Welcome to the weekend.
Settle down with a cuppa and catch up on some of the best content from our premium international syndicators this week.
With flags, crosses and photos, mourning 200,000 dead
The coronavirus crisis in the US has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the young and the old, those living in dense cities and tiny towns, people who spent their days as nursing home attendants, teachers, farm labourers and retirees.
The loved ones left behind are trapped in an extraordinary state of torment. They have seen their spouses, parents and siblings fall ill from the virus. They have endured the deaths from a distance, through cellphone connections or shaky FaceTime feeds. Now they are left to grieve, in a country still firmly gripped by the coronavirus pandemic.
Climate disruption is now locked in. The next moves will be crucial
America is now under siege by climate change in ways that scientists have warned about for years. But there is a second part to their admonition: Decades of growing crisis are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed.
This means the kinds of cascading disasters occurring today — droughts, historic wildfires, parades of tropical storms — are no longer features of some dystopian future. They are the here and now, worsening for the next generation and perhaps longer.
Can this be reversed? What can be done to minimise the looming dangers for the decades ahead? Will the destruction of recent weeks become a moment of reckoning or just a blip in the news cycle?
The biggest wave surfed this year
Every winter, the cliffs along Nazaré, a Portuguese fishing port north of Lisbon, become a grandstand for spectators watching daredevil surfers drop into the tallest waves on Earth.
On February 11, they witnessed yet another world record wave, this one ridden by Maya Gabeira, a 33-year-old Brazilian surfer who almost lost her life to the same wave.
Gabeira didn't just ride the biggest wave ever ridden by a woman. It was the biggest wave surfed by anyone in the 2019-20 winter season.
In the epicentre of Mexico's epicentre, feeling like a 'trapped animal'
The man in the vegetable stall next to Christopher Arriaga's died first. A longtime customer was next, then another. A few days later, an elderly carrot vendor got sick and died within the week.
Soon, the coronavirus was storming the vast, gridded passages of the Central de Abasto, the largest produce market in the Western Hemisphere.
"There is this moment when you start to see people dying, and the stress begins to destroy you," said Arriaga. "It made me realise what a trapped animal feels like."
Doctors and officials say the surge of infections nearly overwhelmed them, radiating far from the market to areas across the city and Mexico beyond.
US and Middle East: Strongmen contemplate post-Trump era
It took Donald Trump less than 48 hours to lay the foundations of a radical shift in US Middle East policy and ingratiate himself with some of the region's most powerful leaders. On visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel — his first overseas as US president in May 2017 — he set the tone for the transactional and personality-based relationship that has characterised his dealings with the region's strongmen.
Trump could yet win re-election: few analysts in Washington have written him off. But with the president trailing badly in the polls, the region's leaders are being forced to contemplate the prospect of Democratic nominee Joe Biden entering the White House, upending the president's policies and setting a new course for relations with the Gulf.
The Russian trolls have a simpler job today. Quote Trump
Four years ago, when Russian intelligence agencies engaged in a systematic attempt to influence the American presidential election, the disinformation they fed US voters required some real imagination at the troll farms producing the ads.
There was the exaggerated Texas secession movement, a famous ad in which Satan arm-wrestles Jesus while declaring, "If I win, Clinton wins," and an effort to recruit protesters and counterprotesters to the same, invented rally over the rapid spread of Islamic influence in the United States.
This year, their task is much easier.
• Facebook takes down fake pages created in China aimed at influencing elections
• Facebook tried to limit QAnon. It failed
• Facebook vows to restrict users if US election descends into chaos
The flight goes nowhere. And it's sold out
In August, Nadzri Harif set foot in an airport for the first time in six months. The experience, he said, was exhilarating. Sure, moving through Brunei International Airport was different, with masks, glass dividers and social-distancing protocols in place, but nothing could beat the anticipation of getting on a plane again.
His destination: nowhere.
Harif is one of thousands of people in Brunei, Taiwan, Japan and Australia who have started booking flights that start and end in the same place. Some airlines call these "scenic flights"; others are more direct, calling them "flights to nowhere."
'He never quit': Nick Cordero's widow on grief, God and perseverance
Nick Cordero was just 41, married and the father of a newborn son when he got sick with what turned out to be the coronavirus.
His wife, Amanda Kloots, chronicled his journey on Instagram, and hundreds of thousands of people followed along. His medical odyssey was unrelentingly tough — in April, a leg was amputated — and his suffering, alongside her determination, became, for many, a face of the pandemic.
On July 5, he died.
Can luxury fashion ever regain its luster?
This is usually a busy month for the luxury industry. Not long after glossy fashion magazines publish their all-important September issues, thousands of retail buyers, journalists and clients embark on a tour of New York, London, Milan and Paris.
Rolling from city to city to attend fashion weeks, they decide the trends that will power a global luxury goods market worth hundreds of billions.
Not this year.
Denial and defiance: Trump and his base downplay virus before election
From resistance to face masks and scorn for the science of the coronavirus to predicting the imminent arrival of a vaccine while downplaying the death count, President Donald Trump and a sizable number of his supporters have aligned emphatically behind an alternate reality minimising a tragedy that has killed an overwhelming number of Americans and gutted the economy.
This mix of denial and defiance runs contrary to the overwhelming evidence about the spread and toll of the virus, and it is at the centre of Trump's re-election effort.
Is it time to cut back our working hours?
Coronavirus has disrupted working life across the world. Many white-collar workers discovered they did not have to go to the office every day to continue to do their jobs. Yet it was not just where work was done that changed but also when, prompting some businesses to re-evaluate conventional nine-to-five (if you were lucky), five-day working patterns. Those who have had to work around childcare or other caring responsibilities have demonstrated that as long as the work is done, it may not matter when it takes place.
• Why 'hybrid' working spells trouble for companies