Welcome to the weekend. We're facing some pretty uncertain times as the world deals with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

This weekend will likely look different for most New Zealanders as people are in self-isolation, or just practicing social distancing.

There's an abundance of news and information around about Covid-19, so while we've pulled together some pieces from our premium international syndicators here, we've also included a few articles on other topics to give you a bit of a break if you need.

Social distancing? You might be fighting climate change, too

As the world shifts abruptly into the fight against coronavirus, a question arises: Could social isolation help reduce an individual's production of greenhouse gases and end up having unexpected consequences for climate change?

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John Schwartz of The New York Times looks at four areas we may see changes in greenhouse gas emissions because of the coronavirus.

But will they stick?

Could social isolation help reduce an individual's production of greenhouse gases? Photo / George Wylesol, The New York Times
Could social isolation help reduce an individual's production of greenhouse gases? Photo / George Wylesol, The New York Times

Why Apu from The Simpsons lost his voice

In the three decades that he has been a voice actor on The Simpsons, Hank Azaria has played dozens of Springfield's absurd denizens.

But in recent years, Azaria has become irrevocably associated with one Simpsons character in particular: Apu, the obliging Indian immigrant and proprietor of the town's Kwik-E-Mart convenience store.

Azaria has played the character since his first appearance in 1990 but he and the show have faced increasing condemnation from audience members who feel that Apu is a bigoted caricature.

The veteran voice actor explains why he stepped away from the character.

Hank Azaria says he wants to keep doing The Simpsons, despite stopping playing Apu. Photo / New York Times
Hank Azaria says he wants to keep doing The Simpsons, despite stopping playing Apu. Photo / New York Times

Containing coronavirus: Lessons from Asia

With just 59 confirmed cases and one death as of Sunday, Taiwan has managed to avoid a big outbreak of a disease that has paralysed neighbouring China. Apart from most people wearing masks on public transport, life goes on as usual.

The experience is a stark contrast to 2003, when the country was battling to contain severe acute respiratory syndrome, which had a devastating effect on the country.

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The Financial Times looks at how the mood in Taiwan drastically differs from the sense of panic and confusion in Europe and the US.

Taiwanese army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant over a road during a drill to prevent community cluster infection. Photo / AP
Taiwanese army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant over a road during a drill to prevent community cluster infection. Photo / AP

Fires left these wallabies nothing to eat. Help arrived from above

The helicopter known as the Squirrel is typically used to douse fires and shoot pests. But these days, it has a new mission: scattering carrots and sweet potatoes in New South Wales for threatened wallabies on the brink of starvation.

A long-running drought had already drastically reduced the marsupials' food supply. Then came the bush fires that devastated southeastern Australia in recent months.

Matthew Abboott of The New York Times looks at the helicopters helping to feed the threatened marsupials.

Carrots dropped for brush-tailed rock wallabies last month at the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve in New South Wales. Photo / Matthew Abbott, The New York Times
Carrots dropped for brush-tailed rock wallabies last month at the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve in New South Wales. Photo / Matthew Abbott, The New York Times

Ahead of the pack, how Microsoft told workers to stay home

Microsoft's chief executive, Satya Nadella, was at home when he started seeing news alerts on his phone.

About 10am on Saturday, February 29, local officials said a man in Kirkland, Washington, less than 16km from Microsoft's headquarters, had become the first known person in the United States to die from the coronavirus. Then came news that more than 50 people associated with a long-term care facility nearby were also sick.

Four days later, he and his executive team told tens of thousands of Microsoft employees in the Seattle area that they could work at home. The day after that, they insisted that workers work from home, making the software giant one of the first major employers in the United States to do so.

Karen Weise of The New York Times looks at how Microsoft was among the first to confront the impact.

Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Photo / Michael Hanson, The New York Times
Satya Nadella, the chief executive of Microsoft, at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Photo / Michael Hanson, The New York Times

'Here I can be my own dictator': Kremlin hands out plots of land

When President Vladimir Putin began a program four years ago to hand out plots of land in remote areas of the Russian Far East, the idea was to lure young, hardy settlers to the vast and sparsely populated region.

Instead, at least in this patch of territory near the Chinese border, the Kremlin's program got Sergei Lunin, a self-declared anarchist.

"Here I can be my own dictator," Lunin said, outlining his plans to turn the land, granted to him for free by the Russian state, into a sanctuary from, well, the Russian state.

Andrew Higgins of The New York Times reports.

Sergey Lunin and his wife, Aliona Dobrovolskaya, on the land they received thanks to the Russian Homestead Act. Photo / Davide Monteleone, The New York Times
Sergey Lunin and his wife, Aliona Dobrovolskaya, on the land they received thanks to the Russian Homestead Act. Photo / Davide Monteleone, The New York Times

Wine is for sharing. What does that mean in self-isolation?

The world has changed, and so has the thinking about public gatherings. Parties have been postponed. Restaurants have closed, and we have had to reconsider such commonplace activities as gathering with our friends.

Under orders to socially distance ourselves, isolate and even self-quarantine, communal activities cannot be taken for granted. And what's more communal than drinking wine?

If we are going to take the loving step of cooking for ourselves, we should absolutely make the experience even better by enjoying a glass or two of wine as well.

Eric Asimov of The New York Times looks at how self-imposed isolation does not require you to forgo good food or good wine

If social distancing means you are actually by yourself, is it all right to open that bottle? Photo / Dominic Bugatto, The New York Times
If social distancing means you are actually by yourself, is it all right to open that bottle? Photo / Dominic Bugatto, The New York Times

Teenagers are declaring 'virginity rocks'

Some are wearing them in jest. Others sport them sincerely.

But whatever their motivation, teenagers have been going wild for shirts that bear a chaste declaration: "Virginity Rocks."

The trend has puzzled some school administrators, who have banned the shirts only to face criticism, and other adults, who have wondered if youth abstinence is on the rise.

Sapna Maheshwari of The New York Times look at how a clothing item inspired by a YouTube star has stumped adults.

Danny Duncan, who popularised
Danny Duncan, who popularised "Virginity Rocks" shirts on YouTube, in West Hollywood. Photo / Samuel Trotter, The New York Times

The newsroom at the centre of a pandemic

It was supposed to be a quiet Saturday.

Sydney Brownstone was in the newsroom at The Seattle Times, monitoring the police scanner for any activity and planning to spend the day, February 29, working on an upcoming article.

Then came an email saying someone had died at the Life Care Centre of Kirkland, an assisted-living facility about 20 minutes to the northeast. More people were sick. It was the coronavirus.

Soon after the news broke the staff realised that this wasn't just a one-off story. This was an outbreak, and they were at the epicentre.

The journalists at The Seattle Times have been aggressively covering the coronavirus as it affects their neighbours and friends.

Evan Bush, a reporter, said the newsroom felt a
Evan Bush, a reporter, said the newsroom felt a "sense of duty" when reporting on the coronavirus. Photo / Grant Hindsley, The New York Times

The surgical face mask becomes a symbol of our times

If there is a symbol of the current confusion and fear, the misinformation and anxiety, generated by the spread of the new coronavirus, it is the surgical face mask. When history looks back on the pandemic of 2020, those white or baby blue rectangles that hide the mouth and nose, turning everyone into a muzzled pelican, will be what we see.

The masks began appearing almost immediately after the infection was identified, first in Asia, where masks were already common, and then in Europe.

How did what is essentially some gauze held on by straps take on so much meaning?

Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times reports.

A 16-year-old Greek graffiti artist, spray-paints a design, a woman wearing a face mask referring to protection against coronavirus, on the roof of his apartment block in Athens. Photo / AP
A 16-year-old Greek graffiti artist, spray-paints a design, a woman wearing a face mask referring to protection against coronavirus, on the roof of his apartment block in Athens. Photo / AP

How to stop worrying and love a falling stock market

When the stock market falls as far and as fast as it has in the last three weeks, it is perfectly natural to be terrified.

It requires a leap of faith just to place hard-won savings in such an abstract, ephemeral thing as a share of stock or an exchange-traded fund. Instead of spending on something concrete that can be enjoyed immediately, investing means putting money into what is, ultimately, a notation in a brokerage account displayed on a computer screen.

And now, in just a handful of days, a meaningful chunk of it has been wiped out. If your primal brain sees that and wants no part of the stock market anymore, it is completely understandable.

Neil Irwin of The New York Times looks at how big losses bring certain benefits, too.

It's natural to be terrified when stocks fall. Photo / 123RF
It's natural to be terrified when stocks fall. Photo / 123RF