Amsterdam more than a decade ago, Dutch investigators focused blame on the pilots for failing to react properly when an automated system malfunctioned and caused the plane to plummet into a field, killing nine people.

The crash, in February 2009, involved a predecessor to Boeing's 737 Max, the plane that was grounded last year after accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people and hurled the company into the worst crisis in its history.

A review by The New York Times of evidence from the 2009 accident reveals striking parallels with the recent crashes — and resistance by the team of Americans to a full airing of findings that later proved relevant to the Max.

Lessons from the 2009 accident would have newfound relevance in tragedies years later. Photo / AP
Lessons from the 2009 accident would have newfound relevance in tragedies years later. Photo / AP