Welcome to the weekend.

The world watched in shock this week as footage of the devastating explosion in Beirut emerged. The fatal blast hit a country already deeply impacted by a major financial crisis, Covid-19 and years of civil unrest.

This weekend we've pulled together a few of the most important pieces on Beirut from our premium international syndicators, as well as a range of other content.

I was bloodied and dazed. Beirut strangers treated me like a friend

I was just about to look at a video a friend had sent me Tuesday afternoon — "the port seems to be burning," she said — when my whole building shook, as if startled, by the deepest boom I'd ever heard. Uneasily, naïvely, I ran to the window, then back to my desk to check for news.

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Then came a much bigger boom, and the sound itself seemed to splinter. There was shattered glass flying everywhere. Not thinking but moving, I ducked under my desk.

When the world stopped cracking open, I couldn't see at first because of the blood running down my face.

The Lebanese who would help me in the hours to come had the heartbreaking steadiness that comes from having lived through countless previous disasters. Nearly all of them were strangers, yet they treated me like a friend.

New York Times reporter Vivian Yee shares her experience in Beirut following the massive explosion.
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What footage of the Beirut explosion tells us about the blast
As smoke clears in Beirut, shock turns to anger
Funerals and fury in Beirut as scale of devastation comes into focus

A wounded woman is evacuated after the massive explosion. Photo / AP
A wounded woman is evacuated after the massive explosion. Photo / AP

'The biggest monster' is spreading. And it's not the coronavirus

It begins with a mild fever and malaise, followed by a painful cough and shortness of breath. The infection prospers in crowds, spreading to people in close reach. Containing an outbreak requires contact tracing, as well as isolation and treatment of the sick for weeks or months.

This insidious disease has touched every part of the globe. It is tuberculosis, the biggest infectious-disease killer worldwide, claiming 1.5 million lives each year.

The New York Times looks at how lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions threaten progress against the disease as well as HIV and malaria.

Dr. Giorgio Franyuti said many patients with TB at a makeshift hospital in Mexico City were being misdiagnosed with Covid-19. Photo / Meghan Dhaliwal, The New York Times
Dr. Giorgio Franyuti said many patients with TB at a makeshift hospital in Mexico City were being misdiagnosed with Covid-19. Photo / Meghan Dhaliwal, The New York Times

Katy Perry interview: 'Unconditional love saved me'

As one of the most successful pop stars on the planet, Katy Perry's music has broken records while her personal life has made headlines.

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Now, with a new album and her first baby on the way, she opens up about surviving and thriving in the industry and breaking fiancé Orlando Bloom's sex ban.

Scarlett Russell of the Times speaks to the star via Zoom.

Katy Perry is releasing her fifth album - Smile. Photo / Getty Images
Katy Perry is releasing her fifth album - Smile. Photo / Getty Images

Gymnasts worldwide push back on their sport's culture of abuse

A culture in gymnastics that has tolerated coaches belittling, manipulating and in some cases physically abusing young athletes is being challenged by Olympians and other gymnasts around the world after an uprising in the United States.

Many current and former competitors, emboldened by their American peers, have broken their silence in recent weeks against treatment they say created mental scars on girls that lasted well into adulthood.

Juliet Macur of The New York Times looks at the uprising within gymnastics.

Gymnasts around the world are sharing their experience of verbal and physical abuse. Photo / Getty Images
Gymnasts around the world are sharing their experience of verbal and physical abuse. Photo / Getty Images

Will the pandemic reshape notions of female leadership?

Countries with women in leadership have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men.

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Many articles have highlighted the female-led countries managing the crisis better. It's claimed their superior performance reflects well-established gender differences in leadership potential. Numerous articles have dug into individual strengths, celebrating Angela Merkel's data-driven trustworthiness in Germany, Jacinda Ardern's empathetic rationality in New Zealand and Tsai Ing-wen's quiet resilience in Taiwan.

Harvard Business Review looks at if this will influence our collective readiness to elect and promote more women into power.

Female-led countries like New Zealand have suffered fewer Covid-19 deaths than countries led by men. Will this help promote more women into power? Photo / Marty Melville
Female-led countries like New Zealand have suffered fewer Covid-19 deaths than countries led by men. Will this help promote more women into power? Photo / Marty Melville

Body bags and enemy lists: Plans for German 'Day X' show revival of far right

The plan sounded frighteningly concrete. The group would round up political enemies and those defending migrants and refugees, put them on trucks and drive them to a secret location.

Then they would kill them.

One member had already bought 30 body bags. More body bags were on an order list, investigators say, along with quicklime, used to decompose organic material.

On the surface, those discussing the plan seemed reputable. One was a lawyer and local politician, but with a special hatred of immigrants. Two were active army reservists. Two others were police officers, including Marko Gross, a police sniper and former parachutist who acted as their unofficial leader.

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They called themselves Nordkreuz, or Northern Cross.

Germany has woken up to a problem of far-right extremism in its elite special forces. But the threat of neo-Nazi infiltration of state institutions is much broader.

The New York Times reports.

A military accessory shop in Schwerin whose owner was part of the Nordkreuz group. Photo / Gordon Welters, The New York Times
A military accessory shop in Schwerin whose owner was part of the Nordkreuz group. Photo / Gordon Welters, The New York Times

A brief history of 'Karen

Ask a woman named Karen what she used to think of her name, and you'll hear phrases like "generic," "perfectly serviceable" and "an easy name."

In 2020, Karen is no longer "an easy name." Once popular for girls born in the 1960s, it then became a pseudonym for a middle-aged busybody with a blonde choppy bob who asks to speak to the manager. Now the moniker has most recently morphed into a symbol of racism and white privilege.

How did Karens fall so far? The New York Times reports.

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In 2020, Karen has become a symbol of racism an white privilege. Photo / Getty Images
In 2020, Karen has become a symbol of racism an white privilege. Photo / Getty Images

How Italy turned around its coronavirus calamity

When the coronavirus erupted in the West, Italy was the nightmarish epicentre, a place to avoid at all costs and a shorthand in the United States and much of Europe for uncontrolled contagion.

Fast forward a few months, and the United States has suffered tens of thousands more deaths than any country in the world. European states that once looked smugly at Italy are facing new flare-ups. Some are imposing fresh restrictions and weighing whether to lock down again.

Jason Horowitz of The New York Times looks at how after a stumbling start, Italy has gone from being a global pariah to a model — however imperfect.
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A market in Naples, Italy, on June 19. Italians are cautiously optimistic that they have the virus in check. Photo / Gianni Cipriano, The New York Times
A market in Naples, Italy, on June 19. Italians are cautiously optimistic that they have the virus in check. Photo / Gianni Cipriano, The New York Times

Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov: 'Sport won't be clean. Never'

Being in lockdown is nothing new for Grigory Rodchenkov. The former director of Moscow's anti-doping laboratory was the brains behind a vast conspiracy, a multiyear state-sanctioned doping programme to help Russia's athletes gain supremacy at the Olympic Games.

Four years ago he turned whistleblower, having left behind his wife, son and daughter to flee alone to the US. Granted asylum last year, he lives in an unknown location within the country's witness protection programme.

Rodchenko talks to Murad Ahmed of the Financial Times about his life in exile after helping to uncover one of the greatest scandals in the history of sport.

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 Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia's one-time doping kingpin, opens up about life in exile. Photo / Emily Berl, The New York Times
Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia's one-time doping kingpin, opens up about life in exile. Photo / Emily Berl, The New York Times

Taking a spear into the sea, and washing anxiety away

For months now, since the first coronavirus lockdown, Damien Cave had been seeing more and more people carrying spearguns to and from the waters around Sydney.

During a time of rising unemployment and restrictions on group sports and social gatherings, spearfishing has become an increasingly popular escape for people seeking calm, control and sustenance far from the anxieties of land.

To understand why, the New York Times reporter held his breath and dived in.

Emma Shearman spearfishing off Manly, Australia, in July. Photo / Michaela Skovranova, The New York Times
Emma Shearman spearfishing off Manly, Australia, in July. Photo / Michaela Skovranova, The New York Times

The unique US failure to control Covid-19

Nearly every country has struggled to contain the coronavirus and made mistakes along the way.

China committed the first major failure, silencing doctors who tried to raise alarms about the virus and allowing it to escape from Wuhan. Much of Europe went next, failing to avoid enormous outbreaks. Today, many countries — Japan, Canada, France, Australia and more — are coping with new increases in cases after reopening parts of society.

Yet even with all of these problems, one country stands alone as the only affluent nation to have suffered a severe, sustained outbreak for more than four months: the United States.

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The New York Times examines how the tradition of prioritising individuals and missteps by the Trump administration have made it especially difficult for the US to slow the coronavirus.

A socially distant view of the Chicago River. Normal activities may be more difficult in the United States than in any other affluent country. Photo / Daniel Acker, The New York Times
A socially distant view of the Chicago River. Normal activities may be more difficult in the United States than in any other affluent country. Photo / Daniel Acker, The New York Times