Weekend reads: 11 of the best premium syndicator pieces

Welcome to the weekend.

Settle down with a cuppa and catch up on some of the best content from our premium syndicators this week.

Happy reading.

How Joe Biden won the presidency

On a January evening in 2019, Joe Biden placed a call to the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, a personal friend and political ally who had just announced he would not pursue the Democratic nomination for president.

During their conversation, Garcetti recalled, Biden did not exactly say he had decided to mount his own campaign. The former vice president confided that if he did run, he expected President Donald Trump to “come after my family” in an “ugly” election.

But Biden also said he felt pulled by a sense of moral duty.

Twenty-one months and a week later, Biden stands triumphant in a campaign he waged on just those terms: as a patriotic crusade to reclaim the American government from a president he considered a poisonous figure.

The New York Times looks at how Biden correctly judged the character of the country, and benefited from President Trump’s missteps.

• The end of ‘America First’: How Biden says he will re-engage with the world
• What went wrong with US polling? Some early theories
• Pandemic reaches grim milestone as Biden moves to take charge

The 26-year-long search for Africa's most wanted man

Félicien Kabuga, a Rwandan businessman, spent 26 years on the run after being accused of organising, financing and directing the Rwandan genocide.

This year, after an astonishing swoop on Kabuga in a quiet Paris suburb in May, the result of co-operation between law enforcement agencies from at least nine countries, he was arrested.

So how did Africa’s most wanted man evade capture for so long?

The Financial Times reports.

Marina Wheeler on life after Boris Johnson

After two turbulent years that have seen the end of Marina Wheeler’s marriage, her battle with cancer, the death of her beloved mother and her ex moving into No 10 and acquiring a much younger fiancée, a rescue dog and another baby, not to mention going into intensive care and almost dying from coronavirus, Wheeler has, she says, finally moved on.

Finally divorced from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the lawyer is striking out with a book that explores her Indian roots.

She talks to Christina Lamb of The Times.

• Brexit warning to Johnson in Biden post-election call

Tobias Menzies on The Crown: 'It's such a strange role Prince Philip has'

More than 70 million households across the world have watched The Crown, the drama that was created by British playwright Peter Morgan in 2016 and is reportedly one of the most expensive in TV history. In the previous season, which covered 1964 to 1977, Menzies took over the role from Matt Smith, with Olivia Colman as the Queen. It earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

The latest season explores the arrival of Diana in the family and the impact fame has on her marriage to the stodgy Prince Charles. It is also bookended by Margaret Thatcher’s rise and fall as prime minister.

Menzies talks to the Financial Times about playing the Duke of Edinburgh and bridging acting’s gender pay gap.

• The gloves are off: The Crown puts Princess Diana in the spotlight

The husband-and-wife team behind the leading vaccine to solve Covid-19

Two years ago, Dr. Ugur Sahin took the stage at a conference in Berlin and made a bold prediction. Speaking to a roomful of infectious disease experts, he said his company might be able to use its so-called messenger RNA technology to rapidly develop a vaccine in the event of a global pandemic.

At the time, Sahin and his company, BioNTech, were little known outside the small world of European biotechnology startups. BioNTech, which Sahin founded with his wife, Dr. Özlem Türeci, was mostly focused on cancer treatments. It had never brought a product to market. Covid-19 did not yet exist.

But his words proved prophetic.

The New York Times looks at the two scientists behind the Covid-19 vaccine found to be more than 90 per cent effective.

• Pfizer’s Covid vaccine: What you need to know:
• How Pfizer plans to distribute its vaccine (it’s complicated)

Joe Biden in the White House: which world leaders stand to lose out?

The president of the US does a lot to set the tone of global politics. The themes and language used by the occupant of the Oval Office are usually swiftly picked up by politicians all over the globe. Most nations want friendly relations with the world’s most powerful country.

Even a president as unorthodox as Donald Trump has gathered acolytes and emulators outside America. Trump’s favourite phrases — such as “fake news” — were picked up by leaders as diverse as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

But while rightwing populists will be scrambling to adapt to a Joe Biden presidency, more liberal leaders will be relieved by the change of leadership in America.

The Financial Times looks at how for Russia’s Putin, India’s Modi and the UK’s Johnson, relations with the US will become more challenging.

• US election officials nationwide find no evidence of fraud
• What will Trump’s most profound legacy be? Possibly climate damage
• The election is over. The nation’s rifts remain

The year of blur: How 2020 destroyed our sense of time

Do you feel as if time has no boundaries anymore, that the days just bleed into weeks, that January may as well have been 2017?

You’re not alone if you feel that 2020, perhaps the most dramatic and memorable year of our lifetimes seems shuffled and disordered, like a giant blur. A dream state, or perhaps a nightmare.

That’s the paradox of 2020, or one of them: A year so momentous also feels, in a way, as if nothing happened at all.

It’s not entirely an illusion.

The New York Times looks at how isolation, monotony and chronic stress are destroying our sense of time.

Will her gene-editing tool lead to designer babies

She has just won the Nobel prize for chemistry – and her discovery of the groundbreaking Crispr is already revolutionising the treatment of disease. But does this brave new world mean a generation of superbabies?

Tom Whipple of The Times talks to Nobel prize winner Jennifer Doudna.

Could killer doctor's 215 victims have been saved?

On September 7, 1998, George McKeating switched on the TV and a newsflash stopped him in his tracks. A GP in the nearby town of Hyde had been arrested on suspicion of murder. The man was called Harold Shipman. The true horror of Shipman’s crimes — he is believed to be Britain’s most prolific serial killer — had not yet been revealed, but the death of Kathleen Grundy, and a dubious will that left everything to her doctor, had alerted the police that something suspicious was going on.

McKeating was shocked, he says, but not surprised. The detective, who was now retired, had led an investigation into Shipman many years before.

The Times looks at how despite McKeating wanting Shipman struck off back in 1976 he went on to become Britain’s most prolific serial killer.

Meet Maria Bakalova, the breakout star of the Borat sequel

Sacha Baron Cohen may be the star of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, but it is Maria Bakalova who has emerged its hero.

In this raucous prank comedy, now streaming on Amazon, Bakalova plays Tutar Sagdiyev, the downtrodden 15-year-old daughter of the titular Kazakh journalist portrayed by Baron Cohen.

The actress talks to The New York Times about body hair, her “nonbiological father” Sacha Baron Cohen, and that scene with Rudy Giuliani.

How The Queen's Gambit started a new debate about sexism in chess

Judit Polgar might be the one woman in the world who knows how Beth, the heroine of the hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit, really feels. Like Beth, Polgar, who is from Hungary, stood out during her career because she regularly beat the world’s top players, including Garry Kasparov, in 2002, when he was ranked No. 1.

Polgar, the only woman to ever be ranked in the Top 10 or to play for the overall world championship, retired from competitive chess in 2014. Watching the series, which she described as an “incredible performance,” gave her a sense of déjà vu.

But there was one respect in which she could not identify with Beth’s experience: how the male competitors treated her.

The Netflix hit captures the struggles of women in the game, where female grandmasters are rare. But as The New York Times reports, the reality is worse.

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